Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Fox Traps

A fox got into our chickens last night. At first we thought we had lost three, but found two of the missing birds hiding in different places. The Friendliest Chicken in the World is believed to be among the survivors. It is not known what part Hermes, our rooster, took in the incident. Other family members have accused him of dereliction of duty, but the Bear is inclined to cut him some slack against a fox. Besides, if the hens had been in their henhouse, where they belonged, they would have been safe. They were in the enclosure, but foolishly decided to perch on the roof.

We've known there's been a fox because we've seen the sly devil up close. Unfortunately Zoar is a no-fire zone due to foolish neighbors building within range of Zoar's defensive gunnery.

"Humane" Fox traps are on order.

This is war as only a Bear can make war.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Feast of Christ the King

The Feast of Christ the King is not a relic of Europe's monarchical past. It was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. To be sure, there were still a few kings and queens, but the First World War had swept most of them off the playing board.

Kaiser Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia abdicated and lived to witness the beginning of WWII from exile in Holland. Charles I of Austria reigned from 1916 to 1919 after succeeding the tragic Franz Josef I, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. Charles I was beatified in 2004, having "renounced participation in state affairs," rather than abdicate. Tsar Nicholas II was cruelly executed with his entire family at Yekaterinburg  by Bolsheviks in 1917.

It would seem we don't know what it means to have a king. The idea seems quaint, outmoded, if not dangerous. After all, didn't America have to defeat the lunatic tyrant George III to win liberty? We have a republic, although we don't seem very pleased with it.

There is an element of kingship that belongs above the tyrants and imbeciles that have sometimes occupied thrones. Something that our presidents, for all their power, do not reach. G.K. Chesterton found an ethical realm in fairytales, and one, moreover, that reveals our own world as a startling and wonderful place. The 2003 movie based on J.R.R. Tolkien's book, Return of the King, tied Titanic and Ben Hur for most Oscars at 11. A wandering warrior returns to claim his rightful throne. Why does that still resonate in our republican hearts?

The answer is simple: the story is true.

The last of the line of David, nearly extinguished, rises from obscurity to assume His rightful throne.

The Feast of Christ the King asserted Christ's rule over a Europe that had seen a terrible war, and over the hearts of each person. So in that sense, He is the Prince of Peace. In The Lord of the Rings, the hands of Aragorn are the hands of a healer. Yes, we intuit, kings are like that. They put things right.

[Addendum: There is also the 1981 John Boorman version of the Arthurian legend, Excalibur. Most people seem to like it better than the Bear does, but it does show a appreciation for the truth of the legend. In the trailer, at the 1:00 mark, you can see King Arthur riding forth to battle, and as as he does, trees burst into blossom. In some mysterious way, even the health of the land is linked to the king. As our representative, he stands before God for weal or woe.

Interestingly, while the period of the judges were an utter disaster, God was reluctant to put a king over His people. It was only after their incessant clamor that God gave into their demand. Their first king, Saul, was unstable and homicidal; their second king, David, was a murderer and adulterer; and their third king, Solomon, began with a bloody palace coup and by his old age had collected a thousands wives and concubines -- and their gods. And that was the end of the great united kingdom. From then on, Israel split off in the north, leaving Judah separate in the south.]

However, on our part, we owe something to our king: loyalty. Of course good subjects are loyal to their king. We know from fairytales that the relationship between the subject and king is more than a legal one. It is a covenant, where there are duties between persons on both sides.

Fairytales only tell us what we already know. They reflect the grand heavenly drama in homely settings: a cottage, a forest, and sometimes a castle. (A proper king lives in a secure castle, not a decadent palace.) So we don't really need to be told about the meaning of Christ the King. We learned it during our childhood.

Christ's kingship extends across the entire universe, encompassing everything and everybody. And somehow, deep in our hearts we wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Word On Fire to Bloggers: Drop Dead

Update: After the recent Bishop Robert Barron parody, I happened to run across this piece from a year ago.. People who have the power hate bloggers, or at least what we do. They have the same elitist, monopolistic mind-set as those who take it upon themselves to dictate what qualifications bloggers must have. Power, money and ego drive the establishment, no matter what form the establishment may take.

Fr. Michael Cummins: Bloggers would go to Hell if there were a Hell.

Catholic means “universal.”  I do not believe that there is space for narrow-casting in the Church.  In fact, I wonder if it might even be a sin against the unity of the Church.  Seife lays out the fruits of narrow-casting: lack of true information, radicalization and isolation.

So writes Fr. Michael Cummins in Fr. Robert Barron's Word on Fire blog.

You see, back when three networks held a monopoly on the news, they had to be fair and balanced (no, really fair and balanced) or they would lose credibility and audience.

Say again?

How quickly we forget the bias and inanity of those Big Three days. Seriously, in this day and age, Fr. Cummins holds up Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric as the model for news?

Nowadays, every Tom Dick and Bear with a computer and an internet connection can set themselves up as a purveyor of things Catholic. No doubt it is irksome for Catholic establishment outlets like there's-a-reasonable-hope-that-Hell-is-empty Word on Fire has to compete with faithful amateurs who refuse to dumb down the faith.

Fr. Cummins' piece is a perfect example of why we have alternative sources of news and commentary.

Call me crazy but I have a hunch that Pope Francis knows what he is doing and that the Holy Spirit is in the midst of the Church.  Maybe our United States “American” (I say this because this is the only cultural context I can speak to) tendency to interpret an event (i.e. the Synod on the Family) only by catering to a particular viewpoint is more of a reflection of a deficiency in our culture than a reflection of what actually transpired in Rome?  Maybe we have become more conditioned by narrow-casting than we realize?

Call the Bear crazy, but maybe the truth isn't somewhere in the middle, or found in the official story, or in vague pious hopes, or beyond us as Americans.

How about the truth is just the truth, wherever it resides? And, also importantly, maybe error is error no matter where it issues from?

No doubt the Catholic independent media does tend to target two different audiences.

There are liberals and moderates who, either boldly or slyly, serve up a sort of Catholicism Lite. If there were only an establishment Church media, it would not achieve truth and balance any more than did the Big Three networks of yore. It would be bland and culturally accommodating. It would be full of reports on global warming, gun banning, and big, wonderful ecumenical meetings. Perhaps there could be Kasper's Korner, where each week a new permutation of couplings could be justified as holy matrimony. There could be Bravo! a show where Cardinal Dolan demonstrates how to value homosexuality.

Americans believe competition is a good thing. We have thought the best remedy for bad speech -- if that is what Fr. Cummins thinks this blog is -- is more speech, not censorship. Frankly, the Bear thinks the Holy Spirit knows exactly what He's doing in giving every Catholic a printing press at a time when the Church itself is manufacturing a crisis.

We already have plenty of Fr. Cummins' brand of "broadcasting." That is why there are conservatives who maddeningly just will not shut up about the ancient faith, even when the fumbling Catholic clergy lash out at them as sinners, SINNERS! (At least it's refreshing to know a priest's mouth can still form that word.)

If the legacy media were doing a good job, there would not have been such a demand for the Pajama Media. Similarly, faithful Catholics have to search outside the establishment Catholic media to find the faith in its fulness. Did the establishment Catholic media criticize a backroom synod that wanted Catholics to "value" the homosexual orientation and welcome adulterers to the communion line?

Fr. Cummins, if you want a unified Church without the occasional Bear tracking in mud and smelling up the place, then there is a simple solution. Promote real Catholicism. If you wonder why bloggers are "narrowcasting," with all due respect, look in the mirror.

If the clergy got its act together, the Bear promises that the vast majority of current conservative Catholic blogs would be retooled overnight into vehicles for trading cookie recipes.

Well, the good news is, if Word on Fire is right, bloggers won't have to worry about going to Hell.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Pope Francis Revealed in a Flash

Pope Francis Encourages Lutherans to Take Communion

As if to underscore the concerns just raised by the Bear, Pope Francis told a Lutheran woman married to a Catholic man to "talk to the Lord" in order to discern whether she should receive communion with her husband.

Pope Francis distanced himself from his own statement by saying it was "not my competence" to give permission, leaving the matter entirely up to the Lutheran woman's conscience. 

(Should anyone need reminding, Lutherans do not believe the same as Catholics believe, that Our Lord is really present under the appearance of bread and wine.)

The Bear has seen some conclude that Pope Francis simply doesn't believe the Catholic doctrine. After all, communion for divorced and remarried -- whom the Church has always considered adulterers -- has never posed a problem for Pope Francis. "A little bread and wine do no harm," is what he was reported to have told the Argentine woman back when he was cold-calling Catholics to give advice straight from the top.

But the Bear doesn't believe that conclusion necessarily follows. More likely, Pope Francis is simply advancing his vision of a Church with soft rules, where doctrine yields to the needs of people, and Jesus does not use His Church to quench the smoking flax.

There will now be Lutherans receiving communion -- with or without a prior talk with the priest -- based on the encouragement of Pope Francis. Who am I to judge?

The Revelation of Pope Francis

The Bear had a genuine flash of insight into Pope Francis. Like lightning, it starkly illuminated a forbidding Church encrusted with rules and doctrines that did not meet the real needs of God's people. There was the angry spirit of the Law, a spirit that delighted in saying "no," and "that is not possible," and was never happier than when ordinary people lived in constant terror of Hell. And the Bear realized that this is how the Pope sees the Church.

And at the same time, the Bear saw the heart of Pope Francis, and how desperate he was to inaugurate a new Church, where people listened to the Church as a kind and wise mother, even where opinions might be tentative, but then made up their own minds after talking to the Lord. Where the Church would have us say, with astonished joy: "Come, and see a man who has told me all things whatsoever I have done. Is not he the Christ?" (John 4:29).

In the End We Will All Stand On Our Own Before God

Let the dead bury the dead bury their dead, and their divisions with them. Why not grant a Lutheran access to communion and let it be between her and God? After all, that is what everything comes down to. Will God be harmed, even if her understanding remains imperfect? Is our own disposition always perfect? Ever perfect?

The Bear will not deny that in that flash, the New Church of Pope Francis was appealing. The Church is not a fortress for a wrathful, easily offended God, but, yes, a field hospital, a hospice, a temple, a hostel for pilgrims. The Bear could live joyfully in such a Church, and develop more responsibility and a deeper relationship with God.

The Flash is Over

But the flash was over, and reality reasserted itself. Even if it did make a healthier Church, it would not work. Lack of instruction, ill-formed consciences, psychological factors and plain old self-interest make all but the very best of us bad guides for ourselves. And the "soft flesh" that would replace doctrine would bend one way in Paraguay, and another way in some other place.

The strong girders of doctrine, the dressed stones and great flying buttresses hold the Church together. The Church says "No!" because it retains an acute sense of the reality of sin. The Church imposes discipline because it is the Church Militant, not a playground. Under Pope Francis' vision, Luther's "great Pope, Self" would reign. The Bear is not sure what would result, but it would not be the Roman Catholic Church. It sounds a lot like Protestantism in fancy dress.

Chauncey Gardener Strikes Again

Once again, we must invoke the character of "Chauncey Gardner" from the 1979 movie Being There. It's about an imbecilic gardner whose simple-minded utterances are taken as profundities, leading him, at the end, toward the White House. Or at least that's what the Pope's off-the-cuff remarks seem like. But is he playing his old open mic game of shaping opinion?

He is after all, the Pope, and the answer is not difficult. He could have clearly told the woman that, sadly, that was not possible at the present. He could have invited her to join her husband in the Catholic Church (although that would have been proselytizing). Instead he flat-out encourages her, while winking at his own advice.

Pope Francis' vision still burns behind his eyes. His resolve has not faltered. He has many allies and great power. His recent statements about doctrine being the "soft flesh" of Jesus, and his encouragement of the Lutheran women to take communion should remind us that we are dealing with a persistent, coy reformer, whose vision for the Church is not Catholic as we would understand it.