Tag Archives: Spiritual life

Suffering teaches? My bad.

This Benedictine at Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls – the last of the four Major Basilicas in Rome that I’ll be able to visit this time around – was born the same year as my own dad, 1924. I was born late in his life.

I sat down with him for a visit and I found out he had suffered quite a bit in his life. I very stupidly repeated a platitude to him. Don’t do that with wise people unless you’re willing to be humiliated.

  • Me: Suffering teaches a lot.
  • Him: Pfft. No. God teaches a lot.

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RE-POST: IT’S APRIL 8 – A MOST GLORIOUS DAY

COUNCIL OF TRENT

HEY! It’s the [472nd] 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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Filed under Ecumenism, Holy See, Interreligious dialogue, Jewish-Catholic dialogue, Spiritual life, Vulgate

Dog poop, custody of the eyes, situational awareness, spiritual life

Observing the saints in Rome such as Aloysius Gonzaga, one will surely be impressed by their humble custody of the eyes. Or so said a fellow seminarian way back in the day before making the sardonic comment that this was merely the way to avoid stepping on dog poop. There’s been dog poop at that narrow almost unavoidable spot near the Angelicum for the past 40 years. I check. But it’s not a matter of looking only at dog poop or otherwise your soul being as good as dog poop. No no. You can have situational awareness and be entirely chaste with blazing purity of heart and agility of soul regardless of what you otherwise see in decadent sleazy Rome or anywhere else in this world of exile away from our heavenly homeland. And that involves a friendship of humble thanksgiving with our Lord. And that involves something for which to be humbly thankful. That involves Confession. Love of God is love of neighbor. And vice versa. Love of neighbor is love of God.

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Filed under Dogs, Situational awareness, Spiritual life

Homily 2018 03 30 – Good Friday and the Silence of God. Oh my…

holy sepulcher

Too long of a homily, so, just some bullet points:

  • God’s Word, His Son, becomes Incarnate so as to forgive our sin in all mercy but by way of justice, He taking on the punishment for our sin, death, the innocent for the guilty, so that He might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us.
  • We ask in our idiocy: “Where is God? Why is He silent?” But we don’t mean it. We don’t want to hear God speak to us. That’s why we killed him.

  • Jesus’ corpse answers with silence that screams out His love for us so loudly that our reaction so as not to hear Him is to distract ourselves with such noise that can’t hear His silence speaking to us from the tomb. We seal ourselves off from everything and everyone, especially Jesus in His eloquent silence, through alcohol and drugs and distractions which really cost us lots of money. When I mentioned in my homily about the distractions which really cost us lots of money, there were very many who laughed.
  • When we finally hear the silence of God, of Jesus, in the tomb, speaking His love for us, He having heard us, He coming to the rescue with a mercy founded on justice, doing it the right way, with God knowing what suffering and death means, when we are stunned finally by the goodness and kindness of Jesus right to the end, perhaps then we can say in all the unearthly silence with His blood all over us – along with the soldier who had just shoved his spear into the side, into the Heart of Jesus: “Truly this was the Son of God.” That is: Truly this is the Son of God who hears us and speaks to us so eloquently from the tomb.

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Filed under HOMILIES, Jesus, Spiritual life

It’s Lent! Hello darkness my old friend

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Here’s dark as the dark of night Shadow sleeping away, content that he’s worn down his nylabone at least just a little bit. It’s a work in progress. Shadow is a friend. Other shadows can be friends.

Lent, of course, has a bit of penance to it. Today’s Ash Wednesday, with both fasting and abstinence for those who aren’t too young or too old. There is also almsgiving, of course, and prayer, of course. Right?

All three of those would have us get glazed eyes, ending up in darkness, not knowing what we are doing if we are doing it right, that is, not so as to congratulate ourselves but for the sake of friendship with Jesus. We, of ourselves, don’t like to fast, give alms or pray.

So, if it’s all about Jesus while we get to know what idiots we are when we are fasting, or almsgiving or praying, and we call out to Jesus in the darkness, that will be an occasion with which we are, in that grace, available for the grace of being brought closer to Jesus in greater friendship.

Lent is all about occasions of friendship with Jesus.

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Gunslinger priest’s day off at the hermitage: winged it four times

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Winchester ammo sometimes doesn’t work at all, is sometimes shredded on the side of the casing, and, for the first time, I find some actual tarmacadam stuck to the cartridge itself. Amazing. Otherwise, it’s cleaner than most el cheapo ammo. I’m guessing that Winchester ammo is simply misfired military ammo, or ammo which has exceeded its shelf life. Dunno.

This is surely the only diocese in the entire world in which the Very Rev. Vicar Forane reprimands one of the pastors of his vicariate because that pastor is not keeping as frosty as possible with his concealed carry. A day off is supposed to be a day off, he says. Spend more time getting even better with your Glock on your day off, he says. I’m good with that.

So, heading off to the hermitage, I did up the pre-2001 Federal Air Marshal Tactical Pistol Course a few times. Adding up the seven stages, there are 30 bullets fired, with 150 points to be made.

  • 5 points for hit entirely within small bottle
  • 2 points if on the line or just outside

The damage:

  • 135 points = 90%
  • 141 points = 94%
  • 147 points = 98%
  • 141 points = 94% (getting tired)

Still not 100%. A challenge even maxing out. Getting these scores hot barrel, that is, with practice drills, is one thing. Coming in cold is quite another. There are ways to make it more difficult, not by shortening the times (which are already terribly brief), nor the distance (7 yards is probably the max of most confrontations), but in other ways:

  • Footing on the forest floor is extremely uneven and slippery because when are conditions ever perfect?
  • There are three trees on either side of the central of three active course targets, requiring greater trigger control
  • The ridge is uneven, so the height of the targets vary, meaning that shooting while spinning also requires moving one’s aim vertically; three aggressors are not going to be the same height, are they? Probably not.

All of this tends to make the grouping smaller, making hits harder to count. The bullets are still scattered about though. This next picture shows just one of three targets used for multiple courses (I’m lazy):

target fbi fam tpc

A marker is used to mark already fired shots to distinguish them from subsequent stages of the course. This is legal sized paper and so represents only part even of the inner bottle. This means that 2 pointers off the sheet but which would otherwise count are not counted at all. That’s good. I have to blame the scattering on something, so I blame the difficulty of the course, such as spinning 180 degrees from concealed holster to hit three targets each three yards apart at seven yards in an extremely short amount of time. And the holster requires pressing a release button, which adds time to the response to the timer.

Spiritual analogy: Keeping frosty with worldly things is one thing, but it’s quite another in the spiritual life, in which we are instead kept frosty by our guardian angels. They are a gazillion times more persnickety with us than I am with target practice. They expect us to be pure of heart and agile of soul to follow up on their instructions. They see the face of God always. They see the One to whom we are to be aimed at all times with accuracy so precise that we are to be killed off to ourselves so as to live only for Jesus. We are to carry such a Treasure as the indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity in these lowly bodies of ours. Yikes!

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Filed under Angels, Day Off, Guns, Spiritual life

Ever ancient, ever new, we are in exile

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Peter Strzok would call this a hillbilly house. This is one of the extremely few stick-built houses in the northern region of my parish that I past by at the tops of the ridges of these mountains on Communion Calls. Dwellings are mostly mobile homes of the extremely tiny variety, although there are longer ones that fit the description if not the reality of single-wide and double-wide.

Just in the 4 1/2 years I’ve been racing around the mountains here this house has decided to disintegrate markedly. When they get to this stage they collapse altogether before you know it. I’ve seen quite a few houses and barns simply fall under their own weight, weighted down as they are by humidity and mold, weakened by rodents and carpenter bees and termites.

Such dwellings would be filled with memories, but their owners are long gone as well. The forest reclaims the house and the Forestry Service reclaims the property. We think we keep such houses alive with imagined memories, but they just continue to cave in to the inescapable pressures round about. And they don’t even do that. They just fall down.

We, however, think that we are as young as we feel, that is, not regarding our health situation (for we can have all the aches and pains and misery anyone could ever experience), but regarding the state of our minds. If we have discarded past baggage of whatever, and we feel free, and we set about having a second childhood, well, maybe then the reality sets in that good memories in the dwelling that these bodies are don’t quite give us back the health we once had. I have great memories of insane extreme sports, but that doesn’t mean I can do them up again.

If we have the wonder of a child before the entire universe and God Himself – hey! – we are in touch with Him who is ever ancient, ever new. But our bodies can’t quite keep up. Walking through life in the stability of being with Him who is ever ancient, ever new, provides a youthfulness that does not shun the grave, but rather, with living hope, in touch with Him who is ever ancient, ever new, one looks forward to heaven, knowing that, in that present friendship, it is already starting.

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Filed under Nature, Spiritual life

Father Byers, what makes you angry?

There is righteous anger, call it zeal if regulated by humility before both truth and mercy, a righteous anger which is necessary in justice, such as when Christ Jesus cleansed the temple with whips, overturning also the moneychangers’ tables, reprimanding those who prostituting the Temple of His Father (a symbol of Himself). The Gospels are rife with examples, Jesus castigating the hypocrite scribes and Pharisees, et alii. Some ecclesiastics are angry that their fellow ecclesiastics could ever be angry for anything or on behalf of anyone, ever. But that is itself unjust. Righteous anger is always righteous, even if there are those who think all anger is always unrighteous.

Truly unrighteous anger, lashing out, using others – a bit of self-referential transference – to punish oneself, is, of course, an evil. People get angry when they are pushed on whatever because they are frustrated in their lives with whatever issue that happens to be. They are frustrated because of realizing they are not in control of that situation. They are not in control of that situation because they are depending on themselves for a strength and balance and fortitude they don’t have on their own. They depend on themselves in proportion to how much they have not learned to walk through life with Jesus, who, in solidarity with us, wants us to be His constant friends.

Rarely is it the case that anger is totally righteous or totally unrighteous. So, the Lord, as our spiritual director, along with our angel guardians, provide and permit circumstances which will push us down on our knees, having us go from whatever bit of even just temptation to be somewhat angry to a greater reverence before Jesus – more simple as a child – just as soon as our brains can assent through conscience to the truth of this economy of salvation in which we are saved, Jesus using our weakness to encourage us to give up on trusting in ourselves so that we can take just everything in stride, as it were, nailed to the cross, dead to ourselves, alive, with enthusiasm, for Christ Jesus.

Of course, we want to make ourselves believe that our anger is always totally righteous, you know, because we want to congratulate ourselves to compensate for the stupidity of things being a bit out of control because of trusting in ourselves. So, motivations are complicated, too complex for us to figure out, figuring it out being always a fail inasmuch as this ignores the way in which our Lord and our angels deal with our fallen human nature by way of grace.

So, having said all that, what makes me angry? Well, I’ll give you an example. Watch the video above. What it doesn’t say is the posse was a thousand men strong. What makes me angry, you know, that I feel that a bit out of control of the situation, is the utter lack of conscience, the vacuous arrogance, the un-human-ness. Of course, righteous anger is part of this, but it is nevertheless a bit of a fright to see nothing in the souls of racists. That’s just how much I don’t yet understand about the wounds of our Lord Jesus. I should just be able to take this in stride and instead of having any hint of unrighteous anger, what I do to right whatever situation, it should be about zeal, as Elijah said, Zelo zelatus sum pro Domino Deo exercituum. As Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn said, it wasn’t so much the torture that bothered him even as he was being tortured as much as seeing no conscience in the eyes of his torturer.

Part of the solution to all this is stated by a gentleman in that video above, a truly brilliant analysis, he saying that until we realize that we can all do this kind of horrible deed (of false accusation and smashing others down to build ourselves up), we will keep repeating such things. Humility before the Lord is, of course, the only way to do this.

So, having picked on this one thing, does that mean I myself am undergoing some sort of prejudice against myself? Well, I am Jewish, and Catholic, and a priest. My “Shadow”, who stole my identity (passport, driver licence, birth certificate…) back in the late 1970s-1980s, has spent a lifetime making himself perceived to be anti-Semitic, specifically, anti-Jewish, posing as a demographic conspiracy theorist analyst sympathetic to “David Ernest Duke (born July 1, 1950)[…] an American white supremacist and white nationalist politician, antisemitic conspiracy theorist, Holocaust denier, convicted felon, and former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan (Wikipedia). That’s a distraction. A cover. Nothing is ever as it seems until injustice is actually perpetrated, until people are wrongly imprisoned, until blood is shed. Then we know exactly where things stand. Oh, wait a minute, isn’t my “Shadow” the one who did up illegal international arms transfers to cartels, all in my name, leaving countless people dead having been killed with guns that were acquired in my name? So, yeah, I am angry with that. How much of that is righteous anger and how much myself just being offended for being used is known only to the Lord. But, there it is.

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Filed under Racism, Spiritual life

Peripheries are beautiful. Where are backsides of the beyonds? Violence?

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Gorgeous! Stecoah Gap, just one of the places where the Appalachian Trail crosses a major, that is, actual two lane road[!] somewhere in the backsides of the beyonds in one of the three counties of my parish. Within living memory, what is today a two hour trip here, say, from the greater metropolitan Asheville, would take, back in the day, many days or even a week or two of grueling travel on a one lane, merely oil sprayed gravel road everywhere destroyed by tree roots bringing it up and pot holes and total washouts bringing it down. Even in my tenure at this parish in our own time I learned the advantages of carrying a chainsaw with me, having used it on seven different occasions to remove trees from the roads in the middle of nowhere with no cellphone signal available. Three different roads I travel regularly have been totally taken out with multiple landslides or have been buried with landslides. One of them, still closed, needs the entire mountainside to be secured. That’ll take a good year or so.

Visiting priests tell me that they appreciate the beauty. They also tell me that, in their opinion, almost no priest would ever want to be here, that is, in the imagined opinion of those straw men, about as far away as is physically possible from everything and everyone. Maybe “big” parishes have a draw, I don’t know, as in power or ladder climbing, or money, being someone. Of course, I wouldn’t want to put that judgment on my fellow priests. Those are, again, all straw men. I’m guessing that what they would really be saying is about greater opportunities for service. But what someone actually does is, of course, arbitrary, regardless of where they are. I can’t imagine not loving everything about the mystical body of Christ wherever our Lord is to be found.

At any rate, having grown up in the backsides of the beyonds in the North Woods of Minnesota I feel right at home. Here’s a google map image of my stomping grounds. Long time readers might guess that it is across this body of water that I was the target of incoming rifle fire on multiple occasions with perhaps a dozen shots or so on each occasion (all 300 yards), not far from where our entire family was shot at a half dozen times with I’m guessing just bird-shot bbs of shotguns, the distances starting at just 200 feet and ending at 350 feet, firstly in the trees above us, then right at us. The spray was then hitting us, but we were far enough away that there was no penetration. But you could feel it hit through Winter coats. My mom was hit in the head a couple of times. “Ow! Ouch!” she exclaimed. But she did have a polyester hat on, typical of that time. My dad said, “Don’t run, just keep walking really quickly.” A psychological ploy. For my part, I turned and faced our attackers, saying that I was going to go and deal with them right then and there, with no weapon. I was only twelve years old. My dad insisted that that was a really bad idea.

pond

Hey! Just like big cities! So, where are the peripheries, in the country or in the city? Cities can be glimmering, shining. The country can be stunningly entrancing. Pope Francis speaks of the darkest of existential peripheries. Where are those?

Here’s the deal: People are the same at any time, in any place, in any culture. All need the goodness and kindness and truth of the Lord Jesus. Just like me.

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Filed under Guns, Missionaries of Mercy, Priesthood, Spiritual life, Vocations

“Jesus Confesses” – Giving my cynical Internet Stalker profiler guy a chance to come clean with the mafia

Jesus confesses

This was a gift from the artist who wants to remain anonymous. So, I’ll claim the copyright on this, lest it be misused to hurt the Church. (C) 2018 George David Byers. Hey! Note the flag of Saint George!

I have much to say about the above drawing. I’ll bide my time. I have to rush off to do some Missionary of Mercy stuff.

For now, I’ll leave you with some words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who is a canonized saint. And then some words of Hilaire Belloc. And then an invitation regarding some Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations (RICO).

“Jesus is the Word Made Flesh. Jesus is the Bread of Life. Jesus is the Victim offered for our sins on the Cross. Jesus is the Sacrifice offered at the Holy Mass. For the sins of the world and mine. Jesus is the Hungry, to be fed. Jesus is the Thirsty, to be satiated. Jesus is the Drunkard, to listen to him. Jesus is the Drug Addict, to befriend him. Jesus is the Prostitute, to remove from danger and befriend” (Mother Teresa: Meditation in the Hospital [summary]).

To put it in the words of Saint Paul: Jesus became sin for us.

Anyway, on to the irony without which there is no Christianity:

“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).]

Now, for RICO and my Internet Stalker guy: I need some help, some advice, and you really a quite clever. Prove your good faith. Help me figure out how to bring about in a way that actually might work for all involved what Pope Francis wants to do with the medicinal penalty of automatic / declared excommunication for the RICO crowd.

  • How do you move from a State conviction to an excommunication, you know, legitimately?
  • How do you have, say, Missionaries of Mercy, lift declared excommunications and absolve crimes without making penitents and the Missionaries of Mercy into targets because, you know, they know too much? I would hate to leave this to anyone else either in Rome or in whatever local church as becoming a target should be a volunteer mission (as in Missionaries of Mercy).
  • How does one sweep for listening devices, it being that the FBI, CIA, DEA, BATFE, DOJ, et alii, really really really would like to listen in on such confessions and have been known to bug confessionals previously (twice that I know of in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York)? This being for undeclared excommunications.

Just to say, the Italian Military liaison to the Holy See actually invited me to be appointed to a parish in Southern Italy admitting to the possible bugging of my Confessional in that parish for the purpose of going after the RICO crowd, admitting as well that if I didn’t play the game of absolving a local mafia guy by insisting he first go into hiding elsewhere I would most likely be shot right through the confessional screen by that mafia guy who was simply using the confessional to put the local priest (to whom all things come) under the seal of confession.

Here’s the deal. Interest has been growing in this topic of late in and around D.C. and North-East Virginia. I’m guessing something has been put in front of Pope Francis. I’m guessing he wants to present something to the Missionaries of Mercy after Easter this year. I’m guessing it will be insufficient. I’m guessing I would like to work something up a bit more nuanced from the confessor’s angle and send this in beforehand.

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Filed under Confession, Jesus, Missionaries of Mercy, Priesthood, Spiritual life, Vocations

Seen at the soup kitchen

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Filed under Saints, Spiritual life, Uncategorized

Fr Gordon MacRae my spiritual director Blogging continues; it’s his fault.

GORDON MACRAE

Yesterday was the anniversary of my priestly ordination. Always a happy occasion for me. But also a chance to reevaluate. I figured I should take a wee break from blogging so as to reorganize, so as to push the reset button, something like shaking one’s legs out at a starting line just before a sprint, just before entrenching yet again on the starting blocks and then bursting forth.

Within a few hours of my putting up a post that I was taking a break from blogging Father Gordon MacRae (About) gave me a call as he does very frequently. He started a discussion about blogging as he’s writing a post for These Stone Walls which I’ll be editing for him next week. I told him what I was up to, but then he convinced me not to take any break at all. He even encouraged me about my rather sharp sense of irony and sometimes “scorched earth” writing as he calls it. Some time ago I asked Father Gordon to be my spiritual director and so, O.K., I’ll keep on writing. I am reminded of a certain race in which a father burst out on to the race track to help his son. Goodness. This video is disallowed by the International Olympic Committee from WordPress as they want to get advertising. Just click the “watch on youtube” link. If an add pops up before the video, just click “skip” in the lower right of the video box. It’s truly worth it. Draw the analogy.

Priests with a common bond in the High Priest, Christ Jesus, encourage each other. Thanks Father Gordon.

Arise! Let us be going!

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Filed under Missionaries of Mercy, Priesthood, Spiritual life, Vocations

Road rage tender snowflake tantrums and peaceful situational awareness

road danger nantahala gorge

A view in front right where the slow-moving-vehicle right lane just quits.

Situational awareness involves always having at hand a number of ways to deescalate a potentially dangerous situation. This is especially useful in road rage situations, which, it seems to me, are on the increase for the reason that road rage is all about the tender snowflake entitlement mentality of “it’s all about me.” There are so very many tender snowflakes these days. Very few have their identity in their Creator, Christ Jesus. Nothing to do about that until they get to know the self-sacrificing love of Jesus, with some goodness and kindness and respect for others. So, patience and a good example is what’s best. In a dangerous situation, give them what they want, which is that the road is for them and nobody else. I don’t want to die and I don’t want to see anyone else hurt, not even the tender snowflakes.

I tend to go right at the speed limit, or, as I like to tell people, just a 1/2 mile an hour under the speed limit so that I don’t ever get a speeding ticket from a State Trooper in the area who gives everyone a ticket who is going just a half mile an hour over the speed limit. But anyway, it’s a known fact that speeding up a couple of miles an hour enrages road-ragers. So I just go the speed limit. It’s also just safer with all the blind drive-ways and the possibility of hydro-planing because of misconstructed roads and fallen-trees after a rain so very common in the gorge. Speed limits are there for a reason.

Well, last evening as dusky dark, coming back from Bishop Curlin’s funeral, passing through the Nantahala Gorge, which is pretty much double-yellow no-passing for miles and miles, I noted a group of cars going waaaaay over the speed limit zipping up behind me, driving really aggressively among themselves, enraging each other like yellow-jackets attacking a hornet’s nest, with all the more raging when they got behind me, what with me going only the speed limit. Now I was a common enemy to the lot of them.

There’s a courtesy lane for slow moving vehicles to move into for a few hundred yards right at the end of the gorge, so I thought I would get in that, fearing that if I didn’t, they would pass on the right and knock me into oncoming traffic on the left. Yes, that happens… lots of cross-markers for deaths that way. Or they might otherwise just pass on the double-yellow going up the mountain to Topton, likely, then, to kill themselves and others on the blind curves, causing head-on collisions. The passing on the double-yellow thing is a way of life here in the mountains. Lots of deaths that way too, but, it seems, no one really cares. But this crowd was particularly a raging sight to see. So, all situationally aware, I let them pass while I got into the slow-moving-vehicle-lane.

I knew I would have to slam on the brakes in the all-too-short lane as there is no one polite on the road anymore it seems, and the entire line of traffic would surely try to pass me whether I crashed out or not. I don’t like crashing!

Here’s the video from the back window of Sassy the Subaru as the tantrums of the tender snowflakes unfolds.

Note all the angry honking as they passed, ever so angry that I was only going the speed limit. It’s kind of humorous in a sad sort of way in that it’s all so predictable. The more tender snow-flake one is, the more angry one becomes. You know: tough tender snowflakes. Honk honk honk. It’s a tender snowflake world. That sounds like a song title.

I’m not saying that these guys did anything wrong at all. But real road ragers who actually endanger others should have some sort of punishment like sporting huge car-magnets for a month which say “I’m a tender snowflake throwing a tantrum.” Then they pay a fine to cover the cost and replacement of the magnet if they throw it away or if they don’t have it on their vehicles during the required period. I’m so bad and evil. But really, it seems that driving is getting to be a barometer of the soul. Does no one have the ability to just take it down a notch?

Jesus, save us. Give us a sense of identity in you. Don’t permit any of us to be tender snowflakes. Make us tough, that is, Lord, have us be good and kind and courteous and polite and respectful. Have us be safe so that we can be good stewards of soul and body, which are to be tabernacles of the Holy Spirit, at peace and peaceful, joyful in your presence. Amen.

At peace and peaceful. Joyful. Amen.

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Happy New Year: A Resolution? Even donkeys can do it!

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Various and sundry donkeys this Donkey-Priest received for Christmas.

So, today is New Year’s Day and the Octave of Christmas and the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The Gospel from Luke includes the oft repeated words in that Gospel about Mary keeping whatever words in her heart and meditating on them. The Greek is more like throwing those words about in her heart. Heart and mind and soul. Great.

We can find those passages, such as the words of Saint Gabriel to Mary at the Annunciation, such as the words of the Gloria sung by the angels and reported by the shepherds, such as the words of Simeon at the presentation of Jesus in the Temple simply by turning a few of the first pages in the Gospel of Luke. We can write them down and then memorize them, letting them come back to us throughout the year in heart and mind and soul, wrestling with those words, and also the words of Mary such as her “Magnificat.”

When I was a kid, I memorized the long form of the consecration to Jesus through Mary of Saint Louis de Montfort, reciting this again and again during whatever manual labor or driving about or waking up at night, whenever, wherever. I loved this. And our guardian angels will certainly help us with this kind of thing, helping to get us on our way, please God, to heaven. That is our hope. And it shall not be taken from us. ;-)

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Shadow-dog: “Here’s looking at you”

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Shadow-dog, with a look of happiness in his eyes. Can you tell the difference?

“They say” that if a dog looks you in the eyes, it means either one of two things:

  1. You’re his next meal.
  2. He thinks you’re a dog’s best friend.

Still in the newly acquired stage, Shadow has been gaining a bit of weight what with all the de-worming that had to go on being overwith. I’m guessing he’s up to 90 pounds by now. Not bad for 15 months old or so. I’m guessing he’s the best dog-soccer player in the world with perfect control, tackles, strategy. A joy to see and play with. Man’s best friend. He’s a bit of a fright though when he jumps so high up in the air while spinning about and landing running with that low-attack run. I’m thinking of changing his name to Shadow-Monster.

Shadow-dog has successfully been trained in to sit still while he has a supper dish in front of him. But that’s still just when I’ve hovering over both him and the supper dish with only about three feet between the two. Previously you might wonder how to get out alive with any food anywhere near you. I want to get that where he’ll patiently wait for the go-ahead while I’m sitting some ten feet away. Laudie-dog is so well-mannered. She would rather starve than eat something without having thanked me first. For her, there’s a whole ritual to go through. Not yet the same for Shadow-dog. But progress is being made.

Right now, though, I’m concentrating on teaching him not to bark at the dentist’s office, which is the main target of his very opinionated commentary day or night. He’s learning with that too.

If I ever get him to “stay” no matter what I would be really very tempted to take him on short trips. The problem around here is that people look for dogs to steal so that they can feed them alive to their fighting dogs, you know, before a betting match more serious than anything you could find at the two casinos in the area of the parish, you know, to make them there fightin’ dogs, with fresh blood all over their canines, all the more ferocious for the real fights. Of course, Shadow-dog could be trained in to take care of himself from robbers. He’s incredibly strong and agile and always more protective of yours truly. But I’m not at all sure if I want to go there. Priests should have “nice” dogs, right? Right now, I think he would still just lick the hand of a robber. And yet, dogs are really good judges of character. I’ve seen that with Laudie-dog, who’s very discriminating, barking only at one in a thousand; but when she’s got a reason it’s a good reason.

Saint Teresa of Avila was happy to make a spiritual analogy with just about anything whatsoever. So, with that in mind, on the wall opposite my chair is this painting of Jesus. The comments I’ve received on it reflect my own thoughts, that this is a depiction of Jesus knowing something we don’t know, that we have some stuff yet to go through in this life, but that He will be with us. A look of friendship, absolutely not because we’ve made ourselves friends of His, but that He’s loved us while we were yet sinners, laying down His life for us, but… but… as the Master, so the disciple. No one gets a pass. Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

jesus baptism detail

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Being a hero by not being a hero

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Margaret Roper, Saint Thomas More’s daughter, tries to convince her father in his cell in the Tower of London not long before the date of his execution to give up on his faithfulness to God so that his momentary earthly life might be spared by Henry VIII. Her argument is that Thomas shouldn’t elect himself a hero by being unreasonably faithful:

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Meg: In any state that was half good, you would be raised up high, not here, for what you’ve done already.

Thomas: All right.

Meg: It’s not your fault the state’s three-quarters bad.

Thomas: No.

Meg: If you elect to suffer for it, you elect to be a hero. [This could be a possible motive, which is self-referential, self-absorbed, Promethean, Neo-Pelagian… all the things Pope Francis condemns, and rightly so. Meg may have a point, unless she doesn’t, at least, not with her saintly father.]

Thomas: That’s very neat. But look now. If we lived in a state where virtue was profitable common sense would make us saintly. But since we see that avarice, anger, pride and stupidity commonly profit far beyond charity, modesty, justice and thought perhaps we must stand fast a little even at the risk of being heroes. [In other words, quietly being faithful, what everyone can and should do, nothing extraordinary, is that which will make one an heroic martyr by default, kind of like being a hero by not being a hero.]

Meg: But in reason! Haven’t you done as much as God can reasonably want?

Thomas: Well, finally it isn’t a matter of reason. Finally, it’s a matter of love. [And I would add for clarity: it’s love that makes it reasonable for him to go to his death for his faithfulness, and it’s not his love, mind you, it’s the love God provides him.]

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In other words, if one would elect to do something good even at the risk of being hailed as a hero, that wouldn’t make one a hero merely for doing what anyone would or at least could and perhaps should do. It merely means that one is doing what is normal for a Christian to do even if there are few who also do this. Normal somehow is hailed these days as that which is extraordinary, heroic virtue and all that, perhaps so that those who don’t even strive to do what should be normal can make themselves feel better as it’s not really expected in their own selfish minds to do that which is heroic, otherwise known as normal, right? Such strange times we live in, ever since original sin, and until the end of time. May as well just do the right thing utterly regardless of what people think. Are the high poppies cut down? Sure. But, who cares. A high poppy is a high poppy in the eyes of the beholder, and there is no making sense of that kind of relativism. So, may as well just do the right thing, out of love of God, with God’s love, and no self-congratulation.

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AT: USMC and engineers are the worst

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This view, which I’ve often put up on this blog, is directly on the path of the AT (Appalachian Trail). Jesus and I pass this way frequently on Communion Calls.

At one stop at the Hike Inn, having a chat with the owner, I was told that Marines and engineers are the absolute worst for hiking the AT.

  • Engineers are persnickety and think they can make just one more nook or cranny in their massively huge backpacks so that they can actually carry the kitchen sink with them. You could never fit their backpacks into a small SUV. What are they thinking? Too smart for their own good. They make a few miles and are worn out. They don’t calculate the human factor.
  • Marines are, of course, stuck on 80 pound packs. As long as it is 80 pounds they’ll be just fine. Going 25 miles in one day with 80 pounds is one thing, for one day. But when you’re facing 2,200 miles, that’s another thing altogether. Again, they don’t calculate the human factor. Anything is easier than war, right? Even civilians do this trail thing, right? But then…

In the picture above, I count about 25 ridges over the space of about as many miles. This is not easy. But am I recommending to count the cost before you start? No, not at all. If you knew what it might just cost you before you start you might not even begin. Rather, the old saying about preparing for the worst fits well, but kind of in reverse. Instead of packing more, you pack as little as possible.

The analogy to the spiritual life is easy. Purity of heart and agility of soul, having as little baggage as possible, having one’s eyes on goal, taking up the cross but following Jesus, keeping one’s eyes on Him, that’s what makes it all possible. But maybe we think we can get away with carrying extra rubbish, like the USMC or engineer guys that the nice lady at the Hike Inn meets all the time, you know, because we know how to congratulate ourselves, allowing ourselves to get away with this and that and the other thing. But then the fatigue of the first day on the trail hits us, and then we fall by the way side.

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“I am a DOG with no worms” – Shadow “Maggot, I am, not a man” – GOD

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Since the moment the police arranged for me to get Shadow, a pure-bred German Shepherd, his poops were continuously softer (worms?) and stickier (blood?) until they were like thick water. Enough’s enough. I didn’t want him to bleed out. Off to the veterinarian.

Yep. The entire array of every kind of worm known to dogs were ripping his intestines to shreds. That’s why he was so thin, ribs cutting your hands just about. He was put on a course of two antibiotics for ten days, twice a day, and a large inside the throat “injection” of a good cup-full of white paste one a day for three days.

It would have made for hilarious youtube videos if I were to have filled out antics. I wanted to make sure he was going to get his medicine and not spit it out in the grass. GSDs are too smart for the own good methinks. So I put them manually down his throat. Fun! The wrestling match was on. The rules: he doesn’t bite me, and he never even thought about it, good doggie-puppy that he is. Everything went down so far. His poops became healthy poops, not sticky, not smelly, almost immediately. Father George: Dog Poop Slave.

More than half-way through the process and still having to do the pills morning and evening, and half getting a heart attack with a GSD that is now rapidly putting on healthy weight, with both of us exhausted, both out of breath, both having to sit to catch our breath, it finally hit me to pray to Saint Anthony, Saint Francis, Saint John Bosco, Saint Roch and my Guardian Angel: “Please let this go smoothly.” It’s now twice I did that. No problems at all. It wasn’t pleasant having Shadow be a mere shadow of his former shadowiness. But now he’s a healthy Shadow once again.

Meanwhile, what to do with a maggot? Kill it! We treated Jesus, God-Man, like a maggot. Psalm 22:6. A maggot nailed to the Cross. And the translation is maggot, not simply worm.

By the way, Jesus stood in our place, the Innocent for the guilty, which means that we’re the actual maggots. Humility provides the opportunity of thanksgiving to Jesus.

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Hope starts in present reality: a totally untoward analogy, but… Hey! It works.

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The chapel at the hermitage has dismantled for a long time as the possible selling of the property is always but always going to happen “tomorrow.” But memories are good.

On the day-off yesterday I spent just a little bit of time putting out a few rounds while on my way to meal down the mountain with friendly conversation with good friends.

Trying out the different stages of the Federal Air Marshall Tactical Pistol Course was the challenge for the day. My timer only goes to 1/10 of a second increments, so I rounded off the time for each part of each stage to a shorter time to make it that much more difficult. Then, with hot barrel (that’s cheating, btw), I raced through the course itself from start to finish, getting a mere 96 out of a possible 150 points. All bullets solidly hit the target, but not all got full points. Those in the outer silhouette of QIT-97 or any line (a very solid hit in its own right) got two points, but for the inner “bottle” (a nervous system dead shot) five points were to be had. I was “in time” with all stages. 96/150=64%. Pitiful. But I love it, knowing I could improve as time goes on. If you are a F.A.M., to be able to fly you have to have 90% (135/150) and be “in-time” on all seven stages before whatever flight (pre-September 11, 2001). There lot’s of room for improvement for me. But there is real feedback on the almost autistically pedantic score sheet by which one is encouraged. I image that I must be on the spectrum somewhere…

Here’s the deal, while hope regards the future (when I’ll get 150/150 cold barrel), that hope depends on present reality, which is that there is some little bit of skill that I can, in fact, depend on, already within my muscle memory. I’m much better than I was a year ago when I first fired a pistol for the first time in my life. I have so very much ground I need to cover. I would like to get 150/150 every time, no matter the circumstances. A LEO told me to never get 100% on any qualification, never putting all bullets into the same bullet hole, because a prosecutor after a critical incident will say that a miss (Hey! It can happen to the best) that hit an innocent bystander was instead on purpose. That’s a malicious argument, but it is in fact made by the unscrupulous. I don’t have to worry about that right now. I’m such a bad shot that that would never come up.

Anyway, do the analogy. The hope we have for heaven is based on knowing by faith the realities of things unseen. We have the love of Christ. We know that is not from us, but from Him. That means everything. He’s alive. He’s with us. He wants us in heaven. And with Him, we can get 150/150 in faithfulness even in the small things while life goes on, which makes for great hope of getting to heaven, not because we are good but because He is so very good and so very kind. If we fail, there is Confession, showing us just how good and kind He is. I go to Confession a lot, as should we all. Jesus has us dead to rights, having us be killed off to ourselves so as to live only for Him, that we might carry about, as Saint Paul says, His dying for us (the glory of that self-sacrificing love) in our mortal bodies that the glory of His resurrection might be manifest (see 2 Cor 4:10).

And Jesus is deadly serious. Look at His being tortured to death to see just how deadly serious He is that we be killed off to ourselves so as to live only for him. And Jesus is a deadly shot, so to speak.

People might think this to be an untoward analogy, but those who know, know this, that the spiritual death to ourselves so as to live only for Christ Jesus is a death incomparably more painful than any other kind of physical death that we can imagine. And yet this is wrought be His love which we know as His love, which is encouraging, which gives us hope.

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Stephen Paddock’s motivation and our motivation in not finding his motivation

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It’s really not that hard, not that Kryptic. To whatever degree one is dedicated in all loyalty in all love with God who is love, with Jesus who brings us into that love, that is just how much we become indignant with that which goes out of its way to give ourselves an excuse not to notice that love and truth. To whatever degree I’m dedicated to Jesus, that’s how much I’m disgusted by the claims that no one knows anything about the motivations of a Stephen Paddock: he’s an anomaly, it is said, someone who broke, who is crazy, who is pushed by whatever circumstances to do what he did. The last thing anyone wants to say is that someone can actually choose to embrace the lie of the “power of evil”, i.e., nihilism, sovereignty over vacuousness.

Thus, when we see Jesus on the cross because He was good and kind and unrelenting in merciful truth, we say that this is diabolical, only. But Jesus didn’t die to redeem the devil. He died to redeem us. If He suffered to stand in our place, that means that we ourselves were just that evil in original sin and our own sin. The devil is no excuse.

Here’s the truth about God’s love: He stepped into this world knowing that we, of whatever culture, of whatever country, of whatever epoch in history He entered to be among us, that we would turn on Him and torture Him to death, for we could not possibly tolerate such goodness and kindness and truth, thinking it all to be incriminating of us. We would have to kill him, any and all of us. And we have, by original sin and whatever of our own rubbish. Standing in our place, taking on the punishment for sin, the worst we can give out, death, He had the right in His own justice to have mercy on us, founding His mercy on His justice (Aquinas calling mercy a potential part of the virtue of justice in the Sentences).

In the Apocalypse (1:7) we read that “He is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him.” We won’t be able to escape the truth, we won’t be able to escape Jesus at the last judgement. Wouldn’t it be better to realize what the truth of this life is already now?

Being indignant just makes one’s determination to share the greatest love of one’s life, Christ Jesus, with others all the more unstoppable. I’m indignant when I hear that:

  • We’re better than Stephen Paddock; we’re not like the rest of men.
  • We have no need of redemption nor forgiveness because that’s for people who need it, like Stephen Paddock, who, at any rate, is beyond redemption and forgiveness because, you know, what he did was actually bad.

Think about it. That attitude, so incredibly common, gives one a licence to kill. There is no humility. None. And absolutely zero chance of finding a motivation with Stephen Paddock. Why? We fail to look in ourselves. We’re too much like him. We’re afraid to admit it; there’s no admitting: “There but for the grace of God go I.” Jesus didn’t really die for the forgiveness of sin. We didn’t actually kill Jesus off with our sin. Jesus was actually a fool for allowing Himself to be tortured to death, a damn fool.

I remember a local paper covering the Good Friday ecumenical service at the Methodist Church here in town which I had been invited to preach at. Our own Good Friday service (the Mass of the pre-Sanctified as it is called) was later in the day. Anyway, I had mentioned that Jesus had died because of our sins, and what was printed in the paper was that I said that I accused everyone present of being a murderer, with no other nuance, no context. Really?

Stephen Paddock mathematically figured out how to control the god of gaming the system of distraction; killing that god would be the ultimate in attainment of nihilistic power, the only thing left, which is nothing. If we could admit we could be that evil, then of a sudden a thousand other indicators come to light for profiling similar individuals who have made choices in their own unrepeatable but ever so similar histories and circumstances in life. The question is, do we have the humility to recognize the evil, which, by the way, is to admit that know something of it. No one wants to do that, unless one has already done that before the wounds of the Divine Son of God.

If one does not feel the weight (כבוד) of the glory (כבוד) of God manifested with the self-sacrificial love of the Son of God taking our place on the Cross, and so much so that what Stephen Paddock did pales in comparison, one is more like Stephen Paddock than one thinks. The difference is that admission of original sin and our own rubbish and the reception of the grace and forgiveness and friendship of the Son of God does separate us from the likes of a Stephen Paddock more than anything in our own unrepeatable histories. It is only with the introduction of reality provided by the Son of God, only with the introduction of the love and truth of God in our hearts and minds and souls which cuts through the self-congratulatory mind-games by which a Stephen Paddock could do what he did.

Perfect love casts out fear.

Be fearless.

Be full of God’s love and truth.

Rejoice.

Let being indignant help you to share the greatest love of your life, your Creator, your Redeemer.

And then profile with success all the other Stephen Paddocks out there, and stop them, for love of God and love of neighbor.

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