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“Our Finest Hour” (Or, American Christianity Today)

When I get on the blog-o-sphere these days, I get the unsettling vibe that many of my brothers & sisters in Christ are none too pleased to be a Christian in American these days. Admittedly, this is not the Christian faith’s most popular hour. When a Christian misrepresents a concept, they are lambasted as naive. If they mispronounce a word, they are called ignorant. Any attempt to represent their moral views opens them up to being attacked as judgmental, backwards or even hateful.

Yet, for all this, I can’t help but feel that this is precisely the hour that we are called to silently raise our heads high. It is for this hour that we have been kept on earth. The world writhes in pain even now. We bring the remedy. They may chide & criticize, but we know that Christ’s message of contrition & committed love is the only real answer to life’s deepest longings.

Where the world offers “free sex” and when the unborn are reduced to “unplanned” side-effects, it is our opportunity to remind the world of the dignity of human life.

When the world claims to know the meaning of love, but then is quick to accuse it’s enemies of “hate crimes,” it is Christians who must be peaceful enough to accept the accusation in stride.

When the powers-that-be use healthcare politics to pick on nuns serving the poor, we should have no doubt who David & Goliath are in that situation. And, of course, we stand with David.

Near the end of the movie Apollo 13, the administrators at Mission Control are speculating that, should the astronauts not survive re-entry, it could be “the greatest disaster in the history of manned spaceflight.” Overhearing their comments, the Flight Director Gene Kranz turns to the suits and blurts out “With all due respect, I believe that this will be our finest hour.” I cannot help but share his sentiment. The Church was made for moments like this. Christ has given us the Holy Spirit, promised not to leave us orphans and has assured as that the Enemy will not prevail against us. Why are we so slow to believe Him and so quick to listen to the world?

So, as things get worse before they get better, as it becomes more and more difficult to stand up for what (and Who) we believe in, we must remember that it was for hours like this that Christ has left us on earth. Let us not get our feathers ruffled. Lets not lose heart, our patience or our courage. Should His love be our guide, no matter how many voices rise against us, this indeed will be our finest hour.

Wandering About God

I have long maintained that it is not a high level of intelligence, but a high level of interest, that makes for good scholarship. One indeed needs to be a good thinker, but as Socrates demonstrated in the Theaetetus , anyone can exhibit even the most basic signs of intelligence. As a teacher, I can also testify that none of my students are unintelligent. But many of them are lazy and disinterested. If you want to know which ones, just looks at the names that correspond to the F’s in my gradebook.

Having a sustained and mature interest in a subject is far more valuable than being able to wax eloquent on it. At least, such is my hope, because I know that there are far better speakers & writers than I, yet I do trust that I have been called to a life of scholarship. This weekend, I had a strong moment of affirmation that accentuated this paradox: the fact that I love studying theology but am hardly qualified to articulate. My realization of this irony came as the result of an even more stunning revelation that I will attempt to relate here. Once more, I must ask that you trust to my interest in the matter more than you trust my ability to do justice in communicating it.

I spent this weekend looking into the historical hypotheses surrounding the Exodus story. While many scholars consider it a fruitless venture to attempt to corroborate archeological evidence with the Biblical account, most laymen hardly understand the difficulty entailed. From their use of the word ‘fruitless,’ we might suspect that the uselessness of the search is due to a lack of evidence. In fact, it would be more true to vouch for the opposite stance. There is simply too much evidence buried in the sands of Egypt to use any one article of it to trace the Exodus story. Below I list a few of the general facts that Archeology has yielded:

—It is well attested that a large group of Semitic people were dwelling in northern Egypt in the area of Goshen from the years 1800 BC to 1500 BC. The native Egyptians called them the ‘Hyksos,’ meaning ‘foreign rulers’ (sometimes mistranslated ‘Shepherd Rulers.’) and they left several graves and monuments in Egypt with Hebrew names and writing.

—These people worshiped a single deity that the natives identified as ‘Yahu’ or ‘Yahwe.’ Some scholars say that the 14th century BC Egyptian references to Yahu are the oldest written accounts of Yahweh. For some reason, he later became associated with the Egyptian storm god Seth.

—There was a massive exodus of the Hyksos under Pharaoh Ahmose I of the Upper Kingdom, whose monuments attributed their leaving to a relentless military campaign. According to his account, they were victoriously driven back to the land of Canaan where they became distant Egyptian vassals.

—Later Egyptian sources, however, complained that the Hyksos had caused an upheaval in the social order by usurping the weaker Lower Kingdom of it power. There are literary & poetic sources that associated unwanted upward mobility of resident aliens with the Hyksos Ascendency, attributing to them all sorts of natural and economic disasters.

—Greek historians also made references to the Hyksos, but they seemed to be dubious about whether the Hyksos were forced out by a military campaign or left peacefully. Though many of the Greek accounts are given a millennium later and might have been subject to redaction, the very fact that they mentioned the Hyksos is interesting.

—Finally, there are murals in the city of Pi-Ramesses depicting Hebrew slaves building bricks. Although these slaves are identified as POWs, and are pictured along side Nubian slaves, this art makes it clear that these cities were indeed built under Semitic slave labor, just as the Bible attests.

None of this evidence is conclusive, of course. Nor can we draw any further evidence from it than the fact that some sort of “exodus” or “exiting” of Hebrews took place during the 2nd millennium BC. It is futile to use this kind of scant evidence to ‘prove’ the Biblical account beyond stating that its historical roots can be traced deeply back into the history of Hebrew Yahweh worship. Still, all of this was not nearly as telling as what happened to me on Sunday evening.

Pondering over these facts as I walked to Mass, I found myself thinking over and over again of the wandering history of the Hebrews, who carried their strange Monotheism with them across the globe. Never seeming to have a home, yet promised one by their God, I thought of all the names they gave Him to emphasize His singularity to foreign peoples. Yahweh: I AM. Elohim: The Divine. El Shaddai: God on High (Mountains). Adonai: The LORD. And for some reason I started saying to myself that phrase from Tolkien, “Not all who wander are lost.” And here is where things become difficult to describe, so I will try to relate them just as they happened.

—At Mass, the priest addressed us on the awkwardness of a God who reaches out to us where we are. He said it was odd to think of a Deity chasing after His own people where-ever they went, and then concluded with this words: “Just because Jesus wanders after us doesn’t mean he is lost.” My heart skipped a beat.

—On the way home, I thought of God following after me like some kind of benevolent stalker, seeking to steal my soul unto himself.

—Feeling myself not yet drowsy, I read a series of articles from a journal before going to sleep. None of them were on the subject of Sacred Scripture.

—I did not sleep for hours. My mind went in and out of a dream-like state, yet I was always aware of the noises in my room: the AC and the hum of the hot water heater. Though I could barely keep my eyes open, I never once dropped off.

—The whole time, my mind was filled with these names: El Shaddai, Yahweh, Elohim, Adonai, and behind them all I heard the voice of One like a Son of Man acknowledging Himself in all these names. He said he had allowed Himself to be praised under these titles until the time came when He would show Himself fully. Each name was a stepping stone closer to this ultimate Revelation.

—I feel asleep sometime in the late morning. My dream was about snuggling with a warm, soft pillow. It had nothing to do with God or theology.

None of this evidence is conclusive, of course. Nor can we draw any further evidence from it than the fact that some sort of concurrent thought process took hold of me last night. But perhaps it does means something, after all…

How to Crown Thy Good With Brotherhood?

“Absorbed and deepened in the family, faith becomes a light capable of illumining all our relationships in society. As an experience of the mercy of God the Father, it sets us on the path of brotherhood. Modernity sought to build a universal brotherhood based on equality, yet we gradually came to realize that this brotherhood, lacking a reference to a common Father as its ultimate foundation, cannot endure. We need to return to the true basis of brotherhood.” Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei p. 54

Liberty, equality, brotherhood. That was the formula of the French Revolution. And though these words never appear explicitly in our Constitution or Declaration of Independence, they are an implicit part of American Heritage. On July 4th, the United States celebrated the belief that equality and freedom undergird the fraternity of our
great Republic. On July 5th, Pope Francis published the above text. It is something of a buzz kill to say the least.

I don’t know if the timing was intentional, coincidental or just providential. Perhaps it was a strange amalgam of all three. Nonetheless, it has worked a revolution in my own thought. Is it true to say that equality and liberty, while good, are not good enough? Is it good politics, much less good theology, to suggest that a free and democratic society can still fall short of brotherhood? Forget all those criticisms about atheists looking for God and girls having their feet washed: this is the kind of statement that should launch Pope Francis into the heart of controversy! It is fortunate thing that he hid it away in an encyclical, since, to my knowledge, no member of the media has every actually read one in it’s entirety. Had Francis tweeted the statement “Freedom ≠ brotherhood. #faith,” I’m certain that the press would have had a field day with it.

Yet, I will leave off speculating about the press here. The American press has not enough gall to start a revolution these days, and starting a revolution is precisely what I am interested in doing. Allow me to explain: our country is supposed to derive its greatness from freedom and equality. The Pope says that these principles are not enough. He invokes faith as the fundamental principle. I do not think that he is suggesting that freedom is useless and that we need to return to an theocracy. I do not even think that what he is saying runs counter to the Constitution (though it does possibly overstate what that document merely hinted at). After all, the brotherhood-by-equality ideal is no where mentioned in the explicit legislation of our founding fathers. But freedom of speech and freedom of religion are mentioned, and they are mentioned on the first lines of the Bill of Rights. Freedom of speech ensures faith in others. Freedom of religion ensures faith in God. What Pope Francis is saying, far from raining on our parades and fireworks, is that brotherhood must be founded on something greater than freedom. He was looking to set our sights on things higher than even equality. I believe that the revolution he was attempting to inspire looks more like 32AD than 1776.

The faith of the founding fathers went unspoken in much (though not all) of their explicit legislation. Perhaps it is time to amend that. Perhaps it is time to move beyond the vague social scruples of enlightenment era politicians and codify what they merely hinted at.

Or perhaps not.

I am no lawyer or politician. I admit that I do not know the best way to translate this theology into social change. All I can say is that it must be translated into social change soon or any semeblence of “brotherhood” that exists in this nation will begin to be torn at the seams. For too long, our country has justified acts of violence, racism and injustice by reserving too much power to the “local and individual liberty.” Freedom is good, but an absolute freedom that aborts children and lynches minorities in the name of “personal freedoms” has been the stigma of our nation’s history.

I, for one, believe that it is time to move away from an interpretation of the Constitution focused purely on freedom and equality. There must be explicit acknowledgement of the Creator on which are founded these unalienable rights. Until there is, we will remain under the thumb of a very civilized and bureaucratic mob rule.

“Fran-ces-co! Fran-ces-co!” (Or, Our World Upside Down)

In his famous biography of St. Francis of Assisi, GKC’s on-going metaphor is that the founder of the mendicants was more like the virtuoso of an artistic movement than the father of a religious order. His central image is that of Francis coming out the cave after receiving the Stigmata like an artist looking at the world upside down. So striking was this visual that Mumford & Son’s decided to write a song about it. So striking was St. Francis’ “artistic vision” that pilgrims, provinces, peoples and now Popes are righting wrongs according to it.

And indeed, with the election of Pope Francis, it has felt like our world has turn upside down. The Catholic Church, which one week ago was the object of annoyance to the every-man and a subject of scorn in the press, is now led by the “freshest,” “simplest” and “warmest” of individuals. He asked Rome to pray over him. He spurs limos and greets parishioners at the door. He holds “story-time” in Paul VI Auditorium. He laughs at slightest provocation. He leaves flowers at side altars like “a pilgrim among pilgrims.” And all this before he has even been installed as Bishop of Rome. The media (for the time being) has had nothing but nice things to say, even going out of their way to exonerate him from accusations that he was complacent during the Dirty War. News reporters smile confidently talking about the “Franciscan Reform” that has already begun. In short, Catholics went from being troglodytes to trendy all thanks to their new Pope. It matters not however long or short lived this perception in the press will last. All media perceptions are short lived in the grand scheme of things. I merely wish to highlight the contrast from how things were just seven days ago.

I would like to get back to St. Francis & Chesterton, though, because there is another part of this story that you will not find in newspapers or on TV. The press, for all their virtues, is ignoring the most profound part of Francis’ papacy just as they always misunderstand the most profound heart of St. Francis of Assisi. For Francis did not “rebuild the Church” so as to appeal to the public forum. In fact, GKC dwells on this story in his biography because he believes that it is the key to understanding why St. Francis did what he did. When the son of Assisi rebuilt the church there, it angered the public forum greatly. Far from popularizing his cause, the outcry of the people almost ended it prematurely. Then, as legend has it, Francis stripped before the crowd, wrapped himself in the bishop’s cope and claimed to belong entirely to the Church. St. Francis never saw himself as some outside reformer sent to rebuild the Church. He pictured himself in the very heart of the Church, surrounded by its splendor and apostolic tradition, yet simple and naked underneath it all. He saw himself as a faithful son doing chores for his Heavenly Father. I am certain that, regardless of public opinion, this is exactly how our new Pope Francis sees himself as well.

This is why I am excited: Francis sees himself as our brother. I chant his name, “Fran-ces-co,” as if I were calling on a sibling. The Franciscans took the name “friar” from the Latin “Fray” for “brother” or “frater.” The Franciscans were the first fraternity. They were the first “bros.” Their strength came from inclusion and cohesion, not outside manipulation. When Pope Francis reforms the Curia (as he most certainly will) it will not be because it has become too fraternal. It is because, with its careerism & constriction  the Curia has not been fraternal enough. He will trim and prune the branches of our Church, both at the Vatican and the Church’s other cities, according to the truer fraternity that he referenced in his opening address last week. From the porch of St. Peter’s, our new Pope has called for a return to brotherly love. Rome is now a “philadelpia.” Perhaps all Christians might start calling each other “brother” and “sister” upon Papal authority, the way Franciscans titled Brother Moon and Sister Sky on the authority of their founder. In any event, Pope Francis has inaugurated a new era in our Catholic Faith. What that new era will look like particularly is still anybody’s guess. But, in general, it should be obvious that our new Pope has not come so much as to divide as to unite. He has seen that the rich comfortable Church, too close to the world and too intimidated by its voices, was a Church upside down. In calling for a poor, simple, fraternal Church, he has flipped us right-side up again.

Of Resignation and Self Gift

“Mr. Lacourrege, can the Pope retire?” This was the question posed to me last Tuesday during my C period class. Its a group of about 30 freshmen, and Konnor Gaubert is one of the more curious of the bunch.

“Yes, Konnor, the Pope can retire, if he wants. Historically, its happened a couple of times before.”

“Do you think it will happen again, Mr. Lacourrege?”

“Well, certainly it could, but for the last six centuries or so, the attitude of the Popes has been to die with their boots on. You know, to keep the job until they pass away?”

“But do you think it could happen today, Mr. Lacourrege.”

“Probably not, Konnor. I mean, in today’s world, its highly unlikely that the Pope would ‘retire.’ Especially the current Pope. He’s a work-a-holic German.”

“So you really don’t think it could happen.”

“No, Konnor, I don’t. Now lets move on.”


Heaven has the most vengeful sense of humor, especially when dealing with proud and impatient men such as myself. It is a great comfort to know that the Pope is neither proud nor impatient. It is my supreme hope that the next Pope follows in Benedict’s footsteps in this regard. Really, though, I woke up this morning feeling more proud to be a Catholic than I have ever felt in my life. The media has, as usual, put a completely wrong spin on the thing. They say he is stepping down because of political pressure (which is certainly not true). They say that the butler scandal has taken a toll on him (which may be true). Of course, fact is always stranger than fiction;

“I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to steer the ship of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
“For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.”

This short statement might be one of the most profound things the Pope has ever written on vocation. I say this well aware of the many profound things that he has already written on vocation. Yet in so simple a statement, with words that qualify his action, the Pope explains that he feels no longer capable of praying and suffering and acting and speaking for the Flock of Christ. He cites age, not politics. He cites weakness, not scandal. In short, he says that he is unable to make a full gift of self, and that is why he is stepping down.
The sheer sanity of the Catholic faith can be missed by those who are not looking for it. Our Papa has just admitted that he is too old to sail the Ship. Its as simple a statement as could have been made by an 84 year old shrimper on Bayou St. John. Heck, it could have been made by St. John the fishermen! It could have been made by St. Peter the fishermen. That’s the whole point of this event. Sometimes, a teacher gives the wrong answer to a question. Sometimes a Pope runs out of strength. And when we do, the Holy Spirit is cool with it. He’s totally ready for it. He knows better than anyone that we hold this treasure in earthen vessels. Because the Church is more earthy than the world, the world misunderstands Her. The world assumes that a man only relinquishes power when power is wrestled from him. The Church, on the other hand, knows the natural law: when a man can no longer give, his giving up is not defeat, but victory for those to whom he gives. Pope Benedict XVI has not died physically, but his resignation represents a spiritual death that will bear fruit for us, his children. Now, excuse me: I must prepare a lesson plan in which I die to self, apologize and reward the curiosity of Konnor Gaubert.

QOTD – What is History?

 We studied it in grammar school and high school. Never did we ask its nature content with only knowing its accidents. So, what is history?

History is not simply a fixed progression toward what is better, but rather an event of freedom, and even a struggle between freedoms. – Bl. John Paul II

Friday Thoughts – Tenebrae and Liturgical Music

Last night I participated in a Tenebrae service here at the seminary, which you can find here. Tenebrae was originally a part of the Divine Office for Holy Week previous to the liturgical changes called for by Vatican II and promulgated by Pope Paul VI. There is still some retention in the Liturgy of the Hours we now use, but it became the practice of some parishes and monasteries to retain the older form as a preparation for the final days of the life of Christ which we celebrate liturgically on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. The basic format is: there are three nocturns followed by an silent Our Father, a closing prayer, and the strepitus, which if you watched in the video, is the loud noise at the very end. The strepitus symbolizes the earthquake at Jesus’ death. Each of the nocturns follows the story from garden of Gethsemane to Calvary, the pinnacle being the strepitus. Within each nocturn, there are three parts: a psalm, a reading, and response. As the liturgy moves on candles are extinguished from a large candelabra called a hearse.

The Schola Cantorum here at the seminary prepared pieces for the musical responses that are at the end each of the three nocturns. We tackled very difficult pieces. Believe you me, chanting with twenty men together at once, and sounding good, is very difficult. Trying to create one voice from twenty is a monumental task for amateurs like ourselves.

After the service, I was struck again by how moving it is. It proved to me that there are certain types, yes, types of music, specially suited for the liturgy. Yes, the church documents tell us Gregorian chant is the greatest form of liturgical music and is the scale by which all other liturgical music is compared, polyphony being the second loved but still very supported child. These forms of music conform themselves to the other-worldliness of the liturgy. They are intended for no other purpose and do not resemble any other form of non-liturgical music (unless those non-liturgical musics become derivative sub-genres of popular music that resemble the forms of chant and sacred polyphony). The allign the mind and the body toward that which is beyond complete intellection and sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. They are means by which the soul can encounter the divine. Through the creations of His creations, the Creator reveals Himself to His most beloved creatures.

If you didn’t before, click the link above and soak in some of the glory of God communicated through music. Be moved to sorrow for the sorrows of Christ in the garden. Be moved to hope by the small glimmer in Christ’s eye walking up to Calvary. Shudder in disgust and fear (the good kind) standing at the foot of the cross of the Savior of the world; and hear the loudness of the earthquake that shook the earth, the very cosmos commiserating with the death of Jesus Christ.

Friday Thoughts – the Ankler Makes a New Friend

Today is a turning point in the movement of the story of the Ankler. After over a month and a half with a external fixator keeping my bones in the correct place after a horrible dislocation, today, hopefully, is removal day.

I have been awaiting this day for over two weeks now. It has been a sort of Advent for me, in the middle of Lent while, still retaining the penitential atmosphere. The Lord suggest I give up walking. It’s been easier than you think, but the ease is not the point here.

Because of the nature of the surgery, I will be going under general anesthesia which is always a risk especially with someone with a breathing malady. So I was a little worried about it. I am not near where I desire to be upon leaving this vale of tears.

What has given me consolation is a new friend, San Turibio de Mogrovejo. San Turibio was introduced to me by a blogger/Twitter friend Billy Newton from The Blog of the Courtier. Today is the liturgical commemoration of San Turibio. Billy suggested a call for his intercession for a successful surgery and a promise from me to make a pilgrimage to his shrine in Peru. See, San Turibio was a Spanish missionary to Peru named bishop of Lima. In 1600, he established the first seminary in the New World. As a seminarian, he seemed like a person to turn to, recommended my Church militant friend. Billy had no idea, okay maybe he did, that he was establishing a lasting relationship between a current sojourner and one who has arrived into the glories of the beatific vision, all in the glorious providence of the Almighty.

Yesterday morning, during my holy hour, I download edan image of him on my phone and using that image had a conversation with him, telling him my story and asking him for his intercession for a successful surgery. I promised him that I would make a pilgrimage to Peru in thanksgiving.

I let it pass planning on coming out well tomorrow afternoon no longer looking like I’m in the beginning stages of being subsumed into the Borg.

Last night, Archbishop Aymond hosted all his seminarians for a dinner. Towards the end of our time there, some of my confreres were speaking about the celebrants chair in his private chapel in the John XXIII house where he lives. He said that it is nearly 500 years old and belonged to a bishop saint in South America, and I said with a glimmer of hope but knowing there were a few of these, “St. Turibius of Mogrovejo?” The Archbishop pointed and responded with enthusiasm, “Yes, yes, that’s it.” I must say dear readers my heart leapt with a quiet but determined joy. San Turibio had assured me of his prayers and intercession. In fact, his presence was much closer than I originally realized.

My friends and readers do not underestimate our relationships with the Church triumphant. They yearn to intercede for us to aid in some small way in drawing all things to Christ.

San Turibio de Mogrovejo, ora pro nobis

"When all is done, Judgment comes…"

Day of wrath! O day of mourning!
See fulfilled the prophets’ warning,
Heaven and earth in ashes burning!

I have a new favorite song: the Dies Irae. Day of wrath, day of mourning. Sounds really heavy, right? And Lent is still over two weeks away. Why not wait ‘til then to talk this up. Better to set that dreary mood after Mardi Gras. That was my initial thought. However, after jamming out to DC*B’s version of this ancient hymn for a month, it has made me realize something that’s bursting in my chest right now. This song about the dawn of Judgment Day illuminates a part of Christian theology that was once over emphasized and is now largely ignored, a part of our good news that for centuries was seen as nothing more than bad news. Our modern mentality looks upon the last Judgment with a skepticism that disguises a groping fear. Some of the hardcore movies of our time (Terminator, Armageddon, etc) are about preventing judgment day, about erasing it, rather than about finding the courage to face it down. But Judgment Day, in the Christian tradition, ends on a happy note.

Death is struck, and nature quaking,
all creation is awaking,
to its Judge an answer making.

David Crowder purposely wrote his version of the song in C (the happiest of all keys!). That doesn’t mean that the song is all sunshine and sparkles and rainbows. It does mean, however, that the very last note we hear resolve the whole hymn is a ‘C.’ If you have a piano or guitar on hand, go ahead and strike a C for me…Very good! It’s quite a happy sound, isn’t it? In the context of a sequence of songs full of dissonant power chords, fiery prophets, peals of thunder and the death of the Son of God, this simple C rings out with profound beauty. The point that Crowder is trying to make after 18 minutes of reflecting on death and judgment is that there is something strikingly beautiful to look forward to. At the end of it all.

Think, good Jesus, my salvation
cost thy wondrous Incarnation;
leave me not to reprobation!

So there was the Holocaust. And there were the Gulags. Now there is apartheid and abortion, greed and global warming. So there will be political infighting, economic unrest, famines and fires, widows and wars, and yet it will not yet be the end (See Matt. 24:6). We know not the day nor the hour, though in our darkest hours we may hope it comes sooner rather than later. Though I do not consider myself a melancholy person, I cannot have an entirely optimistic outlook on the way the world is going. I’ve certainly never had the chance to be idealistic. My teenage years began with 9/11 and culminated in hurricane Katrina. Whether or not things are really getting any worse, I have no scientific reason to believe that anything short of the Reign of God could make them any better. Yes, scientific: because, as far my study of the sciences (physical, social, liberal) goes, it seems obvious that God would have to come down in order to truly reverse the effects of entropy. The crimes of racism and murder cry out from the ground not just to congress or the UN. They cry to the heavens asking for atonement. My faith brings me real comfort in the knowledge that, when the time comes to judge humanity for the killings of the poor and the Jews, it will be a poor Jewish carpenter sitting on the throne.

Faint and weary, thou hast sought me,
on the cross of suffering bought me.
shall such grace be vainly brought me?

Yet, this is not the only comfort I derive. He is, after all, a truly merciful judge, like us in all ways except sin. In all ways except sin. In all ways that are good, true and beautiful. In all ways except those ways that have led to our own destruction. To this Judge, who is truly God and also truly bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh (recall: He is our spouse as well), we cry out, “Huic ego parce, Deus!”

When all is done, Judgment comes. Spare, O God: have mercy.

As a closing note, I would like to point out how refreshing it is to hear the phrase “Have mercy” resound in praise and worship songs. Normally, the Protestant theology of the authors of this genre steers them away from publically proclaiming this petition. Because of the reasons listed above, I feel that it is oh so necessary to sing it now and always. With all the weariness of this world, my heart cries out for mercy, but it cries out in the key of C!

Pie Jesu Domine,

Dona nobis requiem. Amen.

GKC and the Largeness of the Faith

Yet another GKC read! 

This could be considered his commentary on John 6: 68; "To whom, Lord, shall we go." Specifically, he is defending to freedom of the faithful, that when they come to Christ, He enlarges their freedom rather than dismantling it. 

Nothing is more amusing to the convert, when his conversion has been complete for some time, than to hear the speculations about when or whether he will repent of the conversion; when he will be sick of it, how long he will stand it, at what stage of his external exasperation he will start up and say he can bear it no more. For all this is founded on that optical illusion about the outside and the inside which I have tried to sketch in this chapter. The outsiders, stand by and see, or think they see, the convert entering with bowed head a sort of small temple which they are convinced is fitted up inside like a prison, if not a torture-chamber. But all they really know about it is that he has passed through a door. They do not know that he has not gone into the inner darkness, but out into the broad daylight.  It is he who is, in the beautiful and beatific sense of the word, an outsider. He does not want to go into a larger room, because he does not know of any larger room to go into.  He knows of a large number of much smaller rooms, each of which is labelled as being very large; but he is quite sure he would be cramped in any of them. Each of them professes to be a complete cosmos or scheme of all things; but then so does the cosmos of the Clapham Sect or the Clapton Agapemone.  Each of them is supposed to be domed with the sky or painted inside with all the stars. But each of these cosmic systems or machines seems to him much smaller and even much simpler than the broad and balanced universe in which he lives.  One of them is labelled Agnostic; but he knows by experience that it has not really even the freedom of ignorance. It is a wheel that must always go round without a single jolt of miraculous interruption--a circle that must not be squared by any higher mathematics of mysticism; a machine that must be scoured as clean of all spirits as if it were the avowed machine of materialism. In living in a world with two orders, the supernatural and the natural, the convert feels he is living in a larger world and does not feel any temptation to crawl back into a smaller one. One of them is labelled Theosophical or Buddhistic; but he knows by experience that it is only the same sort of wearisome wheel used for spiritual things instead of material things.  Living in a world where he is free to do anything, even to go to the devil, he does not see why he should tie himself to the wheel of a mere destiny. One of them is labelled Humanitarian; but he knows that such humanitarians have really far less experience of humanity. He knows that they are thinking almost entirely of men as they are at this moment in modern cities, and have nothing like the huge human interest of what began by being preached to legionaries in Palestine and is still being preached to peasants in China.  So clear is this perception that I have sometimes put it to myself, as something between a melancholy meditation and a joke.  "Where should I go now, if I did leave the Catholic Church?"  I certainly would not go to any of those little social sects which only express one idea at a time, because that idea happens to be fashionable at the moment. The best I could hope for would be to wander away into the woods and become, not a Pantheist (for that is also a limitation and a bore) but rather a pagan, in the mood to cry out that some particular mountain peak or flowering fruit tree was sacred and a thing to be worshipped.  That at least would be beginning all over again; but it would bring me back to the same problem in the end. If it was reasonable to have a sacred tree it was not unreasonable to have a sacred crucifix; and if the god was to be found on one peak he may as reasonably be found under one spire. To find a new religion is sooner or later to have found one; and why should I have been discontented with the one I had found? Especially, as I said in the first words of this essay, when it is the one old religion which seems capable of remaining new.  I know very well that if I went upon that journey I should either despair or return; and that none of the trees would ever be a substitute for the real sacred tree. Paganism is better than pantheism, for paganism is free to imagine divinities, while pantheism is forced to pretend, in a priggish way, that all things are equally divine. But I should not imagine any divinity that was sufficiently divine. I seem to know that weary return through the woodlands; for I think in some symbolic fashion I have walked that road before. For as I have tried to confess here without excessive egotism, I think I am the sort of man who came to Christ from Pan and Dionysus and not from Luther or Laud; that the conversion I understand is that of the pagan and not the Puritan; and upon that antique conversion is founded the whole world that we know. It is a transformation far more vast and tremendous than anything that has been meant for many years past, at least in England and America, by a sectarian controversy or a doctrinal division.  On the height of that ancient empire and that international experience, humanity had a vision. It has not had another; but only quarrels about that one. Paganism was the largest thing in the world and Christianity was larger; and everything else has been comparatively small.