Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Why Catholics shouldn't vote for Obama

The Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics, put out by Catholics Answers, discusses issues Faithful Catholics should weigh when deciding for whom to vote. The guide identifies five non-negotiables - there is no wiggle room on these issues.

They are:

Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Homosexual "Marriage"
Human Cloning

There may be situations in which the available candidates all fall short on one or more of these issues, in which case the Catholic voter needs to decide among them based on the issues, strength of the candidate's beliefs, other issues, and so on. In other words, the voter has to weigh and think and research.

But President Obama has failed on three of the five non-negotiables - that we know of - and his views on abortion are strong and extreme.

The only way a good Catholic could vote for him is if the viable alternatives held similar views to the President's. Given the alternatives this time around, even though the other major candidate has flaws, it is clear that thinking Catholics have alternatives and can't in good conscience vote for Obama.

Pax et bonum

Monday, July 30, 2012


My father-in-law Frank is apparently in his final hours. How many hours there are is unclear.

On Saturday he had another heart attack while in the hospital - his second that we know of in the last week. The doctor said his heart is damaged, and that at his age (83) and condition - two strokes, multiple heart attacks, his lungs congested, failing kidneys - surgery is not possible. Frank made it clear that he does not want extraordinary means any more. He just wants comfort care, and to let nature take its course.

He's been in and out of consciousness since. Sometimes he is agitated and talking about people or places from long ago as if they were standing there or he was back there. But he will sometimes also respond to questions. This morning, he actually woke up long enough to talk to my wife and by phone to my brother-in-law, and ate some breakfast. Then he fell back asleep.

His heart could give out in an hour. It could give out in a week. It could give out in months. That's in God's hands.

My wife's family has been keeping vigil. Every day. All day.

That's not my thing. I've been over to the hospital a couple of times, more for the sake of my wife and her family, though I have talked to Frank: I've heard stories that even in comas people can hear and understand what's being said. I keep him up to date on his favorite sports teams and the Olympics.

But then I go home to do things: Clean, lesson prep, walk the dog, etc.

Life has to go on.

If I were in that bed, I'd prefer to be alone - or with just maybe one person. I like quiet.

We'll see when my time comes.

As for now, the focus is on Frank. And whether we are there or here, we are all doing the same thing: Waiting.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mary-less Bathtub

in neighbor's front yard
bathtub without a Mary
new demographics

(For those not familiar with the idea of a "Bathtub Mary," in the Northeast - at least - where there were a lot of Catholic immigrants, many people created impromptu shrines by half burying upright bathtubs, then placing a statue of Mary - or some other saint - in it. When I walk around my changing neighborhood I still see some bathtubs sticking up - but no longer containing a statue.)

Pax et bonum

Friday, July 27, 2012

PATTI SMITH - Constantine's Dream (inspired by St. Francis!)

One of the quirks of my musical tastes is that I like punk. Not all, but I do own albums by The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Patti Smith, and more. I listen to others, including The Thirsting (a current Catholic punk band).

I used to jokingly perform folk-punk songs.

A Franciscan with punk inclinations? Forgive me John Michael Talbot.

Yesterday while at a music store I bought a copy of Smith's new album, Banga, having heard positive buzz about it. I didn't get a chance to listen to it.

For fans of John Michael Talbot and Gregorian chant, Smith, a poet/singer/musician is often called the Godmother of punk. Her biggest hit was her version of Bruce Springsteen's "Because the Night." She also  covers songs by and tours with Neil Young.

The Boss and Young. Two other reasons why I like her.

Then today I wandered over to From St. Anthony's Walnut Tree and found he'd posted about an article discussing  Smith and the song on the album called "Constantine's Dream" that was inspired by St. Francis!

I'm playing the album now.

Here's the article.


I bet even JMT would give her a listen.

Pax et bonum

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Proclaim to the nations - a demo recording

Yes, that's me in a greenish suit 30 years ago!

Catholic values are not Chicago values - Rahm Emanuel

“Catholic values are not Chicago values.” – Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Okay, that’s not what he really said. But it is in effect what he said.

The actual quote is, “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values.”

What prompted the remark were comments by the president of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, in an interview in which he said, in response to question, that he supports traditional marriage. He has made it clear in separate statements that he opposes homosexual marriage.

Immediately the hyperbolic knee-jerkers accused him of being homophobic, hating homosexuals, etc. Never mind that he was talking about just marriage. He did not condemn homosexuals. He did not call them monsters, or heterophobic, or haters. He did not call for them to be locked up, or executed, or driven out of town. He did not call for them to be denied the right to buy a home, or a car, or fast food. And his company does not refuse to serve homosexual customers. Indeed, it may have some homosexual employees.

But he dared to disagree with them on this particular issue.

And that led to Emanuel and others to stick their political feet into the furor, and to threaten to block the opening of Chick-fil-A restaurants in Chicago and Boston.

Now, Mr. Cathy’s stand on marriage also happens to be the Catholic Church’s stand. In saying that Cathy’s values are not Chicago values, Emanuel is in effect saying that the Church’s values are not Chicago values.

Given the values for which Chicago has a reputation, I’d be more worried if the Church did begin to share Chicago values.

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

'Santa' Lookalike Told to 'Appear Less Santa-ish' by Disney World

To be honest, I've never had a desire to go to Disney World. This just adds to my reasons!

Some of the news accounts say he was just asked to change or leave. But there's apparently some dispute about exactly what was said.

Call me cynical, but I can't help but suspect that the fact that he might cut into their profits might be at the root of this.

'Santa' Lookalike Told to 'Appear Less Santa-ish' by Disney World

Pax et bonum

Converting (no, not a faith issue!)

I have a lot of old cassettes. A lot. They fill a large drawer.

Beatles. Dylan. John Michael Talbot. The Traveling Wilburys, Neil Young, Pete Seeger, The Kinks, The Urban Squirrels.

And more.

I pretty much only play cds now, especially in my car. I don't want to rebuy all of those albums - and some are now out of print. So how to convert them?

Apparently there are machines you can buy - at a couple of hundred dollars. There's also the possibility of just using a digital audio recorder, playing the tapes on a tape player and recording them, then loading them from the digital recorder onto my computer to burn cds.

Not the best thing for a technical oaf like me. And I'm not sure the sound quality would be the best.

I went to a music store and they sold me a device that supposedly I can hook into my cassette player and my computer to load from one to the other. I brought it home. I can't figure out where to plug it in to the cassette player.

See technical oaf comment above.

I may take my payer and the device back to the store as say, "Okay, how can I make this work?" If they can't help me, I'll go back to the digital audio recorder route.

I'm getting older and my hearing is getting worse anyway!

Pax et bonum

Leslie Lee & Steve Gretz - Immigrants


Pax et bonum

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Fall Makes Us Shallow

As I was walking the dog, I got to thinking:

In our fallen state, we don't generally become obviously evil. Most of us just live shallow lives, choosing to do what's easiest, what requires the least amount of thought or self-sacrifice, and what provides the most immediate gratification. 

Think of all the ways we fail to live lives worthy of Christians. We turn to sex, drugs, skipping church, not praying, being glued to television or movies or games, and so on. We choose what feels good at the moment, or that which is the least challenging.

It is only when we are touched by the spirit - because we've hit bottom, because we realize we have no direction, or because we are inspired by some idea or heroic person - that we seek to grow spiritually. 

The dog, of course, was unaware of all this.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Pill and clergy sex abuse

At another site, I got caught up in a discussion of the the Church's response to the HHS mandate. But, unfortunately, as often happens in Church-related discussions, the focus shifted to the birth control pill (and one side saying the Church is wrong), and then bringing up the clergy sex abuse scandal as an argument. Basically, the other side's point ended up that the Church should focus less on coming down on people for  birth control and the Pill and focus more on weeding out abusing priests. 

Never mind that the Church has been weeding them out, and that the majority of cases surfacing now involved abuse that took place decades ago involving priests who are often dead or have already been removed form ministry and are no longer allowed to function as priests.

I stuck to the original topic pretty much until we got to that Pill/abuse argument. Then I threw a curve ball.

I said the Pill was partly responsible for the sex abuse problem.

My reasoning?

A number of studies over the years have shown that the growing availability of the Pill has radically altered our society when it comes to moral and sexual rules, and many negative social effects - as, by the way, Pope Paul warned in Humanae Vitae.

The Pill helped to separate sex and procreation both physically and mentally. It also separated it from marriage. That led to a sexual revolution where sex was more about pleasure and self gratification than about relationships, commitment, and family.

We saw the effects of that in the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties.

Divorce rates increased. Cohabitation rates increased. STD rates increased. Homosexual activity increased (sex is all about pleasure and self-gratification, after all, so any way to achieve those became increasingly accepted). The objectification of women increased. Out-of-wedlock births increased, and abortion rates increased, because birth control and the Pill don't always work.

Our culture became more sexualized. Being sexually active became the norm, and choosing not to be active became abnormal.

The Church, with it's celibate priests and religious came under increasing pressure and ridicule.

We witnessed a mass exodus of priests and religious. Many got married, or joined in on the sexual secular culture.

But within the Church there were also a number of homosexual priests and priests who had never resolved their sexuality. When society's sexual rules broke down, when everyone was "doing it," when celibacy came under attack, some of those individuals began to abuse young men.

Notice that the time when most of the abuse took place coincided with the time of the sexual revolution?

And what helped to lead to this distortion of sexuality? The Pill.

So, I contend, the Pill is one of the things that helped to lead to clergy sex abuse.

And Pope Paul was right.

And those people who argue for loosening the birth control rules in the Church don't realized that birth control and the Pill are a greater threat to the Church than the abuse crises ever was.

Pax et bonum

Concerts I've attended

I had a recent conversations with a friend about concerts. We began listing concerts we'd attended over the years. Not being a big concert-goer (not a crowd person), my list was soon dwarfed.

Off the top of my head, here's a list of concerts I've attended (I'm sure there are more):

Alice Cooper
The Dady Brothers (multiple times)
John Michael Talbot
Crosby, Stills, and Nash (walked out they were so bad)
Jesse Colin Young
The Allman Brothers
The Band
The Grateful Dead (fell asleep)
The Urban Squirrels (what could have been, Rob!)
The Buddhahood
John Denver
Roy Hurd (a couple of times)
Tom Paxton
Christine Lavin
Tom Chapin
Jerry Garcia (walked out because of the audience’s behavior)
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (Best concert I ever attended)
Arlo Guthrie (a couple of times)
Pete Seeger
Bob Dylan (a couple of times, including with the Rolling Thunder Review)
Alison Kraus and Union Station
Charlie King (a couple of times)
Ralph Stanley
Down from the Mountain Tour
Allen Hopkins
Tommy Sands
Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band
Vince Gill
Shared Genes
Wild Geese

Pax et bonum

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sin hurts

Way back when I was in high school (WAY back), I remember a moral discussion in a senior theology class.

One of my classmates argued, with a smirk, that, "You're not guilty unless your caught." The sister teaching the class could not counter his arguments. (She later left the congregation.)

I don't know if that fellow ended up in jail or running for office, but his view was and is a common one.

When we are not morally mature, we tend to use the same method used by children in making moral decisions. Something is wrong not because it is wrong, but because if I'm caught I might be punished. That punishment might be physical - a punch in the nose, getting arrested, etc. - or social - people will look at me funny, not trust me, avoid me, and so on.

A higher level of thinking is that the thing is wrong because it IS wrong. One simply does not do something that is wrong. Doing the right thing is important because it is important for the moral or social order.

But while I was sitting at Mass this morning saying an act of contrition, I was struck by a line about being sorry for all the wrong things I've done because they hurt God. My actions, my thoughts, my inaction all potentially cause the Lord pain.

I thought of my wife. There are days that I am mad, in a bad mood, whatever, and she suffers because of my words, action, or inaction. I often stop whatever I am doing because I realize I love her, but I am hurting her.

Then I thought of Jesus on the cross. He is outside of time, which means that His suffering because of my sins did not just happen 2,000 years ago: It is still happening, and will continue to happen, and my deeds now and in the future add to the burden He is bearing. I love Him, but I am hurting him.

That's wrong.

Forgive me, Lord. I am sorry for the pain my sins cause you.  

Pax et bonum

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Riding my bicycle

One of my resolutions this summer was to lose a bit of weight - and to do that I want not only to walk more (with my dog), but also to ride my bicycle.

I didn't ride at all last year. The bike, which has been sitting in the garage for two years, was dust covered and had two flat tires. So today I cleaned it off, put it in the trunk, took it to the gas station, and inflated the tires.

So far, still inflated.

Tonight, I took my first ride around the neighborhood. A couple of miles. I imagine my legs - and bottom - will be a bit sore tomorrow, but I do have to get back in shape. By next week, who knows how far I'll be able to cruise.

Maybe to the North Pole!

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lake Placid

We went up to Lake Placid for a few days.

Relaxing, Reading. Eating (too much!).

Appreciating God's grandeur.


Pax et bonum

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Padre Pio

Today, the Good Looking One, laid up with a sore back, watched one of her Padre Pio movies.

I was in and out of the living room, but I also watched part of it.

It hit me how many times the movie depicts him as praying. What I know of his life is that he did indeed spent hours in prayer. So did Pope John Paul II, and St. Francis, and so many other saints.

And then I thought of how much time I waste playing games on the computer, or in arguing with people on sites like Facebook. There's nothing wrong with games (at least the kinds of games I play!), or with defending the faith or the unborn, but I spend too much time on such games and, to be honest, arguing in less than charitable ways - time that could be spent on prayer or spiritual reading.

To my credit, I did some reading for school, and of a biography of St. Francis. I did get to Mass this morning, and said a rosary while walking the dog. But if I am to truly grow spiritually I need to work on my prayer life.

Pax et bonum

St. Thomas

Today we deal with doubt.

St. Thomas famously doubted that Jesus had come back unless he could see and touch the Lord.

So many of us "believe" - but not really. We need to see. We need to touch. We need to have something concrete before us before we really believe.

And unless we have those concrete things, we tend to go through the motions. We do what needs to be done - as long as it's not too inconvenient. We go along with what's easy or most comfortable or even most pleasurable for us.

I think of the way we vote. Sure, there are all those moral issues, but what we tend to vote on is how it directly affects us. So many of us would vote for an evil person as long as we are are economically comfortable.

I know I have failed many times.

I once quipped, "Faith is believing in something despite the facts." I pray that I would be truly guided by faith in all that I do, and not by what's easy or comfortable or pleasurable.

Pax et bonum

Monday, July 2, 2012

Got the call

I forgot to mention that last week the company that runs the Santa enterprise at the mall called me to find out if I wanted to do it again this season.


But calling in June? Wow.

I guess if you run operations across the country you want to make sure early on there are not going to be problems.

I will be a natural bearded "helper" again this year. Ho! Ho! Ho!

By the way: The Good Looking One and I plan to go up to Lake Placid again this summer, and to stop by Santa's Workshop. If you've never been to the workshop, it's a wonderful old-style amusement park, with rides, animals (including reindeer), shows, and, of course, the Big Guy.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, July 1, 2012

For Greater Glory - wish it was a greater film

We begin July. I was thinking for a while that my Profession anniversary is July 11, but I looked it up and it's July 9. I wonder why the wrong date was in my mind. Wooul I forget my wedding anniversary? Or my wife's birthday? Or my own birthday?

Yesterday we went to see For Greater Glory as part of the local Festival for Freedom. I appreciate the intentions of the film, but as a film, it did not just make it. Too long, not focussed enough. It needed a rewrite - or better editing.

They would have been better with a clearer forcus on one character and showing how the uprising affected that character. Jose would have been a good choice. Even the general would have been acceptable - with more background on him to make us care about him.

I applaud the effort, but as a way to teach religious freedom it will probably fail because not enough people will be willing to sit through it. I went with the Good Looking One, and she spent the last half of the movie fidgetting and looking around the room. They lost her.

I did get a button: Stop the HHS Mandate -  Stand up for Religious Freedom. I proudly wore it to Mass today.

Pax et bonum