Count them if you can: Zero for 15 (relaxing is stupid: go for adrenaline)

IMG_20170412_071057

Here’s yesterday evening’s pattern of Zero for 15 rounds of 9mm from my Glock 19, all of which you can count if you know how to read the markings. The orange dot is the size of a penny, which didn’t get hit even once. But hey! It’s been a while. Not really to the left or right so much anymore, but definitely still a bit too far South. These are pumped out pretty much as quickly as I can go. The grip feels better, more solid, but my mechanics need more work. And it’s not pumping rounds out that makes for good pistol work, it’s all about the mechanics, and the mechanics in difficult circumstances. I know. Still nowhere near to practice on a regular basis.

More on why a priest has a gun (most all priests I know have them and practice with them and are more proficient a thousand times over than I am):

  • Well, one benefit still lurking in the background is that this makes being an FBI trained chaplain for local law enforcement in part of the Charlotte Diocese a much greater possibility. And that is a good thing, right? Yes, it absolutely is.
  • Also, just to say, what I have noticed experientially however anecdotally is that this kind of sportsmanship occasions friendships with many new sectors of society. And that is a good thing, right? Yes, it absolutely is. Blue Lives Matter as do all other lives. People are so brainwashed by television that they think spiritual support of LEOs is to reject Christianity. Really? That’s not what Saint John the Baptist thought about it.
  • And anyway, it makes for good fun usually in the great outdoors. I just can’t see going to an indoor range unless it’s for re-certification or to keep up with friendships so easy to make at indoor ranges. There are lot’s of good people at the indoor ranges, often law enforcement and just really serious, responsible, helpful citizens. But indoor ranges for me are bit too controlled in the environment, a bit too surreal. And yes, even priests do well to have a bit of recreation. Yes, “guns” and “recreation” are not exclusive words.

By the way, the South bit on the target mean that I’m just trying to hard to do well, pulling down on the gun as shots go out. No good. I’ve been trying to relax a bit, and that has done me well. But, really, that’s just so wrong. As “The Guy” told me, forget about “target practice,” which totally destroys one’s aim. Sorry to say this, it’s all about making every shot a “kill”, so that instead of being relaxed, one goes into adrenaline mode, which is an entirely different thing altogether than being relaxed. Adrenaline is about slowing down but for the benefit of an impossibly intense in-that-moment-only concentration, with all other senses blocked. That takes a special kind of person. He’s the best shot, literally, in the world, with a pistol. That rating isn’t about Olympians or some dumb thing, but rather being pitted against all the best in the world from our military and intelligence services. I’m not there, yet. For him, it’s 10-X pretty much 100% of the time.

An analogy is in order: Do we let Jesus go in for the kill, as it were, so that we die to ourselves to live for Him alone, with His aim perfectly 10-X as it were when He commands His Heavenly Father to forgive us while He Himself dies on the Cross, totally pumped with adrenaline, senses blocked, vision narrowed just to us in front of Him, total concentration, He giving us His very Heart which we then pierce through, and that, of course, occasioning our being killed off to ourselves… Truly this was the Son of God…

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Questions for + Charles Scicluna

scicluna

Your Grace: Why did the Malta Times take down their article about you? Were they wrong? Did they misrepresent you? Really? Since you invite dialogue, as a Missionary of Mercy I will put some questions before you for the sake of, you know, promoting justice, for the good of the Church, pro bono ecclesiae. So…

  • Your Grace: You say that the teaching of the Church — let’s just call it by the name of the encyclical Humanae vitae — is only for married couples which you say can be constituted only of one man and one woman, but that you don’t judge other couples, though you insist that extramarital sex is sinful but at the same time insist that adulterous couples can receive Holy Communion if they are at peace with themselves regardless of their flagrant rejection of Jesus’ teaching, of Sacred Scripture, of Sacred Tradition, of the constant interventions of the Magisterium of the Church: does this mean that you are making a sacrament of sinful behavior?
  • Your Grace: Lest anyone think that is a sarcastic question, let’s provide an analogous question regarding your longstanding promotion of the civil celebrations of homosexual love in civilly recognized homosexual unions, as long as there is no sexy hanky panky going on, though all love including homosexual love, you say, is given by God and is good and holy: are you saying with your recent statements about peaceful consciences for adulterous couples that homosexual acts are also a kind of sacrament, objectively sinful as they may be, as long as the homosexuals involved are at peace with themselves regardless of their flagrant rejection of Saint Paul’s teaching, of Sacred Scripture, of Sacred Tradition, of the constant interventions of the Magisterium of the Church?
  • Your Grace: You seem to be throwing a tantrum that the Malta Times got it wrong, but would you say that — you know, in being honest here — that they had a good instinct about your utter hypocrisy regarding sexual morality, so that anything whatsoever is just fine, including contraception also in marriage as long as those involved are at peace with their consciences?
  • Your Grace: Do you put condom dispensers in your Catholic parochial school bathrooms for those who judge their consciences to be at peace? Or do you put those dispensers out, say, in the lunchroom along with free copies of the Qur’an which you let be taught in your parochial schools?
  • Your Grace: Jesus warned those who teach people to break the commandments, so are you going to spit on Jesus while you continue to teach people to break the commandments?
  • Your Grace: You slit the throats of those seminarians who wish to follow the teaching of Jesus and Paul, that is, those seminarians who do not reject Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition and the constant interventions of the Magisterium of the Church: so do you think that Jesus, who is calling them to His priesthood, is happy with your violence against them?
  • Your Grace: Your close friend (Monsignor) Edward Arsenault, at the epicenter in so many ways of the abuse crisis, just got out of prison and is in home confinement, where he just received the news that he has been dismissed from the clerical state (laicized): is what you are doing with your not so ambiguous and inconsistent but really very clear statements related somehow to demands of his, you know, because he could spill the beans about how things have actually gone in these USA, over in Europe, and at the Holy See?

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Filed under Abuse, Amoris laetitia, Canon 915, Eucharist, Holy See, homosexuality, Marriage, Missionaries of Mercy, Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ Fundamental Theology

World Youth Day 2016 Pope Francis and Jesus

Have you heard the hearsay that it was heard from Pope Francis himself that Pope Francis thinks that there cannot possibly be anything any more utterly boring than Fundamental Theology? If he truly said something along those lines, it’s not that that’s a lie, though I would say that it is disingenuous, which is how Pope Francis once described himself.

On the one hand, he might well think that studying Fundamental Theology is utterly boring. On the other hand, he might well think that steering the course of Fundamental Theology is entirely enthralling, an adrenaline rush even. So, that leaves us with two questions: (1) What exactly is Fundamental Theology; (2) Is it legitimate to steer the course of any theology apart from the expected sources of theology, to wit: Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the infallible Magisterial interventions of the Church (this apart from the added help of the Fathers when they agree)?

(1) What exactly is Fundamental Theology?

Good question. It seems to me that Fundamental Theology is an illegitimate however popular tract of theology effectively created by the progressivist liberal minded almost sarcastic manualist Father Adolphe-Alfred Tanquerey (1854-1932), a Sulpician “Thomist” [not in my opinion] and Canon Lawyer [who combines a bit too nonchalantly morality and law perhaps that there might be an opening for a loophole for anything…]. People think he’s ultra conservative and therefore “right” because he wrote in Latin and before Vatican Council II. A very famous canon lawyer once insisted that that is in fact the case about everything written in Latin before the Council…

Because his not simply distilled but actually reductionist manuals with their wild innovations were easily used as a kind of collection of cheat-sheets for exams in the seminary, he was treated as a kind of god who was always right and could not possibly ever be critiqued (an attitude betraying a weak mind that is afraid of thinking, at attitude utterly un-Thomistic). I’m hoping Tanquerey is not among the ossified manualists held up by some. That would simply be wrong. He’s not ossified (how very un-Thomistic!), but rather slimey, goopy, yucky. Although Tanquerey taught in these USA, surely laying the foundations for making Saint Mary’s in Baltimore the horror that it later became, he also influenced seminaries right around the world, including that of Jesuit scholastic efforts. Even Jesuits like progressivist liberal cheat-sheets.

The Common Doctor, that is, Saint Thomas Aquinas (a Dominican mind you), not Tanquerey the Sulpician, did in fact brilliantly contrast divinely given faith as opposed to our assent to the faith, that is, by way of Theology. In this clarity, Sacred Tradition is manifest for what it is, the univocal supernatural revelation of the articles of faith to the soul by the Holy Spirit such that in consequence the content of the faith to which we assent by way of the conscience seems to be handed on almost as if by hand, but it is not, as this is indeed the work of the Holy Spirit. That conscience is free to decide is a total misunderstanding of how the conscience operates.

At any rate, for Tanquerey, merely exterior and historically occasioned manifestations of this Sacred Tradition (which is a distinction which must be kept [see the Council of Trent’s reference to quasi per manus]), such as with doctrinal Conciliar decrees, are seized upon by Tanquerey and then equated with the much more fundamental, if you will, work of the Holy Spirit, so that the mere listing of Magisterial interventions throughout the centuries is somehow equated with Sacred Tradition (which is absurd) and then rejected altogether by the lockstep consequence brought to bear by the likes of Father Bernard Lonergan, S.J. (a Jesuit of course), who trumpeted the psychological and otherwise historically conditioned circumstances in which the now presumed merely human handing on of the faith occur, making it seem quite impossible that divine revelation is not over time morphed by political correctness and the general weakness of mankind. Lonergan is another of the gods of the liberals, whereby no truth is possible as no truth is personal (an irony of relativism if there ever was one). By the way, Lonergan had a kind of think-tank, shrine even, at the Casa Santa Maria, where I once lived (the post-grad priest residence in Rome of the USCCB. It was under lock and key, kind of like a tabernacle, you know, because there is no absolute truth other than the absolute truth of Lonergan that there is no absolute truth.

(2) Is it legitimate to steer the course of any theology apart from the expected sources of theology, Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the infallible Magisterial interventions of the Church?

I’m opining that Pope Francis loves his attempt to steer the course of Fundamental Theology, so that the historically conditioned circumstances even within sinful “structures (in that view)” can manifest God’s love regardless of whatever is said in Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the infallible Magisterial interventions of the Church.

I’m guessing that this manipulation of Fundamental Theology by Pope Francis by way of exercises in the field hospital that is Church is not seen by him as adding something to the sources of theology in that what he trying to pay attention to is the love of God that would be crucified for us, that would enter the hospital, as it were, for us. The last thing I would want to say is that Pope Francis is insincere, however much he calls himself disingenuous.

Yet, it must be said that this appreciation of Jesus in those who have suffered the malfeasance of recalcitrant catechists (clerical or religious or lay) so that they suffer from having no formation in the faith, is an appreciation of Jesus which is off the mark, forcing that imaginary Jesus (the “Jesus of Faith” utterly cut off from the “Historical Jesus”) upon patients in the field hospital instead of Him who is right now both the Historical Jesus and the Jesus of Faith, right now the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Rejecting free will and grace makes for a Fundamental Theology which, however adrenaline pumping, is simply an expression of that which is, for all intents, constructions and purposes, none other than Pharisaical casuistry that is Promethean, Neo-Pelagian, and, inasmuch as this depends on oneself as an overriding source, also self-absorbed and self-referential and that which ensures that instead of sharing the joy which is the Person of the Lord who IS Truth, one instead keeps others cast into the darkest of existential peripheries, picking them up from their stretcher at the Triage center of the field hospital and throwing them right back into the violence and smoke and fire and darkness of the peripheries. I say this in all peacefulness and charity as a son to a father. Is that permitted?

In the end, after the adrenaline has worn off, and the faith is no more, what’s left except perhaps some illegitimate sexual experiences for example, you know, the kind spoken about in Amoris laetitia, the kind pushed in Malta and Germany and…

Error is what is boring especially after popularity wears off. And sex out of place also becomes boring, which is why it leads, as Saint Paul says in Romans 1, to violence and yet more violence.

I could well be wrong. On the one hand, Pope Francis lets Amoris laetitia slide along with truly anti-Catholic guidance by Charles Scicluna and others. On the other hand, he holds their conclusions to be wrong in other circumstances with other people. What does Pope Francis really think? I don’t know. He promised on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Synods of Bishops to make a kind of ex-Cathedra conclusion about the controversies. He certainly has not done this to date. Why not? Good question. Here’s what I wrote about that, what I think is all we can know, and that’s not much:

An important article: Correcting Pope Francis’ Correctors

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Donkeys on the day after Palm Sunday

donkey blessed sacrament

Have we forgotten donkeys? Perhaps. But, we can count on Gilbert Kieth…

palestinian donkeyTHE DONKEY by G. K. CHESTERTON

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

How soon we forget the glorious donkey, always in the midst of the Holy Family, whether in going from Nazareth to Bethlehem, to Egypt, all the way back to Nazareth, or bringing Jesus into Jerusalem. But the donkey in the poem reminds us lest we forget.

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IT’S APRIL 8 – A MOST GLORIOUS DAY

COUNCIL OF TRENT

HEY! It’s the 471st anniversary of Sacrosancta, the first decree of the fourth session of the most sacred and ecumenical Council of Trent in 1546. This is my most favorite of all magisterial interventions. Be awed by the syntax in Latin. Be awed by the breadth, the heights, the profundity, the glory emanating from this decree. Let yourself be wrapped up it’s reverence before the Most Holy Spirit. Let yourself be brought to your knees. Unfortunately, rebel Martin Luther, ex-Catholic priest, would die just months before this was published, though I have to think that he was kept up to date on the ruminations for the first drafts, not easy if one is in bad health.

First the Latin…

Sacrosancta oecumenica et generalis Tridentina synodus, in Spiritu sancto legitime congregata, praesidentibus in ea eisdem tribus apostolicae sedis legatis, hoc sibi perpetuo ante oculos proponens, ut sublatis erroribus puritas ipsa evangelii in ecclesia conservetur quod promissum ante per prophetas in scripturis sanctis dominus noster Iesus Christus Dei Filius proprio ore primum promulgavit, deinde per suos apostolos tamquam fontem omnis et salutaris veritatis et morum disciplinae omni creaturae praedicari iussit; perspiciensque, hanc veritatem et disciplinam contineri in libris scriptis et sine scripto traditionibus, quae ab ipsius Christi ore ab apostolis acceptae, aut ab ipsis apostolis Spiritu sancto dictante quasi per manus traditae ad nos usque pervenerunt orthodoxorum patrum exempla secuta, omnes libros tam veteris quam novi testamenti, cum utriusque unus Deus sit auctor, nec non traditiones ipsas, tum ad fidem, tum ad mores pertinentes, tamquam vel oretenus a Christo, vel a Spiritu sancto dictatas et continua successione in ecclesia catholica conservatas, pari pietatis affectu ac reverentia suscipit et veneratur. Sacrorum vero Librorum indicem huic decreto adscribendum censuit, ne cui dubitatio suboriri possit, quinam sint, qui ab ipsa Synodo suscipiuntur. Sunt vero infrascripti. Testamenti Veteris: Quinque Moysis, id est Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numeri, Deuteronomium; Iosue, Iudicum, Ruth, quattuor Regum, duo Paralipomenon, Esdrae primus et secundus, qui dicitur Nehemias, Tobias, Iudith, Esther, Iob, Psalterium Davidicum centum quinquaginta psalmorum, Parabolae, Ecclesiastes, Canticum Canticorum, Sapientia, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Ieremias cum Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel, duodecim prophetae minores, id est: Osea, Ioel, Amos, Abdias, Ionas, Michaeas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggaeus, Zacharias, Malachias; duo Maccabaeorum, primus et secundus. Testamenti Novi: Quattuor Evangelia, secundum Matthaeum, Marcum, Lucam, Ioannem; Actus Apostolorum a Luca Evangelista conscripti; quattuordecim epistulae Pauli Apostoli: ad Romanos, duae ad Corinthios, ad Galatas, ad Ephesios, ad Philippenses, ad Colossenses, duae ad Thessalonicenses, duae ad Timotheum, ad Titum, ad Philemonem, ad Hebraeos; Petri Apostoli duae; Ioannis Apostoli tres; Iacobi Apostoli una; Iudae Apostoli una et Apocalypsis Ioannis Apostoli. Si quis autem libros ipsos integros cum omnibus suis partibus, prout in ecclesia catholica legi consueverunt et in veteri vulgata latina editione habentur, pro sacris et canonicis non susceperit, et traditiones praedictas sciens et prudens contempserit: anathema sit.

Now my own slavish translation… NOT the usual translation!

The Most Sacred Ecumenical and General Tridentine Synod, convened legitimately in the Holy Spirit, with the three Legates of the Apostolic See presiding over it, is itself proposing for perpetuity in plain sight, so that, having cast down errors, the very purity of the Gospels may be conserved within the Church… [The purity itself of the Gospel…] which, before promised through the prophets in the holy Scriptures, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, first promulgated with His own mouth, and then commanded to be preached by His Apostles to every creature, as the fountain of all, both saving truth, and moral discipline; and seeing clearly that this truth and discipline are contained in the written books, and the unwritten Traditions which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Spirit dictating, have come down onto us, transmitted almost as if by hand… [The Synod] following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety, and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament — seeing that one God is the author of both — as also the said Traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ’s own word of mouth, or by the Holy Spirit, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession. [At this point, the list of books is provided. See the Latin.] If anyone, however, will not receive as sacred and canonical these same integral books with all of their parts, as they have been accustomed to be read in the Catholic Church and as are had in the Old Latin Vulgate edition, and will hold in contempt the aforementioned Traditions knowingly and with considered judgment: let him be anathema.

Note “almost as if by hand” since this is all about the Holy Spirit!

This is THE Counter-Reformation assertion by the Sacred Magisterium of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church against the heretics who reduce revelation to theology and inspiration to feelings, the dark arrogance having them rewrite and remove things from the Sacred Scriptures so as to assert merely themselves. This decree is CATHOLIC!

On a personal note, I was ordained a deacon on this day in the Twelve Apostles Basilica in Rome. Also, this decree became the center piece of the beginnings of a doctoral thesis (the first chapter being 256 pages), the story of which needs to be told one day, reaching as it does into the very heart of the intrigue of ecclesiastical politics and stirring the pot so much that… well, I’ll leave that for another day. Just note that this decree is still THE engine driving any true ecumenical dialogue, that is, which brings unity in truth and charity those who sincerely follow Jesus.

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Monsignor Edward Arsenault defrocked

Pope Francis signed the decree of dismissal from the clerical state on February 28 and this was made public today. Arsenault was at the epicenter of the abuse crisis in any number of ways. Now that the possibilities for maneuvering in the Church are lessened somewhat, I’m hoping that he will have a change of heart and spill his guts on the mafia here in the USA, overseas, and particularly in Rome. I’ll ask him. I have his address as of a couple of days ago, when he was released from prison to home confinement for the rest of his sentence. There are many implications to all this.

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CIA FBI NSA subpoena non-compliance

benedict arnold

You can’t have a shadow-government. If they do show up to Congress oversight committees (and as often as not they thumb their noses at Congress), they simply speak their tender snowflake “fluff-speak” about being eager to hold discussions and conversations that will protract their intransigence into the unforeseeable future, and then throw tantrums about their honesty and integrity like entitled to arrogance teenagers. That kind of non-compliance to Congress becomes subversion and treason pretty quickly. And the penalty for treason is… You just can’t have a shadow-government.

Congress needs to do it’s job. It can’t if all that the best of our best Congressmen do is rant and rave about the non-compliance, sounding all patriotic, but are then simply laughed at, and then that’s the end of the story. I hope it’s not the end of the story.

But I’m afraid things are going to have to get a bit rougher. The penalty isn’t just a resignation or getting fired. At the first sign of non-compliance they are to be warned and immediately offered another opportunity to comply. With the least further non-compliance they are to be held in contempt and indefinitely imprisoned until compliant. If purposed treason can be proven, well, again, we know what the penalty is for that… You just can’t have a shadow-government.

By the way, treason can also be proven, can it not, when the military, intelligence services, or the Department of Justice or the State Department purposely destabilize the country by rejecting Congressional oversight so that these are all merely private endeavors sold to the highest bidder for whatever price, including prestige, influence, whatever, all the things already listed in RICO legislation.

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Navy pilots strike: not the first time. Get rid of the weasel top brass, masters of tender snowflake fluff-speak.

george-byers-jr-usmc-corsair

[[ Picture above: George Byers, Jr. – Top Gun before there were Top Guns ]]

It took a FoxNews story for the Department of the Navy to check into grave safety issues encountered by pilots, you know, because it’s not about pilot safety, nor about military readiness, but about image, perception, looking good even while purposely (=intransigently ignoring problems) running our military literally into the ground with crash after crash. It’s not the first time.

But let’s go back some decades when my dad, after his illustrious career as commander of the famed Checkerboard squadron, after ten years of fighter attack sorties in Guam, Philippines, Japan, China and Korea, after many years more at Andrews AFB training the guys while doing his law studies at Georgetown, went to train the guys with the new jets at Chicago’s civil-military airport freshly named after another commander-pilot, Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare, all this under the larger umbrella of the Department of the Navy.

My dad up and quit in protest against protracted government intransigence regarding, as always, lack of funding for the training programs. He told me he went ahead and took a cut in rank and pay and then joined the National Guard (unable to cut himself away from the military), because he couldn’t take so many of his trainee pilots dying while he was training them in. The problem in this case, he said, was that funding to conduct training flights was cut out from under them, enabling them to do only sporadic flights, and this just as the new jets were getting quicker. This is always  the problem. He said that his guys were smashing their planes right into the ground because they couldn’t handle flying by the instinct gained only with a high frequency of training flights. Instead of instinct, they thought their way through a maneuver, thinking themselves right into the grave. He said that staging this protest was the honorable thing to do as he brought me as a tiny little kid into the NG Armory in Saint Cloud, MN., or up to Camp Ripley. Just before that he would be taking the shingles off the roof with his Corsair, making my heart thrill, often still going down to Chicago, but more frequently to the Twin Cities at the airport named after World War I pilots Ernest Wold and Cyrus Chamberlain.

If we don’t learn from history, we’re bound to repeat it. And here we go again. The top brass are full of tender snowflake “fluff speak” when speaking in public even while “discussions” and “conversations” with the pilots are extremely heated behind closed doors. This is insanity. You either have a military at the ready or you surrender to whoever wants the country. We need to drain the swamp as a first step, and then fund the military with those interested spending the money on readiness.

I’ll tell you this, the tender snowflake “fluff speak” about “discussions” and “conversations” of our top brass in our military and the top brass in our intel services is sickening. I’m getting to think it is tantamount to treason, purposely subverting the readiness of the military while arrogantly upholding their “honor” and “integrity.” As soon as you are complacent with honor and integrity or are only concerned with the perception of those things, you not only don’t have them anymore, but try to punish those who are honorable and full of integrity.

We need to drain the swamp as a first step, and then fund the military with those interested spending the money on readiness.

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (doggy rosary edition)

flores dogwood buds

Late evening at the neighbors in Transylvania County under the canopy of one of the many dogwood trees, which, unlike everywhere else, are still in bud not yet flowering.

I’m guessing they will flower out on Good Friday with their typical “drop of blood” on each of the four ends of its cross. I’m guessing you know the story of the dogwood tree, and the typical poem that goes along with it:

flores dogwoodIn Jesus’ time, the dogwood grew
To a stately size and a lovely hue.
‘Twas strong and firm, its branches interwoven.
For the cross of Christ its timbers were chosen.
Seeing the distress at this use of their wood
Christ made a promise which still holds good:
“Never again shall the dogwood grow
Large enough to be used so.
Slender and twisted, it shall be
With blossoms like the cross for all to see.
As blood stains the petals marked in brown,
The blossom’s center wears a thorny crown.
All who see it will remember Me
Crucified on a cross from the dogwood tree.
Cherished and protected, this tree shall be
A reminder to all of My agony.

Why is this a flower for the Immaculate Conception? Because, I mean, you know, the buds of the dogwood in the top picture resemble rosary beads, no?

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (totally unexpected death edition)

flores redbud

It’s Passiontide. The flowers are scarce in churches. The next time flowers will be seen will be at the Altar of Repose on Holy Thursday eve, the beginning of the Sacred Triduum. But, outside the Church, creation simply must provide some flowers for the Immaculate Conception. Flowers are everywhere to be seen, so many in gardens, but especially on the trees, so many of them appropriately the liturgical color for penance and suffering. One might be lulled into thinking that all is well, that nothing untoward is round about. But the violence which tortured to Jesus to death is all around. Our Lady has always known, always has seen the bigger picture. But we can be so easily distracted, so that amidst all the beauty the death of our Lord is totally unexpected? How could that happen? we ask with an innocence that we don’t even know is feigned. We need only look inside to see what our Lord has done for us, what He will do for us, and then that death of His won’t be so unexpected. Then, instead of pretending we don’t know what is going on, we will stand with our Lady under the Cross.

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (totally unexpected life edition)

flores pear tree miracle

My neighbors to the hermitage in Transylvania County (still haven’t moved out yet and so the hermitage is still there) have a pear tree in their front yard. It bloomed out early with the hot weather we had in late February and early March. Then all those blossoms were frozen solid as the temps dipped way below freezing, to like 3 degrees Fahrenheit at night and still below freezing during the day for a couple of weeks it seemed. This always signals a no fruit year because, hey, no blossoms, no fruit. Well, miracle of miracles, a totally unexpected resurrection has occurred. A miracle? Perhaps this happens frequently enough, but I’ve never heard of it. The tree has twice as many blossoms as it had the previous month and all of them as healthy as can be.

Impossible you say? After original sin our corruption and death and blackness of soul couldn’t have been worse, but then arose the most pure and immaculate conception who was to be the virgin Mother of God, from whom the King of Kings, the Lord of lords, Wonder Counselor, the Prince of the Most Profound Peace would arise.

The purpose of this? So that my black and beady heart and soul might rise from the dead, brought to life by the goodness and kindness of the Divine Son of God at the intercession of His dear Mother. Oh, and your black and beady heart and soul as well. Confession is good for the soul. Never ever despair of going to Confession. We can all bear fruit 30, 60 and 100 fold.

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This donkey-priest made it past April 1

DONKEY FOX

Donkeys, also known as jack [male of any species] -asses [technical name in Latin: asinus] are thought to be especially vulnerable to trickery and tom-foolery on April 1. I hesitated to post anything about it until today, pretending to wonder if I would survive the day. Three tricks were played on yours truly, one by a hope-to-be-one-day-seminarian (saying he converted to be Episcopalian, one by a fellow priest (he overthought that one), another by some LEOs (simple, yet elaborate, making me laugh out loud).

So, I didn’t fall for any of them, at least not for too long a time… But I do appreciate the attempts. It’ll have to be better than that next year. I can’t wait. What mere human beings don’t understand is that donkeys are fierce guardians of the flock. We trick tricksters all the time: “Oh, we’re just dumb donkeys!” And then, bam, a swift kick followed by a calm esophagal crush, and the donkey and the flock make it to the next day. We live a life of foolishness. I mean, did you ever hear a donkey sing?

IMG_20170401_225805Jesus played the fool on the cross, letting us mock him. And then, bam, He rises from the dead. Saint Paul bids us to be fools for Christ (1 Cor 4:10). The foolishness is all about what is not of the world, that which is mocked by the world: honesty, integrity, goodness, kindness, peacefulness, being tabernacles of the Holy Spirit.

Update: Jenny the Jeep (Jenny being the female of the donkey species), has a new tag as of yesterday when it finally came with the new registration in the mail. She proclaims “PRO DEO” (“FOR GOD”), of which the rest of the phrase is “ET PATRIA” (“AND COUNTRY”) and is the motto particularly of the USARMY but in general of the entire Department of Defense. In this case, it refers in a special way to 1 Cor 4:10, being fools for God. My 4GOD4USA tag is now retired. Sassy has 4GOD4ALL.

 

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Spiritual analogy: Jenny is humiliated

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Way back in the day, when I was a seminarian, spiritual directors in their conferences would insist on the virtue of humility, citing the things the saints did to help along their humility. But, I don’t know, I think the spiritual directors got it all wrong, with the effect — I’m blaming them ever so humbly! — that we seminarians didn’t become very humble at all. Some of us just stayed as arrogant as anyone might be; some started exaggerating on the “I’m going to do something to humiliate myself” kick. But, of course, humility is simply about truth, accepting the truth of the situation we are in. Compare the following three statements by which the seminarians might be categorized:

  1. Look at me! Look at me! I’m doing something to humiliate myself! I’m soooo holy and I’m so self-fulfilled! [And this fellow then proceeds to act like a mentally handicapped person, thus demonstrating how terribly arrogant he really is.]
  2. Don’t be such an idiot. You’re going to get yourself thrown out of the seminary. [This is said while pushing the first fellow to the ground just when the bus comes for the university so that the other fellow will be late for class, an infraction to be noted by the formation directors. Bullies, mind you, are as arrogant as the falsely-humble.]
  3. In silence, a third fellow lifts up a prayer to the Lord Jesus: “Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.” [And this fellow is happy to accept the truth of who he is before Jesus, rejoicing that Jesus is forgiving, good and kind, making us His friends in truth.]

Jenny the Jeep is showing her deficiencies to the whole world here. Previous owners thought they were electricians and mechanics. Not. The wires, which should be about none, are a rats nest of connected the wrong way and disconnected and shorting out wires. That’s not good for the junction box which only lasts about 30 minutes. One of the mechanics in town, a Jeep aficionado, is going to try to look at her next week. Jenny doesn’t care about the humiliation, showing what she needs to who can help her. That’s humility, which is modest yet eager to be helped, “doing” something that might make her look humble but not so as to draw attention to how good she is in her humility, but rather just to be helped by the one willing and able to provide that help.

I suppose I’ve been all three of the examples above at whatever time. But I have hope that Jesus will be happy for me to say: Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

P.S. Saint Philip Neri is most famous for “doing” stuff that would humiliate himself, but this was done as a clever ironic entrapment of those full of themselves, who were about to be taught a lesson fit to bring them to humility on their knees in the confessional as soon as they opened their arrogant mouths. Hey hey hey. The saints are also like that. Yikes!

Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

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We’ve finally arrived. Holy Redeemer Catholic Church is “Baptist”! Fr Byers?

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A story about the Knights of Columbus Fish Fry last Friday at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church here in Andrews, NC, ran in this week’s local newspaper, starting front page top of fold, going two pages. Nice article I must say. But the caption to picture is wonderful, claiming we’re Baptist. To me, that means that we’ve arrived as Catholics here in this heavily entrenched Baptist region. I take it as a compliment. And I’ve often heard that I preach like a Baptist minister. I take that as a compliment as well. So, O.K. Next stop is the Methodist Church on Good Friday for the Ecumenical Services. I’m the preacher. I’ll have to live up to my reputation as a Baptist Preacher as all the Baptist Preachers will be there. The pressure is on.

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Suicide dare. No. Yes. For mercy’s sake!

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FoxNews carried this AP story: Crocodile attacks Australian teen who jumped into river on dare. It reminds me of my childhood when a kid I knew, who wasn’t my friend, would dare me to do something which would certainly most likely bring about grave injury or death. I think I was a bit autistic as a kid and he knew it. Some autistic kids do grow out of it just a bit. The spectrum is very broad. I was an easy target. Somehow I just didn’t do what he wanted. I’m thinking this was my guardian angel making me just too stunned that he would ask this, and so was unable to wrap my brain around a such a thing. If I remember correctly, it was something like this:

  • Jump off this high bridge into the river, the Mississippi.
  • Jump off this roof (and so many times almost pushed off).
  • Jump out of this fast moving car.
  • Ride your bike in this super-dangerous area.
  • Drink this deadly chemical.
  • Cut yourself with this knife.
  • Shoot yourself with this gun (and shot at… once successfully)
  • Hang onto the back of this truck on your bike as it takes off.
  • Lay across train tracks next to the wheels of this momentarily stationary train (this being the most common dare).
  • Get electrocuted in this way.
  • Dig a cave into the wall of the deep trench of that excavated loose sand pit.
  • Jump into this quarry water.
  • Jump off the chairlift we’re on.
  • Et cetera et cetera et cetera. Just about anything you can think of.

Mind you, this wasn’t said like a typical “Go jump in a lake” brush off. Instead, in the circumstances, the pressure was really put on. I think my eyes just glazed over and he got tired of this and he went elsewhere. In looking back I have to wonder just how much his lack of a good experience with the father of his family affected his perspective in life. Although it seems he spent a lot of time with me from that list, these were instead momentary, purposed encounters. And that was the end of that.

Having said all that, we do have even more deadly dares of suicide coming to us all the time from Saint Paul and Jesus, all of Sacred Scripture really, the old die to yourself so as to live for Christ dynamic. I’ll tell you this. That dare is a lot more enthralling, captivating, necessitating, compelling, but it’s incomparably more difficult to wrap one’s mind around however much it makes sense. The reason for that is we don’t have the gumption to do it, to die to ourselves to live for Christ. That comes only from the grace, the love, the friendship with our Lord that He provides to us, He having taken the dare, if you will, to lay down His life for us that was issued by our dear Heavenly Father on our behalf. Jesus jumped right down to this earth. And we did what He knew we would do, therefore gaining the right in His own justice to have mercy on us, standing in our stead, the innocent for the guilty: “Father, forgive them!” We need but ask Jesus for the grace to say with love: “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Meanwhile, I wonder if all that imprudent fearlessness of my provocateur had an effect on me after all. I mean, how many terrorists (a number of whom one way or the other committed suicide) have I gone out of my way to speak with? How many impossibly dangerous situations have I been in on purpose, bullets whizzing by? I think all the challenges as a kid made me think about the distinction between taking one’s life just to do it and putting oneself in circumstances in which one might well be hurt, even mortally, but for a good end. That might have prepared to begin to listen to those words about dying to oneself to live for Jesus. I admit I’m a bit slow with that one, a bit afraid, a bit weak. Actually a lot weak. But Jesus is very good and kind and patient. I’ll ask my guardian angel to smack me down so that I don’t use that as an excuse for complacency. My prayer is: “Jesus, please, don’t help me; instead, just kill me off to myself so that I live just for you.” Words are one thing. Actuality is another. But: “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Lastly: I have zero animosity for that kid, who now must be getting on toward 60 years old (older than me). I think he’s had what anyone might call a fairly daring life as well. I just hope he’s taking up Jesus’ dare to take up one’s cross and follow Him, dying to ourselves to live for Him.

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Filed under Father Byers Autobiography, Spiritual life, Suicide

I love that bumper sticker @ 72 virgins

72 virgins dating service

This bumper sticker was seen in my driveway the other day, not on the bumper of this friend’s truck, but on the back window of his truck.

I like that Pope Francis doesn’t want us throw around insults just to do it.

But this bumper sticker is merely a rather sharp reprimand of ISIS-minded people who torture and kill people just to it, hoping that they will themselves be “martyred” so that they can go to heaven and have 72 virgins to rape for eternity (since it’s all about women’s rights, right?).

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Filed under Interreligious dialogue, Military, Terrorism

MRSA Hepatitis Plague: it’s what we do.

[[ I would put a picture of one elderly person I anointed last night, but its all too horrific. ]]

Yesterday Sassy the Subaru had hundreds of more miles put on her going to far flung places for Communion calls and anointing. People I go to see in the mountains of WNC are often on their way out or are terribly sick. I am reminded of carrying around a plague victim in Calcutta (yes, plague).

Jesus watches all of this. A front row seat. He came with me in the Blessed Sacrament. He watched as I laid hands on the head of an elderly lady with a huge MRSA boil on her head (getting close to her eye), and then anointed her. Not the first time I did this for her. I’m thinking that Jesus is just fine with all that. This kind of thing makes you respect doctors and nurses who are continuously surrounded by injurious and deadly things.

I have to ask myself if I was the patient if I wouldn’t want a priest to provide sacraments and blessings? Yes, I would. I remember as a seminarian that one of my summers was to be spent in India volunteering for Mother Teresa’s home for the dying. The Rector told me to reconsider going because I might get sick. I told him someone has to do it, whether I meant volunteer or get sick or both I don’t remember. Pretty sure it was both as his comment made me pretty upset. I did call to mind even then that Jesus came among us to die, and on purpose, so, why not do this? I did pick up some awful things in India, and the Rector said upon my return: “I told you so.” At which point I said that I was O.K. with that and wouldn’t change a thing.

Anyway, I had no place to wash my hands last night after finishing with the MRSA patient and had to drive many hours before arriving home, at which point I used a bleach wipe thingy on my hands, but had meanwhile touched about every part of my face in those hours as people do. O well. I’ll have to bring the bleach wipes with me in the car for these frequent enough occasions. If it’s too late it’s too late. MRSA, a bacterial infection, does respond perhaps, maybe, to some very few antibiotics. I guess Hepatitis is, instead, a virus, though it sometimes just goes away on its own. So, whatever. You have to die of something, right? I would be happy to die from such things. It’s not like getting one’s head chopped off like Thomas More or those who are victims of ISIS, but, hey, I’m O.K. with it.

I’m such a martyr, such a drama-queen, right? But here’s the point: actually, I just don’t care about consequences. I’m so happy with doing what I do in carrying Jesus around these backsides of these back-mountains that I don’t care about what may come. I think it’s the most wonderful thing in the world not to care if only one can do what one needs to do in whatever situation until one can no longer do it. There is a certain freedom in this, a “NO FEAR” thing. I wish everyone was this way. Sure, our military and law enforcement and firemen and rescue squads all have “NO FEAR” and just do what they are going to do regardless of the consequences, if only they get a chance to serve. But there are other more numerous unsung heroes and, usually, heroines, not only home-health care nurses, but those relatives at home who care for those with all sorts of problems. I think we will be surprised at the gates of heaven about those who said they had “NO FEAR” but were frozen in fear, and those who said they were fearful or who said they had “NO FEAR” but in any case did what they had to do.

My putting myself among the “we” in the title to this post is, I guess, a bit fraudulent, as I visit here and there, even while others live in these situations day-in, day-out. But it is still a we, in my case, Jesus and myself. And actually, people couldn’t care less about me. They just want Jesus. As it should be. So, just Jesus. Jesus alone. Amen.

P.S. I mean, all I can take credit for is putting wounds on Jesus. Anything good is Him.

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The HOGs of the parish. It’s a thing.

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One of our LEOs stopped in at the rectory last night with his special edition HOG. Only LEOs are issued the Peace Officer tank plate. He earned it with 25 years on duty. Another new parishioner is joining us after Easter. He’s already toured down from Ohio three times on his HOG. And there’s another. And more. It’s a thing, whatever that is. I doubt if I’ll ever get on a two-wheeler again. But… but… Jenny’s made it up the rectory. Not that she’s a HOG. Much better, she’s a donkey, just with four wheels.

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My autosomal DNA results just arrived. The question is: who am I anyway?

ancestry dna gdb

So, I did the AncestryDNA, autosmal DNA test, which, unlike Y- or mtDNA tests, surveys “a person’s entire genome at over 700,000 locations where genetic markers that identify an individual typically appear. Plus, autosomal DNA tests look at both maternal and paternal lines, meaning discoveries come from both sides of your family tree.” Apparently, I’m not from Mars or the dark side of the moon. There’s still some guesswork, but, as more people do the test, the markers might indicate ancestors with a bit more precision as time goes on.

What came back is exactly what I expected, plus a bit more. I had been hoping (for political reasons, because I’m evil and bad) to have something from Africa. Nothing. Fine.

My father’s ancestors seem to have originated in Ireland 5%, but then moved up between Scotland and England 6%, whence the family name Byers originated. My dad said his side of the family had been in Germany for some centuries, that is, Western Europe, which came in at 12%. They then seem to have migrated eastward.

I’m guessing from this that the Northeast Russia with Scandinavia bits and the Norse bits (less than 1% each) were the most ancient on my mother’s side. They settled eastern Europe. Coming from the other direction on her side again are the western Asia percentages coming in at 4% (as much as 8%). They moved up to Eastern Europe, where I now clock in at 71% (but as much as 79%) where the typical local resident today retains an average of just 82%). From the little I understood from my mom, her side of the family came from an enclave in or next to Warsaw, you know, a Ghetto, so I’m guessing the Warschauer Ghetto which saw most of its 400,000 residents exterminated at Treblinka concentration camp. She spoke some Yiddish, while her mother and grandmother were fluent.

However, the map is a surprise, as I was expecting something from southern Italy and Greece, strong in the DNA of Ashkenazi Jews. Nothing. The Shephardic Jews can be ruled out as well. So, what’s the deal with my mom? I’m thinking that the western Asian percentages are from the Mountain Jews (the ridges and to the North in present day Russia, descendants of the Persian Jews) diverse from the Caucasus Jews, south of the dividing mountains. I say that because the Mountain Jews are closest to Poland and, unlike the Caucasus Jews, have no Ashkenazi population. The history of this would be that Mountain Jews going to Poland would stay to themselves with their wildly different language (though picking up Yiddish from the Ashkenazi crowd) and would have come over to the USA pretty quickly in the mid-late 1800s, having no Ashkenazi contact for the one or two marriages from which my mom was born.

At any rate, we are all children of Adam and children of God, and hopefully children now of the Holy Family. Our identity is found in Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, our Savior.

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Filed under Father Byers Autobiography, Jewish-Catholic dialogue

Goodbye, old friends. I’m sooo nostalgic.

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Already hauled away. That’s that. In a few hours the title will be signed over. The memories: Carrying Jesus throughout the mountains and impossibly steep ridges. Carrying elderly parishioners to the hospital in distant cities. This was my missionary of mercy truck long used at the hermitage. Betsy the 1987 Toyota pickup even worked as a conversation starter for me with the local druggies. It was bought for me by “The Guy.” I am so very sorry to see her go. But with the engine doubly exploded (water going out the tail pipe), the alignment so severely off that it would cost more to realign than get a new-used truck, the steering gearbox destroyed, etc., etc., etc., it was time to give her away to one of the locals who wanted something to work on for a woods truck. So long, old friend.

At the very same time, I got rid of Dotty, the 2002 Nissan pickup, the old soup-kitchen work horse. That went to the same person. The gas tank leaks. Everything was going wrong with it week after week. WAY too expensive to maintain. The town was threatening a lien on the rectory unless I get rid of the untagged deregistered vehicles. Yikes!  Right now, I’m driving Sassy, a Subaru Forester with about 30,000 miles on it. I’m sure there will be another 400,000 to follow within just a few years if I keep going at the rate I am now. But there’s a surprise coming. I hope it will be possible. Jenny is back up, running and kicking!

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