Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Of Bad Jokes and Papal Tweets

From Pete at Et Cum Spiritu Tuo: Sarah Palin told a rally that if she were in charge, waterboarding would be the way we baptize terrorists. Well, this is one of those stories every blogger is required by federal law to comment on. The Bear would love to find a way , any way to come down on Sarah's side. But...

  • It makes a joke out of a sacrament.
  • It revives the calumny of baptism by force.
  • It was from a prepared text as an applause line, i.e. premeditated.
  • It could not have been better calculated to unnecessarily inflame opponents.
  • It makes light of enhanced interrogation techniques, which, no matter how you feel about them, are hardly the stuff of jokes.

Now, if you want real humor, here is a story about those merry Moslem pranksters in Syria forcing a Christian to convert, then -- wait for it -- sawing his head off anyway!

Story with link to video -- which is very graphic should you wish to click on the video itself there -- is here.  Of course, it won't get .01% of the attention Sarah Palin's bad joke will. That's because we have our priorities straight!

Meanwhile, as we show everyone what decent fellows we are, wot wot? the Democrats will rally 'round their guy, despite new revelations that pushing a You Tube movie was a deliberate attempt to blame the administration's failures in Benghazi on a silly Mohammed movie no one had heard about.

In Other News... Papal Tweets!

"We must not let ourselves fall into The Vortex of Pessimism. Faith can move mountains!"

Could the Holy Father be having a little fun with the Bat Christians? Come on, you're going to tell the Bear that the Real Catholic / Church Militant TV flagship program doesn't ring a bell at whatever desk in the curia where they write tweets and monthly intentions? "If this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them," St. Teresa of Avila allegedly complained to God once. (The higher-ups didn't appreciate her apostolate, either.)

That's what you get for your ultramontanism, Michael.

Also, "Inequality is the root of all social evil."

The Bear supposes if you add: "if the words 'inequality' and 'social evil' mean whatever I say they mean," sure. Otherwise it appears that the Holy Father is saying,

There are two kinds of evil. Evil Evil and Social Evil. The second can be cured by making sure everyone is the same. Since I'm not crazy, I'm obviously only talking about material goods. Obviously, some are smarter, some better at ping-pong, etc. But if everyone had the same amount of money, material inequality would be eliminated and so would the social ills -- prostitution, divorce, drug addiction, suicide, child abuse, hunger, loneliness, youth unemployment, etc. -- they cause.

Yes, there are social evils, but, with all due respect, they are not caused by the lack of some equality there never was, nor ever shall be. So if the Bear might have the temerity to amplify:

"Catholicism is too complicated for twitter."

Because within a week, Original Sin would guarantee inequality was back, and along with it, the social problems that never went away with the imposition of equality. The money Billy Meth-head got wouldn't go to feed his hungry kids, but into his pen-and-foil meth pipe, because Billy Meth-Head is still Billy Meth-Head. Joe Businessman already committed suicide last week with 100 times the money he gets under the Vatican Redistribution Program, so money apparently isn't the cause of all social ills. In fact, maybe all social ills are caused by a lack of the one thing the Pope can actually give! Catholicism! (Not to mention the police state necessary to secure equality might not want to go away.)

Twitter can only oversimplify.

How about just tweeting a scripture verse chosen at random and condensed for everyone to meditate on. That would be edifying and potentially fun. "This he did, walking naked and barefoot." (Isaiah 20.2)

Okay, maybe twitter is another idea whose time has not yet come.

Is This Seat Taken? Sedevacantism

The Logic of Sedevacantism

"Sedevacantism" is a word readers sometimes encounter on this blog, so the Bear thinks he should explain.

The word comes from the Latin words meaning "seat" and "vacant." It signifies a belief that the Chair of Peter is missing an occupant.

In other words, there is no pope.

Sedevacantism always occurs between the death of one pope and the installation of the next, but what we are talking about here is something much more dire and unnatural. Sedevacantists maintain the sitting pope is no pope at all. Most of them say the Roman Catholic Church has not had a pope since Pius XII died in 1958. St. John XXIII, John Paul I, St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis are really antipopes. It follows that Vatican II is not, therefore, a real council.

The logic is simple:

(a) Popes are always prevented by God from teaching error.
(b) Every pope after Pius XII has taught error.
(c) Therefore no pope after Pius XII is a real pope.

One usually finds a heavy reliance on their own versions and interpretations of private revelations, as well as conspiracy theories involving Freemasons or other New World Order puppet masters. Some point to the white smoke during the 1958 conclave that was later declared a false alarm as proof that a pope other than St. John XXIII had been elected. That pope is usually identified as Cardinal Siri, a.k.a. Pope Gregory XVII, who, according to some, was pressured into rejecting the vote. (Unless he was acting as a "hidden pope," maintaining his own line of hyper-legitimate bishops, in which case his supporters would not technically be sedevacantists. At least until he died. It can get quite confusing.)

The mess the Church has been in since St. Pope John XXIII, and particularly since Vatican II, is exhibit A in the sedevacantist case.

"The madman is the man who has lost everything but his reason."

It's all very persuasive if one accepts the premises. But so are 9/11 truthers. It recalls what Chesterton sad about insanity.

Every one who has had the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on the edge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is a horrible clarity of detail; a connecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze. If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.

And this is precisely why the Bear does not argue with Sedevacantists, 9/11 Truthers or people handing out Chick Tracts. He knows a broad and genial intellect is no match for the laser focus of the fanatic.

Sedevacantism Proves Too Much

The problem with sedevacantism is that it proves too much. It is not a question of multiple claimants in turbulent times that must be sorted out. It is half a century of one antipope after another without any significant challenge, with no end in sight. For sedevacantists seem to also believe that ordinations and therefore the sacraments administered by priests, are worthless, as well. Needless to say, an entire council is an anti-council and must be given the heave-ho.

The Church died in 1958 and that is that. The Bear would believe almost anything rather than that.

If the clock could be dialed back to 1957 without breaking it, no one would be happier than the Bear. But the chances of that happening are zero. Let's just raise a toast to The King Over the Water and wait for the Stuart restoration while we're at it.

Every religion has an esoteric element that is truer and holier than the recognized outfit. Orthodoxy is very rigorous, but there are dozens, if not hundreds of schismatic sectlets, each more "orthodox" than the last. (Half of them are casting the rest into Hell over which calendar to use, it seems.) If you decide not to follow the "evil Vatican II sect," what then? Which real pope are you going to throw in with? Sedevacantism is a rabbit hole that has no exit, and all the marks of a trap. Having been trapped more times than he cares to admit, the Bear likes to think he can recognize one when he sees it.

The Church can get sick. It can be driven into the ditch. It can have foolish popes. If one of them attempts to contradict previous infallible teaching, we know this is impossible. Does the nullification go to the the pope's very legitimacy (assuming the teaching is indeed bad, bad beyond all hope of salvaging it) or does it just go to the teaching?

Bears are not learned in such things. If you need an advanced degree in theology and a private investigator's license to find salvation, the Bear figures he's already hopelessly messed up on some other technicality. If, on the other hand, God wishes this poor old Bear to be saved, He is not going to sell out the brand, property, officers and faithful to Satan and sit back and laugh as a billion sincere Catholics are tricked into a false anti-Church.

With Dirty Feet and Mad With Love

The loose lips of Pope Francis and an ubiquitous media form a perfect storm to blow away faith, but only the faith of the most well-catechized and sincere Catholics. Pretty ingenious, if you think about it. The rest have been tested in other ways. This one is for us.

It is a serious waste of time to comb 19th century private revelations and promote a fantasy church that lies sleeping undefiled in a secret chamber deep within the internet. The real Church is like the girl in Song of Songs, whose gets her feet dirty and is arrested for her erratic behavior. (Song of Songs, 5.3-8)

So stay at your assigned post, even if it is the graveyard shift as a Bat Christian, and do not wonder, but shine your little Catholic hearts out!

Sanity Break

Here is a refreshing breath of sanity from Bishop Fellay of the SSPX. No, the Bear is not an SSPXer. Fortunately, God has planted the Bear in the remote forests of Zoar where there are no Traditional Latin Masses within a hundred miles, so it is easy for him to make a virtue of necessity and nail his paw to the floor in front of his favorite pew. Even if there were an SSPX chapel handy, the Bear would probably stay put just to annoy everyone.

However, we seem to have reached a tipping point with Pope Francis' latest exercise in bad judgment. Even the Vatican is saying, Hey, what the Pope does on his own time unofficially is his business. We're not even going to try to make sense of it. But know this: it doesn't have anything to do with the Roman Catholic Church.


It appears in a protest against the recent papal canonizations (which the Bear has reservations about, but is not prepared to condemn, and, yes, realizes this is an incoherent position but can only handle so much cognitive dissonance at a time). Bishop Fellay's  message is a supremely clear summary of previous infallible Church teaching vs. current infallible Church teaching. It is what the Bear also believes, and has been trying to say all along.

Notice how straightforward and honest the language is! It reminds the Bear of the pellucid encyclicals of old.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Who Is the Patron Saint of Bloggers?

Who is the Patron Saint of Bloggers?

St. Clare
St. Clare -- 13th century Foundress of the Poor Clares and associate of St. Francis of Assisi. She was named the patroness of television by Venerable Pope Pius XII because when she was unable to attend Mass due to illness, she could see and hear it on the wall of her cell. A Poor Clare Nun founded EWTN -- Mother Angelica.

St. Vitus
St. Vitus  -- A fourth century Sicilian martyr about whom little is known for sure. Northern European Catholics used to dance before his statue to gain favors. Later the neurological disorder Sydenham's chorea was called "St. Vitus' Dance." He is thus the patron saint of dancers, and, by extension, entertainers of all kinds (including bicycle-riding bears). Those who oversleep also seek his intercession.

St. Genesius
St. Genesius -- 4th century actor and martyr. He converted onstage during a play mocking Christians and was tortured to death by Diocletian. Patron saint of comedians, clowns and entertainers, also thieves and (now with St. Thomas More) lawyers! During his last performance, he ad libbed: “You fools, I am resolved to die a Christian that God may receive me as one who seeks His salvation by turning away from idolatry and superstition.” Everybody laughed until he said, "No, really."  Now he's making other saints laugh in Heaven.

St. Francis de Sales
St. Francis de Sales -- This Counter-Reformer par excellence is perhaps best remembered as the author of books such as Introduction to the Devout Life, but was a tireless pamphleteer that won back many Calvinists to the Church. He is the patron of writers. He founded the Order of Visitation of Holy Mary along with St. Jane Frances de Chantal. His spirituality influenced St. John Eudes, who in turn influenced St. Louis de Montfort, another St. Corbinian's Bear favorite.

St. Maximillian Kolbe
St. Maximilian Kolbe -- This Polish Franciscan Friar founded the Militia Immaculata for the conversion of enemies of the Church, especially Freemasons. He used the most modern techniques for evangelization, including radio. He is the only canonized saint to have held a ham radio operator's license: call sign SP3RN. He was interned in a concentration camp by the Germans during WWII. When the commandant chose 10 prisoners to be starved to death as a reprisal for escapees, St. Maximilian Kolbe volunteered to take the place of a young husband and father. He encouraged the other nine, and was the last to die, by lethal injection. For all these reasons he is the patron of journalists and addicts. (That makes him a particularly good choice, perhaps!)

St. Isidore of Seville
St. Isidore of Seville -- a 7th century scholar who compiled the Etymologiae, in which he collected all the best writings of the ancient world that might be of any use to Christians. Despite this, he is known as the Patron Saint of the Internet.  He is also invoked by those addicted to internet pornography. (Don't worry, it's a Catholic resource site.) The Bear has professionally represented many people whose addiction has exposed truly dark places within, and lured them into illegal behavior. This is a huge problem. St. Isidore protect us.

St. Corbinian
Here, of course, we depend on St. Corbinian to rein us in when we become too bearish. And Venerable Pius XII.

Feel free to share.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

"You Can't Pay the Bills With Holy Cards" (Updated)

Bear could have... but his better angels prevailed.

Having lived in Italy, the Bear shudders to think of the posters that will be obscuring the two newest saints. The Bear's sense of humor was corrupted by too many Italian festivals, where nothing is sacred. (He was going to put, "Bless you, my child, on my first day as an official saint!" Honest.)

Anyway, the saint-making festivities cost a lot of Euros. Those evil capitalist companies have their uses, apparently.

In other news, St. Peter's Basilica is being renamed "The Edward Jones Dome." Naming rights for the former Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis are now on the market.

The Bear has discovered writings from what has become known as "The Time of Hibernation," i.e. the hiatus in blogging that followed the loss of hundreds of articles. In the unlikely event he runs out of things to blog about, he may trot one of those out from time to time. He has yet to tell the story of his disastrous foray into a Masters in Theology program. They might seem familiar to one reader ;-)

In the Headlines From Tomorrow Category, we have one that sounds pretty good from April 27, 2045:
Update: ah yes, The People's Cube. Imagine if our Bavarian Woods were Soviet Russia, and the woodland creatures eager-to-please survivors trying to out-do each other in dedication to The Cause so they don't get shipped off to the beet collective. It is a Soviet-themed audience participation website with a serious message behind the parody. So, since this is a humor post... (But don't worry, the Bear is not going to follow recent trends and make every Church event an occasion for agitprop.)

"But what about my Nobel Peace Prize?
Fine, I still have more divisions than the Pope. I think."

Mozilla rolls out new Add-Ons to Firefox.

Bear Makes a Mess

The New Saints

Roma locuta est, causa finita est. 

Rome has spoken, the issue is decided. It is St. Pope John Paul II and St. Pope John XXIII.

Vatican II and its sequelae remain whatever they always were, no more and no less. Any (literal) halo effect from the canonizations are probably not going to matter to 99% of the people, so the Bear can't get too worked up about it all. But it has been made impossible to talk about one without talking about the other.

St. Pope John Paul II was in many ways the right man at the right time geopolitically speaking. Many will forever remember him for kissing the Quran and the Assisi fiasco. The Bear, in a rare exercise of charity, supposes he was surprised by the first, and should have perhaps been a bit more hands-on during the second. Both are lamentable examples of how the damnable impulse to be polite conflicts with the duty to proclaim the truth. The Bear knows that sounds cold, but that's just the way it is.

Politeness is a useful worldly means of getting through the day without killing each other. When politeness becomes entrenched as the taboos of political correctness, it is more deadly than the most virulent heresy. You can argue against a heresy. You cannot argue if you cannot argue, and the devil uses political correctness to cut the tongues off the faithful sons and daughters of the Church.

St. John XXIII was the most bearlike modern pope and smoked like Father Guido Sarducci. He called for Vatican II, and fairly reasonable first drafts of the documents were prepared. Before he died, he was dismayed at how long it was dragging on, and he never lived to see it finished. He probably did not envision the German-led bloc hijacking the Council. He was popular with the simple, yet known for his bon mots. When asked how many people worked at the Vatican, he replied, "About half." He repeatedly offered an apple to a woman showing too much decolletage at a dinner. When she finally asked him why, he said, "Because it was only after Eve ate the apple that she realized she was naked."

The Vatican II Era

We have the privilege of living through the Church's quo vadis moment.

  • Is she a bride looking up toward her Groom, or a community organizer?
  • Is she truthful or kind?
  • Is she eternal or temporal?
  • Is she listening to the Lord of Heaven, or the Lord of the World?
  • Is she about saving immortal souls or filling temporary bellies?
  • Is she offering absolution for sins or a platform for grievances?
  • Is God at the center or is Man at the center?

One cannot take the easy way and say, "both, because we are a both/and Church, not an either/or Church." Other things may be done along the way, but the compass can only point in one direction.

The Bear Makes a Mess

Today at Mass, we were, of course, treated to a panegyric of Vatican II during the homily. And thereby hangs a (bear) tale. Pope Francis wants us to make a mess, after all, no?

After some comments about Ghandi, the priest said: "Vatican II let us participate in the Mass, instead of just watching it as spectators. Now it was in the vernacular so, for the very first time, we could understand it. The priest turned around and faced the people, instead of facing--"

At this moment, the Bear muttered the completion of the sentence, "God."

Unfortunately, the priest, at the very same moment, unexpectedly paused, no doubt searching for a suitable word to explain just what or Whom he was facing in those dark days when the audience sat like stupefied lumps as the priest gibbered some arcane ritual with his back to them.

Into the sudden silence, the Bear's commentary -- God -- boomed like the drop of a kneeler. Two of the Bear's sons, one on either side, clutched his legs, lest he transform then and there and leap out of the pew with a roar.

After the echoes had died, the priest finished his thought -- "the wall."

The wall? Priests faced the altar then, right? They were beautiful, if you've never seen one, and quite eye-catching.

The "wall" at St. Francis de Sales Oratory, St. Louis


The Church Militant is an army, either an army of God, or an army of Satan. There are no neutrals in this war. If the Church is not striking and striking hard for Christ, it is surrendering and becoming a Vichy Church of miserable little quislings.

Winston Churchill used the delicious word "quisling" in a 1941 speech. Vidkun Quisling was the infamous leader of Norway who collaborated with the German invaders.
A vile race of Quislings -- to use a new word which will carry the scorn of mankind down the centuries -- is hired to fawn upon the conqueror, to collaborate in his designs and to enforce his rule upon their fellow countrymen while groveling low themselves. 
Of course Saints John Paul II and John XXIII were not quislings. They are saints, and that has been put beyond dispute. Quislings there be, though, and they will use these latest saints for their own ends. Today's homily by Pope Francis disturbingly linked the upcoming Synod on the Family with Vatican II, something the Bear has been doing ever since it was announced. (The Bear is not suggesting that Pope Francis is a quisling, either.) October will be the Church's Battle of Midway. 

In other words, it will be a decisive battle that shows which way the war is going. 

After the bishops have their say, we will retain the traditional, Christ-assured concept of marriage and family, or they will have deranged it into another man-made novelty. Of course, the Church ultimately prevails, but how that works out for us Bat Christians in Torpedo Squadron 8 at Midway is unknown.

As Pope Francis is fond of saying, "the Church is a field hospital." Increasingly, however, it is filled with the victims of friendly fire.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Pope Benedict XVI on Divorced and Remarried Communion

Pope Benedict was a German theologian. But one must forgive the old bear when he wrote things like these, from The Feast of Faith.

The Council did not create new articles of faith, nor did it replace existing ones with new ones. Its only concern was to make it possible to hold the same faith under different circumstances, to revitalize it.


Yet do we not feel a slight uneasiness at times in the face of an entire congregation coming to communion? Paul urgently insisted that the Corinthians should “discern” the Lord’s body (1 Cor 11:29): Is this still happening? Occasionally one has the feeling that “communion” is regarded as part of the ritual—that it goes on automatically and is simply an expression of the community’s identity. We need to regain a much stronger awareness that the Eucharist does not lose all its meaning where people do not communicate. By going to Communion without “discernment”, we fail to reach the heights of what is taking place in Communion; we reduce the Lord’s gift to the level of everyday ordinariness and manipulation. The Eucharist is not a ritual meal; it is the shared prayer of the Church, in which the Lord prays together with us and gives us himself. Therefore it remains something great and precious, it remains a true gift, even when we cannot communicate. If we understood this better and hence had a more correct view of the Eucharist itself, many pastoral problems—the position of the divorced and remarried in the Church, for instance—would cease to be such a burden. 

Just the private, non-magisteral musings of an erudite, pastorally-sensitive pope, laid out carefully in writing.

Of course some cannot forgive his participation as a peritus at Vatican II, nor the fact that he was a product of his time and place. Yet he understood the damage Vatican II had done to the central act of the Church, the Mass, and was part of the reform of the reform. He ultimately managed to be docile to the Holy Spirit and, as Pope Benedict XVI, transcend Joseph Ratzinger.

He was not perfect. We have never had a perfect pope. But he was what we needed at the time, more than we could have expected and probably better than we deserved.

This Bear sometimes wonders if his retirement had something to do with guilt over Vatican II. Just before he retired he made some rather pathetic statements about Vatican II being hijacked by the media, suggesting that it had all turned out horribly wrong from what he had hoped for as a young peritus.

An old man's 20/20 hindsight? Probably. Those who seek to zealously serve the Church are the very ones capable of damaging her, something we should all take to heart in our own, small ways. But the world hated Pope Benedict. The Bear knows few better grounds for hope that he has been forgiven.

Friday, April 25, 2014

New Baby Goat

Blanquette (held by the Bear's driver, bodyguard, factotum and sometime shepherdess, Red Death)

Life goes on beyond Rome. Meet Blanquette, who came into this crazy world tonight, increasing the herds of Zoar. She's a big girl! Her mother is Lilac, and her father is Billy. Hopefully she will be an obedient little Miss, unlike her French namesake, M. Seguin's Goat.

Brickbat by Brickbat

The Canonizations. Sigh. Remember the good old days when we only had one Church-wide crisis of faith a week?

Of course, it is agitprop on behalf of Vatican II. Just as the Stations of the Trendy Causes at the Colosseum was agitprop, and Holy Thursday foot washing was agitprop, and the Border Fence Communion was agitprop.

Even Father Z is saying that, ever so delicately. We Bat Christians are making progress (brickbat by brickbat?).

Meanwhile, Pope Pius XII is not being canonized solely because he is unfairly disliked by some who fault him for not personally leading the Swiss Guard into Berlin in 1939 and preventing the Holocaust.

So it goes, in the words of Kurt Vonnegut.

Shine your little Catholic hearts out, in the words of the Bear.

Turn on your Bat Signal, in the words of Commissioner Gordon. (Maybe Venerable Pope Pius XII will see it. SANTO SUBITO!)

Jimmy Carter and the Bat Christians

Bat Christians Unite!

Pope Francis has made a habit of regularly insulting a large segment of Catholics, those with a more traditional view of the Church. When the Bear noted the Pope called us "hypocrites" every other week during Lent, he thought this was perhaps a verbal tic, or some South American cultural thing he didn't get.

Then came "Bat Christian." The Pope called us Bat Christians on April 24th. Seriously? Bat Christians?

Bats are creatures who flee the light. By analogy, Catholics who go around upset and joyless ("sourpusses") flee the "light" of Franciscan happiness, and are thus "bats," or creatures of the night. (It could also be that people who are verbally abused and forced to watch helplessly as something dearer to them than life itself is demolished before their eyes tend to not radiate giddy bliss all the time.)

Since Christ is the Light, and St. Paul uses the darkness to symbolize the works of sin, it is no small thing to call Catholics "Bat Christians." This reminded the Bear of something, someone from the past. Then he realized that this is a deliberate tactic.

"You don't like me so there must be something wrong with you."

Pius Babies will remember President Jimmy Carter's infamous 1979 "Malaise Speech."

The Cold War was at its height. Iran was holding the hostages, Three Mile Island had ramped up fears about nuclear power, and there were long lines at the gas pumps. Carter's approval ratings were at an all time low. So he went on television and scolded America for the problems of his (one) term. You don't like me, so there must be something wrong with you, was how Americans heard the speech.

Pope Francis is relentlessly marginalizing anyone who is not on board the Franciscan Magical Mystery Tour bus. Pelagians, Rosary counters, hypocrites and many, many other insults have been flicked our way. The Bear must reluctantly conclude it is a deliberate campaign to demoralize and ridicule traditional Catholics, and marginalize them so that anyone who does not offer Peronist adulation to Francis, breathlessly awaiting his phone call like Mildred in Farenheit 451 awaits her "role" in the parlor screen soap opera, can be ignored.

Call it a kinder, gentler excommunication.

Is this what the Church has come to? Intelligent people with responsible jobs going paranoid and talking about Bat Christians in the octave of Easter? (Wow, that works perfectly both ways, the Bear realizes.)

By the way, the poem that so disturbs the superficial happiness in Fahrenheit 451 is Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

The Sea is not in sight. Night is falling, and the diurnal creatures of the woodland are asleep. Only the bats are awake. And a solitary Bear.

No melancholy, long withdrawing roar from this bear! Rugiemus quasi ursi omnes!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

"More Papist than the Pope" (UPDATED)

More Catholic Than the Pope?

One of the remarks Pope Francis allegedly made to the Woman Who May Or May Not Have Been Technically Caught In Adultery But It Doesn't Matter is that the priest who had denied her communion on account of her marital irregularity was "more papist than the Pope."

"Oh, another one who is more Catholic than the Pope!" is frequently thrown into the teeth of those who criticize any of Pope Francis' words or deeds. Let's think about that.

It used to sting because, after all, who embodied more respect for, was more knowledgeable about, and more observant of the dogmas, rituals, disciplines and protocols of the Roman Catholic Church than the Pope of Rome? Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia. To be called "more Catholic than the Pope" was to be labeled as a know-it-all prig, a fanatic, a hypocrite.

Then along came Francis.

  • He did not want to be called "Pope" (hi, just another Bishop; my See happens to be Rome).
  • He rejected the traditional ceremonial dress for his debut (you wear it; carnival is over, which means you can't even say "Does the Pope wear a funny hat?" anymore -- the one about bears still works, though).
  • He didn't want to live where popes live.
  • He said he didn't believe in a Catholic God.
  • He famously dismissed a question about homosexuality with "who am I to judge?"
  • He made fun of Catholics as "rosary counters," and numerous other insults, the latest being "Bat-Christians."
  • He called a Protestant of some sort "my brother bishop."
  • He makes cold calls to random people and chats about sensitive matters of doctrinal significance and grants special dispensations over the heads of priests and bishops.
  • He is reported to have said in reference to the possibly sacrilegious reception of the Body and Blood of Christ, "a little bread and wine does no harm."
  • He praised a German cardinal's full-throated attack on the sanctity of marriage.
  • He appeared on the cover of the country's premier homosexual magazine (let's just say the Bear has never gotten that honor even for the annual bear issue).
  • He said that man was at the center of the Gospel and history (Pope John Paul II said it was Christ; you can sort that one out).

Etc., etc., etc.

It is not the Bear's intention to rehearse the entire list of eccentricities we have seen in just one year of this pontificate, surely the strangest in memory. That would involve literally hundreds of items. It is merely to note that the insult "What, are you more Catholic than the Pope?" probably stung more when Pius XII was Pope than it does today.

Why So Serious?

Is the Bear more Catholic than the Pope, in a bad way? Of course one has to wonder. To be constantly agitated by the Holy Father is a very unnatural position for someone who tries to be a faithful, regular ol' nothing-special Catholic who goes to Mass in an ordinary parish that hasn't heard a word of Latin since 1967.

The Bear feels no more or less Catholic than he has ever been. The only thing that has changed is the disruptive entry of Jorge Bergoglio into his life. (Is the Pope supposed to feel like part of a Catholic's life? For good or ill, this is product of our media age.)

The Bear has been thinking lately that maybe he does take Catholicism more seriously than the Pope. Perhaps it's just a waste of time to read old books from a Church of the past that is gone forever, like Pope Francis says. Maybe everybody does go to Heaven, or nearly so; surely a decent, or at least tame, old Bear who isn't Hitler or anything. The Bear should just enjoy life and not worry about things he can't influence anyway, and not be a sour puss or Bat Christian.

So what do you think, fellow woodland creatures? Do you ever have moments when you wonder if you're overreacting? Maybe taking an unhealthy interest in the Catholic Church? Do you ever need to take a vacation, step back and regain perspective? What do you do to get through the psychological and spiritual turmoil? How do you deal with the cognitive dissonance caused by the difference between the Church of the past and what we have today?

Better figure this out now, because a storm is coming.

The Coming Storm

The Synod on the Family is coming up in October. The Bear is far less sanguine about that than he was at the beginning of the week. Surveying a laity that has not been catechized, let alone had proper spiritual formation, was bad enough. Now, Pope Francis has planted tares with his phone stunt. Does anyone doubt that many divorced and remarried Catholics will present themselves for communion Sunday? Oh, what a pastoral nightmare this will create! Oh, what a cry to compromise will be raised!

It misses the point to argue the Pope did not change Church teaching. (And it is disappointing to see people who know this full and well nonetheless making the argument.) All the people "know" is that Pope Francis said it was okay for divorced and remarried people to take communion.

Update: EWTN Radio is running spots advising Catholics that if they are divorced and remarried without an annulment, they should not present themselves for communion. Is this how we run the Church these days?

You don't have to change dogma to change the Church, as the Bear was saying just Tuesday. One has to ask: is the Pope deliberately fomenting a revolution in his own Church, or is his erratic behavior a symptom of psychological issues?

The Synod of Woodland Creatures

Assuming the coming years continue the trend of the Bergoglio pontificate's first, where do you see yourself in, say, five years? Should we withdraw into our bubbles like good Bubble Catholics™ and pretend to have a Pius pope? (There are 12 of 'em to pick from, and you can even get a clock.) The Bear is sincerely interested in the sensus fidelium of his favorite woodland creatures, and invites them to a council in the big clearing (or at least group therapy, as one of Jane's comments had it).

In the meantime, has this changed things for the Bear?

Is the Pope Catholic?

The Magisterium of the Telephone (UPDATED)

No big deal. Some divorced and remarried woman in Argentina claims the Pope called her and said it's okay for her to go to communion. They are already writing their dispatches from the South Pole. (If you have not read this article, the Bear admits to particularly good timing on either his part or Pope Francis'.) To save you the trouble of reading the official Catholic blogosphere, the Bear predicts these will be the talking points:

  • The Pope never called.
  • If the Pope called, he didn't talk about divorce and remarriage.
  • If the Pope called and talked about divorce and remarriage, he didn't tell the woman she could take communion.
  • If the Pope called and talked about divorce and remarriage, and told the woman she could take communion, it doesn't mean the Church's position has changed.
  • We can't talk about it, because we have no idea what really happened.

Update after reading the volunteer Swiss Militia of the blogosphere: the spin can be much more sophisticated. IF you can articulate any casuistry by which a woman's marriage to a divorced and remarried man would not be a bar to communion -- despite what her priest says (!) -- THEN the Holy Father acted perfectly properly!

A really unworthy argument: If there has been confusion, it is the woman's fault. (Gee, that sounds familiar...)

Nothing, of course, about the bizarre, unprecedented and foreseeably disastrous practice of the Pope phoning random people and discussing complex and sensitive theological issues with them, especially when those people are emotionally invested in them. I'm sorry, but this goes beyond mere negligence, especially over a year into this strange pontificate.


According to CNN, Vatican spokesman Rev. Thomas Rosica confirmed the call, but said "It's between the Pope and the woman," and any comments should not be construed as a change in church doctrine. "The magisterium of the church is not defined by personal phone calls."

Move over Duck Dynasty, there's a new reality show: Francis Calling.

The Bear already pre-wrote his commentary on this on Tuesday (see "South Pole" link above).

The Bear is still waiting for his call. "Bear, this is Francis.
Michael Voris is wrong. Criticize me all you want!"

Update: Official Vatican Statement

[Remarkable and non-Parody] Statement from the Director of the Holy See Press Office 

Several telephone calls have taken place in the context of Pope Francis’ personal pastoral relationships. 


Since they do not in any way form part of the Pope's public activities, no information or comments are to be expected from the Holy See Press Office.


That which has been communicated in relation to this matter, outside the scope of personal relationships, and the consequent media amplification, cannot be confirmed as reliable, and is a source of misunderstanding and confusion.


Therefore, consequences relating to the teaching of the Church are not to be inferred from these occurrences.


The Bear also notices the Catholic News Agency is running a story with the misleading headline "Doubts Grow." Some of the details are fuzzy due to the nature of the Pope calling random people and offering various dispensations. But there is no real doubt about the essence of the story.

In fact the story is complete that Pope Francis took it upon himself to inject his private opinions into a sensitive issue, once again completely oblivious to the serious disruption it would cause to the Church.

The Bear says the following in all seriousness.

Why does the image of Humphrey Bogart rolling his steel balls in the Cain Mutiny come to mind? Captain Queeg was not a bad man. His judgment as captain, was, however, questionable. Now, the Bear does not want Fred McMurray's role of the agitating amateur writer, because he honestly feels more like Meatball. BUT...

Can popes be afflicted with mental health issues?

If so, what happens? Is there a provision for Van Johnson relieving him of duty for the safety of the ship and souls?

See also excellent commentary here from Steve Skojec.

Finally, an apt cover from Johnny Cash: Personal Jesus.

Feeling alone by the telephone,
All alone,
Flesh and bone,
Lift the receiver
I'll make you a believer...

"The Snows" Continues to Melt

Welcome to Metro-East Spaceport!
The Bear has shocking and important news that forces him to set aside his regular programming. Our Lady of the Snows National Shrine in Belleville, Illinois has ceased serving its buffet! To a bear, this is dreadful.

First the Snows drastically scaled back its excellent gift shop. They offer almost no books now, having replaced that section with a coffee bar and overpriced Fair Trade gewgaws that seem to be gathering more dust than customers. Now they have entirely eliminated their legendary buffet. If the soup and salad bar for lunch goes, the Bear may have to start going to a mega-church for food. (Read that how you wish.)

The Bear did pick up this little item, though. It was in one of those plastic display stands on the table, where they advertise things like salted caramel ice cream and dubious programs. The Bear took the liberty of removing it and bringing it home to make sure he got it right. The following is a verbatim quote:

A Journey in Time
The Jesus of History and the Christ of Faith 
Learn how the understanding of Jesus of Nazareth evolved into the theological notion of Christ, the divine Son of God and Second Person of the Trinity.

The Bear and his mate had just picked up one of our sons from Lambert St. Louis International Airport, where he had flown in after a tour of military duty in South Korea. His twin brother was with us, himself an Army veteran of our country's adventure in Afghanistan. We had stopped by the Snows on the way home for supper. (Fortunately, their excellent Reuben sandwich is still available, and their St. Louis style chicken salad sandwich isn't bad, either.)

"Dad's getting riled up," the Korean son said, glad to see that nothing had changed during his absence.

"Dad's always riled up," the Afghanistan son said (accurately; I am not a Disney singing and dancing bear, but a real bear, like Bruno the Martyr).

What riled the Bear is the separation of "the Jesus of history" from "the Christ of Faith." The Catholic Church teaches they are one and the same. Jesus of Nazareth did not "evolve" into a "theological notion of Christ." If it was just a historical review of quashing heresies and establishing the dogma of the Holy Trinity, that would be legit. But it doesn't smell right. And Bears have excellent noses.

Some other courses offered in the program don't smell right, either.

Other Christianities 
The first three centuries of the Christian era were marked by a rich and fluid diversity of Christian communities with distinctive scriptures, beliefs, and practices. Recent literary and archaeological discoveries have given us a clearer view of some of these groups.

We used to call "other Christianities" heresies. It is true there were all sorts of bad ideas floating around, and still are. Somehow the Bear suspects these are going to be presented as reasonable variants. In any case, is this an edifying program for the general public?

MINDFULNESS: Sitting, Walking, Running the BUDDHIST WAY 
Join us as Venerable Sha'ul Hirschmann, Senior Priest at Blue Lotus Dharma Center in St. Louis, talks about Buddhism and mindfulness, whether in sitting, walking or running. Following Sha'ul's presentation, he will lead interested people in a meditative walk through the shrine grounds.

Mindful of the dangers of mixing Buddhism with the true Catholic religion, the Bear urges everyone to run, not walk, to a real Catholic program. There is a reproduction of the grotto of Lourdes on the grounds, which is an excellent place to sit and pray the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary the CATHOLIC WAY.

There is also one about "looking at ancient traditions with modern eyes" that deals with the Rosary and other devotions. The Bear hopes it is legit, but wonders how the Rosary looks different through modern eyes than through 19th century eyes. Perhaps it is just sneaky marketing to lure Buddholics into real devotions.

This is a national Marian shrine that is supposed to commemorate a 4th century meteorological miracle that led to the construction of the magnificent Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, one of the oldest churches honoring the Mother of God. The grounds are nice, but the architecture is, to put it charitably, dated in that regrettable way so many Catholic structures of the 1960s are dated.

The Bear took a moment to duck into the small chapel to calm down and give thanks for his son's safe return. In the front, there was one of those "resurrectifixes" where Jesus appears to have pulled his hands from the nails. This was was more horrible than usual, though. It appeared to be made of rusty pieces of junk welded together with an ugly, wraith-like creature lunging at the Bear from what he supposed might be a cross. Poor old Bear can't even sleep tonight! What it was supposed to inspire, besides nightmares, the Bear is not competent to judge, but he left as quickly as he came, and in no better mood.

The gift shop was downsized and the buffet was ended because "they weren't making money," according to Shrine employees. Good to know they still manage to keep serving up Buddhism and ancient heresies. One would think the business plan for a Catholic attraction would involve, you know, Catholicism. The label Catholic FAIL was invented for stories like this.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Papal Polarization

Note: this article is long enough for two separate entries, but it really can't be broken up without damaging whatever sense it has. Part One introduces the strange polarization of serious Catholic opinion, and lays out the Bear's position for context of his arguments. Part Two specifically deals with the wisdom of condemning those who question Pope Francis' words and deeds, even in trying to understand him more fully. The Bear is quite close in his opinions to many people in both of the camps he describes, and his disagreement on this one issue should not imply disrespect for them or disregard for their sincerity.


The Pope Nobody Talked About

For all the hub bub, very few people are actually discussing Pope Francis at all.

Most people can't get beyond the papal brand. That's why all the chatter is coming from two opposite poles of the blogosphere, where two unlikely groups have separated and migrated to rhetorical antipodes.

It makes for some pretty strange bedfellows. Imagine Mark Shea holding a copy of The Advocate featuring a picture of Michael Voris to get a visceral sense of Ultramontanism 2014.

Ultramontanist leaders plan strategy before a meeting at their secret South Pole base.

At the South Pole are the conventional conservatives, liberals, and all those invested, for whatever reason, in what the Bear will call "mainstream Catholicism." Their position is that "one simply does not criticize the Pope, old boy." We'll call them the Ultramontanists for historical reasons. (European supporters of the papacy were called that because the Vatican was "beyond the  mountains" -- the Alps.)

On the North Pole, you have Traditionalists, Recognize-and-Resisters and Sedevacantists. Their position is "see, we've been saying all along the Vatican II Church was up to no good."

The first is defending the position of nevernevernever questioning anything this pope says or does.

The other is defending the position that the Church has fallen ill since Vatican II, and has borne bad fruit ever since. This pope is merely "Exhibit F" in the case of Real Catholics vs. The Vatican II Church.

Neither group seems curious about actually listening to Pope Francis, or willing to set aside their positions long enough to discuss what he may be trying to accomplish. (At most, Ultramontanists will sound the trumpet every time Pope Francis says something that sounds Catholic.) Both have their fingers in their ears, one with its mouth shut, the other with its mouth open.

No doubt many of these folks would object to being lumped into two broad groups, and rightly so for most purposes. But for the purpose of actually trying to get to know Pope Francis and making sense out of his coruscating eruptions of words and deeds, it is legitimate to note that these two groups have generated 99% of the chatter without contributing much to understanding. They are defending positions that have little to do with the merits of Pope Francis' case.

This article is addressed to the first group, the Ultramontanists, who insist one must never criticize Pope Francis. It would be impractical to attempt to handle both positions in one article. Furthermore, the attempt to silence the faithful by conservative opinion-makers has a greater impact on the discussion than the squabbling among members of the other group, which in this matter, as in everything, tends to ensure they accomplish nothing anyway.

The Bear Lays His Cards On the Table

Ursus Arctos is a solitary creature who does not congregate in factions. The Bear sincerely admires many in both groups, but, being a Bear, he has a unique perspective.

The Bear is simply a conservative who accepts Vatican II documents for the propositions they stand for, whatever those may be. He has no strong personal attachment to the old Mass, but believes it has the advantage of symbolizing what it is actually doing and is objectively superior. He deplores liturgical abuses great and small, but is practical enough to know you have to pick your battles. He has learned the hard way it is better to stand your ground and fight, but that may just be a bear thing,

The Bear has successfully infiltrated the Church.

Bears are masters of infiltration, blending invisibly into their surroundings.

The Bear believes you should respect the Pope, but in these times, have a duty to point out where he is departing from the well-worn path of holy popes, councils and saints, and leading the sheep into a dangerous new wilderness instead of the old, safe pastures. If that's indeed what he is doing. (It's too soon to know. He may just be someone from an unfamiliar culture who has difficulties expressing himself, but nonetheless likes to talk a lot. Not the best qualities for a pope, perhaps, but hardly the "destroyer" some want to make him out to be. Time will tell, and the Bear suspects there will be no doubt one way or the other by the end of another year.)

Pulling the Wool Over the Eyes of the Sheep

Here the Bear must amble down another path for the moment. (Bears never travel in straight lines.) Why would anyone dare think any pope might lead the sheep astray?

Perhaps one might pursue a novel idea of Christianity, or wish to integrate the Church more closely with secular aims and organizations. Or be driven by a peculiar ideology that no pope before has held. There are lots of reasons a pope of good will might err, at least with a strict view of infallibility. (Ultramontanists sometime speak as though it is an infallible pronouncement when the pope says "pass the salt.")

The informal statements of the Pope do not implicate infallibility, yet today are flashed around a world that does not know how to distinguish Catholic dogma from the Pope thinking out loud. (A good argument against the Pope thinking out loud.) It seems sensible to address the novelties, infelicitous phrasing and misuse of these statements by others before they can do too much damage. As we have seen, a pope does not have to change doctrine to damage the Church's mission.

But there are two particular reasons to consider treating what now issues from the Vatican with caution: (1) the Church has not spoken forthrightly of late, and (2) the Church demolished itself in a span of fifty years.

By "the Church has not spoken forthrightly of late," the Bear means this: no pope or council has yet stepped up and frankly explained why yesterday's beliefs must change simply because it is now today.

That looks kind of shady to the Bear. Certain documents appear to have been written by weasels. Old encyclicals were models of brevity and clarity. Now documents generated by the Church are bloated and equivocal. It does not engender trust.

To take one example, no one has bothered to set forth in clear language why worshipping with non-Catholics was condemned as a great evil 100 years ago, yet is ceaselessly promoted as a great virtue today.

Why not just say that the Church tried to make a Catholic world, but that obviously was not God's plan. Now we appreciate that God is only fully expressed by combining the genius and beauty of all faiths?

Another is Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus (EENS) -- no salvation outside the Church. The Bear is reading a 1916 book by a Catholic author, The Facts About Luther. EENS is casually mentioned like any other infallible dogma of the Church. Today it is "the doctrine that dare not speak its name." The Church has silently dropped it. Not officially, of course, but where it has not been suppressed it has been qualified into meaninglessness.

Would it not be more honest to say, yes, that is what they believed then, but they had no idea about the New World with millions of unevangelized souls? We understand differently now and hereby declare that previous popes and councils were wrong. Maybe EENS is a monstrous, uncharitable dogma that is an infamous stain on the Catholic Church. Bears are not learned in such things. But if it is, the Church should say so, not keep attenuating the meaning of "the Church" until everyone is encompassed in its meaningless embrace.

It is almost as if they want the power, prestige and property of the Church -- no doubt to do good --  and demand Medieval obedience. Yet they ignore whatever teachings are inconvenient to their agenda without (and this is quite troubling to Catholics who like doctrinal certainty) bothering to refute and abrogate them.

A strange new meta-dogma of disuetude trumps all. (In law, a statute loses force over time if it is not enforced. It is not "taken off the books," but merely ignored to death.)

The Bear says, let them make their case, in the open. Turning wheels and moving levers behind the emerald curtain makes us really nervous. Please do not keep changing things while pretending we're too stupid to notice. We are not really sheep, you know. We're onto the tactic of hand-waving while changing our Church out from under us. Honestly, it looks like Modernism at work, which, of course is not possible, since Modernism is a heresy. But what is it?

The plucky little Yorkie exposes another plot.

It would go a long way to settle everyone down to just come clean and let us all in on the plan:

Here are the encyclicals that are wrong for our time. Maybe right for theirs, but outmoded today. And here are the dogmas the Church was understandably, forgivably mistaken about. Infallibility means nothing if not admitting mistakes and correcting them. We're going to explain it all to you now, and tell you what kind of Church we would like to see a hundred years from now.

"The Church, thank God, knows how to repent," said Pope Francis on how someone can be a heretic under Popes Pius IX and Leo XIII and beatified by Pope Benedict XVI. Perhaps Pope Francis will continue that theme for us one day. For now, if you act suspiciously, you can't blame people for being suspicious.

Finally, the Bear concedes his position lacks the logical rigor of the Sedevacantists on one hand, and the rich mine of Ultramontanist quotes, on the other. It does not fully explore infallibility (although it certainly respects it for all centuries). The Bear does, however, suspect even Pope Leo XIII might be taken aback at some of his successors' acts and statements. The Bear's opinion is, like Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said of the law, formed not by logic, but by experience, with a little old-fashioned bear-sense thrown in.


South Pole: Must Never Criticize the Pope

In this camp, you have liberals, "professional Catholics" and extreme Ultramontanists. Their motives vary. Respect for the papacy, investment in a kind of placid mainstream Catholicism, or, in the case of liberals (not usually recognized as staunch Papists) the perceived opportunity to push their manifold agenda. They share, however, the same fierce determination that no one speak against the deeds and words of Pope Francis.

By and large, there is little blameworthy in people defending their beliefs and interests. They are a valuable reminder to keep the discussion in the proper tone.

But when they argue that anyone who expresses legitimate concern about some of Pope Francis' antics is the same as Luther, and will soon join him in Hell, they lose all credibility. (Actually, only a few in this group believe Luther deserves to go to Hell, or that there is a Hell for him to go to.)

Why "You're Nothing But a Protestant" Fails

The "You're nothing but a Protestant (not that there's anything wrong with that)" accusation might have worked better before we watched pitiless and determined churchmen of all rank spend the last 50 years protestantizing the Church themselves. History shows flocks in England docilely followed their shepherds into Anglicanism. Flocks in Germany marched behind their shepherds into Lutheranism. If memory serves, we in our time have docilely followed our shepherds into what by any measure can only be called the shell of the Catholic Church of the 1950s.

Apparently, some think we are actually lemmings, not sheep, and expected to jump off the cliff when ordered. But if you know about sheep and have properly read the gospel, sheep are not held up as a model of blind obedience. The point is always about the shepherd taking care of the sheep.

Not a sheep, or a bear.

Sheep follow the true shepherd because they joyfully recognize his voice. He puts the interests of the sheep above all, even his own life (and ideologies). He seeks the one lost sheep. He tends and feeds the sheep. You will search in vain for the parable of the wicked herd that ran away from the good shepherd. Jesus was worried about the shepherds. Why, if they could, by virtue of their position, do no wrong?

To agitate for change because one thinks he knows better than his fathers is rebellion. Those are the real Protestants. To try to preserve things the way they have been because one respects the wisdom of his fathers is faithfulness. There's already a religion based on blind submission. It's called Islam. The Bear doesn't know what to call standing with your hands in your pockets and shrugging at everything.

Follow That Pope! (Which Pope?)

The Catholic Church is not a human institution that must "evolve," and compulsively "dialogue" with anyone who will stand still long enough for a photo-op. It does not need constant pruning of old truths to make way for the luxuriant growth of novelties.

Like it or not, the Church is uniquely secured to the past by the dogma that it has been divinely protected from teaching error. 

It is no longer a matter of following the Pope. It is a matter of deciding which pope to follow when they are urging the sheep in different directions. The Church is no longer a "Where," but a "When." The popes and councils of the past have carefully marked out good grazing land where the sheep are safe. They fenced off the dangerous wilderness so the sheep could not stray into harm by accident. Sadly, those ancient fences have been torn down by those who hate fences for no other reason than they are fences.

Not even Pope Francis thinks it's wrong to criticize a pope. Look at the number he did on Pope Pius IX and Pope Leo XIII over their condemnation of certain propositions of now-Blessed Antonio Rosmini. "Those who had the power silenced him because they did not like what he was saying," Pope Francis said, although not mentioning them by name. (Maybe we could satifisy the Ultramontanists by just saying "Pope X?")

Pope Different
Like it or not, it was Pope Francis who made the choice to jump into the deep end of the discussion pool. He did that, just like he ensconced himself in Papal HQ Santa Marta. He's our Apple Pope: he thinks different. Maybe he can swim in the deep end, maybe not, but it is just silly is to pretend he is too holy to get wet. Pope Francis is engaging us in dialogue. The Bear suspects he would be the first to say he welcomes the sound of his sheep, however unmusical their bleats. We know he likes their smell.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Bear Cashes In

The Bear is kind of worn out from Pope Wars and the drama building to Easter. Today he finds himself at the end of a long day in the law mines with nothing in particular to say (although something is gestating for later).

Pewsitter has been running the Bear's articles on a fairly regular basis. (Bear shout-out to whoever is clipping his blog for them!) It stands to reason that St. Corbinian's Bear will eventually become a Catholic celebrity like Mark Shea or The Black Sheep Dog. Of course, even an apparently immortal Bear (1300 years and going strong!) needs to think about retirement. So the Bear was fantasizing today about his marketing possibilities.

  • The Story of St. Corbinian's Bear Coloring Book (box of crayons included -- with two reds)
  • SCB barbecue sauce ("Makes Horse Meat Good so Imagine What It Will Do for Your Ribs!")
  • St. Corbinian's Bear's Meals on the Run: Not-as-Fast-as-a-Bear Food Recipes for Busy Days (a companion cookbook to the above)
  • St. Corbinian's Bear's Very Tiny Book of Ecumenical Fun
  • A Field Guide to Heretics, by St. Corbinian's Bear (with very short "HOW TO ARGUE LIKE A BEAR" video)
  • All Dogs Go To Heaven, Unless They're Catholic: St. Corbinian's Bear's Guide to Lumen Gentium (based on the semi-popular, now-suppressed blog entry of the same title that some may recall)
  • St. Corbinian's Bear's Teddy Bear (complete with backpack and a little horse that attaches to his mouth with velcro)
  • Prophet Elisha, 42 Very Bad Children, and Two Bears play set (this could be big; maybe Lego would want to buy a license)
  • The Twelve Bears of the Bible (a serious, Scott Hahn type book about the meaning of the twelve mentions of bears in the Bible. Twelve Bears, Twelve Apostles... see where we're going? The Bear didn't think so. That's why you need this book!)
  • Bavarian Bible Bear Cheat Sheets ("just in case")
  • "Do the Red" coffee mugs and tee shirts

Those are just a few ideas. Feel free to add any suggestions of your own.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Christ is Risen!

Resurrection of Christ and Women at the Tomb
by Blessed Fra Angelico, 1442

This is the day of days! This is true. It really happened in history. Christianity does not loom out of the mists of a fabled past or take form in the fevers of a single prophet. If it is a fraud it is an inexplicably benign and beautiful conspiracy involving hundreds, sealed in the lying blood of false martyrs. Perish the thought! The Resurrection has been attacked since day one, and the evidence remains compelling. "And he that saw it hath given testimony: and his testimony is true. And he knoweth that he saith true: that you also may believe." (John 19.35)

How can we be part-time Christians when this is reality? Our faith cannot be tacked on to our "real life." It is our real life, and the real history of the world. It must be the very ground on which we stand and the air which we breathe. We must be mad with faith, delirious with love, and burned down to the ground with the Holy Spirit. For our faith is folly to the world, and the world is no longer the fond hound but the old pagan wolf, who is suckling new Romans and stirring to the faint scent of blood.

The painting is a fresco by Blessed Fra Angelico, finished in 1442. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1982 and declared to be the patron of Catholic artists. Fra Angelico was a humble Dominican friar who never picked up a brush without saying a prayer.

This painting is simple, direct, and respectful. The women are looking at the empty tomb, one actually peering into it, her hand to her brow in perplexity and grief. They hold in their hands the now unneeded spices for preparation of the body.

The angel, seated firmly on a corner of the broken tomb, points to the empty interior with one hand, and the Risen Christ with the other. Not a single figure looks at Christ, but of course, the women were not present at the resurrection. They are working out the Good News from the angel's message. "He is not here. He is risen."

Christ bears the palm of martyrdom and banner of the cross, now the Christian standard. He appears in a mandorla, a favorite Medieval symbol formed by the intersection of two circles, representing the union of Heaven and Earth, Divine and Human. Jesus is not in some spirit realm, but bears his bleeding resurrected body.

Fra Angelico's frescos were often in the humble cells of monks, who could contemplate them as a spiritual exercise. This one is in Cell 8 of the Convento San Marco in Florence.

On the left, apparently a Dominican friar kneels alone. He represents the monk contemplating the scene, which is an interesting feature. It is deceptively simple, but had a purpose. It wasn't just pious decoration. Even today, the Chapter Room at St. Meinrad Archabbey is covered walls and ceiling with instructive paintings.

The Bear joins all creation in praising God and also wishes you a glorious Easter!

Especially beloved woodland creatures Kathryn, Terry, Jane and Pete!

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