sic-deus-dilexit-mundum1For as the heavens are high above the earth, so strong is his love for those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our sins. – Ps 103

Dietrich von Hildebrand once wrote that liturgy, properly done, clearly reveals the face of Christ.  It is one of the most important ways we know Him.  It was done extremely well in properly conducted Masses of the usus antiquior, more commonly known as the Tridentine Mass.  I know first hand because I have experienced it myself on more than one occasion.  I don’t get that from Mass in the ordinary form.  And it isn’t because they aren’t capable of achieving that.  Instead, we have priests who have been trained to say Mass a certain way.

A way that often leaves me cold instead of warm.

And that is what brought the thought to my mind on this feast of St. Eudes, that we live in a time of little consolation.  That, I’m quite sure, is because we’re all about comfort and selfishness.  “Make no mistake, it’s all about me” is the modern mantra.  That so flies in the face of the Gospel.  The thought I had was that St. Terese, the Little Flower, I believe lived out her short life with no spiritual consolations.  Mother Theresa was the same way.

And yet they loved.  It shows how different true love is compared to what we now call love.  And I would imagine, though I don’t know, that there is a void in the consolation of Christ on the cross because of our generation.  We don’t know how to love, and He suffers the more for it.

I want Him to teach me how to love.

Bread_of_Life_SeriesIf you do not eat of the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you. –Jesus

We’re winding up five Sundays in a row focused on the Bread of Life discourse from John’s gospel.  When I returned to the Catholic Church twenty years ago after more than a dozen years away, this passage…  You’d have had to have been there.  This passage is deep beyond words, and to this day it confirms for me the singluar reason why I will never be anything besides Catholic.  Even if I’m a bad Catholic, which I am.

G. K. Chesterton once said that anything worth doing is worth doing badly.  I doubt he had me in mind, but it holds true for me.  Someone else once said that everyone was born for a reason, and some were born to serve as a warning to others.  I may well be that person, too.  But yet a third person, and I’ve quoted this person for years in my FB profile page, has said that it is never too late to start doing the right thing.

That is what keeps driving me when I have bad days.  It is really the heart and soul of the message of the Resurrection, and the hope the Church holds out for us in Baptism and Confession.  The grace bought for us on Calvary, which animates and enlivens us through the Sacraments, tells us that in simple and deeply loving words:  “My Jesus, Mercy” are the only three words spoken from the heart needed to turn the gaze of God upon us.  He will pour out mercy upon us.  He anticipated the need and made it available to us before the first of us had need to ask.  That mercy confers complete forgiveness, so much so that the man or woman retreating from the confessional bears a soul as bright and spotless as a newly baptized infant.

It is never too late to start doing the right thing.

Return yourself to the state of grace.  If you’re already there, stay there.  Eat His flesh, drink His blood, and with a loving heart, adore with me and sing “Alleluia.”

No chemicals were sprayed on these berries, and yet they are still growing

No chemicals were sprayed on these berries, and yet they are still growing

Here is something that I am convinced of, and I will tell you why it is a problem.  The past four popes, at least, have been telling us something that has been dismissed out of hand by conservative pundits and turned into something akin to goddess worship by liberals.

Liberalism and conservatism, by the way, have absolutely nothing to do with being Catholic.  If your Catholicism isn’t tempering your liberalism or your conservatism and shaping those ideologies so that they fall in line with what the Church teaches, something is off kilter.

At the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter much if you are liberal or conservative, because if you’re a faithful Catholic and a liberal, or a faithful Catholic and a conservative, you’re going to reject whatever exists in either of those camps that contradicts your faith.

Liberals who call themselves Catholic and yet also think aborting babies at any point after conception is a good idea are having a rough time in the press right now.  Good, they should be having a rough time.  They should be going to confession, amending their lives, and doing penance.

Conservatives who call themselves Catholic and yet also think that raping the planet for corporate profit and “progress” is a good thing, and have been throwing mud at Pope Francis since the publication of his encyclical Laudato Si’.  Whenever economics and the environment are discussed by the popes, or any other stripe of our clergy for that matter, the conservatively entrenched Catholics begin rending their garments and screaming “Marxism! Marxism!”  If G. K. Chesterton were alive today, he would be having a ball with them, but I’m no Gilbert.  I only have one thing to say. They should be going to confession, amending their lives, and doing penance.

And this has been stated clearly by the last three popes, at one or more times during their pontificates:  Rampant consumerism is a serious sin.  Let me ask you this.  If all of the babies saved from abortion, were Roe v. Wade overturned, were born on a planet many of whose ecosystems were on the verge of collapse because of the human activities required to support rampant consumerism, and died horrible deaths from chemical poisoning, flash floods, droughts, from being chained to the factory machinery of production in developing countries and third world countries alike, would their deaths be less atrocious?

We are never going to live in a world where prosperity saves the soul.

In the opening paragraphs of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis says that our Sister, the earth, is crying out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.

Irresponsible use, he says, because maybe we simply didn’t know or suspect we were inflicting damage.

Abuse, he says, because those who do know, don’t care.

I find it interesting that Francis couched the argument in the theological language of soteriology.  The act itself is evil, and culpability is only lessened by ignorance.  The act itself remains evil, even if I don’t know I’m doing evil.

It is evil.

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Downtown Shelbyville

The past couple of days have been jarring.  I spent Saturday at my last of five 12 hour shift with Homeland Security, and jumped into the already loaded van to head back to Indiana.  It was a nine hour drive, at the end of which I fell into my own bed with my head on my own pillow and sank into blissful sleep for six hours.  Woke up and went to Mass at St. Joe’s across the street from my house in Shelbyville.  I’m home, I’m home, I’m home.

The sermon  at Mass was by the St. Meinrad’s seminarian, a transitional deacon on his way to ordination as a priest, and he focused on the Eucharistic message of the gospel reading.  It was a great sermon.  Afterward, we spend the day relaxing.  I mowed the yard.  I has a smoothie for lunch and we ate dinner at Fazoli’s.  Tawnya got back on a bicycle again for the first time since her knee surgery almost eleven weeks ago, and we rode for a couple of miles.

I start orientation for my new job on Wednesday in Indianapolis.

The view, again, will be different than it was in D.C. just like when we came back from there in 2010.  I’m trading monuments, population density and awesome bike infrastructure for corn, tractors, and wide open spaces.

I am happy to be back.

MariancoverA couple of years ago, when thoughts began forming in my head along certain lines – lines that have to do with human scale and pace, and what the requirements are for human flourishing in a way that aligns with the Gospel, with what has been penned in the West concerning The Good Life, &c.

Pope Francis’ encyclical lit a fire under me, and my fingers have been furiously flying over the keyboard because my mind is going like a gyro. I’m reframing the research I’ve been conducting on topics woven into fabric by intersecting threads of thought. Resilience and sustainability, human scale and pace, and things like that.

This process began when I was homeschooling my two oldest children, and did more studying than they.  John Taylor Gatto’s Underground History of American Education got the fire burning, but that quickly led by way of reference to John Senior’s “The Death of Christian Culture” and an appendix in which he lists “the thousand good books” which must be read before one can understand the content of the Great Books of the Western World, which believe it or not are more accessible today than at any other point in history, they’re free, and nobody wants to read them because we’re sinking into a new age of barbarism.

But I digress.

Reading Senior got me to reading more Senior, by way of sequel.  That is, “The Restoration of Christian Culture.”  I’ve worn out two copies with notes. The book isn’t very prescriptive, but I think we may be able to handle that for him.  He had a bunch of good ideas scattered throughout the book, but nothing like a program.  I began working on the Parva Project, but got sidetracked and let it hang there for awhile.  I’m thinking it might be time to resuscitate it.

Anyhow, back to the encyclical!

The encyclical may have opened up a portal, not in the space/time continuum, more important than that.  It may have opened up a portal into the grace/time continuum.  I’m hoping that it rips through the fabric that has kept otherwise good Catholics (I’m a bad Catholic, so I don’t count) from acting on the Church’s social doctrine.  It is going to suck for a lot of people, because it would mean that we have to actually start caring about other people and the harm that we’re doing to them by not promoting all aspects of the common good…by living it.

John Senior began his book “Restoration” with an opening salvo.  He said that we have no other recourse but to Mary, and I would agree.  It is in the spirit of that resignation that I propose a concerted effort to band together and live as if certain things mattered.  And so, I offer a means of doing that in the form of a wonderful version of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary popular  a hundred and a quarter years ago.  If you want an easy way to pray through the day, maybe even if you’ve tried to pray the Liturgy of the Hours but found you didn’t have the time…you may love this solution.  The Little Office is an abbreviated version of the Liturgy of the Hours, otherwise known as the Divine Office (hence the Little Office of the BVM is a shortened devotion, not a room from which Mary used to work from home).

Click the picture above if you’re so inclined, and pray with me.

Laudato Si

Conservative disdain for the environmental movement, even among Catholics, is appalling. Once not long ago, being conservative included a such ideals as conservation, but it would appear that is rarely the case now. There, I said it. Of course, I’m painting with a broad stroke, but more often than not it is true. The current fad is to rail against climate change science, disregarding every other category to include pollution and the destruction of entire ecosystems.

While I am disheartened by commentary coming from some conservative authors who in the past I believed I could trust, this encyclical has caused a lot of them to show their true colors. They are good capitalists. They are good Republicans. Good Catholics? By their fruits you shall know them. The rampant consumerism card has been pulled from the deck and placed on the table face up, along with it’s four brothers, for a straight flush: Throw away society, neglect of the common good, pollution of the air, water, and soil, and outright selfishness. And some of my favorite writers over at Crisis magazine are squealing “Marxism! Marxism!” I expected more…

I fully plan to begin implementing as many of those things as possible that Francis asked for in this letter to all humanity. How many of you will come along for the wild ride?

I’m here alone.

Big city, lots to do, lots to see – a lot of time to occupy so I don’t slow down…

…and realize what a decision this is that I made.

As a little background, I was a factory worker.  For twenty years of my working life. I lifted seventy pound blocks of rubber onto a conveyor belt for a meager living.  Then became an autoworker at three times the pay and rammed my knuckles bloody putting seals in transmission bell housings, gauging parts that came off the lines, loaded the lines, unloaded the lines, jobsat (plural of jobsetter) a bank of three axis grinders, mills, and polishers.  The pay was okay, the benefits were good, and I was wasting away inside because it didn’t feel like that was who I was or what I was supposed to be doing.

The upside was that I was home every day.  Half of those twenty years were spent on second shift.  Some more of it was spent on midnights. When the kids were younger, second shift didn’t matter.  I spent more time with them than if I’d been on days.  But then they reached school age and I was there at home while they were at school, and when they got home from school, I was just going in to work.  I’d get home at eleven thirty and kiss their smooth foreheads and tell them I was home and I loved them and they’d smile and kiss me and instantly fall back to sleep.  Second shift is a family killer but we survived.

My first awakening to the idea that there was more than factory life for me was when my National Guard unit was mobilized for a port support mission and I was stationed at Fort Hood for all of 2004.  Tawnya and the kids ended up moving down there with me for most of that year.  The kids were in Texas schools for half the school year, and it caused them to be away from their friends for a few months but we moved back and put our life back together.  Except that every day I went back into the factory after that, I wanted to be somewhere else.

When the manufacturer I worked for started talking about offering to buy out some employees jobs, I jumped on the chance.  Tawnya and I talked about it, but I think that was more of me convincing her why it was right.  I bought out my job, cashed the check, and took a position with an ROTC program back in Texas.  The plan was that when the coming school year was over, the family would move down there to join me.  My oldest son wanted to finish high school with his friends.  Less than six months later, I was back in Indiana for reasons I won’t get into here, burning through the rest of the buyout money we hadn’t spend paying off some loans or put away into the 401k.

A few months after the boy graduated, I was offered a position at National Guard Bureau in the D.C. area and gratefully accepted.  Told my boss at the new insurance job I’d trained for, and started packing right before Christmas of 2008.  Then the phone call came that there was a problem with the funding and not to quit my job yet or anything drastic like that.

Ended up not being funded until the following summer, and I had to take another ROTC job in western Illinois until the orders came to keep the finances afloat.  I was away from home again, but was within driving distance for weekends so I’d jump in my car Friday afternoons and zip down US 24 to be home in time for a late dinner.

When my orders were cut for DC, we loaded up the truck and moved the family again.  This time it just about crushed both of my daughters.  The oldest was a senior and I took her away from graduating with her friends.  And the youngest daughter probably still hates me to this day because she had such a rough time of it. The youngest boy rode out both moves with seemingly no scars.  He adapts to everything.  When we were done with the gig in DC, we moved back to Indiana where I’d gotten my next military assignment at Camp Atterbury, settled down in Shelbyville and bought a house.  We got involved in the community and I started doing bicycle and health advocacy in my spare time.  I promised that I wouldn’t take the kids out of their schools and away from their friends again.

Then the Army announced that the military base I worked at was being retired as a mobilization platform.  Shortly after that they announced that the program I worked for was being moved to Fort Bliss, and all the Indiana employees were to look for other employment opportunities.

I had a years notice.  Made good use of it, too.  I put in applications in Indianapolis, Columbus, Shelbyville, Greensburg.  Sent resumes out for everything I was remotely qualified for.  In eight months, I got one bite that wasn’t a complete insult (by insult, I mean ten to twelve bucks per hour).  I made it to the final round of interviews for that position, but didn’t get the job.  At that point I told Tawnya I was going to apply for some emergency management jobs in D.C. just to see if I’d get any bites.

I had three offers of employment within a month, and accepted the most promising of them.

Now I’m back here again in D.C.  and Tawnya and the kids are in Indiana.  I don’t have a crystal ball and I don’t know how this is going to pan out and that is scary.  There are two things I know for sure.  Number one is that is easier for me than being unemployed and looking for work in Indiana.

The second is the more painful of the two, and that is…I know this is killing Tawnya.  And that is killing me.

That is the point of all of that rambling above.

I married a simple girl.  When she gave me her heart, it was her whole heart and it was forever.  All she wants is to be with me.  Some people don’t like to hear talk like that, because they think that everyone should be self actualized and maybe it isn’t healthy to be so intertwined with another person. They don’t realize that sometimes self-actualization is being devoted to another person so completely that no matter what else is going on, all you want is to be with them.   When you ask someone what they want to be, they usually answer with a job description.  When I ask Tawnya what she wants to be, her whole being says, “I just want to be with you.”  I don’t deserve that.

All she wants is to be with the jerk that I am.  And here I am again in D.C.  Hoping to get home as much as possible after my training is over.  But it won’t be enough.  I know that it won’t be enough.  Not for her. All she wants is to be with me. Do you get it? I didn’t. I live in a utopia somewhere in the future where we’re going to be together and we’re going to be happy.  She’s sitting in the living room babysitting to keep her mind off the fact I’m not there, and it isn’t working.

I can tell you that this job I got is great.  Its what I spent the past seven years training to do.  Its why I got my Certified Emergency Manager credential.  Its why I’m in the home stretch on my master’s degree in the same field with a 3.96 GPA.  But I have to be here in D.C. to do it.  And every day I do it, at least for now, is a day I’m not with her.

And all she wants is to be with me.

When we were teenagers we used to snuggle on her parents couch listening to Kenny Rodgers and Dolly Parton singing “Islands in the Stream.”

That is what I am today.  I’m an island in a stream.

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