Post 178

Please Shut It Off: An Examination of
JHW's “Plea to the Pope”

I have been reviewing the transcript version of LifeSiteNews’ video from July, entitled “Plea to the Pope.” Sixteen speakers express themselves.

What a mess.

At the bottom I give a link if you want to watch this train wreck for yourself.

As for the full names and credentials of these home-video people, you can find those on LifeSiteNews (if you care). I will point out that great trouble is taken there and elsewhere to convince us that all sixteen of these speakers are Really Important Folks. Someone has a Ph.D., and someone is a professor. Someone is a priest, and someone is a deacon. And hey, looksee here: Schneider is an auxiliary bishop! From where? Uh, beats me! Oh let’s see, um, some place in Kazakhstan. Okay. And so on and so on.

(I don’t have anything against Kazakhstan, except that it’s got an ‘h’ where you don’t expect it.)

And in the big picture, it’s probably better for me to use just the surnames. In addition to the fact that the participants know who they are, and the rest of us don’t really care, the day will soon come when all sixteen people will regret what they said.

So here’s what they said.

Video Theme #1: “I pray for the Pope.”

BUCKLEY: I pray regularly for the Holy Father.
MCCUSKER: We really do pray for the Holy Father, but…
NOELL: I would like to say, first of all, that ever since the Holy Father was elected Pope, I have been praying for him. He has been a perpetual intention for me every single day…as I mentioned, for whom I pray every single day…
NOLLAND: So I pray for them…
SMEATON: And I pray for you every day, Holy Father.
STARK: Firstly, number one, I have to say that I pray for him daily, absolutely daily, because I realize the position that he is in, and…
WESTEN: I pray for him every day.

Alright. Prayerful folks, hey? NOLLAND, an “Evangelical Anglican,” says she prays for Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury. That’s nice. Some announce that they pray daily but STARK says he prays “absolutely daily.” Alrighty. Do you believe all of them? I don’t believe JHW. But just so you know, all this praying talk is typical for Christian backstabbers. It’s what they say before they knife you.
Gold medal for most nauseating version goes to STARK. He says he realizes the position that Pope Francis is in. Really? Do you have ANY idea what it is like to be Pope?
Silver medal goes to NOELL. (That’s just way too much drama about prayers.)
Bronze medal goes to SMEATON.

Video Theme #2: “ I love the Pope.” “I love the papacy.”

CLOVIS: One thing as a Catholic that I have always appreciated is that clarity with which Holy Mother Church speaks, and in particular, the successor of Peter, our Holy Father the pope. As a Catholic, I love the pope. We Catholics love the Pope, because as St. Catherine of Siena said, ‘He is sweet Jesus on earth for us.’ . . . And we love you very much, Holy Father.
MCCRYSTAL: I love you, I love your papacy, I love your office
MCCUSKER: Being an English Catholic, the papacy is very important because many of our martyrs died for the papacy, and we have great reverence for the papacy. What we have always found over many centuries is that the papacy is a rock of the truth, of clarity, leading us to Christ.
WESTEN: I love the Holy Father.

Alright. Are you feeling the LOVE? I’m not entirely sure that I do, especially not from JHW. But anyway, the gold medal for gag goes to CLOVIS, and the silver goes to MCCUSKER. MCCRYSTAL gets a bronze.

Video Theme #3: I’m an awesome Catholic, just so you know.

BAYER: And I wrote to you. I wanted to come and see you. I wanted you to meet our family and to show you, on the ground level, how our families live, what are the deep concerns — deep in our souls — and [the concerns] of the so many Catholic families who are living heroic and good wholesome lives . . . And I want to tell you, personally. I want you to meet our children with Down’s syndrome. We want you to meet our little girl who is deaf and who has severe heart defects. We want you to meet our psychiatrically disturbed son and our daughter and our grandchildren. And you know, when I wrote to you Holy Father, I was prepared — and my darling husband was prepared — to take a mortgage out on our home to come. That’s what we wanted to do. We would sell everything off to come to Santa Martha, to meet you, personally, and to present our family to you as an example of the many families who are suffering around the world, living courageous lives and who love their faith.
BUCKLEY: In the words of our Holy Father, ‘I am a son of the Church.’
CLOVIS: Some 34 years ago, I was ordained a deacon in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. And I remember very clearly the Archbishop giving me the Scriptures and saying, ‘Believe what you read, preach what you believe, and practice what you preach.’ This has always remained with me.
DE MATTEI: As a historian, and as a simple baptized man . . .

The gold medal obviously goes to martyr BAYER, who describes her family as if they were medical specimens, and who seems to believe she’s holding up the entire Catholic civilization by her heroic mothering virtue. If I were in Pope Francis’ shoes, and I saw this Bayer lady coming to see me with her “darling husband,” then I would run the other way. Silver medal for CLOVIS’ pointless something or other. Who cares where you were ordained? Bronze goes to BUCKLEY — how icky it is to quote Pope Francis when you are participating in a video which slams him.

Video Theme #4: Amoris Laetitia is problematic

a) It causes confusion; it is unclear

BUCKLEY: But I have to expressed grave concern about the new Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which is causing confusion…What I see now is that there will be grave confusion between which one is the more correct. What I see is confusion, rather than anything else.
LEYDS: …due to a lack of clearness in some of the footnotes in Amoris Laetitia, we are back at this first council.
MCCRYSTAL: …the ambiguity of Amoris Laetitia…
SCHNEIDER: …the topic which is now causing very much confusion in the Church after the publication of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, [namely] on the topic of the admittance of the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion.
STARK: And now we have an important Church document, the Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which seems to be open to several interpretations, which can be read through several so-called hermeneutics. I think this is a problem because we had Church documents in the past, for example, Familiaris Consortio, which was crystal clear, as, for instance, the documents from the Council of Trent were crystal clear. The faithful really don’t know whom they should follow or whose interpretation they should follow.

b) It increases sin, or does other grave damage

DE MATTEI: The evidence is that the last pontifical document, the Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, is a document which has catastrophic consequences . . . I see the concrete consequences in the life of the Church. And the terrible impact of this document is that many souls are today in a deep crisis of conscience. There is the possibility that a great number of souls will lose their eternal life.
NOELL: We see the effects this has in society when, given this circumstance — this situation that the West certainly finds itself in — (enter stage right) Amoris Laetitia is brought onto the scene. Instead of receiving what we would hope to find, a buttressing and strengthening of the sacred institutions of holy matrimony and marriage and the family, we see something like gasoline being thrown on the fire.
SMEATON: What he has written is justifying adulterous acts. We are already hearing of couples who, on the basis of what you have written, Holy Father, have decided to give up their heroic virtue and fall into objective mortal sin, and to come forward to receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ. I know of Catholics, as I am sure many Catholics know . . . who have been deserted by their spouse, who has gone on to live in an adulterous second union, and they’re left with the children, or perhaps left without the children. But the children, now, and on the basis of what you have written in Amoris Laetitia, they see the mother and father who have deserted the family nest going to Holy Communion. What message does that send to them about the indissolubility of marriage? It sends them the message that marriage is not indissoluble at all.

c) It didn’t say enough in praise of big families

VOLLMER: And I think in the Joy of Love [Amoris Laetitia], which our Holy Father has spoken so beautifully about, not enough was said about the joy of the big family.

d) It was inaccurate

MCCUSKER: This is why it is so difficult for so many people when we see misleading statements, even erroneous statements, in Amoris Laetitia and in other documents.
WESTEN: In the Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, he writes that the Catholic Church has in marriage preparation almost an exclusive focus on procreation to the exclusion of unity and love within a marriage. I don’t know about you, but I know lots of people who have gone through marriage preparation. [They tell me:] ‘When do they mention procreation, ever?’ And this loss of touch with reality, the reality of what is actually going on in the Church, is one of the most concerning things I see.

e) It didn’t mention parents in the part about sexual education

WARD: Many sections later, section 280, separate and almost distinct from the real issue of sexual education we learn this: Number 280 – there is an emphasis on psychological aspects, educationalists, teachers, but there is no mention of parents. And this is in a section headed, ‘The need for sexual education’ The document says that the institutions have failed. But still, it makes no mention of parents.

Clearly, the worst thing that you can say about a document of the Church is that the document will lead people into sin, and cost people their souls. To blame Pope Francis for writing something which would have this effect is extreme. The medals for this section must go to the speakers under 4 (b). The words in this vein really do appall; the contest here is almost too close to call. But I’ll say the gold medal for the most hellish claims goes to SMEATON. The silver goes to DE MATTEI (“the evidence is” ?!) and the bronze goes to Mr. Stage Right, NOELL.

The second worst thing you can say is to say that it is erroneous. Both MCCUSKER and WESTEN have made that claim. WESTEN says the document is out of touch with reality.

Video Theme #5: The Pope is not okay. He is lacking in virtue or insight AND/OR he is doing or saying the wrong thing(s) AND/OR he is failing to do the right thing(s).

BAYER: Holy Father, there are so many things during your pontificate that have troubled our souls. The ambiguous statements that we read, the confusion that we see on a daily basis, it hurts us deeply. And we want to know personally from you, is it the media, is it people behind you [who twist your words], because we can’t believe that our beloved Holy Father, doesn’t say ‘this,’ or says ‘that.’
CLOVIS: In the last two years, things have become very difficult for us Catholics, because, Holy Father, you have not been speaking clearly and have left much confusion, much concern among the faithful, who have only one desire: to love God above all things and to love our neighbor as ourselves – and this for the sake of our salvation.
SMEATON: How is it possible to reconcile what you have written with the teaching of the Church, with a tradition of the Church? This is — and I say this with great reverence — a grave error.
SMITH: I think one of the things that I am most concerned about when I look at this papacy and Pope Francis . . . I think that some of the statements that he has been making are causing incredible confusion, almost scandal, within the laity. And I look just to families that I am dealing with in the work that I do – in the marriage and family work that I am involved with. You hear stories all the time of our young children, our teenagers, being totally confused by the comments that are coming out of the Vatican, coming out from Pope Francis himself.
STARK: We are facing a quite complicated situation in the Church right now, because our Holy Father says and does things that create a lot of confusion amongst the faithful.
WESTEN: Right from the beginning of Pope Francis’ reign we found some very difficult things to deal with, particularly as the pro-life movement. There’s been a lot of ambiguity, purposeful ambiguity, leaving things open so that there is confusion. And I think that it does a great deal of harm. You have this scenario where people start to wonder what exactly the teaching is. This is a horror – that Catholics, who believe and love the faith, are now confused on the fundamentals of the faith in these areas where the teaching means life or death, and I don’t mean only physical life or death; it means eternal life or death. In the Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, he writes that … And this loss of touch with reality, the reality of what is actually going on in the Church, is one of the most concerning things I see. And I [raise these concerns] out of great love for the Church. But we need to work for Christ and his truth. And I need to defend my own family, and [statements he has made are] a threat to the faith of my children.

By far and away, the most problematic attacks upon Pope Francis on this video come from WESTEN. He accuses the Pope of “purposeful ambiguity.” He seems to say that the Pope intends to cause confusion, with the implied result that souls are therefore in jeopardy of eternal death. He says he’s going to guard his family against the statements of the Pope. Alrighty. Gold medal for you, WESTEN. Gold medal for most disparaging remarks against Pope Francis. Silver medal for SMITH and bronze for SMEATON.

Video Theme #6: The world is in trouble

MCCUSKER: Today, when the family is under such great attack from national governments and International organizations, we need…
NOELL: We see that the family is under attack. It is in a state of crisis. We know that the family is the basic cell of society. When the basic sell of society becomes rotten, it drags all of society down with it.
NOLLAND: The Pope as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury are facing huge challenges from the pan-sexual revolution. I think they are trying their best, [but] I am very worried about what they are not saying, particularly about how we are losing freedom of conscience, number one. Number two, we are not addressing the LGBT agenda, I think, in the best way. And, [number three,] we don’t seem to be aware of how this revolution is taking over the entire West . . .
SMITH: But, I do feel that he needs to be more explicit because of the climate that he is in.

Video Theme #7: The Church is in trouble; good and faithful Catholics are suffering or will suffer

DE MATTEI: In my opinion, we live in a very difficult moment, perhaps one of the most dramatic moments in the history of the Church. The problem is serious because the current crisis is within the Church itself…the spiritual life of souls is today in great danger.
MCCRYSTAL: There are thousands, if not millions, of souls whose faith is like a bruised reed, a flickering flame.
MCCUSKER: In these difficult times, when we look towards Rome and see confusion, and we don’t see any longer a clear profession of our faith, it is very disconcerting for very many people.
SCHNEIDER: We are living in a very special time of a deep crisis of faith inside the Church. It is not a secret. It is very evident. A lot of people, the simple faithful, are suffering because of the situation of confusion.
SMITH: Things [such as] homosexuality is just a lifestyle, the divorce issue, and divorced couples receiving Holy Communion. This is very confusing for young people who have been brought up in the faith, whose parents have done the best that they can two impart the faith to their children, and then to have this kind of confusion coming from [the top], and many times it’s been passed on through the pulpit.
STARK: …this confusion that we have amongst the Catholic faithful.

Gold medal for annoying drama goes to DE MATTEI. Silver goes to MCCRYSTAL and bronze goes to SCHNEIDER.

Video Theme #8: The Pope needs to DO something.

BAYER: We want you to tell us personally. Can you do that for us, Holy Father? Please.
BUCKLEY: What I would like to see is that the current exhortation should be withdrawn in favor of the original one, Familiaris Consortio, which really says everything we need to know.
CLOVIS: And what we ask, especially with this Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, we ask for clarity, for certainty in what we believe. We ask for confirmation of the Church’s perennial teaching, not just the Church’s teaching, but what Christ himself has said to us . . . And so, I beseech you Holy Father, for our salvation, for the salvation of each and every little one — for the little ones — to give us again the clarity and the certainty of what Our Lord Jesus Christ has given to the apostles and to us for the sake of the salvation of our souls. And we, all of us throughout the world . . . ask you to be a father to us.
MCCRYSTAL: I plead with you to clarify the ambiguity of Amoris Laetitia for the sake of the salvation of souls. God bless you.
MCCUSKER: . . . and request of the Holy Father great clarity in teaching, that we can all be led into the joy of the truth and into the joy of living in accordance with the truth.
SCHNEIDER: It is very urgent that the Pope states more clearly, in a very unambiguous manner — in such a manner which will not leave any space for misinterpretations . . . It’s urgent that our Holy Father Pope Francis may issue or may order that the Holy See may issue a very precise, unambiguous declaration clarifying that it is impossible — and against the uninterrupted and unchangeable doctrine and practice of the Church [and] it is against the word of God to destroy with one strike three sacraments — [to] admit the divorce to holy communion without demanding of them continence and serious conversion.
SMEATON: And I beg you to withdraw it. I shall be writing to my own local bishop to the same effect. And I will be asking everybody I know to do the same. Because, I think that this is, arguably, the worst thing that has happened in the history of the Church. But you can change that.
STARK: I would ask the Holy Father to make clear what the Church teaching is, to make clear that the Church teaching can’t be changed. And, the Holy Father should say that the Church teaching has been the same [since] Our Lord Jesus Christ founded it.
VOLLMER: We need a lot of leadership from the top. We need leadership to teach, to show, young people who are founding families how to found them, how to make a solid basis for [them], and particularly — something which is absolutely being lost — the joy of big families. And I think that we need our hierarchy, particularly our bishops, and after them our priests, to speak to couples, and to warn them of the dangers of the contraceptive mentality . . .

So this is, at the end of the day, a video with sixteen people, who lack consensus about what, exactly, they want Pope Francis to do.

It seems to me that this is a critical piece of the puzzle; wouldn’t you agree? If, after all, the video does not, with one voice, identify what action needs to be taken, then the video is nothing more than a disordered Whine.

If you want something to change, then identify, clearly, what you want to change.

Instead, we have 16 voices but not much overlap as to solutions.

Only 9 of the speakers have a plan, a vision or a request. From what I can see, WESTEN does not request anything of the Pope. Instead, he just talks in generalities about what he, JHW, is going to do. (“But we need to work for Christ and his truth. And I need to defend my own family…”)

I see.

The video is called a “plea” but he does not plead for anything. He just complains and attacks.

As for those who state what they want (clearly or vaguely) BUCKLEY and SMEATON want the Amoris Laetitia to be withdrawn, and CLOVIS, MCCUSKER, MCCRYSTAL, SCHNEIDER and STARK want, it seems, another document or verbal declaration from the Pope. CLOVIS annoys me greatly by presuming to speak to the Pope on behalf of the world. Man! I’m not exactly sure what BAYER wants; she seems to want a hug. VOLLMER is on her own single-issue planet, but I must say I found BUCKLEY, who is over there sulking in the corner, rather amusing. He’s wondering why the Synod was called in the first place: “It’s all the more difficult to understand why these synods were necessary when I think that there already was a perfectly good Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, which was written by John Paul II.” Ha ha! Yeah, just go back to sleep.

Gold medal for most unclear request for clarity (yes, it is ironic) goes to MCCUSKER; STARK gets the silver, and the bronze goes to MCCRYSTAL.

How stupid, that a video called “A Plea to the Pope” leaves the viewer wondering what exactly they are pleading for. Certainly, I see very little unity or clarity.

Final Medal Count, When More is Definitely Not Better:

BAYER: gold (3 points)
BUCKLEY: bronze (1 point)
CLOVIS: gold, silver (5 points)
DE MATTEI:silver, gold (5 points)
MCCRYSAL: bronze, silver, bronze (4 points)
MCCUSKER: silver, gold (5 points)
NOELL: silver, bronze (3 points)
SCHNEIDER: bronze (1 point)
SMEATON: bronze, gold, bronze (5 points)
SMITH: silver (2 points)
STARK: gold, silver (5 points)
WESTON: gold (3 points)

So I suppose you could call it an award-winning video!

What a disaster. They shouldn’t have bothered.

Link to transcript version of the video: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/transcript-plea-to-the-pope

Here’s a link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQpJqmbYPXg
And, for those who want to reduce the suffering, here’s a link to the short version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zR4xcStBARU

Post 177

Red White & Gold: Olympics 2016 Standings for
Canada, Poland and Some Other Places

One of the many things that WiseOne and LoyalOne have in common is a deep love for Poland. Chesterton was also very praising of that great nation.

A July 16, 1927 article in The Tablet summarized a lecture given by Chesterton:

His personal contact with the Poles in their own country had won his admiration; and if after a careful study of their history, and their adherence to the Catholic Church in all their troubles, their part in the war, and their stupendous recovery since, there were individuals filled with any other sentiments than those of the greatest admiration, he was sorry for such persons.

So WiseOne and LoyalOne cheered for both Poland and Canada at the Olympics.

They watched a lot more of the coverage than I did. I didn’t see many things, but (speaking of red and white) I was sure happy for Akihiko Nakamura when he finished far ahead of the others in the decathlon’s first 1500 meter heat. Good for him! A wonderful sight.

And speaking of the decathlon, gold-medalist Ashton Eaton was very impressive, both on the track and afterwards in an interview. Congratulations to him (and to his wife). The silver went to France (Monsieur Kevin Mayer) and the bronze went to us (thank you Damian Warner).

But anyway, when the games were finished, WiseOne worked with LoyalOne to make a list different from what they could find already online. Their point system factors in the nature of the medal. As for countries equal in points, their list is alphabetical, with an exception for, well, you know it.

And I should also mention that the following list gives Shaunae Miller a silver and Allyson Felix the gold, as discussed in Post 172.

Here’s the list (Gold = 3 points, Silver = 2 points, Bronze = 1 point):

Rank Country Points
1.  United States ………………………………………………………. 251
2.  Great Britain ………………………………………………………. 144
3.  China ………………………………………………………. 140
4.  Russia ………………………………………………………. 112
5.  Germany ………………………………………………………. 86
6.  France ………………………………………………………. 80
7.  Japan ………………………………………………………. 73
8.  Australia ………………………………………………………. 56
9.  Italy ………………………………………………………. 56
10.  Netherlands ………………………………………………………. 42
11.  South Korea ………………………………………………………. 42
12.  Brazil ………………………………………………………. 39
13.  New Zealand ………………………………………………………. 35
14.  Spain ………………………………………………………. 35
15.  Hungary ………………………………………………………. 34
16.  Canada ………………………………………………………. 33
17.  Kenya ………………………………………………………. 31
18.  Kazakhstan ………………………………………………………. 28
19.  Azerbaijan ………………………………………………………. 27
20.  Jamaica ………………………………………………………. 26
21.  Denmark ………………………………………………………. 25
22.  Croatia ………………………………………………………. 23
23.  Cuba ………………………………………………………. 23
24.  Uzbekistan ………………………………………………………. 23
25.  Sweden ………………………………………………………. 21
26.  South Africa ………………………………………………………. 20
27.  Ukraine ………………………………………………………. 20
28.  Poland ………………………………………………………. 16
29.  Colombia ………………………………………………………. 16
30.  Serbia ………………………………………………………. 16
31.  Belarus ………………………………………………………. 15
32.  Iran ………………………………………………………. 15
33.  Switzerland ………………………………………………………. 15
34.  Czech Rep. ………………………………………………………. 14
35.  North Korea ………………………………………………………. 14
36.  Greece ………………………………………………………. 13
37.  Turkey ………………………………………………………. 13
38.  Belgium ………………………………………………………. 12
39.  Ethiopia ………………………………………………………. 12
40.  Georgia ………………………………………………………. 12
41.  Thailand ………………………………………………………. 12
42.  Argentina ………………………………………………………. 11
43.  Slovakia ………………………………………………………. 10
44.  Armenia ………………………………………………………. 9
45.  Malaysia ………………………………………………………. 9
46.  Mexico ………………………………………………………. 8
47.  Romania ………………………………………………………. 8
48.  Slovenia ………………………………………………………. 8
49.  Indonesia ………………………………………………………. 7
50.  Bahrain ………………………………………………………. 5
51.  Chinese Taipei ………………………………………………………. 5
42.  Lithuania ………………………………………………………. 5
53.  Vietnam ………………………………………………………. 5
54.  Algeria ………………………………………………………. 4
55.  Bulgaria ………………………………………………………. 4
56.  Cote d’ivoire ………………………………………………………. 4
57.  I. O. A. ………………………………………………………. 4
58.  Ireland ………………………………………………………. 4
59.  Norway ………………………………………………………. 4
60.  Venezuela ………………………………………………………. 4
61.  Bahamas ………………………………………………………. 3
62.  Egypt ………………………………………………………. 3
63.  Fiji ………………………………………………………. 3
64.  India ………………………………………………………. 3
65.  Jordan ………………………………………………………. 3
66.  Kosovo ………………………………………………………. 3
67.  Mongolia ………………………………………………………. 3
68.  Puarto Rico ………………………………………………………. 3
69.  Singapore ………………………………………………………. 3
70.  Tajikastan ………………………………………………………. 3
71.  Tunisia ………………………………………………………. 3
72.  Burundi ………………………………………………………. 2
73.  Grenada ………………………………………………………. 2
74.  Israel ………………………………………………………. 2
75.  Niger ………………………………………………………. 2
76.  Philippines ………………………………………………………. 2
77.  Qatar ………………………………………………………. 2
78.  Austria ………………………………………………………. 1
79.  Dominican Rep. ………………………………………………………. 1
80.  Estonia ………………………………………………………. 1
81.  Finland ………………………………………………………. 1
82.  Morocco ………………………………………………………. 1
83.  Moldova ………………………………………………………. 1
84.  Portugal ………………………………………………………. 1
85.  Trinidad and Tobago ………………………………………………………. 1
86.  U. A. Emirates ………………………………………………………. 1
Post 176

TGIF (Thank God It's Friday):
Reflections on God's Favorite Plot Line

Chesterton writes about people who just don’t get it.

They don’t understand how a person can be multi-faceted.

They don’t understand how a soldier, whose job may well involve killing, can also be a poet. These critics think it’s absurd.

But what does anger him, what does seem to him absurd, is the idea of a soldier civilized; the man who is no more ashamed of the military art than of any other art, but who is interested in other arts – and interested in them all like an artist. That the man in uniform should make a speech, and, worst of all, a good speech, seems comic – like a policeman composing a sonnet.

— G.K. Chesterton, “The Polish Ideal” Illustrated London
News, July 2, 1927

These people (call them critics or call them haters) would very much dislike the decathlon. They want everyone to choose their sport and stay within the boundaries of that choice.

But let me expand the analogy. What they really dislike is the decathlon of life, where we’re all invited to participate in all sides of things. Our lives involve the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual realms.

After all, being a full human person means enjoying and exploring many aspects of life. It means, especially, that we must not neglect our spiritual side. Enter into a relationship with God. Persevere in this part of your game; be disciplined and train. Soon it will be easy — without thinking about it, you’ll have a new perspective. You’ll find yourself on God’s team and soon you’ll be playing.

But as I was saying, the critics want to keep everything in its place. Everything: precise.

The critics want to keep everyone in their place. Everyone: cut down to size. (Ha ha — that’s called Not Rhyming.)

In particular, they want those who are “weak” to stay away from the Games that Big People Play.

If, for example, you are a dreamer or a poet, please Keep Out.
If, for example, you are a woman or a child, please Keep Out.
If, for example, you are one of these Religious Fanatics, please Keep Out.

Chesterton says that the excuse which these critics use is that the “weak ones” won’t succeed in the Real World. The “weak ones” should step aside. Nobody wants, so they say, to see anybody getting crushed or entirely run over.

This is why they love examples of the weak getting crushed or entirely run over; it proves their point and it proves their own prowess.

They shed a tear and they sigh,

but inside,

they smile.

They laugh at the failure of those they enjoy classifying and dismissing as “weak.”
They gleefully anticipate the destruction of those they have relegated to the status of losers and outsiders and non-starters in general. If they tune in at all, it’s to enjoy the gory and most ‘inevitable’ fall of the weak.

Some people are really evil.

And here, do not be fooled. Do not think that the only ones with this attitude are the ones who consider themselves ‘strong.’ If you think that, you would be wrong. There are many peevish and small-minded folks, who, while considering themselves weak, and loudly acknowledging themselves as such, nevertheless begrudge the victories of others. They know they are weak, but they want others to be weak as well. Do not assume that Mr Humble over there is cheering for you. No, my dear, the truth is, he’s not. He’s checking you out and looking for flaws. If it’s not clay feet this time, perhaps it will be something else.

Your face is swollen, my dear. You’re just not okay.

Yeah? Go jump in a lake.

And so it is that the critics and the haters become entirely enraged upon finding that the weak ones, the romantic ones, the idealistic and inept ones

have succeeded.

They’ve hit the mark.

They’ve done it.
They’ve nailed it.
They’ve finished.
And they’ve finished in first.

The haters are choked, as Chesterton says:

These critics commonly say that they are irritated with this romantic type because it always fails; so they are naturally even more irritated when it very frequently succeeds. People who are ready to shed tears of sympathy when the windmills overthrow Don Quixote are very angry indeed when Don Quixote really overthrows the windmills.

— G.K. Chesterton, “The Polish Ideal,” Illustrated London News, July 2, 1927

Yet, unfortunately for them, the story-line will repeat, again and again.

Do you know why?

It’s simple: this is God’s favorite plot.
Time after time, he reverses the order. Time after time, God gives the victory to the ‘loser.’ Nobody sees it coming. What is rejected by man is glorified by God.

The Magnificat. Over and over again.

He chooses what has been humbled, neglected, forgotten, or intentionally ignored. It’s his style; it’s called The Surprise.

How the critics underestimate God’s ability to do a surprise! How they shrink the God of the universe! They expect him to color Inside the Lines. They demand this — from the author of the sunrise!

In the same way that the critics want every institution and person to be completely predictable and almost mechanically confined, the critics figure that they’ve got God and his Church entirely worked out. They know all his lines, they know all his moves; they’ve kept up to date and they know all the signs.

Man! They think that God is a puppet on a string!

How stunned, then, will they be, when God changes the rules.

But he can.

He can do anything he wants.

Remember?

It comes with the package. It comes with the job, the job of being the one God.

Go look it up.

Omnipotent.

When you’re God, you can do whatever you want. You can reveal a new role for women in the church (no, they won’t ever be priests), which emphasizes the truth that Christ’s mother Mary was more holy than all the apostles put together. You can change the weather (‘global warming’ can be a delight) and you can move the papal headquarters to Edmonton (why not?).

And hey, why stop there?

Christ could return

Just for a visit

Not described or predicted in Revelations or the Gospel according to John.

Ah yes.

I can imagine (we dreamers can)

Jesus Christ

Coming back on a Friday

He’d say,

“Surprise!”

Post 175
Fr. Raymond Guimond,

Motor Mouth

I once knew a priest
Known as a very good priest
Knowledgeable, wise and of course
Entirely discreet

I once knew a priest
Viewed as a true and devoted old priest
Cheerful, kind and of course
Entirely discreet

I once knew a priest
Trusted as a friend a guide and a priest
Sympathetic, compassionate and of course
Entirely discreet

Alas

Alas

Alas

Unpacked heavenly bags before his most human eyes
Showed him some treasures beyond what he’d seen
Told him some things beyond what he’d heard

Fascinating, confusing, mystical things
Talk of angels
Eyes blazing bright
Talk of demons
Preferring the night

What kind of layman says things like this?
He thought that he knew me
And indeed, he actually did
But things have a way of suddenly changing
Whether you’re ready or not

November 23
November 24 and before

Newness for one
Newness for four

All kinds of changes
All kinds of things
Not usual things
Not usual changes

Spiritual eyesight and
Warnings in the fashion of
St. Hildegard of Bingen:
“Father, it would be better if you didn’t . . .”

“The seal of the confessional”
Means?
“The seal of the confessional”
Means
Secrecy
Confidentially
So that all can be said
So that all can be heard

Seminary time:
Perhaps some priests missed the sessions about confession
Perhaps some priests missed the sessions about spiritual direction

Yeah man.

Perhaps it was
Entirely confusing

Did someone say “seal”?
What could that mean?

I know! I know!
The Scrabble definition!

Arf arf!
A seal.
It can bark.
Four letters.
How many points?

The Scrabble definition
Creature of the sea
Like the manitou or the ray
Stingray
Sting, Ray
Sting on

Alas

Alas

Alas

Details of a session of spiritual direction
Meant to be private
Meant to be secret

Disclosed all over the city

At a meeting
And via cell phone

To him and to him
To her and to her
(I could tell you their names;
I know at least four)

Various folks
Heard whatever
This priest
Wanted to share
About me
About what was said
December 4 and before

Alas

Alas

Alas

I once knew a priest
BACKSTABBER
I once knew a priest
BACKSTABBER
Is that a knife in my back?

Ah yes.

That’s why it hurts.

Stunned to the core
Shaken like never before
How could he disclose?
How could he say that?
“Be normal” he said
In the middle of his rant

“Normal.”

In my books,
“Normal” means
A Catholic priest
Acts like
A Catholic priest

I once knew a priest
Entirely
and
Miserably

Indiscreet

I want to scream

Betrayal!

Not once!
But over
And over
And over
And over
Again

When will you stop divulging my words?
When will you stop defaming my name?

Seminary Time:
(Let me remind)
Whom do you betray
When you blab blab and blab
All in this way?

Let me see.
Two Scrabble letters
Come to my mind:
The first is a J; the second is a C.

Repent, priest.
Go to confession.
The sooner the better.

Hopefully you’ll find
A wholly discreet
Catholic priest.

Post 174

Bug Off

I once knew a woman who was just like a fly,
Droning and swooping and dirtily spying.

I once knew a woman just like a mosquito,
Pricking and spiteful and insanely annoying.

I once knew a woman who was just like a wasp,
Noisy and nasty and stinging without warning.

I once knew a woman who was just like a moth,
Flapping and hiding, her disguise was a flop.

How did it happen?
How did they get in?
Oh yucky!
Oh yucky!
I hope they’re all gone!

All gone?
All gone!

Ah, gracious God,
I know you are good.
These six-legged creatures
Have now left my ‘hood.

Post 173

It Looks Like Rain

Tell me

Who tried, harder than me, to understand you?

Tell me

Who tried, harder than me, to encourage you?

Tell me

Who tried, harder than me, to help you, when you were distressed or confused or generally lost?

Tell me

Who succeeded, better than me, in understanding you?

Tell me

Who succeeded, better than me, in encouraging you?

Tell me

Who succeeded, better than me, in helping you, when you were distressed or confused or generally lost?

Tell me

Who admired you more than I admired you?

Tell me

Who loved you more than I loved you?

Tell me

All about that person

Tell me

All about him

Tell me

All about her

Tell me

Oh tell me

Will you!

Will you let that one

Go

As easily as you let me

Go?

The fire burns and I melt away with it, but you don’t mind

The water rises and I sink beneath it, but you don’t mind

The wind blows and I disappear with it, but you don’t mind

No

You don’t mind

You don’t mind

Never mind

Never mind

Never mind

Post 172

Olympic Coverage: Reflections on Clothing
at the Games and Staying On Your Game Until the End

The Olympic games are a good thing.

Did you know that if you attend the Christmas Eve vigil at a Catholic church, you will hear a special chant near the beginning of the Mass which lists different events of salvation history, and which has, nestled in it, a reference to the Olympics?

Yes! The Olympics are mentioned at Mass!

I went online to get more information about it, and I found an article written by Fr. Felix Just. (I’ll add the link later in this post.) Fr. Just writes:

A formal “Proclamation of the Birth of Christ” is traditionally chanted or recited near the beginning of the Christmas Midnight Mass and/or during the Liturgy of the Hours on Christmas Eve. The text, which comes from the “Roman Martyrology” for December 24, situates the birth of Jesus Christ within the context of salvation history. It begins with the creation of the world, mentions certain key events in the history of the people of Israel, and concludes with the birth of Jesus during the Roman Era.

His article contained a table which compared the different versions of this proclamation. He used the version from 1994, and this is the Olympic part of it: “In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad; the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome.”

Isn’t that neat?

I think it’s quite fascinating. It shows you that the Church is very much aware that salvation comes in the context of our ordinary and special human events. The Church is not unearthly, in other words. It reminds me of how the writers of the Gospel describe the life or birth of Jesus by putting it into the context of local events occurring at that time in history.

God acts within history. He acts within the concrete events and places of today. He acts in our daily lives, and we must be careful to make sure that we don’t imagine that God is so lofty and so untouchable that he has his head in the clouds and would refuse to deal with our daily concerns.

Some people want to imagine a God who is so pristine and so hoity-toity that he can’t be bothered with people.

Some people want to refashion Christ, so that he is 100% judgmental, and 0% merciful. They imagine a church and a Christ that never wants to dirty its hands nor its feet. Nope: for them, it’s always lavender soap.

The fact is, God very much wants to be with us, to mingle with us, and to laugh and cry and celebrate with us. He sends his only Son to walk the earth with us, and the intermingling does not end there. God’s providential care continues with the Church, which acts as mother to us, teaching us and ministering to us. At the centre of the Church is the Eucharist, which is nothing less than Christ himself. He stays with us. He never wants to leave.

He likes hanging out with us, in other words.

But here, let’s understand, it’s not primarily a visual thing. So don’t go setting aside an empty chair at your already-crowded table when you have your Christmas dinner, to signal that – yes – Christ is With You.

That’s just dorky and totally unnecessary, so stop bragging to everyone about your ‘special tradition.’ Quit the posing and the look-at-us devotions. Give Uncle Bob the chair, already.

Christ is there all the time, whether you set aside this that or the other thing. The main place that you need to reserve for him is inside your heart, not beside the cranberry sauce.

And by this I mean that you need to have an openness to his will. If God wants you to do x, do you do x? If God wants you to avoid doing y, do you avoid doing y? That’s the main thing. If you do this with a real desire to do the right thing, you won’t go wrong.

If you really want to do the right thing, you’ll be able to figure it out. Consider what you know about the teachings of the Church. If any of these things sound dreadfully stupid or impossibly difficult, then probably your sources of knowledge about Church teaching are leading you astray. Consult a better source. Consult a good priest. Ask a knowledgeable Catholic friend or acquaintance what you should do in your actual situation. If some aspect of Catholic teaching causes you consternation, go online and read the actual text of the teaching.

Consider your vocation and actual life situation. If you’re at work, then do your duty. If you’re at home, do your duty. If you are married, make that a priority. If you’re in religious life, do whatever you have vowed to do, and listen to your superior. Et cetera and et cetera.

There are plenty of ways for you to figure out how to please God, if that’s your intent.

But anyway, I watched the 2016 Olympics for the first time yesterday, upon coming across, in a store, a wall of large screen televisions. It was, as you know, day 11 of the games.

Interesting stuff.

I liked most of it. I think I watched, in total, about an hour’s worth. And when I got home, I went online and watched some videos of coverage from yesterday, I think it was.

Interesting stuff.

My opinions about sports haven’t changed tremendously over the years. I continue to prefer those sports which have a clear way of discerning the winner. Pole vaulting, for example, is nice clean and neat – very difficult to cheat. Other sports are blurry and subjective. Too ‘artistic’ for me. Rhythmic gymnastics, for instance: it’s just not appetizing. LoyalOne joked that the balance bar queens looked like peacocks strutting through a mating dance of some kind. Puff puff.

Indeed!

And those outfits, well, you know I dislike.

And perhaps that could serve as some sort of test. If your sport involves wearing lipstick and sequins on your chest, then, um, maybe we should give it a rest. If I were in charge, those ‘sports’ would be relegated to the world of the arts, like the ballet and the folk-dancing fest. But I’m not in charge, so carry on with your tip-toeing and your martial arts.

I cheered for Canada, of course.

In the instances where Canada wasn’t in the line-up, I cheered for the athletes wearing the most clothes.

Will someone please tell me why the men do their sports wearing a respectable amount of clothes while the women run down the track in what looks like underwear? Why, on earth, is it necessary for female track athletes to show their belly-buttons to the world? The men don’t do it. Why all the skin?

Man. I shake my head.

So many things.

I gave mental points to those athletes who looked and behaved in a dignified manner. I liked the athletes who looked focused and simple.

I cheered when Thiago Braz Da Silva did what he had never done, and soared through the air via pole vault at 6 meters 3. The silva went to the athlete from France, who did very well too, though I didn’t like his Toller-Cranston-esque look, and was glad when he put on a more modest shirt.

I liked how Bolt held his head high as he crossed the finish line. That’s how you do it. I cannot agree with all the commentators and journalists who’ve praised the dive of Shaunae Miller. That just looked stupid. Not a photo finish in my books, and not worth it. No, I do NOT think that getting gold justifies anything and everything. No, I do NOT think it was brave or bold or great to do a face plant. I think it was lame. Part of successful completion of a fast-footed race should be ending it upright, and on your feet.

The real winner of that race was Allyson Felix. Be happy Allyson, as happy as your surname. You won.

I also do not approve of any athlete lying on the track after the race. How ick. There they are, sweating and sprawled, wearing nearly nothing at all. You can see how the videographer juggles the camera angles trying to figure out how to ‘cover’ the moment. He thought his work involved coverage of sports, and not of, well, um, something else.

Please, dear ‘athlete’: go pant and heave somewhere else. It’s been long enough.

Pick yourself up, put on a proper shirt, and go hold your flag.

Man.

(I heckled the televisions.)

Do you think, now that you’ve won, that everything you do is just fab? It’s not. Now, more than ever, you have a duty to the world to show How Things Are Done. Be gracious, be sensible. Be a role model for decent behaviour.

Drop the theatrics. The world has seen enough of your armpits, your thighs and everything else.

Pick yourself up, put on a proper shirt, and go hold your flag.

And yes, please hold the flag (not a yellow poly-filled mascot). And no, don’t drape your flag on your shoulders like a bathrobe or cape.

Hold it up proudly, like Derek Drouin did. What an athlete – a champion for sure.

Did you see how he behaved at these 2016 Olympic games? A gentleman through and through. His leaps: pristine and clean. His moves, his gestures, his words, his facial expressions: calm and discreet. He dressed between jumps and he clothed himself properly and promptly before gathering his flag. He held his flag wide and high as he went to smile at his mom, his dad and his two older sisters, all attending there in Rio. You could feel the intended hugs and the overflowing joy. I was very proud of this Canadian. What a wonderful example.

I was so happy to watch his jumps live on TV. God’s timing is perfect and that’s the segment I happened to see.

Derek’s biography on the official Olympic website is wonderful as well:

Family: Parents Gaetan and Sheila Drouin… Older sister Jillian is a two-time Canadian high jump champion and member of the 2015 Pan Am Games team… Also has older sister Alysha… Getting into the Sport: Started running track at age 9 but didn’t get into high jump until he was 15, following his sister who was a great high jumper and made it look fun… Before he did it in school, he would set up a high jump in his family’s basement using two large base speakers and a broomstick, which he would raise by stacking books under it, and then jump over it onto the couch; it’s because of this set-up and the way he had to run down the hallway that he still jumps from the left side… Inspired to represent Canada in some sport after watching Simon Whitfield win gold at Sydney 2000 when he was 10… Outside Interests: Graduated from Indiana University in 2013 with a degree in Kinesiology… Enjoys reading, movies, exploring new cities, and playing other sports (hockey, volleyball, golf)… Odds and Ends: Says the closest thing to a good luck charm he’s ever had are the Teddy Grahams he usually has in his bag to snack on during competitions… Nickname: Drouin, D… Always travels with at least one book… Favourite motto: “If not me, who? If not now, when?”…

His motto is good and I love the fact that he carries no charms. Good for him!

I wish him the best in his future endeavors, and at the same time I hope that he – and all athletes and spectators – never forget that sports are only one aspect of life.

The Olympics are big, but God is bigger.

The Olympics have their place, and that place is within God’s plan, and not the other way around.

(And on that topic, I want to say that making the sign of the cross before or after a race is fine, provided that one acknowledges that the athlete serves God, and not that God serves the athlete by making the athlete win or by bringing him good luck. That would be to treat God as a good luck charm. Your intention is key – that’s my point.)

Let us enjoy our sports, our arts and all decent human endeavors, but let us always be mindful of the ultimate finish line of our lives.

Death will come soon enough.

Can we live our lives well until then?

How do we end?

I hope we can hold our heads high.

Click here for a link to the article by Father Felix

And here’s the Proclamation:

Proclamation of the Birth of Christ

Today, the twenty-fifth day of December,
unknown ages from the time when God created the heavens and the earth
and then formed man and woman in his own image.

Several thousand years after the flood,
when God made the rainbow shine forth as a sign of the covenant.

Twenty-one centuries from the time of Abraham and Sarah;
thirteen centuries after Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt.

Eleven hundred years from the time of Ruth and the Judges;
one thousand years from the anointing of David as king;
in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel.

In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome.
The forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
the whole world being at peace,
Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming,
being conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and nine months having passed since his conception,
was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary.

Today is the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

Post 171

A List

  1. Mena, Sophia, Isabel, Rosalina
  2. Adrian, Ethan, Garrett, Tobias
  3. Andriy, Christopher, Mexican guy, James
  4. Five other Canadian military pilots
  5. Fr. Raphael, Fr. Michael, Fr. Gabriel, Fr. Patrick
  6. Luke, Michael, Miriam, Georgiana, Philomena
  7. Christina, Eloise, the Mexican girl and five anonymous girls
  8. Ephrem, Nathan and Emmelina
  9. Phyllis and Isabel
  10. David Moret, Avicii guy, James, Andrew
  11. Pope Francis, Pope Emeritus Benedict
  12. Brother and sister from Hub Mall
  13. Christina’s parents
  14. Rachel, Gisele
  15. Colten and Edmund
  16. Joseph, Fr. John, Fr. Benjamin
  17. Xavier, Ella Grace, Hadrian
  18. Tim’s parents
Post 170

Shall We Count the Ways? Reflections on
JHW's Wretched Magazine (August 2016 Issue)

Even after unsubscribing, I continue to receive “Faithful Insight,” John-Henry Weston’s horrid magazine.

He’s becoming increasingly shrill and hysterical.

Consider the front cover of the August 2016 issue.

In large letters it says: “A plea to the Pope to end the confusion.”

The central theme of this issue is the Pope, and whether he is sufficiently Catholic. John-Henry Weston’s editorial begins with this sentence: “The situation in the Catholic Church has become critical.” He goes on.

And on.

And on.

This issue is filled with article after article criticizing the actions and words of Pope Francis. I hardly know where to begin.

I guess I’ll do it by whim.

Let me start with page 17, where John-Henry Weston (JHW) accuses Pope Francis of dissing the rosary.

JHW writes that JHW said to JHW (he uses quotes): “There is no way” I remember thinking to myself, “a Pope would ever say anything slighting the rosary.”

(Insert photo here of JHW looking appropriately scandalized.)

Oh please.

On June 6, 2013, Pope Francis met with a group. A transcript was made. And here, I warn you that whenever you hear anything quoted about Pope Francis which troubles you, do a word count. If the quotation that you are looking at has fewer than 158 words, then probably you do not have enough words to properly understand what the Pope meant. The first paragraph below (in blue) has 158 words. When you add in paragraph two (which is fair, because paragraph 2 contains the pontiff’s second concern), you are at 254 words.

You need a larger chunk of Pope Francis’ words because he is so often quoted when he is speaking casually. You really need the context. In those situations, he mentions examples as they occur to him. The sentences are sometimes not completely finished, as happens in normal conversation, where one idea interrupts another, or where the idea has been delivered well enough so that further elaboration is unnecessary, or where the hearers are anxious to pursue another topic and so the speaker opens himself up for the next question. He paraphrases other speakers; he makes jokes; he wonders aloud.

Consider all these things, and do not fish for that exciting Pope Francis Sound Bite in order to roast him and the Catholic Church.

Here is the whole quotation. Pope Francis was expressing his concern about two heretical tendencies: pelagianism (first concern) and gnosticism (second concern). Here’s the section, and I highlight, in yellow, the part that JHW used, and in case you are wondering, the square bracket parts were added by the group that met with Pope Francis, in order to clarify the Pope’s meaning further.

I share with you two concerns. One is the Pelagian current that there is in the Church at this moment. There are some restorationist groups. I know some, it fell upon me to receive them in Buenos Aires. And one feels as if one goes back 60 years! Before the Council… One feels in 1940… An anecdote, just to illustrate this, it is not to laugh at it, I took it with respect, but it concerns me; when I was elected, I received a letter from one of these groups, and they said: “Your Holiness, we offer you this spiritual treasure: 3,525 rosaries.” Why don’t they say, ‘we pray for you, we ask…’, but this thing of counting… And these groups return to practices and to disciplines that I lived through – not you, because you are not old – to disciplines, to things that in that moment took place, but not now, they do not exist today…

The second [concern] is for a Gnostic current. Those Pantheisms… Both are elite currents, but this one is of a more educated elite… I heard of a superior general that prompted the sisters of her congregation to not pray in the morning, but to spiritually bathe in the cosmos, things like that… They concern me because they ignore the incarnation! And the Son of God became our flesh, the Word was made flesh, and in Latin America we have flesh abundantly [de tirar al techo]! What happens to the poor, their pains, this is our flesh…

Please look carefully at where JHW began taking the quotation. He did not quote even the full first sentence. He sliced it in half, in order to make Pope Francis look bad. And he didn’t even go like this: “[I]t concerns me” or like this: “ . . . it concerns me” so that the reader would know that JHW wasn’t using the full sentence.

Look at what JHW removed (the part which is not highlighted):

An anecdote, just to illustrate this, it is not to laugh at it, I took it with respect, but it concerns me;

The omission of the beginning of the sentence is highly troubling and should show anyone who is paying attention that JHW has it in for the Pope.

When you remove the beginning of the sentence, and you say nothing about the fact that Pope Francis was criticizing two heresies, then you think that Pope Francis’ primary beef was that some folks said the rosary, again and again.

Pope Francis’s words, at the beginning of the sentence, will show any reader that Pope Francis is not intending AT ALL to attack the rosary, nor the idea of a gift. He specifically states that he is trying to give an illustration; he says this is an anecdote to illustrate the point. He does not want anyone to laugh at the situation, but he teaches; he describes the problem. He is wanting to give an illustration of a tendency towards pelagianism, in the context of describing how it is still alive in the church.

To explain further, the Pope was saying that he felt like he was entering into a time machine when he saw the way that some people were still practicing their faith. He was shocked that people would, in these decades after Vatican II, still approach religion as if you EARNED your way into heaven by your Massive and Holy Efforts. The problem wasn’t the rosary or the praying, but the counting.

He was criticizing the counting.

Get it, John-Henry?

The counting.

Pope Francis is very much in favour of the rosary and prayers in general. He regularly and habitually asks for prayers.

However, there is a danger with prayer, as with all spiritual practices, and it is the danger that a person will ‘tally up’ his spiritual accomplishments or works.

It is all too easy to leave God out of the picture. The heresy of Pelagianism, as I understand it, is the view that humans are Very Awesome and Essentially Good. The idea is that they are so good that all they have to do is Apply Themselves and everything will turn out Amazingly Great.

That phrase, “Love is a decision” has some element of the same problem. It’s got that Grit-Your-Teeth element. I am not saying that the phrase is devoid of truth, but it can be used to overemphasize human will and human action. It can serve to remove the romance part of love.

Where is God in all of this? Does he not support you in your good decision to love? What would happen if he didn’t? And where is grace in all of this?

The problem with counting rosaries is that the person counting them is acting as if More is Better. It’s as if God is a computer program or calculator: if one prayer is good then hey, ten are better. Right?

God doesn’t work like that at all.

He considers the heart.

He knows what we want, even before we ask it. He wants us to ask, so that we know and remember our dependence upon him, but if the asking itself makes us think that we are the ones Manipulating him, then that’s what you would call

A FAIL.

That was Pope Francis’ point. He was saying, Hey man, ya don’t need to count ’em.

Just pray.

Ya don’t need to count.

It’s prayers

Not math.

Post 169

Deadly: Reflections on Weirdness and Sin

This week I was invited to a funeral.

I never met the deceased.

I never even knew any members of the deceased’s family. The son (I’ll call him “DeanWho”) was never more than an acquaintance. I am sure that when I used to see DeanWho – over 25 years ago – I sometimes said hello. I can also say that I once knew DeanWho’s friend (let’s call him “DarcyWho”), though I haven’t had any contact with DarcyWho for over a decade.

So I found it strange that I would have received two phone calls about this funeral. The first call was from DarcyWho and the second was from DeanWho.

Don’t you think that’s weird?

I think that’s weird.

Oh well. Looks like it’s time to make a couple of new policies of my own. How about this:

  1. I don’t return phone calls from weirdos, even if you leave me as many telephone numbers as you have.
  2. If I barely knew you twenty-five years ago, I probably won’t be attending the funeral of your mother. I probably won’t even send flowers or a card. As for prayers, well, that’s between me and my God.

There.

I’m glad I’ve cleared that up.

Moving along, I’ll say a few things about weirdness in general.

The thing is, some people do really weird things. For clarity’s sake, I use the word “weird” in a negative sense. I am not here meaning just “unique.”

Weird behaviour surprises us because it falls so outside our imagination that we could not even have considered it for a moment. It doesn’t occur to us, for example, to think of each others’ heads as planets because, well, it just doesn’t occur to us. We find it rather astonishing, therefore, to discover that the hairdresser from several years back was worried that our planet was excessively big (bigger than his) and wanted to shrink it, using brush, comb and scalp massager thing.

Indeed, that would explain the strangest and most painful haircut I ever had.

Weird.

Who woulda thunk.

Chesterton’s stories are full of descriptions of outrageous behaviour. Something happens and the reader cannot imagine what coulda happened and who coulda dunnit.

The missing piece is strange behaviour by someone with strange thinking and strange motives.

To take the simplest of examples, in The Man Who Was Thursday, there are several instances of people who seem, at first glance, to be very aged or crippled, yet who are, inexplicably, capable of running very fast. Things just don’t add up. The protagonist doesn’t see it coming.

And so it is in real life.

The normal person tries so hard to come across as intelligent, competent, healthy, polite, good and all-around worthy that he is entirely duped by the person who aims for the opposite.

But it happens.

Every day, there are people who purposely present themselves as less capable and complete than they are.

You don’t have to look very far.

I knew a woman who pretended to be really quite Helpless With English. It was part of her shtick, like the floral kerchief she wore on her head. She wanted to come across as holy and simple and wide-eyed and meek. So she’d screw up her writing. She deliberately misspelled.

Oh yeah and oh yeah. I kid you not.

I asked her about it.

I said, Hey, don’t have spell check on your computer?

We emailed back and forth. Her lies multiplied by the hour.

It didn’t take long for her to get herself quite tangled in knots. She confused herself entirely and near the end, it would take days for her to answer the simplest of questions.

She was obviously really angry at me. As a matter of fact, sometimes she got so angry that she forgot to add the misspellings.

Hilarious.

She spelled the word “sincere” in every unusual way you could imagine: “sinsiere,” “sinceere” or whatever it was. But then she’d forget that her normal closing greeting spelled a related word perfectly right. There it was, as plain as day: “Sincerely.”

(Oh Wren: Not a very slick trick! Spelling errors are easy to make but difficult to fake.)

In the same vein, some people will pretend to be physically challenged. They trick people because the average person would never feign that. But you’d be surprised that there are advantages that some people enjoy. They like being the Little Old Lady who’d do nobody no harm. They love their gray hair and they stoop forward like this. Then they creep up to you, tap you on the shoulder and ask something nosy or say something bitchy.

You are stunned, while they hobble their way off to their brand new and shiny sedan. Oh yeah, there it is. I see it quite close. It’s the one displaying that Handicapped Card (Reserved Parking, a treat every time).

You don’t argue back and you don’t protest at all because, well, how could a Little Old Lady be anything but swell?

Ah, you novice!

Hey man, go whip out those Fairy Tales – I’ll give you an open-book exam. What disguise is most tested and true?

Hint One: What was the appearance of Snow White’s evil stepmother?

Hint Two: What was the appearance of the woman who introduced Sleeping Beauty to the spinning wheel?

Yup.

Still works like a charmity charm.

So nowadays I don’t. I don’t answer questions from people if the questions are invasive. I don’t care how many wheelers or walkers or canes they got going. I don’t care if they are ‘smiling’ at me from that shiny wheelchair. If the question is out of line, then it’s out of line. Period.

I also don’t answer questions from waiters or waitresses who smile just like this and who are Just Making Conversation.

They sidle up: “So . . .

They smile as they casually ask: “What have you folks got planned for the rest of the day?”

Uh? And it’s your business because?

To such a question, I am tempted to reply, “Never mind. Whatever I’m doin’, it doesn’t include you.”

But I’ve never actually said that. My more typical approach is to ignore questions that I don’t want to answer, although sometimes I will refuse outright, saying that I do not answer questions like that.

When the bank teller asks me why I’m depositing so many cheques from various people, does she deserve an answer?

If the bank machine doesn’t need to know, I don’t see why she does.

For those who don’t want to leave a question hanging, or who don’t want to rebuff on the spot, I’ve seen other approaches. I once saw VigilantOne answer a question like that. Upon being asked what he was doing for the balance of the day, I think he answered that he was going to do

“Oh you know, This and That.”

Not bad. Vagueness can work, if that’s your style. If it is, there’s always this reply: “Oh, just some stuff. You know. How about you?” Use your noggin. You’ll develop your own Not-Answering-That style.

Some questions just don’t deserve to be answered. Don’t lie, but don’t feel pressured to answer questions that you don’t want to answer. There’s no requirement to answer every question that’s thrown at you. Consider Jesus at the tribunal. The man was silent, for the most part.

We need to drop this habit of being so Friendly and so Entirely Chatty and Perfectly Social that we find ourselves in situations where no question is off limits, where you are made to feel rude by not playing along. The current state of affairs is dangerous because it makes the well-meaning person feel awkward, upon being confronted with the Question that Asks A Little Too Much. And indeed, I think it is fair to say that it tempts people to lie. They feel rather trapped and caught by surprise, so they look for a cover; they dive into the bushes.

Instead, we need to acknowledge that not every single person will be prepared to answer every single question all of the time.

Get it?

Not every single person will be prepared to answer every single question all of the time.

One example that comes to mind quite readily is the way adults ask all kinds of questions to other people (called “children”) expecting 100% disclosure, even when they met only 2 minutes ago:

“How old are you?”

“What grade are you in?”

“And what are you going to be when you Grow Up?”

Imagine reversing the situation. How about if the child asks the adult: “How old are you?”

How about if the child asks the adult: “What are you going to be when you Grow Up?”

(A loser? Oops – I can see that you already are.)

Yeah. The current situation is not entirely kosher.

And some adults really abuse the openness of children by digging for information when the child’s parents are absent. Teachers, for instance, should refrain from asking for information that isn’t actually necessary. “Where does your daddy work?” “Are you going somewhere nice on your family vacation?” “What kind of house do you live in?”

Whoa there horsey. Cool it with the questions.

Look: if you were REALLY making conversation, it would be about something you think the child would find interesting. It wouldn’t look quite the way it does. It wouldn’t look like some kind of imbalanced cross-examination, where the child is on the stand. Question, answer. Question, answer.

Don’t abuse the desire (of an adult or child) to be kind and polite.

And on the other side, don’t compromise your own values to score points as Missy or Mister Polite. Personally, I’m not going for the prize of Miss Congeniality. (You probably knew that.)

It’s not worth it.

Jesus didn’t do it.

Nobody confused him with Miss Manners when he went into the temple courtyard and started knockin over tables and splashing their cash here there and everywhere.

Nope.

The man was angry, and it showed.

And while I’m here, let me say that the problem with our Canadian Ultra-Polite culture is that so often we go underground. By this, I mean that the disadvantage with a culture which is outwardly polite is that it can split the personality. You wind up showing the world one face, while the rest remains hidden. It can lead to dishonesty. You become so adept at being Perfectly Poised that you forget how to be genuine. You forget how to be yourself. There’s the Shiny Wee Tip, but the rest of the iceberg is quite lost at sea. Can’t even see where the rest of you went.

Not so good.

I’m not advocating that we be rude to each other, but I’m saying let’s call a spade a spade. What is so entirely wrong with being direct? Let’s take off the masks.

If you take off your mask, I might actually answer your question.

Don’t pretend you are so Casual and Cool as you sidle up to coo at our table.

Be straight. Say it like this, if these are your thoughts: “I know it’s none of my business, but I’m dying of curiosity. How come you’re dressed up so fine? A wedding? A funeral?”

Be yourself, in other words.

You are 100% more likeable.

And we might even begin to be friends. I’ll say to you, “You better believe, I ain’t goin’ to no funeral, not today or next week . . . ” We could laugh at the expense of DeanWho and DarcyToo. Yahoos.

But anyway, some people like wearing disguises because it furthers some ends that they like to achieve. Certain disguises cause others to lower their defences. We don’t like to be viewed as rude, and so we twist ourselves into all kinds of knots and actually get ourselves in more trouble than we should. We reveal, about ourselves, this that and the other thing, when we should have kept our mouths shut.

The disguises are successful because they go in a direction that others wouldn’t suspect. In a world where people want to be seen as capable, these deceivers deliberately want you to underestimate them.

But there are other ways of being strange and other ways of being bad.

Take, for instance, the practice of bribery. What is surprising about bribery is that it is practiced even in Canada. How silly of me that I didn’t expect it in a country that is generally affluent and ‘clean.’ But of course! A corrupt heart is prepared to pay for privileges and dishonest gain. Of course!

I had naively imagined that bribery was something that happened Far Off and Over There. As it turns out, it can happen on your very own street, and it can happen regarding things that are petty and small. Believe me!

People will give bribes to win prizes as insignificant as ‘nicest front yard in the city.’

Really! For something like this, they will sell off part of their soul.

Amazing.

It’s the story of the bowl of soup all over again. By this, I refer to the Old Testament story of Jacob and Esau. Esau was ready to sell out – give away his position as first heir – for the sake of a momentary pleasure (bowl of soup). Jacob, who knew what it was worth, was right there to take what Esau neglected, what Esau rejected.

But this bribery and cheating thing happens all the time. Deserving students are deprived of their prizes because other students were flirting with the hormonal professors. Appalling and shameful! Oh, how I wish it would end!

Things which never should have started

These things

I wish they would end!

I call them “weird” but it’s actually much worse than that. They are actually sins. Any form of deceit is really a sin. If you purposely misspell, as part of your I’m-Beyond-Daft trickster disguise, then you sin. If you hobble down the block, as part of your I’m-As-Crippled-As-A-Run-Over-Cat trickster disguise, then you sin.

And cheating is cheating, no matter how you do it.

If you wink at the prof in order to boost your GPA, you’re breaking the rules.

If you hint at some sharing of spoils in order to win that money-money contract, you’re breaking the rules.

And cheating is cheating, no matter how small the game.

Do you think that God doesn’t notice your deceit? If you sign your daughter up, at Track and Field Day as an 11-year old, when she’s really 13, do you think God doesn’t notice? If the organizer doesn’t ask for proof of her age, does it mean your deceit is a success? Or does it mean that your punishment awaits?

The thing is, God keeps track of everything. It’s not called Track and Field Day for nothing. He sees what you’ve done, mother of Leah, and he knows that other children were deprived of the prizes they should have received.

A good person is astonished that someone would weave such a web of deceit when the ultimate ‘catch’ is nothing more than a glossy red ribbon. A good person is astonished that someone would involve her own daughter in perpetuating fraud.

But it happens.

A good person, therefore, is entirely duped. The good person cannot fathom a heart which is ready to deceive, lie and cheat about everything and nothing.

Many believe that the ‘bad guys’ are all locked up in jail. They don’t expect, from their well-dressed and polite nearby neighbour, behaviour more devious and twisted than what was ever done by the folks on death row.

But please believe me: the blackest souls are not necessarily in jail. They could be running the local weaver’s guild, for that matter, and you’d never suspect anything at all. Chesterton’s stories aren’t as fictitious or as wild and implausible as you’d think. The ‘non-drinking’ jockey puts poison in another man’s glass. The mother and daughter team up for revenge against an unsuspecting father. An uncooperative cast agrees to cooperate on a coup of their selfless director.

It happens, and you don’t see it coming.

Mind you, when you look back, you consider the coincidence about the name. And you remember staring into those green eyes – Ah! That strange emptiness you couldn’t explain.

Sin is everywhere, Chesterton would say. It’s just in more places and hearts than you thought.

If you only knew!

If you did know,

You’d be entirely glad
The story doesn’t end there.

You’d be entirely glad
God sent his only son as a cure.

You’d be entirely glad
Christ will return

To judge

The living

And the dead.