Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New film about Josemaría Escrivá

Definitely one to watch for! Click to view the teaser trailer.

hat tip to Anita at V-ForVictory

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Free books at the priory

The following caught my eye; someone has an exquisite sense of humor!

hat tip to Anita (V-for Victory) who took the picture

Baptizing the dead?

The question of the Mormon practice of proxy baptism of the dead came up in response to 1 Corinthians 15:29 at the chapter retreat on Saturday. Below follows Marilyn Wilde's excellent commentary after looking into the Greek.

Q: Is St. Paul is giving evidence for the Mormon practice of baptism by proxy for the dead when he says: “Otherwise, what will people accomplish by having themselves baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, then why are they having themselves baptized for them?” (1 Cor 15:29)

A: The Greek does not say that people are baptized in the place of the dead -- it says they are baptized for the sake of Old Man Death. The preposition used is "Hypo" which literally means "under" like Hypodermic -- under the skin. When it takes an abstract noun in the genitive case -- the case used in this instance it personifies the abstract noun. If Paul had meant what Joseph Smith said he meant, he would have used the preposition "hyper" which literally means over, i.e. hyperactive; and one of its many figurative meanings is "instead of" or "in the place of."

Marilyn Wylde, Bl. Margaret of Castello Chapter

Intellectually vacuous thoughts

Mark Shea hits a homerun with his Jul 16 column in NCR, "Science Works. Religion Doesn't" What Does that Even Mean?

That said, however, I will not go further since, as I say, slogans like “Science works/Religion doesn’t are a total waste of time until critics of religion get a clear and workable definition of what they mean. In the case of that empty piece of cant, each and every word needs to be carefully defined. But there is a direct inverse proportion problem at work that makes it sure such a project will never happen. Namely, those who are most inclined to worship the intellect anre least inclined to use it—and vice versa. “Science works, religion doesn’t” is a bumper sticker that Intellect Worshippers slap on their cars. It is not something that anybody who is actually serious about thinking would ever say.

Monday, July 19, 2010

For Better or Worse - Sheen

The followins is an excellent instruction from "Life is Worth Living", by Fulton Sheen, 1953.

For Better or Worse

Now we come to difficulties peculiar to some marriages. For example, there is a marriage in which the husband may be an alcoholic or the wife a spendthrift, or the husband unfaithful or the wife always nagging, or he is a “beast” or she is “impossible.”

What is going to be done in a case like that? Stick it out! Remain faithful! Why? Suppose the husband, instead of being an alcoholic, had pneumonia. Would the wife nurse him and care for him? If he is a sinner he has moral pneumonia and is spiritually sick; why abandon him? A mother has a child with polio; does she give up the child? St. Paul tells us that “The believing wife sanctifies the unbelieving husband; the believing husband sanctifies the unbelieving wife.” There can be a transfusion of power from one to the other. Sometimes the condition for making the other better is perseverance and love.

A young German girl, at the close of the last World War, who was very learned and had read Homer at seventeen, was courted by one of our American GIs in Berlin. She married him, and they came to this country, where she discovered he wanted only to read Western stories while frequenting saloons and refused to work. While supporting both of them she wrote to me, saying, “I was thinking of divorce, but I know that if I divorce him, I am contributing to the ruin of civilization. It does not mean very much if I pull my own individual finger out of that dam; just a little water will come through. But if every women in the world in a similar situation does the same, then the floodtides will sweep over he world. So I am going to stick it out; but I cannot do so without faith, and you must help me to get it.” We gave her instructions, and God gave her the gift of faith. The husband is now an officer in the Army, a different kind of man, and both are raising a fine family.

Certain things which we have in us, once they are given out, are never meant to be taken back. One is the air we breathe; if we take the air back upon ourselves, it poisons us. Love is another. When love is breathed out to another human heart, it is never meant to be taken back. If it is taken back, it suffocates and poisons us.

It may well be that the sacrificial devotion of a wife in such an hour of crisis is the condition of the husband’s recovery. Where fleshly love may not heal, sacrificial love may well work the miracle. All suffering endured with love of God profits our families and even the world. Where there is alcoholism, disgruntled tempers, the burdens of others become as impediments to one’s own happiness, but where there is true charity, they become as opportunities for service. When carnal love breaks down, then Christian love must step into the breach. The other person is then regarded not as the condition of one’s happiness but as the condition of one’s salvation.

Many a marriage may be a living martyrdom, but at least to the one who practices it can be sure that he is not robbing his own soul of honor and fidelity. Why should we expect our soldiers to be faithful to their country in the muck and mire, when the husbands and wives desert the cause at the first bursting of a shell? A soldier when drafted does not accept the sentence of death, but he is prepared to face death rather than lose honor. An unhappy marriage is not a condemnation to misery, it is a courageous bearing of the burdens of another rather than denying the vow to “Love until death do us part.”

It is not so much the trials and sufferings in certain marriages that make the marriage unbearable; it is how we react to the sufferings. If the trial is regarded as the canceling out the ego and its pleasures, it begets an inferno within; if it is regarded as permitted by God for a greater good, it can positively create an inner joy. When either husband or wife gives up because of the trial, there is just that much less love and heroism in the world. The refusal to love is hell. Though love is not returned, this is not reason for not loving. Rather it is reason for loving: “You love those who love you. What reward is there in this?” But to go on loving in the midst of hate, to sow seeds of kindness where there is no hope of harvest, to forgive when hands are being pierced with nails is not only to diminish the hate of others by localizing marital infections and thus preventing them from becoming epidemics; it is also to purchase the recovery of others through love, for some souls can be purchased only by sacrifice. The government does not abandon soldiers on the battlefields because they can no longer fight; fathers do not disown their sons because they have a period of foolish immaturity. In each case, there is respect for the other, because the other is a person having value in himself independently of whether he earns of fights, or does not earn. Let there be in the home a respect for the partner, not on the basis of whether the partner gives pleasure, but because the partner is a person, and a gift of God to be loved as one’s own flesh. Then there will be less cowardice and surrender, more courage and more faith and a better America. But to love another for God’s sake, we must really believe in God.

Unfortunately, too few listen to such wisdom, instead seeking the shallow and fading pleasures in marriage, and tossing it aside when it fails to meet expectations.

“When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

Roman blessings

Paul O'Leary and his bride, Alane Cleven, traveled to Rome to have their marriage blessed by the Holy Father.

a wider view:

The doors:

The Holy Father arrives:

The participants gather:

The Holy Father seems genuinely excited to see the guests!

The arrangements were made by Fr. David Kammler O.P., Promoter General for the Dominican Laity. This picture shows Father and Paul in St. Dominic's cell at Santa Sabina. Not many better places to offer mass!

a little bit broader view:

and Santa Sabina from outside:

Santa Sabina is the world headquarters for the Dominican Order. It's built upon ancient Rome, which you can visit underneath!

And then there is modern Rome!

The Idaho Dominicans offer our congratulations and prayers to Paul and Alane! May the Lord bless your union! And many thanks to Fr. Kammler for his gracious assistance!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Magdalen retreat - this weekend

Mary Magdalene Retreat
July 17, 2010
Blessed Margaret of Castello Chapter,
Third Order of St. Dominic

Update from the Sub-Prioress, Stephanie DeNinno:

There will not be mass and adoration on Friday night.

Everyone bring a sack lunch on Saturday and the Meeting/Retreat will begin at 9:00am and end at 3PM.

We'll provide water and coffee.

This event replaces the regularly scheduled Chapter Meeting at Our Lady of the Valley, Caldwell.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Philosophies at war

Is there place for an absolute in American Democracy? There are those who say that democracy by its nature is relative - indifferent to all ideas, as equally valid and therefore it can have no absolute. This is not true. Democracy is based on a political and economic relative, but on a theological absolute. That is to say, it tolerates all political and economic policies and suggestions which contribute to democracy, but it is intolerant about the foundation of democracy.

If you doubt this we need only read the Declaration of Independence, which affirms that the "Creator has endowed man with certain unalienable rights." The state is not autonomous, but subject to a higher law. Power thus becomes responsibility. God is the absolute in democracy. Democracy will rest on this Divine Foundation, or it will be laid to rest. There are no rights of man without duties to God, and if we doubt it, then point to any totalitarian system which denies the rights of man and I will show you they also deny duties to God. Democracy, the value of a person, liberty and the like, are fruits that grow on the tree of belief in God.

-Fulton Sheen, Philosophies at War, 1943

Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; by they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks...

Onl the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I felt a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.

-Albert Einstein, quoted Philosophies at War, 1943

Friday, July 09, 2010

Sheen Gem

The Church, like Our Blessed Lord, advocates charity to all persons who disagree with her by word or by violence. Even those who - in the strictest sense of the term - are bigots, are to be treated with the utmost kindness. They really do not hate the Church, they hate only what they mistakenly believe to be the Church. If I believed all the lies that are told about the Church, if I gave credence to all the foul stories told about her priesthood and the Papacy, if I had been brought up on falsehoods about her teachings and sacraments, I would probably hate the Church a thousand times more than they do.

Fulton Sheen, Moods and Truths, 1932

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The body of Christ

The following is from Monday of the 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Office of Readings:

From a letter to the Corinthians by Saint Clement, pope

Seek the good of all, not personal advantage

The command has been written: Cling to the saints, for those who cling to them will be sanctified. There is a passage in Scripture as well which states: With the innocent man you will be innocent, and with the chosen one you will be chosen also; likewise with the perverse you will deal perversely. Devote yourselves, then, to the innocent and the just; they are God’s chosen ones. Why are there strife and passion, schisms and even war among you? Do we not possess the same Spirit of grace which was given to us and the same calling in Christ? Why do we tear apart and divide the body of Christ? Why do we revolt against our own body? Why do we reach such a degree of insanity that we forget that we are members of one another? Do not forget the words of Jesus our Lord: Woe to that man; it would be better for him if he had not been born rather than scandalise one of my chosen ones. Indeed it would be better for him to have a great millstone round his neck and to be drowned in the sea than that he lead astray one of my chosen ones. Your division has led many astray, has made many doubt, has made many despair, and has brought grief upon us all. And still your rebellion continues.

Pick up the letter of blessed Paul the apostle. What did he write to you at the beginning of his ministry? Even then you had developed factions. So Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote to you concerning himself and Cephas and Apollos. But that division involved you in less sin because you were supporting apostles of high reputation and a person approved by them.

We should put an end to this division immediately. Let us fall down before our master and implore his mercy with our tears. Then he will be reconciled to us and restore us to the practice of brotherly love that befits us. For this is the gate of justice that leads to life, as it is written: Open to me the gates of justice. When I have entered there, I shall praise the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the just shall enter through it. There are many gates which stand open, but the gate of justice is the gateway of Christ. All who enter through this gate are blessed, pursuing their way in holiness and justice, performing all their tasks without discord. A person may be faithful; he may have the power to utter hidden mysteries; he may be discriminating in the evaluation of what is said and pure in his actions. But the greater he seems to be, the more humbly he ought to act, and the more zealous he should be for the common good rather than his own interest.

This reading seemed very appropriate as I head out tomorrow for our Dominican Lay Provincial Council meeting! What, you thought we were paragons of charity with one another? Well, I suppose it might look that way...

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Anniversary of Summorum Pontificum

The following is from Robert Moynihan's Newsflash. Robert is editor of "Inside the Vatican."

Today is the Anniversary of Summorum Pontificum

Three years ago today, Pope Benedict XVI, after long hesitation, published Summorum Pontificum, allowing wider celebration of the "old Mass." The day is easy to remember because it was on the 7th day of the 7th month of the 7th year of the new millennium = 777. An antidote to another, slightly smaller number...

By Robert Moynihan


A Song of Solomon

Iam enim hiems transiit;
imber abiit, et recessit.
Flores apparuerunt in terra nostra;
tempus putationis advenit:
vox turturis audita est in terra nostra;
ficus protulit grossos suos;
vineæ florentes dederunt odorem suum.

"For now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers have already appeared in our land;
The time has arrived for pruning the vines,
And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread forth their fragrance."

(The Song of Solomon, 2:11-13)

An Anniversary to Celebrate

Three years ago today, Pope Benedict XVI promulgated the motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum" ("Of the Supreme Pontiffs," from the first words of the original Latin text), allowing the "old Mass" (the Tridentine Mass of Pope St. Pius V, codified and promulgated in 1570, 440 years ago) to be more freely celebrated throughout the Catholic Church.

And so one period in history of our Church came to an end.

(Some would say that one winter, and that a severe one, came to an end.)

A new springtime had come.

The Pope had long hesitated. In the months before the official promulgation, when the text was known to be already finished, but the date for its publication had not yet been set, officials in Rome close to the Pope confirmed to me that the opposition to this document was intense, and that the Pope was hesitating.

"You must pray for him," I was told.

And then, the Pope took his decision, and issued the document.

I still believe, three years later, that it was one of the most important moments of his pontificate thus far, perhaps the most important one.

And so, today, there should perhaps be a moment of reflection, and prayer, and thanksgiving, for what Pope Benedict decided to do on July 7, 2007.

Today is also the anniversary of the execution of St. Thomas More, though his Feast Day is July 9.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Neo-Nazi invasion of Idaho - Know your enemy

Kathryn Tucker, legal counsel for the formerly named "Hemlock Society" has apparently moved to our fine state in order to sink it to the same barbaric level of Oregon, Washington, and Montana have sunk. Actually, what she is promoting is more old school Nazi than neo-Nazi. yeah; Nazi-classic.

On July 17, this "little woman" will give a presentation to the Idaho Medical Association at their annual meeting, the purpose of which is to promote the introduction of assisted suicide legislation in Idaho (program here).

Make no mistake. The legislation promoted by "Compassionate Choices" has NOTHING TO DO WITH TERMINAL PATIENTS, it is about turning doctors into executioners and preserving them from liability.

Now, documenting a less subtle approach, there is an excellent new movie just out from Life Dynamics:

OK, yes, it's direct to video. No studio would release such a move! So go get informed and get yours at

Bill Murray's great line in "Ghostbusters"

The previous post (first part) made me think of a great line from "Ghostbusters." would that it were so easy...

Prayer request

The following is from Fr. Bart de la Torre OP, currently serving the Dominican mission in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico:

Dear Dominicans,

Mr. Michael Ryman is a dedicated Lay Dominican of many years in the Chapter that meets at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. He sent me the following today, and the religious response seems for me to ask you for your prayers too.

Now that I have your attention, let me mention that here the 4th passed unnoticed, except for the elections in Baja California that drove out the PAN, the party founded some 80 yrs. ago to defend the Church, and put in the PRI party, founded some 180 years ago with U.S. money and arms to delete the Church; regime change is nothing new to American foreign policy. Both parties have mellowed, with the result that the Church is still somewhat oppressed. The PAN does not mind, and the PRI in Baja California does not want to make it worse. The PRI in the Federal Congress about a year ago amended the Constitution to say explicitly that religious principles cannot have any influence in politics, and then legalized homosexual marriage in Mexico City. As though nature itself is not clear about the oxymoron. Neither the Church nor logic have ever had it easy in Mexico .

I am currently reading Sun Tzu's The Art of War. He says, "There has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited." (2.7) And this was written 350 B.C. History since then has repeatedly proven the maxim further. Most relevantly, the Soviet Union spent 9 years fighting in Afghanistan and shortly afterwards collapsed. We have now spent 9 years in Afghanistan ourselves. Bullets shot in a battle between drug cartels in Juarez yesterday hit City Hall in El Paso. In Texas next to the border there are swaths taken over by the Mexican cartels and the US border guards find it too dangerous to enter. This is what is called annexation. What the heck are we doing in Afghanistan when our southern border is constantly violated?

Well, hoping all of you had a patriotic, happy 4th,
Fr. Bart, O.P.

Please ask the men of the House [meaning the priests who live here with me] to pray for my intentions . . .tomorrow at the campaign HQ of Brian Murphy (R), candidate for MD Governor, at 11am he will announce his selection for Lieutenant Governor running mate—me.

Brian is pro-life and a very successful MD business from Easton, MD and a man of faith.

Check it out on his website:




Please tell your friends in MD about this . . . we need plenty of support . . .not just $$$, but it is the “mother’s milk of politics” . . . we to get a “buzz” going with Pro-lifers, home schoolers, and Catholics to understand their obligations as disciples of Our Lord in the culture and politics of our country.

Truth Be Told issue #11 - Newsletter of the Laity of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus

The nineth issue of "Truth Be Told," the newsletter of the Laity of the Province of the Holy Name of Jesus has been posted to the web.

The newsletter is available for download at the provincial web page here:

Updated CV for Prof. Peter Kwasniewski

A few years back the Bl. Margaret of Castello Chapter had a visit and presentation by Prof. Peter Kwasniewski of Wyoming Catholic College. At that time I posted links to some of his writings, which are excellent!

here are links to his current CV and appendix of his publications. Some excellent reading to be had there!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Give man a chance - Sheen

in the 30s Sheen saw clearly where the world was going, and when the world went to war, he saw clearly the deeper level of that war.

The Revolution of Man

The post-war planners are still assuming with Marx that man is essentially economic, or with Darwin that he is essentially animal, or with Freud that he is essentially sexual, or with Hitler that he is essentially political. Hence they think that all we have to do is to change an economic system, or form new parties, or give more sex instruction, or greater license to the break-up of the family and we will have peace.

These planners think they are practical, because they talk in terms of money, trade, international police and geographical areas of influences and federated states. The truth is they are just as impractical as men who might legislate for squirrels by passing laws about nuts. Squirrels eat nuts, and man lives economically; but, as nuts do not explain squirrels, so neither does production explain man. Because the planners do not understand the nature of the one from whom they are planning, their plans are going to lead us into a phase of history where “…eldest Night and Chaos, Ancestors of Nature, hold Eternal Anarchy, amidst the voice of Engless Wars” (Milton, Paradise Lost, Book II).

Given the errant impulses, the frustrated selfish existences, the distorted human goals which these partial views of man engender, there is only one way to arrest that chaos, and that is by organizing it, and the organization of chaos is Socialism. The individualism and egotism which a distorted concept of man begets leave him alone and isolated, and to overcome this isolation there is only one non-Christian solution possible: the subordination of these rebellious atoms to a compulsory principle in the hands of the State. Socialism is the secularized, atheized version of a community and a fraternity of man which Christian love alone can engender. It is the new form into which man will bring his tortured and isolated personality, in vain quest for peace. By abusing his freedom under Liberalism, man, unless he returns to a knowledge of his true nature, will fall under the compulsion of Socialism. He will think less and less of freedom, though he may talk much about it, for a man talks about his heath when he is unhealthy. His end will be the trading of his freedom for a false security from the wet-nurse of the State.

The old order of Liberal Individualism is dead. Man will either become the subject of a non-divine evil will embodied in socialistic bureaucracy, or he will submit himself to the higher Divine Principle for Whom he was made and in Whom he alone can find his peace. He no longer will be free to decide whether he will or will not live under authority. From now on it is a question of under whose authority he will live, the authority of a socialistic State, or the authority of God reflected in a State which recognizes each person as endowed with rights and possessed of a value which no power can disinherit.

The Western World must learn that Totalitarianism cannot be overcome by Socialism, by laissez-faire Capitalism, by Individualism, or by any combination of these, for what has gone wrong is not the means of living, but the ends. The economic and political chaos of he modern world can be overcome only by a non-political, non-economic, non-Marxian, non-Freudian concept of a man and society. This does not mean that politics and economics are of no value; they are. But it means they are of secondary value for, unless we know the nature of the creature for whom politics and economics exist, it is just as useless to meddle with them as it is to fool with a blast furnace unless we know its purpose. Unless we restore the Christian concept of man, ant thus build a human rather then an economic order, we will be forced into a Totalitarianism in the hour we are doing our most to combat it.

What is the objection tot the basic Christian principal, that we build for the whole man as a creature of God instead of for the Darwinian, Freudian, Marxian man? The answer is on the tongues of all the reactionaries: “Christianity does not suit the modern man.” Certainly it does not. And for the reason that the modern man is not man; his part-man, a dissected man.

But Christianity does however suit man in his entirety, or human nature as it is, composed of body and soul and made in the image and likeness of God, with horizontal relations to the right and left in space and time, and yet never wholly explained by these, because identified with something prior and more fundamental, namely vertical relations with God, His Creator and Redeemer in Whom is his Peace and his Joy.

Up to know it has been said Christianity does not suit the modern man, therefore scrap Christianity. Now let us say, Christianity does not suit modern man, therefore let us scrap modern man.

Maybe there is nothing wrong with Christianity after all; maybe – may we dare suggest it – there is something wrong with us. Maybe there is something wrong with John Dewey and nothing wrong with St. John; maybe there is something false about H.G. Wells, and nothing wrong with Vincent de Paul; maybe there is something wrong with Gertrude Stein, and something right about St. Gertrude; maybe there is something wrong with Progressive Education and nothing wrong with the Light of the World Who said: “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” Maybe science cannot be a substitute for morality; maybe morality is not identical with self-will; maybe the goal of life is not to get seven percent on mortgages; maybe the goal of economics is not for management to be responsible to bondholders, but to be responsible to the common good; maybe self-expression raised to a national form could end in Nazism; maybe we have been wrong. Maybe, we had better get back to God! We have given the Darwinians their chance; we have given the Marxists their chance; we have given the Freudians their chance; we have given the Hitlerites there chance. Now, let us give man a chance.

Fulton Sheen, Philosophies at War, 1943

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Upcoming retreat

Mary Magdalene Retreat
July 17, 2010
Blessed Margaret of Castello Chapter,
Third Order of St. Dominic

9:00 Opening prayer and remarks. Mark Gross, OPL, Prior.
9:15 Who is Mary Magdalene? Latin Tradition (St. Gregory the
9:45 The worldly woman (magdala, curled hair=adulterer).
10:00 The caught woman (go and sin no more).
10:15 The healed woman (touching the hem of His garment).
10:30 The grateful woman (washing His feet with her hair).
10:45 The learning woman (sitting at the feet of the Lord).
11:00 The nurturing woman (caring for our Lord on the road).
11:15 The interceding woman (Lazarus is raised from the dead).
11:30 Mass (or Rosary).
12:00 Martha's hour (lunch).
1:15 Anointing to the chagrin of Judas (spikenard).
1:30 At the foot of the cross (be not afraid).
1:45 Keeping watch (the vigilant heart).
2:00 The empty tomb (where have they taken Him?).
2:15 Witnessing to the Apostles (He is not in the tomb).
2:30 Wrap up, discussion.
3:00 Divine Mercy

further information will be posted as it becomes available

The Freedom of Authority - Fulton Sheen

The following is from Fulton J. Sheen. It seems especially apropos today that we consider just what sort of freedom we are celebrating.

The Freedom of Authority

Stevenson once said that not on bread alone doth man live, but principally on catchwords. High-sounding phrases often go rattling by like express-trains, carrying the burden of those who are too lazy to think for themselves. Among these phrases or catchwords there is none in the field of religion which has greater modern appeal than this one: The modern man wants a religion of the spirit, and not a religion of authority.” Years ago its popular expression was that “we must be free from the slavery of Rome.” Today it is more direct: “No Catholic can be free because he is bound down by law and authority.”

There is no doubting the sincerity of those who accept such catchwords: hence there can be no doubt that they will accept a sincere explanation of the teaching of the church concerning authority, law, and freedom which for the sake of clearness may be set down in these three following propositions: First, the necessity of law and authority; secondly, obedience to the highest law and authority constitutes freedom; thirdly, the obedience to the law and authority of the Church is thrilling and romantic [it should be noted that romance in this context means adventure] .

First: It is false to say that we can be absolutely free from law and authority, for freedom from law and authority is an illusion. The real problem is not whether we will accept law and authority, but rather, which law and authority we will accept. Even though this is a free country, I find that if I do not obey the authority of my government, then I shall have to accept the authority of a warden; if I do not accept the authority of the pure-food commission, then I shall have to accept the authority of the undertaker; if I do not accept the authority of the traffic lights, I shall have to accept the authority of the jailer. In religious matters, if I do not accept the authority of the Church, then I must accept the authority of public opinion. Public opinion is the common stalk of thought and sentiment created by human society, and in the realm of religion outside the Church it is practically always a compromise.

Modern religion affirms just as much spiritual and moral truth as in a given condition will keep society together – just so much and no more. It affirms not the whole law of God, but extracts from it, and only those extracts which seem to be the most useful for social purposes, and of which society itself will approve. For example, at the present time it dilates on the Sermon on the Mount, but says absolutely nothing about the Last judgment. It quotes, “Behold the lilies of the field,” but never the text, “What exchange shall a man give for his soul?” Again, modern religion has approved on aspect of the Divine Law concerning murder, and disapproved another, concerning divorce. The reason it does this is because public opinion believes murder to be destructive of society, but does not believe that divorce can be equally destructive of it in the long run. Religion thus compromises, or strikes and average between what is good and what is bad. It approves Christ only inasmuch as Christ approves it. It accepts His teachings and His authority only inasmuch as its maxims and its opinions approve those teachings.

Hence, the problem confronting the religious man of today is not whether he will obey of disobey law and authority; but which of the two he will obey, namely, the authority of public opinion, or the authority of Christ and tradition. And all thinking men, as a celebrated English essayist has put it, want a religion which is right, now when the world is right, but is right when the world is wrong, and by this he meant authority of the Church which holds to the teachings of Christ, even thought public opinion should cry out for the liberation of Barabbas, for the Church is built solidly upon the conviction that right is right if nobody’s right, and wrong is wrong if everybody’s wrong.

Furthermore, and her we pass to the second point, only by obedience to the highest law and authority does a man become free. Let me give a few examples to prove this point. A dictionary represents a standard in the use of words. It is a court of appeal, or an authority concerning their meaning. Now it is only by submitting to authority that I ever become free to use words. I may use the word “moon” and by it mean “cabbage”; I may use the word “cow,” and by it mean “cowslip.” I soon find, however, that I am no longer free to tell my fellow-man the story that the cow jumped over the moon. It is only by submission to law and authority that we ever become free.

Or, to take an example from the realm of arts. If an artist, in a fever of broadmindedness and a desire to be free, chooses to paint a giraffe with a short neck, he will soon discover that he will not be free to paint a giraffe at all. If in a feverish love for the new art of self-expression which obeys no law, he decides to paint a zebra without stripes, and a leopard without spots, and a triangle with four sides, he will soon discover that he is not free at all to paint even zebras, leopards, or triangles. It is only by obedience to law and authority and the inherent nature of things that we ever become free. Now man has a rational nature which means that the law of his being is practical reason of conscience. Only inasmuch as man obeys the dictates of his conscience is he free to be a man. He may choose to disobey his conscience, and he is free to become an animal, but he is not free to be a man.

A final example in the field of science: imagine a railroad locomotive, endowed with consciousness, so that it is able to read, to think, to speak. And supposing that one day it picked up with its cow-catcher one of the modern books on the morality of self-expression, such as one of Mr. Bertrand Russell’s, in which he rebels against obedience to traditional moral laws, and the authority of Christian teaching. And suppose, with its great single Cyclops eye, it reads the pages of this liberal thinker, and becomes so impressed with its fine sophistic idioms that it whistles to itself, “Mr. Russell is right. What do the engineers who designed me and imposed their laws upon me know about my inner impulses? Why should I even obey the authority of an engineer who is constantly limiting my steam pressure to one hundred pounds a square inch, when I have the vital Freudian urge to make it on hundred and fifty pounds? And, furthermore, why should I submit myself to the authority of railroad officials who, fifty years back. Laid out the tracks upon which I should run? Why should I take this curve, that straightaway, this bridge, simply because they decided over two score years ago that I should? Why should I not be permitted to choose my own directions, and to make my own tracks? From now on, I am going to be self-expressive!”

Suppose the locomotive did become so self-expressive. In refusing to obey the laws concerning steam pressure, it would discover it was no longer free to be a locomotive, because in asserting its pressure beyond the normal, it would burst its entrails; secondly, by refusing to keep on the track it would no longer be free to run. And if the locomotive did jump the track, and burst its boilers, it would not hurt the engineer who designed the track; it would hurt only itself. And so, too, if a man disobeys God’s laws, and dashes his head against them, as against an eternal rock, the rock toes not suffer – it is only the head of the man that suffers.

Finally, it is only by obedience to the laws of Christ and His Church that we ever become free. And obedience to this authority is positively thrilling, for all orthodoxy is romantic. If there is any vision or mental picture to be had at all of the condition of the world a few centuries ago and now, it might be the vision of a great rocky island in the very center of a stormy and raging sea. Previous to the breakup of Christian unity three centuries ago, this island may be represented as surrounded by a great stone wall against which the waves spent their fury, but never broke it down. Inside the wall were thousand and thousands of the children of God playing games, singing songs, and enjoying life, to the utter oblivion of the great devouring sea outside. With the dawning of the day of False Freedom, there came to the island a group of men who argued with the children in some such language as this: “Why have you permitted the Church of Rome to surround you with all her laws and dogmas? Can you not see that she has encompassed you, and has not permitted you to think for yourself or to be free and captains of your own fate? Tear down the walls! Break down the barriers! Throw off the obstacles and learn to be free!” And the children tore down the walls. One day I went back and I saw all the children huddled together in the center of the island, afraid to move, afraid to play, afraid to dance, afraid of falling into the sea.

We who, by the Grace of God, have been blessed with the protection of the Church’s law and authority, can never quite understand why any one can ever think that obedience to that law and authority is enslaving. On the contrary, it is positively romantic. The laws and doctrines of the Church are not dams which stop up the river of Thought; they are levees which prevent that river from overflowing the countryside. They are not wrenches thrown into the machinery of life, but oils which make it run more smoothly. It is easy to fall into the excesses of the modern world, just as it is easy to fall off a log. It is easy to flat down stream with the popular fancies – even dead bodies can float down stream. But it is exhilarating to fight against the current.

It is easy to be an atheist, and to say the world does not require a God, just as it is easy to be a pantheist, and say that the world is God; but it is thrilling to walk between those two abysses and hold that God is in the world, but not of it – and such is the Incarnation. It would be easy to fall into the extreme of the Stoics, and say that pain is the law of life, or to fall into the equally stupid extreme of saying pleasure is the law of life, but it is romantic to escape the pitfalls and hold that pain is the prelude to life – and such is the lesson of Easter.

It would be easy to say with Gandhi that life should be a fast, just as it would be easy to say with the pagan that it should be a feast; but it is thrilling to avoid both extremes, and hold that the fast should precede the feast. Every heresy in the history of the Church has been either a truth exaggerated to an excess, or diminished to a defect. Calvinism, for example, had a very good first principle, which is a sound Catholic principle, namely, the absolute Sovereignty of God; but Calvin carried it so far as to rule out human merit. Bolshevism, too, is grounded on a very sound Catholic principle, which is the Brotherhood of Man, but it has exaggerated it so far as to leave no room for the Sovereignty of God. And so it is easy to fall into any of these extremes, and to lose one’s intellectual balance. The thrill is in keeping it.

In other words, the Church is not so much to be compared with the Niagara Falls, as it is to be compared with a great and tremendous Rock weighing ten thousand tons, which is poised on another rock by the delicate balance of no more than six inches of a base. Niagara is a falls, simply because it cannot help falling; it is the easiest thing to do; it is simply letting things go. But that great Rock, which is pitched on a base no bigger than one’s hand, has a thousand angles at which it will fall, but there is only one on which it will stand, and it is that which makes falling a far more serious thing than the falling and churning of all of Niagara’s waters. And so with the Church. All through her history she has been like that great Rock, poised on the brink of an abyss, and it is that which has made her romantic; for danger is the rood and foundation of all romance in drama.

Why do children like to play robber, walk picket fences, tramp into thick woods, play along banks of deep rivers, throw stones at vicious dogs, listen to blood-curdling ghost stories, walk on roofs? Is it not because each and every child has deep-rooted in his heart as the foundation of his manhood, and as the very condition for his enjoying life, the love of danger and the thrill of being near it, and yet never falling completely into it? Why do children, when they grow up into man’s estate, love to play games of chance, hunt wild beasts, explore the icy extremities of the earth, fly over trackless seas, speed at the rate of four mils a minute of land, five miles a minute in the air; if it is not because they, too, love the thrill that comes with danger, and love still more the glorious escape from that to which they have so often exposed themselves? And what is true of children and true of men, is true of the Church. It is extremely thrilling to belong to the Church. It is exhilarating to be orthodox. It is romantic to be poised on the Rock of Peter that could fall into a thousand pitfalls, and yet never does.

Every person has an instinctive desire to witness a storm at sea, provided he could be sure of reaching port. We who ride in Peter’s bark witness such a storm, and know we will reach port. For twenty centuries the bark of Peter has been riding, riding the seas, and for twenty centuries we who have been on board know the romance of the seas and its dangers, but also the romance of a port. Sometimes that bark has come within a hair’s breath of dashing against the rocks, of saying that Christ was man and not God, and then again it has suddenly to swerve to avoid crashing into the opposite rock and saying that Christ is God but not man. At other moments in her voyage, Peter’s bark has come within a razor’s edge of being stranded on the sands of humanism and saying that man does everything, and God does nothing. And then, by and equally dexterous move, she saves herself from the sand-bars of declaring with the oriental mystics that God does everything and man does nothing. It would have been extremely easy for Peter and his successors to have sunk their ship in the depths of determinism, just as it would have been very easy for the ship to have capsized in the shallow waters of sentimentalism in the twentieth century. But it is wonderfully thrilling to have avoided both. It would have been very easy for the bark of Peter to have been lost in the fogs of Modernism, just as it would have been easy for it to have lost its course in the mists of Fundamentalism. But to have avoided both of these snares, not by mere chance, but by intellectual direction, is thrilling. If one small blunder, concerning the doctrine of original sin, were made in her twenty centuries of charting the course of men to God, huge blunders would have been made in human happiness. A mistranslation of a single word a thousand years ago, might have smashed all the statues of Europe. A false move at the Council of the Vatican might have impoverished reason. By one single slip, the Church might have stopped all the dances, withered all the Christmas trees, and broken all the Easter eggs.

But the Church has avoided all these pitfalls and all these errors, and as the bark of Peter, with sails flying high, cuts the waters of the sea, she looks before and aft. Behind her she can see the shriveled hulks of a thousand heresies and mental fashions that were suited to their times and died because hat is all they were suited for – their times. Before her she can see the shipwrecked rafts of Masterless men looking for the Master Peter who is not for one time but for all time. And now its future will be just as thrilling as the past. Always in danger, always escaping it; always threatened, always conquering; always enjoying the romance of avoiding extremes, the bark is destined to go on through all the storms and tempests of the world, until one day it checks pace at the hid battlements of eternity, and there as the children disembark from the ship of Peter, they will understand why it avoided the snares and pitfalls – because Peter stood at the helm of his bark, there rested on his hands the invisible, eternal hands of Christ, whom the winds and the seas obey; Christ, who steers the sun and moon and stars in their courses.

-Fulton J. Sheen, “Moods and Truths”, 1932

Friday, July 02, 2010

My austistic son, the eve of July 4th weekend, and I love America.

Today, as I sat in my office, my youngest and autistic son called me on the phone from his summer school. He said, “Hey Dad, I need some money to go to Dairy Queen across from the school.” He is in summer school and attends with a number of other children who either have some mental or physical (or both) limitation. His teachers intended to take him and the entire class of students to Dairy Queen. Like so often what happens, I had given him about $5 earlier in the morning, but he had lost it! Nevertheless, I took off from work for a few moments and joined my son at the local Dairy Queen with about 25 other students. I am always excited to see my son. He is autistic but he is a joy to be around. His simplicity of heart and good will is a genuine resting place for me because of my crowded and busy life.

In addition, I rejoiced in seeing how the teachers treated the other students as they lined up to purchase items at the Dairy Queen counter. With a beautiful face and a wide smile, the counterperson smiled as she attended the obviously handicapped children. The children comprehended the universal language of ice cream, milkshakes, soda, and corn dogs. The teachers treated each student under his or her charge with patience and attention; tending each as the student was a son or daughter.

The experience reminded me of the grace with which Our Lord treats each of us, despite our weaknesses, sins, and faults, or our tendencies or fallibilities; He attends us with grace. All He asks is our love and obedience in return and adherence to the truth. His truth. The good, really good, thing about all of this is that in life, we must seek the truth in charity. If we ignore the truth, we do so at our own peril.

On the eve of our national 4th of July weekend and celebration, I am very thankful that I live in America, that my family lives here, and that this land still loves and lives freedom. I am thankful despite all that has occured and the injustices of people who commit and endorse the killing of kids in the womb, or the elderly or infirm, or the “inconvenience” of those who are weak and need our attention, I still love this country. I am thankful despite the politics of reprisal and the agenda of politicians driven by ideology and agendas rather than truth and right order. I still love this country. I will be singing this weekend. Somewhere, probably at Church or thereafter, “God Bless America” and “The Star Spangled Banner” will be sung and with a heart full, I am thankful for the men and women over the last two centuries who have given their lives, their time, their energy, and efforts to defend this Nation. May God grant repose of the faithfully departed veterans, fathers and mothers, and friends that have gone before us. May God heal our land and bring it to the Truth with charity in peace.