Back to the ’50’s: the Irony

Glad everyone had a fun weekend. Time to get serious.

Back to 1973?
Back to 1973?

On Friday, President Obama addressed the assembled solons of Planned Parenthood–which, we are now apparently supposed to believe, counts as a diversified women’s-health organization, similar in many ways to Carillion Hospital or the Missionaries of Charity. Forget that Planned Parenthood was founded in order to foster, was named after, and everyone thinks of as associated with: artificial contraception and abortion.

Anyhoo: the President castigated us* for “trying to bring back the 1950’s.”

So many ironies here that I am not sure my free blogging plan offers me enough gigabytes on the WordPress server for me to address them all. (SIDEBAR: When I finally get around to writing my memoirs, the title will be “The Man They Accused of Trying to Bring Back the 1950’s.”)

Okay:

1. According to the President: reasonable, sober, respectful people recognize that Roe v. Wade settled this whole business a long time ago. Who do we think we are, questioning the Supreme Court of the United States of America? That’s like trying to go back the fifties.

But wait. Wasn’t it in 1963 that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote: a law that contradicts justice is no law at all? Of course, he cited authorities going back to the ’50’s–as in the zero zero fifties: the first Christians.

The incredibly hip Roe v. Wade court (most have since died of old age).
The incredibly hip Roe v. Wade court (most have since died of old age).

2. Now, back in the fifties (whichever fifties we mean), there were no sonograms. And our understanding of DNA was much more rudimentary than it is now. So it might have been possible for a reasonable scientist to try to identify some point in the development of the embryo/fetus/baby as “the moment” when human life began.

In fact, at the time of Roe v. Wade–back before: the internet was invented, cds were invented, or even the Apple II+ was invented; back before many of us were even conceived or born–way back then, some people tried to make the case that we could identify a point in the development of the child when he/she went from “a blob of cells”/”tissue” to “a person.”

But now we know more. We have more advanced techniques. We have deeper knowledge of these matters than anyone had back in the benighted days of the Ford Pinto, when Roe v. Wade was handed down. Today there is no neonatologist on earth who would say: ‘Yes, in my scientific opinion, this is the moment when human life begins (other than at conception).’

obama-prayingIf there were such a moment, things would be a lot more convenient for Planned Parenthood, for the Supreme Court, and for Rachel Maddow & Co. If such a moment existed, it would no doubt be emblazoned on plenty of coffee mugs and t-shirts which you could order from Playboy.com. But no such moment exists.

So, who is stuck in the 50’s–or the 70’s? Mr. President, with all due respect for your advanced age, we don’t want to go back to the scientific ignorance of a generation ago! We want today’s knowledge and insights!

3. My impression is this: “Going back the 1950’s” means: going back to the time when a woman had to be ashamed of getting pregnant because of an act of sexual intercourse that she did not want to make–or could not look forward to as–a permanent aspect of her life. The idea is: Abortion on demand has freed women of this painful shame.

But who really deals in shame? Does the Pro-Life movement deal in shame? We are the ones who say: Look, there is nothing shameful about being pregnant. Being pregnant is good; being pregnant involves a beautiful baby! No problem here. Maybe there is something shameful about the way you got pregnant, but that really is between you and God and your pastor. That really is private. What isn’t private is the verifiable scientific fact that you are nourishing a new life in your womb, and God wills that the child have life and have it in abundance. We love you and we’re on your side. Nothing to be ashamed of, as far as having a baby in your womb goes. Together, let’s give this baby a good start in life!

Whereas Planned Parenthood says, for all intents and purposes: Look here, your pregnancy needs to be expunged from the face of the earth! The fact that you have a baby is a damned shame. What you did is so bad that the only answer is the homicide of this shameful child in your womb. We “love” you so much that we will make it all better for you by killing your child, your own flesh and blood. And if you feel bad about it, that’s only because the people who are trying to take the world back the ’50’s are laying a guilt trip on you. If you feel guilty about killing your baby, you really ought to be ashamed of that, too.

Which path offers the hope of liberation from shame? Seems pretty clear which one does.

Mr. President, you know what: You suck. Why don’t you take your blinders off, come out of the Neanderthal cave of falsehood, oppressive moral rigidity, and violence that Planned Parenthood has built (on the back of an original platform of white supremacy), and try to get a grip on reality? Love, Father Mark White
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* “us” Catholics, Pro-Lifers, decent human beings who can read a sonogram

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Heaven

Anyone spend time meditating on Revelation 21 lately? And why not?

Easter season. Things we believe in. So far we have considered the following:

We believe in one thing, namely ______. God.

Two fundamental mysteries of faith: __________ and _______________. Trinity, Incarnation.

The articles we believe, spelled-out in the __________. Creed (not the band).

We see, hear, smell, taste, touch the external, material elements of the sacraments; we believe they give us invisible ________. Grace.

Ok. The next topic regarding our faith, appropriate for the Easter season: The triune God brought about the Incarnation, accomplished everything summarized in the Creed, and gives us grace in the sacraments, all for one ultimate reason: So that we can get to ______________.

Continue reading “Heaven”

Places in Heaven, Spaces and Punctuation Marks

In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself. (John 14:2-3)

Very consoling passage. But also very interesting.

The oldest manuscripts of Sacred Scripture which we possess do not have any punctuation. They don’t even have any spaces between the words.

So sometimes the punctuation we read in our English-language Bibles involves some interpretation on the part of the person who added the punctuation marks.

mark gospel manuscript fragmentDid the Lord ask a rhetorical question? “Would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?”

Or did He actually make a statement: “If there were no places prepared, I would have told you as much.” Next sentence: “I go to prepare a place for you.”

Depends on which English translation of the Bible you read.

Now, the moral of the story is not that we don’t have places prepared in heaven. On other occasions, the Lord referred to ‘places prepared by my Father.’ And He Himself, the incarnate Son, makes these places ready by: 1) ascending bodily to heaven Himself, 2) praying for us there, 3) pouring out the Holy Spirit so that we can be united with Him by faith as we make our way on earth, and 4) uniting us with Him fully in the end.

So there’s no question about the places, the preparation of them, or the preparation of us for them. The point of fussing about the punctuation of this verse is simply to highlight the fact that it is impossible to receive the Word of God written in Scripture without the help of other people.

All of us are a long way off from being able to understand big sheets of paper covered with Greek letters, with no punctuation or spaces between the words. And even if we knew Koine Greek well enough to read these pages, we would quickly see that a lot of passages can be rendered into English with significantly different meanings—without one way or the other being more “correct.”

This is not to say that the New Testament offers us no clear, unambiguous teaching. To the contrary, the cumulative message of the Scriptures is crystal clear: “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.”

But actually to get this message, each of us individually relies on the help of a lot of other people. The most accurate collective name for all these other people, taken together, is: The Church.

Someone I Know

Mixed up Files Basil E Frankweiler Konigsburgonce wrote a weird little weblog about walking around New York City.*

One of its posts touched on the work of Ms. E.L. Konigsburg, whom we pray will rest in peace.

(She died on Saturday, three days before William Shakespeare’s 449th birthday.)

Of all the people who have ever written books, I think I can say that E.L. Konigsburg wrote the one I have enjoyed the most in my little life.

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* I commend the short-lived blog to you to read in its entirety, if you are bored, or otherwise at a loose end. (Start at the bottom of the page, click ‘Beginning,’ then keep clicking ‘Newer.’)

Trusting Jesus, the gospels, the Church

This weekend in Rome, the newly confirmed young people will make a little pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter, where they will profess together the Creed of the Church.

St. Peter's tomb, under the High Altar of the Basilica
St. Peter’s tomb, under the High Altar of the Basilica
I don’t think the young people of our parishes will be able to go.

But the important thing to focus on is: Closeness to God, closeness to the Church, and closeness to St. Peter all go hand-in-hand. If I want to live as a friend of my Maker, I live as a friend of His Church. If I want to live as a friend of God’s Church, I live as a friend of the Apostolic See of Peter.

No one could affirm this connection more convincingly than St. Mark could affirm it.

Mark started life as a devout believer in the one, true God of Israel. Mark grew up with Peter as a kind of unofficial uncle. In our first reading at today’s Mass for the Feast of St. Mark, we hear Peter refer to Mark as a son.

St. Mark wrote down a gospel. Where did he learn all of its contents? From St. Peter. How do we know that? St. Justin Martyr, St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Jerome, Origen, Tertullian, Eusebius, and practically every other early Christian who wrote anything down–they all testify to the fact that St. Mark wrote down what St. Peter preached.

Donatello St. MarkWe have a task, the New Evangelization. Let’s focus on the crucial dimension of trust.

Centuries of disputes have preceded our generation, disputes about God, reason, Jesus, the Bible, and the Church. To oversimplify, maybe we could summarize the disputes like this: Protestants have maintained that we can absolutely trust the Bible more than we trust our own minds, and we must absolutely distrust the Pope and the Church. On the other hand, Rationalists have argued that Jesus was a great guy, and there may be a God somewhere, but you can’t trust the Bible or the Church; you can only trust “rational” scientists and historians.

But after all these centuries of argument, the following is actually clearer than ever, to anyone who thoroughly investigates these matters: 1) Faith in God, the loving Father, and faith in Jesus are inseparable. 2) Jesus, the Apostles, St. Peter, and the four canonical gospels are inseparable. 3) The Old Testament, the New Testament, the Pope, and the Church are inseparable.

We do not really have a choice between the one, universal God of love and the God of Jesus, or between Jesus and the Apostles, or between the Bible and the Church, or between reasonableness and religion.

The only real choice we have is between having a life that makes sense, because Jesus makes sense of it for me through His Church, which bears His true, trustworthy Word–or having a life that doesn’t make sense at all.

O holy patron, my father, my lord, St. Mark–friend and son and disciple of St. Peter, who was friend and son and disciple of Christ: Pray for us, that we might trust God, His Son, His Word, and His Church, and trusting, help others to trust, too!

Sites Near I-95

The_Peacemakers_1868

“They come from another age. The Age of Virginia.” (The Killer Angels)

Can a guy have fun tramping around the nooks and crannies of greater Richmond in search of Civil-War sites with epic historic significance? Listening to Coldplay on the way to the Cold Harbor National Historic Battlefield Park?

Yes.

Continue reading “Sites Near I-95”

Seven Invisible Visibles

Nate Archibald

Good Shepherd Sunday, and we find ourselves in the season of “special sacraments.”

Our new Catholics received sacraments of initiation three weeks ago. Our vigorous youth have recently been confirmed with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, strengthened with the anointing of Christ Himself. Soon our little ones will receive the Body and Blood of the Lord in Holy Communion for the first time. Then, in the cathedral in Richmond, and in cathedrals all over the world, young men will be ordained. And some of us will have some weddings and baby baptisms to celebrate soon, too.

We hear the Lord Jesus clearly say to us today, “I am your Shepherd.” We know that He uses many means to shepherd us to heaven, but the sacraments above all. So let’s pause and meditate for a moment on the sacraments.

How many sacraments has the Lord given to His Church? Seven. Seven. Good number. Like the seven days of the week, the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven golden lampstands in the heavenly tabernacle—not to mention the jersey number worn by Mickey Mantle, Barry Bonds, Pete Maravich, John Elway, David Beckham, Nate Archibald, Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick, and Joe Theismann.

Continue reading “Seven Invisible Visibles”

Benedict, Paul, Real Conversion

Caravaggio Conversion on the Way to Damascus Paul

Anybody remember what happened eight years ago today? Benedict XVI was elected the 264th successor of St. Peter.

During the Pauline Year in 2008, the Pope Emeritus spoke about St. Paul’s conversion (which we read about at today’s Holy Mass). Benedict said that what happened to St. Paul teaches us what makes a conversion a conversion—a real, genuine, true conversion–away from nothingness and to God.

Happy 8th Anniversary, Papa Emérito!
Happy 8th Anniversary, Papa Emérito!
Basically, the long and the short of it is:

A real conversion involves interacting with the actual living God-man Himself, Jesus Christ.

Saul did not ‘change his mind,’ or ‘embrace a new religion,’ or ‘undergo a paradigm shift.’ Rather, he was on the receiving end of some actions that Christ did.

The Lord Jesus, then, is in charge of genuine conversions. These conversions can take a while—maybe all our years on earth, plus some Purgatory time, too. Who knows? Christ is in charge of how long they take. He is completely in charge.

Maybe that’s the $10,000 question, then—the question I can ask myself, and thereby know if I am undergoing a real conversion, a conversion from bad to good, from death to life, from sin to God.

Am I undergoing a real conversion? Well, is Jesus Christ in charge? Is He in charge? If I can say, Yes, He is! then I guess I am undergoing a real conversion.

If I ask, “in charge of what?” then my answer is really No. Because Jesus Christ is in charge of everything.

Bigger than Death

lio grave

Your ancestors ate manna in the desert, but they died. (John 6:49)

Seems a little rough to have so many explosions in the news in one week. We pray; we pray.

Better to pray and read the Word of God than to watch too much t.v. or spend too much time on the internet. Better to set a specific amount of time per day for “keeping up with the news,” and stick faithfully to that allotted amount of time as a maximum.

I mean, not to be morbid, but…

We pray. Of course, we pray for the repose of all the souls of the dead. For healing for all the sick and wounded in this world. For consolation for all the grieving and broken-hearted…

speed bump reaperThe fact is, though: the world is literally full of dead people. In every city or town there are numerous fields full of people’s moldering bones.

Why fret this week more than any other that, “we live in a violent world?”

Damn straight this world is violent: No one survives. Everyone winds up dead. Life on earth is fatal 100% of the time.

If I don’t die in an explosion, does that mean I am going to live forever?

Um, no. If I don’t die suddenly today, I will still be dead relatively soon anyway.

The Ethiopian asked Philip, regarding the Holy Scriptures:

About whom is this written? (Acts 8:34)

Good question, brother!

Who is the drama of salvation about? Who is the Bible about? Who is the life of Jesus about? Who lives the mysteries of quiet, humble, submissive death and eternal life in glory? Who has been made—not just for a short, frustrating, and fragile life punctuated by sessions on the couch—but for a noble, heroic life that looks the Grim Reaper squarely in the face and says, ‘Bring it on, little boy! I’m a child of God Almighty, and you are nothing but a little gnat in my face!’ Who was made to say this?

We were. Us. The Bible is about us. Christ lived for us. Heaven is for us.

Yes, the devil will have his day. May God have mercy and help us. May God comfort us and give us fortitude.

But, after all: Our ancestors have lived through tumultuous wars with explosions left and right every day. Our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world have to live that way now. Death comes. One way or the other, it comes.

But we are so much bigger than death. May God help us to see just how much bigger than death we really are.