Friday, February 28, 2014

5 of 7: 7 Quick Takes

On day five of my seven posts in seven days I decided to do seven quick takes! But they've amounted to five quick takes and two quotations. Oh well.

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Here Fr. Larry A. explains that, even outside of Lent, Friday is a day of penitential observance. According to Canon Law 1251, all Fridays are days of penitential observance and therefore Catholics must abstain from eating meat (or choose some other penance, if preferred, on Fridays outside of Lent).

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Of course, on the last Friday before Lent I absent mindedly scarfed down two Nathan's hot dogs at 10AM this morning at the Miami Airport. Guess I will be opting for some other form of penance today!

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One of my Lenten penances will be to listen to my Audio Bible in the car instead of the radio. I tend to listen to the radio because it is mindless and peppy songs are somewhat energizing. Sometimes I feel that listening to the Bible is burdensome because I need to hang on every word. I'll try to find a happy medium between mindlessness and rapt attention. 

--- 4 ---

I've heard from multiple sources (all within the last couple of weeks) that the fish called Mahi Mahi is really named Dolphin but can't be called that because people freak out about the possibility of eating  dolphin-the-mammal. Also, according to a restaurant menu, dolphin-the-fish does not have scales. Weird!

--- 5 ---

In honor of Andy's new pets. And because The Beastmaster is just plain awesome.

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And again because it's already past my bedtime, here are a couple of quotes. This first is of a borderline heretical Jesuit:
Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability--and that it may take a very long time. And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually--let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don't try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete. Above all, trust the slow work of God. --Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin--

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And the second (a nice one for Lent) of a Saint of the Eastern Orthodox Church:
Excessive care about worldly matters is characteristic of an unbelieving and fainthearted person, and woe to us, if, in taking care of ourselves, we do not use as our foundation our faith in God, who cares for us! If we do not attribute visible blessings to Him, which we use in this life, then how can we expect those blessings from Him which are promised in the future? We will not be of such little faith. By the words of our Saviour, it is better first to seek the Kingdom of God, for the rest shall be added unto us. --St. Seraphim of Sarov--

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

4 of 7: The Lord looks into the heart.

So Carl posted a link to this article and got me thinking about hate crimes.

I've heard people argue against the concept of hate crime, saying that every crime is a hate crime. In a sense that is true. But we do need to think things through and understand that the term hate crime has come to represent a certain type of crime. For example, rather than killing someone for personal reasons (e.g. he hurt my family or he's a jerk or he humiliated me) I'm killing him for impersonal reasons based on some generalized trait that he happens to possess (e.g. he has red hair or he's a Scientologist). This is a matter of one's internal thinking. Unless I have proclaimed it publicly, no one may ever know that I've always had a deep seated hatred for people who are in love with Boulder, CO (just kidding, although it is super annoying).

Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart. [1 Samuel 16:7]

God judges each person's heart. For this reason, a hate crime is a more serious sin than a 'regular' crime. King David ordered the death of Uriah the Hittite for personal reasons. He wanted to cover up his adultery and steal Uriah's wife. Once he realized the awful truth of what he had done he repented with true contrition. But what if he had ordered the death of Uriah simply because he was a Hittite and King David believed that all Hittites deserve to die? David may repent of it and may seem to have true contrition; however, David could not hide his internal hatred from God. He could never have true contrition while believing that all Hittites deserve to die. First he would need to experience conversion, otherwise he would be in danger of unrepentance.

This is all well and good when God is the judge. But when human beings decide to be the judge, e.g. through hate crime legislation, the system is inherently unjust. The accused is scrutinized and judged in an attempt to determine his innermost thoughts and feelings. We may think that this is fine and reasonable when a person has been shouting in public squares about how much he hates fill-in-the-blank peoples and then assaults such a person. Violent intimidation and terrorism are reasonable grounds for prosecution. However, our fear of violence and our hatred of haters and our desire for vengeance can blind us to the danger in giving the authorities the power to judge our innermost thoughts and feelings. We forget that our authorities are not, nor can they ever be, omniscient and objectively good. Of course we need to address the problem of hate crimes; I'm not saying we shouldn't judge the deeds. I'm just saying we cannot judge the heart.

With any sort of legislation of thoughts and feelings we are asking the judicial system to take the place of Jesus Christ, who is the only Just Judge. We need to be careful not to set up for ourselves a Big Brother when what we really need is a Heavenly Father.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

3 of 7: Is it possible to commit a mortal sin?

Again it is approaching my bedtime, so I will allow Cardinal Arinze to explain mortal sin which is, by the way, scriptural.

That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.
[Luke 12:47-48]

If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.
[1 John 5:16]

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

2 of 7: Our God is a tolerant God?

So I spent most of the day traveling to Key Largo. I managed to get my rental car just as rush hour was starting so it took me almost two hours to get from the airport to the hotel. On the way I passed two strip clubs, two adult video stores, one adult movie theater, an oriental massage parlor, and a sleazy lingerie shop called Dirty Laundry. I felt like The Block in Baltimore had been transported to Florida and stretched out over 50 miles of highway. Let's just say I'm really glad I brought a spray bottle of holy water and some blessed salt. Who knows what kind of creatures have been cast out of this hotel room! ;o) But seriously, pray for Southern Florida!

Anyway, since it's almost my bedtime I'll share an excerpt from The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis:
By the goodness of God we mean nowadays almost exclusively His lovingness; and in this we may be right. And by Love, in this context, most of us mean kindness--the desire to see others than self happy; not happy in this way or in that, but just happy. What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, "What does it matter so long as they are contented?" We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven--a senile benevolence who, as they say, "liked to see young people enjoying themselves", and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, "a good time was had by all". [...] Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering. [...] It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes.
Is our God such a tolerant God? Lewis says, "though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense." As far as Lewis was concerned, the cold indifference of tolerance is a kind of contempt.

Monday, February 24, 2014

1 of 7: The Little Flowers of St. Francis.

So I challenged mom to accept Jennifer's challenge (at The Conversion Diary) of 7 blog posts in 7 days starting today. Since it's already after my bedtime I'll start with my favorite excerpt from The Little Flowers of St. Francis:
But I do not want to omit one thing which he who saw this vision used to tell, for it sounded very noteworthy to me. For he said that the way in which the Order would be reformed would be very different from the way in which it was founded, because the working of the Holy Spirit, without there being a leader, will choose uneducated youths and simple, plain persons who are looked down upon. And without their having any example or teacher--even against the teaching and practice of the teachers--the Spirit of Christ will select them and fill them with holy fear and a very pure love of Christ. And when their number has increased in various places, then He will send them an utterly pure and saintly shepherd and leader, wholly conformed to Christ. 
Might this be true of the Church as well? To the praise and glory of Christ. Amen.

Friday, February 14, 2014

7 QT: Happy St. Valentine's Day!

In which there is some discussion of love.

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It's always amusing to check out the search keywords people use to get to your website. For this blog the most noteworthy include: aquinas prostitute poker, pimp jesus, and anti-christ. Who would have thought the Google algorithm would place me anywhere near the top for anti-christ? I do hope the pimp jesus person got what he/she was looking for.

--- 2 ---

According to Wikipedia, the word sardonic comes from the Latin term risus sardonicus: a grin from spasm of the facial muscles associated with tetanus and other poisonings. Wow. Both appropriate and horrible. Tetanus is not something to take lightly, people. Get your shots!

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So the Polar Bear Plunge is back. I'm sure you're all very excited to hear about that. Especially anyone who said they would donate and forgot. Our God is a God of second chances! ;o) Second attempt occurs on March 8. This time I won't tell Ruby.

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Last weekend I met baby Evie (kinda like Eevee, except not), who is very cute and let me hold her for an hour without making many audible noises. Next time I can bring her the accidental baby hat, so long as her head doesn't grow too fast.

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Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen explains three types of love. "To love when you're unloved, that's heroic."
What makes the Saint is the one who is willing at each and every crisis of his life to make some act of self denial. Then love truly is an ascension. Both the love of man for a woman and the love of a soul for God. --Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen--

--- 6 ---

The story of St. Valentine, a great defender of the Sacrament of Marriage!

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Happy Valentine's Day to my family! Wish you were here!!!! :o)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Humans: Just another animal in the forest?

I do not think that humans are just another animal. One huge difference between humans and animals is that animals are not capable of sin. Animals do not have the Knowledge of Good and Evil. A dog might choose to dig through the trash knowing that he will be scolded if his owner notices. And when his owner does notice he may cringe in anticipation of the scolding. But he doesn't have an understanding that obedience to lawful authority is good and willful disobedience is evil. His doggie brain just desired the hot dog in the trash more than it feared his owner's scolding.

The fact that animals cannot sin is one of the reasons that many people say they prefer animals to people. Your pet does not hold grudges or refuse to be seen in public with you when you're not dressed well enough. Your pet will forgive more than seventy times seven times. In whatever capacity your pet is capable of love, it loves unconditionally.

Your pet is also simple. He does not have a creative mind that allows him to write piano concertos or paint portraits or understand general relativity. A dog is content to be a dog. He doesn't feel driven to reach new heights of doggie achievement, where no dog has gone before. The simplicity of animals is another reason we might prefer them to humans. Your dog is not going to have an emotional meltdown because you accidentally burnt the toast this morning. Your cat isn't going to feel unloved if you refuse to share your feelings.

Animals act is predictable ways. Steve Irwin always said that if someone gets attacked by an animal it's the human's fault because the animal is just doing what animals do. We can't say that of humans. There is no formula for predicting human behavior. While the college students of the Stanford Prison Experiment quickly fell into a set of predictable roles based on their individual personalities and the surrounding environment, in larger sample sizes we find that counterexamples, however few, always exist. From St. Maximilian Kolbe taking the place of a man to be executed at Auschwitz to Fr. Emil Kapaun routinely giving away his starvation rations in a Korean POW camp, we find that somehow it is possible to be the exception. Human beings are capable of rising above. Under inhuman conditions, not everyone is reduced to operating on base instincts and animalistic urges.

One might think that insisting that humans are just like other animals will make us better stewards of the Earth, because we will feel more solidarity with the animals. Knowing that what makes human beings different from animals is the root of all evil, we may think that rendering humans as just another animal will free us from the pride that leads to every kind of conflict. We may think that likening ourselves to animals will bring greater peace by freeing us from our inhibitions and eliminating shame and guilt. But there is a major problem with this kind of thinking: Human beings are not just like animals. I may wish that it were true, but wishing doesn't make it so.

Human beings were given the gift of intellect in order to understand and love God, who is Truth and Love. We were given creative abilities to produce masterpieces that glorify God. We were given free will in order to choose good, while remaining fully capable of choosing evil. We were given such freedom in order to work tremendous good. Humans beings are not simple and predictable, which is wonderful when our unpredictability is ordered toward God. Unfortunately, we do not always choose good. We do sin. To treat human beings like just another animal is to ignore sin and to pretend that we don't have the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It's a fantasy world where I cannot be held accountable for my actions because I am simply responding to my natural urges. It is excusable for a dog to act simply by responding to his natural urges. However, as mom used to say, you and I should know better.

This great gift of being created in the image and likeness of God with the ability to create and to produce ever greater achievements should be embraced and cultivated. With such a gift comes great responsibility. "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." --Luke 12:48 Such a gift should be used for creative rather than destructive purposes. Instead of glorifying the animals and degrading the humans, we human beings need to be called higher. We must demand that human beings do not behave like animals but, rather, strive to recognize our full human potential. We need repentance and conversion and the hope of becoming what we were created to be: Perfect, like our Heavenly Father is perfect.

Or, from a more secular humanist perspective:
"When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is; when we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be."--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe