September 2003 Archives

Lowly Pilgrim

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Another new blog that I like a lot - The Lowly Pilgrim. Thomas Merton was, believe it or not, instrumental in my coming into the Church. His Seven Story Mountain helped lead me through the process of conversion, which, thankfully, was relatively easy for me. In any case, I have, as a result, had an abiding interest in the Trappists and monasticism in general. Visit Thomas site and see why his blog holds so much interest for me.

Post Paucity

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Announcement - sorry I've been MIA the last few days. My trusty laptop was contaminated by a virus, actually a worm from a worm, and Norton could not remove it. I had to wait until this AM to get our high powered IT guy to work his magic. All now seems back to normal.

I should get back to business tonight.

Paz y bien

Oro et Labora

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There's a new blog from a fellow Coloradan - Oro et Labora. I like the theme - Work and Prayer, wish I'd thought of that. Please stop by and welcome a new member of St. Blogs.

Atheists

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The Barrister has recently had an exchange with Andy of the World Wide Rant. Seems Andy professes to be an Atheist because religious folks are a bunch of hypocrites (I for one am guilty as charged), and, he asks, if God is good, why does he allow suffering in the world. In other words, Andy is an atheist for the usual, rather poor, reasons. The other day Andy put up a post that he intended to use to show how religious faith of any kind leads folks to do all sorts of evil deeds, even murder. I'm afraid, however, that his post proves just the opposite.

Andy's post tells the story of a Hindu man who murdered an Australian missionary and his young son because the missionary was encouraging people to each hamburgers, a grave offense to Hindu's who hold cows to be sacred creatures. Andy concludes his post with the statement

" It's a sad tragedy that religious fervor claimed the life of someone who was working for a greater good in India. It's even sadder that it was basically because of a hamburger.

Moo."

It is evident from this post that there are several underlying assumptions that Andy relies upon to show that religious faith is evil. First, that is wrong to take an innocent life, and second that a human life is infinitely more valuable than a hamburger. Behind both of these is assumptions is the assumption that the reader will recognize the first two assumptions are true, in other words, that there are certain things that are eternally, objectively and unchangeably true. Without these assumptions his post makes no sense as a case either for right or wrong.

You see, if there is no eternal, universal, objective Good, if there is no God, then anything is permissible, good or evil becomes no more than a matter of personal opinion or preference. The idea that a human life is more valuable than anything on earth is nothing if not a distinctly Christian belief. Andy, in his attempt to ridicule religious faith, relies, as he must, on the Christian understanding of the human person. If there is no God, there is no human law that can be eternally and objectively valid. At any time laws against murder, rape, incest, etc could be changed, they would simply be subject to the prevailing view of the society at any particular time. There would be no reason to assume that it is wrong to kill a missionary and his son over the eating of a hamburger.

It might be well to remember that while it is true that people do evil things in the name of religion, people do far greater evils in the name of irreligion. The really world class killers of the 20th century, for example, were people who were explicitly anti-religious, i.e. Stalin, Hitler, etc. Even today, the greatest holocaust of our time, the abortion horror, is done by people who hate any idea of religious value. And for every Christian who, violating the tenants of his faith, commits a sinful act, there is a Mother Teresa attempting to bring Christ to the next person she meets.

The point is, we all sin. Christianity teaches that as a fundamental truth. It also teaches that when we act sinfully we are acting to separate ourselves from God, not to further His cause. Arguing that religious faith is false because God allows evil is spurious. Using that argument, no one could involve themselves with any human activity under the sun; even sports fans, for example, would have to shun teams they follow because athletes at every level openly commit sinful acts. We would have to quit our jobs because our bosses allow sinful people to work side by side with us. The only source of good we have must come from outside of ourselves, it certainly doesn’t come from anything any of us do.

RCIA

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It occurs to me that even with the scandals the Church has seen in the last eighteen months, there are still many people across the country now starting the process of entering Her fold. On the other hand, the Episcopal Church is in the process of embracing the very sins that caused the Church so much scandal, and there are many folks across the country who can't wait to leave it.

The Jesus I Never Knew, II

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In Matthew, Chapter 16, Jesus asks His disciples a question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They came up with various answers, at which point Jesus asked a more pointed question, “But who do you say that I am?” This is the question that all Christians must answer for themselves, who do we think Jesus is?

Phillip Yancy’s book, The Jesus I Never Knew, is his attempt to answer this question for himself. Yancy came to realize, after a considerable period of uncertainty about who Jesus was, that his picture of Jesus arose from several misconceptions that he had had since his youth. He realized that each of these partial images, which he held more or less in sequence, represented only one facet of the real Jesus. He realized that Jesus was not the Jesus of his Sunday school, a “Mister Rogers” type, who was nice and lovable and made no demands on His children. He also saw that Jesus was not the “cosmic Jesus” who ruled the world with a terrible sovereignty. He saw, too that Jesus was not someone one could come to know thorough intense intellectual study. Yancy came to see that each image, alone, was an inadequate representation of Jesus. It was clear to Yancy that Jesus was, in fact, a living human person, and one who had had a major impact on the history of the world, Jesus in His time was a controversial and threatening figure in His time – who would crucify Mister Rogers?

Thus he began Yancy’s search for the “real” Jesus, his attempt to answer Jesus question, “But who do you say that I am?” Yancy does this by looking at three aspects of Jesus life, Who He Was, Why He Came, and What He Left Behind, in the three major sections of the book. In this framework, Yancy looks at Jesus the man, Jesus the Messiah, at the meaning of Jesus Ascension and Jesus’ Kingdom on earth.

The first section explores who Jesus was as a human being who walked the earth. Here Yancy gives the reader a picture of what it was like to live in Jesus' time and what it might have been like to be around Him. He gives a fairly good historical portrait of the culture and political situation in 1st century Palestine. In explaining Jesus' Jewish roots, Yancy gives one of the best short summaries of the various religious factions existing at the time that I have read. He tells us who the Essenes, the Zealots, the Phariasee, etc were and where they might have stood in relation to Jesus' ministry. Developing a deeper historical understanding of Jesus' time is highly useful to anyone, whether Protestant or Catholic; Jesus came to earth in a particular place and in a particular time and many references in Scripture become clearer as we have a clearer understanding of Jesus' historical context.

Yancy also does a fairly good job in his chapter dealing with how he, Yancy, might have reacted to Jesus, had he lived in that time and place. I believe this chapter helpful to anyone wishing to know the real Jesus since it is so easy for us to develop a false, or unclear, notion of who Jesus was. He was not someone who came to us on human terms, He was not just a divine Mister Rogers, neither was He someone who came to bring the wrath of God. As Yancy points out, Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus lays down an impossible standard for human conduct, but He also came bearing infinite mercy. It is an error, for example, to separate the impossible standard from the infinite mercy, which is what we humans so often tend to do, favoring either one side or the other. If we did not have the high standard, we would have no need for the mercy.

The value in Yancy's book, lies in the first major section, here he provides the reader with a basic, well researched, background of Jesus life and times. It allows us a better historical background with which to answer for ourselves the question Jesus asked, "Who do you say that I am?" However, once Yancy leaves the question of the person of Jesus, the historical reality, and tries to deal with what, in effect, is the question of the Church, problems arise. As the book progresses through the other two major sections, the focus becomes more problematical, especially for Catholics; here he comes to conclusions apparently not supported by objective research. I believe the heart of the problem here is Yancy’s stunted misconception, not of Jesus, but of the Church, but more on this in another post.

St. Joseph of Cupertino

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Today is the feast day of St. Joseph of Cupertino.

The following is from a brief biography published by the Daily E-pistle:

"As a Franciscan novice, he soon gained renown throughout the
order for his holiness, acts of penance, and zeal for God. In 1625,
steps were taken by the order to allow Joseph to qualify for holy
orders despite his lack of education. Joseph was ordained in 1628
and set out to serve God's people. He continued his personal
penances and fasting and was held up by many to be the model of
holiness and austerity. These two tools of his enabled him to convert
many hearts to Catholicism and encourage many to repent from
sinful lives. He was also known to perform many miracles and make
accurate predictions of the future.

Joseph died in 1663 and he was buried in the chapel of the
Conception. Joseph was beatified in 1753 and canonized in 1767.
He is the patron of aviators."

I never knew a Franciscan was also the patron saint of aviators!

The Jesus I Never Knew

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A month or so ago, Steven of Flos Carmeli, did a series of posts on one of Phillip Yancy's books and it got me thinking, as his posts often do. As I think I have written in a previous post, for a period of several years now I have not read many books by Protestant authors. This aversion began about 6 months before I came into the Church and continued until about the last year or so. At the beginning of this period I refused to read anything by any Protestant author, including even C. S. Lewis, and I would read anything by anyone claiming the label Catholic, even William Kiensley (sp?), writer of the dreadful Fr. Kessler mysteries.

But Steven's post caught my attention and I began to question if I shouldn’t change my mind about reading Protestant writers. I wondered if I was missing something. So I began a book by Phillip Yancy, The Jesus I Never Knew. I see Steven has recently posted a comment to the effect that except for the one book of Yancy's that he did his series on, the rest of books were not worth reading. To some degree I agree with this and I hope that this is the first in a series of three or four posts that explains my reasoning. This post likely should be the third or fourth post in the series but I'd really like to explore this topic and so it comes first.

First I would say that there are parts of this book that I would recommend all Christians read. I will explain this in later posts, but Yancy is a good writer and the first section especially of The Jesus I Never Knew is well worth reading. I have serious doubts about most of the rest of the book because, once he has finished the first section about who Jesus was he seems to fall into a pattern of making unsubstantiated statements about the faith that are really nothing more than conjecture or personal reactions.

For example, when Yancy treats of the relationship between the Church and state he seems to get carried away with himself. The root of his problem is one common, almost endemic to those of the Protestant faith -- a totally inadequate understanding of the Church. The passage I am referring to reads as follows:

"I grew up in a church that proudly displayed the 'Christian flag’ next to the Stars and Stripes, and we would pledge allegiance to both. People would apply to the United States passages from the Old Testament that were obviously intended for a time when God worked through a visible kingdom on earth, the nation of Israel. For example, I often heard this verse quoted as a formula for national revival: 'If my people, who are called by name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.' The principle may apply in a general way, of course, but the specific national promise was given as part of God's covenant relationship with the ancient Hebrews; its occasion was the dedication of Solomon's temple, God's dwelling place on earth. Have we any reason to assume God has a similar covenant arrangement with the U.S.?"

God does not have a covenant relationship with the U.S., but he does have a covenant relationship with the New Israel, the Church. But even so, can He be pleased at the way things are going with the popular culture in the U.S.? Is it not possible that, at some point, God may show His displeasure with this culture? Because such a statement in Scripture was made in the context of an Old Testament event does not mean it is less applicable and only applies "in principle." God still has a "visible Kingdom" on earth and He is still working through it, He still has a covenant relationship with the Church. Failing to understand this, or to deny it, leaves one open to all sorts of error. In this case, Yancy seems to deny that the Church has any role in modern society and that conversion must properly me limited to a "me and Jesus" relationship and nothing more.

This passage, and others like it, shows a faulty understanding of what the Church is. It is true, as Yancy points out, that the Church should not try to usurp functions and powers that are relative to the state, but it does have a responsibility to be "the salt of the earth." There are many today who have only been exposed to the idea that there is nothing other than what we see on this earth, that there is no truth, and that it is improper to impose one's "values" on another. They have no idea that there is anything other than today because the Church has allowed herself to be put in the position of being just one among many lifestyle choices. Unless this is changed, the Church will have failed in her duty to bring conversion to the culture in which She finds herself.

Modern Travel

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I just returned home, yesterday morning, from a trip to Lawton, OK, home of the U.S. Army’s Field Artillery School – Ft. Sill. I was stationed down there for a brief time, serving TDY from by home base of Sheppard, AFB, which is roughly 40 miles south. I had not been back to that part of the country in over 30 years and it certainly looks different than what was captured in my, likely, failing memory. One thing that has not changed is that the people we met “downtown” were universally good, friendly, country folks. I had fond memories of the friends I had made when I was down there and how nice everyone was to a member of the Air Force, especially in a time when those in the military were not all that popular in many parts of this country.

One thing that has changed in the past 30 years, though, is the experience of air travel. Thirty years ago, as hard as it may be to believe, air travel was something of a civilized experience. You were not crammed into ever-smaller airplanes, in seats placed ever closer together. If the flight was any distance at all, you received a lot meal of at least middling quality. Stewardesses (I remain something of a male chauvinist, but that is what the universally young, female folks who filled those positions were called back then) were friendly and, I think, enjoyed their jobs. Because air travel was not an every day experience, the traveler was treated like a human being who had spent a great deal of money in order to enjoy the advantages of traveling by air. Today, much of that has changed.

While I completely understand that much of the change in the airline industry recently has come about as the result of the events of 9/11 (another reason to curse those who only desire to destroy civilization) many of the changes, I think, have been made using 9/11 as an excuse. Whatever the reason, modern travel by air is no longer a civilized venture, it is an exercise in survival. Take my most recent trip.

Starting out in Colorado Springs was not too bad, security was no much of a problem and the trip down, through DFW and back up to OKC was rather uneventful. American, of all the airlines, seems to have at least recognized the discomfort caused to passengers when they are crammed into rather smallish seats jammed so closely together that any movement of the legs during flight is a near impossibility – they provide a little more leg room on their flights than most other airlines. However, there is the matter of going through DFW from Colorado Springs, to get to Ok City. Straight line this is about a 90-minute flight, using the hub and spoke pattern the airlines use today, it becomes a 4 hour flight including layovers.

The way back, though showed modern air travel at its best. After our meeting at Ft. Sill we stopped for a bite of lunch and drove straight to the airport in Oklahoma City. We dropped off the rental car and took the shuttle to the airport only to arrive at the check in counter as flight cancellation notices were being posted. Of course, our flight, retracing our original route down through DFW and back up to Colorado Springs, was among those cancelled. The reason given was weather, and it was stormy in southern Oklahoma and north Texas, and I did not see the current weather reports since I was in meetings all day and then on the road, but it did not seem to be that stormy. In fact, my observations of the weather, and I used to do that sort of thing, gave me the distinct impression that a cold front had gone through and the clearing that typically follows such events was taking place. Many passengers were under the same impression and seemed to think that because it was 9/11/03 many people had cancelled flights, thus the reason for the airlines canceling so many flights. I am willing to give the airlines the benefit of the doubt in this case. The next step that American took was not, in my opinion, the greatest marketing ploy they could have decided upon. They booked us on a United flight early the next morning direct to Denver, then on to Colorado Springs – so far so good. They even arranged a motel for us, also the right thing to do. However, the only thing this motel had to recommend it was, I’m sure, cheap. It had for sure seen better days. I am not convinced that the sheets on the bed were clean, the mattress was something concocted from anywhere from two to six plywood boards, and the bath facilities were about on their last legs. Then, arriving very early at the airport the following morning we were all subjected to the near strip search airport screening. I might point out that we work in the defense industry and all hold security clearances, yet more often than not we are treated as security risks the moment we step onto an airport.

When a flight is delayed, I don’t ask that the airlines arrange for their customers to check into the most expensive lodgings for the night, I don’t expect to live in the lap of luxury at their expense. I do, however, ask that the motel be clean and the room habitable. It seems this would be a relatively small investment given the huge amount of goodwill that would be generated simply by treating customers as customers, not cattle. When I finally arrived home from what was a relatively short trip exhausted and not able to do much more than crash. I don’t think driving to OKC would have been as tiring as flying was.

My point in all of this is that the airlines profess to be desperate to attract and retain customers. Yet, it seems that hardly anything they do is customer friendly. Flights are cramped and uncomfortable, there is no food service, flight cancellations are treated as if they were the customer’s responsibility, not the airlines, in short the burden is placed on the traveler. This is hardly the way to make travel more appealing these days.

Oh well, being a Franciscan, I guess I should welcome the opportunity to do a little penance. I just wonder if I should have to pay for the opportunity.

September 11, 2003

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The late Bishop Fulton J. Sheen once asked, “Have you ever seen anyone try to build anything down?” It would be well, I think, on this rather dreadful anniversary, to ponder this question and the events of the last two years.

I seem to have been blessed (or cursed) with the propensity to look at things as being either right or wrong, I tend to look at things as either black or white. I happen to believe that the events of 9/11/01 were the work of evil men, representatives of an evil way of life. As Victor Davis Hansen points out in the latest issue of National Review, these men, using such things as airplanes, automobiles, and explosives – things they themselves and their society are incapable of producing, took the first step in their attempt to destroy itChristian civilization, which does have the ability to produce such things. If this is allowed to continue, it is not the society that tends to build up that will be left, but the culture that is only capable of destruction, only capable of nihilism.

I hope we will use this anniversary as an opportunity to think and pray about these things. We would do well to ponder our position towards a civilization, if you can call it that, which only wishes us wiped from the face of the earth. I do not believe it is inappropriate for Christians to make these kinds of judgments. With my bent toward trying to discriminate between right and wrong, I may be accused of being mean spirited. However, I am mindful of the Bible’s continuous injunctions against those who do not try to deter others from sin, that they will suffer the same judgment, or worse, as those they do not correct. I think we, as Christians, are all called to do our best to discriminate between what is right and what is wrong. We are not called to judge people, there is another Judge who reserves that to Himself, but we are called to discriminate between the good and evil that people do.

As I have written in the past, I believe we are, since 9/11 engaged in a sort of Holy War. This is not simply a disagreement among nations with differing national interests, it is not a disagreement among Christian peoples who share the same basic view of life, as we have known in the past. It is a conflict between those of us who will build up, and those on this earth who only wish to destroy. It is a conflict between Life and death. As we remember those who died two years ago today, we would do well to ponder the deeper meaning of the events of that tragic day.

I also ask all, as if it is necessary, to spend some time in prayer for those innocent people who died 2 years ago today.

Travelling

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I will be travelling on Wednesday and Thursday and ask for your prayers, as well as prayers for all those travelling on 11 September.

I hope to get a post in before I leave, but not sure this will be possible.

Pax et bonum

A Question

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It appears everything is set for the final transfer to this new site for the 7 Habitus but there is one problem I seem to be having. Although it seems that the software is in place, the categories function is not working. Can anyone tell me what might be wrong?

Another Test

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A test to see if this works to change the font color in MT

Here we are

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Well, looks like we are up and running at the new site. Need to do a bit more set up, but, thanks to Richard this is much closer to being ready to go than I anticipated. I am hoping to make the final change over now by 15 September, rather than 1 October.

test post

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this is a test.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2003 listed from newest to oldest.

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