Thursday, December 24, 2009

"I believe that it has done me good,..."

"Dickens rescued Christmas from the Puritans."
~ G.K. Chesterton

From Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol:

"A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!" cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge's nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.

"Bah!" said Scrooge, "Humbug!"

He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge's, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.

"Christmas a humbug, uncle!" said Scrooge's nephew. "You don't mean that, I am sure."

"I do," said Scrooge. "Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? what reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough."

"Come, then," returned the nephew gaily. "What right have you to be dismal? what reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough."

Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, "Bah!" again; and followed it up with "Humbug."

"Don't be cross, uncle," said the nephew.

"What else can I be," returned the uncle, "when I live in such a world of fools as this Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas. What's Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in 'em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will," said Scrooge indignantly, "every idiot who goes about with "Merry Christmas" on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!"

"Uncle!" pleaded the nephew.

"Nephew!" returned the uncle, sternly, "keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine."

"Keep it!" repeated Scrooge's nephew. "But you don't keep it."

"Let me leave it alone, then," said Scrooge. "Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!"

"There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say," returned the nephew: "Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round - apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that - as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"

Monday, December 21, 2009

“Untouchables”

The Anti-Life crowd has really already won a very important victory with or without the passing of a Health Care Reform bill which would include public funding for abortion.

Shifting the debate from the legality of murdering a child to whether or not that murder should be funded by the taxpayers is a major setback for the Pro-Life movement. And I'm not sure emough people are aware of that.

Recognizing we don't always get to choose the lines of battle, I pray that Congressman Bart Stupak resists any attempts to intimidate or bribe him as the nation's focus now falls back onto the House.

What we need now more than ever is another Eliot Ness and a group of “Untouchables” in the House and Senate - men and women with integrity, without fear, and without a price.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Catholic Men

I honestly believe that for men to live as true men, they must either be waging war or preparing for it - for sake of God, family, or country. How a Catholic man should conduct himself has certainly gone through different stages over the last 20 centuries; from the hermit, to the knight, to the modern day "get-together-and-tearfully-bear-my-soul-with-strangers" man.

Without a clear concept of what real manliness is today many men are eager to wage war, but only as an avatar in the distant land of Azeroth (WoW) or in some other digital online gaming world doing battle against a make believe foe. These men sink ridiculous numbers of hours every week into fleeing from the real battles of this world and engaging in the safe and meaningless battles of online gaming.

They have been effectively emasculated and neutralized through their decision to spend their free time fighting fantasy orcs, trolls, and dwarves while the real evil of this world is left unchecked. People can and do enjoy these games in moderation, but the games today are designed more and more to make this the exception and not the rule. More about this in a later post.

So then what is the ideal of Catholic Manhood? What does rightly ordered masculinity look like, and where have all the "good men" gone?


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Our Secret Place?

I have no plans on any regular posts regarding the music played at Mass at my parish. But I think the issue is in no way limited to my parish and in fact is an issue that is prevalent in Contemporary Christian music at large.

Tonight we sang the song Your Love is Extravagant which was written by Darrell Evans. Below are some of the lyrics to the song.

Your Love is Extravagant

Your love (Your love) is extravagant,
Your friendship (ooo) mm -so intimate;
I feel I'm moving to the rythm of Your grace,
Your fragrance is intoxicating in our secret place;
Your love (Your love) is extravagant.

Wow, that was hot.

Now I am aware that great Catholic Saints have used intimate and sometimes erotic language in the past to describe union with God not to mention the Song of Songs. I get that, but I don't think Contemporary Christian music falls into this category. The Song of Songs is an inspired book of the Bible and the writings of the Saints flowed from personal experience with and promptings by the Spirit. While this song does have a nice melody, I'm not sure it fits into the same category.

As a man I feel uncomfortable expressing my appreciation of Christ's love with ooo's and mmm's, and with talk of intoxicating fragrances and secret places. Jesus was not only God almighty, but also a man - a real life man with all the trimmings. Jesus is fully God and fully Man - still.

And I can't help but wonder if suggestive, sensual songs involving the Blessed Virgin Mary's love for us or popular art depicting her with a figure are very far off. Would this be inappropriate? Would that be a double-standard?

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Warmth of Your Embrace?

The youth choir sang at Mass last night - they did a great job. The song they sang during the preparation of the gifts was the Katina's Draw Me Close. Below are the lyrics.

Draw Me Close
Draw me close to You
Never let me go
I lay it all down again
To hear You say that I'm Your friend

You are my desire
No one else will do
'Cause no one else can take Your place
To feel the warmth
of Your embrace
Help me find a way
Bring me back to You

You're all I want
You're all I've ever needed
You're all I want
Help me know You are near


Listening to the words, I began to form an image of Jesus "drawing me close", pressing me into his big, strong, hairy-chest. There I was "feeling the warmth of His embrace", and I couldn't help but notice how the whole song's imagery seemed awfully, well, feminine.

I really hope heaven isn't like that, because that would be really awkward. I've never thought of Jesus as a hugger. I mean I'm sure he hugs babies, and little kids all the time, and probably women too, but I'm going to go out on a limb here d have to guess He'd opt for a knuckle bump from the fellas.

Don't get me wrong I know Jesus loves me, and my wife assures me that he's going to hug me if I do get to heaven (if for no other reason than for this post). I'm just sometimes surprised how some of these songs seem to be written in such a way that they can be sung to Jesus or to a wife/girlfriend.

But like I said, the youth choir did do a nice job.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Practical Universalism

Christian Universalism is the belief that all people will be eventually reconciled to God. Universalism’s fault is not in the truth it affirms, but in the truth it denies. The idea of universal reconciliation is a result of affirming God’s love and mercy to the point of denying His justice; reward without judgement, a Heaven without a Hell. “How could an all-loving God sentence one of His children to eternal damnation"?

To correctly understand light, you need some concept of darkness. Warmth is appreciated most by those who have an understanding of coldness. True knowledge of joy, requires a familiarity with sorrow. And an understanding, appreciation, and knowledge of mercy require it be considered in the context of justice. And a divine mercy can only be fully conceived if considered against a backdrop of divine justice.

Universalism creates the conditions necessary for its own growth and spread. To emphasize God’s love and ignore His justice makes it difficult to see how any action on our part could result in eternal punishment. People begin talking more and more about the mercy of God and how much He loves us, and less about the radical reality of the human will to reject God and place itself under the justice of God. The cycle is fueled by our society’s love of self and loathing of responsibility.

Jacques Maritain described practical atheists as those who, "believe that they believe in God but in reality deny His existence by each one of their deeds." And I think you could describe a practical Universalist as those who, "believe that they believe in Hell but in reality deny its existence by each one of their deeds." A person who would could imagine such a place but not a path leading to it.

I hear a lot about people wanting to "reach out to people and meet them where they’re at" lately. Great! I’m all for whatever that means as long as the meeting includes talk of both sin and blessing, both death and resurrection, both repentance and redemption … and both justice and mercy.