The Weekly List

I’ve started an online subscription to the Washington Post.  It’s my first online subscription to any secular news outlet (after having surfed the web for years, taking advantage of websites that offered news at no cost to me), and I chose the WaPo because I have long considered Washington, D.C., the center, if not the heart, of the government of this great country that I love.  It’s also motivated by the race for president last year, and the result of the election last November.  As in, “what just happened, why did it happen, and what’s going to happen four years from now?”

Apparently, the Trump win – or was it the Clinton loss? – motivated Amy Siskind to start a list of “changes” (“Trump won, and Amy Siskind started a list of changes.  Now it’s a sensation,” WaPo, Margaret Sullivan, June 25 @ 2040).  I read the article agreed it was a great idea to keep track of the bits and pieces, and was further encouraged when I read that one of her readers constructed a database to keep track of the items.  Then, I went to her Twitter account and read her list from Week 32 ½.

The first item on her list is: “1. For the first time since taking office, Trump visited Camp David.”  I put this in the same category as the president who didn’t like broccoli (President George H.W. Bush, as reported by Maureen Dowd, the NYT, 1990 March 23).  Personally, I like broccoli and couldn’t care less what the president says about it.  As to Camp David, I care less about that than I do broccoli.

Amazingly, I got past her Item 1, and read, “2. Russia renewed six unused Trump trademarks in 2016.  Four of the six approvals were officially registered on November 6, Election Day.”  Well, ok, something I can get excited about: Russian trademarks.  See my comment about broccoli, above.  It’s nice that Amy needs to tell her readers that November 6 of last year was Election Day.  Even I remember that.

I do like that Amy starts every posting with, “Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.”  I have no idea who those nameless, alleged experts are, and so am skeptical.  However, the sentiment is extremely valuable.  And is echoed in the WaPo motto of “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

Margaret tells us that Amy’s “Weekly List” is to track the ways “in which she saw America’s taken-for-granted governmental norms changing the in Trump era.”  The water is getting deep.  In the first place, “governmental norms” can be pretty well summed up in one word: “growth.”  Not “progress,” just “growth.”  I won’t bore or insult anyone with a laundry list of how many people work for the government, or how much money the government spends.  Frankly, I don’t know how anyone can just accept the sheer size of government.

Sadly, I have adopted an attitude of voting no for every issue that increases taxes.  Simply because the people in government are just so clever at finding new ways to spend the money the tax payers are compelled to give them.  Am I willing to pay more in taxes?  Yep.  I would have no problem at all with an increase in the cost of gasoline, if the money went toward exploring and developing alternate energy.  Having grown up in the era of muscle cars, I still enjoy the smell of the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine.  But, a lot of people don’t care, and would be perfectly happy with an all-electric, or hybrid car.  Cars aren’t bad, but the pollution is.

Increase taxes on alcohol and tobacco.  Fine.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (a very good thing paid for by taxes): “Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.”  That statement on their homepage is immediately followed by: “More than 480,000 deaths annually (including deaths from secondhand smoke).”  Also, the CDC states that excessive alcohol use accounts for approximately 88,000 deaths per year.  That’s well over half-a-million preventable deaths of Americans per year.  And some people say guns are bad.

Since these statistics are from the years before Trump took office, I have to wonder what Amy is trying to accomplish: (1) trash Trump, (2) deflect blame from his predecessors, or (3) have us eat more broccoli.

I don’t disagree with everything on Amy’s list (for the most current week – which is the only one I’ve read).  For example, I could not disagree more with so-called “sanctuary cities”; so one might think I am an enthusiastic supporter of Trump’s efforts deport all undocumented aliens.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Any effort to deport otherwise law-abiding, tax payers is a waste of my tax money.  People who leave their homes for something they perceive is better have already made a significant statement about the government of their home countries.  For the most part, they come to the States, not speaking the language, and without an education that will get them higher-paying jobs.  But, they come and keep a low-profile and they break fewer laws than those born here.  (I’m going out on a limb here: I am assuming that most laws and most of those in prison were born here.  I haven’t seen any documentation on this.  Sue me if I’m wrong.)

It should not be for the otherwise innocent to worry about deportation.  It should be for those that break the existing laws.  Don’t put the bad guys in our jails, send ‘em back home.  Oh, document ‘em first: fingerprints, DNA, whatever.  Put chips in ‘em, I don’t care.  Just get rid of them.  But, breaking more laws – the “sanctuary cities” – is not the answer.

Number 7, “A Muslim teem was brutally beaten and killed while walking to a Mosque with her friends in Sterling, VA.  A funeral vigil drew many, while the murder has yet to be charged as a hate crime.”  First, my most sincere condolences go out to the victim herself, and her family.  Second, the girl was with a group – but she was the only one attacked?  I know nothing about this tragedy, but a so-called “honor killing” is the first thing that came to my mind.  If that is the case – and that is a big if – then maybe local authorities are reluctant to charge another Muslim.  And as to making a distinction between murder and a “hate crime,” what can murder possibly be but a hate crime?

 

 

 

Not any more

“Anyone baptized in the church in Berlin is always at home in the church in Rome or in New York or in Kinshasa or in Bangalore or wherever, as if he or she had been baptized there.”

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

Having traveled extensively in both the US and around the world, I never gave a second thought of what I was going to get when I walked into a Roman Catholic Church, either for Mass, or for prayer.  And, I was never surprised.  Perhaps I have become complacent?

I read more and more often about how the Church is changing, both at the pontifical level and at the local level.  I think there are a lot of miles between Seattle and Rome, and so I have tended to pay only cursory attention to the Vatican.  Closer to home – the US in general, not Seattle in particular – I see things changing significantly.  And what I see is frightening.

While I would prefer the Traditional Latin Mass, I have no real (significant) problem attending Mass in a building that doesn’t look like a church, or in which the Tabernacle is hidden away in some broom closet.  Yes, the modern rite of the Mass is distracting, and I do consider all the falderal penance; but I still go to Mass.

More and more however, I read that individual parishes or entire diocese are moving in a direction that I find untenable.  This recent headline to a blog I follow: “San Diego, Third Largest LBGT diocese in the United States.”

And, what I am feeling is that I am not only no longer welcome in the Church I grew up in; I must, in following my conscience, stop attending Mass.  In other words, Pope Francis’ so-called “pastoral” approach – smelling like the sheep – is driving me away from the Church.

We are not talking about external or foreign forces like the Soviet Union or Red China.  We are talking about the Bishop of Rome taking a left turn at Albuquerque and taking 2000 years of Tradition and millions of faithful down the tubes with him.

I took an oath, many years ago, to protect the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  That was during the Cold War, and there really was only one enemy of note and it was most definitely foreign.  I have been aware for many years that some people seemed to find their reason for living the bashing of the Roman Catholic Church.  Now, I am finding that the enemies of the Church to be feared the most are not to be found in the Democrat Party, but inside the Church itself.

I am thankful that I can still go to Mass and still find what I need.  But, I can foresee the day when I am going to have to shop around for another parish that hasn’t lost its way.  And, I fear for the day when I might have stop taking my Twins to Mass.

Until then, I thank GOD I do not live in San Diego.

 

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“Anyone baptized in the church in Berlin is always at home in the church in Rome or in New York or in Kinshasa or in Bangalore or wherever, as if he or she had been baptized there. He or she does not need to file a change-of-address form; it is one and the same Church.”

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

As quoted by Abyssus Abyssum Invocat in his blog, “The Kasper Heresy met its Match in 2000 with Cardinal Ratzinger but it has been embraced by Francis, 2017 May 29

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SAN DIEGO, THIRD LGBT DIOCESE IN THE UNITED STATES

CroniesLife Site News

Francis Appoints Pro-Sodomy Auxiliary Bishop in San Diego

2 hours ago 0 19

BFP

Francis Appoints Pro-Sodomy Auxiliary Bishop in San Diego

Things continue to degrade under the False Prophet.

SAN DIEGO, California, May 29, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Last month, Pope Francis named the pastor of an avowedly pro-LGBT Catholic parish as San Diego’s newest auxiliary bishop, to serve under prominent liberal Bishop Robert McElroy.

Father John P. Dolan, 54, expressed his gratitude to Pope Francis in a statement to the Times of San Diego, and said he looked forward to “accompanying” Bishop McElroy in his ministry to the diocese.

In November 2016, Bishop McElroy praised Fr. Dolan’s parish, St. John the Evangelist in Hillcrest, for its “welcoming” attitude towards “LGBT worshippers.”

According to the Times of San Diego, Dolan will continue to serve as pastor at St. John the Evangelist. He will also continue to serve as Vicar for Clergy and as pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish.

In December, LifeSiteNews reported that the director of young adult ministry at the St. John the Evangelist was an openly gay man who worked for the radical dissident group Call to Action. At the time St. John’s pictured a cross superimposed on a rainbow flag in its social media pages.

The LGBT activist group New Ways Ministry celebrated Fr Dolan’s appointment on its blog on Wednesday. Associate Editor Robert Shine quotes the bishop-elect as saying, “There are two different forms of doing church… One is very dialogical, from a dialogical sense, and the other is from a monological sense. And we have dealt with that monological world: Things come from on high, they get shelved in some pastor’s corner, then there’s some thought that comes down, but ultimately it’s all ‘We’re going to tell you what to think…’”

“Young adults have an acceptance of the LGBT experience. It is simply a part of their world, and they look at us, and say, ‘What is the problem?’”

Bishop McElroy told the San Diego Herald Tribune that Dolan’s appointment is in line with Pope Francis’ emphasis on appointing “pastors” rather than theologians.

“Less abstraction, and more knowledge of the nitty, gritty of life,” McElroy said.

Fr. Dolan had the first clue to his appointment when he checked his cell phone in the confessional and saw that he had missed a call from the papal nuncio in Washington D.C.

“Then I heard, ‘Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” Dolan told the Herald Tribune. “Let me just say, that was the longest hour of confessions I’ve ever had.”

A lifelong resident of San Diego, the future auxiliary bishop went to local Catholic schools before attending St. Francis Seminary and the University of San Diego. He earned both a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology degree at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park. He was ordained a priest in 1989 by Bishop Leo T. Maher.

Bishop Maher was an early critic of pro-LGBT Catholic “Dignity” and forbade his priests from celebrating Masses for the group.  Nevertheless during his episcopacy, San Diego was rocked by scandals, including allegations by former seminarian Mark Brooksof homosexual orgies in St. Francis Seminary and his own eventual rape in 1982 by Father Nicholas Reveles. Reveles, who left the priesthood, always denied the story.

According to New Ways Ministry, the “Francis Effect” can be seen in recent episcopal appointments: Francis appointee Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky participated in the organization’s national symposium, and Francis appointee Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago has said both that LGBT people must “follow their consciences” and that the Church must be open to “new avenues and creativity when it comes to accompanying [non-traditional] families.”

Stating that “the pope’s influence on the U.S. episcopate is continuing to grow,” New Ways Ministry observes, hopefully, that “there are presently eight vacant dioceses, and several dozen bishops approaching the age of mandatory retirement.”

Read the full article at Life Site News

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/12209775/posts/1476933489

Flying the Flag

I have never actually counted, but I bet I have sent more email to the White House in the past five months than the total of any form of communication to anyone in politics in my entire life.  And, this is coming from someone who was a card-carrying Democrat, and knocked on doors for the likes of Jimmy Carter, Mo Udall and Hubert Humphrey.

It is nice (and I pat myself on the back) that I am, once-again, interested in how this country is governed.

In the last few days, there have been a flood of videos on the recent overseas trip of the President and First Lady.  (A far cry from the “news” coverage of 40 years ago.)  What has really surprised me was how well they represented the United States.  A real class act.

I really don’t want the form of media (print vice video) to become the story; but maybe it is because we can see for ourselves, and are not subject to somebody else’s interpretation – word choice, column-inches – that we are getting a much better picture (sorry for the pun).

In days past, if the Grand Poobah wanted to show a modicum of respect for Our Dear Friend in the Middle East, he/they might actually visit instead of thumbing their nose.  The President and Mrs Trump not only visited the Wailing Wall, they showed immense respect for  Israel, and also for the Jewish religion.  Gold stars.

Visiting Italy, their visit with the Pope was a model for others to follow (especially the former occupants of the White House).  Kudos.

And surprise, surprise – something that somehow never came up during the Mother of all Campaigns last year – the First Lady is a practicing Roman Catholic!  Even had a Rosary handy for the pope to bless.

Politico.com carried an AP photo showing Ivanka Trump at Sant Egidio – I’ll bet no one in the Obama White House knows, even now, where that is (I met Pope Benedict XVI there).  Ivanka’s meeting is all the more significant knowing she and Jared are practicing Jews.  Put another way, religion is a good thing in the Trump White House, while Clinton never had anything good to say about any religion (other than Islam, of course).

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Honestly, when Barak Obama was elected, I thought: finally, a president who is not a middle-aged, white male.  He was nothing but a disappointment.  Eight years of wondering why he didn’t focus on the really important stuff.  I feel like he hijacked the White House.  And, what did Michelle do in those eight years?  I don’t remember a single thing.

The Trumps, on the other hand, will make it so easy to forget their predecessors.  If, their predecessors can resist “coincidental” visits (both groups in Italy at the same time?  really?).  I will spare any comments at how refined Mrs Trump looked, especially when compared with Mrs Obama, last week.

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I will grant you that I am not tickled pink with everything Mr Trump is doing.  Yes, deportations are significantly up when compared to the past.  Which means that more bad guys are being discovered and deported; but it also means that more people who are honest, hard-working, tax-paying residents are also being deported.  This is nothing if not a waste of valuable resources.  Timothy McVey was a citizen – too bad we could not have deported him to someplace like North Korea.  Yes, Mr President: continue to use ICE to deport the bad guys; but leave the other-wise innocent alone.

A wall between us and Mexico?  Really?  How about we give those folks every reason to stay home by not buying the drugs that finance their own bad guys?

Encourage your wealthy buddies to find other sources for their megabucks than raping the environment.  Yes, West Virginia is one of those “fly-over” states; but maybe you should see what King Coal has done to the people there.  Ask Elon Musk for advice; he seems to be thinking past today, and making money.

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Gil Student, “Ivanka, Jared, and the Jewish Sabbath,” First Things, 5-24-17

Confused

Believing that there are no coincidences, I have to believe that Jorge Mario Bergoglio, as pope, is part of GOD’s Plan.  But, accepting that is like I am on a bridge to nowhere: my belief, my understanding just ends.  Nevertheless, there absolutely must be a reason.

All I can come up with (so far) is that I, at the very least, was too comfortable with the leadership of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope St JohnPaul II.  Altho Pope JohnPaul II did not become a part of my daily life (daily consciousness) until after his death (to my great loss), his prolific writing (both by him and about him) has allowed me some measure of contact.  I was very aware of Pope Benedict XVI – even to the point of being able to literally reach out and touch his sleeve (and yes, I do have the photo to prove it); and again, his prolific writing has allowed me to continue the relationship.  Altho I am not hardly in the same intellectual category as JohnPaul and Benedict, at least I do feel I am on the same page.  I’m sure I don’t understand even half of their work, but their writings feel like home – this is where I want to be now, and this is what I want to grow into.

But with Pope Francis, all I am is confused.

I do enjoy Pope Francis’ “the pastor must smell like his sheep”; but, I know I do not smell at all like him.  I think most Catholics need to hear, “love the sinner, hate the sin”; instead we got that infamous, “Who am I to judge?”  I don’t know where he thinks we are, but one place we pew sitters are not is in a barque with a rudder.

“Decentralized”?  Fragmented is what we have.  I read about positions of bishops here in the USA, and I thank GOD that my archbishop seems not to have drunk very much of the “spirit of Vatican II” kool-aid.  If I was in Germany, I think I would probably stop going to Mass entirely.

“Pastoral”?  What is pastoral about “the tenderness of Jesus,” when He says, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you.” (John 6:26).  To continue, “Many of His disciples who were listening said, ‘This saying is hard; who can accept it? … As a result of this, many [of] His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him.” (John 6:60-66)  What should a “more pastoral” Jesus have said?  “No, I didn’t mean that, not really.  Come back.”  Exactly who had the ‘closed hearts, the hearts of stone, the hearts which do not want to be open, do not want to hear’?

I have written in these pages about opportunity.  Maybe the whole point of Francis is to give me the opportunity to test what I took for granted with JohnPaul and Benedict?  Maybe.  And for me, maybe a good thing.  But, I think of the thousands (millions) who look to the Bishop of Rome for help in navigating daily life.  They are, quite simply, adrift without a firm hand.

Yes, there are those that would point out that the “firm hand” of Rome has been entirely too firm throughout history.  And that it must loosen its grip, if not release us altogether.  And, if that happened what would make us Catholic?  Frankly, I don’t want to be like everyone else.  Would I have to stop believing in the Real Presence, just so Protestant heretics would feel more comfortable?  It seems Pope Francis is headed in that direction.  He certainly has no problem with various bishops in the US and Europe throwing open their arms and cathedral doors to those in direct violation of Canon Law.  (No, Canon Laws 912 and 915 do not “leap” to mind; but those are the ones that I am thinking of.)

I don’t think those that crucified Jesus saw Him as a good ol’ boy.  Neither was He their idea of a messiah.  Rather, I think they viewed Him as a threat to their political position.  Jesus was the most counter-cultural person ever.  He never tried to “fit in”; and He was far more pastoral than anyone living in the marble that is Vatican City.  (Not to put too fine a point on it, Jesus no doubt smelled more like His sheep than the current pope – not that anyone probably noticed.  If you’ve spent any time in the Middle East, you know what I’m saying.)

To borrow from Jeff Mirus, “it is the hallmark of our seriously confused yet politically correct culture that all those under its influence must close their hearts again the message of Christ.”  To which Pope Benedict added, “the Church will become small.”

Whatever the future holds for us, it won’t be business as usual.

 

Dr Jeff Mirus, in “Abyssus Abyssum Invocat” was the springboard for my essay

See Dr Edward Peters, “Denial of the Eucharist to pro-abortion Catholic politicians: a canonical case study,” http://www.canonlaw.info/a_denialofeucharist.htm

Joseph Ratzinger, “Faith and the Future,” Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2009.

A Tyranny of Choice

In his most recent column, Sam Guzman talks about this age of choice. One of his topic headings is “The Religion of Choice.”  My instant gut-reaction was, “it’s more like the tyranny of choice” (with apologies to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and his “Tyranny of Relativism” – which may not be all that different, come to think of it).

Now, I am just ornery enough to look at society in this day and age and immediately dismiss it.  Basically, if “everyone” wants it, I don’t.  Yeah, sounds an awful lot like our two-year olds.  But, I see so much crap these days that it seems like an automatic response to just turn around and walk away.

While we don’t watch commercial tv at home, my job requires that I am aware of the latest breaking news world-wide.  Consequently, I see more tv at work than I can stand.  And, since I work at night, it is “late night tv” – the very worst of a genre.  If anything is worse than most of what is on the internet, it is late night tv – was life so terrible 40 years ago when the few tv stations “signed off” at night?  But, I digress.

I am reminded of a book I read in high school: “From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor,” by Jerry della Femina.  I see our consumer society divided into parts like: (1) those who create new products, (2) those that market new products, and (3) those that buy new products.  Whatever the merits of that system, my point is that anyone of the three groups does have a choice.  Put another way, just because you see it on late night tv and you can get two of ‘em for $19.95 (operators are standing by), it doesn’t mean you are being forced to buy it.

But, for some reason, we apparently feel we don’t have a choice (thus, the “tyranny”).  I see religion as a matter of choice (don’t throw stones just yet); not choice as a matter of religion.  So, I depart from Sam in characterizing choice as a religion.  I realize he is making the case that true, honest-to-GOD religion (i.e., belief in GOD) has been largely replaced by a “smorgasbord, a veritably unlimited menu of options.”  However, while it does seem that most of the people I know are making largely unconscious decisions in the “vast mall of choices,” I certainly do not.

Yeah, I am prone to agonizing – spending lots of time – over decisions.  I have been thinking about buying a new computer.  But, while I have reviewed a few (most recently a comparison between a Windows-based laptop and an Apple Mac), I just can’t force myself to spend the money to buy what would be essentially a toy.  The fact is, I don’t actually need a new computer.  So, the first hurdle is “want” versus “need.”

The second hurdle for me is “Where was it made?”  I frankly don’t care where the executives of a particular company live; what I do care about is where the workers live.  Although my parents are “white-collar,” their parents were not.  So, my wife and I drive two Toyotas – both “made” (i.e., assembled) right here in the Good Ol’ U.S. of A.  That said, I don’t believe a single computer is assembled here, and certainly none of the parts are made here.  (Yes, I do own a cell phone, but that comes under the “need” category.)  When it comes to clothing, if it is made in China, I walk away.  Needing (yes, needing) a battery-powered drill (screwdriver), I recently bought a pair from DeWalt; even though they were considerably more expensive than the variously colored competition on the shelf/on-line.  Last year, I bought a toolbox for my pickup truck; I went with “Weathergard.”  Again, because of where they were made.  Conscious, deliberate decisions.

And now that I have two Munchkins under foot, I ask myself what I will be leaving them.  Do I want to buy cheap now, knowing it won’t last; or do I want to bequeath something of value?  In the world of values, what do I want to teach them (and, GOD willing, what will they learn)?  Do I want to impress upon them the attitude of, whatever it is, it can be easily discarded and replaced?  In fact, I do see value in commitment, in staying the course, loyalty (the hardest concepts for me to learn).

Sadly, I was seduced years ago by the view that it was better for the kids to divorce than it was for warring parents to try to raise them.  Knowing what I know now, my first marriage would likely have ended in divorce eventually; but at the time, I had not looked very closely at my options – I simply did not perform the “due diligence” I now feel I should have.  Part of that process (which should have included reading Venerable Archbishop Sheen’s “Three to Get Married”) should have entertained the possibility that divorce would forever rupture my relationship with my daughter (other than cashing the checks I send her for her birthday and Christmas, she will have nothing to do with me).

While the parallels between being a consumer of stuff and a consumer of relationships (more specifically, marriage) seem very close, they are galaxies apart.  It really doesn’t matter if I buy a screwdriver that won’t and I reduce it to a pry-bar or chisel (shudder); but it really does matter if I do everything I can (and more) to stay married.  It matters to my wife, it matters to our kids and it matters most of all to GOD.  And, I guess, ultimately, it matters to me: my salvation absolutely depends on my relationship to GOD.

Stay the course.  Run the race.  Keep the faith.

Oh, the above comment, “I see religion as a matter of choice,” I meant just as a literary device.  To be perfectly honest (and clear), I am convinced that Faith is a gift we are given – it’s not something we make an intellectual decision about.

“A Vow of Stability: A Call to Commitment in an Age of Choice,” Sam Guzman on “The Catholic Gentleman”

Club, or Church?

You might recall from my last posting that I was recently introduced to a local “mega-church.”  (Well, more to the parking lot of one.)

As we approached the mega-church building, because my wife had discovered an inside play area for toddlers, I wondered where the church was.  We parked, got the Twins out of the car, into their double-wide and walked through the front door.  At least, I guessed it was the front door because it reminded me of the front door of many hotels I have stayed in.

Immediately inside the door, I was confronted by a very long (half-a-football field?) hallway that was fully three stories to the ceiling (if not four).  Now, I’m feeling like I’m in a mall.

Still, the nagging question: where’s the church?  Or, more specifically, the sanctuary?

We walked past a bank of stations – computer monitors and keyboards.  We walked past a coffee bar.  We got to the play area.  Still, no clue at all where the sanctuary, if any, might be.

The Twins got bored in about an hour, so I tried to buy some time by letting them run the hallway.  Of course, that wasn’t interesting, and they quickly found a side hallway.  This apparently had classrooms lining both sides.  That too, was boring, so we packed up and left.  (I shared my parking lot experience in the previous post.)  We got home and un-packed ….

I never figured out where the sanctuary was, but now I didn’t care.  What I was hung up on was why.  Why was that church so much different from what I am used to?

Gradually, over the course of the day, it occurred to me:

The Catholic religion is all about worship.  We go to Mass (or, “Sunday service,” if you prefer) to worship.  At least most still do.  A growing number go for another reason; the same reason I suspect that there are such things as “mega-churches”: the social aspect.  There are bars and coffee shops and mega-churches.

I have “observed” (complained, more like it) in these pages about the pew-sitters who treat the sanctuary like a bus station (which is not a nice thing to say about bus stations).  I suppose, if I sat in the front pew, I wouldn’t notice those that think it their mission to regale everyone within ear shot with their opinion of some sports event, or restaurant experience; or those that come in late and leave early.

I’ve always felt that church sanctuaries (any denomination) were places that were supposed to be different from the “outside” world.  More like a library than a sports stadium.  One of the things I have loved about being a tourist during business trips around the world is walking into an empty church that was also quiet; that not only allowed, but encouraged prayer and meditation.  No hustle, no bustle.  If nothing else, a retreat, however momentary.  Sanctuaries that looked like a church and not a movie theater.

And, having been an altar boy in the world before Vatican 2, I prefer a Mass where everyone was quiet, if not reverent.  Where, if you needed a place to collect your thoughts, you could walk in and sit down and find some peace – either just before or just after Mass, or, indeed almost any time during the week.

That seems to be pure fiction these days.  Imagine, changing your behavior to fit the circumstances!  You know: “use your inside voice.”

The parish I belong to now, and the one immediately prior both sported buildings that are fairly modern.  In fact, the church I grew up in was cut from the same cloth.  (Full disclosure: two parishes ago, I lived in Rome – ‘nuf said.)

It’s funny how much I hate to rely on “Christian” to describe who I am, because there are so many flavors of “Christian,” that if I didn’t know better, I’d say the term described precisely nothing.  The same seems to be true of buildings where people meet: some are called churches, but how they differ from a mall, or a movie theater, I don’t know.

There are a lot of hymns that I got introduced to and learned to love while I was attending a Disciples of Christ Church, years ago.  Quite a few of those I prefer to most of the so-called “Catholic hymns” that have been inflicted on us.  One of those “Protestant” hymns that I know only vaguely is “(Give me that) old time religion.”  Somehow, I don’t think the meaning is intended to be “pre-Luther/Calvin”; though I am thankful that my religion places its emphasis on GOD and not man.

Little white car with New York plates

My wife had discovered that members or not, we were welcome to use the child play area at one of the nearby mega-churches.  It’s important to note that it is a so-called mega-church because the size of the parking lot would rival Wally World (yes, from National Lampoon’s Summer Vacation).  And, on a Tuesday morning, there is nary a car to be found amongst the what?, thousand, parking places.

After an hour or so, romping around, it was time to go home.

Keeping in mind that nearly-two-year-olds require their own, individual car seats installed in the backseat of our family-economy size SUV, I was able to open the back door on the passenger side all the way in order to deadlift Twin #1/#2 out of the stroller and into her (his?) seat.  Strapped in, door closed.

However, it was without just a little consternation, as I pushed the double-wide stroller around to the driver’s side of the SUV, that I found a little white car had nearly parked me in.

While I certainly could not get the stroller near the door, by being very gentle, I could open the left-side back door, well, “into” the little white car’s side and squeeze Twin #2 into his (her?) seat.  Strapped in, door closed.  Stroller into back of SUV.

My turn.  Fat chance.

I had to open the driver’s door a little past “into” the little white car’s front bumper.  I mean I was gentle, but there was some pressure of my, well, face it: 16 year-old SUV door edge on the I’m sure it was plastic, right-front bumper of the Buick Encore.

Yeah, at that point, I could have walked around to the passenger side of my SUV, opened the front door and climbed across that seat and the console.  I could have; but I was past reasoning.  And this was before I looked around at the parking lot.

Did I mention that this was in a mega-parking lot?  And, on a Tuesday morning?  At a church?

Trust me when I say that with the exception of my car and the little white car from New York, there was not a single car within my ability to throw a baseball.  Yes, honestly, there were maybe half-a-dozen other cars that I could see – but none anywhere near close.  Must have been fifty or so empty stalls.  Maybe 75.

So, kiddies buckled in, I drove home.

Now, the old me would have been expanding my vocabulary about little white cars, or cars with New York license plates.  Neither characterization would have been fair of course, but my little bitty brain could not fathom why anyone would park that close to another car in an otherwise empty HUGE parking lot.  It wasn’t raining (that in itself is odd for Puget Sound).  There were a couple of spaces closer to the door.  It wasn’t like parking that close was going to prevent parking lot rash – in fact, sadly, it only encouraged a couple of little marks.

But, the new me?  Well, the new me was thanking the Good Lord for the opportunity.  Uh, huh, right.  No, really:

Some people complain that, if there was a GOD, there would be no disease, no war, no income tax, no little white cars.  The undeniable existence of all these “challenges” is de facto proof that if there is a GOD, then He certainly is not a nice guy.

I beg to differ.

If none of these bad things happened, and the world was all roses and rainbows, how would someone like me ever have a chance at salvation?  I’m not saying I would offer the driver of that little white car a free car wash or something; but it did give me the opportunity to consider that maybe that other driver has bigger problems than me.

And that other driver was not trying to be an ass.  Maybe it just comes naturally to people who drive little white cars.  From New York.  But, that’s the old me.

Really though, life can be pretty tough, and my life is a cake-walk compared to 90% of the folks out there just trying to find a safe place to sleep or the next meal.  Yeah, it is tougher if you’re stupid (thank you, John Wayne).  The lesson to be learned is: what are you going to do when life gives you lemons?  (Yeah, I love clichés, too.)

I have learned to appreciate the Church’s seasonal calendar.  We just finished Lent and are well into the Easter Season.  Every year, the seasons bring something new; either something I previously had never considered, or a greater richness and depth to something that was just rattling around in my cranium.

And this year, Easter brought this:  Christ died a horrific death, which means two things to me: One, a crucifixion is not what GOD needed, but what we need.  Anything less than a crucifixion just would not have gotten our attention.  In fact, most people still just don’t get it.  Two, He died and I don’t get a bye.  I will grant you that He does not expect me to volunteer to be nailed to a tree; but some of the other things He did, He did to set an example.  I know I just don’t get it.  I just don’t get how anyone can say Christ gave us all a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card.  He opened the door, sure.  But, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a walk in the park.  It just might be more like a salmon swimming upstream (you just gotta see that spectacle to believe it).

It’s not that we are expected to suffer.  It is that we should expect to be tested.  And how we react to those tests makes a difference.  Not that we can possibly earn our way into Heaven.  Never more true than the saying that “there but for the grace of GOD go I.”  Point is, I am expected to do something.  What I do does matter.  Makes perfect sense to me.