In which I find myself agreeing with Jack Chick…

The NABRE text might as well say, “Jesus only rolled his eyes and said ‘Oy’ whilst making a ‘W’ with his fingers.”


The Readings for the Feast of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Virgin & Doctor
Tuesday in the 26th Week, Tempus per Annum (C1)

Et conversus increpavit illos, dicens : Nescitis cujus spiritus estis. Filius hominis non venit animas perdere, sed salvare. Et abierunt in aliud castellum.
And turning, he rebuked them, saying: You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of man came not to destroy souls, but to save. And they went into another town.

I have no idea why these verses are missing from the NABRE. Research indicates they are missing from the RSV with a note that “other ancient authorities” have them. So they are in the Vulgate and in the Textus Receptus, in the Douay and in the KJV. I think this may be a valid variant: otherwise we have an odd moment where Jesus rebukes someone but we are not told what was said.

Jesus wants to proclaim the good news to this village but because of their sectarian politics, they won’t even let him in the gate. John, the Beloved, wants to call down fire from heaven. The NABRE text might as well say, “Jesus only rolled his eyes and said ‘Oy’ whilst making a ‘W’ with his fingers.” Instead, Jesus responds, “I didn’t come to destroy but to save.”

There’s a lot of folks today who want to call down fire. They are angry at stuff in the church, they are angry at stuff in the world. However, like John, our anger is misplaced. It’s not the people we’re fighting with. We’re trying to save the people: unto their last breath, we should be working and praying for their salvation: praying, loving, preaching, teaching, and being Church as we model the kingdom and God’s love for them. Jesus did not come to destroy but to heal, the Greek uses the word σῴζω Sozo which means “heal” and “save”.

We can’t do God’s Kingdom if we insist on doing things that Jesus wouldn’t be doing. How many radical activists (of any extreme variety) are born because we fail to be the Kingdom of God? Yes, I know that the sex scandal drives many away from the Church and our doctrines are, themselves, the cause of anger. The Truth will do that. Read about this protest in St Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC.

Most folks rejecting the Gospel are not doing what happened in NYC or even recently in Mexico City. Rather I mean how many terrorists were born in Ireland because the Church was failing the people by siding with their wealthy oppressors? How many more when the Church supported the Fascists in Spain? How many more are lost when political power drives the Church in Russia, the US, in Germany, to side with hypocrisy for the sake of fancy watches, dinner invites, and “being seen”? When the future founder of the Muslim Brotherhood spent two years in the US, how did we fail to model the Kingdom and draw him in? What would have happened if we hadn’t allowed Christianity to be equated with middle class, white, mid-century values?

St Therese’s feast is perfect for this passage. She says, “Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.” Rather than calling down fire, she asks us to pray for sinners in this way in her Holy Face Prayer for Sinners:

Eternal Father, since Thou hast given me for my inheritance the adorable Face of Thy Divine Son, I offer that face to Thee and I beg Thee, in exchange for this coin of infinite value, to forget the ingratitude of souls dedicated to Thee and to pardon all poor sinners.

It’s easy to blame the people in Samaria for rejecting Jesus because of their sectarian politics. John wanted to blame them. Jesus had other plans though. When the fire came from heaven at Pentecost it saved Samaria and the whole world.

Although the protesters in NYC were way out of line not everyone is acting like that. When someone in the middle of their journey rejects the Gospel is it sometimes possible that it is because we didn’t offer the Gospel in the first place?

By way of Postscript: My friend and sometime BYOB Theology Co-Host, Drew Ludwig, has shared this article about the missing verses via Twitter. There are several ancient texts (of great import) that do not contain the missing verses.

War, Sex, and Weather

The more wealth Israel accumulated, the more injustice they practiced. The one begot the other which begot more of the first.


The Readings for the 26th Sunday Tempus per Annum (C1)

Vae qui opulenti estis in Sion… Quapropter nunc migrabunt in capite transmigrantium, et auferetur factio lascivientium.
Woe to the wealthy in Zion... Wherefore now they shall go captive at the head of them that go into captivity: and the faction of the luxurious ones shall be taken away.

Amos really has it in for these folks. Who are “these folks” though? Amos was from Judah (the south), but, in fact, he preached mostly in the north. He preached to or about just about all of the folks in what we now think of as Palestine: passages are addressed to the rich folks in Israel (the northern tribes) the rich folks in Samaria, and to the rich folks in Jerusalem. So, while it is sometimes astute to soften the blow of this prophet by saying, well he was talking to people in Samaria in Chapter 6, but we can learn… Fact is, he was talking to The Rich who lived there. To The Rich who there (and everywhere) have the same problems.

But Amos’ problem wasn’t with the riches of The Rich. We do Amos a huge disservice when we think he’s talking about “the wealth of the rich and the poverty of poor”. The NABRE refers to the “complacent” which is technically ok. But it avoids the fact that Amos is talking about those who have enough money to – as the Hebrew says – “be at ease”. The Latin cuts right to the quick and says, “The Rich”. We need to see the context of the problem: which is that Amos is talking about how the wealthy are treating the poor, misusing their riches because of idolatry. Wealth, per se, is not the problem. In the Hebrew prophets, both the rich and the poor have obligations in God’s world. Straying from God’s path into idolatry always means injustice: Falling out of right relationship with God results in falling out of right relationship with people.

The people of the Northern Tribes, following the example of their king, had begun to worship the local deities of Anat, Asherah, and Baal. The goddess of War, the goddess of Sex, and the god of the Weather.

War, sex, weather: worshipping these had made the northern tribes very wealthy indeed. And the more wealth they accumulated, the more injustice they practiced. The one begot the other which begot more of the first. We know this to still be true: it’s the addictive cycle of sin. We do something and it feels good, so we want to do it again. We make allowances in our lives do to it again, and, before we know it, we are ordering our lives around feeling good. We cut off things that make us feel bad – then we cut off things that make us feel bad about feeling good. Our entire modus operandi becomes feeling good. But what if what “feels good” is, itself, bad?

War, sex, and weather. Three cornerstones of our current cultural climate outside and inside the church really.

We love war. Even if we don’t want a new Land War in Asia, even our peace prize-winning President was a warmonger. We have a war on drugs, a war on poverty, both of which became a war on the poor. We have military actions around the world that destroy and disrupt the lives of the poor – who cannot afford to get out of our way. We love to use the technology of war, in the hands of police and civilians, against the poor: through surveillance and physical harm. We do all of this to protect our wealth.

Even in the Church, where we should study war no more, we find ourselves supporting much of this – even cheering on wars that support Israel against our Christian brothers and sisters who made the unfortunate choice to be born in Palestine. And we support a new warmonger Because of the Judges™. We love war.

Sex needs no introduction, but we do love it. We are obsessed with it both inside and beyond the Church. I don’t mean that in the correct theological way where we welcome the divine gift and treat it as the blessed sacrament that it is. If recent revelations are indicative of the deep waters of the Church, we have been very happy, as a community, to turn our eyes away from sexual sins so that we might enjoy our own peccadillos. The culture that gave us “Catholics for Choice” to destroy children is the same culture that gave us clergy who do the same. The same culture that gives us Jim Martin gives us Cardinal McCarrick.

Beyond the Church, our sexual economy destroys the poor around the world, at home with porn production and addiction, abroad with trafficking and disease. And we try – at all costs – to colonize other lands as modern-day, sexual conquistadors committing culture destruction by our imperialist ideas of autonomy and amorality. We love sex. It’s our basic ID card and our tombstone. And sex is nearly always about wealth and power: only the wealthy can afford the “choices” that make their lack of responsibility possible. Only the poor have no choice when it comes to objectification. Only the rich can afford to make and unmake life choices over and over.

Weather: surely we don’t worship Baal, the god of thunder. Yet weather is part of the culture of injustice. Look at pictures of NYC in the 70s and see the smog. That smog is gone now. Why? All the factories and industries that used to be in NYC (and all their jobs) are now in the third world when we can pay less and pollute their skies instead of ours. And we’ve made NYC so clean that we’ve raised the rents and driven out the poor. We are terrified of global climate change, yet we’re culturally unable to address the root cause which is not our consumption of things, but rather our consumption of the poor. We are happy to move our water, earth, and air pollution to other parts of the world. China even gets our garbage – because the idea of recycled toilet paper bothers us. When we do accept the need for change, we still foist our worst choices on the poor. We tell them not to eat meat, yet “plant-based” foods are filled with chemicals in other parts of the world from our industrialization. We rob the world of health and then tell them to eat better or else climate change is their fault.

We worship weather: and neither our fear of climate change nor our indifference to it will let us care for the poor. Amos would have choice words for us, telling us we’ll be the first. It’s not our riches that condemn us: it’s our failure to participate in God’s self-giving. The Fathers tell us the only reason we have wealth is to share it with the poor. God’s self-giving is called kenosis in the Greek. His grace allows us to pour out our selves in slavish labor for to give all our wealth away to the poor. But we need more furniture, you know, and more cheap plastic junk from Wal*Mart, and organic farm produce which we won’t pay a fair price for – preventing the farmer or industrialist from being able to do his job with workers justly paid.

When Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man has no name: only money. He ignores the poor man: but he knows his name. How is this? He mentions him by name in the next life. In fact, there are two things condemning him here: he clearly knows his name. But instead of doing what we would do – see a friend (or acquaintance) and ask him to speak to someone in power on our behalf, the rich man addresses Abraham and asks him to put Lazarus to work on his behalf. Even in hell, the rich man cannot bring himself to love the poor – only to order them around. His failure to use his wealth in the ways of justice and righteousness has ruined his relationship with neighbor and, so, with God. Rejecting the latter and the former in favor of comfort and pride, he has found he has nothing.

This is us, worshipping sex, war, and weather from our ivory keyboards stretched on our padded deck chairs…

While the Titanic sinks with us, into hell.

The banquet is prepared.

Knowing that we are the prodigal, that Jesus is the father welcoming us home…


There it was to see today, even though, certainly, it’s been there before. Something finally clicked. Knowing that we are the prodigal, that Jesus is the father welcoming us home, it was evident, finally, that the Mass itself was the banquet prepared for us. Why this hadn’t been noticed before is clearly the fault of being too far away to see the father’s love for his wayward son.


The choice we make – to build our own roadways out of the bricks we have forged – is an illusion. Those “roads” are really walls that cut us off from life, that cut us off from God, that cut us off from each other. We are the bricklayers of our own prisons.


Occultism posits the “right-hand path” and the “left-hand path” which are supposed to lead – by different turnings – to the same place, the former through good and proper use of all things, kindness, etc, the latter through chaos and self-direction. It might be imagined that the one is “good” or “white” magic while the other is “bad” or “black” magic. That would be improper. Both allow for the same actions, the same means to ends, only one requires more reason than “because I wanna try this”. Both of them tend to start with “I wanna”, however. The “right-hand” has to do more justification than the left. That’s all. I realized I had spent much of my life walking both of these paths and – when you think about it – you can be on a “right-hand” or “left-hand” path in pretty much any religious tradition. If it is you, the walker, who is in charge of the walking, you’re on one of these paths. Make it up as you go along, with or without internal moral qualms, and you’re doing this. I’ve been writing my own prayerbooks and liturgies for years. I’ve been making up rituals and theologies, pantheons and hermeneutics to justify everything I could do or want to do. It all begins with, “I wanna”.

Having failed to cobble together my own idea of what works for me, I came to the idea that maybe there was order – and possibly even rules – and I needed to follow the Golden Road since it was the only option that was left that was also attractive. But doing this requires two assumptions: I don’t know how to do this, and someone else must. For a while, even this was about “I wanna”.

Then it dawned on me, that possibly the answer was, “You want me.”

To walk the Golden Road, the Tao, you need to follow. You can’t lead. You can’t make it up as you go along. There are well-worn footsteps in front of you and, like the Royal Page in “Good King Wenceslas”, you have to follow in the footsteps exactly to keep from getting lost in the blizzard. One step in front of the other, each step exactly like the footsteps in front of you. Every once in a while you wander off on your own and you find you’ve gotten far away. You have to come back and rejoin the same pattern that has been walked – danced, actually, by everyone in front of you.

You find, slowly but surely, is that every once in a while a set of footsteps cuts off to the left or to the right, some go backward. You have to sit down and make a choice. Do you follow the steps that keep going or do you go left or right or back? And what you’ll find, over and over, is if you make the choice to go forward on the Tao, to go forward on the Way… eventually you’ve only got Jesus to follow. For all the other prophets, teachers, and gurus peel off one way or the other.

What happens is, over and over, the Golden Road, the Tao, the Way, is Jesus. He said he was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The path to heaven is Jesus.

The choice we make – to build our own roadways out of the bricks we have forged – is an illusion. Those “roads” are really walls that cut us off from life, that cut us off from God, that cut us off from each other. We are the bricklayers of our own prisons.

In submission, in humility, in slowly placing one foot in front of the other, we will find, walking out of prison, that we are following Jesus. He is on neither the right-hand nor the left-hand path. He is the path. I don’t know how he does it, but that’s what he does: reaching in, talking us by the heart, and leading – if only we will follow. Our quest to escape “this isn’t fair”, our quest to “find me”, our quest to “Understand it all” will – if we are not careful and if we are honest – lead us directly to Jesus and through Jesus directly to our selves.

This is the Kingdom proclaimed. The kingdoms of this world are on either the left- or the right-hand path. They all wanna do something because they wanna. Jesus, however, wants you. When we respond, giving up all our petty wants and rights, all our choices except the choice to respond to Jesus’ call… when we respond: we become who we really are. We never are that until then for we are made exactly for this.


Do you believe in love? Do you believe in romance? And now, out of left field, do you – like so many of my friends – believe in Soul Mates? Do you feel, deep in your heart, that there is someone out there for you that is your best match? So many of my friends believe this that I think it’s nearly a part of our common assumptions of life. Some of us get this worked out of our brains by our life, by abuse, by whatever comes along; but most of us seem to start, at least, someplace in early puberty, with the idea that “somewhere out there” there is someone “thinking of me and loving me tonight”. This is actually a thing in Judaism: they will speak of “Bashert” or Destiny. “You are my destiny” is Paul Anka riffing on this bit of Yiddishkeit.

I think we all have this inside of us: I certainly had the idea that there was someone I should be loving. Movies, music, books (even those that are not “romance” related) are filled with this idea. Lord of the Rings which is not at all a romance (in book form – the movies be damned) is replete with the idea of fated romance and even fated friendships and political alliances. Not only lovers but nations have bashert.

Is this romance? Is this a silly dream? Or is this something else?

Do you believe in astrology? I’m surprised at how many folks find a bit of validation in the claim that “many customer service agents are Virgos”. What about Meyers-Briggs typology? Does the Enneagram speak to you better? Are you more inclined to binary terms? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How many times does the sentence “there are two types of people in the world…” resonate with you? Have you tried to find out which Muppet movie you are?

While some of these are humorous and others are more involved, what they and the idea of “bashert” all betray is a quest for order. Humanity has tried to find order in the universe for pretty much all of our history. That’s what the constellations are: a projection of order. Astrology is only more of the same – the idea that these patterns must mean something and we should be able to discern the meanings. The quests of science to locate and understand the “laws” of things is exactly the same drive. Order does not have to indicate design. Saying we think there has to be a logical outlay here does not mean we’re looking for “intelligent design” or a designer. It does indicate a sense that the dance is not pure chaos: something is going on here that we can suss out if only we work hard enough at it.

So there are three options here:

  1. There is no order at all – you’re making all this up in your mind.
  2. There is order, and when you find more about it, you’ll discover it has no meaning or drive at all. It is self-organizing at best.
  3. There is order, it has meaning and a driver, a volitional cause behind it.

Honestly, I tried 1 and 2 for most of my life. Both of them made room for parts of life that I enjoyed: namely sex, drugs, rock and roll, and suchlike.

After so long as vaguely religious I joined a spiritual community that insisted there were no rules. A member once asked, “That’s ok for people who believe in Jesus, but what about the rest of us?” We were led by one man who passionately did not believe in any deity and one who, just as passionately, seemed to me to believe in every deity. It was here I learned the meaning of “‘the Godly man annoys us, for his ways are strange to us”. No rules are good: because you can do whatever. It’s the ecclesial version of Burning Man. The art was better and there were fewer drugs, but the idea was the same. And I tried for a long while. The idea, taught here, that all of religion was a looking-back at things and adding meaning was attractive. I could look back and find meaning as well. No, no, no: we don’t find meaning we add it. Get it right. Religion is like an undergraduate seminar in post-modern textual criticism. We add whatever we want. We don’t need to worry about the author’s intentions (which we may not be able to recover anyway).

This was also common in the Newage movements: the whole universe exists to satisfy your manifestations of desire. There is order when you add it! This sounds like some scientists now who can’t tell if what they see is really there or if in the act of seeing it they are creating the order. As attractive as this was, from Richard Bach to the Celestine Prophecies it still seemed like sophomoric solipsism disguised as wisdom. It made perfect sense at a certain stage of puberty, but it was totally silly once you wanted to fall in love. When I danced around a Maypole, there was emergent order: the ribbons wove together into a pattern that was unbelievably beautiful. But that didn’t just happen: it was a logical result of our dancing, which was a logical result of our music, which was a logical result of thousands of years of tradition which intended to weave ribbons in exactly this way.

Or it was meaningless shenanigans.

The implication of both option 1 and option 2 is that it just doesn’t matter. There is no reason to value your life or mine, there is no reason to value anyone’s life at all. It doesn’t matter if Trump or Obama is president, if Bill Clinton or Trump have spent their lives molesting women or just lying to voters. It doesn’t matter if Fidel Castro imprisoned his political enemies or if Abraham Lincoln did. There is no reason to imagine its “good” to protect the ocean, or bad to vote fascist. There is no reason to imagine that any human action is better (or worse) than any other human action. If option 1 or 2 is the way the universe works, tell me why anything matters. I did not want to live in that world. The sense of “this is not fair” was too real. If I wanted to ask for “just wages” or “equality” or “better environmental choices” then I was appealing to something external, something that should – in theory – be the same for anyone who thought about it for a while. Else the only thing that the 20th Century dictators did wrong is run afoul of American Cultural Imperialism. Yes, the Golden Road is against the dictator, but unless the Golden Road is of intrinsic value, it’s only one other human idea. Why is my human reason any better or more valid than Stalin’s? Any logical appeal against the dictators of the 20th Century was an appeal to option three.

I mentioned in the last essay this is where I was in 2000. If you have that desire to find the order in all the background noise, the Christian tradition says you should follow that quest. Anyone who follows that quest with an open mind, with an open heart, and no preconceived notions will arrive at the Truth. It cannot be otherwise. The Church affirms that sense, yes, there is order, but you have to discern. So you have a decision at this point: do you go with your gut that there is order, or do you back out and say there is no order at all?

Trying and discarding one and two left me with only option three: there’s order and a volition behind that order. There might even be rules. There – alone and afraid of the implications – I stumbled, sat down, and wept thinking; for a good long while. This had become my Bashert.

Put your Hand to the Plough

In our modern, rootless and cosmopolitan world, we need to be rootless to serve the God we follow, we are following Jesus.


The Readings for Wednesday in the 25th week Tempus per Annum (C1)

Nihil tuleritis in via, neque virgam, neque peram, neque panem, neque pecuniam, neque duas tunicas habeatis.
Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic.

It’s easy to write this passage off: Jesus wasn’t talking to our modern times; or at least we’re not apostles like, say, bishops. I don’t think we can get away with that. We may have been able to do so for a long time, but this option would have been a luxury in the times pre-Constantine, and I think it’s a luxury for us now as well, to think we can ignore this. The literal meaning may not make sense in this day and age, but I think that’s important. How unwilling would most of us be to give up the physical props we have, the luggage, the food we have in our cabinets, the money in the bank or even our extra clothing? We’re as attached to these things as we can be, I believe, both in general (as a culture) and in particular as individuals. I love having meat in the freezer for me to take out. As I type right now (at about noon) I know there is liver thawing out in my fridge at home. I took it out of the freezer before I left for work. And the freezer was quite full.

Take nothin with you along the way, nihil tuleritis in via. In Greek, Μηδὲν αἴρετε εἰς τὴν ὁδόν, Meden airete eis ton odon. Nothing take for the way. The Greek “τὴν ὁδόν” ton odon is the same phrase used to describe Christianity: “The Way”. That’s important since the Gospels were written for followers on τὴν ὁδόν, not for outsiders. Take nothing with you for The Way. Don’t miss that echo, that hyperlink in the text. We can’t write off this passage: this is Jesus telling us what we need to follow him.

First off, the Way is a path, a journey. It’s not a homecoming. Everything about what Jesus taught assumes apostolicity: his disciples being sent out. This is not limited to the 12 Apostles, it’s all of us. In our modern, rootless and cosmopolitan world, we need to be rootless to serve the God we follow, we are following Jesus. We put our hands to the plough and we don’t look back.

As we walk the Way we don’t need a walking stick: we carry our cross, and the lean on Christ (and so, each other) we don’t need an aid: what kind of support do we use? Politics, ideologies, economics, patriotism, these and all things we use to cover our lack of faith. We carry nothing with us so we don’t need a sack, and we bring no food with us: for Christ is our daily bread, but we rely on our addictions, our jobs, our greed, and our culture for food. Before long we need a sack. We bring no money for we have no need of the goods of this world. What we need is Christ and he provides all things. We do not even bring a change of clothes for we have put on Christ.

The Way is Christ, our support is Christ, our food is Christ, our supply is Christ, and we have put on Christ. Alleluia. What Jesus is saying here, to those who are sent out (that is, all of us) is that when we go (which is always) we are to go only with him.

I realize that some of us are obligated to provide for our families. St Paul says the married man is concerned with the things of married life and this is all well and good. But the rest of us, the single men and women, are to be concerned with the things of the Lord. Jesus adds, “Seek ye first the kingdom God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” So while I am single (which is to say forever) and if you as well, then, while you are too, we should walk this way.

We are coming to times when this will be needed more: we will need to, more and more, trust God and not look back, to step out and not look down, to just keep walking the Way. The Russian Church had to do this for 70+ years. The Chinese Church is still doing it. I think it will be our turn soon. Shall we be witnesses? Shall we walk the way together with Christ?

What shall we do when the going gets tough if we have not had a chance to toughen ourselves?



How do you find ways in your life to manifest the things from the Golden Road, assuming you want to? I mean, the things that all cultures say are good and wholesome, would it not make sense to follow them? Most of us claim to believe this: we say “all religions agree, just be kind…” and we offer that as a panacea for most religious discussions. I disagree with the claim, but if you actually do the study, what will you find? Lewis called this “Tao”. He means what St Paul means when the latter says we have the Law of God written on our hearts.

I know a few people who make up content for their resume. Is that a “lie” or something else? I don’t merely believe it’s a lie: it actually is a lie. If you know what I mean by that you have an internal sense of the Natural Law. I might add “you have an internal sense of the natural law that you have not yet learned to silence or that you have learned to hear again.” Do you expect the sentence, “That’s not fair!” to have a universal meaning? When asked, “Have you ever been the Ruling Monarch of England?” is there a difference in value between, “no” and “yes” given the possibilities in your life? If that is so, what else do you think you’ll find in the Tao or the “Natural” as Lewis also called it? (By Natural Law he did not mean exactly the same thing that Catholics do when they use the phrase, but close enough.)

Many people, for example, believe that respecting your parents is a good thing by which they mean one valid choice among many. The natural law would say it’s really the only right choice out there – although sometimes the command to “honor your father and mother” may lead you to send one to prison. Love is a hard road. We hear often that pain is bad, feeling uncomfortable is bad. The Tao would indicate that lots of life is uncomfortable, painful even. We need to live that too. What Gibran says of love is, in fact, true of all life:

“But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure, then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor, into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.”

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

(I think The Prophet is one of the best and most beautiful non-religious expressions of the Tao out there. I don’t agree with everything in it, but all of it is worthy of meditation.)

So what do you do to manifest this in your life? How do you find a way to live as much of the Tao as you can? Some folks believe that to “follow their bliss” will bring them in line with the Tao, but that seems contrary to Gibran’s claim. That seems much more in line with what I mentioned earlier about sin, actually. It seems that to posit the idea of the Tao at all is to also posit the idea that there is a “boss”. Someone is my supervisor. So who is that?

If you’re still with me, we’re at where I was in 2000. Let’s walk the rest of the way.

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Mass for Five Voices


At St Dominic’s on Sunday we heard parts of William Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices, sung without humorous comment by 30 voices in choir. Byrd’s Masses for three, four, and five voices were composed between 1592 and 1595 when the aging Elizabeth (pictured above from 1595) was hounding Catholics all over England, killing them or turning them into state spies by threatening their families and using them to smell out other pockets of papistry.

In order to maintain the beauty of the Liturgy, even in a time of persecution, these Masses were set to easy-to-sing music and printed on small sheets of paper rather than bound in books to better allow them to be hidden. They were printed without commentary or instructions, no author or publishing house was noted. The Masses included the Kyrie which, prior to the reforms of Trent, was rarely sung in the Mass since the English (Sarum) liturgical tradition required a series of tropes to be woven into the verses, depending on the feast being observed. But the priests coming from the continent, trained in the English Colleges for the English Mission, were trained in the Tridentine Mass, with its one missal book, and it’s simplified liturgy. A priest could open a book, sing Mass, and get out of the house on to the next mission before the Priest Hunters and police were able to find him.

I was thinking about all of this as we heard the Mass for Five Voices on Sunday. I am aware that we are on the edge of something – I honestly don’t know what. Robert Hugh Benson felt it in 1907 when he wrote Lord of the World, a dystopia where communism and an occult pseudo-spirituality he called “Masonic” ruled the world and tried to destroy the Church. He saw this issue looming over the Church then. It’s still looming – although Fatima seems to indicate we’re closer to it now. It feels this way more and more because of the culture – but I don’t mean the secularism of the culture. Quite the opposite.

The English persecution at the time of Byrd was not a case of “Christian against Christian” for the Queen followed her father, Henry VIII, in using the state to keep Christians divided to protect her crown. These Christians who were Protestant and Catholic, yes, but it was the state that was driving the war, and keeping the people divided. This issue of perception is still very important: a state may have Christians in it or holding offices but a State cannot be Christian. The English State, in order to maintain its power (as it did in the north of Ireland), kept Catholics and Protestants at each other’s throats. Christians on all sides who fear to lose their mammon find it easy to support politicians who will help them keep their pockets full.

In our culture, the fringes of the Church – pulled to the political left and the political right – are increasingly following the lead of their political bosses in asking if other Christians (who don’t share their political ideologies) are even Christian at all. In our current era this began as left- and rightwing political ideologies crept into the Church in the 70s and 80s, although it runs through our history from the Aryan heresy. It is now very much in full force. The sitting president of the US on the right, the leaders of Europe on both sides of the aisle, and their unknowing minions inside media and religious communities are very skilled at using the political environment in the Church to tear the Churches apart. When American writers criticize the Pope for being too liberal whilst German bishops criticize him for being too conservative, you will see both sides of this play out. Any voice for traditional morality is derided as “nearly Hitler” and any voice of concern for the poor or the environment over money or power is called “communism”.

In such a world, eventually, the structures of spiritual support will no longer hold communities together and the state structures (which always seek to either consume or destroy all other structures) will step in to hold up their political friends and destroy their political enemies. In our modern era, we saw this in Soviet Russia as the Marxists decided to corrupt the Church from inside rather than trying to blow it all up. We see Putin continuing these same shenanigans today.

What will become of the Church? That is in God’s hands, but I fear we should begin to learn the Byrd Masses again. They can even be sung without a guitar or flute.

Kerygmama – Departing Tao

We are schooled by our legal system to think of “sin” as a series of discrete actions that are each a negative point against us. Instead, sin is this departure itself.


Earlier posts suggested that God loves us and has filled the world with proof of that and then I suggested that the reason we don’t see that is because every last one of us wants to not have a boss.

Still, on what I called the “golden road” or what CS Lewis called the “Tao” we all see the positive qualities of what we think of as “virtues”: compassion, care, mutual concern, love, care for the poor, honoring our parents, etc. We can see the positive qualities even if we don’t want to always agree with them. This is where we are today, actually. We acknowledge these qualities – shared by nearly all religious and philosophical traditions – as good. But we only see them as one choice among many. Especially when it comes to issues of “private concern” such as in the bedroom we tend to think we can each make up our own rules.

Curiously, we then insist that our rules match the Golden Road. I am loving others by having with as many folks as I want. I am caring for the poor by changing the laws so that they can’t live on my street. I am honoring my parents by changing the financial structure so that their savings are without value. I am helping the environment by shifting responsibility for my petroleum consumption onto the third world so that it only hurts poor folks I never have to meet. I know that plastic is hurting basically every part of the world, but I like my disposable contact lenses: bifocals make me look so old.

We do this all the time and here’s where I will mention something that most folks agree with but never in the first person: this deviation from the Golden Road is called sin. I don’t mean in the sense of this specific act or that little peccadillo is a sin. I mean the deviation itself. We are schooled by our legal system to think of “sin” as a series of discrete actions that are each a negative point against us. Instead, sin is this departure itself. If the golden road laid all over the world results in steps toward God, departure from the golden road, from the Tao, is to move in the other direction. Some of us make those choices – in fact, most of us make those choices – to move in the other direction all the time. One choice leads to another choice, and the further we move from the Tao the harder it is to get back.

I said this is never in the first person. We find it very easy in the Third Person to discuss sin. They are breaking the law. They here are usually our political opponents. We are also good at what I call the Second Person Abstract. Although we would (nearly) never say “You, sir, are a sinner…” but we find it easy to say to a TV or on a radio, “You suck!” We can also say this at a distance as at a political rally, etc.

Can you see this sin in the first person? You really need to. We’ll not be able to get any further in this proclamation if you can’t see it. 

  • Do you find yourself acting in a selfish way when you didn’t want to?
  • Do you find yourself unable to be as loving as you really feel you should be?
  • If you are aware of the ways in which you are unjustly treated can you see, also, the ways in which you unjustly treat others?
  • If you are aware of the ways in which you are gracefully moving through the world, can you honestly see the ways in which you fail to do so?
  • Can you see the ways in which you confuse “love” with “self-interest”?

If you can find resonance in these questions, you’re self-aware enough to move forward. If not, perhaps you can continue reading, but learning this may not make sense at this time. It is not my goal to teach the fullness of Catholicism here, but only to proclaim the need for it, the open joy of it.

There are enough commonalities in all religions to find what I have called the “Golden Road” or the “Tao” as C S Lewis named it. There are also enough departures from this Tao that it is important to ask Why? I’ve offered the idea that we all are individualists; and also that it is far easier to see this in others, but some of us see this departure in ourselves as well. The next question is what to do with this knowledge?

We shall return to this. But this essay – our ability to see the departure – is the most important so far. It’s the “mother” from which all else descends, really. For as adults we know failure in the first person long before we are aware of it in others. What we do with this knowledge can decide if we ever grow up at all. This is not a moral question: a person may be aware of his departures from the Tao without any moral judgments. I can be proud of my choices to depart from the general consensus even when I am aware of them. All that we need at this point is the awareness of that departure, but I will ask one thing: if someone else’s departure can be enough to spark a protest or an “F-bomb” to be lobbed towards various mediae, then why are not your departures the same?

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Kerygmore – Why the SNAFU?


I now have to say another thing as huge as my first point. It may even be harder to accept. No one (or very few), in this age of enlightenment, believes in science. Unlike the God thing, I can actually prove this one.

Once someone I knew spent $20 on $2 lottery tickets. On one ticket he won $6. He said, “Look, I’m ahead $4!” He fought me when I pointed out he’d lost $18.

We’re all ready to pay the Math Tax called the Lottery, or other forms of Gambling. Evolution has brought us to a place where we and many other creators stand. Every last one of us is the product of billions of years of evolution and breeding. Yet how many of us refuse to accept that – not because of religion, but rather because of ideological points? If any other creature was so dedicated to denying its own nature, it would die out. We will, too, if we are not careful. We imagine that some races are “more evolved” than others.

We deny simple mathematics when it comes to our economic choices. Listening to “Freakanomics” on NPR, you realize over and over that what we think of as liberal economic policies – and conservative ones – fail. Constantly. Yet none of us want to hear that and even the reporters on the show don’t like to hear their pet social programs wreck lives.

We know that plastic is killing the planet, but how much plastic do we use? We know that petroleum consumption is practically an addiction, but we fight wars to sustain it. We are sure that unprotected sex with multiple partners, chain-smoking, capitalism, processed food, and even greenhouse gases are killing us, yet we do nothing to stop and most of us are certain it will not affect, you know, me… personally. We are sure on the right that big gov’t is an evil – but we constantly make it bigger. We are sure on the left that big gov’t will be just and protect us, so when the gov’t fails to do that – does the reverse, actually – our solution is to give the gov’t more power.

We’re this way when it comes to Astrology (now more popular than ever and most of my non-religious friends think of it as just another form of M-B personality tests). Social work, politics, food. We love “science” when it shows us we’re right. We ignore it when it shows us we’re wrong. And there’s no deity or church to condemn us for it.

We say we want to do something – but the opposite gets done.

I mentioned yesterday that it seems as though all of the religions overlap in some very important ways. Then I commented that they feel to overlap in some crucial ways as well. Why is that so? a superficial exploration of this question will point out cultural, historical, and political issues. We may even get to theology. yet, if everyone says, for example, we must love the other person then why do some religions deny the existence of the other person at all? Some religions say any love of other is actually the love of self and any perception of “other” at all is a misperception. How can this be?

To understand the answer to this question we must go deeper than things superficial.

Remember I asked you to accept, as a given, that there is a God and he loves us. From this, I drew the point that such a loving God would try to reach us, to make himself known to us and we known to him. I pointed out all the overlap and suggested that here was a golden path to the knowledge of God. In fact, a Christian writer by the name of Paul said (in the Bible) that all humans have this knowledge of God written in their hearts – even unbelievers. Another writer, Justin, in the 2nd Century adds that all truth (he uses Plato and Socrates) no matter where it comes from is always God’s truth. Today we would say even scientific truth is God’s truth. However, we don’t believe in Science.

The real issue: we won’t believe in any form of Authority.

One version of history says Martin Luther was opposed to the Pope. In fact, Martin Luther was opposed to confining Papal Authority in one person. Instead of One Pope, Martin gave us a world filled with Popes. Each Christian (and, in fact, each person) inspired by their “inner light” has become infallible. There is a direct line from the Wittenburg Door to Oprah Winfrey and it continues on. We now “know” that feelings are more important than facts. I don’t like this because it makes me feel X. Therefore it must be untrue.

But this is not new. Humans have been like this, quite literally, forever. We’re afraid of Authority and we will do anything to manipulate and mold it into our own likeness. This is why all the overlapping golden road I mentioned before has brought us no closer to unity, no closer to “coexist” than millions of bumper stickers. Each one of us wants to be their own pope.

Every part of that golden road is pointing towards God – towards an Authority to whom each one of us feels in their heart, they may have to submit. And each one of us knows we would never submit. Ever. YOU ARE NOT MY SUPERVISOR is the credo of this age. But this is not new. It’s been the just-after-primal human cry for ever.

So there are forks in the road and precipices. There are unpaved stretches and who landslides worth of washouts. You can’t get there from here. But each of us knows that road is there. And when we get on it (even by accident) we find ourselves wondering, “Where does this go?”

I’ll be back tomorrow with the mother of all Kerygma. The Kerygmama.