Saturday, July 31, 2010

St. Ignatius of Loyola

Today is the feast day of one of the Church’s greatest saints, bringing a martial temperament and strategic tactics to the service of the Church during one of her most trying times, that of the Reformation.

This post from Saint of the Day marks his life.

There is also an excellent post on the reformative work done by the early Jesuits at the Ignatius Insight blog.

An excerpt from Saint of the Day.

“The founder of the Jesuits was on his way to military fame and fortune when a cannon ball shattered his leg. Because there were no books of romance on hand during his convalescence, he whiled away the time reading a life of Christ and lives of the saints. His conscience was deeply touched, and a long, painful turning to Christ began. Having seen the Mother of God in a vision, he made a pilgrimage to her shrine at Montserrat (near Barcelona). He remained for almost a year at nearby Manresa, sometimes with the Dominicans, sometimes in a pauper’s hospice, often in a cave in the hills praying. After a period of great peace of mind, he went through a harrowing trial of scruples. There was no comfort in anything—prayer, fasting, sacraments, penance. At length, his peace of mind returned.

“It was during this year of conversion that he began to write down material that later became his greatest work, the Spiritual Exercises.

“He finally achieved his purpose of going to the Holy Land, but could not remain, as he planned, because of the hostility of the Turks. He spent the next 11 years in various European universities, studying with great difficulty, beginning almost as a child. Like many others, he fell victim twice to the suspicions of the time, and was twice jailed for brief periods.

“In 1534, at the age of 43, he and six others (one of whom was St. Francis Xavier) vowed to live in poverty and chastity and to go to the Holy Land. If this became impossible, they vowed to offer themselves to the apostolic service of the pope. The latter became the only choice. Four years later Ignatius made the association permanent. The new Society of Jesus was approved by Paul III, and Ignatius was elected to serve as the first general….

“Ignatius recommended this prayer to penitents: “Receive, Lord, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. You have given me all that I have, all that I am, and I surrender all to your divine will, that you dispose of me. Give me only your love and your grace. With this I am rich enough, and I have no more to ask.”

Friday, July 30, 2010

Priests Being Priests

When I was in the process of becoming Catholic, a significant conversional moment occurred when I had dinner with an Opus Dei priest, who arrived in full Roman habit, impressing me mightily.

This article from the EWTN Library examines why it is so crucial for priests to wear their traditional priestly attire.

An excerpt.

“In a secularized and tendentiously materialistic society, where even the external signs of sacred and supernatural realities tend to be disappearing, the necessity is particularly felt that the priest-man of God, dispenser of His mysteries-should be recognizable in the sight of the community, even through the clothing he wears, as an unmistakable sign of his dedication and of his identity as a recipient of a public ministry. The priest should be recognizable above all through his behavior, but also through his dressing in a way that renders immediately perceptible to all the faithful, even to all men, his identity and his belonging to God and to the Church.

“For this reason, the cleric should wear "suitable clerical clothing, according to the norms issued by the Episcopal Conference and according to legitimate local customs." (Canon 284) This means that such clothing, when it is not the cassock, should be distinct from the manner in which laymen dress, and in conformity with the dignity and sacredness of the ministry.

“Apart from entirely exceptional circumstances, the non-use of clerical clothing on the part of the cleric can manifest a weak sense of his own identity as a pastor completely dedicated to the service of the Church (# 66).

“Given this timely reminder from the Holy See about the importance of clerical attire for the priest, we thought it might be useful to examine some of the underlying reasons for this discipline. We also want to examine some of the common arguments used to justify the non-wearing of the Roman collar.

“It is our contention that the rather widespread practice of priests neglecting to wear their collar when they should is both a sign and a cause of malaise in the Church. Such casualness about being publicly identified as a priest of the Catholic Church may signify a desire to distance himself from his priestly vocation. The collar becomes "work clothes," which are put away when one is not "on duty." The functionalistic notion of the priesthood revealed by this attitude is in contradiction to the ontological configuration to Christ the High Priest conferred by priestly ordination.

“Lay people depend on their priests for spiritual support and strength. They feel that something is not right when their priests try to blend into the crowd and, as it were, disappear.

“The purpose of this article is to encourage our fellow priests to wear their collars (and, by analogy, religious to wear their habits).

“It goes without saying that there are reasonable and legitimate exceptions to this rule, such as during sports and recreation, during one's vacation (in general), while at home with family or in one's private quarters in the rectory. And, of course, the obligation to wear clerical clothing ceases during times of violent persecution.

“During such a crisis, the guidance of the bishops should be followed.”

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Crime & Prisons

Another story, from the Tennessean, about the prevalence of cell phones in maximum security prisons, allowing criminal enterprises to be directed from inside.

The importance of this is that the capability of current penal technology to protect the innocent from continually being harmed by imprisoned criminals is the heart of the argument for abolishing capital punishment by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, an argument we addressed in our book, Capital Punishment & Catholic Social Teaching: A Tradition of Support.

An excerpt from the Tennessean article.

“As prison inmates increasingly run criminal enterprises, order hits and direct drug dealing from behind bars, state corrections officials are turning to a new weapon: dogs.

“The Tennessee Department of Correction plans to train three drug-sniffing dogs to add cell phones to their olfactory arsenals in a growing war against prison contraband. Nationwide, prisons and jails have struggled to stop inmates from sneaking in cell phones and continuing to commit crimes while imprisoned.

"We probably will find one at least once a week here, sometimes more often," said Ricky Bell, warden of Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, a prison that hosts Tennessee's most dangerous inmates. "We get reports from people in the community that they're getting threatening phone calls. That happens pretty often."

“In the last year alone, Tennessee corrections officers confiscated 1,684 cell phones at 12 state prisons. Other states report a similarly growing problem. Despite regular searches of inmates, their rooms and even their visitors, the phones still find their way to inmates' hands. Corrections officers are not allowed to carry phones with them.

“Sometimes, a friend or family member will toss a phone over a fence to an awaiting prisoner. Others use less comfortable methods.

"People have used some creative ways to get them in, by hiding them, how do I say this, in certain parts of their bodies," said Dorinda Carter, spokeswoman for the department.

“One of the officials' hopes is cell phone jamming technology. That technology exists but is illegal under current FCC rules. A bill exempting prisons from that ban has been passed by the U.S. Senate and awaits a vote in a House committee.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Alternatives to Prison

As noted in our criminal justice principles, prison works; whereas many of the alternatives being used instead of prison, or those concocted to realize an early release from prison, do not, as this horror story from the Boston Globe reveals.

An excerpt.

“The prosecutor’s report is chilling: A convicted rapist — just out of prison and still on probation — forced his way into a Framingham woman’s home and tormented her for more than two hours in February, repeatedly raping her, then forcing her to bring him beer and drive him to an ATM.

“All the while, an electronic device on William D. French’s ankle was sending a signal to the Probation Department’s 24-hour monitoring centers in Boston and Clinton, where six staff members could track his every movement on their computer screens. The device couldn’t tell them what French was allegedly doing, but even when he triggered an alarm by cutting off the bracelet, probation employees didn’t call police. Instead, they faxed an arrest warrant containing no information about French’s location.

“It took another three hours before the victim, bloodied after yet another assault, escaped from her captor and screamed until a neighbor notified police.

“Ankle bracelets were supposed to make Massachusetts safer, at least that’s what Probation Commissioner John J. “Jack’’ O’Brien and his legislative allies argued as they built one of the biggest, most expensive monitoring systems in the country.

“We are extremely proud of the heightened public safety which has resulted from the implementation of these electronic monitoring programs,’’ O’Brien declared in December, adding that the monitors save the state millions by allowing people to remain free rather than in a cell.

“But, like much of O’Brien’s work during his 12-year tenure at the Probation Department, his claim for the benefits of electronic monitoring collides with the facts. The program, in fact, is an emblem for the many ways the department has been mismanaged under O’Brien, the Spotlight Team has found.”

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Deep Catholics II

Following up on yesterday’s post, Catholic Culture sees the value of speaking clearly, of being the sign of contradiction the Church is called to be.

An excerpt.

“The Catholic Church should be a rallying point for all who oppose the culture of death. The press is on our side in this. All it takes to get incredibly widespread publicity is for bishops and priests to speak out forcefully against the prevailing culture and, for even better coverage, to exercise discipline on these matters in their dioceses, parishes, social service agencies, hospitals and schools. Believe me, everybody will know when this happens. The publicity may not be favorable, but the name “Catholic” will be spelled right.

“This is, of course, contrary to the strategy followed by most Church leaders, at least in the West, for the past fifty years. The inroads of Modernism, the treason of the intellectuals in colleges and universities, the seduction of many traditional religious orders, and the desire of bishops to avoid conflict (and be perceived as players) have all led to a public image for the Church as something of a fiddler—fiddling, so to speak, while Rome burns.”

Monday, July 26, 2010

Deep Catholics, I

The importance of being a deep Catholic rather than a vague one is eloquently written about in article from The Catholic Thing.

An excerpt.

“In his book Religious Freedom, Truth and American Liberalism, David Schindler makes a rather provocative assertion that institutional liberalism "draws us into a con game, inviting us to dialog within the (putatively) open and pluralistic market of religions, all the while having, hiddenly, filled the terms of that dialogue with a liberal theory of religion." When I first saw these words in 1994, I thought: he has a hold on something, and then I filed and forgot them.

“But I’ve gone back to them lately. The events of the past year – the presentation of an honorary doctorate to President Obama, revelations of the Campaign for Human Development’s continuing involvement with organizations that work against Catholic teaching, Catholic Charities’ battles to remain Catholic while accepting government monies, the Catholic Health Association’s support of Obamacare, the appointment of the new president of CUA (who as dean of the Boston College Law School went out of his way to portray a colleague who worked against gay "marriage" as only expressing "his own opinion"), the struggles of genuinely Catholic (by which I do not mean fanatic traditionalist) educational institutions, and so on – make abundantly clear that some members of the Catholic Church are adopting the liberal view of institutions, with hidden and sometimes not- so-hidden effect.

“In crude terms, the effect is to aim for the vaguely Catholic rather than the deeply Catholic. The English Dominican Aidan Nichols, for example, has argued that "a deep Catholicism is not simply sure of its dogmatic basis and at home in its corporate memory, though these are essential. It is also profoundly rooted in the Scriptures, the Fathers, the great doctors and spiritual teachers, and receptive to whatever is lovely in the human world of any and every time and place, which the Word draws to himself by assuming human nature into union with his own divine person." Reading Schindler’s framing of the problem of liberalism through the lens that Nichols gives us, brings us at a minimum to the following:

“Catholic institutions need to be deeply Catholic and not just package what they imagine Catholicism to be as a commodity. In practical terms, this means that institutions need staff who think like Catholics and behave like Catholics, in short who are Catholics. Everyone from the secretary answering the phone, to the spokesperson, to the head of the institution needs to think and act as a Catholic. There is no neutral institutional frame that is able to operate in a Catholic way without having well-informed functional Catholics at all levels.”

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Banning Books in Prison

The logic of prisons being allowed to ban books—considering the abdication of a full possession of legal rights criminals relinquish as a result of attacking society—will itself, always be under attack, as reported by Business Week.

That is a good thing, as not waging a perennial legal struggle over the rights of people incarcerated in our nation's prisons, harms us all.

An excerpt.

“Virginia prison officials have unconstitutionally banned inmates from receiving a book that teaches them how to file lawsuits concerning mistreatment or poor prison conditions, the book's publishers claim in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

“National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights, both nonprofit civil rights organizations, sued state Department of Corrections Director Gene Johnson, officials at Coffeewood Correctional Center in Mitchells and members of the department's Publication Review Committee in federal court in Charlottesville.

“The groups claim the officials violated their First Amendment and due process rights when they restricted inmates' access to their book "Jailhouse Lawyer's Handbook: How to Bring a Federal Lawsuit to Challenge Violations of Your Rights in Prison." Corrections officials claimed the book was a danger to prison security or "good order."

"If it is dangerous to educate people about the Constitution, there are a lot of law schools who are going to be in trouble," said Rachel Meeropol, a CCR attorney who helped write the handbook.

“The lawsuit says a prisoner at Coffeewood received approval to order the free publication last fall, but when it arrived it was disapproved and sent to the state's Publication Review Committee.

“The committee upheld the decision to withhold the publication because its content was considered "detrimental to the security, good order, discipline of the facility, or offender rehabilitative efforts or the safety or health of offenders, staff, or others."

“The lawsuit claims the publishers were not notified about the decision as policy dictates, so they were unable to appeal it.

“Prison officials referred questions to the Attorney General's Office, which did not immediately return a request for comment.

“In the department's publication policy, it outlines the need to monitor what inmates read.

"Offenders retain certain First Amendment rights in regard to free access to publications," it reads. "Correctional administrators have equally valid responsibilities under the Code of Virginia to maintain security, discipline, and good order in their facilities."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Second Chance, Reentry & Evaluation II

In a follow-up to yesterday’s post, Main Justice reports the government’s response—a response invalidated by the historical record of failure using the same service-based models—when the strategy that will work in transforming criminal behavior deeply set within a criminal/carceral worldview, is dramatic change of the criminal’s interiority, change that will occur through a conversion of the heart, change that will occur through the gateway of Catholic social teaching presented by a reformed criminal.

An excerpt.

“A top official in the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs defended alternatives to drug incarceration Thursday before a House panel — despite internal DOJ criticism that the office has poorly monitored its grants funding such programs.

“James Burch II, acting Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance — an office within OJP — testified on the benefits provided by programs that offer alternatives to jail time before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“The Office of Justice Programs … has shifted its focus to more strategic, more effective and sustainable approaches to addressing crime that recognizes the critical role of evidence-based strategies and sentencing alternatives,” Burch said. “This means supporting programs that are backed by evidence of effectiveness, not simply ideology.”

“Appealing to fiscal expedience in a time of tight budgets, Burch advocated programs that prevent and divert individuals from entering the criminal justice system. His big sell Thursday was the effectiveness of specialty courts such as “drug courts,” which exclusively address drug-related offenses.

“We must capitalize on the opportunities presented at the front end of the system,” he said. “Many adults and juveniles have been successfully diverted from further offending by programs that use the leverage and the monitoring power of the court.”

“Burch said his office is conducting research to identify effective drug court practices and improve grants administered by the OJP.

“According to the OJP, more than 50 percent of individuals released from prison will encounter legal trouble again within three years, with drug offenders making up the majority of recidivists. Beyond drug courts, the OJP’s grant programs provide services to a variety of high-risk offenders in the hopes of reducing the number of repeat offenses.”

Friday, July 23, 2010

Second Chance, Reentry & Evaluation

Typically, government spends huge sums of money on programs directed to solve social problems based on the prevailing consensus of professionals and politicians, rather than vigorous evaluation—which in the case of rehabilitation, have found a huge failure rate and in some cases, actually making the problem worse, see previous post—so this article from Main Justice isn’t surprising.

An excerpt.

“Attorney General Eric Holder may be a fan of the Justice Department’s prisoner reentry programs, but an audit released Wednesday by the DOJ’s Inspector General found the department is doing a poor job monitoring the effectiveness of programs aimed at reducing recidivism.

“According to the report, the Inspector General’s office could not determine if Office of Justice Program grants were successful in reducing recidivism rates because the office does not effectively track how the programs that receive grants spend their funds.

“The report included an audit of 10 grant programs worth $17.9 million from January 2005 through November 2009 which questioned how $5.2 million of that money was spent. The Inspector General found in the overall report, which covered three separate grant programs spanning from fiscal year 2002 through January 2010, that in many cases there was little documentation showing the office followed up with grantees after awarding them with funding.

“More than 50 percent of those released from prison will be in legal trouble again within three years, according to OJP. The grant programs provide services to high-risk offenders — such as substance abuse prevention and employment and training assistance — in the hopes of reducing the rate of recidivism.

“The Inspector General found that the office had not established an effective system to assess whether offender reentry programs were meeting their goals and called on OJP to improve the management and oversight of the programs.

“The audit recommend 11 changes to OJP’s grant process, including establishing baseline recidivism data, developing a program to analyze the performance of programs, and identifying best practices.

“Justice Department officials said in a statement that they already had taken steps to address many of the issues raised in the audit.

“OJP officials said the office will implement a new system, called the performance measurement tool, to collect data on reentry grant programs. The new system would be in place by Oct. 1.”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Saint Mary Magdalen


Jesus, speaking in defense of Magdalen pouring the precious oil upon his head in Matthew 26: 13 “Amen, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be spoken of, in memory of her."

Today is the fest day of 1) Saint Mary Magdalen, and the following is from the marvelous book, Mary Magdalen in the Visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich

Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich is profiled in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

An excerpt from her book.

“1. The Family of Lazarus, Martha and Magdalen

“The parents of Lazarus [the man Jesus raised from the dead, as told in the Gospel of John 11: 1-45] had in all fifteen children, of whom six died young. Of the nine that survived, only four were living at the time of Christ’s teaching. These four were: Lazarus; Martha, about two years younger; Mary, looked upon as a simpleton, two years younger that Martha; and Mary Magdalen, five years younger than the simpleton. The simpleton is not named in Scripture, not reckoned among the Lazarus family; but she is known to God. She was always put aside in her family, and lived altogether unknown….

“Lazarus…looked much older than Jesus; he appeared to me to be fully eight years His senior. Lazarus had large possessions, landed property, gardens, and many servants. Martha had her own house, and another sister named Mary, who lived entirely alone, had also her separate dwelling. Magdalen lived in her castle at Magdalum. Lazarus was already long acquainted with the Holy Family. He had at an early period aided Joseph and Mary with large alms and, from first to last, did much for the Community. The purse that Judas [Iscariot] carried and all the early expenses, he supplied out of his own wealth…

“2. Magdalen’s Childhood

“Magdalen, the youngest child, was very beautiful and, even in her early years, tall and well-developed like a girl of more advanced age. She was full of frivolity and seductive art. Her parents died when she was only seven years old. She had no great love for them even from her earliest age, on account of their severe fasts. Even as a child, she was vain beyond expression, given to petty thefts, proud, self-willed, and a lover of pleasure. She was never faithful, but clung to whatever flattered her most. She was, therefore, extravagant in her pity when her sensitive compassion was aroused, and kind and condescending to all that appealed to her senses by some external show. Her mother had had some share in Magdalen’s faulty education, and that sympathetic softness the child had inherited from her.

“Magdalen was spoiled by her mother and her nurse. They showed her off everywhere, caused her cleverness and pretty little ways to be admired, and sat much with her dressed up at the window. That window-sitting was the chief cause of her ruin. I saw her at the window and on the terraces of the house upon a magnificent seat of carpets and cushions, where she could be seen in all her splendor from the street. She used to steal sweetmeats, and take them to other children in the garden of the castle. Even in her ninth year she was engaged in love affairs. With her developing talents and beauty, increased also the talk and admiration they excited. She had crowds of companions. She was taught, and she wrote love verses on little rolls of parchment. I saw her while so engaged counting on her fingers. She sent these verses around, and exchanged them with her lovers. Her fame spread on all sides, and she was exceedingly admired.

But I never saw that she either really loved or was loved. It was all, on her part at least, vanity, frivolity, self-adoration, and confidence in her own beauty. I saw her a scandal to her brother and sisters whom she despised and of whom she was ashamed on account of their simple life.

“3. Magdalen Inherits the Castle of Magdalum

“When the patrimony was divided, the castle of Magdalum fell by lot to Magdalen. It was a very beautiful building. Magdalen had often gone there with her family when she was a very young child, and she had always entertained a special preference for it. She was only about eleven years old when, with a large household of servants, men and maids, she retired thither and set up a splendid establishment for herself.

“Magdalum was a fortified place, consisting of several castles, public buildings and large squares of groves and gardens. It was eight hours east of Nazareth, about three from Capharnaum, one and a half from Bethsaida toward the south, and about a mile from the Lake of Genesareth. It was built on a slope of the mountain and extended down into the valley which stretches off toward the lake and around its shores. One of those castles belonged to Herod. He possessed a still larger one in the fertile region of Genesareth. Some of his soldiers were stationed in Magdalum, and they contributed their share to the general demoralization. The officers were on intimate terms with Magdalen. There were, besides the troops, about two hundred people in Magdalum, chiefly officials, master builders, and servants.

“The castle of Magdalum was the highest and most magnificent of all; from its roof one could see across the Sea of Galilee to the opposite shore. Five roads led to Magdalum, and on every one at one half-hours distance from the well-fortified place, stood a tower built over an arch. It was like a watchtower whence could be seen far into the distance. These towers had no connection with one another; they rose out of a country covered with gardens, fields, and meadows. Magdalen had men servants and maids, fields and herds, but a very disorderly household; all went to rack and ruin.

“4. Magdalen’s Reputation

“Sts. Zachary and Elizabeth being long since dead, St. John the Baptist has been preaching and baptizing publicly and is gaining fame and followers. Jesus has just begun His public life, but is yet to perform any miracles.

“Six men who were coming from the baptism of John met Jesus. Among them were Levi, known later as Matthew, and two sons of the widowed relatives of Elizabeth. They all knew Jesus, some through relationship, others by hearsay; and they strongly suspected, though they had had no assurance of it, that He was the One of whom John had spoken. They spoke of John, of Lazarus and his sisters, especially of Magdalen. They supposed she had a devil, for she was already living apart from her family in the castle of Magdalum. These men accompanied Jesus, and were filled with astonishment at His discourse. The aspirants to baptism going from Galilee to John used to tell him all that they knew and heard of Jesus, while they that came from Ainon, where John baptized, used to tell Jesus all they knew of John…Magdalen’s castle in Magdalum was not far off, and Magdalen herself was at this time at the height of her glory.

Emmerich, A. C. (2005). [1914] Mary Magdalen in the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich, Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books And Publishers, Inc. (pp. 1-5)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Criminalization of Culture

It has been going on for some time and recent events put it into focus, as this story from the Detroit Free Press reports.

An excerpt.

“Lindsay Lohan is scheduled to go to jail today.

"While it may not sound like a big deal -- yet another train-wreck celeb in trouble -- it may actually have a cumulative effect on fans, especially young people. Social experts suggest that being pelted with image after image of celebrity after celebrity in trouble does have societal implications.

"Things like reality TV and other things have almost glorified going to jail," said Arthur Robin, head of psychology at Children's Hospital of Michigan. "Yes, it's still something young people view very negatively, but probably not as negatively as 50 years ago."

“The accelerated news media obsession with locked-up celebrities, politicians and sports stars may be desensitizing young people to jail, experts have said. Rather than a stiff penalty, jail has become a simple inconvenience.

“Published reports suggest Lohan's first post-jail interview will be worth more than $500,000. Lil Wayne plans to drop his next album from Rikers Island.

“And in urban areas like Detroit, the jailings of those in the public eye could be leading youths down the wrong path.

“Punishment for non-celebrities is often more harsh. "Celebrities get away with stuff that non-celebrities don't get away with," Robin said.

“Time behind bars doesn't end glitzy lives for celebs

“Welcome to the weird world of celebrity justice, where going to jail doesn't necessarily kill careers.

“Often, it bolsters them.

“And that, experts say, is a problem -- especially for young and impressionable fans. "The impact is tremendous. ... There's certainly not the stigma of going to jail or prison that there was 50 years ago," said Carl Taylor, a Michigan State University sociologist who studies urban youths. "Kids are not scared of going to prison. They sure as hell are not scared of going to jail."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

One Billion Catholic Stories

Some days it seems very difficult being a Catholic and that is a good day to pray the rosary, and it is also a good day to remember why you are a Catholic.

Here is a wonderful story, from Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly, of a young man--as his magnificent apostolate reveals--who certainly knows why he is.

An excerpt.

“For Seth DeMoor, it was all about the stories.

“As an undergraduate at the University of Colorado, hearing people’s stories of conversion, reversion and grace helped the 24-year-old Colorado native discover the beauty of his Catholic faith for the first time.

“And when graduation loomed, it was those stories DeMoor felt called to share.

“They were too good for just me to hear,’” he said. “I knew I needed to somehow capture them and put them where others could hear them, too.”

“He also knew there were more stories out there — that there was, in fact, a story for each of the 1 billion Catholics currently living on Planet Earth. Capturing all 1 billion was impossible, but capturing a couple hundred seemed doable.

“So, in November 2009, one month before graduation, DeMoor told friends and family about his plan. Beginning in January, he would bike from Florida to Colorado. Along the way he would collect as many stories as he could about people’s journeys with and to the Church, filming those stories and posting them on a website, OneBillionStories.com.

“It was, in many ways, a crazy idea. DeMoor’s mother worried about his safety. His friends pointed out that he would be biking in the dead of winter. But DeMoor was determined to go through with it, and eventually both his family and friends gave him their support.

“Chilly ride

“In late December, DeMoor flew to Florida. With money he saved up in college he purchased all the necessary video, biking and camping equipment. Then, at 10 a.m. on Jan. 3, DeMoor set off from Orlando.

“For the next three months, he biked along the United States’ southern border, traveling across Florida’s panhandle, into Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico and, finally, up to Colorado. Although he “clung to the coast” for most of his journey, the weather was still bitterly cold.

“It was the coldest winter in the South in more than 50 years,” DeMoor said. “In Florida, the temperatures didn’t go above 32 degrees for 10 days straight, and it snowed on me in southern Mississippi and Texas.”

“Southern hospitality

“If not for Southern hospitality, the weather could have proved DeMoor’s biggest obstacle. That’s because DeMoor had lined up housing for only seven nights of his journey: He planned on camping out the remainder of the time.

“Fortunately for him, however, the people he met along the way wouldn’t hear of such a thing. In the end, DeMoor pulled out his camping gear on only seven of the 94 nights he spent on the road. In nearly every city he stopped, he found someone who invited him to stay the night in their home. He also found hundreds of people willing to share their stories about conversion, discernment, vocation and apostolate work.”

Monday, July 19, 2010

Labeling & Criminal Identification

As this story in Time Magazine notes, there is much to be said for the corrosive aspects of labeling—in this case as an addict/alcoholic.

The greatest examination of childhood criminal labeling shaping an adult criminal life is the wonderful book by Sartre, Saint Genet.

An excerpt from Time.

“Matt Thomas" (a pseudonym) had only recently begun experimenting with marijuana when he got caught selling a few joints in the bathroom at his junior high school. It was no big deal, Thomas thought, especially considering that his parents — an investment banker and a homemaker — smoked pot too.

“But Thomas' grades had already begun to slip, perhaps because of his increasing alcohol and marijuana use; that, coupled with his drug-dealing offense, was enough for the school to recommend that his parents place him in an inpatient drug-treatment program. Thomas, then 13, was sent to Parkview West, a residential rehab center located a few miles from his suburban Minneapolis home.

“But rather than encouraging sobriety, Thomas says, his seven-week stint at Parkview West helped trigger a decades-long descent into severe addiction — from regular marijuana user to daily drinker to cocaine and methamphetamine addict. "It was [in rehab] that they told me that I was a drug addict and an alcoholic," says Thomas. "There was no turning back. The whole event solidified and created this notion in my own mind and in my social status. Who I was, was an alcoholic and drug addict."

“In treatment, Thomas met other addicts. He attended daily group therapy with older teens, who regaled him with glamorized war stories about drugs he'd never tried. In rehab, says Thomas, one's first question upon meeting a new person is, "What's your drug of choice?" And that's often followed by, "What's that like?" Thomas recalls hearing a description of an LSD high so seductive that he pledged he would try it if he got the chance. He did, not long after getting out of rehab.”

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Church in Europe

Recent events suggest the Church my be experiencing somewhat of a revival in Europe—which is one of the fervent wishes of the Holy Father—and if that becomes something solidly transformative, that would be wonderful.

George Weigel reports.

An excerpt.

“In mid-May, Pope Benedict XVI made an apostolic pilgrimage to Portugal; half a million people attended the outdoor papal Mass at Fatima.

“When the Pope returned to Rome, two hundred thousand pilgrims jammed St. Peter's Square for Benedict's recitation of the Sunday "Regina Coeli," demonstrating their support for a pontiff beset for months by criticism over abusive clergy and irresponsible bishops.

“A week later, a 44-day exposition of the Shroud of Turin in the cathedral of that northern Italian city concluded. Over the course of six weeks, some two million people braved long lines to spend a few brief moments before what many believe to be the burial clothes of Christ.

“To vary Mark Twain: Have reports of Christianity's death in Europe been greatly exaggerated?

“It's a fair question, and as one who has been ringing the alarm bells about a European crisis of civilizational morale since the publication of The Cube and the Cathedral in 2005, I'm obliged to try to answer it.

“The answer is: It's too early to tell.

“The vast flock of pilgrims at Fatima, the enthusiasm for the Pope manifest on a sunny Roman spring day, the extraordinary numbers who came to see the Shroud -- these are all encouraging signs. So is the intense piety that continues to be evident in Poland, most recently in the wake of the tragic deaths of so many national leaders in an April plane crash, while they were en route to the killing grounds of the Katyn forest. So, in an odd way, are the virulent attacks on the Church and the Pope these past several months. No one expends energy berating an institution deemed moribund and an 83-year old man considered an irrelevance; the attacks themselves are evidence that Christian faith -- and the Catholic Church -- remain factors in European culture and European public life.

“Moreover, if World Youth Day 2011, to be held in Madrid next August 16-21, turns out a million or more young pilgrims, which seems possible, a challenge will have been laid down to the hyper-secularist Zapatero government in Spain and to Europe's aging children of the Sixties, who may tolerate Christianity as a personal lifestyle choice (if considering it an exceedingly odd one) but who also insist that 21st century European public life must be stripped of religiously-informed moral argument.”

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Life at Angola

A story of a third-generation correctional officer living and working at Angola, one of the most notorious prisons in America, as reported by the New Orleans Press.

An excerpt.

“Back in 1996, when his college-bound senior class buddies at West Feliciana High were battling the ACTs and SATs, Trampus Butler merely watched from a distance.

“I told ’em, ‘Man, I’m not taking that. I don’t need those to work in Angola,’” he said. “The week after I graduated from high school I was up here taking my drug test, filling out my paperwork and off to work.”

“Fourteen years later, Butler is a major on the Angola corrections staff, working toward a criminal justice degree at Louisiana Technical College. He is on the prison tactical team and is a member of the chase team, should one of the prison’s 5,000 inmates try to flee into the Tunica Hills, or dare the Mississippi River that wraps the 18,000-acre state prison on three sides.

“But that rarely happens these days.

“Butler lives at Angola. Indeed, he has lived there his entire life.

“Twenty-five years ago, Butler’s grandfather, Hilton Butler, was Angola’s warden. His son, Trampus Butler’s father, also worked there. He reared Butler on the prison grounds and remains today as an assistant warden. Butler’s two brothers work there. So does his wife. And an aunt.

“When StoryCorps, the oral history initiative, came to New Orleans in the spring, staffer Jeremy Helton packed a microphone and drove 135 miles north of the city to Angola to record something of the lives of people such as Butler.

“Butler recalled how, as a boy, his companions were inmates who rode horseback with him. He hung out with the convicts tending the prison bloodhounds.

“If passing time with convicts makes most people nervous, “it comes natural to me because I started doing it ever since I could remember, 4 or 5 years old — since I could walk,” he said.

“Of all the things ever said about the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, still not entirely free of its former reputation as the bloodiest prison in America, Butler, 32, adds something indisputably new and arresting:

“It was a great place to grow up.”

Friday, July 16, 2010

First American-Born Beatified

July 14th was the feast day of this remarkable saint, as reported from Saint of the Day.

For a great dramatization of the lives of the Jesuit martyrs she learned about growing up, watch the movie Black Robe.

An excerpt.

“The blood of martyrs is the seed of saints. Nine years after the Jesuits Isaac Jogues and John de Br├ębeuf were tomahawked by Iroquois warriors, a baby girl was born near the place of their martyrdom, Auriesville, New York.

“Her mother was a Christian Algonquin, taken captive by the Iroquois and given as wife to the chief of the Mohawk clan, the boldest and fiercest of the Five Nations. When she was four, Kateri lost her parents and little brother in a smallpox epidemic that left her disfigured and half blind. She was adopted by an uncle, who succeeded her father as chief. He hated the coming of the Blackrobes (Jesuit missionaries), but could do nothing to them because a peace treaty with the French required their presence in villages with Christian captives. She was moved by the words of three Blackrobes who lodged with her uncle, but fear of him kept her from seeking instruction. She refused to marry a Mohawk brave and at 19 finally got the courage to take the step of converting. She was baptized with the name Kateri (Catherine) on Easter Sunday.

“Now she would be treated as a slave. Because she would not work on Sunday, she received no food that day. Her life in grace grew rapidly. She told a missionary that she often meditated on the great dignity of being baptized. She was powerfully moved by God’s love for human beings and saw the dignity of each of her people.

“She was always in danger, for her conversion and holy life created great opposition. On the advice of a priest, she stole away one night and began a 200-mile walking journey to a Christian Indian village at Sault St. Louis, near Montreal.”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mentoring

Helping former prisoners who want to find a new way of life rather than continuing a criminal life is the mission of this reverend in Denver—who our prayers are with—as reported by the Denver Post.

An excerpt.

“The calls come every single day.

“This time the man's name is Alex. He is 35 years old and a 16-year penitentiary loser out on parole with a voice as sweet as an angel's.

“Indeed, he says over the speaker phone, he and his wife have just finished scrubbing the kitchen floor of his 80-year-old neighbor's.

“He also tells of having a great lead on a job doing fundraising work. Hopefully, he says, it will be the one thing that finally launches him on a "normal life."

“The Rev. Leon Kelly hears this, throws himself backward in his big, plush office chair and beams a smile that would warm pretty much every square foot of surrounding Lower Downtown.

"You have come a long way," Kelly tells him, still beaming, repeating the man's words, before asking about the man's wife and whether there is anything he can do for them.

“This may represent the next act for Leon Kelly, who for 25 years has struggled mightily to keep gang warfare from exploding in Denver.

“Now Kelly, who turns 57 today, is rapidly focusing his life on keeping gang members he might have missed from re-offending and returning to prison.

“He sat with me, and we chatted a long time about his newest project.

“Last week, he graduated the second class of his "Flipping the Script" program, in which he works with 10 to 12 parolees to keep them from ever landing behind bars again.”

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On This Rock

I am reading a marvelous book by Stanley Jaki, And on This Rock: The Witness of One Land and Two Covenants, and came across this paragraph so important to remember during these times of troubles for the Church founded upon the rock of Peter.

“When Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society, he chose for its cornerstone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob, a coward—in a word, a man. And upon this rock he has built His Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it. All the empires and the kingdoms have failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But this one thing, the historical Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.” (p. 95)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Vatican II & Tradition

There are those within and faithfully obedient to the Catholic Church who feel that Vatican II was a serious rupture with the traditional teaching of the Church and must be repudiated.

As a convert, I have been studying this discussion and the relevant documents for several years and while deeply appreciating the feeling about the rupture, I have come to understand that Vatican II was a continuity of belief and doctrinal development within the history of the Church in the world.

The source that can help one understand this is the Catechism which grew out of Vatican II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and though I prefer some of the language—especially concerning capital punishment—from the first edition, the second edition is the accepted version; and I encourage all to read and study it as it is a marvelous document, and will resolve many of your concerns about Vatican II, if you have them.

This article from Chiesa examines the turmoil around Vatican II—in a discussion of the works of Romano Amerio—whose book Iota Unum is a must read.

An excerpt.

“ROME, July 12, 2010 – For a few days a new volume by Romano Amerio has been in Italian bookstores, the third of the author's "opera omnia" being published by Lindau.

“Amerio, who died in 1997 at the age of 92 in Lugano, Switzerland, was one of the greatest Christian intellectuals of the twentieth century.

“A philologist and philosopher of the first rank, Amerio became known all over the world for his book first published in 1985 and translated into multiple languages, entitled: "Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the Twentieth Century."

“But this same book, precisely because of the ideas supported in it, got Amerio ostracized by almost the entirety of the Catholic world. An ostracism that has been lifted only recently, thanks in part to the republication of "Iota Unum."

“Amerio dedicated half a century to writing "Iota Unum." And this third volume of the "opera omnia" was written over a much longer span, from 1935 to 1996. It is entitled "Zibaldone," and – like the work of the same name by the poet Giacomo Leopardi – it is a collection of brief thoughts, aphorisms, stories, citations from classics, moral dialogues, commentaries on events of the day.

"With its more than seven hundred thoughts, "Zibaldone" is a sort of intellectual autobiography. In which the questions raised in "Iota Unum" are naturally present.

“Like, for example, in this entry dated May 2, 1995:

"The self-demolition of the Church deplored by Paul VI in the famous speech at the Lombard Seminary on September 11, 1974, is becoming clearer by the day. Even during the council itself, Cardinal Heenan (Primate of England) complained that the bishops had ceased exercising the office of the magisterium, but comforted himself with the observation that this office was fully preserved in the Roman pontificate. The observation was and is false. Today the episcopal magisterium has ceased, and that of the pope as well. Today the magisterium is exercised by theologians who have shaped all of the opinions of the Christian people, and have disqualified the dogma of the faith. I heard an astonishing demonstration of this while listening to the theologian of Radio Maria last night. With boldness and great tranquility, he denied articles of the faith. He taught [...] that the pagans to whom the Gospel is not proclaimed, if they follow the dictates of natural justice and try to seek God with sincerity, will go to the beatific vision. This modern doctrine goes back to the ancient Church, but it was always condemned as error. But the ancient theologians, while they held firm the dogma of the faith, nevertheless felt all of the difficulty that dogma encounters, and tried to overcome it with profound thinking. The modern theologians, however, do not perceive the intrinsic difficulties of dogma, but run straight to the 'lectio facilior,' sweeping all the doctrinal decrees of the magisterium under the rug. And they do not realize that by doing this they negate the value of baptism and the entire supernatural order, our whole religion. Rejection of the magisterium is widespread on other points as well. Hell, the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, the immutability of God, the historicity of Christ, the unlawfulness of sodomy, the sacred and indissoluble nature of matrimony, the natural law, the primacy of the divine are other arguments in which the magisterium of the theologians has eliminated the magisterium of the Church. This arrogance of the theologians is the most visible phenomenon of self-demolition."

“From this strongly critical analysis, which he also applied to Vatican Council II, Amerio drew out what Enrico Maria Radaelli, his faithful disciple and editor of the publication of his master's works, calls the "great dilemma at the heart of Christianity today."

“The dilemma is whether there has been continuity or rupture in the magisterium of the Church before and after Vatican II.”

Monday, July 12, 2010

Latin Mass

We attended High Latin Mass Sunday—we are fortunate to have a local parish of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter authorized by the Church to conduct Mass in the traditional way—and it was a glorious experience.

While preferring the New Mass for daily use, the occasional attendance at the High Mass, with its chanting, solemnity, and ancient ritual is exhilarating and connects us to the eternal Church.

This morning I returned to my regular parish and heard the New Mass, delivered by a visiting priest in its correct form—without the personal variations too many older priests seem to feel are necessary (mentioned in yesterday's post) and a large part of the reason so many prefer the Latin Mass—and it too was magnificent.

We are blessed to have access to both and thank the Holy Father for ensuring that all of the faithful now have access to the traditional Latin Mass.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Two Priests

One of the priests in our parish has retired and we are currently being served by—in addition to our regular pastor—various priests; and the recent contrast between the Mass offered by a young priest and that offered by an old priest could not be greater or more indicative of the recent history of the Church in America.

The young priest—at the 6:30 AM Mass I regularly attend—spoke in a full voice, hewing exactly to the Mass as written, and his homily was a dramatic call for us to wake up (punctuated by a palm slam on the lectern) to the spiritual battle going on in the Church.

The old priest—my wife and I attended the 8:00 AM Mass—spoke softly, and made up the Mass as he went along, leaving most of us confused about when to stand, kneel or sit, and his homily revolved around love and tolerance for all.

By representing the old which has brought such chaos within the American Church and the new which represents such hope within the American Church, it was a Mass twofer that encapsulated the Church as it is now in America.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Due Diligence

Due diligence is a term I learned when working in the insurance and investment business which means to do your homework before you put your money into a financial vehicle whose return you will someday depend on.

As part of due diligence you always want to examine those opinions whose perspective is critical of the investment or insurance you are considering as they will be pointing out to you the weaknesses; and you will know that their criticism is generally based on quantitative measures rather than personal feelings.

Entering the Church is a process that also requires due diligence, but, at least in my case, the due diligence really began after I had already invested myself considerably into my new life as a Catholic and that is good, as had I known then what I know now, I doubt I would have pursued baptism.

The material I read coming into the Church was virtually all positive and came out of the magisterium itself—many encyclicals and the Catechism—or was recommended by those whose reference was magisterially based.

After a couple of years as a Catholic and as I began to examine the more critical writings about the Church, my first reaction was to reject their essential premises; but that did not work for very long as I am blessed—sometimes cursed—with an insatiable desire to discover the root truths of that with which I am involved.

The most difficult issue I had to deal with is the sexual abuse crisis in the Church, and as I began reading the material about it, finally reaching the book—which I consider the magisterial treatment of it—The Rite of Sodomy: Homosexuality and the Roman Catholic Church by Randy Engel, I was relieved to discover that the horrors she reveals were to call from me a deeper prayer life rather than, as they would have before, one of rejection and doubt.

Prayers for the Holy Father, the faithful, and for the Church are always needed.

Here are two prayers I always start my day with:

Lord Jesus Christ, through the most pure Heart of Mary, I offer Thee all my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day, for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, and in particular for the July intentions of the Holy Father Pope Benedict, and Lord Jesus, please protect those being persecuted for our faith all around the world. Amen.

Holy Michael Archangel, defend us in the day of battle; be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil—May God rebuke him, we humbly pray: and do thou, Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God thrust down to hell Satan and all wicked spirits, who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

Friday, July 9, 2010

And Still They Come

In perhaps one of the worst periods in recent memory for the Catholic Church, converts still make the holy trek to Rome, as this article in Catholic Culture reminds us.

An excerpt.

“A friend recently told me about a very prominent individual who has begun taking instruction in the Catholic faith. He apparently wants to do this quietly, and I’ll honor his wishes by not revealing his identity. If he continues down the path to Rome, the story will become public soon enough.

“The point is that despite all the bad news, despite the assaults on the Church and the maladroit official defenses, people still feel that pull: the tug on the fisherman’s line. The parishes may close, the budgets may not balance. Disaffected “cradle Catholics” may leave by the hundreds. But there are still those lines at the Easter Vigil. There are still those intelligent souls, searching for truth, seeing the light and following it despite the encroaching shadows.

“We joke about it: “Come on in; the water’s freezing!” Yet it’s not a joke at all. Being a Catholic is the worst thing in the world—except not being a Catholic. It’s tough to live in a Church plagued by scandal. It’s easy to become disgusted. But…

“Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." [Jn 6:66- 69]
In the end it’s not about the scandals, it’s not about the public debates, it’s not about the policies and the budgets and the statements and the personalities and the seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of human folly and sin. It’s about Jesus the Christ.

“People misjudge the Church because they gauge the strength of Catholicism against the models set by political parties and business corporations and public-relations agencies. Look—I’m not saying anything that you don’t already know—our Church leaders are utterly incompetent at politics, at business, and at public relations. The worldly-wise observers know that, and so they wait, confidently expecting that Catholicism will collapse. They’ve been waiting for 2,000 years. They’ll be waiting until Christ comes again. Because the Church will not collapse. And Christ will come again.”

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Great Battle

I have been reading the Catechism each morning before Mass—a practice I heartily recommend—and each day I’m renewed through its beauty and power as I contemplate the teaching of the Church, while in Church, preparing myself for the Holy Mass.

Today I read about the great battle.

“A hard battle. . .

“407 The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid discernment of man's situation and activity in the world. By our first parents' sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free. Original sin entails "captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil". Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals.

“408 The consequences of original sin and of all men's personal sins put the world as a whole in the sinful condition aptly described in St. John's expression, "the sin of the world". This expression can also refer to the negative influence exerted on people by communal situations and social structures that are the fruit of men's sins.

“409 This dramatic situation of "the whole world [which] is in the power of the evil one"makes man's life a battle:

“The whole of man's history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God's grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 407-409)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Churchill, England & America

This special relationship—rivaled only by that which America has with Israel—has played a large role in the march of freedom in the modern world and it was forged during the Second World War, largely through the actions and magnificent words of Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

An excerpt from the article in the Weekly Standard.

“The celebration of American Independence has a way of illuminating the Anglo-American relationship, especially during times of war. Although July 4, 1776 marked the date when the American people dissolved "the political bands which have connected them" with Great Britain, July 4, 1940 signified just the opposite: the moment when the two great democracies solidified their “special relationship.” Seventy years ago, British prime minister Winston Churchill delivered a speech before the House of Commons that masterfully rebuked the United States for sitting on the sidelines while Britain stood alone to defend freedom against totalitarianism. Churchill’s insights are worth recalling during our own season of war, when the historic ties between the two nations seem frayed and in doubt.

“The speech was occasioned by the dramatic events of the previous day, July 3, when Churchill ordered the Royal Navy to destroy the French fleet in North Africa. Breaking a solemn agreement with Britain, France had just signed an armistice with Nazi Germany. It represented a colossal and dangerous betrayal: After the Royal Navy, the French possessed the most powerful fleet in European waters; they held the balance of power in the early stages of the Second World War. Churchill calculated, quite correctly, that if the French vessels were seized by the enemy, Britain would lose the war.

“The prime minister pleaded with Franklin Roosevelt for 50 American warships, warning that the Nazi threat to the United States was growing rapidly. But the president, on the advice of his ambassador in London, Joseph P. Kennedy, was persuaded that sending the warships would be a waste of American resources. Kennedy—a liberal defeatist and an appeaser of Hitler—had filed dispatches claiming that Britain would surely surrender to the Germans and was not worth supporting. To make matters worse, it was an election year. Ever the political animal, FDR promised to keep the country out of another European war: “The United States of America shall and must remain un-entangled and free.” Roosevelt even suggested that Churchill send the Royal Navy to Canada to prevent it from falling into Nazi hands—a proposal interpreted as a cynical effort to save the United States at the expense of Britain. America’s message to the British people was clear: expect no help from the United States in the war against fascist evil.

“Churchill revealed his frustration in a telegram to his ambassador in Washington: “I don’t think words count for much now. Only force of events can govern them.” The force of events was pushing the British leader toward a horrific decision. There was no time for lengthy deliberations. Churchill offered the French commanders a choice: join the British and continue the fight for freedom, sail to a British port and be repatriated—or prepare to be sunk. The French were given just six hours to make up their minds. Vice-Admiral Sir James Somerville, who had helped rescue over 100,000 Frenchmen during the evacuation at Dunkirk, led the assault. With a “severe measure of force” and a heavy loss of French lives, the fleet was destroyed.

“The prime minister later called the order “a hateful decision” and contrary to all his instincts—except the desire to preserve Britain’s survival against a totalitarian nightmare.

“Churchill’s martial resolve, reinforced in his July 4 speech to Parliament, demolished American doubts about Britain’s mettle. In the process, he challenged the nation’s democratic friends to join the struggle against international terrorism and tyranny. “I call upon all subjects of His Majesty, and upon our Allies, and well-wishers—and they are not a few—all over the world, on both sides of the Atlantic, to give us the utmost aid,” he said. “In the fullest harmony with our Dominons, we are moving through a period of extreme danger and of splendid hope, when every virtue of our race will be tested, and all that we have and are will be freely staked.”

“Here was Churchill’s moral realism on display. Most everyone expected a German invasion of Britain at any moment, a trial whose outcome was uncertain, but which certainly would cause unspeakable suffering and destruction. Nevertheless, with a keen sense of the transcendent meaning of the moment, Churchill summoned his nation to find the courage required for survival. “This is no time for doubt or weakness,” he said. “It is the supreme hour to which we have been called.”

“As Churchill described the attack against Britain’s former ally, the House listened quietly, stunned and enthralled. Churchill was overcome with emotion. So were members of Parliament: They burst into cheers, relieved not only that French warships would not be used against Great Britain, but that they had a prime minister who would not allow their island nation to perish without a fight. The country overwhelmingly supported the decision.

“Churchill’s daring action sent shock waves throughout the American foreign policy establishment, particularly among the appeasers in the White House and State Department. Liberal delusions about the limited nature of the Nazi threat, the wisdom of isolationism, and the impotence of British democracy were beginning to unravel. Two months later, Roosevelt sent Churchill the warships.”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Catholics at the Revolution

The great American Catholic family—the Carrolls of Maryland—are justly remembered during this time of saluting our independence, and this article from The Catholic Thing is a superb remembrance.

An excerpt.

“On the Fourth of July weekend, it’s only fitting in The Catholic Thing to remember America’s leading Catholic family during our Revolution: the Carrolls of Maryland.

“Charles Carroll (1661-1720), Maryland’s first attorney general, founded the family, which acquired and developed tens of thousands of acres, and was the richest Catholic clan in the colonies. Courageous and clever, they often challenged and confounded the Protestant establishment. The first Carroll was described this way: “in spite of the tremendous odds against him, he usually managed to make fools, single-handed, of the entire House or the entire Governor’s Council. He was a magnificent fighter because he never knew when he was beaten.” His heirs continued the family tradition of resisting Anglican attempts to destroy their fortune and faith.

“The Continental Congress turned to the third generation of Carrolls in 1775 for aid in a mission to negotiate an alliance with Canada: Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1832) and his cousin Father John Carroll (1735-1815). In deciding to send a Catholic priest, John Hancock, president of the Congress, followed the advice of his friend, Charles Lee: “I should think that if some Jesuit or Religious of any other order (he must be a man of liberal sentiments, enlarged mind and a manifest friend of Civil Liberty) could be found out and sent to Canada, he would be worth battalions to us.”

“Commenting on the delegation which also included Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Chase, John Adams wrote: “We have empowered the Committee to take with them, another gentleman of Maryland, a Mr. John Carroll, a Roman Catholic priest, and a Jesuit, a gentleman of learning and ability.” Adams pronounced Charles Carroll, “A Roman Catholic but an ardent patriot.”

“The Commission ultimately failed because the Canadians were content with British rule. Father John Carroll had predicted exactly this outcome. Before the delegation left, he wrote that the Canadians, “have not the same motives for taking up arms against England, which renders the resistance of the other colonies so justifiable.”

“One happy consequence of the delegation’s journey to Canada was Benjamin Franklin’s growing fondness for the Carrolls. When Franklin fell ill, Father John tended to his health. Franklin wrote of their time together: “I find I grow daily more feeble, and I think I could hardly have got along so far, but for Mr. Carroll’s friendly assistance and tender care of me.” Father John recalled the time spent with Dr. Franklin as “one of the most fortunate and honourable events of my life.” Historians agree that, in later years, John Carroll was chosen as the first native-born Catholic bishop in America in part owing to Franklin’s influence in European circles. He would build the first American cathedral in Baltimore and found the first Catholic university in America, Georgetown.”

Monday, July 5, 2010

Independence Reflection

Now that the fireworks are over, the flag is put away, and the barbeque is cool—though in our house the clean-up from the feast still lingers—it is a good time to reflect on the great and noble ideas upon which our country is founded, ideas which still ring true in the hearts of Americans.

An excerpt from an article from the Heritage Foundation.

“The Fourth of July is a great opportunity to renew our dedication to the principles of liberty and equality enshrined in what Thomas Jefferson called "the declaratory charter of our rights."

“As a practical matter, the Declaration of Independence publicly announced to the world the unanimous decision of the American colonies to declare themselves free and independent states, absolved from any allegiance to Great Britain. But its greater meaning-then as well as now-is as a statement of the conditions of legitimate political authority and the proper ends of government, and its proclamation of a new ground of political rule in the sovereignty of the people. "If the American Revolution had produced nothing but the Declaration of Independence," wrote the great historian Samuel Eliot Morrison, "it would have been worthwhile."

“Although Congress had appointed a distinguished committee-including John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston-the Declaration of Independence is chiefly the work of Thomas Jefferson. By his own account, Jefferson was neither aiming at originality nor taking from any particular writings but was expressing the "harmonizing sentiments of the day," as expressed in conversation, letters, essays, or "the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, etc." Jefferson intended the Declaration to be "an expression of the American mind," and wrote so as to "place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent."

“The structure of the Declaration of Independence is that of a common law legal document. The ringing phrases of the document's famous second paragraph are a powerful synthesis of American constitutional and republican government theories. All men have a right to liberty only in so far as they are by nature equal, which is to say none are naturally superior, and deserve to rule, or inferior, and deserve to be ruled. Because men are endowed with these rights, the rights are unalienable, which means that they cannot be given up or taken away. And because individuals equally possess these rights, governments derive their just powers from the consent of those governed. The purpose of government is to secure these fundamental rights and, although prudence tells us that governments should not be changed for trivial reasons, the people retain the right to alter or abolish government when it becomes destructive of these ends.

“The remainder of the document is a bill of indictment accusing King George III of some 30 offenses, some constitutional, some legal, and some matters of policy. The combined charges against the king were intended to demonstrate a history of repeated injuries, all having the object of establishing "an absolute tyranny" over America. Although the colonists were "disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable," the time had come to end the relationship: "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government."

“One charge that Jefferson had included, but Congress removed, was that the king had "waged cruel war against human nature" by introducing slavery and allowing the slave trade into the American colonies. A few delegates were unwilling to acknowledge that slavery violated the "most sacred rights of life and liberty," and the passage was dropped for the sake of unanimity. Thus was foreshadowed the central debate of the American Civil War, which Abraham Lincoln saw as a test to determine whether a nation "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" could long endure.

“The Declaration of Independence and the liberties recognized in it are grounded in a higher law to which all human laws are answerable. This higher law can be understood to derive from reason-the truths of the Declaration are held to be "self-evident"-but also revelation. There are four references to God in the document: to "the laws of nature and nature's God"; to all men being "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights"; to "the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions"; and to "the protection of Divine Providence." The first term suggests a deity that is knowable by human reason, but the others-God as creator, as judge, and as providence-are more biblical, and add a theological context to the document. "And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift of God?" Jefferson asked in his Notes on the State of Virginia.”

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Have a Wonderful 4th of July


Our Lady of America

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Crucifixion, Mass Attendance & the Church

Of the people who were an intimate past of the ministry of Christ in the world, including the 12 apostles, Holy Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Mary of Clopas, 1 betrayed him, and 10 ran away.

Only John and the three Marys stayed with him, four of fifteen, strong to the end.

Sunday mass attendance ranges around 22-23%.

The rock of the faith is endurance, and it endures still, through all of the great horrors of the present day crisis, the mass is our rock.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Oil Spill & Catholic Social Teaching

While the relationship may at first be as clear as the water in the Gulf, the daily reality reveals the truth of one powerful teaching—that of subsidiarity—as this article from Inside Catholic reveals.

An excerpt.

“There are lessons of wisdom to be found in every folly, however painful the extraction. The ongoing, almost comic bungling efforts and non-efforts of the federal government dealing with the oil spill in the gulf is no exception. The most important political lesson is both conservative and Catholic.

“The conservative lesson? When dealing with a local problem, a strong national government will invariably act for its own self-preservation, push its own national agenda, and entangle the hapless locals in its own morass of bureaucratic confusion. Insofar as possible, let the local folk do it. They're the best judges of their own particular situation.

“For conservatives, this is the wisdom of the Anti-Federalists, those forgotten founders of America who best understood the dangers of increasing federal power at the expense of state and local government. The Anti-Federalists were the stubborn conservative folk who allowed for ratification of the Constitution only if there were a strong Bill of Rights to protect state and local life against encroachments of the federal government.

“For Catholics, the oil spill illustrates the wisdom of the principle of subsidiarity -- a much-neglected jewel of the Church's political prudence that, especially in these dark times, needs to be taken from her treasury and displayed prominently. Here it is, taken straight from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which "a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good." (1883)

“The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies. (1885)


“The conservative principle dovetails well with the Catholic principle. The Anti-Federalists warned of the danger of a burgeoning federal government to state and local community. The principle of subsidiarity focuses on protecting the proper and natural functions of local communities from baneful control and manipulation by more comprehensive -- especially collectivist -- power. Both hold that human social, political, and economic life are best and most solidly built from the local ground up, and that national governments should supplement and support local efforts, rather than supplant them. Both assume that families are the fundamental moral, social, and economic unit, and that individuals in families -- both as a right and duty -- must be free to exercise their own moral, social, and economic responsibilities as they judge best, according to their own particular circumstances and needs. And finally, both realize that, given the reality of sin and the limitations of mere human nature, centralized political power will be far more likely to serve its own agenda at the expense of the actual needs of local communities.

“To better understand the wisdom of the Anti-Federalists and the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, we need only recall some of the details of the ongoing folly of the federal government in the Gulf of Mexico. The underwater oil rig blew on April 20, 2010. British Petroleum rushed in to assure that its stock price received as little damage as possible and that containment and cleanup costs would be kept to a minimum. The Obama administration gathered together immediately, and just as promptly did nothing, leaving it to BP to fix things despite the pleas of Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal for help.

“Happily, all help offered from various quarters around the globe (most conspicuously by the Dutch) was judiciously rebuffed by the federal government. On what grounds, it has never been made clear, although the Obama administration later solemnly invoked a dusty treaty and complained that Dutch efforts wouldn't meet our environmental codes, spilling too much oil back into the water. (So, it's apparently better to simply let 100 percent of the oil spread out than capture, say, 80 percent.)”

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sign of Contradiction

It is a mark of the effective apostolate, and we have posted the final chapter of Pope John Paul II’s wonderful book Sign of Contradiction, in a series of ten sequential posts beginning May 9, 2009.

In a welcome sign from one bishop, the Church continues to create leaders when they are needed, as this article from Catholic World Report notes.

An excerpt.

“In the past, bishops sparked shocked headlines in newspapers by betraying Church teaching. Now a brave few make headlines by upholding it. Consider the case of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has likened him to a member of the hierarchy during the “cruel and debauched days of the Borgias in the Renaissance.”

“That sounds pretty bad. What, exactly, has Olmsted done? Shown corrupt indifference to the protection of children? Profited off the abuse of them? No, it turns out his cruel sin in the eyes of Kristof and company is that he wants to protect children, including the forgotten unborn ones often killed under the worldly logic of false compassion.

“In May, it came out that Bishop Olmsted had upheld canon law after learning, to his alarm, that a nun at a Catholic hospital in the diocese of Phoenix, several months earlier, formally cooperated in the killing of an unborn child from a patient’s difficult pregnancy.

“Olmsted had quietly, conscientiously, and properly followed Church teaching and discipline in the matter (under canon law, Mercy Sister Margaret McBride incurred “automatic excommunication” through her action; he simply informed her of that, and she lost her executive position at the hospital).

“But the media, hungry for stories that pit “progressive” nuns against “reactionary” bishops, publicized it, at which point Olmsted issued a laudably straightforward comment:

“I am gravely concerned by the fact that an abortion was performed several months ago in a Catholic hospital in this diocese. I am further concerned by the hospital’s statement that the termination of a human life was necessary to treat the mother’s underlying medical condition.

“An unborn child is not a disease. While medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother’s life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child. The end does not justify the means.

“Every Catholic institution is obliged to defend human life at all its stages; from conception to natural death. This obligation is also placed upon every Catholic individual. If a Catholic formally cooperates in the procurement of an abortion, they are automatically excommunicated by that action. The Catholic Church will continue to defend life and proclaim the evil of abortion without compromise, and must act to correct even her own members if they fail in this duty….”