Monday, May 29, 2017

The Plausibility of the Ascension

Apology for Something in Previous Piece

First of all, some comments did not appear after approval. Anything is possible, including Bear clicking the wrong button. Nothing was deemed unsuitable or deliberately spiked. Bear apologizes. Using Tourette Syndrome as a joke is probably not the most sensitive thing to do. He is sorry and will not do it again. It is a particularly hurtful reference, Bear realizes, because it is a little-understood disease that draws embarrassing attention and displays ourselves as something we are really not.

From now on, the Bear will refer to Ursine Homelitic Explosive Disorder.

The Ascension

Icon For the Win

Now, let's talk about the Ascension. The Bear makes this little speech just about every time, he thinks.

The image of Christ floating up into the sky until he disappears into clouds has always struck the Bear as ludicrous, especially since the Bear was a private pilot. Satan is on his shoulder yukking it up about the ceiling, the pattern instructions for that airfield, whether Jesus was under visual or instrument flight rules and other lame jokes.

The Bear has a problem, then, that you probably don't and no one should. Bear wonders if we all have our little niggling difficulties like that. As Newman said, "a thousand difficulties do not make a single doubt." That is a blessed phrase to engrave on your memory.

It is not because the Bear cannot imagine the Ascension. It is because he can imagine it all too well. It would not take a very big CGI budget to make it happen in an utterly convincing way in a movie these days.

The Bear appreciates our often hyper-realistic, sentimental Western religious art. But when it comes to the Ascension (and other events) he has to hand it to the Orthodox. Icons are not meant to be a representation of what one might have seen had one been on hand. They convey the reality of the event in a way that is physical but clearly meant to be something both more and less. The icon of the Ascension is not meant to look realistic. It is meant to convey the event from a different perspective.

The Bear's publisher is an expert on icons. Perhaps he might prevail upon her to write a piece for us. As former Orthodox, icons are dear to the Bear's heart, and an oil lampada burns day and night before a lovely (if non-traditional) Russian icon of the infant Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

How to Make Difficulties Your Friends

Whenever the Bear has a "difficulty" like this, he stalks it like a Bear. He circles it and calculates the implications for every angle.

Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Who came from Heaven in bodily form from the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, had accomplished his earthly mission. It was time to go. The only question left is how?

What is the Best Possible Way Jesus Could Have Left?

He could have just wandered off into the desert. That would have been a bad choice because anyone could then wander out of the desert claiming to be Jesus returned. It also lacks the dramatic finality and leaves open the question of his heavenly origin.

He could have finished by descending into the earth. Boy, would that have sent the wrong message.

He could have just disappeared, like he had previously done to escape the crowd of Jews who wanted to kill him. Yet, he had simply reappeared after that. Not much finality there. Also that would leave no indication of where he went, or how he might return.

No matter how you look it, only one departure makes any sense. Only the Ascension takes him away from us in his body (hugely important for Christology).

Only the Ascension returns him from whence he came. Not the sky of clouds and birds, of course, but better. When Genesis records that God created heaven and earth, "heaven" is a Hebrew word that covers several meanings - just as in English. There would be no doubt in the minds of witnesses that he was returning to the realm of God and his Heavenly Host.

(By the way, the angels arrive as messengers for the King, suggesting that Jesus was something higher than an angel.)

Only the Ascension demonstrates how he will return. (Not to mention implies that he will return.) There will be no confusion. Jesus is very clear on that point. The Gospels are vague, and even apparently contradictory on the timing. But in any case he tells us not to worry about that. Just be ready. When Jesus returns, everyone will know about it. He left publicly because he is coming back in the greatest show on Earth.

It was also a great way to generate buzz about the fledgling Church.

So, as weird as it seems, the Bear concludes that if Jesus really did return to Heaven, the Ascension was hardly ridiculous at all. It was the best possible choice for God. It was also a choice that is so perfect that it strengthen's the Bear's faith when he meditates on it, rather than weakens it.

The Judgment of Elvis

The Bear used to have all sorts of silly difficulties that are embarrassing to relate. The idea of Elvis being judged seemed so incongruous that the Bear could not think about it without rolling his eyes. The ultimate worldly icon being judged? Would he be wearing his white Vegas outfit, maybe with a mic in his hand singing Amazing Grace?

The Bear will let you figure out how he resolved that one, and in a way that was edifying. Here's a little secret. Your tempting demon is terrible, but he is no match for your guardian angel. If you turn your attention from your left shoulder to your right (where your guardian angel lives, as everyone knows) she will smile and draw a lesson even from the devil's jokes.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Today's Wackadoodle Homily

A Jacobite flag.

Frequent Flyer Miles to Heaven

My parish is blessed with a priest - and he probably knows all about this ephemeris yet it does him no good - who is an Ecumenical Catholic. Whenever he jets off to some ecumenical conference, which seems to be nearly every week, he comes back bubbling with enthusiasm which, for some reason, he expects us to share.

God knows why, not Bear.

Fortunately, God, in His wisdom, pushed Bear down the stairs the night before last and Bear was too injured to attend Mass. (Bear was on a late-night honey run.)

Red Death had to face the horror of what was to come alone.

The Bear is now inspired to lift his basso profundo voice in one of those great melancholy Irish songs about defeat. Here is the best one: After Aughrim's Great Disaster (1691).

The Jacobites Lost, but Had All the Best Songs

The Catholic Jacobites fought a coalition from England, Scotland, and the Netherlands, along with various mercenaries. (You can actually test for any Celt DNA in you by listening to this song. If you remain dry-eyed you're free of the maddest and most wonderful genius of them all.)

Thank God for the Irish and bless my own blue-eyed red-haired daughter of Eire who just might show up at Mass next Sunday wearing nothing but a coating of woad and brandishing her war spear. It's taken until the last couple of weeks for the Church to finally break her cradle Catholic heart, but she's finally tired of playing the abused sheep.

We converts came into the Church mostly because we concluded it was the only place to be. No doubt we were attracted by the beauty (unless we are recent converts) but the Bear knows it was the truth that brought him in. It is the truth and only the truth that will keep him here.

Cradle Catholics famously don't often know as much as many converts, who have voraciously sucked up as much of Catholicism as they could. And yet cradle Catholics have deep roots which makes their place in the Church nearly beyond worry. When you've got a fourth generation immigrant Irish Catholic coming home in tears because she just can't take all the crap anymore that is a major indicator of disaster.

Part of the song goes like this:

Our prayer is 'God save Ireland and pour blessings on her name.'

May her sons be true when needed,
May they never fail as we did,
For Sean O'Duibhir an Ghleanna, we were worsted in the game.

The Catholic Jacobites fought bravely but were outnumbered by the Dutchman's troops and defeated. As was customary in those days, Catholics were tortured until they converted to what is now Catholicism if they could only have held out a few centuries longer.

Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,
yearning to breathe free... Welcome to America!

At this conference, according to Father, some non-Catholic or another repeated a suggestion this man had attributed to New York mayor Bloomberg.

The Liberty Pole

The Statue of Liberty should be replaced as our national symbol of welcome by the subway pole.

Bears aren't much for subways, probably because they live in the woodlands and even the Raccoons and Moles combined cannot build a decent subway system. The Bear confesses he does not know what a subway pole is. He thinks it might be that long, long pole that runs down the middle of the tracks. "Yes, here, welcome to America! Just touch that pole to make it official!"

But, like Bear said, he doesn't know anything about subway poles, so he would be a very poor greeter even in Donald Trump's America. "No, not that pole, the other - oh bother."

For example, the Bear did not know this:

When Father repeated this business about replacing the Statue of Liberty, a German lady sitting next to Bride of Bear exclaimed, in a loud voice, "Vas?" She was doubtless herself an immigrant, and may have harbored some sentimental attachment to the Lady with the Torch.

So the homily was about various crackpot ecumenical ideas floated by the usual suspects. It could have been worse, Bear supposes, like adding Mohammed as the 13th Apostle, but most parishioners just don't care by the time the homily rolls around. They turn off their hearing aids, discover a need to visit the bathroom, or discretely stick their fingers in their ears. Some go to the cry room for a snack. (That's where the doughnuts are kept! What were you thinking? There haven't been any kids in the cry room for fifteen years.)

Sometimes they display Homiletic Tourette Syndrome then leave.

Oh, by the way, Jesus may have done something, but it was an afterthought and the mic was already off, so Bear cannot report.

May future generations of Catholics - and it will be at once the biggest in history and the smallest since Pentecost - never fail as we did. For Sean O'Duibhir an Ghleanna, we were worsted in the game.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Congrats Canon 212

The Bear's favorite Catholic News Aggregator, Canon 212. won the 2017 New Evangelization Award from Big C Catholic. Bravo! Frank and, well, elves are the only logical explanation, do a remarkable job keeping tabs on the daily disco-ball of glittering madness that is the Franciscan Church. It is always part of the Bear's very elite blog roll. (That doesn't mean Bear doesn't like other blogs, but he does not wish to dilute the power of his endorsement, if you know what he means.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Tornado Alley Terrorism Advice

The Bear is proud to call home the very groin of the United States. The mounds and ripples of southern Illinois are densely covered with old growth. It is our very own "mesopotamia," or land between the rivers, where the blue Ohio and muddy Mississippi descend like great national ureters to abruptly, if unenthusiastically, void their contents at the scuffed toe of Cairo.

The pure blue Ohio (r) resists the muddy Mississippi (l)

The Land Between the Rivers, southern Illinois, is also smack dab in the middle of Tornado Alley. Oh, yes, we know a tornado really does sound like a locomotive, and we say so to the local television reporters every time there is one.

1925 Tri-State Tornado Attack

In 1925, 234 were killed in nearby Murphysboro, Illinois alone by the Tri-State Tornado, which makes it the most deadly tornado attack to this day. The same merciless vortex plowed through Tornado Alley from Missouri to Indiana killing many more, although possibly not 1000. It did not spare schools or children. My mother was very young, but her memory in West Frankfort, Illinois, was of an upside down Model-T with the wheels still turning.

Big cities are not spared, either. In 1896 a St. Louis tornado killed a couple of hundred and bit a chunk out of the approach to the Civil-War era Eads Bridge that still spans the Mississippi.

Tornadoes like those are rare, though. There are relative few victims. Yesterday's headlines fade away. In tornado alley, we know spring will bring the radio warning bleeps and the sirens and some afternoons will be tense as the temperature drops, the sky turns sickly green, and the wind whips up.

We make sure our flashlights and phones are charged, clear the path to the basement, and keep one eye on the sky. We round up the pets. But, mostly, we shrug.

They are a real threat, but we all know that statistically they are likely to claim somebody else's life, if any at all, not ours. Besides, there's nothing we can do about it. It's a trade-off. It is a beautiful and scenic place to live, here in Tornado Alley. Any tornado is probably going to skip my five acres.

Terrorism is a lot like tornadoes. They bring relatively small numbers of random death with spectacular surprise.

Europe seems to have become 'Terrorist Alley." The Bear thinks his own experience here in Tornado Alley is relevant. Just accept it as a risk of living where you do.The chances of terrorism killing you or anyone you care about are very, very small. A fluke, really. Besides (unlike tornadoes) even studying "the root causes of" terrorism - usually a favorite game among humans - is not permitted. One can hardly even mention the topic in polite society.

So, terrorism is just something that happens. Nobody knows why, although the consensus is related to mental illness. Make yourself as safe as you can, but don't go overboard. You have statistics on our side. And keep telling yourself that there's nothing you can do about it anyway. The benefits of, well, whatever they are of living in a vibrant multi-cultural society far out weigh the dangers of the occasional low-casualty terrorist attack.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

To Following Readers: IMPORTANT

Edward G. O. Radler Rice



Please email Bear your mailing address and any special instructions regarding the autograph of your copy of Judging Angels. Thank you. (If you have already supplied this information, Bear must have lost it in the current confusion.)

Thanks to everyone who already has their copy in hand. Bear hopes his friends are enjoying it (and looks forward to their reviews, hint, hint). You have an advantage over non-Woodland Creatures because you know not to expect:
  1. Dan Brown.
  2. The Exorcist.
  3. "A heartwarming tale of a mysterious stranger who shows up in a small town and changes the inhabitants' lives forever." (Something like Pope Francis' "favorite movie" Babette's Feast.)
  4. Anything set in the 4th Century.
  5. An old priest finds a relic of unimaginable power that may determine the fate of the universe in the final cosmic conflict between Heaven and Hell.
  6. Fifteen-year-old Angela is the least popular girl in her high school when the dreamy new boy with glowing red eyes asks her to the prom.
  7. A wagon train of Amish brides is ambushed by Indians, but beneath their nine-patch quilts is hidden a shipment of the latest Browning Automatic Rifles. (This sort of Christian historical romance can miss a few details.)
  8. Mostly anything the Bear says about it.
  9. How Muslims saved Western Civilization and will renew it in our century.
  10. The Humble Wisdom of Pope Francis.
Or anything else that comes to mind when people think of "Christian / Catholic Fantasy."

The Bear is pleased to report that the Kindle Version of Judging Angels is hanging in at #8 today in Amazon's weirdly-titled "Hot Christian Fantasy" category against all the giveaway books. He just wonders what all those teenage girls and Amish women are going to think when they read the first page. Girls, just skip toward the end of Chapter 28: A Fine Romance With No Kisses, right before Chapter 29: Hotel Blocks Cops, Tots Chopped.

Find the now-infamous "Elevator Scene." (Make your own jokes if you must, but Bear doesn't wanna hear 'em.)

Sorry, but it's not really that sort of "Hot Christian Fantasy."

While everyone is waiting for their autographed trade paperbacks, check out the many inspiring books EWTN is featuring on their book blog. (Of course, Judging Angels is not there. EWTN hates Bears. And possibly elevators. The Bear wishes to state, however, that rumors that EWTN harvests Bear bile for Chinese traditional medicine have not been conclusively proven.)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Jorge Bergoglio - an Interview With the Bear

Bears have been at this for a very long time.

Some may wonder how the Bear, of all bloggers, scored an interview with  Jorge Bergoglio. Argentina has Bears, although they are a rather miserable species. So here it is. An interview with Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina.

Bear - You may be familiar with normal journalistic practices, where the journalist records nothing, takes no notes, and makes up a lot of stuff. Bears do things differently. By the way, welcome to the Interview Cavern.

Jorge - Thank you. Who are you? Why am I strapped to this chair? Why do you care about me?

Bear - Just a Bear, as you see. The Bear's right paw is resting on lever connected to a mechanism beneath the trap door upon which sits your chair. We call it the... Bear Chair. Yeah, I know. We're working on that.

Jorge - I agree. I do not feel as frightened as I probably should.

Bear - The point is, every time you lie to the Bear, he will pull this lever, and a random number of cogs will slip. When the cog wheel makes one complete revolution, the trap door will open and the chair - with you in it- will drop.

Jorge - This all seems exceedingly complicated for Bears, if I may say so.

Bear - We had help from the Raccoons, who are surprisingly clever at complicated dramatic schemes.

Jorge - But how will you know if I am lying? How will I know when the chair is about to drop? Where does it drop to?

Bear - [Pulls handle.]

Jorge - Wait! I didn't even answer a question!

Bear - An honest man would never have asked. You never know when the trap door will be triggered. But if you tell the truth, then you you have no worries. Bears have the best noses in the animal kingdom. They can smell a female in heat 100 miles away and make a beeline. That's true. And Bears can smell lies. That is also true.

Jorge - Too much information, mi amigo. Listen. Let me out of this chair and I'll tell you - no - give you - anything you want.

Bear - [Pulls handle.] Bribing the Bear. Not getting off to a good start, Jorge. Who knows how many pulls you got left. First question. You're in a desert walking along in the sand when - Oh. Hang on a sec. Wrong questions. Okay. A man gets tired of his wife -

Jorge - Is this the test now?

Bear - Yes. A man gets tired of his wife, who is mature, yet faithful, and divorces her. He marries a younger, more attractive woman and they form a breeding pair. Are they committing adultery?

Jorge - [Looks at Bear's paw on handle] - Si.

Bear - Should they be admitted to Holy Communion as long as they maintain their marital breeding relationship?

Jorge - A very complicated question. While yes, they are committing adultery, this is not the only consideration. Rules are always lubricated with Mercy, much as I am sure your complicated raccoon-devised Bear Chair is lubricated. Therefore, we meet people on the moral periphery of life with arms outstretched, not like museum mummies afraid to dance, afraid to cry afraid of everything. Therefore they may receive a little bread and wine. It does not harm, eh?

Bear - Strangely put, but I do not smell untruthfulness. Is that "little bread and wine" really and truly the Precious Body and Blood of Christ?

Jorge - "Really and truly?" What is the connection between "reality" and "truth?" As you say, a tree falls in the forest but there is no, why, no bear to hear it? Does it make a sound? "Reality" is the fundamental ontological category of which we can say so very much, yet so very little. It presupposes a unified nature of all that is, but that is unproven. "Truth," on one hand, is the multivalent appreciation of the validity for all times and places of certain propositions. It presumes a moral intellect to perceive the truth. But on the other hand, truth is contingent upon experiences and felt needs of each person as we - meaning the Church - accompany them on their journey. When one travels - have you traveled much, Bear?

Bear - You might say Bear has gotten around.

Jorge - One travels, and the landscape remains the same. Yet, one returns over the very same road, always journeying, and we are always accompanying them in mercy. And while the landscape has remained the same, can you say you are on the very same road? Truth is dialogue between the pilgrim and that which is. Whatever it is.

Bear - I'll be damned. I got nothing here. [Moves left paw to previously unseen pull handle by Bear's left ankle.]

Jorge - What is this? You did not explain that handle.

Bear - It's special. Do you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only means of our redemption through his sacrifice?

Jorge - To be fair, that is two questions.

Bear - Bear will concede the objection. Jesus Christ, his only - come on, you know all this. So what do you say?

Jorge - We are all children, even when we stumble. Jesus himself said children may be caused to stumble, did he not? Is God the Father, or is he only partly the Father? Father to Catholics, but nothing to Lutherans? Maybe even an enemy? If God is not the Father to Muslims, then he must be divided in his nature. Father to a billion and a half Catholics, and yet what is he to the majority that is not Catholic? Father to some humans, yet not Father to the very same humans because they are named Mohammed (peace be upon him) instead of John? Are we not all made in the image of God?

Bear - [Paw on lever twitches.]

Jorge - I believe everything you say and that we all and each participate in that child-ship with our loving Father. Jesus is undeniably our brother. How then can we not have the same Father?

Bear - You're a tough one. Holy Trinity?

Jorge - A coruscating ballet of light and love that is beyond our understanding, but who may accurately be described in terms that are appropriate to the faith traditions dominate in various geographical regions and racial-societal identities.

Bear - What is today's mission of the Church?

Jorge - To accompany those on the periphery such as migrants. To bring chairs to the table when others, who already have their places, say "no!" The gospel - God himself - is understood in different ways in different times. There have been very scholarly periods in Church history, when the intellect has dominated mercy. But we live in different times, when we are called to act! The French have a word for it. Propagande par le fait. The mission of the Church is not to preach at people. Does that fill an empty stomach? Fill the ache of two people trapped in a marriage that has long since died? No!

Bear - Bear thinks that will do it for today. He would like to thank you for participating and being so honest. He did not detect a single lie.

Jorge - So, you will now release me?

-- Ten minutes later --

Bear - [Smoking cigarette outside entrance of Interview Cavern. Another Bear approaches and asks how the interview went.] Jorge's a very honest fellow. Bear was quite impressed. Turn him loose? No. [Sigh.] Bear had to pull the Jesuit Handle. Go? I don't know what's underneath the Interview- Hey, can we get some better names for our stuff? I mean, "Interview Cavern?" "Bear Chair?" It's embarrassing. Anyway, in that instant the trap door was open, Bear would swear he heard laughter. Bear thinks it was - Badgers.

Other Bear - Badgers? That's... [Other Bear shudders.] Hey, can you tell me something? Where do they go if they lie enough and you pull the lever?

Bear - [Laughs.] There's no cogwheel of random doom. The lever isn't connected to anything. We don't care about liars. We give them a nice meal and a plane ticket home. It's the true believers in all that crap he was blathering about that are killing us. Still...

Other Bear - Yeah. Bear knows. Badgers.

Bear - [Heaves deep sigh.] They got it comin' to 'em. That's what Bear keeps telling himself. Besides. He's not absolutely sure they were Badgers.

Other Bear - Yeah. Probably not. Not Badgers. You probably heard... Bear doesn't know. But not... you know. How's it going on getting that other Jorge, you know, the Pope, in your chair? Not the click bait one.

Bear - Oh, Bear crossed him off the list months ago. Do we really need to buy a one-way ticket to prove what he is? Besides. The last place we want him is on a plane with a freaking microphone in his hand.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Death Penalty Is Now a Mortal Sin SUCKA!


Yeah, in your face. It's official.

The death penalty is a mortal sin. Yep. No ifs and or buts. Oh, did I mention the death penalty was a mortal sin? So knock off that murderous bunk and get over it.

Right here in "America," the official magazine of the smartest Churchmen in the world - our POPE is a Jesuit, after all - it says this:

"Pope Francis: the death penalty is a 'mortal sin' and 'inadmissible.'" 

It's not even just a mortal sin but it's legally inadmissible!

Guess Bear was right all along huh? Because POPE FRANCIS said it. Infallibility baby.

Sit on a death penalty jury and vote for the death penalty? Going to Hell. Or you would be, if there was a Hell to go to that people actually went to.

Warden? You're definitely going to Hell.

Guys who push the buttons that that start the lethal injection process? Hell.

Legislators who vote for the death penalty? Hell. Voters who voted for them? Hell.

Judge? Hell. Bailiff? Hell. Court reporter? Maybe Hell - can't be sure.

You know who's not going to Hell? The guys all the people who are going to Hell executed!

Bear? Death Penalty Defense. NOT going to Hell. Prosecutors? You are so going to Hell. Deepest pit.

This will be the argument from now on. "Ladies and gentlemen, if you vote to send my client to the death chamber, you're sentencing yourself to Hell. It's official. But get this. First of all, you're for slavery. So that's strike number one. Then you're committing the mortal sin of death penalty which is so Hell.

"Oh, what was that? Objection, Hell Boy? Judge, did you really sustain that? A Higher Court just sentenced you to Hell. Contempt? Me? That's Hell, too. Sorry, Don't say I didn't tell you. Lucky LaRue the Ice Pick Nursery Killer and I are going to be eating pizza in Heaven, laughing at every last one of you in Hell. And it's going to be deep dish pizza, Chicago, style. As much as we want.

"What are you going to be eating? Hot gravel and washing it down with battery acid. Not as good as pizza, huh? That's why they call it Hell. Mortal sin."

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