Mrs Kavanaugh’s request: Psalm 40

david harp

1 For the leader. A psalm of David. 2 I waited, waited for the LORD; who bent down and heard my cry, 3 Drew me out of the pit of destruction, out of the mud of the swamp, Set my feet upon rock, steadied my steps, 4 1 And put a new song in my mouth, a hymn to our God. Many shall look on in awe and they shall trust in the LORD. 5 Happy those whose trust is the LORD, who turn not to idolatry or to those who stray after falsehood. 6 How numerous, O LORD, my God, you have made your wondrous deeds! And in your plans for us there is none to equal you. Should I wish to declare or tell them, too many are they to recount. 7 Sacrifice and offering you do not want; but ears open to obedience you gave me. Holocausts and sin-offerings you do not require; 8 so I said, “Here I am; your commands for me are written in the scroll. 9 To do your will is my delight; my God, your law is in my heart!” 10 I announced your deed to a great assembly; I did not restrain my lips; you, LORD, are my witness. 11 Your deed I did not hide within my heart; your loyal deliverance I have proclaimed. I made no secret of your enduring kindness to a great assembly. 12 LORD, do not withhold your compassion from me; may your enduring kindness ever preserve me. 13 For all about me are evils beyond count; my sins so overcome me I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head; my courage fails me. 14 LORD, graciously rescue me! Come quickly to help me, LORD! 15 Put to shame and confound all who seek to take my life. Turn back in disgrace those who desire my ruin. 16 Let those who say “Aha!” know dismay and shame. 17 But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you. May those who long for your help always say, “The LORD be glorified.” 18 Though I am afflicted and poor, the Lord keeps me in mind. You are my help and deliverer; my God, do not delay!

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HALO 78,000 ft > mach 3 SR71

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Tattoos: Edu by the PoPo, PJ feet, Jesus

sharps biohazardBecause of the immediacy of a certain set of weird circumstances in which would-be misdemeanor activity of a certain individual – objectively speaking – could have jumped to a class “H” and then class “I” felony (here in NC), a cop from the other side of these USA was telling me sometime later about the meaning of some tattoos[!].

  • The cop mentioned the biohazard symbol that I see all the time at the local hospitals and rehabs and nursing homes. It’s pasted on all the sharps receptacles, and was invented by Dow Chemical. It’s so prevalent that I don’t even see it anymore. The cop said that if it’s a tattoo it apparently means that someone is HIV positive. But maybe just where he’s from.
  • The cop also mentioned a scorpion, which also apparently means HIV positive. But maybe just where he’s from. Elsewhere, I imagine that there must be a gang that uses a scorpion and the last thing they’re thinking of is HIV.
  • Anyway, he also mentioned diamond tats, a number of them, diamonds in the shape of the “diamonds” on playing cards. Who knows what any of that means? I’ve not heard nor seen any explanation. Anyone?

scorpionAfter this conversation, I spoke with a prisoner, and he said that, in his area, again in an entirely different area of these USA, those kinds of tats did not have anything to do with HIV as far as he knew. And if they did, one would immediately want to make a distinction with how it is that someone came to have HIV. For instance a druggy “lifestyle” using used needles isn’t necessarily the same as an “alternative lifestyle.”

I rarely ask people about their tattoos. But I do. I would if I saw tear drops, which can reference even a number of murders. I asked a guy who stopped in front of the rectory asking for directions about his full body tattoos that reminded me of MS-13. He was fearful of letting his tats be seen, even wearing one of those girly shirts with the ultra-long-sleeves that are tied around the thumbs so as to cover the hands. But the tats spilled out onto his fingers and up his neck and face.

  • Do I have any tattoos? No. I did get my hand stamped with red ink at the county fair in my home town as a kid saying I paid some sort of entrance fee. I also got an ultraviolet stamp on my hand while visiting my Shadow at a maximum security prison in Mexico, you know, to make sure it was me on the way out, since we look like each other and are the same age. But I digress…
  • PJ Green FeetWas I ever tempted to get any tattoos? Someone said I might be entitled to get a pair of green feet on my bum out of thanksgiving for services rendered by the great PJs. However, that tradition in honor of those utterly unique first tier operators would surely not be inclusive of preventative measures provided by their overwhelming accompaniment of yours truly, right? The immediacy of a critical incident was not evident. So, no. I didn’t do it.

I discovered trying to do up fingerprints recently for NC-SBI and FBI background checks for getting my concealed carry with the sheriff that my “natural tattoos” (fingerprints) are pretty much worn away. I guess I’m older than I was at one time…

The only real imprint you’ll find with me is the permanent character of the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders while I hope that, as Saint Paul says, any sanctifying grace will turn to glory forever in heaven. We’re already “branded”, if you will, for our Lord by our Lord. By this time it’s not something that covers over but the Most Holy Trinity shining out.

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Homily 2019 09 15 Prodigal Son and descriptions of (im-)perfect contrition

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The one thing I forgot to mention in this homily was that the “pity” or “compassion” the Father had upon seeing his prodigal son is something rather altogether more precisely the kind of mercy that belongs to Jesus alone. And, indeed, the word used is employed exclusively for the mercy Jesus shows to us sinners. It’s not that Jesus merely had compassion or pity, but rather that His very heart was sacrificed. Yes. And it was, for us, literally, in the agony of the garden and upon the cross and upon our altars.

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Homily 2017* 09 15 Our Lady of Sorrows

Mary pieta

Word-carved Pieta from Austria 1420 AD, not the one I speak about in the homily, but similar to it in a remote kind of way.

[[ I’m reposting this as not many sermons in the world were on Our Lady of Sorrows as the feast fell on a Sunday this year. ]]

========== original post ==========

I’ve been recording my homilies these past days, but it never worked, until I realized that I have to but the little flash card in the recorder for it to work. Sigh. But I did it today.

About today. Here’s something humiliating but great for improvement. I realize in listening to this – it is so very painful – that if I’m thinking out a homily on the spot, you can hear me thinking kind of like hearing the grass grow. Sssssllllloooooooowwwww.

Well, now I know. Glad I know. Anyway, I tell two stories, one about my mom and one about Lourdes. Kind of. I need to be more prepared.

I also learned I’ll have to keep the recorder closer to me while I speak. It’s a little fading here and there. So I learn. Anyway, hope you like it.

UPDATE: This is the Pieta I mention in the homily. Originally, the bank of candles surrounded the image in front and to both sides on wooden shelves, in front of which, all the way around, there were kneelers so that many people could be there at the same time.

pieta st mary cathedral st cloud mn

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (Parawings, edition)

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Not sure what this is in the back yard of the rectory. The plant is like seven to eight feet tall with many woody branches. The “buds” are microscopic flowers that are packed tightly together in their multiple dozens to make their team effort visible as seemingly one flower “bud” so as make themselves available to helpful insects. That bud, however, is still really tiny. But then the parawings burst open and take flight, able to travel very far and very wide, that one team effort (with very many “buds” on each of the branches of the tall plant), being enough to multiply themselves in a hyperbolic manner across an entire region.

Mary’s Son spoke of a little flock and He also commissioned His apostles to preach unto the ends of the earth. His parables frequently included small seeds or ingredients having ginormous effects.

Are we not aided for a mission we know not what or where by our fellow believers, a team effort, but then, in all of our unrepeatable circumstances, perhaps sometimes seemingly quite alone, are we not brought by the Holy Spirit to that which – He knows in His Providence for us – will bring about many souls won for the Kingdom of Heaven? Yes.

I’m not sure if our attempts at parawings are any improvement on our Lord’s invention of the flowers He’s made also for His good mom. What’s for sure is that we can never improve on the navigational intentions, if you will, of where the Holy Spirit would like to bring us in the evangelization of the Word of God. We might think we’re more clever, perhaps thinking that conforming God’s ways to our fallen ways is “mature” and “up to date.” We might think that going along with the Holy Spirit, whithersoever He wishes to go without consulting us (and that’s what aggravates us) is somehow insultingly “blind faith” and entirely unreasonable. Instead, being available to be faithful in every circumstance, with no compromise, ever, is always the way to be evangelizing the Kingdom of God to the ends of the earth.

To keep to the analogy, what if this tall plant were to decide to put out pumpkin or watermelon seeds, which would grow on the top branches and then sunder the plant so that the entirety of it dies within one generation? That’s something we would do. Doesn’t work. So: No compromise! No shortcuts. No conforming God’s love and truth to our fallen ways and calling it all good. We’ll just end up dead. Following our Lord’s ways, saying yes to the Holy Spirit, good things happen. Mary once said “Yes! Let it done to me according to thy word.” Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.

Let’s make a real life application in the life of the Church today. Saint Francis was no Shaman, no gnostic freakoid using nature as his power trip to commandeering some kind of control over the nature-gods. Saint Francis liked nature so much, instead, because it, a creature, just does what God, the Creator, commands it to do. We, in our fallen human nature, in front of such obedience, should be brought to know our disobedience, so that we might repent, which is glorious, and for which we are to praise God in humble thanksgiving. That’s true in the back yard of my little rectory, or in the Amazon, or in synod halls over in Rome. ;-)

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Giuliani on 9-11

Shares Fr Mychal Judge joke. Hahaha.

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9-11: Dishonoring firefighters?!

Last night, the vigil of the 18th anniversary of the September 11 attacks during which – today – we commemorate the lives of all who were murdered by Islamicist cowards, I witnessed what seemed to be a dishonoring of our firefighters. I should like to  remind some of the […seemingly unaware…] among us that there are still firefighters and first responders of all kinds who are still dying from cancers brought about by the toxic dust smashed into them that day and for some time to come.

Dishonor?! I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. It was totally surreal. I felt sick to my stomach, and angry. Firefighters have a hard-won brotherhood going to the heart of who we are as human beings, always at the ready to lay down one’s life for one’s neighbor. That’s not to be dismissed, lightly or in any way.

I remember that I was kneeling in a pew about a third of the way up, on the “Gospel side” of the chapel of Vianney College Seminary where I was teaching. I came in from my parish to reside there for the week as we were having our diocesan retreat. A seminarian came running into chapel and grabbed my shoulder saying that I should come with him.

He walked away sideways making sure that I was going to follow. I hesitated, wanting to finish some prayers. Then he really insisted. That was unusual. So, I obeyed. We raced down the long corridor of the seminary to the TV room. I started to turn back to the chapel when I saw that that’s where we were going. We were on retreat after all. He wouldn’t tell me what it was. It seemed dire. So I went in.

One tower was hit. And then I saw the second get hit. Then I did make my way back to the chapel, this time, however, to pray for the victims and the country. A roller-coaster of emotions.

Although I was among good friends, I was not stateside at the time. I felt like a fish out of water. “What can I do for my country so very many thousands of miles away?” thought I. Now I am back. I find it stunning to find our firefighters dishonored.

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Call 911! Simultaneous church incidents. Confessing situational UN-awareness.

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We had some sort of emergency in the far back corner of Holy Redeemer Church this past Sunday, September 8, at the end of the offertory of the 11:00 AM Mass. Our entire church can fit into most sanctuaries of most churches, so, the far back corner of the church is, like, merely 25 feet away from the altar.

Someone cried out: “Call 911!” And the chorus of “Call 911!” multiplied in seconds. But there was no noisy commotion. No one said what the emergency was in those first seconds. I hiked it down from the altar to the back of the church in those few seconds. Pastor is as pastor does, right? As I then found out, it was a medical emergency for one of our ushers. In mere seconds, I gave an emergency anointing of the sick to the usher even before they were able to lay him down on the floor. EMS arrived minutes later and our usher is just fine now.

Since our faith family is small, we’re pretty tightly knit, so you can imagine our hearts were entirely in solidarity with our usher. You might say that we were distracted, that anyone bothering to have any situational awareness could now relax as it’s surely impossible that any other critical incident indicators that might present themselves cannot happen, because, you know, emergencies rarely happen, and un-associated and entirely diverse critical incidents never happen at the same time. So, go ahead, let your guard down, right? Wrong.

We immediately continued Mass starting with the Preface. “The Lord be with you!” “And with your spirit!” came the strikingly strong response. I can’t imagine that anyone would or, humanly speaking, could complain about these few seconds given over for the anointing, either time-wise or appropriateness-wise. So, no big deal, right? But something else happened in those few seconds in back of the church which should have had me run after someone so as to get a licence plate without him realizing it, you know, right after that anointing. That would have been logistically pretty easy in our circumstances. But I didn’t do it. Stupid me. Let’s review.

We had an unusually high number of visitors throughout the church. The emergency and the calls to call 911 were happening right in back of a certain visitor, who, unlike the others, did not come with a family. Never seen him before. He was alone [… description removed…]. By the time I got next to that certain visitor who was sitting at the end of the pew in the side aisle in that back corner of the church, with me just about to reach over others to anoint our usher, the visitor guy came out of the end of the pew and simply pushed me into those holding up the usher, that is, out of his own way. The visitor guy then bolted to the front-side door of the church and made good his escape. “Escape…”

The push wasn’t anything violent, but it was forceful enough to get the job done (I’m a pretty big guy), forceful enough that I had to turn to look at him while he bolted out. It was all too surreal. I was instantly all questions about who he was and what he was up to. I watched him until he went out the door next to the sanctuary in, say, four seconds. Whatever about him, I then turned my attention over to the usher so as to get him anointed.

Many are able to keep a sense of situational awareness for a singular critical incident that may take place at any given time, but it is not so easy to be entirely in the midst of one incident while another, entirely un-associated and entirely diverse and utterly unexpected critical incident begins at the same time in the same place. That’s what was happening here. This was an excellent experience easily able to demonstrate lack of readiness. Humility is always needed. To be noted:

  • The visitor was visibly shaken when the calls to call 911 rang out right behind him. A description of his fear from someone who, having turned around in the pew directly in front of him, looking him square in the face, was that he was all worked up in fear, something you can’t do instantaneously. Shock is one thing, freezing up. But being worked up in fear is another thing altogether. This was a fear he was already in the midst of, during which the calls to call 911 took him by surprise. He did NOT turn to see what was happening right in back of him in those first seconds when it was not being said if this was a medical emergency or a law enforcement emergency of some kind. Everyone else turned to see what was happening. That he didn’t turn to see what was going on right behind him is quite impossible. Was it that any medical emergency was insignificant compared to what he himself was about to cause? Did he feel caught out in some way, that someone recognized him?

Recall the discovery of “White Hat”, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the two terrorist bombers of the Boston Marathon, now locked up in the ultra-super-max ADX facility in Florence, Colorado. He was the only one who did NOT look at the explosion as it took place on Boylston Street near the finish line of the race. He is the only one who looked away from the explosion, and then made good his escape:

I have the link of that video set to 49:36. Watch until 50:35, just under a minute. This is a lesson in catching out a bad actor. Note how the terrorist guy doesn’t look, but looks away. This is important. Also:

  • The visitor guy quietly said something with quiet deliberate determination as a proclamation to himself, to God, to neighbor, though as a kind of soliloquy:

“No! – I can’t do this! – I have to leave!”

This was not a frantic, panic attack statement, nor a statement issuing from PTSD. It was all quite deliberate, even ever so slightly tinged with anger, but not at any of us, but rather with himself, disappointed, it seems, perhaps, that he had actually decided to do something horrific, but was just now changing his mind. He wasn’t at all in panic-like fear. Nor was he suffering from wartime violent sensory overload and couldn’t bear to see anything anymore even in the form of a non-violent medical emergency. He didn’t know if it was a medical emergency or he was being called out. If he was a bad actor and was just now changing his mind to not do the unthinkable, a medical emergency and calls to 911 would act as a preview of what he himself was about to bring about. He couldn’t take it.

(1) “No!” — This is an answer, voiced for himself to hear physically, regarding an internal agonizing dialogue that he had been having, much longer than just a few seconds.

(2) “I can’t do this!” — The reasoned conclusion isn’t about someone deciding to get over agoraphobia and feeling like a failure, so that he had heroically decided to be in a place as public as a church but was failing in the attempt. No. For all his fear, his words were way too deliberate to be issuing from panic. The reference of “this” is not a reference to a PTSD episode. Again, note that the statement was reasoned and deliberate. He was thinking about doing some thing, not thinking about suffering some episode. He’s entrenching his “No!”

(3) “I have to leave!” — He was a heap of chaotic emotions. IF he was a bad actor – and I’m not saying that he was (I’m just using this as a lesson in situational awareness) – but if he was a bad actor and had repented on the spot, he would want to get himself the heck out of there lest he change his mind. And the dichotomy between what he was seeing in the calm worshiping and his would-be senseless violence was too much to handle in front of others. He needed to be alone to sort things out. Such on the spot repentance is one of the best things I’ve ever seen. Good for him. He did it. He did the right thing. This was grace at work. The Holy Spirit working on him. His conscience getting to him. Great!

If that guy is reading this, and I’m wrong about all this, please, accept my apologies. It’s just that this makes for a good lesson in situational awareness. If you’re a good actor, you’ll understand that we can’t be too careful in these weird days of waaaay toooo many critical incidents, and that we have to learn from out-of-the-ordinary behaviors. It’s not you I’m judging. I’m just wondering about the ensemble of indicators. That’s all.

If that guy is reading this, and I’m right about all this, please, know that God loves you and wants you in heaven for ever. Yep. God’s love is more powerful than anything we could ever come up with. He wants us back. Always. If you’re Catholic, Go to Confession! Taking your own life is not allowed. You are not beyond redemption, not beyond salvation. God loves you. We love you. God’s love is more powerful. Don’t hate yourself. Just receive our Lord’s forgiveness. I, for one, would give you a do-able penance for sure. And the secret of any Confession is absolute. This is what we have to be about in this world, helping each other to get to heaven. We can be thankful to the Lord together, for Jesus’ mercy endures forever. Amen.

The time that the visitor guy was noticed in particular and until he left the church was, like, eight seconds. These things take place very quickly.

If there was a scary part, it was that he hesitated, wavered for just a split second before exiting out the side door, like he had to make one final decision not to do something.

Finally: Thanks go to guardian angels.

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (Son of David, edition)

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The flower is outside of Valley View Nursing Home here in Andrews. The Star of David with the Cross is one solid piece of Mohogany that a wonderful family in the parish gave me this late last night at their house while we were plotting out some aspects of the Confirmation Mass with the Bishop coming up soon. It was made in Indonesia, though I have to wonder if those in Indonesia have been following my blog, it being as I sometimes put up a picture of Sassy the Subaru:

SUBARU DECALS

My heart and soul fly to the top of Mount Carmel, to the Stations of the Cross right next to our Holy Father Elijah’s cave. There are many flowers for the Immaculate Conception along the route of those Stations of the Cross:

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (Happy Birthday! Coastal Karnataka)

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Dear Father, Wish you a Happy Feast of the Nativity [of Mary Immaculate, September 8]. Here (coastal Karnataka) a novena is conducted at all parishes in preparation for the feast. And after the Novena all gather around the statue of Infant Mary and shower flowers on the statue while singing a particular hymn. On this occasion all the family members gather and have a festive lunch together only Vegetarian on banana leaves. Attached are some photos and a video. With prayers, Father D

Thank you, Father D. I was unable to put up a flower for Mary for her birthday yesterday. Thanks for allowing me to rejoice with you.

For you, Mary, from your priest sons.

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Charlotte Eucharistic Congress 2019

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There were no politicized banners this year at the Eucharistic Congress. That kind of thing was halted for good. Instead, there were great speakers, lots of devotion, lots of Adoration, lots of Confessions, heaps of activities for all. Every year for 15 years there has been an increase in the size of the crowd that comes. I don’t know what the count is, but this year there seemed to be really a lot more people. Great to see. And people were very devout in reception of Holy Communion, with many going down on their knees on the concrete floor.

At the end of the day, after the closing Mass, just after the Apostolic Benediction with the plenary indulgence, the bishop asked the huge crowd whether or not they would like to see this next year, 2020, dedicated in Charlotte Diocese to Saint Joseph. There was a huge round of applause, so the bishop declared on the spot that this was to be the case. And this announcement was followed by another huge round of applause. I love that. This is such a good diocese.

There was also a lot of catching up with friends, both laity and priests, really good priests. I ate lunch with a group of seminarians, really good seminarians. I’m very impressed with their integrity of doctrine, morality, spirituality, just plain groundedness. They get it. They know who they are in Christ Jesus, that is, those who are in humble thanksgiving before Jesus.

Meanwhile, just in case I myself forgot who I am, I was supplied with two IDs:

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I always knew there were two of me somewhere in the world anyway (and that’s now confirmed by Diplomatic Security. So, Hahaha.

It was the comment of one of the nice ladies in charge taking care of the priestly vestments for the day that the two IDs were a statement about my supposed ability to bilocate. Um… No… Not yet anyway!

Some of the priests were a bit snarkier, saying that the IDs provided me with some rather glorious titles. Um… No… No me. Not ever! Those are the names of the churches of my parish, with Holy Redeemer being the “parish church” and Prince of Peace being the “mission church.”

The trip put well over 400 miles on Sassy the Subaru, often through mountainous cell-phone dead areas. And the phone was off for most of the long weekend, even for emergencies, as it’s not good to have the phone on during Mass, during Confessions, during Adoration, during the Eucharistic Procession in the streets of Charlotte, etc.

So, apologies to those who have phone calls and emails and such awaiting responses. Today’s the day I’ll try to get some things done. It’s just that Friday night I went to bed at 10:30 pm and got up at Midnight to get some things done before leaving for Charlotte at 2:00 am. Then Sunday night I got back to the parish at 1:30 am and got to bed at 2:00 am, only to get up at 4:00 am to get ready for the day. Let’s see:

  • 1:30 am – get back from the Eucharistic Congress (dogs had been fed by the neighbor)
  • 2:00 am – finally get to bed
  • 4:00 am – wake up for the day, with lots to do, including feeding the dogs! I noted that I was actually having knee tremors from lack of sleep at this point. Not good.
  • 5:30 am – travel to the church to set up for Adoration
  • 6:00 am – Adoration and hearing confessions until 7:00 am
  • 7:10 am – rush up to the mission church in Graham county
  • 7:30 am – set up for Mass and Adoration
  • 8:00 am – Adoration and Rosary and hearing Confessions
  • 8:30 am  – Mass
  • 9:45 am – Social in the social hall
  • 10:00 am – rush back to Cherokee County
  • 10:30 am – Confessions
  • 11:00 am – Mass
  • 12:15 pm – Social in the social hall
  • 1:30 pm – Start off on Communion calls for the sick and trips to the nursing homes in a couple of towns, utterly non-stop
  • 6:30 pm – Feed the dogs and start winding down…
  • 7:45 pm – To sleep. That lasted until 5:00 am Monday with prison ministry to begin, as always, after 7:00 am. So… Still alive!

Meanwhile, I love being a priest.

And we need more priests here. To guys thinking they just might have a vocation that needs to be discerned, contact Charlotte Diocese!

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On the extreme violence of Saul and then Saint Paul, because Jesus…

Saint Paul Conversion Damascus Caravaggio

Amidst all the non-sense of the “Just.Wow.” moments in the past number of weeks (and I still must write much more about all that), a reader sent this in by email:

“Father ~ For he testifieth: Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedech. Anyone else notice that?”

Answer: I think we’ve pretty much lost sight of what, of who a priest must be. A priest is the one who, with Christ Jesus, is to bring not peace, but the sword of division. Harsh words? Christ Jesus is deadly serious. Jesus is the One who spoke those words. Jesus is the One who died in extreme violence because of those words. Just note His wounds from having been tortured to death with extreme violence on the Cross. Yep. Extreme violence. Because that’s exactly what sin has done to our souls, to society. If anyone is without God’s grace, that person will use violence, and finally, when pushed, extreme violence with anyone who bears the goodness and kindness and truth of Jesus. He said it Himself: As the Master, so the disciple. Saint Paul would end up meeting with that extreme violence himself, getting decapitated.

But when Jesus pursued Saul so as to make of him Saint Paul, that young Saul was the best student of the Law, and was zealous to the point of an off-kilter extreme violence, so much so that he was unthinking in all of his academic prowess, and decided to put his thoughts into action in the most cowardly way, which is typical. He armed himself with letters of authorization, and then chased off to Damascus with a posse to drag the new Christians out of their houses, the elderly, the middle-aged, the youngsters, the infants, the sucklings at the breast, so as to put them in chains and death-march them back to Jerusalem for trial as heretics, so that he could have the sick joy of executing them. He had blood on his hands already for having assisted at the stoning to death of the new Deacon, Saint Stephen. He couldn’t wait for more.

And then our Lord appeared to him and asked Saul why he was so set on persecuting Him, Jesus, for to persecute the ones Saul was running after was to persecute Jesus personally. Saul converted to Saint Paul. But with all that history of violence in a very violent society, Saint Paul used vocabulary of extreme violence:

“We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-12)

Saint Paul would have us all die off, that is, that we be crucified to the world, the flesh and the devil, to our fallen human spirits, so that we might live for Jesus. More succinctly, Saint Paul would kill us off with truth, with goodness and kindness, so that we can live for that truth and goodness and kindness by the power of that truth and goodness and kindness, by the power of Jesus’ life within us.

And then there’s Jesus, you know, with extreme-violence statements about us taking up the instrument of torture and death, the cross, and carrying this, following Him, into battle, with hell. Peaceniks beware! We’re out to kill you! Um… you know, with goodness and kindness and truth. I know a lady who kills people all the time, really evil people… she kills them with kindness. And I’ve seen people melt with such kindness, and they are killed off to themselves, and do change. God is good.

Jesus said that the violent are taking heaven, taking it with violent force. Yep. How’s that? Not with our evil violence. No no. But with a violence that is extreme, incomparably more violent than anything we can come up with: mercy. And while the cynics click away in haughty fear, real fear, running away in the confusion of fear, consider this: there is nothing more violent to ourselves, more geared to having us killed off, than the mercy we receive from Jesus in forgiveness. It kills us off to ourselves to live for him. But that does real violence to us. It is that violence of mercy, of forgiveness, that disrupts peoples lives for the better, which we want to bring others. Kill them all! You know, kill them all off with kindness, with goodness and kindness and truth.

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Devil Dog’s Son, Fr Byers: ironic proof

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Yours truly on a day-off, of sorts. Smiling and what all. The gall. A snake-handler preacher man ruint with longevity. Way too snarky. Having waaaay tooooo much fun. And who ever heard of a day off for a priest anyway? Sounds demonic. Anyone who casts out Satan must be doing this by Satan, and is a devil himself, a downright snake in the grass. And… and… I’m the Son of a Devil Dog. So, that seals it.

VMFA 312 Marine Fighter Attack Pilot Devil Dog six 50 cals

While the USMC in general has a nickname of Devil Dogs, dad was a commander of the Checkerboard Marine Fighter Attack Squadron of gullwing F4U Corsairs (VMFA 312) each sporting six 50 Cals and having the logo of a Devil Dog carrying the same. But the idea that the Marines are Devil Dogs isn’t that they are demonic. Here’s a one minute recruiting commercial about that:

The idea of extreme violence of a Devil Dog is not that goodness and kindness and truth are suppressed. No no. Instead, it is to bring goodness and kindness and truth to those who are happy to receive it even if it means battling in hell to do it, and looking, for that reason, finally coming out of hell, very much like the devil himself for having fought battles in hell over against the devil, that serpent who, for all his bluster, has been vanquished by Christ. I mean, isn’t it true that Christ Jesus looked demonically criminal on the Cross for having battled all of that hell that was broken out all at once against Him on Calvary?

Jesus crucified passion of the christ

One of the greatest defeats of contemporary mankind is the loss of a sense of irony. We don’t see behind the truths plainly spoken to see… the truth! What to do when we are just learning to live with Him who is Truth, but who for all intents and purposes and constructions looks to be Untruthfulness. He did that for our sake, by the way, laying down His life for us, the Innocent for the guilty, so that He might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us. I might have said that once or twice before… ;-) Jesus is very much the Devil Dog Himself. You don’t think so? A blasphemy you say? Let’s review something I’ve many times posted, but not in a while. It bears a re-reading. We MUST get a sense of irony back if we are to be Christian, if we are to have a sense of identity, a solid base from which to work, that is, a oneness with Christ Jesus, Himself Irony Incarnate, as it were, so to speak, a Devil Dog. Let’s turn to the great historian Hilaire Belloc once again, for, after all, we bear the burden of being naive, or, as he says, “young”, “pure”, “ingenuous”, so easily thrown into fear, unthinking, cowardly fear. Enough of that! Behold: irony!

hilaire belloc“To the young, the pure, and the ingenuous, irony must always appear to have a quality of something evil, and so it has, for […] it is a sword to wound. It is so directly the product or reflex of evil that, though it can never be used – nay, can hardly exist – save in the chastisement of evil, yet irony always carries with it some reflections of the bad spirit against which it was directed. […] It suggests most powerfully the evil against which it is directed, and those innocent of evil shun so terrible an instrument. […] The mere truth is vivid with ironical power […] when the mere utterance of a plain truth labouriously concealed by hypocrisy, denied by contemporary falsehood, and forgotten in the moral lethargy of the populace, takes upon itself an ironical quality more powerful than any elaboration of special ironies could have taken in the past. […] No man possessed of irony and using it has lived happily; nor has any man possessing it and using it died without having done great good to his fellows and secured a singular advantage to his own soul.” [Hilaire Belloc, “On Irony” (pages 124-127; Penguin books 1325. Selected Essays (2/6), edited by J.B. Morton; Harmondsworth – Baltimore – Mitcham 1958).]

If there’s any proof that I’m a Devil Dog, it’s that I love such irony in the face of my being the most naive, the “youngest”, the “purist”, the most “ingenuous”, the most stupid idiot in the world, unable to appreciate such truths until they smack me down with such extreme violence that I gotta pay attention. It’s like Thomas the doubting Apostle. I’m forced to put my finger into the holes the nails made in the hands and feet of Christ. I’m forced to put my hand into the side of Christ, where I touch that beating heart, still pierced open. “My Lord and my God,” I blurt out. The irony is, I’m the absolute last person who would ever say that. Not me. I’m the one who put those wounds there. But the truth, “vivid with ironical power”, shines the light, and makes me a Devil Dog too. Thank you Jesus, you who want to make us all Devil Dogs.

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Hot heads, anachronisms, paradigmatic shifts, fickleness. *Crux stat!*

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So, the other day some a Junior in High School was all upset because his girl friend dumped him. Things got ramped up on social media (of course) and he made threats that he was going to shoot the school up or kill people. He didn’t have any guns, but he was arrested on already existing laws about making terroristic threats. So, a hot head who says dumb things while he processes the break-up. If we see something we should say something, of course. Even a little rampaging is too much rampaging. Kids these days have nothing to fall back on when their emotions are all confused and hurt. Sometimes it’s fallen society at large. Sometimes the parents and grandparents did nothing to bring them to Jesus who stepped into this hellhole to redeem us and save us and get us through this life so that we might carry His life and love and truth within us. Our identity is to be found when lifted up into the strength of Christ Jesus. But when we have no identity, when we are not anchored when the storm gets stormy… Anyone else notice that?

I recall the early 1960s, when I was a little kid, playing cops and robbers, or, back then, much less politically correct, cowboys and Indians, and threats would be thrown around while popping out from behind a house or tree and pointing one’s gun (the fingers of one’s hand) at opposing forces, other kids playing the same game, and saying “I’m gonna kill you!” and then saying, “Bang! Bang!” We didn’t mean anything violent by it. And if one was instead surprised by another kid popping out from behind a house or tree and pointing his fingers in the form of a gun at you and saying “Bang! Bang!” one would be just as happy to do up a super-dramatic fall to the ground, pretending to be hit. I did it just to do it. It was part of the game. Mostly we played hide and seek in the late evening. During the day it was baseball and football, or the riding of bikes, or… The inscaping of the kind of vocabulary used with “I’m gonna kill you!” with today’s horrible shootings – this time for real – is for me a sign that the times really are changing. Older people mouthing off words like that with the meaning they attached to it when they were kids playing in their quiet neighborhoods with good friends is paradigmatically different than a kid today saying the same thing when all they have seen is another report and then another about kids who say that and then do it. Anyone else notice that?

But there are other paradigmatic shifts in society which maybe not all have noticed. I was overseas teaching in seminaries on behalf of various bishops and national conferences of bishops when the September 11, 2001 attacks took place in these USA. I would remain overseas for another eight years on that particular round of activities without once paying a visit to the USA. It used to be that when I returned Stateside from any trip I would be greeted in the airports – without fail I must say – with “Welcome back!” And if it was JFK in New York, it would be: “Welcome back, Father!” But flying into JFK for the first time since September 11, 2001, even though many years later, it was most apparent that the entire demeanor of people had changed. Perhaps people were too close to it themselves to see it, but for fresh eyes it was mighty shocking. Customs work, for instance, now seemed to be much more about grudgingly doing a job where the people one was serving were treated as some sort of enemy – stunning really. Before September 11, 2001, Customs work was all  about people who were serving people even while it was also true that they had a job to do. But it was always one human being with another human being. Now it’s more like we’ve forgotten how to be human. Or that we’re entitled not to be human anymore, as if there is some sort of ax to grind for having to do anything on a job one signed up for, especially if it involves other people. Anyone else notice that?

Meanwhile, another paradigmatic shift regards opinions about the crusades of the middle ages, when it was a religious thing to do to go on a military campaign against the Saracens, who like the ISIS of any day were slaughtering those in the Holy Land. You might remember the non-stop attack on the crusades some decades ago, around the time of September 11, 2001, that was waged by so many in the mass media, but especially by National Communist Radio, or whatever they call it, NPR, I think. Anyway, that fad seems to have faded a bit and is going the other way. I saw the above pictured bumper sticker on the back window of a truck in the parish parking lot the other day. And I hear lots of commentary from diverse people in diverse places wanting to know more about the crusades, what really happened, what the motivations actually were, you know, like defense of the innocent who were being slaughtered by the ISIS of the day. That’s actually a massive paradigmatic shift even while the “Squad” portrays terrorism as just another thing that people do. Any one else notice that?

Meanwhile, that is, while the universe is shaken and swirls in confusion and is ripped in one direction and then another, it is the self-sacrificing redeeming love of the Lord on the Cross that is an un-beat-down-able Constant:

Crux stat dum volvitur orbis.

The Cross is stable while the world just spins away.

In all of our fickleness, Jesus stood in our place, the Innocent for the guilty, so that He might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (Jn 3:16)

Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, forever, ever ancient, ever new. And He makes us His friends, so that we walk in His presence. That ain’t us. But He makes it happen. Regardless of culture, regardless of background, regardless of age, etc., etc. People are hungry for the truth and goodness and kindness of the Lord that is so very powerful, stronger than our weakness, stronger than our stupidity, stronger than our sinfulness, stronger than death, bringing us to life now by that grace which will turn to glory – as Saint Paul says – in heaven, eternal life. Any one else notice that?

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Recently behind the scenes of the blog

chess board robert van der steeg impossible world

Thanks to a combination of various services running overseas, I’m able to make some observations about those hacking into the admin section of the blog, the behind the scenes part of what it takes to make any blog work. I’m guessing all such hackers are benevolent, but I don’t know that. What they do with this or that particular hack, well, I have no idea. But I do see them at work. Kind of like the metadata of hacking hackers.

One particular reader / hacker / analyst / humint baiter and all-around good person by all accounts, used “invisibility cloaking” (in layman’s terms) a bit more than usual, then, if I’m correct on the who’s who thing, that person tested posting posts under my name. “Hmmm….” thought I. Perhaps it was just a mistake whilst perusing or perhaps adjusting some drafts or older posts, or simply writing entirely new posts under my name. I mean, I do have to wonder sometimes. Kind of weird. Anyway. I have little time for that. It’s all in the “Whatever!” bucket.

Anyway, I did NOT notice recent activity as far as someone else fraudulently publishing on the blog under my name as it all happened too quickly and then disappeared before I even knew it happened. But a good friend with a lot of sense and fairly good tech skills happened to be visiting the blog at just the time it happened, and then sent me a gently sarcastic text: “Now you see it, now you don’t.” After a few more texts back and forth – ascertaining that this person only goes to the top-front-page of the blog and not to archived posts, we then had a phone conversation. It became clear that something is up with a third party testing out some sort of fakery. The person who alerted me to this is a good friend, a loyal friend, absolutely trustworthy, with no reason whatsoever to misrepresent anything to me, ever.

So, this incident can be added to the “Just. Wow.” incidents I’ve been noticing these past number of weeks. Since I don’t think the person behind this incident is in any way nefarious, I also put all this under “Humor.” But it’s also without my permission…

To be continued…

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (It’s been a while, edition)

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Sometimes, when there’s much on one’s plate, one can only fill a vase with flowers to give to Jesus’ good mom, and then, since it’s been a while, beg her indulgence, and then race off once again for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, without lots of commentary… as I am want to do…

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Escalating De-escalation: Police Fun “Antifa” = Anti-Everything Fascism

  • Mike the Cop says: “At the recent straight pride parade, Boston area departments turned on their sirens to drown out the nonsense of “antifa” (unknown who actually claimed to be from the group) trying to disrupt the event. At least 36 leftist protesters were arrested for violence because apparently “tolerance” is only tolerance if you agree with THEM. What an awesome troll.”

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Getting smacked down: How Voltaire-esque!

François-Marie Arouet (Zozo, or “Voltaire”) was disgusting in pretty much every way and in every manner and on every level possible. His rule number one in baiting is related in the cartoon above, but in this he is wrong as he is with pretty much everything else he – it seems to me – merely reacted against, thus always equating himself with all that is bad and evil or, more probably in pretty much every instance, all that which is bad and evil in his own perception. A mere reaction is merely equal and opposite, right?

Our Lord Jesus gives us full freedom to speak whatever criticism we want regarding His goodness and kindness and truth, His self-sacrificing love for us. But, of course, He does rule over us and is the Lord of History. He will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire. But we can misuse our freedom if we would like to do so. It’s just that there are consequences.

When I write, if not with a flurry at the end of which I just hit the publish button with no further edits, I instead tend to do drafts of expanding notes which begin with that which I don’t want to publish because it’s what I don’t think about the matter at all. Those drafts are done up in an even greater flurry than anything else, not in a reactionary way, but by purposely entering the mindset of all that which is not right at all. A third party reading those mere drafts without also reading my mind on the matter would certainly be like reading an entirely obnoxious Voltaire on his worst day. Anyway, those drafts eventually come around to something a bit more readable but they are still not what I think, not in the least. They are merely something akin to what statistically most people might think to be somewhat civilized. This adds a bit of “culture”! Pfft! All things to all men, or words of Saint Paul to that effect. Then those drafts are in turn brought to another level with an appraisal of the way things actually are, perhaps with an analogy about what happens with Jesus entering into our dodgy human history.

Which brings me to what’s been happening behind the scenes with “Arise! Let us be going!” So, it’s like this… […stay tuned…]

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Law officers, counterintel, humility. Shadow-dog and Chesterton…

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GSD’s, being wolves, are baiter-hunters. Domesticated just enough, Shadow-dog, for instance, thinks he sees something not entirely irredeemable in me, and so is forever trying his loyal best to teach me about the baiting game, because proper counterintelligence techniques are what anyone who’s not entirely naive would want to have in their toolkit for life, you know, what Jesus mentioned to us all – commanded us, really – that we are to be as clever as serpents even while being as innocent as doves what with being sent out as lambs in the midst of wolves…

So, there Shadow-dog stands in front of me, his instruction for me being in the form of play. That one plays does not mean that one is not deadly serious. Competitive fun as a form of instruction makes learning enjoyable, and therefore naturally memorable.

Shadow-dog is not cross-eyed, but he is that ever so slightly at this moment, trying to guess how I will take up his challenge to take his bait. He’s electrified, and like a contained explosion, is instantly ready to burst in whatever direction. Do I lunge to the left or right or straight ahead?

  • If I go straight ahead he lunges at me and we collide in less than a nano-second.
  • If I go to the left, he also goes to the left, just way faster than I ever could, and is that a dog-laugh I heard?
  • If I go to the right, he also goes to the right, just way faster than I ever could, and is that a dog-laugh I heard?

You would think he would chase off in the opposite direction, but, no. He enjoys a good dog-laugh. And this is the instruction Shadow-dog provides. Trying in every which way to indicate that I’m going to lunge in a different direction, he always is way ahead of me, reading me like a book.

But then, rarely, randomly, after having taught me to lunge in a direction I think he’s going to lunge in, Shadow-dog will instead head off in the opposite direction from which I’m lunging. After just a few steps, he then instantly turns, and, now all relaxed, having done his work in instructing my stupidity, he calmly stares, entirely happy with himself. The dog-smirk is unbearably humiliating. And then it’s time to get petted for a job he knows has been well done. He trots right over to me. Gooooood daaaaawwwg! “Unbearably humilitating” is also great learning territory. And he knows it. We make a good team. Someday, perhaps, I will learn.

chess board robert van der steeg impossible world

The problem with finding the right people for counterintelligence is in finding those who have some humility. Counterintelligence baits people to be arrogant: “I’ve got them now! – I’m in control! – Look at me!” Pride is the enemy of counterintel success. Humility, humility, humility.

Let’s see what that looks like in a counterintel situation. Let’s see what that looks like in the chapter of the Father Brown stories of G.K. Chesterton called The Secret of Father Brown in the volume also by that name. Chesterton uses the Father Brown character to go out of his way to humiliate (with good intentions) all law enforcement and our intel services. All in good humor and in good faith.

Here’s the deal: When the police chase a criminal they try to think like a criminal. But thinking merely “like” a criminal is not good enough. Meanwhile, the criminal is desperately trying to think “like” the police. But thinking merely “like” the police is never enough. Such scruples on both sides are to be avoided. ;-)

If you grapple with this simple story, it’ll be an occasion to enter deeply into the reality of life, making you quite successful with counterintelligence:

CHESTERTON FATHER BROWN

THE SECRET OF FATHER BROWN

FLAMBEAU, once the most famous criminal in France and later a very private detective in England, had long retired from both professions. Some say a career of crime had left him with too many scruples for a career of detection. Anyhow, after a life of romantic escapes and tricks of evasion, he had ended at what some might consider an appropriate address: in a castle in Spain. The castle, however, was solid though relatively small; and the black vineyard and green stripes of kitchen garden covered a respectable square on the brown hillside. For Flambeau, after all his violent adventures, still possessed what is possessed by so many Latins, what is absent (for instance) in so many Americans, the energy to retire. It can be seen in many a large hotel-proprietor whose one ambition is to be a small peasant. It can be seen in many a French provincial shopkeeper, who pauses at the moment when he might develop into a detestable millionaire and buy a street of shops, to fall back quietly and comfortably on domesticity and dominoes. Flambeau had casually and almost abruptly fallen in love with a Spanish Lady, married and brought up a large family on a Spanish estate, without displaying any apparent desire to stray again beyond its borders. But on one particular morning he was observed by his family to be unusually restless and excited; and he outran the little boys and descended the greater part of the long mountain slope to meet the visitor who was coming across the valley; even when the visitor was still a black dot in the distance.

The black dot gradually increased in size without very much altering in the shape; for it continued, roughly speaking, to be both round and black. The black clothes of clerics were not unknown upon those hills; but these clothes, however clerical, had about them something at once commonplace and yet almost jaunty in comparison with the cassock or soutane, and marked the wearer as a man from the northwestern islands, as clearly as if he had been labelled Clapham Junction. He carried a short thick umbrella with a knob like a club, at the sight of which his Latin friend almost shed tears of sentiment; for it had figured in many adventures that they shared long ago. For this was the Frenchman’s English friend, Father Brown, paying a long-desired but long-delayed visit. They had corresponded constantly, but they had not met for years.

Father Brown was soon established in the family circle, which was quite large enough to give the general sense of company or a community. He was introduced to the big wooden images of the Three Kings, of painted and gilded wood, who bring the gifts to the children at Christmas; for Spain is a country where the affairs of the children bulk large in the life of the home. He was introduced to the dog and the cat and the live-stock on the farm. But he was also, as it happened, introduced to one neighbour who, like himself, had brought into that valley the garb and manners of distant lands.

It was on the third night of the priest’s stay at the little chateau that he beheld a stately stranger who paid his respects to the Spanish household with bows that no Spanish grandee could emulate. He was a tall, thin grey-haired and very handsome gentleman, and his hands, cuffs and cuff-links had something overpowering in their polish. But his long face had nothing of that languor which is associated with long cuffs and manicuring in the caricatures of our own country. It was rather arrestingly alert and keen; and the eyes had an innocent intensity of inquiry that does not go often with grey hairs. That alone might have marked the man’s nationality, as well the nasal note in his refined voice and his rather too ready assumption of the vast antiquity of all the European things around him. This was, indeed, no less a person than Mr. Grandison Chace, of Boston, an American traveller who had halted for a time in his American travels by taking a lease of the adjoining estate; a somewhat similar castle on a somewhat similar hill. He delighted in his old castle, and he regarded his friendly neighbour as a local antiquity of the same type. For Flambeau managed, as we have said, really to look retired in the sense of rooted. He might have grown there with his own vine and fig-tree for ages. He had resumed his real family name of Duroc; for the other title of “The Torch” had only been a title de guerre, like that under which such a man will often wage war on society. He was fond of his wife and family; he never went farther afield than was needed for a little shooting; and he seemed, to the American globe-trotter, the embodiment of that cult of a sunny respectability and a temperate luxury, which the American was wise enough to see and admire in the Mediterranean peoples. The rolling stone from the West was glad to rest for a moment on this rock in the South that had gathered so very much moss. But Mr. Chace had heard of Father Brown, and his tone faintly changed, as towards a celebrity. The interviewing instinct awoke, tactful but tense. If he did try to draw Father Brown, as if he were a tooth, it was done with the most dexterous and painless American dentistry.

They were sitting in a sort of partly unroofed outer court of the house, such as often forms the entrance to Spanish houses. It was dusk turning to dark; and as all that mountain air sharpens suddenly after sunset, a small stove stood on the flagstones, glowing with red eyes like a goblin, and painting a red pattern on the pavement; but scarcely a ray of it reached the lower bricks of the great bare, brown brick wall that went soaring up above them into the deep blue night. Flambeau’s big broad-shouldered figure and great moustaches, like sabres, could be traced dimly in the twilight, as he moved about, drawing dark wine from a great cask and handing it round. In his shadow, the priest looked very shrunken and small, as if huddled over the stove; but the American visitor leaned forward elegantly with his elbow on his knee and his fine pointed features in the full light; his eyes shone with inquisitive intelligence.

“I can assure you, sir,” he was saying, “we consider your achievement in the matter of the Moonshine Murder the most remarkable triumph in the history of detective science.”

Father Brown murmured something; some might have imagined that the murmur was a little like a moan.

“We are well acquainted,” went on the stranger firmly, “with the alleged achievements of Dupin and others; and with those of Lecoq, Sherlock Holmes, Nicholas Carter, and other imaginative incarnations of the craft. But we observe there is in many ways, a marked difference between your own method of approach and that of these other thinkers, whether fictitious or actual. Some have spec’lated, sir, as to whether the difference of method may perhaps involve rather the absence of method.”

Father Brown was silent; then he started a little, almost as if he had been nodding over the stove, and said: “I beg your pardon. Yes. . .. Absence of method. . . . Absence of mind, too, I’m afraid.”

“I should say of strictly tabulated scientific method,” went on the inquirer. “Edgar Poe throws off several little essays in a conversational form, explaining Dupin’s method, with its fine links of logic. Dr. Watson had to listen to some pretty exact expositions of Holmes’s method with its observation of material details. But nobody seems to have got on to any full account of your method, Father Brown, and I was informed you declined the offer to give a series of lectures in the States on the matter.”

“Yes,” said the priest, frowning at the stove; “I declined.”

“Your refusal gave rise to a remarkable lot of interesting talk,” remarked Chace. “I may say that some of our people are saying your science can’t be expounded, because it’s something more than just natural science. They say your secret’s not to be divulged, as being occult in its character.”

“Being what?” asked Father Brown, rather sharply.

“Why, kind of esoteric,” replied the other. “I can tell you, people got considerably worked up about Gallup’s murder, and Stein’s murder, and then old man Merton’s murder, and now Judge Gwynne’s murder, and a double murder by Dalmon, who was well known in the States. And there were you, on the spot every time, slap in the middle of it; telling everybody how it was done and never telling anybody how you knew. So some people got to think you knew without looking, so to speak. And Carlotta Brownson gave a lecture on Thought-Forms with illustrations from these cases of yours. The Second Sight Sisterhood of Indianapolis —— ”

Father Brown, was still staring at the stove; then he said quite loud yet as if hardly aware that anyone heard him: “Oh, I say. This will never do.”

“I don’t exactly know how it’s to be helped,” said Mr. Chace humorously. “The Second Sight Sisterhood want a lot of holding down. The only way I can think of stopping it is for you to tell us the secret after all.”

Father Brown groaned. He put his head on his hands and remained a moment, as if full of a silent convulsion of thought. Then he lifted his head and said in a dull voice:

“Very well. I must tell the secret.”

His eyes rolled darkly over the whole darkling scene, from the red eyes of the little stove to the stark expanse of the ancient wall, over which were standing out, more and more brightly, the strong stars of the south.

“The secret is,” he said; and then stopped as if unable to go on. Then he began again and said:

“You see, it was I who killed all those people.”

“What?” repeated the other, in a small voice out of a vast silence.

“You see, I had murdered them all myself,” explained Father Brown patiently. “So, of course, I knew how it was done.”

Grandison Chace had risen to his great height like a man lifted to the ceiling by a sort of slow explosion. Staring down at the other he repeated his incredulous question.

“I had planned out each of the crimes very carefully,” went on Father Brown, “I had thought out exactly how a thing like that could be done, and in what style or state of mind a man could really do it. And when I was quite sure that I felt exactly like the murderer myself, of course I knew who he was.”

Chace gradually released a sort of broken sigh.

“You frightened me all right,” he said. “For the minute I really did think you meant you were the murderer. Just for the minute I kind of saw it splashed over all the papers in the States: ‘Saintly Sleuth Exposed as Killer: Hundred Crimes of Father Brown.’ Why, of course, if it’s just a figure of speech and means you tried to reconstruct the psychogy — ”

Father Brown rapped sharply on the stove with the short pipe he was about to fill; one of his very rare spasms of annoyance contracted his face.

“No, no, no,” he said, almost angrily; “I don’t mean just a figure of speech. This is what comes of trying to talk about deep things. . . . What’s the good of words . . .? If you try to talk about a truth that’s merely moral, people always think it’s merely metaphorical. A real live man with two legs once said to me: ‘I only believe in the Holy Ghost in a spiritual sense.’ Naturally, I said: ‘In what other sense could you believe it?’ And then he thought I meant he needn’t believe in anything except evolution, or ethical fellowship, or some bilge. . . . I mean that I really did see myself, and my real self, committing the murders. I didn’t actually kill the men by material means; but that’s not the point. Any brick or bit of machinery might have killed them by material means. I mean that I thought and thought about how a man might come to be like that, until I realized that I really was like that, in everything except actual final consent to the action. It was once suggested to me by a friend of mine, as a sort of religious exercise. I believe he got it from Pope Leo XIII, who was always rather a hero of mine.”

“I’m afraid,” said the American, in tones that were still doubtful, and keeping his eye on the priest rather as if he were a wild animal, “that you’d have to explain a lot to me before I knew what you were talking about. The science of detection —— ”

Father Brown snapped his fingers with the same animated annoyance. “That’s it,” he cried; “that’s just where we part company. Science is a grand thing when you can get it; in its real sense one of the grandest words in the world. But what do these men mean, nine times out of ten, when they use it nowadays? When they say detection is a science? When they say criminology is a science? They mean getting outside a man and studying him as if he were a gigantic insect: in what they would call a dry impartial light, in what I should call a dead and dehumanized light. They mean getting a long way off him, as if he were a distant prehistoric monster; staring at the shape of his ‘criminal skull’ as if it were a sort of eerie growth, like the horn on a rhinoceros’s nose. When the scientist talks about a type, he never means himself, but always his neighbour; probably his poorer neighbour. I don’t deny the dry light may sometimes do good; though in one sense it’s the very reverse of science. So far from being knowledge, it’s actually suppression of what we know. It’s treating a friend as a stranger, and pretending that something familiar is really remote and mysterious. It’s like saying that a man has a proboscis between the eyes, or that he falls down in a fit of insensibility once every twenty-four hours. Well, what you call ‘the secret’ is exactly the opposite. I don’t try to get outside the man. I try to get inside the murderer . . . . Indeed it’s much more than that, don’t you see? I am inside a man. I am always inside a man, moving his arms and legs; but I wait till I know I am inside a murderer, thinking his thoughts, wrestling with his passions; till I have bent myself into the posture of his hunched and peering hatred; till I see the world with his bloodshot and squinting eyes, looking between the blinkers of his half-witted concentration; looking up the short and sharp perspective of a straight road to a pool of blood. Till I am really a murderer.”

“Oh,” said Mr. Chace, regarding him with a long, grim face, and added: “And that is what you call a religious exercise.”

“Yes,” said Father Brown; “that is what I call a religious exercise.”

After an instant’s silence he resumed: “It’s so real a religious exercise that I’d rather not have said anything about it. But I simply couldn’t have you going off and telling all your countrymen that I had a secret magic connected with Thought-Forms, could I? I’ve put it badly, but it’s true. No man’s really any good till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he’s realized exactly how much right he has to all this snobbery, and sneering, and talking about ‘criminals,’ as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away; till he’s got rid of all the dirty self-deception of talking about low types and deficient skulls; till he’s squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees; till his only hope is somehow or other to have captured one criminal, and kept him safe and sane under his own hat.”

Flambeau came forward and filled a great goblet with Spanish wine and set it before his friend, as he had already set one before his fellow guest. Then he himself spoke for the first time:

“I believe Father Brown has had a new batch of mysteries. We were talking about them the other day, I fancy. He has been dealing with some queer people since we last met.”

“Yes; I know the stories more or less — but not the application,” said Chace, lifting his glass thoughtfully. “Can you give me any examples, I wonder. . . . I mean, did you deal with this last batch in that introspective style?”

Father Brown also lifted his glass, and the glow of the fire turned the red wine transparent, like the glorious blood-red glass of a martyr’s window. The red flame seemed to hold his eyes and absorb his gaze that sank deeper and deeper into it, as if that single cup held a red sea of the blood of all men, and his soul were a diver, ever plunging in dark humility and inverted imagination, lower than its lowest monsters and its most ancient slime. In that cup, as in a red mirror, he saw many things; the doings of his last days moved in crimson shadows; the examples that his companions demanded danced in symbolic shapes; and there passed before him all the stories that are told here. Now, the luminous wine was like a vast red sunset upon dark red sands, where stood dark figures of men; one was fallen and another running towards him. Then the sunset seemed to break up into patches: red lanterns swinging from garden trees and a pond gleaming red with reflection; and then all the colour seemed to cluster again into a great rose of red crystal, a jewel that irradiated the world like a red sun, save for the shadow of a tall figure with a high head-dress as of some prehistoric priest; and then faded again till nothing was left but a flame of wild red beard blowing in the wind upon a wild grey moor. All these things, which may be seen later from other angles and in other moods than his own, rose up in his memory at the challenge and began to form themselves into anecdotes and arguments.

“Yes,” he said, as he raised the wine cup slowly to his lips, “I can remember pretty well —— ”

===========

After all that, I wonder if I have to the humility to be the dog, Shadow-dog, not just “like” a dog, but, you know, a dog, and learn what Shadow-dog has to teach me.

After all that, I wonder if I have the humility to be understand just how bad and evil I myself can be, and thus think not just “like” a criminal, but as the criminal I am if I am without the grace of God, and thus be able to catch the criminal, because, you know, I’m him. Of course, when I catch a criminal it’s to bring him to the confessional. The best priests in the Confessional hearing confessions of others are the very priests who also make a practice of regular confession.

Or, heck, instead of all that I could just bait and wait for the counter-bait… and then counter-counter-bait, and then wait for the…

// Hey, I lost track of what’s being reacted to. PAUSE… Then…

Counter-counter-counter-counter-bait…

Counter-counter-counter-counter-counter-bait…

Counter-counter-counter-counter-counter-counter-bait…

Counter-counter-counter-counter-counter-counter-counter-bait…

// Pause… whew! Time to get out of counterintel…

============

So, let’s see, maybe there is something to just looking in oneself when looking for any and all criminals, any and all terrorists…. If we ever say, “I would never do that,” we’ve already lost the game. Honesty and integrity and humility admit that even if psychologically I probably wouldn’t do… you know… those crimes… because of my upbringing or whatever… nevertheless I probably would if given the circumstances that others have suffered and I were without God’s grace. Yep. There but for the grace of God go I. A bit aphoristic, I know. But so very, very true. Actually, people can change pretty fast. If one has the purity of heart and agility of soul to see that even one’s very self can do such things, it’s that person that will not do such things because of looking to God’s grace with honesty and integrity and humility. God doesn’t save me because I’m good. God saves me because I need saving and can’t save myself.

Then, when that Living Love who is God and that Living Truth who is God are with me, I can easily see the contrast of what would be bad and evil in myself and therefore what would be bad and evil in others. For law enforcement and counterintel this is also a boon to catching the criminal and the terrorist, regardless of culture, regardless of religion or none, regardless of anything else.

For a priest it’s all about more ably bringing people to Jesus. We priests need to get out of Jesus’ way and let Jesus be the priest in the parish.

We all need to let Jesus work through us, and with us, and in us. Needed: HUMILITY!

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