Needing Kneeling

As a Catholic I’ve heard people poke fun at the different motions we have at Mass.  We sit, stand, genuflect, and sometimes even bow.  As I participated in Mass today I appreciated something new about kneeling.  I looked around and saw moms, dads, and kids kneeling.  Some people were elderly, and others were young.  It didn’t matter if they were the CEO or unemployed, serving in the military or an undocumented person, lacking a high school diploma or possessing a PhD, the holiest philanthropist or the estranged believer, we were all kneeling together.

Some people rag on the movements and postures we use at Mass, but at least once a week I’m given the concrete reminder that there is one before whom we all kneel.  It isn’t just an abstract idea for me, but a regular reality.  Whether the world judges us great or pitiful, we all fall on our knees before the only judge that matters.

Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

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Confession (Maybe a Socratic Dialogue)

Recently I worked on a letter with a friend and for the letter I wrote my first feeble attempt a Socratic Dialogue (a hypothetical conversation) about the Catholic understanding of Confession.  It can be found below.

Why do I have to confess my sins to a Priest?  Can’t God just forgive me?

Yes, of course God can do that, but is that the way that Jesus and the Apostles have asked us to do it?  God doesn’t ordain the easiest option, but the best option and in His wisdom has ordained confession to a representative of the Body of Christ, aka an ordained member of the clergy.

That might sound nice, but it isn’t Biblical.  Where does that come from?  

The New Testament.  Let’s look at a few passages.  Open to 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.
See how Paul sees himself as an ambassador of Christ, continuing His ministry of reconciliation?  Does he have Biblical ground for that?  The answer would be yes!

Paul’s ministry of reconciliation is not the same thing.

We’ll see if the Bible implies otherwise.  Turn to John 20:21-23.
Do you see what is happening here?  Jesus is sending the Apostles as He was sent.  For what purpose was Jesus sent?

To impress fisherman with his feat of walking on water (get it ‘feet’).  Well that, and to save us.

Yes!  To save us by reconciling us with the Father and bringing us back into the family.  What takes us from the family?

Presumably you are referring to sin.

Correcto Moondo.  Thus he tells them that if they forgive someone’s sins they are forgiven and if they retain them, they are retained.  Now, I don’t know how Jesus expected them to make that call between forgiveness and retention if He didn’t anticipate that they would hear those sins confessed.  But something else happens here that is important.  He breathes on the Apostles.  This should remind us of when God breathed into the nostrils of Adam.  Jesus is changing something about the Apostles, he is imparting something of Himself to them, and He tells us what that is.  He is imparting the authority to forgive sin.

Yeah, but Paul’s not there.  How can you connect this to Paul?

Well, Jesus Himself chose Paul (Acts 9:3-6).  Then He led Paul to his Baptism and selected him for ministry (Acts 13:1-3).  Note however, that prior to Paul being sent out he receives the laying on of hands.  This seems to be a sign of ordination.  Paul himself seeks consultation with Cephas (Rock – aka Peter) after his time of conversion (Galatians 1:11-18).  So Paul obviously sees himself as sharing in the Apostleship of the others, both because of Jesus’ appointment of Him and their confirmation of his call.

Weren’t we talking about Confession.  Why confession to a priest?

Well, we’ve established that Jesus told the Apostles they could forgive sins and that would kind of imply that they would be hearing those sins too.  Beyond that we find this in at least two other New Testament books, 1 John and James.  1 John 5:16 says, ‘If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life.’  While this doesn’t say anything about confessing it does say that the prayers of one person can help someone else’s relationship with God (not to mention it shows there is a distinction between deadly and not deadly sin).  And then James 5:16 says, ‘Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.’

Wait, no. That says confess your sins to one another! There is nothing about priests in there.

Hold on. Does it say to confess your sins to someone other than God?  Have we established that principle that God desires us to verbally confess our sins to someone else?

I guess.

Ok, now what about the ‘therefore’ in James 5:16?  When you see ‘Therefore’ you are obligated to ask ‘Therefore what?’

…Why’d you stop?  Oh, really… ‘Therefore what?’

Funny you should ask!
Here is what James wrote right before saying ‘Therefore’, “Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:14-15).  Therefore, since the Presbyter has been given the grace to forgive sin through the prayer of faith, confess your sins to one another.

But my Bible says elder.

Which comes from Presbyter, but so does Priest.

But you don’t confess your sins to one another, you sit in a closet and confess them to one man.

The practice of private confession is only about 1000 years old. In the Early church you confessed in the Liturgy (and we still make a general confession in the liturgy) which was presided over by a Bishop or Presbyter (Priest).

But I don’t need a priest.  Jesus brought about the priesthood of all believers, and the Apostles ministry died with them.  Their job was to record Jesus’ teaching in Scripture and that has been done.

Ok, ok.  There is a lot you threw at me there.  First, if the Apostles’ job was to write scripture, why do we only have 5 of the original 12 represented as the authors of Scripture?  Did they miss the memo?
Second, there is no Biblical grounding for the cessation of the Apostle’s ministry.  Acts 1:15-26 seems to imply that the Apostles’ understood that their ministry should continue.  We’ve already mentioned Acts 13:1-3.  Beyond that, Ordination seems to be an important topic of conversation in 1 & 2 Timothy. See 1 Timothy 5:17-25, which is all about presbyters, particularly verse 22, “Do not lay hands too readily on anyone.”  Why would Paul warn Timothy about this?  Because the laying on of hands by Timothy ‘effects’ something, it does something.  Why?  Because it is how he gives what he has received from Paul, “I remind you to stir into flame the gift (the grace) of God that you have through the imposition of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6).  Grace given through the imposition of hands sounds like a Sacrament to me.
Finally, the idea that a communal priesthood is incompatible with a ministerial priesthood is forgetful that Israel was a “Nation of priests” (Exodus 19:6) possessing a ministerial priesthood.
When taken as a whole, it seems to me that Jesus left us men who could hear our sins and, by virtue of Jesus’ own sharing of the Spirit, convey to us the certainty that our sins are forgiven, and continue to be forgiven, as we gain access to Christ’s Paschal mystery.

Seasons

book_of_eli_posterBess and I just watched The Book of Eli.  It was a re-watching for both of us but it was the first time we watched it together.  For me, I was also watching it in a very different season of life.

It is so interesting the impact that can have on us.  When I first saw the movie, shortly out of college, I was interested in how the movie used the Bible to construct a post-apocalyptic action movie.

When watched it recently, as an active Christian, I was so interested in what they had to say about the Bible and how they treated it.  As the credits rolled I really wanted to know if the Hughes brothers and Gary Whitta (who, btw, IMDB credits as a writer for Star Wars: Rogue One) have a deeper level to the story or was the Bible just a convenient storytelling device familiar to most western audiences.

Anyway, it has just been interesting to reflect on how drastically our different seasons of life change how we process the same information.

A Man Without Ghosts: My Review of Hacksaw Ridge

Remember, remember the 5th of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and plot.
I can think of no reason,
The Gunpowder Treason,
Should ever be forgot.

hacksaw_ridge_posterI realize that is an unusual way to start a review of Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge.  However, it was on November 5th that my father-in-law, mother-in-law, wife and I went and saw the film.  For many years my movie memories for November 5th all came from V for Vendetta.  Now, a new movie has been burned into my brain.  I want to share a few thoughts reviewing and revisiting this movie that left a tremendous impact on me.  I warn you, there will likely be spoilers, but it can’t be worse than NPR’s strange headline from the movie’s release date: “The Real ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ Soldier Saved 75 Souls Without Ever Carrying A Gun.”

Narrative, not Documentary

dossmeIf you are unfamiliar with this film it tells the incredible story of WWII medic and conscientious objector, Desmond Doss, whose actions on Okinawa won him the Medal of Honor.  He truly was an incredible man of courage, strength, resolve, and conscience.  The movie captures that about him.  It doesn’t do that by nailing every fact, but by presenting his story in a comprehensible narrative.  Some facts get streamlined, or tweaked so that they can communicate the essence of what happened without the film needing a narrator.  Unfortunately, this actually, meant leaving out some of his remarkable courage, not adding to it (if you see the movie, just compare it to his Medal of Honor citation).   So if you are a nit-picky fact checker, be warned, this is a narrative retelling of this inspiring man’s service, not a documentary.

Violence not Action

6th-marine-divisionIn this narrative retelling, Gibson uses many tools.  One of the hardest tools to watch is the violence.  And I mean violence, not action.  At one point in the movie, Bess leaned over and whispered “I don’t like this part…I want it to be over.”  I said nothing, but in my head I responded with, “I don’t think you are supposed to like it.”  That part was the middle of an extended battle scene that was brutal.  It was different from a gory action movie though.  Most of the violence that evoked a response of “Jesus,” from the viewer behind me was inflicted on American soldiers.  You saw hard to watch violence inflicted on Japanese soldiers, but most of the time you saw Americans dying.  This did not come off as an attempt to dehumanize the Japanese.  Instead, this took what could have become a bloody action scene and turned it into a gut wrenching window into the hell these men lived through.  It was terrible, and you were supposed to feel that way.

Manifesting Magnitude

It is the violence that I warn people about before they go see the movie, but I also clarify that I don’t think Gibson was wrong to include it.  In interviews, I have heard Gibson speak about wanting the audience to be stirred to respond to the needs of returning veterans.  In someways he made audiences squirm through those horrific scenes as a way of calling us out when we judge a veteran on a street corner.  That reason alone would be enough for me, but there is a second reason the violence seemed, dare I say, appropriate.  It truly was a narrative tool.

hacksaw-ridge-mel-gibsonSee for anyone who has never heard how brutal the Pacific theater was in World War II, or how terrible Okinawa was, or how horrendous the fight on Hacksaw Ridge was, then the immensity of Desmond Doss’ decision is lost.  To even begin to understand the magnitude of what this man did.  To understand the courage and strength he found in his faith as he responded again and again to the call of “medic.”  You need to understand the hell-on-earth that Hacksaw Ridge was.  I think that is truly achieved in this film.

A Peaceful Alternative

mv5bmtg3njiymdcwn15bml5banbnxkftztcwmda2mjqxmw-_v1_uy268_cr20182268_al_Fortunately, if you can’t, or don’t want to, put yourself through that experience you can still witness Doss’ story.  There is a documentary called the Conscientious Objector.  It is not flashy.  Nor is it super cinematic or fast moving.  However, it is good.  Doss’ story alone will keep you engaged, but even more than that, Desmond himself will intrigue you.

A Clean Conscience – A Man without Ghosts

moh-dossAll throughout the documentary, and even at the end of Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, you are confronted by a striking reality.  Doss seems like a man with a clear conscience.  He was a man that witnessed some of the most horrendous wounds war can produce in a theater of battle where medics were intentionally targeted and lured to their deaths.  Yet, in all his interviews, his joy and peace are visible.  This is a man who suffered through the long battle of following his conscience and finished his days with the joy of that victory.  I think this is what fascinated Mel Gibson.  In so many of his movies, Gibson presents us with haunted men.  Men who did too much, like Benjamin Martin in The Patriot, or men who did too little too late, like William Wallace in Braveheart.  In Desmond Doss, Gibson found a man without ghosts.

As I walked away from Hacksaw Ridge I felt haunted.  I realized that what Gibson’s movie achieved was two-fold.  I was convicted by this paradoxical man who was a conscientious objector who won the Medal of Honor.  I was convicted that I have unjustly ignored the struggles of veterans in my struggles with how I view war.  And I was convicted by how easily I silence my conscience when it will require a sacrifice on my part.  I think that is how we breed ghosts.  Because instead of dying to ourselves we ask someone else to die for us.  Instead of responding to Christ’s call to carry my cross daily, I lay it upon another’s shoulders.

Desmond’s story reminds me that to live without ghosts means modeling Christ’s own entry into our mess.  When I reach those times that I have to choose between my own comfort and ease or responding to whatever that cry of medic sounds like.  I hope I remember Desmond’s simple prayer, “Lord, let me get one more.”

Hacksaw Ridge is a great movie.  It is hard to watch.  But then again, to live without ghosts is harder still.

One Thought Among Many: Porn and the Election

I’d like to preface this by saying that I’m not a political theorist, psychologist, anthropologist, or any other -ist that makes me an expert on this.  Nor am I offering ‘the one and only’ answer for the election.  Nor is this a statement about who should or should not have been elected.  I’m simply a guy who spent over a decade of his life addicted to porn and have these thoughts to share.

I can’t vote for him [Trump] because of what he has said about and done to women.

Those are the words that a friend of mine said to me over the phone.  I think many people were expecting that response to cause Trump to lose the election.  Obviously it didn’t.

I have had several conversations with people wrestling with Trump’s victory in the face of claims, accusations, and evidence regarding the degradation and abuse of women.

ftnd_terrycrews_v2-768x768As I have reflected on those conversations I always walk away thinking, Trump is not the cause but a symptom.  I don’t think we can make the claim that sexism was ignored in the recent election and then not talk about porn in our society.

Here is what Robert Jensen  from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas wrote in his 2004 publication, The Cruel Edge, after describing some very disturbing scenes from some ‘mainstream’ porn:

This all would be easier if we could pretend that these images [those described earlier in the article involving verbal abuse, arousal to pain, and other similar things] are consumed by some small subset of deviant men —  if we could answer the question “what kind of men like those things” by pointing to emotionally disturbed men, or pathological men who have some problem that could explain this.  Then we could identify and isolate those bad men, maybe repair them.  But the answer to the question is: men like me.  Men like all of us.  Men who can’t get a date and men who have all the dates they could want.  Men who live alone and men who are married.  Men who grew up in liberal homes in which pornography was never a big deal and men who grew up in strict religious homes in which no talk of sex was allowed.  White and black and brown and any-other-color-you-can-imagine men.  Rich men and poor men.  And all the king’s men.

I am not suggesting all men use pornography, or that all men who use pornography want material in which women are hurt and humiliated, or that all men who use pornography are bound to want to to hurt and humiliate women.  I am simply saying that much of pornography in the United States records scenes of women being hurt and humiliated; that men masturbate to orgasm to those images; and that those men are not deviants but are acting on the cultural norms that are widely taught.  And I am suggesting that these facts should matter to us; they should scare us.

There is no way to say this that isn’t harsh

I am sorry for what I am about to write, because it is harsh, and it may not be fair for a man to write this.  But this is the truth, and I am more afraid of what will happen if we don’t face the truth than of being harsh or unfair.

Men spend $10 billion on pornography every year.  11,000 new pornographic films are made every year.  And in those films women are not people…

(Jensen, Robert. Originally publishing as “Cruel to be hard: Men and pornography,” in Sexual Assault Report, January/February 2004, pp. 33-34, 45-48.)

That was 2004.  12 years later there have been great efforts to work against what Jensen wrote about in his article.  Matt Fradd has launched a website called The Porn Effect.  There is a mobile app called Victory.  There is an excellent non-profit called Fight the New Drug.  There is a helpful resource called Covenant Eyes.  Even celebrities like Russell Brand, Rashida Jones, Terry Crews, Hugh Grant, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are lending their voices to ours in opposition too it.  But there is still a lot to do.

I’m not saying Trump got elected solely because of porn or making assertions about who uses porn based on how they voted.  I am saying, we would be remiss if we let our post-election processing period pass and no one said “We need to talk about how porn impacted the election.”  People expected the released audio clip to ruin Trump’s campaign when the same content is in 88% of a legal multi-billion dollar industry.  A 2010 study of 304 scenes from popular pornographic videos gives us that 88% figure.  Of those scenes, 94% of the targets (or victims) were women and in only a mere 3% of the instances did the target show displeasure at the aggression.

I spent over a decade caught in the cruel edge cycle.  I know from experience that how I was viewing women on a screen impacted how I saw women in real life.  When I heard the Trump recordings that were released, I was once again hearing what I spent 10 years listening to through a pair of headphones.  That tape might have failed in its intention to destroy his presidential campaign, but can we please use it to destroy porn’s grip on our country?

I don’t have all the answers for how we do that, but I know that little old me sitting beyond my keyboard isn’t going to get it done.  It comes from all of us working together.  This was made clear to me by a dear friend who challenged me that my original post put out a plea, but not a challenge.  She was right.  This post was one of the most emotionally exhausting things I’ve written and I think I just stopped.  But I don’t want it to stop there.

I want people:

  • to talk about porn and ask about it.
  • to bring their struggles and victories against porn into the light.
  • to speak honestly and fearless about how porn has hurt them.
  • to be able to say to their friends, “I’m struggling with this, can you help”.
  • to use the resources above to educate themselves.
  • to do their own research and come to their own conclusions.
  • to include pornography in the conversation when we talk about a ‘rape culture’ especially on college campuses.
  • to ask, “Are Porn and sex trafficking linked?”
  • to hear Russell Brand quoting Pope John Paul II about porn showing too little and realize that this transcends some kind of religious/secular boundary.
  • to get past the ‘boys will be boys’ mindset, and that includes being real about porn.
  • to know that they don’t have to ‘just get over it’ if their boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife uses pornography.

I wrote about Porn and the Election, not because I have any data to give you a definite answer.  I wrote about it because we need to talk about porn.

We need to talk about the fact: that sexism is ingested in staggering numbers through internet porn (4,392,486,580 hours were watched from one site alone, in just 2015).  That even as people use the potentially sexist “she’s somebody’s, sister, mother, etc” to try and encourage respect for women, our country’s top porn search in 2015 was ‘Step-mom’ (with ‘Step-sister’ coming in seventh place).  That any kid with internet has access to free porn sites that contain categories “such as ‘extreme brutal gang bang,’ ’18 and abused,’ and ‘crying teen.’”

I don’t know what you need to do.  Maybe you are hooked and struggling.  Maybe you have a story of hurt or betrayal to share.  Or maybe you have a story of triumph with which to encourage others.

But I know what we need to do.  We need to talk about this.  We need to be real about this.  Comment, like, share, refute, whatever.

Share your story.

Get help.

Get involved with Fight the New Drug or get on the Porn Effect’s Forum.

At the very least, please, just start asking questions about whether or not porn is good for our brains, our relationships, our marriages, our families, and even our elections.

infographic-3bb

 

 

 

Conversion (11.12.2016)

While reading the passage from 3 John I wondered what that could mean for us today.  How do we, the church of modern America, love so faithfully that it is testified to others?  Who are our strangers that have set out for the sake of the name?  Who, today, are the pagans from whom they accept nothing?  I think there are many answers to these questions.  Some of these answers could vary depending on the mission of a particular parish and the demographics it serves.  Some answers could change based on the religious climate in a particular region.  I want to look at these questions from the perspective of serving those in the midst of conversion.

First, to love faithfully we need to not assume where someone is in their struggle against our common enemy — sin.  Sometimes I forget to see our common struggle against sin as binding and instead create division by taking on the ‘job’ of identifying sin in others’ lives.  Now, don’t get me wrong, holding our brothers and sisters accountable, and calling sin what it is are good things when it is done correctly.  But when it is done by assuming someone’s allegiance to that particular sin or their knowledge of it, that is divisive and the work of the Accuser.  Christ has shown us a model of calling people to something better than their sin, while the model of the devil is evident in his title “The Accuser.”

It is that distinction that changes how we interact with strangers.  We need to meet our strangers and hear their stories.  We need to support them with our prayers and our encouragement.  We need to be ready to share our stories.  We, as Catholics, are great at teaching people why they should set out for the sake of the Name, but could do much better at sharing why that journey has been worth it in our own lives.  It is so easy to meet someone returning to the church and just send them to RCIA without expressing excitement, joy, and pledging our support.  This is just a piece of what Pope Francis call accompaniment.

As we accompany we need to also remember what it is like to be there.  Sometimes I forget the things I had to turn from in order to turn back to the Lord.  I forget the friendships and relationships that fizzled, became strained, or broke because they weren’t helping me resist sin, but were instead drawing me into it.  Sometimes I forget that conversion can be a lonely road to walk.  For many people St. John could have written it, “For they have set out for the sake of the Name [all by themselves]”.  Many have set out for the sake of the name alone, let’s make sure they don’t finish that journey alone, or worse still give up on it because they are alone.

Lord, help us to faithfully love our brothers and sisters, especially the strangers among us.  Help us to accompany them as they respond to your call in their lives.  Move us to walk with them.  Let us do all of this in memory of our own conversion.  Amen.

All Hallows

Tuesday was All Saints’ Day.  It gave Monday’s holiday, All Hallows’ Eve, its name, “Halloween.”  I have nothing against the practice of dressing kids up and sending them around the neighborhood to acquire (extort) candy from people.  I think it is great.  How else would I get my whopper and Reese’s fix?  But there is a reason the two are one after the other.

Pentecost

See in the early Church, and still in many Eastern Churches, All Saints’ Day was shortly after Pentecost.  That timeframe makes sense.  If we are going to celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit then we should be quick to celebrate how effective He has been down through the ages in the lives of believers.

That changed in the Eighth Century.  At that time, the feast was moved to be the day after a Celtic festival that was based on the belief that on October 31 the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was thinned.  Whether this was done to ease people’s conversions or to combat this pagan feast is beyond my area of expertise and I have little regard for ‘.com’ opinions regarding the motivations of historical figures, particularly Popes.  Instead, I want to point out what we have available to us in these two days.

Torn Veil

In essence we have a mini-Easter in the fall.  In Halloween we have a holiday based on the veil between the living and the dead being thin that is immediately followed by a celebration of that veil being torn.  The original Celtic festival said death is on that side of the veil and life is on this side.  That was overcome by a feast that declares that life, and not death, came through the torn veil.  That truly we were the land of the dead but now have access to the Spirit of Life.

The origin of October 31 was that the veil was thin and we hid in costumes of the dead to conceal ourselves from other spirits.  We celebrate on November 1 because the veil was torn, we can shed our costumes of walking death, and the Spirit of the living God resides in us.  We declare that His love overcomes all fear, and that we look for the Lord of Life in His distressing disguise of the poor and under the guise of bread and wine.

The land of the dead was invaded by Life and we celebrate all of those who have been brought to life.

All Saints’ Day, it’s like the Zombie Apocalypse… in reverse.


Used to confirm that my memory served me correctly:
http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

A Catholic Responding to the WikiLeaks Emails

ebe353bef3122a95242093c30d2a26b2My facebook has been overwhelmed by political posts and stories.  The controversies of the election have truly taken over my feed (there are the handful of birthday wishes and cute dog, cat, and kid pictures to remind us that facebook was created to reunite old friends, not destroy present friendships).  Within this cacophony, I’ve seen some posts about ‘terrible’ things that Clinton staffers said about Catholics.  I’ve read them and I’m wondering why people are acting like this is a big deal.  Here they are if you have not read them: Conservative Catholicism and opening for a Catholic Spring? just musing.

First, I recognize that many people don’t speak ‘churchese’ and we need to admit that we are bad at turning it off.  We exclude people by using untranslated church terms and phrases.
Do most people know the difference between subsidiarity and solidarity?
Does Thomistic vs Augustinian mean anything to most people?
The Pope writes us a letter to encourage and challenge us and we call it an Apostolic Exhortation.  Heck, I work at a church and had to have someone tell me that the Parochial Vicar was otherwise known as the Associate Pastor.  We use uncommon language.  It is true.  Deal with it when we get called on it.

1592d69f5b3419cffd6b567c010ec68eSecond, there are the ‘controversial’ remarks about Catholic beliefs being backward.
Have you never heard that before?
Did you not realize some people think that?
Have you never been on facebook or scrolled down to the comments section, or as I like to call it, “the near occasion of sin? The stuff you read there is way more insulting than any of this!
Lots of people think we are a backward church stuck in the dark ages.  If that causes you outrage you might need to go back and read where Christ tells us to bless and pray for those who persecute us.  Actually, we would do well to remember that we are told “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me” (Matt 5:10-11).
Are the emails persecuting us for the sake of righteousness?
Are we being insulted falsely because of Jesus?
Sometimes that answer is yes and sometimes it is no.  We were never promised acceptance.

As for the emails regarding starting a revolution in the Catholic Church.
So what?
Don’t we say that the role of everyday Catholics (the laity) is to revolutionize the world by witnessing to their faith in Christ at home, in the workplace, in their communities, and everywhere else?
Aren’t we supposed to evangelize the world?
Those emails are nothing but evangelization strategies, just for a different gospel.

As a Catholic, I love my faith, and my Church.  I’m saddened by the view these individuals seem to have of my faith and in turn me.  That said, we follow a man who was accused of blasphemy, abandoned, and crucified, who literally had his skin torn off during the scourging.  I think we need some tougher skin people.

Additionally, I want to say, I forgive the people who sent those emails if they were meant maliciously.
I pray that they can better understand my reasons for holding to my faith (“Of course, this idea may just reveal my total lack of understanding of the Catholic church” – opening for a Catholic Spring? just musing).
I apologize for the times that I’ve confused others because I assumed they knew my Catholic words.
I repent of those times I’ve sought comfort, expediency, and acceptance over authentic discipleship.

A Thank You to English Teachers

Dear English Teachers,

You are great!  Thank you for what you do and have done.

no_passivesParts of my life might not exist without your contribution.  I get excited about the texture that parentheses, commas, and dashes can add to writing.  I love bookshelves as decoration.  I read G.K. Chesterton, Neil Gaiman, and J.R.R. Tolkien to my kids (all under 3). I spent an entire summer reading the Iliad for fun after failing to read the Odyssey for class.  You taught me that my grammatical errors are more than broken arbitrary rules.  Instead, they muddle my words.  They turn my writing into mumbling.  Now, I know that you made corrections to help my voice be heard and understood (that doesn’t stop me from imagining you pick up your red pen and say, “Set phasers to passive voice,” right before you filled my paper with “p.v.”).

Thank you for respecting that my papers and ideas were new to me, even if you’ve read similar ones your entire career.  Thank you for your paragraphs of wisdom and encouragement that followed the comma splice and fragment corrections.  I love the written word because you showed me that it could be mastered.

At the same time, you taught me humility.  I often learned the hard way that my best work only existed if it was ‘our work.’  Whether that required a proof-reading friend or came when I read your corrections and comments that “the paper was good but suffered from simple mistakes”.

Questions such as, “Where is all of this coming from?” “Why this post now?” might arise.  It is coming from a sincere place.  Those thoughts came to mind as I picked up The Lord of the Rings to read it again.  As I read the “Foreword to the Second Edition” (thank you for encouraging me to read the whole book)  I came across this line, “I think many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author” (xvii).  After processing that line and agreeing with Tolkien, I immediately and unfairly thought, “I don’t remember being taught that difference.”  Then, the humility lesson hit.
the-lord-of-the-ringsWithout your influence, I wouldn’t have read that line this morning.  I wouldn’t read forewords, understand allegory, or give a hoot what J.R.R. Tolkien had to say.  I wouldn’t be distracted all morning thinking about what impact the confusion between applicability and allegory has on how we interact.  Thoughts like: is that why Ray Bradbury walked out of lecture hall after students told him what his book ‘really’ meant (http://www.laweekly.com/news/ray-bradbury-fahrenheit-451-misinterpreted-2149125)?  Has that confusion led to this false dichotomy between objective and subjective truth?  Would it help if we understood that there is an objective truth to a book and a subjective way that the book speaks to me?  Would that allow us to read people in context, listen to people in context and make us better at dialogue?  I don’t know.  However, I love that a single line in the foreword of a book that I have no business trying to read while brushing my teeth sends me down a rabbit hole.

Thank you, for teaching me to think.

Sincerely,

A Perpetual Student

A Good Word for the Election

I read the quote below this morning and found it convicting.  Like Calvin’s bad mood, convictions are fun to share (and that is where the analogy breaks down).a747c-calvinandhobbesbadmoodcomic

The conviction’s source for me is two-fold.  I am convicted by what the quote calls me to do.  I’m also convicted that we have been so bad at doing this thus far, that what should have been obvious has to be spelled out for us.  Check it out:

usccb“Finally, while this document is about the civil order, we cannot fail to call the faithful to prayer. The struggles that we face as a nation and as a global community cannot be addressed solely by choosing the ‘best candidate’ for political office. No, in addition to forming our consciences, we must fast and pray, asking our loving and gracious God to give us the ability to effectively proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ through our daily witness to our faith and its teachings. Let us all take to heart the urgency of our vocation to live in the service to others through the grace of Christ and ask humbly in prayer for an outpouring of the grace of the Holy Spirit on the United States of America.” (Forming Consciences For Faithful Citizenship, “Introductory Note”)