Wednesday, February 27, 2008
On Monday, our speaker for RCIA gave the talk on social justice. It was a well balanced discussion that properly presented the hierarchy of for-sure-don'ts such as abortion vs. think-about-its like buying coffee from a "green" company. There was still a point at which he indicated that the Church teaches we need to open our hearts to all immigrants, including-- with dramatic pause and critical stare-- illegals. In the context of the RCIA class, it all went down pretty easily.
Then Tuesday came, and we got the news of the Cottonwood bus accident. Then on Wednesday on my way to work I heard the (alleged) name of the guilty driver-- Morales. My spidey senses tingled and, much like JThorp's boss I wondered in very short order whether this woman was an illegal immigrant. Unlike JThorp, however, I don't feel like it's a "sad" situation to think this way, nor is it even sadder that my intuition was borne out.
I thought this way because we have created a social dynamic whereby following the law has become optional for a hefty segment of our population, namely illegal immigrants. I truly believe that by becoming passive and lax about immigration, the message is that laws can be ignored. Such is the case here-- this woman didn't have a license; clearly doesn't have any driving skill; and is thus a deadly menace on the road. In fact, she had already been picked up by local police for erratic driving-- they didn't think it was all that unusual that a "Morales" would be driving that way without a license and thus they didn't report her to immigration authorities so she could be deported. That's the real "sad" situation, that the apathy toward legal authority is now so commonplace that the cops in Cottonwood didn't feel like they should do anything about it. They could have saved those children's lives.
So, I completely disagree with our RCIA speaker that I need to "welcome" illegal immigrants. I don't. But at this late hour, when it's not practical to kick 12 million illegals out, we should at least deport any illegal that commits a crime. The Catechism says that's OK.
Monday, February 25, 2008
If you don't know the story, here is one link to a local news outlet with some details that will explain what happened.
Bottom line: a woman apparently ran a stop sign at high speed, crashed into a school bus and killed four children, and injured several more and the bus driver and another vehicle's driver. This woman didn't have a license, used a name that was false, worked at a factory nearby and is most likely an illegal immigrant.
The CCC only has one paragraph (2241) that seems to wrap together the facets of illegal immigration and our response to it:
"The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.
Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens."
Children can be (and are) sadly killed by full-blown American citizens and legal immigrants on an all-too-frequent basis; that's not really the true issue at hand. The thorny problem we face is how to "welcome the foreigner" if it means overlooking the "juridical conditions" of their presence here in the United States? I will try to pull this together in Part 2, but I'd like to wait a couple of days and get others' thoughts on this question.
Monday, February 18, 2008
My confessor asked me to consider making myself like a sponge for God's mercy; as a sponge dipped in water will rapidly absorb a great deal of water, I should more fully open my own heart to His unending mercy so that I might more easily and readily use it in my relations with others. It was a very nice way to help me and I did some reflection on it (this was actually my penance, so I can't take credit for being a much of a philosopher).
Once a sponge is soaked in water, what then? A fully-loaded sponge is no good unless you use it for something; left sitting it will eventually dry up and become useless. So too with God's mercy if we don't apply it in our daily lives, as Father suggested to me. And the neat thing about a sponge is that the water in it can be discharged very quickly, or moderately as needed. And not to worry, because the dry sponge is readily replenished once again, for as long as we need. Finally, to complete the analogy: if God's mercy is the water for our sponge, then it comes from a bottomless bucket.
I invite you to meditate on this imagery. I hope it helps someone as it did me.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
- "Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law..." CCC 2271
- "Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense..." CCC 2272
- "Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm." CCC 2265
- "Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor... Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically nonexistent." CCC 2267
Thursday, February 14, 2008
I think there are a couple of messages in this story.
One, hope is a good thing. "Miracles" do happen sometimes. If I understand the terminology correctly, "brain dead" means no brain function, no basic processes such as breathing, and no chance of recovery; this woman was kept alive with at least a breathing tube. So her recovery seems extraordinary.
Second, the aspect of the story that really piqued me as a Catholic: so much of the secular, modern world races us toward death. "No hope, time to pull the plug," was the message. This woman's family relented and agreed. Of course the Church does not require extraordinary means to keep one alive, so I suppose taking her off life support would be deemed permissible, as long as food and water was not removed.
I guess my thought here is that, as tough as these situations are, we should do what we can to follow the Church's holistic position on the sanctity of life.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
The gospel today is the Lord ’s Prayer as found in Mt;
“…and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…”
“…If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you…”
This is a prayer that will always be answered. This is an act that will always gain merit.
If you do this you will be forgiven and saved.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
In today's readings, we get an opportunity to reflect on the wonderful construction of, and relationship between, the Old and New Testaments. We covered this in the RCIA class' Dismissal today and again it was a real help to me. The two readings juxtapose the Fall in the Garden, and Christ's temptation after forty days of fasting in the desert.
A few good reflections that came out Father's homily and our subsequent discussion:
- As Paul points out in the second reading, there was one sin which condemned Man and one atonement that saved Man.
- Eve (mankind) and Christ were both tempted by food, honor, power and eternal life. Jesus is explicitly offered kingdoms while Eve is deceived into thinking that she and Adam can become "like gods," implying all of the things that Satan offered Jesus. Of course, Mankind fell but Christ resisted.
- There were two "named trees" in the Garden: Knowledge (of good and evil) and Life. Once the first forbidden fruit had been eaten, God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden lest they eat of the tree of Life and live forever with their "damaged" selves. We continue the struggle in our damaged own selves. It would take Christ's atonement for their sin to bring Mankind back to eternal life in our eventual glorified bodies.
- At a more basic level, Jesus' temptation reminds us that we are constantly being tempted with things that are "delightful to look at." We must keep up the fight and resist, using Jesus as our example.
- Christ was fully human when he was tempted; this should give us hope that we humans can ultimately perservere against sin, with the aid of the Sacraments and the Holy Spirit.
- We must remember that Satan is very clever. Not only does he fool Adam and Eve with the luscious fruit, and ultimately uses their pride against them, but he actually quotes Scripture in tempting Christ the second time, in the manner that Christ used Scripture to rebuff Satan's temptations. Be on guard against the things that might make you feel good now, but are really leading you to sin.
God bless us all during this Lenten season!
Friday, February 8, 2008
The Church lives, wherever the corporal works of mercy are practiced:
feeding the hungry
giving drink to the thirsty
clothing the naked
giving shelter to strangers
visiting the sick
burying the dead
The Church also lives, wherever the spiritual works of mercy are practiced;
teaching the ignorant
giving counsel to the doubters
comforting the distressed
enduring the troublesome
forgiving those who offend us
praying for the living and the dead
Then I wondered since the family is the domestic church why can’t our family do each of these over the next 38 days? There is no reason.
The spiritual acts of mercy describe any given day in the Germanicus household; we will just be more intentional about finding “teaching moments”
As far as corporal acts of mercy I want to put in a plug for a CRS program called “Social Safety Net”. This is from the website https://crs.org/social-safety-net/
Safety Net Program Overview
A "safety net" is assistance for extremely vulnerable individuals who are unable to meet the most basic needs for survival and human dignity. Individuals may be unable to meet these needs due to an external shock - such as natural disasters or war - or due to socioeconomic circumstances, such as age, illness, disabilities or discrimination. Such individuals are usually completely dependent upon outside resources to meet their basic food and livelihood needs.
CRS, in its commitment and challenge to live out the tenets of Catholic social teaching (CST), takes as its point of origin the inherent dignity and equality of the human person. CST focuses on "those members of society with the greatest needs (who) require the greatest response and attention."
CRS recognizes the responsibility of the State and civil society to provide for the basic needs and the common good of its people. To encourage the fulfillment of this responsibility, CRS supports civil society by "strengthening the capacity of local organizations to advocate for improved government services to meet basic needs." (Applying the Justice Lens to Programming, CRS Occasional Paper, July 1998)
However, when governments and local communities are unable or unwilling to provide for the basic needs of the most vulnerable, there is a moral imperative for the broader human community to respond. This is the basis for CRS' safety net programming.
Who Do These Activities Reach?
The most vulnerable include the following:
· Persons residing indefinitely in institutions, such as the terminally ill, those who are severely disabled mentally or physically, or elderly pensioners.
· Persons temporarily housed in institutions, including children and adults who are hospitalized or participate in residential rehabilitative services or skills training.
· Persons temporarily in need of assistance while living in the community, including marginalized individuals or households that are unable to adequately care for themselves, either due to a mental or physical disability, illness, age, destitution, or low social status, but who are not under the care of an institution.
In some cases, those who are extremely vulnerable will remain so for an indefinite period of time and may need assistance for the rest of their lives.
In other cases, vulnerable individuals may only be temporarily in need of assistance such as orphans or the temporarily displaced. Later, they may be able to care for themselves.
Background of CRS' Safety Net Program
The purpose of safety net programs - also referred to as "non-emergency humanitarian assistance" or "general relief" - is to meet individuals' immediate food security needs while creating a foundation for more sustainable food and livelihood security.
The needs of the extremely vulnerable include:
Basic health care
Lack of adequate food is often the greatest threat to extremely vulnerable populations. Safety net programming seeks to meet immediate food needs, while at the same time providing the necessary services and training to allow individuals to become food secure. Using food aid from the U.S. government, CRS provides food to safety net populations through institutions or communities.
CRS also works with and through local institutions to provide complementary assistance such as medical care and counseling, education, or skills training, to individuals who have the opportunity to meet their food and livelihood needs in the future. At the broader level, CRS works to ensure that the most vulnerable populations will be cared for in the future by building institutions' capacity and by lobbying host governments for improved safety net care.
"...we should immediately refer it to this type of examination: 'I do not seem to have the ability to perservere: I am not close to Christ. I am not cheerful: I am not close to Christ. And Christ is saying: Come on! Turn around! Return to me with all your heart!'
It is time for each one of us to recognise that he is being urged on by Jesus Christ. Those of us who sometimes feel inclined to put off this decision should know that, now, the moment has come. Those of us who are pessimistic and who think there is no remedy for our defects should know that the moment has arrived. Lent is starting. Let us look on it as a time of change and hope."
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
But while both are necessary tools in the spiritual life, they are not equals.
As Christians, we just know that we should strive to always pray more deeply, more often. Many saints say it is possible to receive the grace to live your life as a prayer, constantly aware of God’s presence. To be in constant, conscious communion with God is something that is as extreme as it gets, yet it is what we are made for. To be too prayerful is never itself a sin - it’s a gift.
But the same thing can’t be said for fasting, or self-denial. Self-denial is a little like salt in that it is great when used right, but if too much of too little is used it just messes things up. I’m going to go out on a limb here had say that there aren’t a lot of people overdoing it with the salt today. Overall I’d say our world is not quite as salty as it should be, but you can find some pretty extreme examples.
The attitude toward fasting and self-denial has undergone quite a change over time. What was a completely accepted practice in times past is looked at with shock and horror today. And what we think of as fasting and self-denial would have, at one point in Church history, been considered self-indulgent.
Here are a couple examples of extreme asceticism I found interesting.
The “Stylites” were a group who practiced a very unique form of self-denial. They would climb to the top of a pillar and live there, spending all their time praying, fasting, and occasionally preaching. In one case, a man climbed to the top of a pillar and spent his entire life on it until he died – 67 years later!
The “Dendrites” choose to live their lives in a tree. Often they would chain themselves to a branch up in the tree to assure that their feet would never again touch the filth of the fallen world.
The “Grazers” or Boskoi, refused shelter of any sort, choosing instead to live their lives outdoors exposed to the elements. They would wander around the countryside (some stories claim they did this on all fours) praying, singing, and eating nothing but grass.
There are many examples, with some trends I've noticed. More from the east than west, more from the early Church than the later, and more from the religious than the laity, and most interestingly more Saints than other.
“Be on your guard when you begin to mortify your body by abstinence and fasting, lest you imagine yourself to be perfect and a saint; for perfection does not consist in this virtue. It is only a help; a disposition; a means though a fitting one, for the attainment of true perfection.”
Monday, February 4, 2008
With Jerusalem now out of Turkish hands, the Turkish cities along the Crusader’s path did not have the same motivation to attack and slow the Crusader’s advance. The Arab Fatamids had just taken the city from the Turks and they saw little reason to stop the Crusaders from marching down and smacking them. If the Crusaders agreed not to attack their cities, the Turkish Moslems would provide them a few supplies and allow them to pass unimpeded.
So with little resistance, the Crusaders marched to Jerusalem and on June 1099 they put the city under siege. But once again, things were looking rough for this group. Just as it was at Antioch, their supplies were low and with the water supply failing, the summer heat took its toll on the army.
Also like Antioch, Jerusalem was a well-fortified city with large walls. The Crusaders at one point made an attempt to attack and breech the city’s walls but failed miserably. And just when things couldn’t get any worse, news came that the Fatamids had raised a massive army and it was marching their way.
And just when it looked the darkest, a preacher came forward to deliver an amazingly strange yet effective sermon. Who was that preacher you ask? None other than our pal Peter the Hermit. I’m not sure if the fact that they listened to the guy who led a group of peasants to their suicidal death a couple years before speaks more of his skill in communication, or their desperate situation, but listen to him they did.
Peter, on the Mount of Olives (always a fan of the dramatic), told the Crusaders that God told him that to take the city of Jerusalem they must prepare themselves by performing penance. And after that, to march around the walls of Jerusalem three times while singing. If they would have only gone around four more times they would have taken care of the walls.
The Crusaders did what Peter had recommended, along with adding some new siege engines to their arsenal, and were able to breech the walls on July 15th. While there were civilians killed while taking the city, the numbers usually quoted are ridiculously inflated. But now, after thousands of miles and many years, Jerusalem was once again under Christian control, and would remain tat way for the next two hundred years.
And this is where the First Crusade ends.
But what about the huge Fatamid army moving towards Jerusalem? Well it seems that the Crusaders were able to find the camp and stage an ambush. The battle that took place there is known as the Battle of Ascalon. And though the Fatamid army was larger, they were not terribly effective fighters. The Crusaders were able to route the Moslem army and send them into a full-blown retreat. Who knows, maybe the cry of “God wills it!” had some truth to it after all.
Saturday, February 2, 2008
While “Byzantine” is used today to refer to the eastern half, it was not used then. The east of that period considered themselves the Roman Empire, and the Western Europeans lovingly as the offspring of barbarians.
And there was also little incident of papal legates delivering a document of excommunication against the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Patriarch in turn anathemised (is that a word?) them in 1054. This was the final straw in rising tensions between East and West resulting in the “Great Schism”. With this all happening only a generation earlier, the relations between the two were a little icy.
But the emperor did send out the S.O.S. It was actually sent it out twice. The first went to Pope Gregory VII who immediately began plans to respond with noble hopes that the rift between east and west could be healed. But due to some “complications” at the time in Europe (the Investiture Controversy), Pope Gregory VII was not able to respond.
The second call for help was sent by the Emporer Alexeis I Comnenus to Pope Urban II in 1095, asking the western Christians to have pity on those of the east. Pope Urban II accepted the plea and made an appeal to the Knights of Europe. The Pope gave a speech outlining the atrocities and injustices done to Christians in the East, and especially Jerusalem. The speech, while not quite politically correct by today’s standards, had a great effect on those who heard it. And on November 1095 at Claremont France, the Crusades were born. Mother and child are doing well. It was decided that the Crusade would begin on August 15, 1096. This would allow one year to prepare the men, supplies, and money needed for the journey.
Preachers were sent out across Europe to preach the Crusade. When the population heard about what had happened at Jerusalem, the near impossibility of pilgrimage, and the cry for help from the eastern Christians they responded with great enthusiasm (and a little rage). With the battle cry of “God wills it!” thousands of warriors “took the cross” and made a vow to travel to Jerusalem, delivering mercy and justice along the way.
The people responded to such a degree in fact, that it had to be made clear the Pope was looking for warriors, not common folk to join the Crusade. The commoners were asked to stay home and support the effort any way they could, but to not travel with the warriors causing a burden to them since commoners are much better at eating food than they are swinging swords. Monks and clergy were also forbidden to join without had special permission.
Peter the Hermit was one of the preachers who went out across Europe. Peter was an extremely popular and effective preacher as all hermits are known to be. His preaching convinced thousands of people to take the cross and join the Crusade. But there was one small problem; the people he was convincing were commoners, not warriors. Peter managed to convince the people that God’s protection would be on them since they were fighting for God’s cause. Peter left early with his group of about 35,000 non-warrior types, leaving before the August 15, 1096 date set earlier by the Pope. This group is known as the “People’s Crusade”.
So the warriors of Europe, answering the call for help, set out to rendezvous at Constantinople led by the great knights of Europe. It was at Constantinople that they would gather together and begin their quest to help the Christians of the East and push the Muslims out of Jerusalem.
To be continued …
Friday, February 1, 2008
So I got the OK from my Mrs. Serviam! to try a small series on the First Crusade. But she told me to keep it light and not to "get bogged down in really boring details". I'm also to shy away from too many names and dates because "people don't really care about those things." I do not claim to be a expert on the subject, but I do have an interest. And with the guidelines I've been given, that should be more than enough.
I’m not sure how many parts to the series there will be, but I can promise you one thing: it will be finished before Lent starts (Ash Wednesday). I’ll not be contributing to the blog during Lent. As great as it is to talk about God, talking to Him is better.