Saturday, April 29, 2017

the smell of pot

the smell of pot
from the new neighbor's backyard
closing the window

Pax et bonum

We are the rich

I was reading an essay in a Catholic Worker newspaper that I receive. The essay was decrying the fact that while there are so many poor, there are so many rich who seem not to be aware of or (or care about) Biblical admonitions to share with the less fortunate the gifts God has given us.

Bad rich people.

Now, I don't disagree with the point that there are indeed some rich people who seem not to be following that call to share. But I think the author seemed to be unaware - or did not care - that there are some rich people who do share. Generously. Who do try to alleviate poverty and injustice. Regularly.

I think of one family I know who are by all measures really wealthy - I remember once going to a meeting at their very large house and joking with them that they lived in the kind of neighborhood where people like me did not feel welcome. ("Jack, there's an old car going down the street driven by a bearded fellow who obviously needs a haircut and a better tailor. Suspicious. Quick, call the police.") This family is incredibly generous, supporting various groups and institutions financially, taking people in difficult situation (including pregnant teens) into their home, volunteering with organizations promoting social justice, writing opinion pieces, even protesting and facing arrest.

So, the author of the piece is a bit broad-brush in his approach. And he seems to be using the word "rich" as an insult, a stereotype, almost like an ethnic or racial slur.

Stinking rich people. You know what they're like.

I also think the author failed to define who the rich really are - other than indirectly through digs at billionaires and, of course, Donald Trump and members of his administration. Oh, and there were some unkind words about business people and hipsters.

All easy targets.

What about mere millionaires? Or what about middle class people in the U.S. - for by the world's standards, we are rich?

Indeed, there are many people in the U.S. who seem unwittingly caught up in a culture of conspicuous consumption that essentially steals from the poor. Just the other day I was talking with some high school students about friends going to the prom. The friends were taking the day off from school to get their hair and nails done, so they can then wear expensive dresses, ride in limousines, go to rented facilities for the after-party, and so on. How many hundreds - even thousands - of dollars were being spent for one dance? How many families around the world live on less per year than one student will spend on that one night?

I'm not putting down proms. They can be fun. Nor am I condemning those students. Many of them are good young people who in other ways are very kind and generous. But they have been pulled into a culture that celebrates consumption and skews their priorities.

How many of us live in houses that are larger, more elaborate than we really need? Homes built in areas that used to be natural habitats but had to be cut down/leveled/drained to accommodate those homes? Take vacations at overpriced theme parks and resorts? Constantly buy new clothes and new cars when what we have is still fine and usable? Have to have the latest smartphones? Spend tens of thousands of dollars on weddings? Buy products made by exploited people?

And what does it cost them to keep up that lifestyle? Working in jobs they don't like to keep the money rolling in. Compromising their beliefs so they can get along or rise higher. Undermining their health due to stress or lack of rest. Working long hours, losing out on time with family. Even delaying or not having a family because, well, they interfere with our lifestyle or our independence or cost too much.

I think that Catholic Worker article would have been more fair and complete if it had pointed out that we are the rich, and we have an obligation to share our wealth and time to help those less fortunate. We need to look at what we buy and where it comes from. We need to look at how we can simplify our lives so we have time for family and others, and help to change that culture of consumption.

Yes, we should criticize those unaware rich people when they ignore the need around them.

But we should also remember that in the eyes of the world - and in the eyes of God - we are the rich.

Pax et bonum

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Friday, April 21, 2017

On reading "The Benedict Option"

The other day, in a wistful mood, I posted the following on Facebook:

I wonder if anyone has thought of creating a Sanctuary City where you can be openly religious, go to church regularly, dress and speak modestly and respectfully, treat others with respect, help others without expecting reward or fame, wait until marriage, avoid self-indulgence and what is impure - and not get mocked by the media as naive or out of touch or puritanical or repressed.

I got some thoughtful responses about how we won't find such a place until we get to heaven, or a reminder that Jesus told up that we would suffer on earth if we followed Him.

One woman suggested I read Rod Dreher's new book, The Benedict Option. Others had mentioned the book before in other contexts, so I picked up a copy and began to read.

What he has said so far resonated with me.

The culture has already been coopted. Trying to change the secular world  - politics, the media, the arts - will just be an exercise in futility at this point. Instead, he posits the model of St. Benedict. Withdraw as much as possible from that world and create "monasteries" where we live out our faith, seek to focus on spiritual matters, develop a local environment where we, others and our children can seek the eternal rather than  be enslaved by the secular.

Such places could be my mythical "Sanctuary City," but for most of us who can't leave where we live or work it means reducing our involvement in the outside secularized world as much as we can. Limit our contact with the culture - media, politics, the arts, activities, and so on. Limit or eliminate television. Don't rely on politicians. Read what is edifying and soul enriching. Simplify. Downsize.

Don't just reject. Set up alternatives. Home school when you can, or create and support real Christian schools. Write and read positive literature. Develop faith-based arts and media. Buy local and from Christians. Raise some of our own food. Repair and make do when it can be done.

Part of me still supports some activism, some speaking out against what is happening in the culture. And do we eventually leave our "monasteries" to go back out or influence the world (as St. Benedict's institutions did)? I have not finished the book, so I don't know yet if he addresses that.

But what I have read so far fits with what's been happening in my life - gradually pulling back from the culture. I am less optimistic about politics and government. I am limiting what I watch and read. My efforts are in creating and supporting institutions that promote faith and life.

I have more to read - and more thinking to do.

But I have always been attracted to monastic life!

Pax et bonum

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Darkness and Light (cinquain)

If all
you focus on
is the darkness, then all
you'll know is darkness. Choose instead
the light.

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The moon (cinquain)

The moon,
hidden tonight,
like all the secrets kept
carefully concealed behind clouds
of words.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Dang, these nuns can rock! Siervas - Confía en Dios

Pax et bonum

Her child (cinquain)

Her child,
conceived in an
unplanned moment, now waits
helplessly, innocently, for
her choice.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunrise (Cinquain)

the dog shrouded
in the predawn darkness,
and then … then … suddenly, Easter

Pax et bonum

Cat Stevens - Morning has broken

Seems right for Easter morning.

Pax et bonum

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday Stations for Life (2017)

It's Friday, but Sunday's coming.
Those were the words of Deacon Ron Tocci, quoting the famous Sermon.
It's Friday, but Sunday's coming.
Deacon Tocci delivered his message at the 2017 Prayer Service before the annual Good Friday Stations of the Cross for Life.
It's Friday, but Sunday's coming.

He got the 125 or so people gathered in the McQuaid Jesuit High School chapel to respond.
It's Friday ...
... but Sunday's coming.

He noted that there are so many challenges to life, because it is Friday ...
... but Sunday's coming.
And then we processed to an office where abortions are performed. Along the way, we prayed the Stations of the Cross for Life, touching on issues like poverty, the death penalty, the treatment of women and senior citizens, war, abortion, and more.

Yes, it's Friday in so many ways ...
... but Sunday's coming.

Pax et bonum

Abortion Foe Sends Priest to Hospital

In Columbus, Ohio, last weekend, a woman who was stealing pro-life signs struck a pro-life priest with her van as she fled, sending him to the emergency room with a hand injury.

Father Joseph Kell spent three hours being treated for injuries after his hand got caught in the grill of the woman's van.

Her license plate was caught on camera, and police are searching for her. She may face a variety of charges, including assault, attempted property theft, and fleeing the scene of an accident.

Father Kell said he prayed for the woman, and will continue his pro-life work.

Read one account of this story here.

Pray for prochoicers that they may have a conversion of their hearts, and that they will be open to forgiveness and healing that they need.

Pax et bonum

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Trump - States don't have to fund Planned Parenthood

It's not the same as actually cutting off government funding of Planned Parenthood, but President Trump has signed a law that allows states to make that choice.

It will likely face lawsuits, but it's a step in the right direction.

Pax et bonum

Michael D. O'Brien's "Theophilos" - A Thumbs Up

I first encountered the writings of Michael D. O'Brien back in the 1990s when I was a reporter/editor for a Catholic newspaper. I was doing an article on contemporary Catholic fiction, and read several books, including his Father Elijah - An Apocalypse. I enjoyed the book, and a subsequent interview with him.

I later read Plague Journal and Sophia House, two other works by him.

I wanted to read more - but his books, while well-written, I found to be uncomfortable because of the issues he deals with (maybe too close to home?), and are not ones that lend themselves to quick reads. Because of work, and the theological reading I do as a Franciscan, I tend to seek shorter and lighter fare for personal reading.

That's on me, not O'Brien, who is a talented writer and artist (he even does the covers for many of his books).

But with my current interest in historically-based fiction I pulled Theophilos off my shelf.

I'm glad I did.

The book is O'Brien's imaginative take on the Theophilos to whom St. Luke addressed his Gospel and the Book of Acts. O'Brien makes him Luke's adopted father, a doctor who reads and studies Greek writers and philosophers extensively. When Luke begins to write about Jesus and becomes part of what Theophilos regards as a new "cult," Theophilos sets off for the Holy Land to meet with Luke and to explore this new religion, interviewing a variety of witnesses - from foes to true believers.

I won't reveal more, but I found the character of Theophilos believable and engaging, and the nature of the early Christian community described in the book is plausible.

I found myself wanting to keep reading instead of just reading a few pages at a time in spare moments.

I did have few quibbles with the last few chapters - they seemed a bit rushed, and Theophilos's struggles, while they made sense, seemed a little strained - but, as I said, those are just quibbles.

I enjoyed the book, and I recommend it. 

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Philippians 2:9 * - (Dada)

Earl Bruce
George Ray Martin
Lenin Hugh Dick Lou
Lee Nancy Emily Bridget Clare
Jean Everett Tom Fidel Ibrahim Mohandas
John Paul Lewis Arnold Mohammad Juan Suleiman
Josef Che Benito Saladin Teresa Francis Vladimir Augustine
Gilbert Ringo Bono Britney Matthew Mark Luke John Maggie
Mollie Pius Michael Adam Osama Abraham Charlemagne Oprah
Isaac Darwin Jacob Joseph Gandhi Mary Kathy Rob Trisha Elthea
Jack Galileo Moses Leonardo Nimrod Buddha Confucius Elvis
Franklin Caitlin Brad Duane Stuart Bree Jeremy
Sheila James PaulKahlil Timothy Margaret
Angelina Kara Stalin Malcolm Felix Ed Mel
Duke Benedict Pius Jane Augustine Monica
Deborah Judas SimonJennifer Zoroaster
Anna Nixon Augustus Sundiata Jefferson Musa
Cleopatra Charles J-Llo Shaka Kublai Beatles Aristotle Jude Bea
Genghis Omar Tojo Nelson Napoleon Jose Herod Jim Hillary Red
Joachim David Solomon Hajim Mao Neville Winston Herman Iris
Madonna Ludwig Hakim Lincoln Eileen Socrates Bernadette Marilyn
Amadeus Job Henry Louis Salome Nebuchadnezzar Teddy Albert
Halle Philip Stephen Jezebel Peter William Hannibal Rudolf Plato
Lawrence Geoffrey Nostradamus Herbert Charlotte Alexander Marie
Homer Catherine Bette Ogden Golda Yehuda
Victor Norma BenjaminElizabeth Hammurabi
Walter Donald Christopher Yoritomo Atilla
Reagan Constantine Nero Dominic Barbara Leo Maimonides John
Jeremiah Basho Sapho Billy Clem Ronald Victoria Washington Eliot
Shakespeare Nehru Barry Ali Indira Helmut Ichiro Robin Nicholas

* (“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every other name ….”)

Pax et bonum

Monday, April 10, 2017

Miracle Attributed to G. K. Chesterton

A Carthage, N.Y., woman has reported the first miracle attributed to G. K. Chesterton.

Rosa Reebeeds says that she was cured of vision loss by praying to the writer and apologist for aid.

"I fell asleep on the couch and when I woke up I could barely see," Reebeeds said. "When I fell asleep I could see fine."

Reebeeds said she called to her husband for help, but he didn't respond. It was at that point that she turned to Chesterton.

"I asked him to heal my eyes so I could see like before," she said.

A few moments later her vision was restored.

"It was like the lights suddenly popped back on," Reebeeds said. "I was blind, and now I see.

"It was a miracle."

Reebeeds' husband, Sam, said the problem was a tripped circuit breaker caused by a short in a lamp. He said he just unplugged the lamp, and reset the circuit.

Rosa Reebeeds said her husband was not a man of deep faith. She also said that he was not a handiman, so it is hard to believe he would know what to do for an electrical problem.

"If he did fix a circuit, that would have been another miracle," Rosa Reebeeds said. "Thank you G. K. Chesterton."

Pax et bonum

to unknow (variations)

to unknow
what I know
April snow shower

to unknow
what I know
dusting of snow

Pax et bonum

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday Church Bombings in Egypt

Tragic bombings in Egypt as Christians gathered for Palm Sunday.

There are varied death tolls at this point - I've seen as many as 43. Could be more.

Here's one early report.

May God be with the victims, the survivors, and their families.

And may the attackers realize what they've done and seek healing and forgiveness.

(LATER - Turns out it was two bombs. The latest death toll is at least 44.)

Pax et bonum

Pepsi Commercial - SNL parody

They've got a point!

Pax et bonum

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Friday, April 7, 2017

Old Time Religion - Seeger parody with an original verse

The late, great Pete Seeger wrote a parody version of the old hymn, "Old Time Religion."

Give me that old time religion
Give me that old time religion
Give me that old time religion
And that's good enough for me

We will pray to Aphrodite
Even tho' she's rather flighty
And they say she wears no nightie
And that's good enough for me

We will pray with those Egyptians
Build pyramids to put our crypts in
Cover subways with inscriptions
And that's good enough for me

O-old Odin we will follow
And in fighting we will wallow
Til we wind up in Valhalla
And that's good enough for me

Let me follow dear old Buddha
For there is nobody cuter
He comes in plaster, wood, or pewter
And that's good enough for me

We will pray with Zarathustra
Pray just like we useta
I'm a Zarathustra booster
And that's good enough for me

We will pray with those old Druids
They drink fermented fluids
Waltzing naked thru the woo-ids
And that's good enough for me

Hare Krishna gets a laugh on
When he sees me dressed in saffron
With my hair that's only half on
And that's good enough for me

I'll arise at early morning
When my Lord gives me the warning
That the solar age is dawning
And that's good enough for me

I sing a number of his verses, but I also added one of my own that's relevant today:

When the Sabbath is upon us
Say we're spiritual not religious
So we can loaf in our pajamas
And that's good enough for me.

Pax et bonum

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Lights on - a darker haiku

late winter night -
lights on but nobody home
in murdered man's house

Pax et bonum

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Beauty and the Beast

This is not a review of the new Beauty and the Beast.

I have not seen the live-action version of the 1991 Disney cartoon classic.

Nor do I plan to any time soon.

Part of my reason is simply that that 1991 version IS a classic. The voice and singing cast was perfect. The cartooning was incredible. The cartoon deserved its Academy Award nomination for best picture.

The fact that the new one is also a Disney film is not a draw. I have not been impressed with Disney fare of late. There's always been a marketing element to Disney productions, but they have just gotten so blatant about it. Frozen, which does have lots to praise, comes to mind.

From some trusted sources I have read some reviews of the film that have left me underwhelmed and fed into my suspicions. To be honest, I'm also not a big fan of Emma Watson's acting post-Potter - and she's the marketing draw. (She was one of the weak links in the Potter films too.) I do like Kevin Kline, and Emma Thompson, but not enough to pay for a ticket for this movie, though.

And there's the whole homosexual element that's crept in. It's apparently not blatant, but still - why?

I don't mind a remake that adds something, or that stands up against the earlier versions - some of the remakes of A Christmas Carol, for example. Or the 2005 Peter Jackson King Kong. But I've seen too many failures - the most recent Ben Hur, to name one.

So I'll pass on Beauty and the Beast at the theater. I'll check it out when it's on DVD - or on television..

I wish Disney would get back to producing something new and creative and not so blatantly a marketing product. But I have doubts they will: Such an effort might not make as much money.

Pax et bonum

Russia Trolls Democratic Party In Epic April Fools' Day Prank!!!

Pax et bonum

Saturday, April 1, 2017

In Praise of "Duck Dynasty"

The television show Duck Dynasty has come to an end.

The Robertson family that it featured and A & E Network decided last year to end the show after 11 seasons.

The series broke A & E records for viewership, though in recent years that viewership had gone done due to some controversies arising from the conservative and very traditional religious values of the Robertsons, and, I think, running out of steam. It's hard to maintain interest and to find original ideas for that long. Plus, some of the cast members got older and were less involved, and the kids who  were featured prominently early on grew up.

But while it was on, it drew a faithful audience because of its emphasis on faith, family, traditional values, and hokey but clean humor the entire family could watch. My wife was a big fan. I was less so, but I did watch with her and enjoyed it.

Yes, it was "manufactured" in some senses. The situations and plots were contrived. The members of the family were in some ways caricatured. Even the long beards that the men featured were part of their act - one wonders if some of the Robertsons will now trim those beards back. Willie Robertson, the CEO of the Duck Commander business the family runs and very much the brains behind the show and all it's marketing ventures (books, clothing lines, memorabilia, even a good Christmas album that topped the charts) is a savvy businessman.

But, despite what some cynics say, the faith of the family members was real. The emphasis on family was real. The Robertsons did reach out to help others - from adopting children to missionary activities to speaking at and promoting various events and causes. When Sadie Robertson, then a teen, competed on Dancing With the Stars, the show had to clean up the costumes and dancing routines in which she participated to conform with the family's ideas about modesty - and she still finished second.

I praise them for all that.

If you haven't seen the show, check out some of the reruns when they start. You might be amused.

Pax et bonum