Briefly, a couple of thoughts on the Roman Catholic process of Canonization, that is, the official declaration that someone or other was an exceptionally holy person and is worthy of veneration and prayer within the context of the “Communion of Saints”.
1. It seems that the recent Vatican trend in canonization is related much more to the “policies” of the canonized, rather than to their de-facto holiness. We seem to be in favor of canonizing “policies” by proxy.
2. Some seem to be happy with the canonization of Pope Paul VI because they seem to see it as a “Canonization of Vatican II”, and the ensuing “Spirit of Vatican II” as incorporated in the Winnipeg Statement and other Modernist fallout of the Council, so much in vogue these days among certain modernist factions in the hierarchy.
3. Others are unhappy with the canonization of Pope Paul VI because they seem to see it as a “Canonization of Humanae Vitae” which ENCYCLICAL LETTER Pope Francis is making noises about “revising” or perhaps discarding altogether, because it doesn’t align with his intentions in Amoris Laetitia
4. The happy and the unhappy both seem to be in the same modernist faction … smoke and mirrors, confusion, fear, uncertainty, and doubt … sure hallmarks of human vanity and egos in action …
The new Saint himself writes in 1972:
It’s June 29, 1972. Paul VI has a clearer and clearer impression that there is something deep and negative that is increasingly afflicting the Church. The path towards secularization and the lack of internal unity are becoming two great problems for the Church throughout the world.
The pope, concerned, writes:
“… We would say that, through some mysterious crack—no, it’s not mysterious; through some crack, the smoke of Satan has entered the Church of God. There is doubt, uncertainty, problems, unrest, dissatisfaction, confrontation.
“The Church is no longer trusted. We trust the first pagan prophet we see who speaks to us in some newspaper, and we run behind him and ask him if he has the formula for true life. I repeat, doubt has entered our conscience. And it entered through the windows that should have been open to the light: science.”
Winter is Coming …
“Oh Earth Oh Earth Return”, Bill Douglas, from the album “Deep Peace” (1996)
An idea in gestation, that humility and forgiveness, and the getting of same, are vastly more important than anything this world has on offer. The question seems to be “how to get these desirable pearls?”
“The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king who would take an account of his servants.” The Gospel of Mathew (Mt 18, 23-35) refers to the account which all men will one day be called upon to give. It is a serious thought, which makes us reflect on the state of our conscience.
Or at least it should, and yet, this assumes the existence of a conscience, that one is conscious of sin, of being a sinner, of not doing God’s will, of being responsible for actions, thoughts, and desires redolent of evil and malice.
Ah yes, conscience and the formation thereof, aye, there’s the rub. Hamlet got it right, didn’t he?
We are terrified of death because at some deep level we know the accounting which awaits, and just how unprepared we are for even the beginning of contrition and remorse.
Far easier to sing and dance and pretend innocence and convince ourselves that we are really “good people” and we will be able to fool the king, and besides, there really isn’t a king at all anyway, is there?
So terrified at the thought of a reckoning that we deny reality and choose to live a fantasy as long a possible, as long as we can distract ourselves with the joys, diversions and rewards of this world.
Yet, if we have an inkling of the magnitude of our guilt, perhaps we continue down this path. As we continue the reading of this parable, our hearts are comforted. God, represented by the king, manifests such kindness, mercy and compassion to the poor servant who cannot pay his debt.
He forgives him everything and sets him free. This is amazing, overwhelming, the sheer magnitude of the debt and the infinite mercy of God brings us to tears.
The number given by Jesus is 10,000 talents. Even to us the implication is that this is a large amount. When I dig a little more, I find that, even if I assume that the talent is a larger denomination than the denarius, I’m still not getting the full impact of the story.
Here’s the calculation: 1 talent = 60 minas, 1 mina = 3 month’s wages, 60 x (3 months’ wages) = 180 months’ wages, 180 months’ wages divided by 12 months in a year = 15 years’ wages.
So, 1 talent = 15 years’ wages, and since the servant owed 10,000 talents he owed 150,000 years’ wages.
So, putting this into our own monetary language, assuming a yearly wage is, say, $15,000 (about 40hrs/week at min wage ($8/hr), the servant owed his master Two Billion, Two Hundred Fifty Million dollars, give or take a few hundred million!
Now, perhaps by a Government’s standard of debt, this amounts to mere rounding error; but for one man, a servant no less, a prole like you or I, to owe this much is absolutely unimaginable!
And our debts to God are so much greater and cannot be computed in talents, nor silver and gold, nor dollars. These debts must be reckoned in terms of the price of our redemption, the most precious blood of Jesus.
Our debts are our sins which needed to be washed away in the Blood of the divine Victim.
In spite of our good will, we increase those debts daily to a greater or lesser extent as a factor of our willingness to accept responsibility and acknowledge our guilt, to the extent that we feel remorse and contrition, and resolve to amend our ways, and actively work on that amendment every day.
From this path we shy away. We want to amend our ways, but we are totally attached to our ways, to our worldly consolations and rewards, our joys and pleasures. Hamlet’s thoughts are salient:
“To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
the heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
that Flesh is heir to?
‘Tis a consummation
devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there’s the rub,
for in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
when we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
must give us pause. There’s the respect
that makes Calamity of so long life:
For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,
the Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely,
the pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay,
the insolence of Office, and the spurns
that patient merit of the unworthy takes,
when he himself might his Quietus make
with a bare Bodkin?
Who would Fardels bear,
to grunt and sweat under a weary life,
but that the dread of something after death,
the undiscovered country, from whose bourn
no traveller returns, puzzles the will,
and makes us rather bear those ills we have,
than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
and thus the native hue of Resolution
Is sicklied o’er, with the pale cast of Thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment,
with this regard their Currents turn awry,
And lose the name of Action. Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia? Nymph, in thy Orisons
Be all my sins remember’d”
Yes, the terror of the reckoning stifles any temptation to just end it all and spare ourselves the suffering of this life. What then is left? Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die, and we cannot bear to look at this ending, so grim is it.
If, at the end of our life, God were to place before us an exact account of our deficit we would find ourselves in a much more difficult position that that of the servant in the parable. But God, as infinite goodness, knows and has pity on our misery.
Each time we place ourselves before Him and humbly acknowledge our faults with sincere repentance, He immediately pardons us and cancels all our debts. God is magnificent in His pardoning, He does not reproach us nor does he keep an account of the faults over which we have already wept. His pardon is generous, and complete.
It is enough for Him to see us repentant, then every wound, even the most grievous and repugnant, is healed by the precious Blood of Jesus. Christ’s Blood is like an immense sea which has the power to cleanse and destroy the sins of all mankind, provided they are sincerely repented of.
Now, one of the “new ideas” to come out of the Second Vatican Council is the emphasis it gave to conscience, that “voice of God” that speaks to our hearts about loving, doing good, and avoiding evil.
Unfortunately, since Vatican II, there’s been a lot of confusion about “following one’s conscience”.
For instance, while it’s true that we should always follow our conscience, the part about “following our conscience” is all people ever hear about it these days. Since at least Vatican II, the actual formation of said consciences has been singularly missing in action. No formation happening anywhere to my knowledge at least since V-II.
So what the heck is going on? The Winnipeg Statement, for example, in paragraph 17 starts in with “It is a fact that a certain number of Catholics, although admittedly subject to the teaching of the encyclical (Humanae Vitae), find it either extremely difficult or even impossible to make their own all elements of this doctrine.” …
“But they should remember that their good faith will be dependent on a sincere self-examination (of conscience) to determine the true motives and grounds for such suspension of assent and on continued effort to understand and deepen their knowledge of the teaching of the Church.”
And then, in paragraph 25, “In the situation we described earlier in this statement (par. 17) the confessor or counsellor must show sympathetic understanding and reverence for the sincere good faith of those who fall in their effort to accept some point of the encyclical.”
And in paragraph 26, “Counsellors may meet others who, accepting the teaching of the Holy Father, find that because of particular circumstances they are involved in what seems to them a clear conflict of duties, e.g., the reconciling of conjugal love and responsible parenthood with the education of children already born or with the health of the mother” …
“In accord with the accepted principles of moral theology, if these persons have tried sincerely but without success to pursue a line of conduct in keeping with the given directives, they may be safely assured that, whoever honestly chooses that course which seems right to him does so in good conscience.”
And finally in paragraph 34, “We conclude by asking all to pray fervently that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide his Church through all darkness and suffering” … The unity of the Church does not consist in a bland conformity in all ideas, but rather in a union of faith and heart,” …
“If this sometimes means that in our desire to make the Church more intelligible and more beautiful we must, as pilgrims do, falter in the way or differ as to the way, no one should conclude that our common faith is lost or our loving purpose blunted.”
So, the Canadian Bishops played the “conscience” card as if somehow that was trump when they split with Rome at the end of Vatican II. Instead of “conscience” what they got was a resurgence of “concupiscence”.
Moral relativism triumphed with a flourish of “It’s all OK if I “feel” it’s OK. And the same logic translates precisely into the logic of “Amoris Laetitia “. The conscience Zombies of Vatican II are flourishing in the catacombs of Rome.
But there’s a whole lot more to the story. Yes, it’s true that we should always follow our conscience, but we also have a responsibility to form our conscience properly! In other words, what we think is right and wrong may not actually be what’s truly right and wrong.
In fact, if our moral education comes from Hollywood and CNN, and CBC, and Facebook, and Justin Trudeau’s or Donald Trump’s tweets, and not from Sacred Scripture and traditional Church teaching over the last two millennia, then we’ve not formed our consciences properly, and what our conscience tells us will most likely be wrong.
We are obligated to follow our conscience under such circumstances. However, we’re also guilty of doing wrong if we didn’t take the time and make the effort to form our conscience properly. So, the foundation of the entire moral life comes down to properly forming our conscience.
Without proper formation of conscience the outcome of “sincerely examining one’s conscience” becomes license to do whatever we want and exponentially increase the daily deficit of our sins. Christ’s Blood is like an immense sea which has the power to cleanse and destroy the sins of all mankind, provided they are sincerely repented of.
All bets are off if we simply resort to more whitewashing and deflection in the name of “examining one’s conscience”.
The formation of conscience or lack thereof is born out by just a simple observation of that small percentage of Catholics who attend Mass regularly these days.
Back in the day, Confession used to be normally held, in two or even three confessionals for the hour or so preceding every Mass. And in my youth, the line up for confession was always “round the block”, or in this case, “round the church” (inside the church of course).
Nowadays, confession is limited to the presence of the priest in the confessional in our church a half hour prior to Mass and the lineup rarely exceeds one or two or three people and always the same people. And that is an improvement over the way it has been for years, where confession was by appointment.
Notwithstanding the absence of penitents in the confessional lineup every Sunday, the lineup for Eucharist always includes most of the congregation. This goes to the heart of the “conscience” question. There are only a couple of possibilities, a couple of obvious conclusions which the observed data begs.
1. There has been a remarkable change in the State of Grace of church going Catholics in the last 50 years, that is, there are very few sinners any more.
Or 2. The majority of those taking Eucharist are not doing so in a state of grace, in other words, in the absence of a well formed conscience they are as described in 1 Corinthians 11:29 “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body”.
Humility and forgiveness, and the getting of same, are vastly more important than anything this world has on offer. We are so screwed! The only consolation in this “conscience” debacle is Christ’s own statement to the effect that “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be thrown into the sea.” Mark 9:42
Whited sepulchers indeed.
“Mother of Sorrows”, Benedictines of Mary Queen of Apostles, from the album “Lent At Ephesus”, (2014)
Writing this on a cool grey Wednesday morning … My mood and perception of reality in this moment are a reflection of the cold grey all around me this morning.
Mass in another hour, Mass is always good, wish I could go every day but that desire will not be gratified any time soon.
Wish there was another traditional rite available to us here but that also is an unrealized desire or dream.
The Catholic Church of Rome now uses the term “extraordinary form” of the Roman Rite Mass among other terms.
The most widespread term for this form of the rite, other than “Tridentine Mass“, is “Latin Mass“. And the practice of the “Latin Mass” has indeed become “extraordinary”. Pity …
What have politics, social pressure and human pride to do with a Mass which has existed for around 2000 years now, and quite frankly has been debated very little until quite recently.
Paul had things to say about this sort of thing. In Galatians 2, Paul got right in Peter’s face and told him off about his mistakes and his hypocrisy. Peter was pretty much The Boss, he was the first pope, he couldn’t have been wrong, right?
This confrontation is perhaps THE most surprising thing in Paul’s letters. Some of the other apostles, and some of the church fathers found this difficult to accept, being that they were in the Jewish circumcision faction and so they made excuses for Peter.
They made excuses in pretty much the same way that Cardinal Ouellet is making excuses for Pope Francis. But Peter was wrong – in a way that we often go wrong, too, … peer pressure – everywhere and at all ages and states in life …
And I wonder about the peer pressure within our current crop of clerics, our current leadership, our current cadre of theological “betters”.
I wonder about the pressure to go along with certain points of view and certain agendas, certain life-style choices, which have been apparent to me since the 60’s. All this peer pressure aided and abetted by demonic stoking of the fires of normal human concupiscence.
The pressure to “not rock the boat” and voice one’s reservations even when those reservations are in the area of millennia long traditions and canonical doctrine.
Reservations about changing things just to be fashionable, to be more in step with the world, to be more “welcoming”, more “inclusive”.
Thinking about my own life … of sin … of self indulgence, the places and times when self sacrifice was not in the ascendance.
Lots of food for thought there, lots of decades of self-love and attachment to esteem, worldly praise, and rewards for “not rocking the boat”. Lots of reasons for contrition and amendment.
When and why did my soul and my self start to diverge from the spirit of our times? How did I get so out of step with my own “welcoming”, “inclusive” church?
In what measurable way, what distinctive way, is the church of Rome different from any other popular protestant church? When did my church stop being a rock, a scandal to the Jews, and a stumbling block to the Gentiles and start being a “Me Too” “We have to be more open”, kind of church?
The Roman Catholic Church used to be all about the narrow path and holding true to the Word of God as handed down for two thousand years. Now we get smoke and mirrors and silence or obfuscation and confusion. Pity …
No matter what the cost, even of life itself, the Truth must be upheld even in the face of a world that rejects it all. “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” ― G.K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World.
Where did the narrow path get washed out and impassable?
Or, this time I can say, with passion, “But it is not This Day! This day we fight.” This is all just one more place where we are commanded to stand and deliver, to soldier on no matter what, hold to the last man when all seems lost, keep advancing towards the light even when all the officers have run away and all hope of victory seems dashed beyond recovery.
This feeling of almost despair is merely one more round of Satan’s lies. I have become a recent fanboy of Robert Cardinal Sarah. I rather suspect that the good Cardinal and others like him, and even Saint Theresa of Calcutta would be unhappy with the current state of the liturgy in our Canadian dioceses, on the other hand we are not yet in the news for abuse scandals, so perhaps things are not as bad as I feel today.
In any case, we will continue to fight the long defeat, and if and when the victory is hard won in Rome, we will still have to return to the Shire and undertake the bitter task of scouring our home to return it to the state of cleanliness suitable for the wedding feast. Lets not be the one spoken of thus: “Then the king said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. (Matt 22:13)
A much needed Scouring of the Shire …
“Kojo No Tsuki” (Rentaro Taki), performed by Yo-Yo Ma, Michio Mamiya, & Patricia Zander, from the album “Japanese Melodies” (1990)
Just muddling along in the snow these days. Thoughts all over the map, and have been doing a lot of thinking about the scandal and controversy in the Roman Catholic Church. Been reading “Church Militant” blog, off and on for the last few weeks. We are in a real “take-no-prisoners” battle these days, and it often feels very much like we are losing.
But there is a silver lining to this storm, and that is that one must revisit and rethink comfortable conclusions taken for granted for years. It is safe to say that one is even encouraged by all this controversy to think outside the comfortable box.
I find myself revisiting modes of thought regarding the Church which I have not experienced since the late 60’s, and the disruption brought on in the Canadian Catholic Church by the “Spirit of Vatican II”.
That “Spirit” as expressed in Canada resulted in such events as the “Winnipeg Statement“ of 1968. and began a decades long de-facto schism between the Canadian Church and the Roman Catholic Church.
The Canadian Catholic Church has not fully recovered from this schism to this day. The Progressives, who made up the vast majority of the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops (97 out of 100 bishops) took “their church” down a separate path from Rome which was decidedly not Catholic. The damage done by these men is incalculable, and we Canadian Catholics will be reaping this whirlwind for generations to come.
Now we are faced with an even more destructive leadership crisis emanating from Rome itself, but which has all its roots in “the Spirit” of Vatican II as well as many other crisis in Church history. Satan never rests:
As St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1715) says ...”(Satan) knows that we have this treasure, which is worth more than Heaven and earth put together, in frail vessels, i.e., in a corruptible body and in a weak and inconstant soul, which a mere nothing disturbs and dejects: “We have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Cor. 4:7).
Because all the devils, are skillful thieves, who wish to surprise us unawares. They watch day and night for the favorable moment. and they go around about us incessantly to devour us and to snatch from us in one moment, by a sin, all the graces and merits we have gained for many years.
Their malice, their experience, their stratagems and their number ought to make us fear this misfortune immensely, especially when we see how many persons fuller of grace than we are, richer in virtues, better founded in experience and far higher exalted in sanctity, have been surprised, robbed and unhappily pillaged.
Ah! How many cedars of Lebanon, how many stars of the firmament, have we not seen fall miserably, and in the twinkling of an eye lose all their height and their brightness! Whence comes that sad and curious change? It was not for want of grace which is wanting to no man; but is was for want of humility.
They thought themselves capable of guarding their own treasures. They trusted in themselves, relied upon themselves. They thought their house secure enough, and their coffers strong enough, to keep the precious treasure of grace. It is because of that scarcely perceptible reliance upon themselves, though all the while it seemed to them that they were relying only on the grace of God, that the most just Lord permitted them to be robbed by leaving them to themselves. …
It is difficult to preserver in justice because of the strange corruption of the world. The world is now so corrupt it seems inevitable that religious hearts should be soiled, if not by its mud, at least by its dust; so that it has become a kind of miracle for anyone to remain in the midst of that impetuous torrent without being drowned in it or stripped by the pirates and the corsairs, in the midst of that pestilent air without being infected by it.”
St. Louis de Montfort, “True Devotion to Mary: With Preparation for Total Consecration” (Kindle Locations 1030-1040). KIC. Kindle Edition.
One result of stepping outside my comfort zone, is a brief glimpse I have had that my “God” is not the “god” of our modern culture, nor, perhaps, the “God” of my Church, but rather something, someone, much, much, more, “GOD” for want of a better descriptor.
My “God” is not my buddy, not “nice”, not accommodating, not fashionable, but he is Merciful, and Loving in sense of Agape, “the highest form of love, charity” and “the love of God for man and of man for God”, and He is above all a God of Justice who demands commitment … “Come, Follow Me”. He guarantees “Free Will” and the choices available with it. But He also insists on “Responsibility” for one’s choices and actions. And “Responsibility” is very much missing in action these days.
So what was I thinking about … Oh, right, “god”, and “God”, and “GOD”.
Just going with a quote from another good book I have been reading, “Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms“, by Holly Ordway.
“There are various levels of self-involving statements. If, walking down the street, I say ‘I think that was the Number 10 bus,’ the statement is only minimally self-involving; I do not want to go where the Number 10 bus goes, and anyway I prefer to walk.
But if, arriving breathless at the bus-stop on the way to a vital appointment, I look despairingly up the street and say ‘I think that was the Number 10 bus,’ knowing that the next one is not due for another two hours and that there is no other means of arriving on time, the statement not only involves me, it plunges me into gloom.
The point is that one cannot say ‘Jesus of Nazareth was bodily raised from the dead’ with the minimal involvement of the first of those statements. If it happened, it matters. The world is a different place from what it would be if it did not happen.
Saying that ‘Jesus of Nazareth was bodily raised from the dead’ is not only a self-involving statement; it is a self-committing statement, going beyond a reordering of one’s private world into various levels of commitment to work out the implications.
We cannot simply leave a flag stuck on a hill somewhere and sail back home to safety.”
N.T. Wright, quoted by Holly Ordway, “Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms” (Kindle Locations 1834-1844). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.
It seems to me, now, that the Resurrection is the signal Truth of Christianity. The Truth of the Resurrection is the foundation of everything handed down to us, which we have been taught to believe, or in our wilfulness, have refused to believe.
I get a brief glimpse, here and there, that the “God” I have believed in all my life is not in fact the “GOD” which the Apostles, and the Fathers, and the Doctors of the Church believed in. The “God” that I have believed in is not the “GOD” which the Magisterium of the Church was intended to hand down to us and teach to us.
I have a sense that I am standing in a hurricane of ecclesial controversy and I have a suspicion that even the “God” that the modern church of Rome is talking about is not in fact the “GOD” of Peter, and Paul, and the rest of the Apostles and the first century Christians. Fleeting though this vision is it seems hugely important, and I keep trying to get my hands on it in a more permanent way.
“Once we have glimpsed the true portrait of God, the onus is on us to reflect it: to reflect it as a community, to reflect it as individuals. The image of the true and living God, once revealed in all its glory, is to be reflected into all the world, as was always God’s intention.
The mission of the Church can be summed up in the phrase “reflected glory.” When we see, as Paul says, the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, we see this not for our own benefit, but so that the glory may shine in us and through us to bring light to the world that still waits in darkness and the shadow of death.” N.T. Wright,
Are Catholics reflecting the true portrait of GOD right now? There is just so much more to the Truth than C.S. Lewis’ simple statement: Jesus was either mad, or bad, or he was “who he claimed to be.” Lewis was indeed trying to make it simple and did a very good job of it, but the Truth is further up, and further in!
Reading N.T. Wright is like cutting my way through a lush and fruitful jungle towards Understanding.
“Snow”, by Kobudo, from the album “Ototabi” (2013)
More poetry, and a bit of historical background, a sort of “how did I get here?” moment.
I once had a co-worker, almost 20 years ago now, who was an intelligent and articulate atheist, and who never tired of explaining to me how ignorant and superstitious was my embrace of the Catholic Faith. I think of Pauros sometimes, and the irony of his name, whenever I dwell upon the inevitability of self worship in any philosophy which denies the existence of God.
He, Pauros the Greek, was an Ubber Geek, and knew not much at all outside of our shared programming specialties, namely COBOL, Pascal, Borland Delphi, and C++Builder. That was back when the civilized world was completely engulfed in its Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt regarding the approaching end of the world, the secular end-times, also known as Y2K.
We were both employed in part because of our knowledge of and ability to program in COBOL, and to maintain the COBOL based financial systems for a Health Region with thousands of employees.
These systems were running on a UNIX platform, a large-scale computer system, Hewlett-Packard if I remember correctly, although I was not the network admin. I think I might have also been employed there because I was the only other programmer in the whole department who could work with Pauros the Greek.
Anyway, the point was that he could not bring himself to imagine anything that couldn’t be tested and proven scientifically, empirically, he always insisted that he needed data to back up anything and everything. He refused to contemplate or imagine the universe and everything in it as a subset of reality, created by a being who existed outside the universe.
My fallback position when beaten down by yet another tirade about my “primitive superstitions” was “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” – Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio, or simply to drop some offhanded remark to the effect that “Solipsists are out of touch”.
This always provoked sulking followed by further tirades on the “stupidity” of my views. It was a really fun place to work. Pauros the Greek simply couldn’t admit that his “beliefs” were every bit as much “faith based” as mine.
He and another similar friend, Caoimhín the Celtic Prince, who I met later, have always personified what I see as wrong with Atheism. Behind all their precisely articulated views was the same premise: there is no God, no ultimate meaning beyond ourselves, beyond self.
Both were fundamentally unhappy people, for example, Pauros was working hard on getting rid of his third wife without loosing any money and Caoimhín never landed a wife, though not for want of trying. They both were completely wrapped up in and focused on what was wrong with the world of their existence.
But, no answers were forthcoming to the “Why?” question. If life was meaningless, why didn’t they just kill themselves? Pauros’ reply to that question was, “Well, a lot of people do kill themselves because they don’t have the courage to live with the truth.” Caoimhín, on the other hand, believed that it was possible and desirable to be a good person (where did his standard of ‘goodness’ came from? No answer there).
Caoimhín, curiously a big fan of LOTR, maintained that life was worth living, even at a time when he was dieing of bowel cancer. Maybe Caoimhín, in his clear and present understanding of the end, was perhaps more of an “Atheism Lite” philosopher, maybe “meaning” was creeping in “at the end of all things”.
Neither Pauros nor Caoimhín could ever explain how life could be worth living and yet have no meaning? This paradox was not even acknowledged. But atheism, when consistently, logically, lived out, seems to me to be a life of self-deception or despair, or some combination of both, a sliding scale of illogic and unhappiness, a pride in despair, so to speak.
This is all about pride, despairing pride, lonely pride, providing the self I worship with a dark comfort. This is sin, this feeling of superiority is terribly attractive, easy to get attached to, like so many of life’s pleasures.
Once you are there, in your despairing superiority, it is hard to to give it up. Its akin to the feeling of superiority one is tempted with when the current government, which one didn’t vote for, takes everything to hell in a hand basket, and one feels a smug “I told you so…”.
On the part of the atheist, any departure from this “rational” superiority of despair, any turn towards not having “the courage to live with the truth”, would mean that all those superstitious people you have so enjoyed mocking and sneering at really do know more than you. It would mean you’re not so special any more, it would mean giving up being special by virtue of the belief that everyone else is a fool.
Unfortunately, self-referential meaning is only a short-lived stop-gap: it is real only in the sense that the stage set of Elsinore Castle (see Hamlet quote above) or Darth Vader’s Death Star is a real place. We can suspend disbelief while the play (our life) is being performed, but at some point, the curtain falls and one must leave the theater. The “poor player” strutting his stuff must leave the stage.
So, if “Helping Others”, “Doing Good Work”, and “Having Friends” are just a “stage setting” and “green screen special effects”, then what? Pauros and Caoimhín seemed to share a vision, that vision which John Lennon articulated in the popular song “Imagine”, and it’s beautiful song . . . if you don’t think too hard about it. If we don’t think about it then the “nowhere” outside our “ME” universe surrounds our cold fortress of solitude, and there is nothing else, no joy, no forgiveness, no point in anything, just put your Ruger in your mouth and save the planet from your wasteful consumption of resources..
The vision: “Imagine there’s no heaven. Imagine there’s no hell. Imagine all the people, living life in” … WTF Man? Take religion out of the picture, and everybody spontaneously starts living life in peace? Whaaa? Now I have been around the block a few times, my blog is named “notmyfirstrodeo” for a reason. In my experience, peace is not the default state of human beings. All I need to do is look at myself, and most of the people I have met over the last 50 years, to recognize that anger, jealousy, insecurity, envy, contempt, selfishness, fear, and greed are deeply rooted in the core of every human.
Even a cursory look and listen about us today with unjaundiced eyes reveals the big lie of our atheistic culture. There is no god, there is no devil, there is nothing outside of the self … and all the evil we see playing out everywhere around us is just a figment of our imagination. They are not really people, they have no value, out out brief flame. Medical malpractice, traffic accidents, abortion and euthanasia, mercy wagons, 9/11, all the same … erasing the inconvenient …
It seems to me that a cultural embrace of atheism, namely “Secular Humanism”, leaves folks with all the same problems as history suggests, but worse! The 20th century’s atheistic human rights track record, that is, the human-rights track record of atheist countries, like China, and the Soviet Union, and Canada, is poor.
I know and understand the difference between imagination and wishful thinking. If atheism is true, if life truly has no meaning, then all of our actions cannot have any meaning either, there is no right or wrong, no rights and no responsibilities, no justice, no love, entropy rules and at the end of all things we are just so much rotting meat turning into dust.
And the difference between imagination and wishful thinking is beautifully captured in the poem “Dover Beach” by Mathew Arnold:
Matthew Arnold, 1822 – 1888
The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast, the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.
The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
… and miles to go before I sleep …
“Ladies in Lavender”, Joshua Bell, from the album “the Essential Joshua Bell”, (2005)
Courtesy of Malcolm Guite, I seem happily to have rediscovered poetry after a hiatus of several decades. Ayodeji Malcolm Guite (born 12 November 1957) is an English poet, singer-songwriter, Anglican priest, and academic. Born in Nigeria to British expatriate parents, Guite earned degrees from Cambridge and Durham universities.
His research interests include the intersection of religion and the arts, and the examination of the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, and British poets such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
On several occasions, he has taught as visiting faculty at several colleges and universities in England and North America. Guite is the author of five books of poetry, some of which are available on Amazon.com Kindle editions.
The poem caught my attention was “St. Michael and All Angels” from “Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year” (London: Canterbury Press, 2012). Found on Amazon.com, for a few bucks.
And by the wandering connections of serendipity I later found Gerard Manley Hopkins. Born at Stratford, Essex, England, on July 28, 1844, Gerard Manley Hopkins is regarded as one the Victorian era’s greatest poets. He was raised in a prosperous and artistic family. He attended Balliol College, Oxford, in 1863, where he studied Classics.
In 1864, Hopkins first read John Henry Newman’s Apologia pro via sua, which discussed the author’s reasons for converting to Catholicism. Two years later, Newman himself received Hopkins into the Roman Catholic Church.
In 1884, he became a professor of Greek at the Royal University College in Dublin. He died five years later from typhoid fever. Although his poems were never published during his lifetime, his friend poet Robert Bridges edited a volume of Hopkins’s Poems that first appeared in 1918. His collected poems, exercised a profound influence on modern poetry.
This volume features all of Hopkins’s mature work, offering a sampler of the poet’s striking originality, intellectual depth, and perceptive vision. Hopkins is considered by many to be the greatest Victorian Poet.
Featured works include his well-known elegy, “The Wreck of the Deutschland,” “God’s Grandeur,” “Hurrahing in Harvest,” “The Windhover,” “Pied Beauty,” and “Carrion Comfort.” Additional verses include “The Caged Skylark,” “The Bugler’s First Communion,” “The Starlight Night,” “The Silver Jubilee,” “Henry Purcell,” “Andromeda,” and others.
By Gerard Manley Hopkins
Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist — slack they may be — these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
With darksome devouring eyes my bruisèd bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?
Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.
Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, chéer.
Cheer whom though? the hero whose heaven-handling flung me, fóot tród
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.
“Snow”, by Kobudo, from the album “Ototabi” (2013)
This is an edited re-post of a previous post from August, and the Feast has arrived, as all good things do. Today is September 29th, the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.
As previously mentioned, I came across some interesting books of poetry while browsing my Amazon account like I used to do as a young man in my favorite used book stores in Montreal and Ottawa, long before the days of internet and online anything.
In this enlightened age, following the suggestions of their algorithm of choice on Amazon, or Netflix, or any other marketing bot attempting to sell us stuff, can really end up in a deep ditch of habit unless considered and actively rejected.
Sometimes it pays to actually go on a quest for something different than normal, thinking for oneself can be refreshing … found this poet … Malcolm Guite, interesting man … and very worthwhile considering on our cool fall days. Winter is coming.
Popularly knows as Michaelmas; also known as the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, the Feast of the Archangels, or the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels) is a minor Christian festival observed in some Western liturgical calendars on 29 September.
It is observed by Anglicans, Catholics, Lutherans, and Eastern Orthodox communions. From my Daily Roman Missal:
“St. Michael (“Who is like God”) is the Archangel who fought Satan. He is the protector of all people and reminds the faithful of the real existence of the Devil and demonic activity. He is invoked for protection from the snares of the Devil.
St. Gabriel (“Strength of God”) announced to St. Zechariah the birth of St. John the Baptist and to the Blessed Virgin Mary the birth of Christ. His greeting to Our Lady, “Hail, full of grace,” is one of the most familiar and frequent prayers of the Church.
St. Raphael (“Medicine of God”) is the Archangel who, in the Book of Tobit, cared for Tobias on his journey. Every person on his or her pilgrimage through this life also has a guardian angel.”
In some denominations a reference to a fourth angel, usually Uriel, is also added. In Christian angelology, the Archangel Michael is the greatest of all the Archangels and is honored for defeating Satan in the war in heaven.
He is one of the principal angelic warriors, seen as a protector against the dark of night, and the administrator of cosmic intelligence.
St. Michael and All Angels
Michaelmas gales assail the waning year,
And Michael’s scale is true, his blade is bright.
He strips dead leaves, and leaves the living clear
To flourish in the touch and reach of light.
Archangel bring your balance, help me turn
Upon this turning world with you and dance
In the Great Dance.
Draw near, help me discern,
And trace the hidden grace in change and chance.
Angel of fire, Love’s fierce radiance,
Drive through the deep until the steep waves part;
Undo the dragon’s sinuous influence
And pierce the clotted darkness in my heart.
Unchain the child you find there, break the spell
And overthrow the tyrannies of Hell.
Malcolm Guite, This poem from “Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year” (London: Canterbury Press, 2012). Found on Amazon.com,
Still thinking about Models. Thinking about what all Models seem to have in common.
It appears to me that Hard Models, those Engineering Models and Physics Models, which keep literally everything we depend on to stay alive and more or less healthy running smoothly, are based on a tangible reality, a measurable reality.
All those Grey Tribe models which the majority of folks take totally for granted and never think about, are mostly based on provable facts, and, or, theories based on facts.
Striking similarities between all Hard Models are that they can be used predictively, in fact their utility increases if they are found to be highly predictive and they are all replicable by any number of independent engineers and scientists.
One of the striking aspects of Soft Models, Pink Tribe Models, is the striking lack of anything real or absolutely quantifiable shown in those models. The fudge-factor in Soft Models is huge.
A good site to have a quick look at what I am talking about here is the Semantic Scholar site and the article here. All the Soft Models have this in common, that they exclusively model “ideas”, they are rooted in “Ideology”. Soft Models may make use of real world objects or observed phenomena but only in the sense that they “need” some reference to reality by analogy to give a patina of reality to their ideology.
In the world of Soft Models, Pink Tribe models, are all about how we would like things to line up with the “desirable” outcome.
Even in the Soft Model world of pseudo-science like political “science” and social “science”, even there, they at least give lip service to these characteristics of predicative value and replication of models.
Of interest, aside from my purpose here, on the same site are several articles like “3 Secrets to Outsmarting a Narcissist“, and “It Takes Just One Question to Identify Narcissism“, and “14 Thought-Control Tactics Narcissists Use to Confuse and Dominate You“.
Just remembered something, back in 2014 when I started blogging, what tipped me over the edge into writing about my experiences was the reality of dealing with Narcissists. Wow, I am coming up to four years blogging. That’s over a million words since 2014, self centered words flowing from my own model. My own Narcissism. This change of focus is what I was aiming for when I started writing.
I was pretty angry at the time and started writing about things, here, and here, and here, and here, as a kind of self help therapy. I wanted to have some sort of narrative available to which I could refer back when the reality of my experience was re-written by others.
After all, it is not only history which is re-written to cover up the past. Individuals do it every day in their thinking about what happened and how it reflects on their conduct. Freud probably would have had something to say about my hidden motives.
Anyway, the point of this is to illustrate the degree of self love apparent in the kinds of models we make use of to interact with our world, our “reality. Hard Models tend to have more “real” stuff and significantly lower “self-love” factors. Soft Models tend to have significantly less “real” stuff, and significantly higher levels of the “self-love” factor.
Models rooted in empirical facts and measurable hard data tend to be less about the brilliance of the modeler and more about the real world item being modeled.
Models rooted in Ideology and self referenced opinion of individuals or groups tend to be more about the brilliance of the modeler(s) and less about reality on the ground.
At the foundational level, all this is really about metaphysics and spiritual truths.
Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that studies the essence of a thing. This includes questions of being, becoming, existence, and reality. The word “metaphysics” comes from the Greek words that literally mean “beyond nature”.
“Nature” in this sense refers to the nature of a thing, such as its cause and purpose. Metaphysics then studies questions of a thing beyond or above questions of its nature, in particular its essence or its qualities of being.
Now, we “Brights” of our sophisticated modern age, have a way of cluttering up the landscape of thought with ever finer divisions and subdivisions and categories of things.
We do this until the origins of whatever we are discussing are completely obscured in generations worth of Erudite Academic Bafflegab.
For example, we have philosophical periods, thus Ancient, Medieval, Modern, and Contemporary.
And within these periods we, as a culture, classify Philosophers somewhat along these lines: Aestheticians, Epistemologists, Ethicists, Logicians, Metaphysicians, and then there are the Social and Political philosophers, the “Johnny-Come-Latelies” of philosophical history, riding on the authoritative coat-tails of the giants who went before, mostly wrapped up in debating and implementing various Pink Tribe Models for government, that serve various sociological agendas and programs amongst various elites in our Progressive polite society.
And to further obfuscate Truth, all these philosophers toil away within an array of “Traditions”. We have split up philosophy into many, sometimes rather arbitrary “Traditions”, such as African, Analytic, Aristotelian, Buddhist, Chinese, Christian, Continental, Existentialism, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Pragmatism, Eastern, Islamic, Platonic, and Western.
BUT … Its really a LOT simpler than all that.
The reality of all these “traditions”, this detailed taxonomy of thought, comes down to only four basic “Models”. Those models are worldviews at their most basic level. The Four Models, the four major global worldviews are Material Naturalism, Secular humanism, Pantheism and Monotheism, represented by Judeo-Christianity.
Now this is all about our Models, and about whether our Models best reflect reality or something else. I am going to quote from a book by Mary Poplin, “Is Reality Secular” because she does such a good job of setting this all out clearly and concisely. Here is her explanation of the four Models:
“Material naturalism is the belief that all that exists in the world is ultimately reducible to material phenomena. From this perspective, Mother Teresa was just a unique bundle of brain chemistry with particular psychoneural processes acting predictably, prompting her to do what she did.
Secular humanism is the belief that human beings are alone in the world and must act responsibly by forming their ethics solely from their human experience, human reason and science. From this perspective, Mother Teresa simply decided who she wanted to be and what she wanted to do and garnered the fortitude, determination and self-discipline necessary to do good works.
Pantheism is the belief that everything in the universe is a manifestation of a universal spirit. From the perspective of this nonsecular worldview, Mother Teresa might be interpreted as a more highly enlightened or reincarnated soul who had a strong spiritual connection to the divine spirit inside all of nature, including human nature.
And then there is Monotheism, (and as some of us might know,) this is the belief that there is a transcendent personal God, external to us, living and acting in the world, as well as in and through us.
In this worldview, the fact that Jesus appeared to Mother Teresa in three visions and asked her to do precisely what she did when she left the safe cloister of the Loreto convent, is an admissible fact. Within the orthodox principles of the Judeo-Christian worldview her visions of Christ and obedience to his request are wholly credible.
For the other three world views, the other three Models, the visions and interactions experienced by Mother Teresa simply cannot be considered an admissible fact. It isn’t plausible through the lenses of the secular worldviews. It isn’t part of the Western secular plausibility structure (the set of meanings in a culture that qualify as being possible).
Even Westernized Christians often find her visions incredible, acceptable only if interpreted as a personal psychological state, not as a reality. Now there are five characteristics of all four worldviews.
First and most consequential, all worldviews begin with faith, a metaphysical belief that cannot be verified using scientific methods. Robert Bellah points out that the Latin word for faith, “fides”, is more akin to the English term for trust rather than belief.
Though these faith statements can be argued philosophically, and from evidence we can inductively and deductively hypothesize, none can be proven empirically through scientific methods, including material naturalism. Every worldview begins with faith in something empirically or scientifically unknowable.
Second, every non-Christian worldview holds within it some principles of the Judeo-Christian worldview. Thus there is an overlap between principles of Judeo-Christianity and those of material naturalism, secular humanism and pantheism.
Third, there are also principles held by each of these three worldviews that lie outside of the Judeo-Christian worldview, such as the material-naturalist belief that everything that exists is ultimately a material or natural phenomenon. From a Judeo-Christian standpoint, these principles would be considered errors of commission.
Fourth, there are principles of Judeo-Christianity that lie outside the purview of believers in these other three worldviews. The absence of these principles in other worldviews would be considered by Christians as errors of omission.
Finally, none of these worldviews is more progressive or modern than the other. They have all existed ever since recorded history. The only real question is, are one or more of these an adequate description of reality?”
Mary Poplin, “Is Reality Secular?: Testing the Assumptions of Four Global Worldviews” (Veritas Books) (pp. 28 – 31). InterVarsity Press.
At the end of this it all comes down to personal spiritual values. and I am going to end this with a quote from a saint in my Monotheistic worldview, St. Mary Magdalen die Pazzi, (April 2, 1566 – May 25, 1607), a Carmelite Mystic, thus:
“What then, O my God, deprives the soul of Your Spirit? It is perverse self-love, the source and origin of every sin. Alas, I well see that the world remains wholly submerged and drowned in self-love! Some persons are sunk in it by their intellect, some by their memory, some by their will, and some, with their whole soul, submerge themselves in it. What is most displeasing to You, O God, is that this perverse self-love dwells even in Your Priests and in Your (Religious). The disorder of our self-love, of our attachment to our own will is no small thing. It does not require mountains of enormous sins to block the course of this rapid stream, this ocean of love; the sands of our defects, which we think trivial, but which are not, suffice to do so.” (St. Mary Magdalen die Pazzi,)
It really is all about our Models and Self-Love. When one gives it some thought it becomes clear that virtually every evil which we experience in these enlightened times is the direct result of self-love.
Cold and snowing for the last two days, but today it is starting to melt and is now raining. Gotta love that Global Warming, eh? Today’s post has turned into a bit of a rant.
Tornado in Ottawa last week, but unfortunately it missed the Parliament buildings and we are still stuck with Boy Justin and his merry band of … Hmmmm … I really don’t have a politically correct collective noun for what passes for politicians in Canada these days.
Been thinking about Models. Thinking about how adopting models which support what we already believe is truth, is much easier than actually developing our own model based on logic and our own personal observations and experience about reality on the ground. BUT, just running with whatever our personal howler jungle on Social Media tells us to believe, is really, really, dangerous.
Easy but dangerous, hmmm, sounds familiar somehow. Maybe from a past life? Hold My Beer!
Found a decent article from back in September 2017, about a year ago, about moral discernment as it might apply to judging the efficacy of models. How do we know these days, in our polite society, the difference between right and wrong? Can our culture even begin to understand the difference any more?
I am not going to cut and paste, Read it all here. Just click the link and read the whole thing in context, or not, since the difference between right and wrong doesn’t really seem to matter any more even amongst those charged with teaching the rest of us what the difference is. Bad personal choices are on a par with bad fashion sense these days so who cares anyway.
Its hard to believe, (this in a country that is not the U.S.A.) but I am still coming face to face weekly with everyman-in-the-steet choosing to rant about Trump instead of having any sort of meaningful discussion or chat about the reality on the ground.
Where are they getting this Kool Aid? Remember Kool Aid? The phrase “drinking the Kool–Aid” refers to the 1978 Jonestown massacre, in which more than 900 people committed mass suicide by drinking a flavored drink mixed with Valium, chloral hydrate, cyanide, and Phenergan. It wasn’t really Kool Aid but who cares about truth anyway.
Social Media is truly the new Kool Aid, the great global tyranny. More dangerous than ISIS, Stalin, Chairman Mao, Pol Pot, Pierre Eliot Trudeau, pick your disaster, Social Media is more dangerous than a nuclear strike.
Because people are looking for truth, and they just want to belong to the “In Crowd”, or maybe just any crowd. The Kool crowd and all these Neo-Brights who missed the boat in high school can make up for lost ground on Social Media.
We get rants here from various folks, about the economy (Trump’s fault), and the weather (somehow all Trump again), and cancelled pipeline projects (Trump again), and why things are so screwed up (yet again Trump screwing things around), and everyone else is stupid (Trump’s fault?) cause they don’t get it (Trump’s fault?) and they don’t agree with me. Its liiiike … WTF!!!
Yes! Trump is a dick with a capital D! Get over it people! Get a life! Trump doesn’t have anything to do with the cosmically stupid political and economic decisions of Canadians! Trump is America’s problem, not ours.
WTF! Everything that is screwed up here is conceived, born, raised and carefully brought to fruition right here in Any-town, Any-province, Canaja.
We do stupid stuff all the time, just like everywhere else, and we elect dangerous people, not as bad as some places but bad enough, and then when things go in the crapper we blame TRUMP? What is WRONG with you people?
These are all home grown problems created by and for Canadians. Trump is too busy doing real world class stuff (however we feel about it) to be bothered dickin’ around with some minor third world country like Canada! Jeez, get a life.
“Obviously” Canada’s economy has nothing to do with Canadian policies and Carbon Taxes, and shutting down pipeline projects because some Sierra Club Tracy Two-Tits waved a sign in boy Justin’s face for a couple of minutes and threatened his opinion polls. No, its all just Trump’s fault.
And the weather is bitterly cold and it’s snowing in September and we are getting December weather and of course that just has to be caused by Global Warming so see the Carbon tax insanity above (AND its all Trump’s fault).
Were people always like this or is this something new? “Obviously“, this kind of thinking was popular in Germany, the morning after Kristallnacht (November 1938). (Could THAT have been Trump’s fault as well?)
So, given the precedent of November 1938, what could possibly be wrong with the same kind of thinking here and now, when all these anti-global warming, anti-gun control, anti-abortion, anti-carbon tax, anti-East, anti-West (pick your tribe), knuckle dragging losers in flyover country are “obviously” idiots and don’t know their butts from a hole in the ground.
“Obviously, all right minded people know this to be true”.
Well, feel so much better now. Haven’t indulged in a rant for a while, and I am out of practice. Just standing around looking at the flagpole.