Category Archives: Uncategorized

Hope is the Hardest

I often think (and write) about Hope.  “The Little Girl Hope” was inspired by a French poet and a little neighbor of mine. “Hope Without Faith” was an early attempt to figure it out.

St. Paul recognized its place as one of the three theological virtues: “So Faith, Hope, and Love abide, these three.”  He then clarified that “the greatest of these is Love.

This is from the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, his justly famous ode to love.  “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love…”  You know the rest.

He is of course correct.  Faith that does not result in love is nothing, because an unloving faith is a false faith.  Faith is what produces love, and love is faith in action.  Faith is input, love is output.  Hope works the same way.  Hope is another output of faith.

The greatest of these is love.” But the hardest of these is hope. For me, anyway, these days.

Of course, there is no hope without faith. That is why we so eagerly grab for easy false faiths.  But hope built on false faiths is false hope.

Talking to a friend about this recently, he responded that for him, love was the hardest.  But I know him, and he is as loving a person as I have ever met.  And I know he is deeply worried about the future of the world and the church.  He is a model of Christian love, but he struggles with hope.

I too struggle, always tempted by the despair that is one of the worst of sins.  True and solid faith will assure hope and banish despair. But my faith is anything but solid.

The temptation to despair is fed by every horrible, sad, tragic, foolish, and cruel event I see around me, every headline, every politically correct act of insane self-destruction.  The whirlwind that drives the collapse of everything that is good in our imperfect western civilization is enough to test even the strongest of faith.

Perhaps it is because I love the world too much.  It has taken me a lifetime to value and appreciate the wonderful beauty of the earth God has given us.  And even more, to love the great, good and brave things that many people have done and accomplished and given to the rest of us.  Our culture and history has so much of value and beauty.  But will it survive the current collapse of our society?

We are assured that God and his mercy endure forever.  But we are also assured that our world will pass away.  And that troubles me.

Perhaps it is because I have a family, including two young grandsons.   It is the grandsons for whom I worry most.

My heart breaks at the thought of the world they are entering.  Will they ever get to read Shakespeare or Dante, or listen to Bach or Vaughan Williams, or pray in a magnificent gothic cathedral?  Will they ever see a statue of a saint or hero (without reading an explanatory plaque detailing his shortcomings)?  Will they ever see a movie about a real-life hero instead of a mythical “superhero”?

God has blessed them with a loving mother; and their father is the kind of man every boy deserves as a role model.  But outside their home they face a society which increasingly sees boys and men as problems to be solved (to put it very mildly).

So I struggle for hope: hope that these two young men-in-the-making will have a chance to take their places in this wonderful, woeful world that God and our fathers and mothers have made for us.

I can only hope.  And pray.

And I’m not even good at that.

When We (George Weigel and I) Consider Thy Heavens

I am glad to see the valuable and insightful Mr. George Weigel calling attention (on the insightful, valuable First Things.com) to the powerful (if inadvertent) ministry of the NASA folks at APOD. If only all our taxpayer dollars were spent this wisely.

Weigel’s post is entitled “The Heavens Declare the Glory of God.” If that sounds familiar, it is from the often-quoted Psalm 19.

As my faithful readers know, I have been following APOD for years.

As I have said, every new image I see paints a wider, deeper, and more wonderful picture of the universe our Lord has created. And the incomprehensible distance grows between this universe and its beginning in an infinitesimally small seed in the palm of God’s hand barely 14 billion years ago.

Every APOD is a proclamation of the greater glory of God. “When I consider Thy Heavens, the work of Thy hands…” (Psalm 8:3)

Here are some of my favorites (most recent first):

Why All the Stars, Ben?

Are We Being Watched?

Who Is Our Neighbor? Andromeda!

The Mighty Mice

A Nameless Beauty

The Needle Galaxy

Another APOD Stunner

10 Galaxies in One Snapshot

When I Consider Thy Heavens: APOD and the Psalms” (my first)

 

 

 

 

God’s Will? Really?

In a recent scriptural reading from First Peter, I was struck by this: “It is better to suffer for doing good, if this should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:17) I wondered, as I often have: is it God’s will that some must suffer from the evil deeds of others?

I have always taken comfort from the inherent realism of Catholic doctrine. Evil exists because we have free will (or free choice), and we sometimes choose to do evil. It is really as simple as that. We cannot blame God for the evil that men choose to do, no matter how they hurt us in the process. This is the fundamentally difficult truth underlying the Holocaust.   Even though God could choose to intervene to prevent evil acts or their consequences, he does not do so because that would rob our freedom of all meaning. If we were free only to do good, then we would not be free, or human. Evil would not exist, and so neither would good.  I know that Christian theology declares that evil is only a negative, the absence of good; but without the possibility of evil, good also has no meaning in strictly human terms.  So for us, evil does indeed exist.

But does God will evil? Does he want person A to do evil deeds that hurt person B? I realize this is a central problem in the Bible. When Jesus prays in the Garden, he sets up an inherent dichotomy: “If it is possible, may this cup of suffering be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” This dual prayer reflects his dual nature, but in its ambiguity it raises the same question: Lord, do you really want me to suffer?

This could also be called the Judas problem. Does God really want Judas to betray His son?

In the Lord’s prayer, we ask (in a somewhat confusing subjunctive phrase) that “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We are asking that God help us to conform our will to his, so that we may want (and do) what he wants us to do. But what if He wants me to hurt another?  Is that possible?

This also drags me unwillingly into a confusion I have over the expression “God’s permissive will.” It was offered as a quick walk-back explanation for Pope Francis’ incomprehensible announcement that the existence of many religions in addition to the true Catholic Church must be God’s will. Early in 2019, in a joint statement with an Islamic leader, he stated “Plurality and diversity of religions…are an expression of the wise and divine will by which he created human beings.” Can heresy be God’s will, I ask? Religions espousing hate and encouraging murder are God’s will?

Relax, we are told, it only means God’s permissive will: not what He wants, but what He allows. Which presumably includes the Holocaust, communism, Rwandan genocide, and every other waking nightmare in human history? Thanks for the explanation, but…

It doesn’t help.  I’m still confused.

Can someone help me out with this?

Per Capita Reality and the “COVID” Plague

My friend Mister Hans Moleman has just posted an interesting perspective on the current plague, informed by some statistics showing that this crisis has less to do with US politics than we sometimes think. And on a per capita basis, the US is better off than some other advanced countries.  He writes:

[I wrote the following message to a good friend of mine, who is so depressed about the current crisis, and so obsessed with our president, that he says he will emigrate to some other country as soon as a vaccine is developed.]

I am glad to hear you will not be emigrating any time soon.  I hope you reconsider when this present crisis passes (as it will).

It is all too easy to see this as a failure of our political system, especially if one particularly dislikes our present leader.  The “Orange Man” is certainly dislikable; but that doesn’t lay this at his door.  To the extent that this is a political crisis, it is a widespread one, being felt throughout the western world (and perhaps far beyond.)

My wife has found us a good source of reliable statistics on the Covid-19/Coronavirus mess, at Worldometers.info.  It is revealing.  For instance:

Inadequate as our testing seems to have been, the US has done more testing than Sweden, France, the UK, or the Netherlands (per capita). Yet we have had way fewer deaths than those countries (per capita). And we have had fewer deaths than Italy, Spain, Belgium or Switzerland, even though those countries have done a lot more testing than we have.

Asia (except China, and who can trust their reports?), Africa and South America seem to have escaped the worst of it, for reasons that are unclear and probably varied; but some of them may simply be late starters.

As for the US, we must consider that right now we have a very lopsided epidemic: New York on one hand, the rest of the country on the other.  NY state is 6% of the US population but 45% of Covid deaths.

And Iceland, the nation that has done the most testing (12% of their population), has had more cases and more deaths than Montana. IC is one third the population of MT, but has 4 times the cases and almost 3 times the death rate.

So, whatever is driving the dimensions of this crisis, it doesn’t seem to be politics. And the solution will not be political either.  It will probably be scientific (treatment and vaccines) and behavioral (social distancing and hygiene, like learning to wash hands and cough/sneeze carefully). Mundane stuff.

And on the non-mundane level, I also think prayer will help.

Meanwhile, our task is not only staying healthy but also staying sane.  In that regard I recommend avoiding people that infuriate you, especially on TV (you know who I mean).  And keeping a sense of perspective.

I look forward to seeing you guys once the all-clear is sounded.

I Was Glad When They Said Unto Me…

[My friend Dan Wing has asked my thoughts on this strange Easter. Here they are.]

Dan, I have often shared with you my love for our Cathedral and how I miss it during the long winter months I spend in Florida. The parish I attend there is a sad affair, a church that feels old and tired. Literally old, as the congregation is almost 100% retired and 65+. And figuratively tired, as there seems to be no awareness of any of the challenges the church is now facing.

In Montana, I feel old; but in Florida, the world feels old. I prefer the Montana feeling. And throughout the Florida winter, I dream of attending mass in the magnificent Cathedral of St. Helena when spring arrives.

At my conversion, you helped me find my place in God’s world.  At the time I especially felt the truth in Psalm 122: “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.” You and Cherie were two of the ones who most persistently said it unto me.

And I remember that joy I felt, and still feel, whenever I have the chance to enter our Cathedral.

Yet now I have been back in Montana for a month, and still have not been to a single mass here. I am of course grateful for the opportunity to be of help to my family in this time of crisis. And my heart leaps with joy whenever I see our beautiful Cathedral on the hill as I drive through town. But still…

I know you and so many others feel the same sense of loss that I do.   In my case I wonder if this sense of loss could be a part of the purgatory my sinful heart needs.

The emptiness that has often hit me this month has sometimes seemed like an extended Holy Saturday, a day with a conspicuous absence in its heart. Now, He is Risen!

But the challenge continues. How to keep the holiness of God in my heart without the help of the sacraments ad our priests?  Very hard, indeed. The Magnificat helps with regular devotions. And my daily diet of “Thank You, Lord” prayers finds no shortage of occasions.

But still I long for the day when I again hear “Let us come into the house of the Lord” for mass. And I think it may be a foretaste of the day I can walk joyfully into God’s full and complete presence. God willing.

Yours in Christ

Moleman, Chesler, Zweig on Dying Cities

I see that my friend Mister Hans Moleman has written an interesting reference to Buchmendel, a great short story by Stefan Zweig.  He being one of the greatest writers of all time (Zweig, not Moleman), I was intrigued by his (Moleman’s, not Zweig”s)  linkage with some reflections on the decay of cities (specifically “Old Manhattan”) by Dr. Phyllis Chesler.

My favorite of Zweig’s writing is his novel Beware of Pity.  “Buchmendel” is a great story.  Phyllis Chesler is a brilliant commentator.

And Moleman is pretty good, too. If you like his kind of stuff.

Vatican Betrays Chinese Catholics. Again.

Sad but not entirely unexpected news:  The Pope has once again betrayed the suffering Catholics of Communist China.  Heroic Cardinal Zen has written an open letter to all his brothers in the Catholic hierarchy, denouncing the new Concordat that sold out the church’s true believers and subjected them to total control buy the Chinese Communist Party.

The letter has been published openly on the Catholic website OnePeterFive.com,  an invaluable resource for the church’s current crisis. (It was one of the first to publish Archbishop Vigano’s challenges to the Vatican’s longtime embrace of former Cardinal McCarrick.) Here is the publisher’s introduction of…

“…a letter that Cardinal Joseph Zen sent some time ago to all the cardinals, and that he has now decided to make public. Needless to say, the latest news coming from mainland China only confirms and augments the concerns expressed for some time by many people about the interim agreement signed by representatives of the Holy See and the government of Beijing.”

Cardinal Zen asks “can we passively witness this killing of the Church in China on the part of those who should be protecting and defending it from its enemies?”  A good question.  As directed to the present papal incumbent, the answer appears to be “Yes”.

I started by saying “the Pope has once again betrayed…”  I was thinking also of the earlier betrayal when one of his “social justice” people startled the world (and the Chinese Catholics who know better) with the declaration that “Right now, those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese.” The remark came from Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, two years ago.  The pope never disagreed, just as he has never responded to Archbishop Vigano’s j’accuse  August 2018, or to Cardinal Zen’s letter, presented to the Pope in July.

Yet another gratuitous slap in the face for those Catholics suffering persecution in China, and an embarrassment to the rest of us.

Read the full letter here.

Then say a prayer for Cardinal Zen and his flock.  And pray that more bishops will find their voices.

Squirrels?

“And now, for something completely different…”

That opening line from the old Monty Python show applies here.  My friend Mr. Moleman has posted a story by a new author, “Mr. X” (probably Moleman himself).  It is a charming tale about young love, revolutionary politics, teenage rebellion, and squirrels.  Yes, squirrels.

I read it and found it both delightful and thought-provoking; but mostly just delightful.  It is suitable for all ages. I think you will enjoy it too.

As I write this sitting in my study, I am looking out at two squirrels in my yard.  They are fascinating creatures, indeed; if they ever evolve the opposable thumb (as the story says they are trying to do), we are all doomed.

Anyway, HERE is the link to the complete story.  Or go to mistermoleman.com and check out all his stuff..

God is not Serendipitous

I have re-discovered yet another glaringly-obvious truism: There is no serendipity with God. If you do not seek him, you will not find him.  “Seek and you shall find,” it says repeatedly in the Bible; but never the reverse.

Serendipity is defined as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for”.

And it seems to me that we cannot find God, nor even seek him, without a sense of sin. (More specifically, a sense of our own sinfulness. Everyone believes in the sinfulness of others, or at least certain others.)

If we cannot or choose not to see ourselves as sinners, then we will not find God because we will not see any reason to look for him.

This truth, I believe, is the real reason for the collapse of Christianity in the modern western world. Our sense of sinfulness has been washed away by our sense of victimhood and our belief in therapy as a substitute for morality.*

The victimhood cult became a thing when we re-codified the concept of justice. The Greek philosophical and Judeo-Christian sense of justice meant acting justly toward others.

The modern cults of identity politics and self esteem have redefined justice (actually reoriented it 180 degrees) from “treating others fairly” into “treating me fairly: ensuring that I and my group get what we deserve.” This melds the comfortable enjoyment of moral indignation and freedom from personal responsibility for, well, anything. Continue reading

Are We Being Watched?

Well of course we are.  Cornea, iris, pupil…

This amazing galaxy appears to be watching us.  Courtesy of NASA, this view of “Hoag’s Object” raises more questions than it answers.  The main star cluster in the center is surrounded by a doughnut-shaped ring of stars, with empty space in between!  You can actually see more distant stars and another ring-shaped galaxy through the doughnut hole. Also lots of other, farther-away galaxies are scattered around the picture.

And yet…  All this was once so compact and tiny that it would fit in YOUR hand.

See NASA and Psalm 19 for more information.

 

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.