Sunday 30 March 2014

Egos in the Church

In America, the phrase "a chip on your shoulder" means that kids put wooden chips, not a potato chip, on their shoulders and others had to knock these off. The phrase now means something else, as the poster.

disputandi pruritus ecclesiarum scabies

Sir Henry Wotton, (d. 1639) said this and it will be the death of the Church in Great Britain, from the inside out. As an American observer, who lived in England for almost 13 years, I can say that the biggest obstacle to the power and strength of the one, true, holy, apostolic and Catholic Church is the propensity to argue, constantly.

Arguing about things that matter belongs to the conference table, where things hammered out behind closed doors, such as pro-life policies for lay groups, or the necessity for women to either stay-at-home or work, which must be a personal decision, creates a climate of hatred and ill-will.

Until the laity learn to work together in England, Wales, Scotand, Northern Ireland, and, indeed, Ireland, the Church will stumble along like a sick, old man, instead of like the warrior Church Militant.

Why the squabbling? One reason. Egos out of control.

There is in classical argument and debate, both of which I have taught, three absolutely necessary techniques or skills for excellence in disputing points.

The first is complete objectivity. One cannot argue from a subjective position, the "me" position.

The second involves facts, not emotions, not opinions, but facts based on truths. The person or debate team with the better facts wins.

The third is humility. Humility allows one to listen and learn.

The stubborn mind cannot be open enough to stop talking long enough to listen and grow.

For the Catholic lay person, male or female, the bottom line of humility comes in prayer. Prayer brings self-knowledge and self-knowledge leads to repentance.

I suspect the person who must argue about something all the time. This is a person with either the proverbial chip on the shoulder, or one who has fallen into a state of constant dispute, looking for arguments, looking for enemies.

Too many trads fall into the argumentative mode. This mode defines them after a while. No longer can such a  person love, as love comes from humility.

Egos get hurt, persons feel left out, persons have to be heard, over and over and over.

I, for one, have little time for the person who is always in a state of argument, debate, or pique.

A person whose vanity lies so close to the surface that intelligent debate descends into subjectivity, both feeling put out and name calling, weakens the Church by continuing this type of edginess in the market place.

Sadly, twitter and com boxes are full of such the chip-on-the-shoulder types.

But, Holy Mother Church suffers from the immaturity and hissy fits of Her children.

Even Christ had something to say about this point.

Luke 9:46-62

46 And there entered a thought into them, which of them should be greater.
47 But Jesus seeing the thoughts of their heart, took a child and set him by him,
48 And said to them: Whosoever shall receive this child in my name, receiveth me; and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth him that sent me. For he that is the lesser among you all, he is the greater.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Proclaiming the Word on Why Going to Church Matters

More than nine in ten Americans believe in God, but less than half of those Christian believers attend weekly church service. Corporate worship may not feel as imperative for Protestants who prize a personal relationship with their Savior and who may feel that private scriptural study may suffice.

Traditionally, Catholics attended weekly Mass around 75% in 1955 as the Magisterium stressed the “Sunday Obligation”.  As of 2009, Gallup reports that 45% of Catholics make it to Mass every Sunday. It is a facile conclusion that  that Vatican II alienated the Catholic faithful, however  there was already a precipitous decline in weekly Catholic worship in 1964, which was before most of the “Spirit of Vatican II” was implemented.  Of course, some traditionally oriented Catholics bristled at Novus Ordo “vulgar” (local  language) liturgies.  But it would be mistaken not to attribute factors which effect the overall culture, such as mobility negating community pressure, increasing agnosticism in secular society et cetera.

This weekend, I was visiting with a friend who is a mother of a child who is resistant to going to Church because it is “boring”.  Later, lack of church attendance can be rationalized as unbelief or knowing it already.

Shortly after this conversation, I had a reminder of why actually going to Church matters.  As I have a sacramental religiosity, I know that I am receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist at any Mass.  Worshiping at my home parish, I can connect with acquaintances with whom I have developed a relationship.   But what particularly impressed me, was how even familiar scripture can have new life breathed into them through thoughtful homilies.

This past Sunday’s Gospel was the Third Sunday of Lent, where we heard the Gospel of John’s version of the Samaritan woman at the well.   In less than twelve hours, I heard three different and thoughtful takes on this Johannine Gospel.

In the morning, I listened to Word To Life on SiriusXM's The Catholic Channel, where several Dominicans analyzed the scripture in a traditional manner. Their message focused on how Jesus knew the sin of the Samaritan woman serial husbands, yet invited her to take from the well where she would never thirst again.   This take seemed sensible for Lent, as the faithful come to terms with our sinful nature and are invited to use prayer, fasting and abstinence to better participate in the salvific redemption of the Easter miracle.

Prior to the liturgy which I worshiped , I chatted with the lay sacristan.  He shared his academic understanding that the five husbands may refer to the five gods that Samaritans historically worshiped as the word ‘baal’ could refer to “god, lord, king, or husband” which tainted their worship of Yahweh.  This would jibe with Jesus instance that Jews following the Mosaic code were worshiping correctly.  Yet Jesus offers an invitation to a true seeker, such as the Samaritan woman at the well, to follow the Messiah thus opening up God’s Kingdom to more than just the Jews.  This was an insightful academic exegesis.

During the Liturgy of the Word at Mass, the priest preached a more meta-view message.  The homily not that woman of the well is the first of three dialogic gospels before Passion Sunday.  These Johannine Gospel stories  may only be heard once every three years in the regular church liturgical readings cycle but they are part of the scrutinies every year for new Catechumens.  The meta-message of water, blindness and death emphasize the Paschal symbols of baptism, light and resurrection.

Another aspect of the young priest’s homily was the literary virtues of these readings from John’s gospels.  These scrutiny stories all are dialogic in character.  The dialog element was further impressed at this liturgy by having several voices proclaim this Gospel to have it sound more like a dialog.  The priest considered how rare real communication, in which interlocutors are really listening and interacting with each other rather than mentally rehearsing their retort or waiting to share their bon mot.  The priest quoted theologian Fr. David Tracy’s pearl of wisdom (from Plurality and Ambiguity: Hermaneutics, Religion and Hope (1994) ) that:

A conversation is a rare phenomenon, even for Socrates.  It is not a confrontation. It is not a debate.  It is not an exam.  It is questioning itself.  It is a willingness to follow the question wherever it may go.  It is dia-logue.

This “wordy” homily suggested that the Johannine dialogic gospels underlined the opening of the fourth gospel in JN 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

By speaking person-to-person without pretense, Jesus was able to help a true seeker find The Way, even though she was a person (a Samaritan woman) with whom society would have expected a Jewish rabbi (much less the Messiah) would associate.   This demonstrates how God comes to us in our imperfectness to offer relationship.

There is no way that I would have garnered this insight resting upon my own  laurels with the conceit that “I’m already familiar with that scripture.”  These faithful encounters with scripture really deepened my faith, giving increased historical, sacramental, seasonal and scriptural insight.

While such a testimony might not make it seem less boring to an argumentative adolescent, it should lend credence to how we can hear the Proclamation of the Word differently at different stages of life and through different hermaneutic lenses which compliment rather than contradict each other. The more profound challenge is to live the Word in our everyday lives.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Lynette Burrows to address the 'Inn Catholics' on 'The Anarchy of Government'...

Lynette in full flow at the Oxford Union

Venue: The Greencoat Boys Pub, 2 Greencoat Place, London SW1P 1PJ.

Time: Wednesday the 2nd of April at 19.30. 

Lynette used to be a features writer for the Telegraph but, eventually, got tired of it and now writes only when asked about something specific. Two of her books (the first one, 'Good Children', is being published for the fourth time later this year) defend the right of parents to smack their children on the grounds that it is far less bullying than nagging - because children understand it! 

Dr Burrows has run a small language school for the last twenty years in her garden. She has six children, twenty-five grandchildren and, tragically, was widowed last year.

Tuesday 18 March 2014

The Glue of Apathy And The Ugly Word "Zeal"

One of the problems with modern day Catholics seems to be a huge propensity to apathy. Those of us who blog find that our readers seem isolated in their EU communities-being the few among the many; the many who simply do not care or do not get the signs of the times. Apathy glues the mouth shut, clogs up the brain, and gums up the soul.

Catholics, by baptism, have a duty to go out into the world and spread the Gospel. That most Catholics do not do this at work, or even in their families, seems obvious by the fact that the Church in the EU is so weak.

One diocese with which I am familiar has so few seminarians that church closings will happen in the future. The glue of apathy in families stops talk about sacrifice and giving back to God. The noblesse oblige of the old Catholic families has disappeared.

Apathy means that evil grows daily in various forms. Ennui and cynicism among Catholics leads to a black hole where the light of the Gospel should burn brightly. Small pockets of light-those who blog the truth, and those who stand up against the enemies of the Church-seem fewer and fewer.

To continue fighting in the Church Militant takes energy, both spiritual and physical. The glue of apathy joins couch-potato Catholics to the enemy camps. Sadly, if one is not for Christ and His Church openly and strongly, one is cooperating with evil. Bloggers will be silenced. We have seen this already. The powers that be have many ways to silence bloggers, and the enemy we do not see, the evil one, gives power to those who hate the Church.

In my temporary county exile, I pray for British Catholics, who I hope to serve more directly in the future. I have zeal for the Church. For many British Catholics, zeal is an ugly, contentious word. I have posted comments on two blogs of late in England and my comments were not published because of "zeal".

Too many Catholics want to continue pretending that there is a safe middle ground in spiritual warfare. I suppose that zeal is a dirty word to the inhabitants of the small island which saw the ravages of a civil war-families by the sword divided.

Can we not see that the civil war in Great Britain was merely an acting out of what is behind the scenes-hatred for the Church? No, there is no middle ground.

And his disciples remembered, that it was written: The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up. John 2:17 DR

Christ showed us how to be zealous. We have no choice in this matter. Either we love the Church and are zealous for the spreading of the Gospel, or our mouths are glued shut with apathy, and maybe fear. Does anyone think that the Kingdom of God is worth fighting for on this earth?  

The zeal of Thy house consumes me....

Sunday 16 March 2014

Challenge to Guild Members

I am sure I am not the only one to notice the quick demise of a prominent Catholic newspaper in Britain. We have already seen that The Tablet, which broke with the Church on Humanae Vitae so long ago, thus setting a precedent of "informed dissent", no longer represents the main-stream beliefs of most Catholics.

Now, and you all can look on my blog for the name, a newspaper I thought was "solid", has fallen into the same old patterns of playing footsy with the enemies of the Church.

Time for a change.

I want to start a Catholic newspaper in Great Britain which is really Catholic. I want this to be the vanguard news source for Catholic issues, full of excellent Catholic commentary and articles by such good priests who celebrate the TLM.

Any takers? Are there any donors out there who would help with this venture?

Perhaps the collapse of the last really Catholic newspaper is a sign either that a new one is necessary, or that is the age of the news blog.

Ideas, comments?  Many think this age is, indeed, of electronic newspaper. What do you all think?

I want to start up a website newspaper for English consumption. Who will help with this?

It has to be smart, intelligent and CATHOLIC.


Saturday 8 March 2014

Are you in a bubble?

A while ago, I wrote on this blog a description of hell. Hell has been on my mind lately as I had to have what some would think is a minor operation, but as I almost died, (and did once and came back, as it were), in operations owing to being sensitive or allergic to anesthetics, I prepare for the worst going into all ops.

The reality of death stares me in the face because of the dangers I face with such drugs. Thankfully, as I am writing this today, I did not have any serious reactions.

But, when one faces death or the possibility of death, one has to be real about one's salvation.

I also wrote about purgatory on this blog a while ago. Again, the truth that "only the perfect see God" dictates that if we do not go through purgation on earth in order to be purified, we must go through this in another manner after death. This separation from God and pain owing to punishments for sin and for past missed opportunities for accepting graces is what we call "purgatory". See my other post here on this blog.

The problem many of us have is the sin of "rationalization". We want to dodge and weave our ways out of consequences for sin. Younger generations than myself, whose members either sat on "time-out" benches or had no consequences in the home for bad behavior, being virtually ignored by parents for whatever reasons, have no idea of the meaning and reality of consequences.

Consequences form part of the "natural" part of life. If I knock this mug of coffee off the kitchen table where I am typing, coffee will spill all over the floor, and, most likely, the mug will break. I shall then have to clean up the mess.

As a former Montessori teacher, in real schools, not play groups or day-care centers, I could help the little ones sweep up crumbs after snack, put their "work" away, and so on. In the best Montessori schools, there is no plastic. I repeat that-no plastic. Bowls and cups, trays and materials are made of glass or wood. These things break when dropped. And, that is the entire point of using such. The children learn to be careful and to clean up if something is broken.

Too many Catholics live in "plastic worlds". They have surrounded themselves with plastic of a different kind.

Sin separates from God and from other people. Sin makes us live in plastic bubbles.

These plastics are relativism, individualism, Pelganism, neo-Pelagianism and so on. These ideas deny the consequences of sin.

Just as a child surrounded by plastic never learns consequences in a natural way, so too, adults who surround their souls with false teaching, uninformed consciences, and, yes, bad friends, create a bubble world of plastic in which they can exist in a fake comfort zone.

We need to break out of these comfort zones and then, to help others break out of these plastic bubbles. We need clergy to speak to the real sins which plagued Great Britain's Catholics-contraception, fornication, homosexuality, pornography, greed, selfishness and so on.

Sins add to the plastic bubble, making it almost impervious to grace. Bad habits and habitual sin turn a plastic bubble into steel, and in that bubble, a person travels slowly but surely to hell, or to a long time in purgatory.

People say, "I shall be glad to make it to purgatory." 

This is an error in thinking. When one sins, one not only creates the plastic bubble, but one weakens the Church from within.

If one is full of egotism, one cannot, cannot build up the Kingdom of God.

We have too many people walking around in plastic, or even steel "bubbles".

Lent is a time to break out and let God be God in our lives, by allowing Him to destroy our self-made bubbles, and make us walk out into the light of truth.

Is this painful? Yes, this is painful,  but much less painful than purgatory. And, the process of purgation is much less final than hell.

Just some thoughts in the beginning of Lent.....

Wednesday 5 March 2014


Convivium! - A convivial, and informal, gathering of like minded people down at the Pub (after Mass!). There are no age restrictions.

The inaugural get-together of Convivium will take place after the 6.30 PM Extraordinary Form Mass at Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane on Friday the 14th of March.

See the Facebook page for more details.

Monday 3 March 2014

Corruption in The Social Networks

I have mentioned several times before that there is a generation or two, (Gen Xers and Millennials), who have never studied logic or debate in high school. This means the members of these groups cannot argue points logically.

My generation, the last which was taught in the classical mode, learned how to objectify arguments and do research to shore up those positions. We also learned real literary criticism and not merely "reader response" nonsense which came after us.

Education in both Great Britain and America turned from the true classical curriculum of Latin, Logic, Ethics, Aristotelian Composition and so on to a mishmash of either utilitarian courses, or courses which encouraged the students to have opinions without any frame of reference.

The result of this huge change in education from the classical to either Deweyite or Bismarckian technological training, as opposed to the teaching of the Liberal Arts, has left these two generations without the ability to stand back and argue points objectively.

I have two friends who have left social networking because, like me, they know how to argue, and have literally given up on those younger who are steeped both in their own opinions or in Catholic "informed dissent". In any case, one can no longer sustain arguments with many on line because the arguments are not objective.

Having taught Logic and Debate, as well as other classical courses, I would be giving Fs and Ds to a majority of those on twitter or in commentary boxes for either getting off subject, resorting to the fallacies, especially ad hominem and ad populum, and resorting to opinions rather than either facts or the Teaching Magisterium of the Church.

Really, I am at a juncture as to whether to help those locked in subjectivism or just, as my two friends have done, bow out of the entire discussion concerning Church teaching.

Arguing from a small incidental situation, such as "I know someone..." is not using the classical modes of debate or argumentation.

Arguing against persons is obviously not only bad manners but not part of classical debate or argumentation.

I guess my question would be this. When does one give up trying to teach critical thinking, as well as manners? Classical debate involves good will, manners, respect for all sides of an argument.

Without respect, there is no common ground.

If one looks at social networking many years ago, one sees a different level of conversation. Many of us older ones have noticed this on famous blogs. In other words, the level of conversation is no longer intellectual or informed, but merely opinions from those who feel like giving opinions.

To me, social networking, which includes blogs and commenting, has been an excellent platform for disseminating the truth of the Catholic Church a la the New Evangelization, as well as a way to engage non-Catholics to think about converting. In other words, commenting and blogging have been, to me, part of Blessed John Paul II's call to use media for spreading the Gospel.

This cannot happen if people sink to throwing sticks and stones at one another. The other problem has been an increasing lack of moderation, as in moderating, blogs and comment boxes.

Where are the moderators to remind all of manners, good will, charity, and sticky to the argument at hand?

It is the duty of the older generations to pass on wisdom and knowledge to the younger ones. But, I am beginning to doubt both the openness as well as the real thirst for knowledge in some who only want to be heard, instead of learn and reflect. The thirst for knowledge is a sign of the saint, as is objectivity.

Sunday 2 March 2014

Practical Wisdom of St. John Vianney for Every Catholic "Overview" Part ...

The Long, Hard Winter

Those of us in the States have been bombarded this weekend with yet another huge snowstorm. Last week, most of the days saw below zero Fahrenheit temperatures again. As we limp into March, the sky and land resemble December or January.

I am in the deep countryside. One of the daily treats is seeing Whitetail Deer, turkeys, Bald Eagles, Cooper's Hawks, Peregrine Falcons, Red-Tailed Hawks, Merlin Hawks, and myriad types of birds, such as the Downy Woodpecker, Flickers, Cardinals, Juncos and others. Last Tuesday, I saw two coyotes.

What has struck me is that all nature has been redeemed by Christ, as is our teaching in the Catholic Church. Nature is not depraved, or evil, or an illusion, as some religions hold.

In fact, the animals exhibit a freedom we humans in this cold do not share, as we are suffering from the consequences of Original Sin. Such consequences are illness and physical death, a clouding of the intellect, concupiscence, and the loss of Eden, ending in toil and pain connected to the work of our hands.

As I watch the Bald Eagles soar across the sky looking for rodents in the hedges, I am reminded of the great work we humans must endure to gain and prepare food. As one having the worst asthmatic attack I have had in four years, from central heating dusting ducts and the cold, I think of those great birds flying in the frigid temperatures, and I watch the herd of deer paw the ground for grass to eat.

My sins result from the consequences of Original Sin, but God is calling me to transcend these results and become perfect, even as the Heavenly Father is perfect.

To endure suffering forms a large part of this purification. Those eagles do not have to be purified. They do not have immortal souls stained by sin. These animals represent the world of the material, beautiful, transcendent in its way, but ephemeral. My soul is made for eternity, and, therefore, must be cleansed of all sin and the tendencies of sin, so that I can enjoy heaven and the Beatific Vision.

As a virtual prisoner in this cold,  I do envy, just a bit, the freedom of my fellow creatures. Yet, my prison is my freedom. Ironically, in the spiritual life, that which is painful and involves suffering frees us from ourselves.

Reflecting on my own egotism and need for perfection, I watch the eagle following the great rules of instinct. Its will is not free, although the animal seems to be free.

My lot does not look free. In fact, quite the opposite. Yet, I can achieve a great freedom in this room with the dust and the cold, coughing and taking the good meds ordered from my physician.

Such is the call of the human in this world--to be in the world, but not of the world. And, that means that my freedom must be won, not given. I am a daughter of the King and as any good "princess", I have to endure some trials to earn my title. The plot of fairy tales is based on redemptive suffering. All humans share this.

Not so the eagle in the air above me. It is given grace and strength as pure gift. But, I, too, can ask for such. But, this demands faith, and reflection, trust and prayer. God makes me grow up in this animal kingdom, from being a child to relying on Him to becoming a wide-eyed adult, aware of my limitations in this big world. I can understand why some theologians think that the "non serviam" of the evil one came from his knowledge that Christ would become a Man, and have to live in this odd state of spirit and body, not merely being spirit.
But, what lies ahead, if I persevere,  is eternal life with God, not merely the dust of the earth. This is my faith, as I sit ruminating on yet another cold day in this long winter.

Isaiah 40:31

31 But they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Saturday 1 March 2014

Third Annual Blessed Karl Mass & Conference

Traditional Latin Mass, Luncheon & Conference
In Honor of Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria
Sunday, 6 April 2014, 1:00 PM
Passion Sunday
Saint Titus Church, Aliquippa, Pennsylvania
Celebrant: Fr. Gregory Plow, TOR, Franciscan University of Steubenville
Featured Speaker: Michael J. Matt, Editor of The Remnant
Sponsored By: Knights of Columbus Woodlawn Council 2161 Traditional Latin Mass Guild
Complete details and registration information here.  Everyone is welcome.
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