Mercy and Justice have Kissed

The Readings for Monday, 29th Week, Tempus per Annum (C1)

Stulte, hac nocte animam tuam repetunt a te : quae autem parasti, cujus erunt?
You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?

JMJ

It was an interesting discussion yesterday with the Third Order Dominicans: how do we care for the poor? Actually, the discussion started with a discussion of Theft and the discussion of the 7th Commandment in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Did Jean Valjean commit a sin when he stole bread for his family?

The Rich Man says, “I will build barns for my surplus…”

In the Catholic Church there is a doctrine on Private Property: we have the right (from God) to own things. But “The right to private property, acquired or received in a just way, does not do away with the original gift of the earth to the whole of mankind.” That is to say, God gave everything to everyone and while you have the right to own your home, for example, “The universal destination of goods remains primordial, even if the promotion of the common good requires respect for the right to private property and its exercise.”

The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family.

In short, after providing for your family, everything else is yours in trust from God for the care of others.

I, myself, have no family so I wonder how this pertains to me. I’ve made several choices since leaving the monastery about not owning extra stuff, although I think I fail in this. My apartment seems filled with clothes I can’t wear and food I won’t ever get around to eating. How do I become a good steward? At my age and income status, I can’t pretend to be poor. So, I think I’m obligated by today’s Gospel not to be the stupid man in the parable. But how?

This discussion on care for the poor was preceded by a discussion of the false dichotomy between God’s Mercy and his Justice. God cannot be both, it is claimed. Either in Justice, we’ll all get a slapdown, no matter what we do (because we’re that bad), or in his Mercy, we’ll all be ok – no matter what we do or have ever done. The payoff for this argument is usually not at all theological: we mean it only (usually) in the second person. If I project lots of mercy on God, then, really, you have no right to tell me I’m wrong. If I project a lot of Justice on God, then, really, you had better start doing all the right things and I have the right to judge you too.

Both of these aspects play out in a discussion of sexual matters because the world only thinks about sex as a matter of liberty, but that’s an issue of western, wealthy entitlement. There’s nearly no one involved in the Culture Wars who is poor. So, we tend to argue about matters of leisure (such as sex) because otherwise, we might have to discuss the injustice of our wealth. So, it’s better to say, “You, fellow rich white person, are committing a sexual sin.” And to reply, “You, fellow rich white person, have no right to judge me.” Then we all feel good, having done our religious duty, and go back to being fellow, rich, white folks.

In this we make justice to mean “punishment” and mercy to mean “letting me off the hook”. These definitions are neither of them true, and they make God to be petty as we are.

Mercy is God’s divine and infinite condescension to us in kindness and love. The first instance of this, personally and for each of us, is the creation of the entire world. The second is the creation of your individual soul, an act of infinite love and creation in time that took place at the moment of your conception. All things – all blessings, all punishments, all teachings, all correction, all salvation, all purgation, all joys, and all sorrows – arise from this original mercy, or original blessing, as the former Dominican, Matthew Fox, called it. This is an act of Mercy because God has no need of you, no need of the universe, no need of creation at all. God’s love did this.

Then we want to think of human sin and its punishment. Yet we do not think of, even then, God’s constant mercy. For we know that sin is death. We know that we are cut off from the divine life by mortal sin (that’s why it’s called “mortal”) yet, in God’s mercy, we do not die, we are not “smote”. God lets us go on with an eye towards our repentance and restoration. Almost all of life, then, is a mercy. We cannot escape the consequences of our actions for that is part of the way the world functions: if you kill someone, they are really dead. You will grieve that action even if you are absolved. If you spread hate, you will suffer the social blowback from your actions even if you are able to grow towards love. If you commit sexual sin, there’s the possibility of a child, of disease, of re-writing the reward pathways in your brain towards an addiction. These are parts of the world in which we live and each sin means that we must deal with the actions. That’s not justice, though.

God’s justice is a restoration of right relationship.

Imagine you are building one of the barns in today’s parable. The floor should be perfectly level. From that floor, at perfect 90° angles, should rise each of the walls. This means the walls are “plumb”. The structure is “level, plumb, square, and true”. However, let us say that one wall begins to sag inwards. This wall will – eventually – make the adjoining walls weaker. They may begin to sag. And the roof could possibly collapse. So the rich man calls you back and asks you to fix it – to make the wall square again. The process of returning the wall to plumb, when projected on human relationships, is justice.

If we pitched our economic morals with the same arguments we use for sex, it would sound like this: “You have to stop being rich and share with me!” “You can’t judge me, go away.” Environmental morals are the same: our wealth is destroying the world, we are the rich man in the parable.

We want to think of Justice and Mercy in opposition, but, in fact, they are part and parcel of each other. Justice demands a right relationship. Mercy makes it mutually possible. Justice demands I share my surplus with the poor – not store it up in my new barns, level and plumb. Mercy (God’s kindness) allows me to have the grace to do it. It is not “just” for the rich man to build barns unless it is for him to use the barns to more easily invite in the poor. It is not mercy for us to say, “He can do whatever he wants” for that leaves him in wrong relationship, leaves him in his sins. When we remind the rich man of his duty to justice and move him (through God’s grace) to restore a right relationship with the poor, that is mercy. When we use love to show someone walking away from God the right path, we are merciful: and that restores right relationship to God and others, that is justice.

They do not kiss together: they are the same thing.

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Stuff and Things. Mostly things. Some Stuff.

The Readings for the Feast of St Luke (C1)

Penulam, quam reliqui Troade apud Carpum, veniens affer tecum, et libros, maxime autem membranas.
When you come, bring the cloak I left with Carpus in Troas, the papyrus rolls, and especially the parchments.

JMJ

This one verse, St Paul’s list of Things I Forgot to Pack for This Trip, was the opening line in Fr A’s homily this morning which left me meditating on God’s action in our lives.

This shopping list is part of Holy Scripture: part of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Church is St Paul saying, “Dang it, I forgot some stuff…” and that has come down to us as part of “the Word of the Lord (Thanks be to God)” for today. Ruminate on that…

Word reached me today that I’ve been given the ok to make my Temporary Profession as a Third Order Dominican. The Third Order lives the Dominican Life in the world.

The Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic was founded with their own rule in 1285 and was officially recognized by the Church on the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas in 1286.

Lay Dominicans “are accordingly distinguished both by their own spirituality and by their service to God and neighbor in the Church. As members of the Order, they participate in its apostolic mission through prayer, study and preaching according to the state proper to the laity.” (The Rule of the Lay Fraternity #4).

Lay Dominicans come from every background, joining the Dominican charism to their state of life in the world. In this unique Dominican way, they live out their special vocation “to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will.” (Lumen Gentium 31)

Source

We may be lucky enough to find ourselves in community but for most of us, that community is a once-in-a-while thing. The family, our friends, our parish life, the local Knights’ council, etc, are our community. That’s where we live out the Dominican life. The Charism is really about Bringing the Gospel there… where we are. In other words, I will be able to continue exploring what it means to be a Dominican who is employed in Tech, who has friends in all walks of life and in various stages of their journey towards God.

Today’s reading with St Paul forgetting is cloak – the Word of the LORD! – highlights God working the ordinary, the mundane, the daily grind. God working as you take out the garbage. God working as the litterbox needs changing. God working as your child is born. God working as you fry eggs. God is working his purpose out – if you will let him – in each action of your life, each step of the dance. And changing all of this into Verbum Domini, the Word of the Lord.

St Benedict’s rule (to appeal to another monastic tradition) highlights normal, daily life as well. When I was inside the monastery, there was nothing magical, nothing at all like the wooji-wooji one might imagine. My first day at the Monastery was spent cleaning the kitchen. I heard Sue Anne Nivens say to Mary Tyler Moore, “Start at noon and work your way around the whole room like a clock.” I was vacuuming dead flies off the top of the fridge and using a degreaser around the room. Life in a Monastery. Stuff and things.

We are saved like this. One step at a time, one dead fly vacuumed up at a time. One new book studied, one new friend made in a coffee shop, one holiday meal cooked, served, and cleaned up after. Then death.

And glory.

You may be the only Gospel someone ever reads. What are you doing to make sure it’s not just a shopping list, but the Word of God?

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The Mask of Halloween

Yer Host on the Hill of Tara, circa 1990. Photo by L Chow

JMJ

NB: I edit and repost this essay most every year, I know. Archive has this going back to at least 2006, although it says there that I was reposting it again, so, at least 2005? Anyway, it’s still good.

On the Hill of Tara, seat of the High Kings of Ireland, there is a mound with a passage burrowing into its heart. This hill is called the Mound of Hostages. Once a year, as the sun passes the half-way point between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solistice, the sunlight stabs through the passage and illuminates three spirals carved on the wall at the back of the mound. What does that mean? We don’t know. The Celts did not leave us anything in writing and all the written content we have about them was drafted by Christians long after the fact. It does indicate that the half-way point from Autumn to Winter was important for some reason. But it doesn’t tell us why. Although the midway point shifts slightly from year to year and also drifts in time because of the Precession of the Equinox, it’s important to note that currently the halfway point is always around 7 November. A thousand years ago, that would be closer to 1 November, closer to the date we know in the Church as All Saints Day.

Is there a connection between the celebration of the one, a pagan holiday and the other, a Christian liturgical feast? Some moderns – both Christian and Pagan – would like to think so.

A good deal of the modern evangelical, fundamentalist, and Eastern Orthodox (mostly-convert) complaints about Halloween are just badly disguised ultra-Protestant, Anti-Roman Catholicism. In some cases (Jack Chick comes to mind) it’s not very thinly disguised at all. Other sects often succumb to such uber-frummery too. When I was first Chrismated as Orthodox my only reply was “it’s not my holiday”. In this I was following my priest – Fr J. We were all forgetting that the Orthodox Western Rite folks all celebrate All Saints Day with the Christian West; so, in fact, some Orthodox do celebrate All Hallows’ Eve. So also do Roman Catholics, Anglicans and some (most?) Lutherans. In other words, a majority of Christians around the world have this day on their liturgical calendar. Did they all steal it from the Pagans?

It is my assertion that the celebration of All Hallows eve as such is Christian; that is was never Pagan. So, how do we get here? It starts with a Greek Christian far removed from the Irish.

The East
St John Chrysostom (4th Century) set a celebration in memory of all the “other” saints on the Sunday after Pentecost. Since he did not have universal jurisdiction, this holiday would have, of course, only applied to those dioceses and parishes under his patriarchate. This celebration seemed like a good idea and it spread to various churches in the East and the West.

The West
In AD 609 or 610, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the ancient Roman Pantheon as a Christian Church. The new name was St Mary and All Martyrs and the anniversary of the consecration, 13 May, was a feast celebrated in all the western Church. It still is, in fact. This was the beginning of All Saints’ Day in the West.

About 100 years later another Pope, Gregory III, dedicated another All Saints’ chapel – this one in St Peter’s – on 1 November and began to commemorate the feast on that day. The next Pope Gregory made that feast (on 1 November) of universal practice.

The Roman Martyrology, still read daily in monastic orders, tells the story this way:

Festívitas ómnium Sanctórum, quam in honórem beátæ Dei Genitrícis Vírginis Maríæ et sanctórum Mártyrum Bonifátius Papa Quartus, cum templum Pántheon tértio Idus Maji dedicásset, célebrem et generálem instítuit agi quotánnis in urbe Roma. Sed Gregórius item Quartus póstmodum decrévit, eándem festivitátem, quæ váriis modis jam in divérsis Ecclésiis celebrabátur, in honórem ómnium Sanctórum solémniter hac die ab univérsa Ecclésia perpétuo observári.

The Festival of All Saints, which Pope Boniface IV, after the dedication of the Pantheon, ordained to be kept generally and solemnly every year on the 13th of May, in the city of Rome, in honour of the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and of the holy martyrs. It was afterwards decreed by Gregory IV that this feast, which was then celebrated in many dioceses, but at different times, should be on this day kept by the whole Church in honour of all the saints.

All of these Christian dates are very important because these dates mean the festival of All Saints (and thus the Vigil the night before) is a feast of the pre-Schism Patriarchate of Rome. 31 October/1 November is not a Pagan festival: it is a traditional celebration of the unified, Roman and Orthodox Church – if you insist on limiting that title to western events before the 11th century. It’s important to note two things: (a) this new feast in the West begins after the coming of St Augustine to Canterbury in 587 (when the Roman Church first met Samhain); and (b) it doesn’t begin on 1 November. These are important points because erroneously claim that Augustine baptized a pagan feast day he found in England and that it came back to Rome. Nope. Sorry.

In point of fact, Augustine met Christians already present in England. Where did they come from? From Ireland. Patrick had converted the Irish 100 years before Augustine ever got around to visiting the area. The Celtic Church knew nothing of All Saints Day – it hadn’t been invented yet. And the Catholics of Ireland had no need to have a pagan feast day baptized for their conversion: they were already Catholics. Augustine rather famously did baptize a lot of local pagan shrines: but it was to win converts from the Angles and the Saxons – not the Celts.

The Roman Church was commemorating the consecration of an important religious shrine. The Western Calendar is actually has several feast days like that: the celebration of a church dedicated to X becomes a feast day of X-itself. The anniversary of the consecration of the holiest church in Jerusalem becomes Holy Cross Day. The anniversary of the consecration of a church dedicated to St Michael becomes Michaelmas. The anniversary of the consecration of a church dedicated to All the Saints becomes All Saints Day.

The Pagans
We note that Pagan holidays were not celebrated on fixed calendars.  Not every Pagan European culture had a festival at this point in the year – the late fall or beginning point of winter. Pre-Christian Rome did not have a festival at this point of the year at all, although we’ve cited the Hill of Tara – which was outside of the Empire. Ireland had that passage grave but we cross a line if we can assume – from such scanty evidence – that the entire island of Eire was on the same cultural calendar.

The bards, writing in the Christian era, report the feast between Autumn and Winter was celebrated on the Hill of Tara with the Ard Rí – the High King. Bonfires were lit that night. We don’t know that the Irish even had anything to say about the dead on this night. Anthropologically it would make sense for this festival to be a harvest festival and it might be that the dead might be invoked or appeased at harvest time… but that’s it. Since the ancient religions did not write stuff down, we have no way of knowing from Pagan sources in situ if the Festival of Tara was anything to do specifically with the dead or the “Veil between the worlds” getting thin. We don’t even know it was “New Year” for them – we may have made that up too. 

The Lia Fail, The Stone of Destiny, on the Hill of Tara, circa 1990

We can say “might” and “maybe” all we want. Does the passage grave indicate the timing of the Feast of Tara? Does it validate the bardic story at all? We don’t know, although it’s a good guess. It does show that the astronomical point – not a calendar date, per se – was marked at Tara. Ditto the other bits of pagan Ireland and England: New Grange marks the winter solstice, not 21 December. Stonehenge marks the Summer Solstice (among other events). The Pagans in the only part of Europe not conquered by Rome didn’t use the Roman Calendar – and so wouldn’t have known what 31 October was – or 1 November.

31 October as Celtic Santeria.
Modern Neopagans take up this theme – using American Christian customs! – when they say “Christians stole our holiday”. In fact, 1 November was never their holiday – it was, however, the closest Christian party to their own historical party at 15 Degrees Scorpio. So they moved their party a week or so over and stopped counting days by small spirals carved on walls and tried this new Roman invention – the Fixed Calendar. They did this so as not to be continually persecuted by the Christians – they wanted to blend in. I’m clear on that – and Christians need to be honest about our persecution of other religions throughout our history.

The Celtic tribes covered up their pagan traditions with a Catholic overlay. But the Church didn’t do that, as such: the Pagans pretended to be Catholics to blend in. It was not the Church adopting Pagan Customs. We see the same blending-in in Yoruban cultures where their Afro-Caribbean and South American cultures adopt Catholicism as a cover for their African Gods. A statue of  St Martin de Porres is worshiped as an image of the Yoruban deity, Elegba. Does this mean that St Martin was stolen from the Yoruban peoples? No: it means the Yoruban people, to cover up and yet maintain their ancient faith, use Catholic symbols. Any priest would see only a statue of a very holy Dominican Tertiary. Likewise, we should more honestly say the ancient Pagans, to avoid persecution by the Church, stole a Christian Holiday.

Like other pagan festivals some of this stuff may have carried over: the “bonfire holidays” in England are mostly pagan festivals that were transferred to Christian days. This is especially clear on St John’s day in the Summer when they light the midsummer bonfires. This tradition of moving traditions to the biggest party continued through history: in England, now, the Mid-Autumn bonfires are not lit on Halloween, but rather on Guy Fawkes Night (Nov 5) which is coincidentally much closer to 15 Degrees Scorpio.

Bad Victorian Mythology
Costumes? Trick or Treat? Pumpkins? Mostly bad Victorian-era Scholarship – and that mostly American, not European at all. Like us moderns, the Americans of the Victorian era had a desire for things that “feel ancient” and, like us, they tended to make stuff up when they didn’t know the answer. Let’s just call it “ancient tradition”. Americans feel guilty sometimes that most countries have indoor plumbing older than our culture.

Our American custom was, until recently, to becostume ourselves and trick-or-treat on Thanksgiving! In fact, this may go back to a Roman Catholic custom on St Martin’s day, 11 November, which is a European Thanksgiving feast. It was also the custom in some places to dress in costumes on St Martins day. Some even have children going door to door on this day. Coincidentally, this was also – for a few hundred years – the Julian Calendar Date for 31 October. So, make of that what you will.

It is this odd American Thanksgiving custom which was moved to American Halloween in the early 20th Century and, as things happen it is the “American Style” Halloween that is only now being imported into Europe. It’s our American customs, superimposed on All Hallows Eve that we now deck out as “ancient” and then call pagan. So follow this: Prot Americans adopt Catholic Customs from St Martin’s Day, move them to Thanksgiving (which was, really, a bit too late in the year to go trick or treating); then we culturally move them to a Catholic Holiday, commercialize them, market them to the rest of the world and then – to validate it – claim it’s not mid-20th Century Marketing, but rather Ancient Celtic Tradition… and poof! we’ve all been duped into spreading the marketing ploy.

Everything else we claim to know about the holiday is from this American Marketing. So we like to blame wearing masks on the ancient Celts. We claim the sweets used to be foods left outside, offered to the Ghosts. The Jack O’Lantern is a candle lit to show the dead how to get back to their homes. All of this is without proof of course – positive or negative. The ancient religions were not literate. They didn’t write it down in guidebooks on How to Be a Druid. Having made up a pretty fun holiday (admit it!) it caught on! Even Europeans now like this idea.

In short: the Church had no need for a Pagan Holiday, but there was a counter-need.

Aztec Skulls

The Aztecs?
Because huge parts of America are, largely, encultured by folks from Mexico and further South, it’s worth talking about the Day of the Dead, Dìa de los Muertos. It’s one of my favourite times of the year to switch cultures: it’s practically a public Holiday in San Francisco. We may have no idea at all what the ancient Celts did, but the Day of the Dead is a living, evolving tradition. Some Protestant commentaries are quick to point out that this is Paganism+Catholicism. But it is Catholicism – not paganism – that rules the day. When it is the other way around, it is a stolen holiday (again, stolen by the Neopagans).

The Aztec (Ancient Mexican) Calendar had almost 30 days dedicated to the dead in or around the Gregorian month of August. These were dedicated to the “Little Dead” (children) and the Adult Dead. These were the ghosts of human sacrifices, as well as the ghosts of the beloved dead.

Within a few decades of the Spanish conquest, all the traditions of these festivals had been transferred to the Catholic feasts of All Saints and All Souls. The Church didn’t move them there – nor did she “take over” the Aztec feasts. Instead – as in the case of the Celts and the other pagans – local traditions were, effectively, baptized when they got there. There were no human sacrifices anymore. But people still wanted to commemorate their dead.

For Pagans this was a way to blend in, a half-way ground. Yet these ancient traditions were seen by the Church as way-pointers on the way to Christ who is The Truth and therefore all things true point to him. There is nothing to be afraid of in the truth: nothing at all. And anything that really is True really is Christ.

Now does any of this mean that the modern, Non-Christian silliness that goes on in Schools is really-Christian or even Anti-Christian? No. No more than singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is an act of Christian piety although I know some who would file a lawsuit nonetheless. That said, let’s be honest: most of the secular version of holy days that happen now – from Christmas to Easter to Halloween – are decidedly not Christian and should be avoided. The revelries that happen on this night are lewd, crude and are often designed to mock Christianity. That is Satanic. 

But bobbing for apples, trick or treating – or using this day and season to commemorate the dead and the departed are not Satanic at all. In fact, it’s an orthodox and catholic practice that is so evidently healthy that even the pagans took it over: All Saints Day (and the Vigil) and All Souls Day and the whole month of November. Should the kids be allowed to have that fun? Well, that’s up to the parents.

Posted in AllSaints, halloween, history, pagan, samhain, truth | Leave a comment

The Calling of St Cletus

JMJ

The Readings for Monday in the 28th Week, Tempus Per Annum (C1)

Omnibus qui sunt Romae, dilectis Dei, vocatis sanctis.
To all that are at Rome, the beloved of God, called to be saints.

Romans is Paul’s most amazing letter. It’s also his most problematic. He will rattle of lists of forbidden things that are very popular today. We won’t be reading those: the Mass lectionary has skipped over those since, at least, the council of Trent (those who say this is a “modernist concession to the world” need to pay more attention to the Church). But, they are there. And they are listed in contrast to this first passage which is in the old lectionary in a very telling place: this passage was read at Mass during the day on 24 December, the Vigil of Christmas. In a way, this Epistle is the “last word of Advent”. In that light (that dawning light) let’s look at it again.

The Coming of Jesus, the arrival of God in the Flesh, means that something new has begun, something unprecedented in all time and space. This is a scandal to Jews and to Muslims alike: for God, born in the flesh, means not only the Creator God has walked on the Earth, but that all the things we experience he, too, experienced. I’m not referring to the things that end up in Hallmark cards like sunrises and birdsong, dew, and the scent of spring. I mean the stuff of life that is more realistic: blood, pain, fear, farts, bad food, and preferring Mom’s hummus to Aunt Elizabeth’s – which tastes funny.

God becoming human means there was a moment in time – several long moments in time by our standards – when God the Word was without words, not only on his lips, but in his brain. Babies do not yet have the synapses needed to cogitate towards words. Baby brains have a very binary mode which we would call “good/bad” but they don’t have those concepts. For God in the Flesh, for a few months there was only “Cry/Don’t Cry”.

On this day before Christmas, Paul reaches out to us and says, “Today we begin.” And the Church here reminds us that today is always today. Today, Monday of the 28th Week, we begin.

Paul – after a reminder of who he is and who Jesus is – says to the Romans (that is, us) “to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.” Going backward in this reading, called to be holy is paralleled with called to belong to Jesus Christ.

Called is the Greek word κλητός kletos. We are summoned, invited. We are playing with our friends in the back yard when Moms begin to yell names across the neighborhood: BI-LEEEEEE, AN-THU-NEEEE! SUPPER! Called. And someplace, God the Father, standing on the back porch, did the same thing by sending Jesus into the world. We are called to belong to Jesus, called to be saints. This is the Gospel, the good news, for God doesn’t not call us to things we cannot do – by his Grace. The second Greek word is ἅγιος agios and it means holy, set apart for God. That is the meaning of Saint – not miracle worker, not inspired teacher – wholy holy. Set apart for God.

This is the pitch.

But the how is still coming up. You are called to be a saint. This sounds good you say, ok, Paul. How? Paul’s got a list of things to stop doing but the Church has named this the “Universal Call to Holiness” and they can best be summed up in the “Evangelical Counsels”: living as Jesus lived according to Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. These are not just for monks – they are for everyone.

Poverty first. Remember that Jesus said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God – but all things are possible with God. Jesus had nothing against rich people but he recognized that attachment to things of this world was all it took to keep you out of heaven. Any undue attachment will take you straight to hell. The Apostolic and Patristic writings are filled with advice on this topic. Share all things, give away all things, give to anyone who asks; your extra clothes are stolen from the poor; food you let spoil is stolen from the hungry. All things come from God and are yours to distribute as God would. The Church insists on the universal destination of goods, professing that the goods of creation are destined for humankind as a whole. Possessions are part of our vocation to care for those around us. This includes a fair and just use of Creation nd her resources – food, water, land, air – for all of the people on the planet (now, and in the future).

Chastity is the most misunderstood of the evangelical counsels. It is not the same thing as celibacy. Some Christians are called to a vowed abstention from marriage but all Christians are called by their Baptism to chastity which means to make appropriate use of God’s gift of human sexuality according to their state in life. Christians within a sacramental marriage are to engage in the gift of sexual union as a means o furthering the relationship between husband and wife and open to the generation of new life in their children. This includes abstaining from sex at times that would be spiritually (emotionally, physically) harmful for the participants in the relationship. Christians outside of a sacramental marriage are called to abstain from sexual actions which are generously gifted by God for a specific place in the created order. This includes not objectifying others sexually, not using the sexuality of others for financial gain (violating their chastity), and not allowing onc self to be used in those ways either.

Obedience is the one that drives many Christians bonkers. At least in social media what I tend to hear is some version of “The Church says X, but I disagree, therefore it’s not part of the Magisterium and I don’t have to follow it. The Church says Y and I agree and therefore it is part of the Magisterium – and you’re a crazy heretic for disagreeing.” In fact, the Documents of the Second Vatican Council are rather broadly drawn when obedience to the Pope is involved:

In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.

Lumen Gentium #25

Working up to that statement, the same document underscores the hierarchical nature of the Church, with each layer owing humility, reverence, and service across the board to priests, bishops, and especially the Pope. That, however, is the Magisterium. Paul – and the Church Fathers – carries this further. We owe reverence and obedience to each other. The enemy calls us to self-will. Any chance to escape what the Fathers call our “slavery to my own reasoning” is a gift from God and a chance to grown in virtue. This does not go against our divine gift of Freedom. Our Freedom in Christ is not the freedom from rules. It is the Freedom for the power of this world, from the power of the Devil, from the slavery to sin and “to my own reasoning” that we may grow in Virtue. It’s not, the license to do whatever but rather the restoration (in Christ) of a freedom to do the Good that we lost in the fall.

Miss Aretha sang it best. Wholy holy. We’re called to be Wholy Holy.

Oh, wholy holy
Oh Lord
We can conquer hate forever, yes we can
Ah, wholy holy, Oh Lord
We can rock the world’s foundation
Yes we can
Better believe it
Wholy holy together and wholy
Holler love across the nation
Oh, oh
Wholy holy
We proclaim love, our salvation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-XtO9Bov64

The incarnation means that this physical stuff of us is called to Holiness: and we are called to holiness by doing the things of this world. By living the life God has given us. If you are a married bridge builder raising a family, that is your path to holiness. Wrap it up and give it as a Christmas present to God.

St John Henry Cardinal Newman offers us this simple way to perfection, a way to hold our life out to God:

If you ask me what you are to do in order to be perfect, I say, first-
– Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising;
– give your first thoughts to God;
– make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament;
– say the Angelus devoutly;
– eat and drink to God’s glory;
– say the Rosary well;
– be recollected; keep out bad thoughts;
– make your evening meditation well;
– examine yourself daily;
– go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.

These three then, poverty, chastity, and obedience are our pathway to answer the Universal Call to Holiness. When Paul says to us we are “called to be holy” or “called to be saints” as it is in some translations, this is what he means. All the lists that follow in St Paul’s text that are skipped over boil down to these items. It’s possible to go all your life as a Christian without addressing these. But what’s the point?

Becoming a Saint is the greatest adventure possible.

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St John the Melodist

St John Henry Cardinal Newman pray to God for us!

JMJ

St John Henry Cardinal Newman was a very accomplished hymn writer. Many of his hymns are here in the Hymnary. There’s also a long biography there.

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise:
in all his words most wonderful,
most sure in all his ways.

O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
a second Adam to the fight
and to the rescue came.

O wisest love! that flesh and blood,
which did in Adam fail,
should strive afresh against the foe,
should strive and should prevail;

And that a higher gift than grace
should flesh and blood refine,
God’s presence and his very self,
and essence all-divine.

O generous love! that he, who smote
in Man for man the foe,
the double agony in Man
for man should undergo;

And in the garden secretly,
and on the cross on high,
should teach his brethren, and inspire
to suffer and to die.

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise:
in all his words most wonderful,
most sure in all his ways.

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Kerygamabob

JMJ

The traditional Kerygma walks through salvation history from the Creation story in Genesis up through the Gospel. This sense of history is not common at this time inside or outside the Church. We can no longer assume a culture familiar with this and, in fact, many Catholics are unfamiliar with it. In previous posts in this series, I’ve suggested that there was a Golden Road in all world religions, parallel to this Kerygma. All humans think of this road as universally true. In case you don’t believe in some sense of absolute truth, I made a reductio ad Hitlerum in the last post to trigger your realization that, at least in some cases, you do believe in an objective standard (beyond our personal likes and dislikes) to which you must appeal. There were no trigger warnings. The post was intended exactly to trigger.

Unless you are completely disconnected from everything and everyone around you, any appeal to “fairness” or “social justice” is, in fact, such a claim. If social justice is only a matter of personal choice, then every form of activism is a species of cultural imperialism. That’s a claim I don’t think anyone will accept. We all work for what we think of as “Justice” – be that a right of choice for women or a right to life for the unborn, be that freedom from slavery or the right to own human beings – we all assume that our version of “justice” is, in fact, right by some objective standard. The only other option is “I’m right because I have the gun-power to enforce my choices on you.” This is not a restatement of the old saw that “Saying there is no absolute truth is an absolute truth.” My intent is to point out that none of us really means “my truth is only relative”. We fail in the logical process of that. If anyone really believed their truth was only relative they wouldn’t care to debate you about yours or even care to assert theirs at all. We fail in the logic of “relative truth” because we don’t actually believe it. At best we usually mean, your truth is relative. What keeps others from realizing the pure logic of our clearly right choices?

What on the Golden Road prevents us from agreeing and realizing this justice that we imagine is universal? What prevents us from just all sitting down and agreeing on what is just and fair in society and what keeps us from implementing it?

In the East, the Hindus have the least (by my lights) enjoyable answer to this line of questions: essentially what is down in this life may be up in the next. Another world can come into being that will repair things the next time Brahman blinks. The way things are, here and now is just the way things are here and now. That’s not changing. Dalits and Brahmins all get what they deserve. It’s a failure to accept what you get that makes things difficult and may make your next life even worse. Working to change this world is kicking against the goads, it’s best to let it all stand and hope to pull yourself out of the torturous cycle.

Taoism has what seems to me to be the most beautiful answer – although it may sound like more of the same it is subtly different: water flows down. It pours over rocks (and wears through them) if they are in the way. It fills the pools at the bottom of the valley – but eventually, the water fills the valley itself. Water, rocks, pools, the valley, gravity, daylight and night, the animals and air all remain true to their nature in this. Working together all things balance and achieve their proper ends. It is possible to step away from our natures, though, from the intended flow of things. This is a philosophical path, but it overlays the most ancient animism of China. (In this respect it is like very like Shinto in Japan, which, in fact, uses the same “tao” character 道 to indicate the second syllable of the name, although the Japanese manifestation begins to be codified about 1400 years after the sage Lao Tzu lived and wrote.)

Buddhism says the real issue is desire itself: want. So the on-going goal is to get rid of desire and to release self into the oneness of nirvana. In the end, even the desire of nirvana must be released and then the desire to release all desires. A failure to do so results in a continuing cycle of rebirth (which arises from the desire of parents).

Confucianism takes Taoism and says, yes, water flows down, etc. It also acknowledges the social structure. Then it adds a series of complex rules, a hierarchical ballet that governs all social interaction in an attempt to control everything. Solid and stable to the core, this prevents change but offers no final end or goal. The ancestors play a living part in this dance.

Shintoism is actually a partial codification of animism into what we might see as a historical religion. Since animism is prehistoric in all ways, Shinto adds writing and ritual codification to create a world that would be recognizable to any pagan – but very high class. The spiritual powers of this world are very important as are the ancestors.

Laying aside, for a moment, the other two Abrahamic faiths which are also eastern at the core (as is Christianity) the Church would agree with all these eastern faiths on several points and would disagree on several others. Yes, we will always have the poor with us, but we are to help them. Society is hierarchical, but all are equal before God (and in worship). Yes, we have our individual natures, part of the wider nature, but humans have an assigned duty to rule. Yet, we are out of step both with nature and with our duty. Christianity does acknowledge the spiritual powers of this world as well as our ancestors but it has a specific place for both. Christianity would not deny desire is a problem for humans but would point out disordered desire as the real issue: when we desire what God wants for us we are on the right path.

There is another level of confusion here: for our modern culture corrupts all of these (including Christianity) with some form of the Prosperity Gospel. Much of American Buddhism is filled with acquisition and positive thinking: gone are the renunciations required of traditional teachings. “Mindfulness” is not a way to achieve detachment from all the stuff of illusion, but rather a way to get ahead in business without really trying. The West is incapable of entering into an understanding of the polytheistic paganism of Hinduism and so has turned the ancient spiritual practices of yoga into weight-loss programs. Taoism does not even hit the radar of most folks and when it does (such as in the I Ching) it turns to fortunetelling instead of enlightenment. All of these paths combine – together with much of Prosperity Christianity and Western Animism – into what is called the New Age. We hear it expressed in A Course in Miracles, in Madonna’s version of Kabbala, in much of neopaganism including the Celtic flavored Wicca that I followed for ten years. We find it expressed in Ceremonial Magic, in many fraternal rituals, in the writings of Crowley (which are over 100 years old and so, the whole thing is not so new anymore). It comes to a head in The Celestine Prophecies, The Secret, and a current presidential candidate.

What else should we expect, though? Our culture has made a religion out of technology, data, and science. We solve everything by application of more of this Holy Trinity – digging ourselves into worse situations instead of digging out of the crap we’re in already. Of course, we’ve found a way to turn mankind’s most esoteric, spiritual pursuites into profit-making schemes. When was the last time “more technology” did not cause more trouble? (Or even when was the first time?) Thus it is our chosen deity in these latter days. Got a problem? We have an app for that – and if we don’t have an app, give me 20 mins and a million or so in venture capital and I will have an app for that. We even have apps for prayer and meditation, for mindfulness exercises and confession preparation. When we need more stuff, the application of technology works best: how many single-used appliances are there available at WalMart just now? Do you really need a blender and also a juicer, a smoothie maker, and an ice cracker in your fridge? Do you need a stove-top range, an electric skillet, an extra induction cooker, and all the pots for each?

Desire (in the Buddhist sense) says, “I want something.” Disordered desire says, “I want something more than God.” This is our root issue: even when we recognize the Golden Road, even if we acknowledge God (I remember I have that still as an undefended given) we take all that and say, I desire this more. Generally, we don’t desire religion – we desire to appear religious.

To a Christian, this is called Original Sin. It’s the one doctrine that is empirically verifiable. You can see this ontological selfishness in play every day. We are selfish even when it might be to our own detriment as in the case of addiction. We are selfish from the first moment a baby learns O that feels good! The wordless scream and hissy is the ontologically selfish assertion. We hear it from babies, adults, and that hybrid known as world leaders. It is sometimes our first breath and our last gasp. More on this, though, in a later post.

Today it’s just enough to see the problem clearly: we all think that – at least on some topics – there’s actual Truth. Yet we can all see that we fail – even in the first person – to live up to that idea.

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Kerygmarsch auf die Feldherrnhalle

JMJ

Since the time of Nero, the Church has taught that government has one primary duty assigned to it by God: to keep the peace. To what end? The Common Good. And so that the Church could be about her business of saving souls. To this end, the Church prays for all secular authority, regardless of the policy or structure. The Church has prayed with the same prayers for caliphs, dictators, monarchs, prime ministers, and presidents. Under those govts the Church works for her own ends, expanding the Kingdom of God even if local laws are athwart those ends. For this reason, the Church is, in the best cases, only a neutral observer of political struggles. As long as she is free to be about her business of saving souls, she is unconcerned. When a govt wanders away from the Common Good, the structures are not what is damned, but rather souls. The Church can’t step in, as such, but she can urge or even authorize her children to take action. This is the just war theory in brief. A govt is, at best, not an obstacle to the common good. When it becomes not only an obstacle, not only an active opponent but an open danger, then the lesser evil of violence against the state – if it can be victorious – can be justified.

You are not my supervisor! was mentioned in a previous post as the primary credo of our culture. This has been true for quite a long while, however. In some ways, America’s founders were saying exactly this to the British Crown. This is the raison d’etre of Protestantism. It’s a weed woven into nearly all aspects of our American culture. Another way it gets expressed is, “That’s not my truth…” There’s a reflection of this credo in our inability or unwillingness to express “my truth” as, well, you know, true. We are, generally, incapable of seeing a moral choice as anything but part of a spectrum. The vast majority of folks may say “X” while a few folks say “Y”. I’m sticking with the folks who say “Z” instead because, hey, that’s my choice. We pretend we are right. But we won’t back it up if pressed.

Why We Fight was commissioned by the United States Army Signal Corps in 1942 to help explain, first to draftees but later to the general public, why the U.S. had entered the war against the Axis Powers. Filmed by Frank Capra, the seven movies are at once education and indoctrination. The films want you to think a certain way about politics and then lead you to desired conclusions. They want to collapse the available moral spectrum, assumed in most of American life, to one of two choices – with the right choice being evidently right. At times of crisis, in the past, we have been able to overcome our congenital error of individualism and come together as a people. Why We Fight was a tool used by the US to help Americans understand that WW2 was such a time. It made an appeal on several levels: emotional, political, patriotic, and philosophical arguments were offered. The US was putting forth the claim that to fight in WW2 against fascism was a moral duty.

Although the first movie, Prelude to War, includes some very disturbing images to pull on our emotions, the movie actually gets into some very deep (by comparison) reasons for fighting against fascism both abroad and in the US. By extension – and in honor of the lives lost in the last century – those reasons apply today as well. Very (very) few people will disagree with the following: Fascism is bad. In fact, most folks would go even further and say, Fascism is evil. Today, though, asking why may not move us down the same conversation that Capra envisioned in 1942.

Why is fascism bad?
– Look at what they did!
Yes, but why is that bad?
– They killed the Jews and Gypsies and Gays!
Yes, but why is that bad?
– Oppressing their own people…
Yes, but why is that bad?
– They invaded Poland and Russia!
Yes, but why is that bad?
– They tried to take over the world!
Yes, but why is that bad?

This can continue for a long time unless the other party gives up. Some folks can engage a little in the proffered philosophical dialectic and we might be able to expand the questions:

It denies basic human freedom.
– Yes, but why is that bad?
Democratic principles are destroyed.
– Yes, but why are those a good thing?
The right to self-expression and liberty…
– Why is that morally better than what the Nazis offered?
Well, everybody knows…
– Yes, but what makes it objectively better?
– OK, but why were the allies ok with doing some of the same things?
– What makes socialism a better (or worse) system than fascism?

Mind you, I’m not debating facts here: fascism is bad. It kills people. It oppresses people.

Seriously, though, we can answer how but tell me why is that bad? Answers to that are either examples of the badness (still undefined – only more how), things that make folks angry and therefore must obviously make me angry too – and ergo bad. We shall ask again, with a Spock-like tone of voice, Why is it bad? Neither examples of badness nor emotional stirrings answer a why (although they can hint at an answer). Rather than data though, why is this evil? The answer can’t be a version of, “Don’t you know?!?!!”

If something is considered bad only because it is illegal, then a simple change in the laws can make it good. If something is considered bad only because it does bad things to people, then you have to tell me why those things are considered bad as well. If something is bad only because you don’t like it, or you disagree, then there are folks who do like it. It must be valid for them, right?

To answer the question fully you have to provide not a series of anecdotes or emotions, but an actual, objective, answer. If fascism is bad and we must fight it, it must be objectively bad, not subjectively so. If it is only subjectively bad – only bad because you say so, just now, here, then there may be a time and place where you say it’s good. Or there may be a time and place where other people would say it’s good (even if you don’t) and what makes them more or less right than you? Nothing at all if it is subjective. Fascism is their truth, not yours. But I refuse to yield that point: fascism is evil. Therefore, there must be an objective reason that fascism is evil. I have my own answer below, but I want to point out why this is important for our discussion of Kerygma.

You may never have thought about it before, but there is a reason fascism is bad. When I give you my reason, you may disagree with my reason (or you may agree with nuances, etc) but any appeal you will make – after thinking about it, if you get there – is to objective truth. If there is no external standard by why we can judge fascism to be bad – a standard that is not emotional feelings or patriotic stirrings about “freedom”, not a legal standard in some countries, not an appeal to history, authority or any of the other logical fallacies to which one may usually adhere; if there is no such standard then fascism might be good sometime, might be bad at other times. The proponent of and the opponent of fascism must both make such an appeal to some objective truth (which may be true or not) that supports them and can be debated with disinterest. Or else it’s only left at the level of “my truth” – even if “my truth” is shared by a few billion others. If there is no objective standard, even one over which we can disagree, we have no way of saying anything is bad: only that some folks don’t like it.

Your argument for an objective truth means that you imagine that somewhere there is something that must override mere human opinions about what is right and what is wrong. Fascism must always be wrong because of this objective truth to which all humans must agree and something is horribly wrong – broken, disordered – with those who disagree. It also means that you don’t really believe in “my truth” and “your truth” – or at least not in all cases. You actually believe that – at least for some things – there is something all humans must accept from external authority. To insist there is something that would decree fascism bad – external to any human being, measurement, or mismeasurement – is the proof that you’re ready (even if not willing) to try and look for the Golden Road.

As to my reasoning, even (perhaps especially) if you don’t believe in God, this sentence should make sense to you: At root, fascism is wrong because it posits the state in the role of God and the Glorious Leader in the role of Avatar or Messiah of that State-as-God. Everything else that is wrong with and about fascism flows from that root departure from the Golden Road. This State-as-God gets to define what it means to be human, what it means to be just, what it means to be a good citizen, what it means to be free. All relativism is eliminated by reifying the state as the delineator of objective reality. All fascism – even those that sought to curry religious favor – have this one genetic, if you will, defect.

The state becomes god. Nero had no mandate to kill anyone from the pantheon, but Romans had decided the Emperor was divine so his mandate let them kill Christians for being “atheists” and a danger to the state. Germany killed the Jews, degraded churches of all stripes, and then dressed up in a pseudohistory of neopaganism but in the end, even all the pagan gods were just ideological tools of the state. Stalin walked the soviets through the same process: destroying churches, degrading the hierarchy, killing Jews, and creating “Mother Russia” which met no one’s needs but was the object of everyone’s worship. America’s foundational documents assume rights come from “the creator” and are to be protected by the state, yet even the Modern Democracies drift toward fascism today, unmoored as they are from their religious roots: with the state coveting the place of god and pretending, herself, to be the source of “rights”, making new rights, and declaring older patterns to be those of “hate”.

For the Christian, this cannot be just a “feeling”, not just one possible truth selected from among many. The state-as-god is a violation of the 1st and the 2nd Commandments and so it is an objective evil. All the other evils (scapegoating, murders, genocide, political bullying, resource consumption, militarism, racism, slave labor, war) arise from this root evil. The state-as-god will even go so far as to declare these new evils as “goods”. The new deity makes new morals too. These new morals are a logical outcome: they will arise without regard to the documented intentions of the state or the glorious leader. If all truth is relative, there is no way to say “These new morals are evil”. The only thing you can say is “I don’t like it” or “We don’t want that here.” To insist that it is evil – objectively evil – is to appeal to the Tao I’ve been discussing in my other posts. It’s a tacit claim that there is order in the world, that some things are right and others are wrong.

PS: I do not mean here that anything anyone labels as fascist is, de facto, fascist. In some circles, I could be labeled fascist for using the phrase “objective truth”. That would prove a second point I am trying to make, we will leave that for a later post on religion and fascism which will help us connect this new Kerygma with the classic, Roman one.

PPS: At the Nuremberg trials, the folks saying “Well, you know, that was what we believed…” were the Nazis. They believed in relativism and subjective truths. If all we have to offer in reply is more relativism then we’ll all fail together. My truth, your truth, it just doesn’t matter.

This might seem like a not-so-subtle riff on the idea that “atheists can’t be moral”. It’s not that at all: a lot of Christians fall into this trap as well. We can do it blatantly when we say things like, “I’m Catholic and so I have to… but you can do anything you want.” or “I can’t vote according to Catholic teaching because I don’t want to force my religion on anyone else.” But we can do it subtly when we say things like, “I do this because God said so…” and don’t follow through with a reason that God said so. We do not do murder “because God said so.” God could not have said, “Murder is good.” God said, “do no murder” because murder is objectively evil. God said we are to love and forgive because to love and forgive are good things – in and of themselves. God is good.

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In hope of less.

Les Brown and Bob Hope in 1951. They have nothing to do with this post.

JMJ

This is not a rant about the novus ordo but the next few words may sound like it. One of the things that annoy me about the Pre V2-Post v2 argument is the claim that the new lectionary (for mass and the office) has “more scripture” in it. This is usually offered without ever explaining why this might be a good thing. The Mass (and the Daily Office) is not the time for Bible Study. While there is nothing wrong with either the new Lectionary for Mass, nor the Daily Office lectionary, it’s not automatically good simply because there is more of it. Exposure to more scripture only means exposure to more scripture. There are unexplored advantages to the older ways: as in the Orthodox and Jewish traditions, a year’s worth of readings (rather than three years) allows for memorization, familiarity, and meditation. MOAR BIBLE (to use memespeak) is not the solution to anything, really. More (or moar), by itself, is not better: it can really be just meaningless words and, if recent data about the lack of faith among Catholics is any indication, it’s actually made things worse.

However, this “More is Better” thinking is not only an issue on the “new” side of things.

I love the Daily Office: the traditional practice of reciting portions of Psalms, hymns, and scripture passages at several set times each day. The purpose of this is the sanctification of time, a weaving of the heavenly song of praise into all aspects of each day. It began as a monastic practice which was, itself, an extension of Church practice. There are certain psalms that get used all the time in the liturgies of the Church. Monastics extended this by using the entire book of Psalms. This is very visible in the Eastern liturgy where the set times of prayers have set psalms: Matins has 6, Lauds has three, and then each of the other services has three each. However, if you follow the monastic practice, into Matins and Vespers you can weave the entire Psalter or almost all of it. In the West, which adopted the Office from the monastics, this was the same pattern until recently: Lauds and each of the “little hours” through the day had set psalms that could be memorized.

The monastic practice became part of parish practice through various routes in East and West. Read Liturgy of the Hours, East and West by Fr Robert Taft, SJ, for a much deeper exploration of this history.

In the name of simplicity, Pope St Pius X made a major revision to the office and parsed the entire psalter out over 7 days with no repetition. While much of it could still be memorized it was only over a longer period of time. Without daily recitation of some texts, they tend to not be memorized as easily. But they are there. Then, following Vatican 2, a second major revision of the distribution of Psalms happened. This was much more dramatic, some might even say disruptive: the psalter was parsed out over four weeks. There is a complex layout – with some texts repeating every two weeks, some repeating weekly, and a few others only coming up once in the four-week cycle. Some do not come up at all (because they made folks “uncomfortable”) but this is said to be fixed in the new translation rumored to be in the works since the 80s…

There are some issues to raise about this new psalter. Gone is the daily repetition of the Lauds psalms (which St Pius did away with), and the daily repetition of Psalm 50/51 that was present in the P10 psalter, at least in Lent, is entirely absent in the new text, where that Psalm is only said weekly on Fridays. Also, the matins readings are not parsed into digestible chunks: they come at you in walls of paginated text. But it is still the same office in form and function, just as the new Mass – done properly – is the same Mass as the old Mass in form and function. These issues are issues of style and liturgical thinking, though. The Office – the daily prayer of the church – is present in these texts and the Office plus the Mass is the daily grace needed by all the Saints. So, we’re good.

It is with some humor (and not a bit of sly irony) that in reading Trady complaints about the new office, the most common reason for urging a return to the older form is some version of because it is longer. MOAR OFFICE! “But we say more psalms,” said one monastic to me.

More than once since becoming Roman Catholic, your host has fallen into this same trap. Though now obligated to the Office as a Dominican Tertiary, the Office (with more or less regularity) has been a valued part of my growth even as an Episcopalian in the 80s. Even as a neopagan, the sense of need for daily prayer had become so ingrained that I wrote a daily office in a pagan style, complete with a yearly cycle and “canticles” lifted from early Welsh and Irish texts. My first thought, picking up the current Roman office in Liturgy of the Hours, was, “Hmm. This is a little light.” The translation is pedestrian at best, the hymnody is often meaningless, and the distribution of the Psalms, as mentioned, is problematic. So, I constantly find myself wanting to revert back to some older form with more – or moar.

Why? What is the attraction of or the value of more pro se? This is the same thing proffered in comparison of rites, old/new or east/west: ours is longer, as if duration was a mark of holiness or as if God would say, “Whoa! More words is totes better, Bro!” This rant began when the Liturgy of the Hours called the “Liturgy of the Minutes” and as much as I love the breviary, I realized then the internal pride I felt at doing the Office in the Extraordinary Form. If I were an SSPX tertiary, that would be correct, but that’s not the case.

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Kerygma My House, My House Kerygma

Dreaming of a house in San Francisco where several Catholics of all ages live together, being the Kingdom. Singles and married families with or without kids, different rites, different parishes. Everyone has their things to do: their own charisms, their own vocations. What we share is a community life of work and prayer that supports us in the evangelical counsels and our apostolic works.

Some of us have secular jobs, some of us work for the Church, some of us are unemployed, some are retired. While we each show apostolic zeal in our endeavors out in the world, we also share a common sense of hospitality for everything from the lost young adult at the door to the neighbors’ animals, and random strangers on the street. We host weekly gatherings for the community and sundry to enjoy our space and feast with us.

Denver Companions of Christ

As a model, I’d like you to look at the Clerical Fellowship called “Companions of Christ“. Their governing documents are written for a group of clergy, but a committed group of lay folks could build this as well. And while giant houses in SF are next to impossible to come by (with God all things are possible) the idea of living together in cells of three or four together is very doable. This quote from their FAQ expresses what could be possible in this context for us:

WHAT MAKES THE COMPANIONS OF CHRIST DIFFERENT FROM JUST A BUNCH OF PRIESTS WHO ARE FRIENDS?
The Companions have events and ways of relating that help to form a particular culture among this group of friends. Celebrating the Lord’s Day on Saturday nights, praying and eating together during the week, committing to a common vision for priestly excellence, vacationing together, and gathering to share our spiritual joys and struggles in a bi-weekly fraternal group are some of the more important ways that we help each other to follow our baptismal call to holiness and our priestly call to service. You could say that our friendship has an expressed purpose: to help each other to become saints.

I would re-write that in this way: The [Name] have events and ways of relating that help to form a particular culture among this group of friends. Celebrating the Lord’s Day on Saturday nights, praying and eating together during the week, committing to a common vision for Christian perfection, vacationing together, and gathering to share our spiritual joys and struggles in a bi-weekly fraternal group are some of the more important ways that we help each other to follow our baptismal call to holiness, the apostolic mission of laity, and our service to the church and to each other. You could say that our friendship has an expressed purpose: to help each other to become saints.

Evangelical Counsels Not Only For Monastics

The Evangelical Counsels apply to all Christians: poverty, chastity, and obedience. If we live together in community we share poverty in that we share all that we have, from each according to their ability to each according to their need. We live chastely, each according to their state in life, by the Grace of God and the support of the community. We live obedience to each other and to the Magisterium of the Church. The Evangelical Counsels help us to live our lives as Christians in but not of the world.

Is this a vision you could share? HMU.

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Kerygmatic Checkin

JMJ

Just want to drop a post and make sure we’re all on the same page. There have been 6 posts so far in this discussion, typos and all, so it seemed a good idea to go over the main points and make sure we’re were all still together. We’re walking people, we’re walking…

  1. In the first post, I said that “Why are you (me) doing this church stuff?” could only be answered by first understanding what “this church stuff” was; then
    1. I asked you to accept as a given that there was a God and he loves us. I acknowledged, also, that the entire process falls apart if that could be proved as untrue; then
    2. I suggested that if those two points were true that God would want us to find him; and
    3. I pointed out that there is a huge overlap in all world religions, even though there were some serious departures.
    4. I named this overlap the “Golden Road” or what CS Lewis called the Tao.
  2. In the second post we discussed why there were huge departures from the Tao.
    1. After exploring the idea that no one actually believes in science, I used this as the main example of my real point:
    2. No one accepts any authority over them. “You are not my supervisor” is the main credo of our culture. As a result
    3. The Tao gets broken up, divided, and obscured by everyone wanting to “do their own thing. I continued this, then
  3. In the third post pointing out how easy it is for us to see others falling off the Tao
    1. Inviting you to be honest about the ways you fall off it yourself.
  4. In the fourth post, which might be called #3-Part II, I noted that we can’t get to following the Golden Road by “following our bliss”.
    1. I said any sense that someone might “lie” was a recognition of this fact
  5. In the fifth post we thought about all the ways we imagine or project or find “Order” in the world.
    1. The Cry “that’s not fair”, the quest for Astrology, Psychological types, etc, all indicate a quest for (or a projection of) order in the world
    2. This would coincide with what biblical and later writers say, “The Law of God is written in everyone’s heart.
    3. This quest means one of three things.
      1. There is no order and the quest is futile
      2. There is only the order that we project on the world (we make it up)
      3. There is order and that implies a designer
    4. I mentioned that I had lived out options (i) and (ii) and that should the world prove to be either of those things the reader would be unable to prove to me why, objectively, Stalin’s Russia was any better than Obama’s America.
      1. I did not invoke Godwin’s law
        1. I did say that any attempt to prove the dictators of the 20th Century were wrong was an appeal to a non-projected order, option (iii)
  6. Finally, in the sixth post, I discussed the idea of the left- and right-hand paths, suggesting
    1. Neither is any better than the other because
      1. Both implied that you picked; and
      2. Both were just as good. (These are just other forms of 5.C.i and 5.C.ii above.)
      3. They begin with “I wanna”
    2. I suggested the Path, the Golden Road, the Tao – itself – calls us forward.
    3. The only way to follow the Golden Road and to say on it is to follow someone in front of us, to stay in their footsteps.
    4. We can tell when we’ve veered off to the left or the right of the Tao
    5. We have to make the choice to follow, but we must follow (we can’t forge ahead alone).
    6. The Tao means “the way”; and
    7. The Way is also a title Jesus used for himself

I have still left as undiscussed the idea that God exists and that he loves us. I still acknowledge that without that the rest of this falls apart. At this point, I need you to continue to take that as a given.

Future posts will discuss if Jesus is a good exemplar of the Tao, in light of what he said about himself. Finally, we will ask what now.

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