Saturday, June 28, 2014

Zoar Goat Update

From time to time the Bear enjoys regaling his friends with bucolic tales from Zoar, the Bear's "little place" of refuge, or, as the Zoar Tourism Council likes to say: "The city God didn't destroy!"

Blaquette remains the belle of the farmyard, and adores one of the Bear's sons. She will run to him and beg to be picked up every time he visits. She also still enjoys jumping onto his back if he will bend over for her. (He calls her "a menace," but he really likes her.)

Our little Holly, whom you may remember from the picture of her riding in our car, is the main milk-producer at the moment, but she isn't really a dairy goat, and production is pitifully weak. Nevertheless, the shepherdess takes her duties seriously, and faithfully takes her appointed place at the milking stanchion morning and evening.

Ava is our real dairy goat, but she's too young, and mammals just don't start making milk one day, you know. She is a Swiss Saanen and Nubian mix.

Did you know that soap is made of lard? What the heck? The Bear is sure it will be sweet-smelling and perfect, but still, lard? Perhaps the Bear should not disclose details. We are supposedly waiting for the humidity to lower before commencing soap-making operations. The Bear does not know anything about these matters.

In other news, the Bear is looking for a large marble plinth at a reasonable price large enough for a two-ton equestrian statue.

St. Louis Landmark Missing!

Update: Now authorities claim statue was never missing after all. The entire park complex remains closed, however, "for renovations."

(St. Louis) Authorities are baffled by the disappearance of one of St. Louis' most recognizable landmarks: a 4000 lb. bronze statue of the Crusader King of France, Louis IX, for whom the city is named. The statue of St. Louis atop his warhorse has stood watch in front of the St. Louis Art Museum for over a century. The landmark was reported missing early Thursday morning, according to police.

The previous evening, Mayor Francis Slay had issued the city's first gay marriage licenses, creating a local controversy. Police are discounting any link between the gay marriages and the disappearance, although Mayor Slay has not ruled out terrorism.

"It just seems a bit coincidental that I issue gay marriage licenses, and suddenly an enormous statue of a saint goes missing," Slay told reporters Thursday afternoon. "We can't rule out the actions of Catholic extremists or other terrorist groups."

Authorities called eyewitness reports of "really deep" hoof prints leading away from the statue's former location "ludicrous."

Scripture Typer

If anyone is really, I mean really into the Bible, you might want to memorize scripture. The Bear stumbled onto a cool little app with the lame, but accurate name of "Scripture Typer."

You choose the verse you want to memorize, the translation (sorry, no Catholic translations, so you'll have to memorize your Ben Sira by typing verses in yourself) and import it into one or more custom collections (e.g. Verses to Remember When Somebody's About to Shoot Me).

Now comes the "typer" part. In the app, you just type the first letter of each word. At first, the whole verse is displayed, so it is no trick to type the first letter of each word of the displayed verse. For MEMORIZATION, you get about half the words displayed, so your brain gets more of a workout. Once you're confident, you move to MASTERY: a blank field on which to prove your mastery by typing the first letter of each word, then the Book, Chapter and Verse.

You can even record yourself reading each verse for playback, so you have another method of memorization.

The whole thing is an effective tool for memorizing scripture, and receives the Bear's recommendation. The app was about five bucks for his Nexus 7.

Why memorize scripture? Back in the day monks memorized the all 150 Psalms and other scripture. The Rule of St. Benedict calls for monks to recite readings by heart. It is a good Catholic tradition that our betters thought worthwhile, and we should help revive it. If nothing else it allows one to appear sage by quoting scripture throughout your day. Imagine being out with your friends and chuckling softly as you shake your head and say, "In vain is a net spread in sight of any bird." Will they be impressed? Yes! Will they have any idea what you're saying? No!

In blog news, you might have noticed a slowdown in posting. The Bear has of late lacked the outrage that fuels heavy blogging. He shall have to visit Pewsitter for a few days to get back into a red-meat mood.

The Terrible Secret

In 1957, park rangers found a cub clinging to a tree after a forest fire, an improbable sole survivor...

Not exactly true. How can the Bear explain how the author of this blog is able to be fully man and fully Bear? It is impossible, and also not exactly true. The more the man, the further the Bear retreats into the woods. It is not a real mystery at all, just two pieces warring to be most of the pie. (With a half cup of Grace, lest the Bear be accused of semi-Pelagianism.) 

The Bear suspects there are others who are not entirely Men and Women, or, to put it in the terms of the Bear's favorite book -- the one he cannot read without crying -- the Velveteen Rabbit: we are trying to become real.

As far as the Bear goes, you can read the story here.

Now the Bear shall tell the rest of the story.

In August, 1957, in a small town optimistically named Energy, a human baby was born in a cheap motel room to a poor family. That baby was the human incarnation of the Bear, a thing that had not happened since the Bear first met St. Corbinian in the 8th Century. Prior to this the Bear had merely been a temporary man. At least for now, the Bear seems to be mostly man, with occasional lapses into Bear. Think werebear, only the transformation is triggered not by a full moon, but by liturgical abuse, snooty heretics and doctrinal incoherence.

Anyway, prospects were dim for the Bear's life as a human, what with being born in a motel room and all. But lo, a kindly insurance salesman took pity on the child and, after much labor and a not insignificant amount of under-the-table money, the baby was officially adopted and given a new name.

The child's prospects were suddenly much brighter. He grew up in a small town and showed remarkable agility in climbing trees and an immunity to bee stings. His adoptive parents kept his terrible secret from outsiders.

The child would occasionally grow a thick coat of hair, a snout and long claws. But that's not the secret the Bear is talking about.

The secret that was so closely guarded was that the Bear  -- the child -- was adopted.

In the '50s things were different. The Bear does not understand, but what was the single most glorious example of charity the Bear ever experienced, St. Corbinian notwithstanding, was somehow almost shameful. It was "none of anybody's business." The Bear respects that, and would not be telling this story if his parents were still living, because they took The Secret very seriously. Nowadays every celebrity has to have a publicly adopted Third World child or they're not quite A-listers. While one might wonder about the publicity, the openness is good.

Why write about this? Because it is, at bottom, a wonderful story that needs to be told. It is also a belated thank-you to the Bear's parents. Adoptive parents -- let's call them what they are, parents -- are unimaginably generous. If you have adopted a child, God bless you. If you are adopted, He already has.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pope Francis' Interview in La Vanguardia, Part III

Pope Francis on Faith and Science: There has been an increase in atheism during the existentialist age, perhaps due to the influence of Sartre. But then came a step forward, towards spiritual quest, the encounter with God in many different ways, not necessarily related to traditional religious forms. The clash between science and faith peaked during the Enlightenment, but it is not so fashionable today, thank God, because we all realized the closeness that exists between one thing and another. Pope Benedict XVI has a good teaching on the relationship between science and faith. In general, most scientists are now very respectful of the faith and an agnostic or atheist scientist says, "I do not dare enter that field"

Bear: The Bear sees the situation very differently. Militant atheism is allied with a type of "scientism" that does its best to portray a universe where God is not needed. To take one example, popular journalism keeps betting on that tired horse "multiverse," in part because it removes a large thorn in the flesh of atheists: why one universe should be so precisely calibrated to permit conditions necessary for life (at least on one planet). And if life there must be (drat) then let us make it flourish on many planets, so it does not seem so special. Summer will not pass without another story about a new "Earth-like"
 planet being found. (If you get down to the bottom of the story, it turns out it won't be anyplace you would care to vacation.)

But the Bear does not see any advantage in the Pope raising the shade of Galileo, and his diplomatic language was probably best.

Pope Francis on Heads of State: Many heads of state came and the variety is interesting. Each with their own personality. My attention was drawn by a transversal element among the young politicians, whether center, left or right. Maybe they talk about the same problems, but with new music, and I like it, gives me hope because politics is one of the highest forms of love, of charity. Why? Because it leads to a common good, and a person who can, but does not enter politics to serve the common good, is egoistic. And if instead he uses politics for his own good, this is corruption. About fifteen years ago, the French bishops wrote a pastoral letter, a reflection entitled "rĂ©habiliter la politique". It is a beautiful text that helps to understand all these things.

Bear: "Politics is one of the highest forms of love, of charity." This is probably not something anyone from a Western democracy would say. Assuming that the Pope is serious and not just speaking about an ideal that makes the more cynical among us laugh out loud, perhaps we are hearing an echo of the descamisados cheering for the Perons. The Bear does not pretend to be an expert on these matters, but he wonders if the Argentine political experience, with its history of idolized politicians, gives Pope Francis a different take.

On the other hand, perhaps it was simply more diplomatic language. Really, what could he say about visits by heads of state?

Pope Francis on Retiring: Pope Benedict accomplished a very big gesture. He opened a door, he created an institution, that of possible Popes emeritus. Seventy years ago there were no bishops emeritus. How many are there today? Well, since we live longer, we arrive at an age when we cannot go on with things. I will do the same as he did, I will ask the Lord to enlighten me when the time comes and tell me what I should do. He will tell me for sure.

Bear: Pope Francis sees the retirement of aged prelates as just a sign of the times. "I will do the same as he did." At 78, it has to be on his mind. Recall that Pope Emeritus Benedict  was only seven years older when he felt obliged to retire. What mark does Pope Francis want to leave on the Church? Does he have big plans, or is he content to be seen as Pastor-in-Chief of the Church? As always, as we enter our summer of discontent before Fall's looming Synod of Bishops, it is hard to say.

Pope Francis on What He'd Be Doing Now If He Hadn't Been Elected Pope: I had a private room for me in a nursing home for elderly priests in Buenos Aires. I would have left the archdiocese at the end of last year and I had already submitted the resignation to Pope Benedict when I turned 75 years old. I chose a room and I said: I want to come and live here. I will work as a priest, helping in parishes. That would have been my future before becoming Pope

Pope Francis on How He Would Like to Be Remembered: I  never thought of this, but I like it when one remembers someone else and says: “He was a good man, he did what he could, he was not so bad.

Bear: This could be said about any person, of any faith or no faith at all. Even the Bear would work "a good son of the Church," in there somewhere. On second thought, he's the Pope. That may go without saying.

At any rate, this interview seemed both relaxed and guarded. That makes the more striking points stand out in relief. First, he all but called out Islam as backward and violent, yet did so in a way so as not to cause a controversy. The Bear believes that was skillful and gutsy, since Islam is a beehive you don't want to shake too hard.

His distinction between theological poverty and crass pauperism was precise and welcome. However, his lengthy answer about arms manufacturers being essential to big economies bordered on conspiracy theory wackiness. Wars are a blight on the weal of the United States, which could lose every defense contractor without the economy crashing. The idea of shadowy merchants of death pulling the puppeteer strings of government to guarantee profitable wars might have currency in South America, but it is surprising to hear a prominent world figure advance it.

His bold rehabilitation of Pope Pius XIII was refreshing and welcome.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summertime Bear

Oh dear, almost a week since my last post. It is well known that Bears hibernate in Winter. But, it's not Winter, you say. True. Some Bears become lazy in Summer, as well. Bears generally do best in Spring and Fall, avoiding the hottest and coldest parts of the year.

The next post shall be the third part of Pope Francis' La Vanguardia interview, and maybe after that my interest shall perk up again. In the mean time friends of the Bear (FOB) and woodland creatures can take pleasure in knowing that the Bear is having lots of fun playing games with his youngest son. (All right, we're both full grown, but we can still enjoy games, can't we?)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Pope Francis' Interview in La Vanguardia Part II

The Pope's interview with La Vanguardia continues in Part II, along with the Bear's cheeky comments.

Pope Francis on the Three Great Abrahamic Religions at the Vatican Totally-Not-Praying-Together, But Together for Prayer: I felt that it was something that eluded us all. Here, in the Vatican, 99 percent of the people said it would not have done, and then that one percent grew. I felt that we were being pushed into something that had never occurred and gradually took shape. It was by no means a political act - and I felt this from the beginning - but a religious act: to open a window on the world

Bear: Good to know that 99 percent of the Vatican was not behind this idea. Notice how vague interreligion is, when you get down to it. "To open a window on the world." Pope Francis probably thinks it was wonderful the last time someone opened the windows of the Vatican. (That would be Pope John XXIII and Vatican II. The Bear's ears prick up when he hears phrases repeated.) What was it then? A non-political political event? A non-praying-together religious event? It was a Gesture. This papacy is full of them.

Pope Francis on Jews: You cannot live your Christianity, you cannot be a true Christian, if you do not recognize your Jewish roots. I don’t mean Hebrew in the sense of Semitic race, but in a religious sense. I believe that interfaith dialogue should deepen this, the Jewish roots of Christianity and the flourishing Christian Judaism. I understand that it is a challenge, a hot potato, but it can be done as brothers. I pray every day the Divine Office with the Psalms of David. We went through the 150 Psalms in a week. My prayer is Hebrew, and then I have the Eucharist, which is Christian.

Bear: The Holy Father does not mean to say he prays the Divine Office, 150 Psalms per week, unless he uses a different psalter than the Bear does. But it is cool to be saying the same prayers the Pope says, and, indeed, the whole Church together. How are the Jewish roots of Christianity a hot potato? Certainly they are not if they remain roots. No one is denying that the historical and spiritual roots of Christianity are found in Judaism.

It becomes a "hot potato" when you "re-think" Church teaching and start saying things like the Church has no mission to the Jews (which would have surprised St. Paul and St. Peter). Or the Jews are saved, despite willfully remaining outside the Church. You make it a hot potato when you open old controversies and declare that the Church has not superseded Judaism, and that Jews are still awaiting their Messiah. Or that it is not a game where we say to the Jews, "sorry, you lost."

Well, the Bear says, in all love, to the Jews, your Messiah did come, and you had Him crucified and all but the tiniest remnant have rejected him to this day. But you are awaiting your Messiah in the sense that He will come again as your Judge. There is no longer any clear thinking or discussion of Jews in the Church, so this is really not a matter for Bears to talk about. Except this: the Bear is grateful for being grafted onto the Jewish vine, and wishes every Jew in the world would come into the Church and be re-grafted onto the vine alongside us -- as Christians. Just like our St. Paul pleaded.

Pope on Antisemitism: I cannot explain why it happens, but I think it is a very united phenomenon, in general, and without a fixed rule, to the right. Antisemitism usually lurks better in right political currents rather than left, right? And it continues. Including those who deny the Holocaust, a madness.

Bear: Pope associates the right with antisemitism. The Bear is already on thin ice here (he's doing his best to get blacklisted by the SPLC) but isn't that painting with a rather broad brush? One might say the Spirit of the Antichrist is associated with the left, and be equally correct, and equally inexact. The Bear thinks this comment is unfortunate, but revealing. The Pope is pushing the right (or should the Bear say "left?") buttons.

Pope Francis on Pope Pius XII: The opening of the Archives will bring a lot of light. On this theme, what worries me is the figure of Pius XII, the Pope who led the Church during the Second World War. Everything was pulled out on poor Pius XII. But we must remember that first he is seen as the great defender of Jews. He hid many in convents in Rome and in other Italian cities, as well as in the summer residence of Castel Gandolfo. There, in the Pope's house, in his bedroom 42 children were born, the children of Jews and other persecuted refugees. I do not mean that Pius XII did not make mistakes – I too make so many  - but his role is to be read in the context of that time. Was it better, for example, for him not to speak so that no more Jews would be killed most Jews, or should he have spoken? I also want to say that sometimes I am overcome by existential hives when I see everyone taking it out on the Church and Pius XII, and they forget the great powers. Do you know that they were perfectly aware of the Nazi railway network that transported Jews to the concentration camps? They had photos. But they did not bomb these railway lines. Why? It would be good to talk a bit about everything.

Bear: Got to give Pope Francis a lot of credit here. Another pope may have been as outspoken about Pope Pius XII and WWII, but the Bear doesn't recall it. Perhaps just as only Nixon could go to China, only Pope Francis could canonize Pope Pius XII. "Existential hives?" It is hard to second guess the Allies. They suffered horrendous air losses bombing military targets in order to shorten the war and rescue prisoners in concentration camps. The Pope is certainly correct, however, that the Allies had the means to do something about the concentration camps and the Vatican did not. The Bear has always thought the criticism of Pope Pius XII was just mean-spirited and ignorant. Anything short of personally leading the Swiss Guard into Berlin in 1939 makes him a war criminal in the eyes of many. Very unjust, and again, the Pope makes us proud here.

Pope Francis on Turning Out the Lights: The size of a priest is that which best shows my vocation.  To serve people comes from within. I turn off the light so as not to spend too much money, for example.  These are things pastor’s do. But I also feel Pope. It helps me do things seriously. My co-workers are very serious and professional. I have the help that I need to do my duty. You should not play at being Pope or priest, it would be immature. When a head of state arrives, I must receive him with the protocol and dignity he deserves. It is true that I have problems with the protocol, but we must respect it.

Bear: "I turn off the light so as not to spend too much money, for example." One must resist the comparison to Jimmy Carter wearing his cardigan so he can keep the thermostat dialed down. One suspects this is not a gesture, but a sincere, if idiosyncratic, habit. Viewed through a Benedictine lens, we are all responsible for the little things that make up our day, including the care for our "tools." (Readers of St. Benedict's Rule will understand.)

Next in Part III: Future Plans and Relations With the Orthodox

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pope Francis Interview with La Vanguardia, Part I

Here is part one the Bear's delayed comments on Pope Francis' interview in La Vanguardia, as reproduced by Vatican Insider. Underlining has been added by the Bear.

Pope Francis on Persecution of Christians: Persecuted Christians are a concern that touches me as a pastor. I know a lot of these persecutions which I do not think would be prudent to tell of here, so as not to offend anyone. But there are places where it is forbidden to have a Bible or teach catechism or wear a cross .

Bear: It is good for the Holy Father to acknowledge not only that there is persecution and violence against Christians, but that an identifiable group is to blame for it. No one is going to take Islam on directly, but Pope Francis says enough to let everyone know whom he is talking about, something to remember in other contexts. The Pope has a role to play on the world stage, and while it might be fun to imagine a Bear Papacy, it probably would not end well.

Pope Francis on Religious Violence: Violence in the name of God is a contradiction, it does not correspond to our time, it is something ancient. With a historical perspective we must say that Christians at times, have used it. When I think of the Thirty Year War, that was violence in the name of God, today it is unimaginable. Right? ...In the three religions (monotheistic, ed) we have our fundamentalist groups, small in relation to everything else. A fundamentalist group, even if it does not kill anyone, even if it does not hit anyone, it is violent. The mindset of fundamentalism is violence in the name of God.

Bear: The Pope is not drawing any kind of moral equivalence between Christianity and Islam. He is really saying that Christianity has outgrown religious violence, and that only backward cultures still practice it. There is no doubt he is talking about Islam. But then he says Christianity ("we have") has fundamentalist groups, too, who have a violent mindset even if they do not practice violence. Who knows what he is talking about? Later he links antisemitism to the political right, so the Bear guesses anyone of the Christian right, whatever that means, might be suspect. The Bear supposes it sounds tolerant to identify "fundamentalism" as a common problem shared by the Three Great Religions of Abraham, even though everyone knows the reality: Islam is making all the headlines about killing people.

Pope Francis on Whether He Is a Revolutionary:  There is no contradiction between being a revolutionary and returning to the roots.  Moreover, I believe that the way to make real changes is to begin from the identity. You can never take a step forward in life if not from the past, without knowing where I come from, what my name is, what my cultural or religious name is.

Bear: Pope Francis skirts the question about whether he is a revolutionary or not. Who knows what "begin from the identity," or "returning to the roots" means. This could be spoken by a radical traditionalist as easily as an evangelical.

Pope Francis on a Poor Church: Poverty and humility are at the heart of the Gospel, and I say this in a theological sense, not sociological. You cannot understand the Gospel without poverty, which, however, should be distinguished from pauperism. I believe that Jesus wants bishops to be servants and not princes.

Bear: Pope Francis sees the importance of humility, and poverty is "material humility." He does well to distinguish a theological poverty from a sociological poverty of the kind we ordinarily think of as "poverty." Similarly, he distinguishes the poverty of the Gospel from "pauperism," which is apparently the kind of mania for impoverishing the Church that traditionalists have feared. We should not be surprised by Pope Francis saying Jesus wants bishops to be servants, not princes. Working that out in practice is a matter of changing the culture of the Church, and would seem to be beyond the ambit of one papacy.

Pope Francis on Economics: I believe that we live in a global economic system that is not good.  At the heart of the economic system there must be man, man and woman, and everything must be at the service of man. But instead we have put money in the center, the god of money. We have fallen into the sin of idolatry, the idolatry of money...  I am very concerned about the unemployment rate of young people, which in some countries exceeds fifty percent. Someone told me that 75 million young Europeans aged under 25 are unemployed. It is a barbarism. We are discarding an entire generation to maintain an economic system that no longer holds, a system which, in order to survive, must fight wars, as great empires have always done. Since we cannot have a third world war, we fight regional wars. What does this mean? It means that they manufacture and sell weapons, and so the budgets of the idolatrous economies, the major worldwide economies that sacrifice man at the feet of the idol of money, obviously, are healed. This sole thought deprives us of the richness of diversity of thought and therefore of a dialogue between people. Proper globalization is wealth. Bad globalization cancels the differences. It is like a sphere, with all points equidistant from the center. An enriched globalization is like polyhedron, all united but each retaining its peculiarity, its wealth, its identity. And this is not happening

Bear: The Pope is right to be concerned about the world economy, which puts money in the center instead of man. Capitalism turns people into individual economic units, atoms adrift in a formless void of consumerism. (Not that the Bear has a better alternative, but he is not blind to the problems of capitalism.) It is right for the Pope to draw attention to broad failures and misuses from the Catholic standpoint. His description of good vs. bad globalization is initially confusing, but he is talking about a globalization that erases all cultural differences (sphere) versus on that retains them (say, a 20-sided polyhedron).

Pope Francis apparently believes that arms manufacturers keep the economies of some countries going, and that regional wars are fomented for economic purposes. These economies, according to Pope Francis "must fight wars" to survive. This sheds light on recent critical comments he made about arms manufacturers. But is there any truth to this belief?

Defense trails Health and Human Services and Social Security in the U.S. budget, and no defense company (e.g. Lockheed Martin) cracks the top 20 companies. At least as far as the U.S. is concerned, Wal Mart is a bigger threat than General Dynamics. It seems odd that the Pope would make such a bold statement, because surely the Vatican has access to economic information. If every assembly line for bombers, fighters, tanks and machine guns was closed down, there would be some economic disruption, but the U.S. economy would hardly collapse.

Sometimes one wonders where Pope Francis' mental universe came from, because it does not always correspond to reality. His statements occasionally conjure an image of J.P. Morgan in his private zeppelin hunting the poor for sport with solid gold bullets. Economic inequalities are traced to the sins of individuals, rather than problems of various economic systems. Once again, his language sounds prophetic: a Jeremiah condemning the powerful classes of his day for the oppression of the poor.

Next: Pope Pius II and antisemitism.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Another Week, Another Interview by the Pope

The Bear is sure you know Pope Francis gave another wide-ranging interview. The Bear has been delinquent in commenting. He supposes he must, not because the world is waiting breathlessly, but because this blog has dabbled in the ephemeral and raised certain expectations.

One thing the Bear did notice was that Pope Francis condemned religious violence, and made it pretty clear he is talking about Islam. But then he spoiled it by saying every religion had its fundamentalists, and that you did not have to kill people to be murderous, etc.

Everyone who sees the news once in awhile knows that Muslim fundamentalists are the ones blowing up Christians and murdering them wherever the wail of the muezzin offends God's blue sky. I don't know why we have to always render meaningless a discussion about Islam by dredging up the 30 Years War or the Crusades. The West got over religious violence (not to say it didn't find plenty of other reasons to waste blood -- mostly its own).

Anyway, expect my next article to be about the interview. There are some interesting things in it.

For all the concern generated by the Pope's public and private pronouncements, at least he is not writing encyclicals. They fall like the dew and evaporate just the same, and just as well.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

St. Augustine and the Little Boy At the Beach

Once, St. Augustine was walking along the beach, contemplating the Holy Trinity, when he came upon a little boy playing. The boy had dug a small hole in the sand and was using a little cup to put seawater into it.

"What are you doing?" St. Augustine asked.

"I am going to pour all the sea into the hole I have dug," the boy replied.

"But you'll never be able to get the whole sea into such a small hole," the saint replied with a smile.

"And neither will you be able to get the Trinity into that mind of yours," the boy answered, then disappeared.

Have a wondrous Solemnity of the Holy Trinity!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

You're Welcome, Protestants!

On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit delivered twelve identical copies of the Bible (66 books) to the Apostles and explained some of the less clear parts of it, such as changing the day of worship to Sunday, and the Holy Trinity.

Or so one might think that's how Protestants view Church history. The Bear gets somewhat annoyed at the smug ingratitude of hundreds of different sects that despise the Catholic Church, but are happy to benefit from all the heavy lifting the Church did in the first centuries.

The Holy Trinity is implicit in scripture, but it took men of spiritual depth and towering intellects to define the dogma. The very canon of scripture that is relied upon by Protestants (except where they have mutilated it) was arrived at only by negotiating a minefield of bogus texts, each of which was held dear by some.

They believe, if they think of it at all, that the Church started off as just "Christians," very much like today's evangelicals. These early Christians sorted out everything, and gave their blood in martyrdom.

Later, after Constantine legitimized Christianity in the Roman Empire, a malignant growth called the Catholic Church took over, gradually accumulating worldly power and driving true Christians underground. For long dark centuries Christians preserved the faith undefiled despite the Catholic Church's compromises with paganism, and, later, inquisitions. The Orthodox broke away in the 11th Century, and the pure genius of Martin Luther illumined the world in the 16th Century.

Of course, to anyone who is historically literate, the above is nonsense. The Catholic Church is recognizable early on, if one takes as its hallmarks the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome, baptism of infants and the Real Presence.

Death Drawing of Martin Luther
As for Martin Luther, it appears he lacked a true vocation, and invented a novel religion where sin did not matter and heaven was assured to suit his own disordered morality. The story of Martin Luther bravely posting his 95 theses on the church door, each blow of the hammer a devastating rebuttal to the pretensions of popery is just silly. The Church patiently tried to help Luther come back to reason, but he grew more and more insulting even as his behavior became more outrageous. German powers found him useful, however, and the so-called "Reformation" tore Christianity apart, leaving Christendom riven and the Protestant world with a deformed version of the faith.

Once a staffer on Campus Crusade for Christ, Peter E. Gillquist, decided to return to the earliest form of Christianity he could discover, on the theory that the closer to the source, the purer the water. The more research he did, the more the early Church looked like the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. After forming the Orthodox Evangelical Church, he eventually led his whole flock into the Antiochian Orthodox Church.

Catholic superstar Dr. Scott Hahn's conversion followed a similar road, as did Cardinal Newman's. Protestants study history at the risk of finding the true Church. The Bear believes it was Newman who said something very like: it is impossible to be historically well-educated and remain Protestant.

All historically-informed roads lead to Rome, even if some travelers take a left turn to the East.

As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Trinity, take a moment to reflect that Christianity came with a label "some assembly required." It wasn't easy, and it wasn't always pretty. The Bear is sure you know the story about jolly St. Nicholas punching Arius in the nose at the First Council of Nicea.

The West owes a huge debt to the Catholic Church, and all the things Protestants take for granted, they got from Rome.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Bear Bolts for Orthodox Church

One time, when the cubs were small, the Bear grew very dissatisfied with the Church. He looked for a traditional Latin Mass nearby, but there wasn't one closer than two hours away. Like others, he felt the pull to Orthodoxy. It was an assured, masculine religion that had not watered down the faith or accommodated modern ideas in its worship.

So the Bear -- mistakenly, he hastens to add -- took his family out of the Church and into schism.

The Bear did not take this drastic step because of any moral failures in the Church. The Church is made up of people, and people are weak and sinful. It was Modernism that he was fleeing, as if from a house on fire.

Orthodoxy did not disappoint. We found a little church about forty minutes away. It was, as Prince Vladimir's emissaries reported, Heaven on earth. Every surface bore the image of a saint, or the Theotokos (God-bearer, or Our Lady). Every Sunday, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom seemed to fly by, despite pushing two hours in length, almost all of it standing. (Pews are considered a decadent innovation by many Orthodox.)

We were very happy and active in the Orthodox Church for a number of years.

The Bear learned a lot about Orthodoxy. For one thing, Orthodoxy is a lovely mess. A particular church is inseparable from ethnic identity. One does not talk about the Orthodox Church as which Orthodox Church. A city might have a Russian Orthodox bishop, a Orthodox Church in America bishop, a Serbian bishop, a Greek bishop, and an Antiochian bishop. The Orthodox Church in America might not even be recognized by a given Orthodox body. While the people are friendly, there is the feeling that you are entering an ethnic club that you will never really be a part of.

There is a joke that an Orthodox man was shipwrecked on an island. His eventual rescuers were surprised to find he had build two churches, even though he was by himself. When asked about this, he replied, "That is church I go to," then made a sour face and spat as he pointed to the other church. "That is church I do not go to." Orthodox cannot even work with other Orthodox, so the Bear is not sanguine about an eventual reunion with Rome.

We were part of the Orthodox Church in America, which was wracked by financial and sexual scandals. So much for those who traded the Catholic Church for Orthodoxy on account of scandal. They simply traded one set of bad actors for another.

Another troubling aspect of Orthodoxy is the extreme nationalism. Not too long ago, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church was photographed blessing nuclear missiles. A nuclear attack submarine is named after a Russian saint. Orthodoxy is not so much a religion as an expression of national identity. The Catholic Church is at least truly "catholic" in a way the Orthodox Church can never be.

But all of these problems were far away, and our little church provided a safe haven for our children and us. While it was a mistake to leave the Catholic Church, it seemed justifiable at the time, and Orthodoxy is so close, and so beautiful, and so tempting it is easy to make light of the bedrock differences.

When I moved to a different city for work reasons, there was no Orthodox church close by, but there were many Catholic churches to chose from, including a national shrine of Our Lady. It sounds like the Bear just drifted back into the Church for the sake of convenience, but when he finally returned, it was on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as he later found out. The Bear is satisfied that the entire move (the job turned out to be a dead end, rather than a sinecure for a weary old Bear) was providential. God brought the Bear to one of the most Catholic towns in the midwest and back into His Church.

The Bear has been active in the Catholic Church ever since, and his children have overcome their reservations, too. If there is a moral to the story, it is an old one: the grass looks greener on the other side. That and ubi Petrus ibi ecclesia. That is a bright line rule. The Bear may not be a happy attraction in this Roman circus, but it is the only show in town.

This is why the Bear is so adamant about staying in his "Novus Ordo" parish and refuses to call himself anything but a plain old Catholic. He has learned his lesson and nailed his foot to the floor in front of his favorite pew, where he hopes to die. For the Bear, it is enough to do what he can where he is at, and maintain an active spiritual and intellectual life beyond what little his parish offers. The Church still offers a lot for those willing to look. Association with a monastery as a Benedictine Oblate or some other sort of lay member is one way to tap into spiritual streams that still run deep, out of sight in the modern world.

The Bear does not think ill of those who prefer the traditional Latin Mass. Quite the contrary. And there is probably something of making a virtue of necessity in the Bear's attitude, as there is no Vetus Ordo Mass available. Traditionalist Catholics are fellow francs-tireur in the guerrilla war against Modernism. We think the same, but perhaps bears are better able to tolerate continual disappointment.

Whether you consider yourself a traditionalist or not, you can still wear a manly Orthodox beard, if you're a Catholic man. Perhaps this could be a secret sign of recognition for us: a full beard, not a neatly manscaped near-beard goatee.

On a serious note, the Bear strongly cautions anyone who is considering bolting for Orthodoxy. There is no denying the attractions, but it will not magically solve all of your problems. God has a plan for you right where you are at.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Goat Milking Stand

Hey, we got new goat playground equipment! -- Blanquette

No, Blanquette, you haven't quite got it figured out, and you're too little to be milked, anyway. This is for Holly. She stands on the platform and puts her head between the boards, which she is happy to do because she gets a pan of food. Zoar is one step closer to manufacturing soap. We have molds (Faith, Hope, Love), and are waiting on a custom Bear mold from Korea. So far we have one scent: zesty citrus. The Bear is sure we will come up with some calming lavender, and maybe some nice strawberry.

Now we need a logo. Rictus Bear, maybe? Maybe not.

Realism, Coherence and Fraternity!

Today, the Pope addressed his troops from the bridge of his flagship Santa Marta in low earth orbit.

His message was about getting along with your brother. Insults come from the same place as murder, the Pope said, because the root of both is hatred. "There are [also] those, who, in their hatred, express their hate through insults with great flourish – and that hurts."

In familiar three-point style, the Pope urged realism, coherence and fraternity.

Realism requires compromise, the Pope said, even though many find compromise "too vulgar." The Pope compared those reluctant to compromise with the Pharisees, who, with their "holier-than-thou attitude" "kill" people with whom they disagree with gossip, calumny and defamation.

The Pope said the Pharisees used "smoke and mirrors" to cover their lack of coherence, because they were ideologues, unwilling to compromise.

Fraternity demands that we be willing to compromise, because we have the same Father.

The Pope's favorite trope is pitting the rigid, holier-than-thou ideologue against the loving freedom of the Spirit. Is there a reason for this? Some fear that he is both tipping his hand and isolating those who wish to remain true to the Catholic faith in advance of change.

It is a bad prophet who inveighs against the right sin at the wrong time. (And the Bear believes Pope Francis sees himself in the prophetic, not pastoral, role.) Is the Church today endangered by fusty old traditionalists clinging to their incense and Latin? Is rigidity the danger, or should the Pope, rather, be addressing laxity?

Compromise is a good thing in many situations. Without compromise, the criminal justice system would grind to a halt, because only a fraction of the cases brought could ever be tried. The defendant is willing to accept some punishment, and the state is willing to give up some justice in order to get the job done. Compromise in religion is an entirely different matter. Certainly, there are things that might be compromised on, but there can be no compromise in matters of faith and morals. (The Bear is happy to be corrected on this opinion.)

Also, compromise depends on two persons sincerely willing to make it. It is difficult to know what the Pope is trying to say, since he always keeps us guessing with vague statements.

The Bear does not understand the point being made about coherence. Perhaps something was lost in translation. It would be so much easier if he would simply state what he means, identify his targets, because surely he has someone in mind when he repeatedly utters the same criticisms.

In Other News...

In Hell
Surrounded by guards armed with sub-machine guns, the Pope equated arms-manufacturers with human traffickers and consigned them to Hell.

Father Z dutifully beat his guns into bird-feeders.

Okay, that was the cheap shot. Is there something more to this?

Maybe the Pope is talking about people who build nuclear submarines, not Colt Manufacturing, LLC. Or tanks, or stealth bombers. Rosie the Riveter is an icon of freedom. Did the board of directors of Boeing go to Hell because it made the B-17 during WWII? If national defense is legitimate, why is it illegitimate to manufacture the means of that defense? Or is the Pope just condemning trendy munitions such as land mines?

This is the sort of fuzzy, absolutist thinking one expects from the Pontifical  Council on Justice and Peace or the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Granted, it makes not one whit of difference, but it demonstrates the intellectual capacity and priorities of the Pope.

"Realism" is indeed a valuable quality, and prudence is a virtue.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Difference Between Catholic and Protestant Gift Shops

Beth Moore
The differences between Protestant book stores and Catholic gift shops are a revelation.

First of all, you know you live in the Bible Belt when you have to drive two hours to find a Catholic gift shop, when Protestants have their choice close to home. In the old days, Catholic churches had little shops in the vestibule that would set up after mass. The Bear hasn't seen one of those in thirty years or more.

Catholic book stores are timeless. There are writings by and about saints. Protestant bookstores are all about what's hot, like Duck Dynasty. The Catholic gift shop has the Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis; the Protestant book store offers Eat the Cookie, Buy the Shoes by Joyce Meyer.

Catholic: St. Teresa of Avila; Protestant: Beth Moore of Arkedelphia. Catholic: most writers are dead; Protestant: most writers are alive and have television shows.

G.K. Chesterton
Catholic bookstores have sacramentals, like rosaries and holy medals. 

Protestant bookstores are all about the merchandising. The latest book or movie tie-in dominates shelf space Even their Bibles are gimmicky: Jimmy Carter has a Bible (presumably for those who miss long lines at the gas pumps and the Iranian hostage crisis). You'll have to wait until this fall for the Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible. There are Bibles for youth, women, men, and policemen, not to mention numerous Study Bibles, each with its own denominational bias, more or less. 

We poor Catholics have to make do with just the word of God: the USSCB's NABRE, with its occasionally Modernist notes, or a RSVCE if you can find it. Good luck finding a Douay Rheims on the shelf. There's not even a G.K. Chesterton Bible, let alone a Mark Shea Bible. 

There is no Bear Bible.

Protestantism is a publishing phenomenon. Loyal readers lap up every word from popular preachers of dubious orthodoxy like Joyce Meyer because it makes them feel good. Yes, I can eat the cookie and buy the shoes. Isn't God great!

Catholic gift shops aren't perfect, of course. You're likely to find the popular Richard Rohr's garbage, too, and "St. Joseph's Voodoo Real Estate Kits." But for the most part, you could pick up a book at random and it would be edifying. 

The Bear has written elsewhere about the decline of the gift shop at Our Lady of the Snows. It is a shadow of its former self, supposedly because it "wasn't making any money." What level of profit is required for a National Shrine to offer a decent selection of Catholic books? Does the Church have a duty to support a Catholic material culture, regardless of profit margin?

Are Catholics really not reading about their faith anymore? Or have they just switched to Kindle? Where are they buying their holy medals? Their rosaries? Their statues and crucifixes? You can't download those to Kindle.

Protestants have one thing Catholics lack: the support of a material culture. Protestants go to places like the local Lifeway Christian Book franchise and "feel Protestant." They know exactly what they'll find, like you do when you go to McDonald's. They can browse Protestant things, and take them home. If a Protestant lady mentions, "Beth Moore," chances are that her Protestant friend will know who she's talking about and approve. 

Protestants can go to church on Sunday -- if they feel like it, otherwise, it's not that big of a deal -- a Wednesday night service, and get together in a home for small group Bible study.

Sadly, Catholics don't live their lives like that. Catholics are all trapped behind enemy lines operating as francs-tireur. We do well just to survive, sniping at demons on our own. We tune into our favorite blogs like French resistance fighters getting the latest information by short-wave radio.

The Bear doesn't know anything about Beth Moore. She looks pleasant. God blessed Beth Moore with a photogenic face, which is more than can be said about the Bear, or G.K. Chesterton (who the Bear has always suspected was a Bear himself). But the Bear knows St. Teresa of Avila like a best friend. There is something to be said for holding the respect of people for centuries, not just decades. 

Four hundred years from now, does anyone really think Beth Moore will be remembered?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pope Francis on Criminal Justice

Pope Francis sent comments to the 19th Congress of the International Criminal Law Association and the 3rd Congress of the Latin American Association for Penal Law and Criminology, held last week in Buenos Aires.

Unfortunately, the Bear was unable to attend in person.

This does tie in nicely, however, with yesterday's discussion of criminal law. According to Zenit, the Pope said the following in regard to retributive justice:
“[T]he Lord has gradually taught his people that there is a necessary asymmetry between crime and punishment, that an eye or a broken tooth cannot be restored by taking or breaking another. It is a matter of bringing justice to the victim, not punishing the aggressor”, and “in our societies we tend to think that crimes are solved when we capture and sentence the criminal, largely avoiding the damage caused or without paying sufficient attention to the situation in which the victims find themselves.
In the United States, at least in the jurisdictions with which the Bear is familiar, prosecutors' offices have victim advocates who are supposed to help victims deal with the stresses of trial, which can be considerable in a traumatic case, such as murder or sexual assault.

There are five generally recognized goals of criminal justice:

  1. punishment
  2. incapacitation (an offender cannot commit more crimes against society at large)
  3. deterrence (others will take a lesson from the punishment and not commit that crime)
  4. restitution (the victim is made whole, at least as far as possible, obviously easier in financial crimes than crimes against the person)
  5. rehabilitation (helping the criminal fit into society as a contributing member)

Often sentencing laws are indefensible. Long mandatory prison sentences (e.g. 20 years in the federal system for a second drug offense) over-punish people for being drug addicts. Only recently have the Department of Justice and Congress begun to reconsider the wisdom of these sentences. 

In federal court, the Bear sees a lot of methamphetamine cases, and hardly anyone is actually selling the stuff. Rather people form what the Bear calls "meth co-ops" where each participant supplies pseudoephedrine pills, or anhydrous ammonia  -- the primary ingredients in the manufacture of methamphetamine -- in return for a part of the finished product.

Meth is a very addictive and destructive drug, but better rehabilitation resources on the front end would make more sense than our current bloated prison system.

In Illinois, we had a toothless capital punishment system, where expensive show trials were conducted despite a moratorium on executions. Thus politicians were able to sound tough on crime without the nightmare of more wrongful convictions resulting in the execution of innocent people. (At one point, half the prisoners on death row were proven to be wrongfully convicted through DNA or other means, reducing execution to the flip of a coin.) Illinois finally abolished the Bear's job and capital punishment in 2011.

The Pope commented on the confusion between justice and vengeance. 

However, it would be a mistake to identify reparation solely with punishment, to confuse justice and vengeance, which can only contribute to increasing violence, even if this latter is institutionalised. Experience teaches us that the increase and hardening of penalties often neither solves social problems, nor reduces crime rates. And, furthermore, this may give rise to serious social problems, such as overcrowding of prisons or prisoners detained without trial”.
We have speedy trial laws that generally get people to trial in a reasonable amount of time here in the United States. Most delay is attributable to the defense. The Bear's motto is "we will try no case before its time." Delay always benefits the defense. Not that the Bear would stoop to dilatory tactics to result in delay for the sake of delay.
“In this regard”, he continues, “means of communication … play a very important role and hold great responsibility: we depend on them to give accurate information and not to contribute to creating alarm or social panic when they provide news of criminal activities. The life and dignity of people is at stake, and these must be turned into media events, subject to attention often of an unhealthy nature, condemning the suspects to social disparagement before being judged or forcing victims, for sensationalist purposes, to publicly relive their suffering”.
The Bear calls this "murdertainment." It is a scandal in this country. Nancy Grace should be.. well, she should be cancelled, let's just leave it at that and not be a bad bear. There is not much you can do with a free press, but participants in the system contribute to the circus, too. Illinois has very strict rules about what may be said, and prosecutors are responsible for what police say, but there is no enforcement of those rules. (It can come back and bite prosecutors in an embarrassing way in a change of venue motion, though.) The Bear finds defense counsel who can't wait to crawl into a television studio for their fifteen minutes of fame an embarrassment to the profession. The "retaliatory media strike" has its place, but not what we routinely see in sensationalized cases.
The second aspect, confession, is “the attitude of those who recognise and admit their guilt. If the criminal is not sufficiently helped, he or she is not offered the chance to be able to convert, and ends up as a victim of the system. … It is necessary to move forward and to do everything possible to correct, improve and educate the person so that he is able to mature in respects, so he is not discouraged and faces the damage caused, rethinking his life without being crushed by the weight of his miseries. ... And we must ask ourselves why some fall and others do not, in spite of being in the same condition. 
The Bear has noticed that "jailhouse religion" is a very real phenomenon. Unfortunately, however well-meaning the efforts, the Bear has no reason to suspect it produces any real conversion. Protestantism is focused on the "I confess" moment -- just like police interrogations, ironically. In both cases, the followup to confirm the confession is lacking. There needs to be some sort of hand-off between the jail ministry and the prison ministry. Right now people land in prison without religious support when they need it most.

The Catholic Church has so much to offer, but to the Bear's knowledge, there is no Catholic jailhouse ministry in his neck of the woods. Of course, this is the Bible Belt, so perhaps it is different elsewhere. Catholicism is not big on individual initiative. God forbid someone should accidentally proselytize a non-Catholic. Better leave that sort of things to the Muslims and Aryan Nations, who lack our scruples.

All-in-all, the remarks seem sensible and compassionate to the Bear.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Out With the Bear, In With Cuddles

Having been picked up by Pewsitter for two times in as many days, the Bear realizes that his career as a blogger is going in the wrong direction. He's never going to hit the big time this way and get the advertising dollars and book deals rolling in for his retirement unless he goes mainstream. So he's decided to make some changes.

First off, "the Bear" has negative connotations. The author of this blog shall therefore be known as "Cuddles the Teddy Bear." The persona will be a bi-polar ex-Wiccan mom with a weight problem. (Everybody loves converts with lovable foibles.)

Second, the Bear was far too negative. Cuddles the Teddy Bear's motto shall be "if you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all." Occasional flashes of anger shall be reserved for Vatican-approved targets, such as traddies and plutocrats.

Third, the Bear's readers were rather an elite group. Cuddles the Teddy Bear is going for a broader audience. So he will make his sentences short. He will not use big words.

Pope Francis Does Good Thing

Peace is good. Pope Francis is good. Pope Francis likes peace. Pope Francis called his friends from different religions and invited them to a picnic. His friends are Jews and Moslems. Did you know Jews and Moslems worship the same God we do? It's true! Judaism, Islam and Christianity all come from Abraham's God. Abraham started the three great religions. (Other religions are good, too. Everyone worships the same God, just by different names. Everybody goes to heaven.)

All people are sisters and brothers. They should all love one another. That makes Abraham happy.

All good people like Pope Francis. But some people are not good. They want to torture other people by burning them at the stake and making them listen to Latin. They are bad. But Pope Francis has a plan to make sure they don't hurt anyone. It is lucky that all the bad people are in the Catholic Church where Pope Francis can keep an eye on them.

You are a good person. This blog is approved! You like everyone and like Pope Francis, too. Don't you feel good now? Tomorrow Cuddles the Teddy Bear will write another nice article. It will be about Pope Francis doing or saying something nice. I bet you can't wait!

The Bear Has a Great Catholic Job

The Bear loves being a criminal defense lawyer. It is a very Catholic thing to do.

Catholics get sin. The Bear can't help but see beyond the crime to the sin, and beyond the sin to the wounded person.

Yeah, the Bear really talks like that. Out loud. Ursus arctos isn't a solitary creature entirely by preference. Frankly, people think he's weird. How can you represent a person like that? is the question everyone asks, or, rather, the accusation everybody makes.

The Bear understands. Once he saw an accused child-killer on the evening news, and had the same reaction you would have (or did; the Bear has been involved in a couple of cases that received national attention). Instant, visceral condemnation. The following day, he was called upon to defend the very same man. With no more information than a news segment presents, it is easy to condemn the person along with the crime. But the more you get to know a person, the less easy it is to judge them.

Of course, the crime becomes all the more horrible the more you learn, and see. What is seen cannot be unseen. Ironically, a criminal defense lawyer comes to know, and (usually) care for the victims far more than someone seeing their smiling picture flashed on a television screen. He sees them in their ultimate humiliation. Dead and naked on the slab. It is probably psychologically damaging to have to push that empathy for the victims aside to get through the autopsy photographs, and trial preparation, but the Bear does not know.

Evidence is evidence and it has to be that way. It is not a job for the squeamish.

We can agree that a crime is terrible, and leave room, perhaps, for the person behind the crime. This is a lesson that hardly anyone but the criminal defense lawyer is privileged to learn. That is why it is such a great Catholic job.

Criminals are losers, most of the time. Poor, badly educated, unemployed, their lives the sum of a thousand bad choices, not all of them theirs. Most criminals stumble into crimes drunk and stupid, with no thought for tomorrow. (That, incidentally, is why the death penalty does not serve as a deterrence.) In fact, it is a characteristic of criminals that they are incapable of thinking beyond a few hours into the future. The Bear speculates this is a real defect of cognition: the horizon of the future ends in front of their noses.

Perhaps being caught in the moment is a characteristic of sin. If we all hoped for the future and remembered our end, all the time, perhaps we would sin less. The Bear frequently must step before the imposing judgment seat of a federal judge when his client is sentenced. This never fails to awaken a sense of dread about his own judgment. See what a great Catholic job being a criminal defense lawyer is?

The Bear can remember only one case where the State could point to evidence that murders were intricately planned ahead of time. Who kills someone with no idea of how to get rid of the body? This would seem to be a serious oversight, but time and time again the Bear has seen murderers fail to carry out the most basic planning.

Most murderers are not the stone cold killers or masterminds portrayed in dramas. They are complex human beings, a mix of good and evil. They are very much like us. To know murderers is to be struck not by how different they are from us, but how similar we are to them. Their bad deed is a matter of degree, not kind.

This is why Jesus said that everyone who hates his brother is a murderer. See what a great Catholic job being a criminal defense lawyer is?

Murderers can be forgiven, too. They can repent, go to confession, and receive absolution just like we can. Then they are in the same state of grace as we are after confession. What an amazing sacrament! How great is our God! See what a great Catholic job being a criminal defense lawyer is?

If a person kisses the sores of a leper, he is called a saint. If a person kisses the moral wounds of a killer, he is a criminal defense lawyer. The first is praised, the latter is reviled.

The Bear wishes he could do more, because the law's tribunal is nothing compared to falling into the hands of the living God. But his professional duties do not admit that sort of counsel and closeness. Perhaps by showing simple dedication and compassion, he may awaken a path to grace.

The best criminal defense lawyers the Bear knows are Catholic. Oddly, they all, without exception, say the rosary.

That can't be a coincidence.

See what a great Catholic job being a criminal defense lawyer is?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Fr. Pizzaballa, the Three Amigos of GAR and What the Parrot Saw

It was nice to go to Mass today in my ordinary Novus Ordo parish and forget about the Festival of the Three Amigos of GAR* held in the Vatican.

Many people wore red, one occasion when my son and I could dress in identical red polo shirts without him dying of embarrassment at the very idea. (My crucifix peeked out from the placket according to my earlier resolution to display it because some people don't always.) An elderly, but spry former dance instructor and a young lady tastefully and gently wafted red banners over the congregation in an evocation of the descent of the Holy Spirit. The homily was about "going beyond your comfort zone" in service to the Church, which the Bear thought was appropriate for Pentecost.

There was not a peep about ecumenism or interfaith dialog. From now on the Bear will simply call that combo what it is: indifferentism.

No, this is clearly not a TLM, but as Novus Ordo masses go, the Bear can't complain. 

But getting to say "Fr. Pizzaballa" almost makes the Bear forget about it in the warm glow of Pentecost.

the co-equal "Great Abrahamic Religions" of Judaism, and its two offshoots, Christianity and Islam

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Bride of Christ Thrown Into the Arms of Mohammed

Together in prayer, not in prayer together.
Rorate Caeli has published the text of the prayers to be said, first by Jews, then by Christians, then by Moslems, in order of the Three Amigos of GAR (Great Abrahamic Religions).

In Catholic teaching, there is a name for the supernatural being who is a stark and solitary one, complete in himself, who craves the servile worship of humans and the destruction of the Christian faith. There is also a name from St. John for those who deny that Jesus Christ came in the flesh.

So why are we hosting a Chrislemew celebration of this being? It is an abomination of desolation, if not the abomination of desolation found in the book of the prophet Daniel.

I'm sure this seems like a good idea to some. So nice, so progressive; so non-judgmental, non-triumphalist. It's for peace! Are you against peace Bear?

Yes the Bear is against the peace the world gives, the false peace of the Antichrist, the peace whose price is surrendering everything that is holy and true. Prayers of Islam will ring out over the Vatican. Of all the things Pope Francis has done, this is the one the Bear finds least excusable.

The bride of Christ is being thrown into the arms of Mohammed.


Bear's Bible Collection

For a Catholic, the Bear sure does love him some Bible. In fact, they tend to accumulate to the point of comment by the Bear's mate. She just doesn't understand. A Bible's a Bible, right? Well, no.

First of all, there are complete Bibles, then Protestant Bibles. As you probably know, Catholic Bibles have more books in the Old Testament: Tobit, Judith, First and Second Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach (a.k.a. Ecclesiasticus or Ben Sira) and Baruch. The Catholic Church followed the Jewish canon from the Septuagint (Greek) version of Scriptures used during the time of Christ. Protestants follow the Hebrew canon established after Christ by the Jews at the (historically disputed) Council of Jamnia. We have 73, they have 66.

(Septuagint, by the way, comes from the Greek "70," i.e. the number of scholars assembled to create the translation from Hebrew into Greek.)

By discarding certain books, Protestants did not have to deal with the implications of teachings such as the praiseworthiness of praying for the dead (presumably in Purgatory) found in Maccabees. On one of Martin Luther's bad days he chucked some other books, too, like James ("an epistle of straw"), because they did not agree with Martin Luther. (His followers wisely slipped them back in, keeping the New Testament canon intact.)

Non-Catholic Bibles

Nonetheless, the Bear owns and uses two very nice non-Catholic Bibles in addition to his usual rotation of the Douay-Rheims (DR), New American Bible (Revised) (NABRE), and Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE).

Why would a very, very Catholic Bear ever sully his library with mutilated scripture? The answer is there are two Bibles that betray no, or very little, Protestant bias for the simple fact that they are a very literal translation and contain few, if any, notes. The Bear speaks of The Thompson Chain Reference Bible, and the Inductive Study Bible, both in the New American Standard Bible (NASB) translation. Both of these editions offer features impossible to find in a Catholic Bible.

First a word about the translation. Most Bible translators like to smooth out their translation to make it read easier in English. For example, the first sentence in Ephesians is 12 verses long in the Greek! St. Paul liked Greek run-on sentences. It reads more smoothly if you separate the thoughts into discrete sentences. However, that's not the way St. Paul wrote it, and he was, after all, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, St. John's Greek is simple, artless, even staccato. In the NASB, the styles come across very clearly, and the Bear can trust that the translators didn't indulge in any jiggery-pokery.

That is why the NASB is the Bear's favorite translation. It is simple, accurate, and avoids obvious clunky phrasing like the NABRE sometimes throws at you.

The Bear cannot recommend the use of non-Catholic Bibles, but here are two he likes.

Thompson Chain Reference

The Thompson Chain Reference Bible is published by Kirkbride, out of Indiana. It grew out of the genius of one Protestant minister Rev. Frank Charles Thompson in the late 1800s. He linked thousands of concepts he called "thought suggestions" together into "chains," assigning a number to each. You can look up, say, "bear," and find its number and a list of occurrences with chapter and verse. Often there will also be actual quotes, for more important topics. (Bears are somehow considered less important, one place where this Bible clearly fails.) By going to the first instance, you will find the location of the next printed right in the margin.

In this way, you can follow themes, ideas, persons and things, one place to the next, all the way through the Bible. This is easier than a concordance because there is no flipping back and forth. It can also link concepts distinct from words, which provides a more complete study (e.g. "faith" and "belief"). It encourages looking at elements in context. Furthermore, since other numbered items will be close by in the margin (they are filled with these things) you can see and explore related concepts. Finally, the "thought suggestions" in the margin make a handy outline of the text.

While computer resources, such as the Bear's beloved Verbum software, are infinitely more flexible and powerful, there is still something that the Bear loves in holding a real Bible in his hands and leafing through pages of Holy Scripture, pencil in hand.

CAUTION: While there are no study notes typical of "study bibles" in the Bible per se, a few of the helps in the back reflect the typical sola fide error of the Reformed theology. There is no risk of being led astray, however, if you are well-catechized enough to spot the very few obvious pitfalls.

New Inductive Study Bible

Precept Ministries' New Inductive Study Bible is published by Harvest House, and available at most Protestant bookstores. It's just a Bible (missing a few OT books). However, the neat thing is that they designed it to be used like the Bear uses his Bible anyway. The paper is a bit thicker and the margins are a lot wider. There are even spaces for some directed note-taking for each chapter. It is meant to be drawn in. If you still have fond memories of a new box of crayons, you will love assembling your colored pencils and gel highlighters and turning each chapter into an art project.

Be Bible Literate

For the past several days, the Bear has been immersed in the Book of Romans. Romans is where the Protestants get their "faith alone" [sic] proof texts. But when you read it in the context of the mixed Jewish-Gentile Roman Church, the faith vs. works tension may be resolved. We -- the Bear and his mate -- saved Romans for last of Paul's epistles because it is without question a difficult book. It is incredibly rich, though, and repays careful reading. Even word-by-word analysis with beautiful colored pencils.

You don't need to be a Bible collector, of course. But you really should be a Bible student. After all, St. Jerome famously said "ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." Recommended Catholic translations are the tried and true Douay-Rheims, the popular New American Standard Revised Edition, or the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, popular with many conservative Catholics.

Lectio Divina is what Catholics call Bible study.

It is simply prayerfully reading up to a chapter, and being open to God's instruction. Be sure to open with a prayer:

Come Holy Spirit,
Fill the hearts of your faithful.
Kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit,
(R) And they shall be created.
O God, who did instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Spirit,
Grant that, by the gift of the same Spirit, we may be always truly wise.

The traditional Catholic way of studying scripture is to be sensitive to the four meanings:
  • literal
  • analogical (e.g. types, such as crossing the Red Sea = baptism)
  • tropological (moral lessons)
  • anagogical (having to do with the end of the world or last things)
Daily scripture reading in your Bible does not require much of an investment in time, but is very rewarding for Catholics. It will also help you answer questions when your Protestant friend asks "are you saved?" Blow him away with your superior Catholic Bible knowledge! After all, it's our book!

The Bear's Trash Can

Bedtime, kids. Rictus Bear is waiting.
The Bear has written a couple of new articles for the blog, but he has exercised the good judgment not to publish them. Too much Bear is rarely a good thing.

One was a discussion of Islam. It was very polemical. It really isn't necessary, though. If you are sentient, you already know. Let's just say it's unfortunate that the Church treats Islam as an equal, one of the Three Holy Amigos-- the Great Abrahamic Religions (GAR) of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Can anyone tell me why interfaith is a good thing? It makes the participants feel good about themselves, and is seen as "positive." The New Evangelization is new, alright. It means not trying to bring anyone to the true faith. Instead, it takes a back seat to interfaith / ecumenism. That is very bad because:

  • it causes scandal to faithful Catholics
  • it confirms non-Catholics in their error
  • it is an anti-witness to truth, that is, it bears false witness about God
  • it tells Jesus, "you're not as special as we used to think"
  • it pokes all martyrs in the eye
  • it makes Satan smile

Writing just isn't happening for the Bear today. At least not writing he wants anybody to read. But he did make a picture. It isn't very nice. Sweet dreams.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Pope Francis Blasts Church Liberals

Pope Francis blasted those who want to make everyone in the Church out of the same bland Vatican II mold. Calling them "uniformists," the Pope accused them (without identifying any group in particular) of being "rigid."

Following this unexpected endorsement of a diverse Church where tradition is welcome alongside innovation, the Pope also criticized liberals who had their own "alternative" set of beliefs. He said these "alternativists" "rent" the Church instead of making it their home. The Pope also criticized those who used the Church as a means to advance their business interests.

Each of these three groups was described as "having one foot outside the Church."

The remarks came at his morning Mass.

"But My Dear, We're We're Not Dining Together, We're Together Dining"

Far be it from the Bear to give advice on extramarital affairs, but the Vatican has an idea. (You'd be surprised what sort of search-engine riff-raff a blog written by a Bear pulls in, so perhaps someone may find the tip useful.)

Next time your spouse surprises you during an assignation with your lover, calmly state, "Why, hello, my dear. I just want you to know we're not dining together, we are together dining."

Then, while dodging a blow aimed at your head, explain further.

"It's an important distinction, because it turns something suspect, like me having a cozy dinner at an expensive restaurant with an attractive member of the opposite sex fifteen years my junior, into a completely innocent occasion."

If you've managed to get all that out before being knocked to the canvas, you should consider a career as a professional boxer. 

Or a spot on the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. According to them, when you see the Pope praying in the vicinity of Moslems or Jews who happen to be praying, too, not to worry. These are occasions where the pope and persons of other faiths have come "together for prayer, but not prayer together."

Got that? Because it's very, very important.

Because who are you going to believe? Your lying eyes or the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Hubble for Bubble Catholics

Check out all the stars. My bad. They're galaxies.

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."

New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ro 1:20). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

A Very Charismatic Bear

They're... dancing.
In the latter half of the 70s, a young couple moved to a city in which they were strangers: San Angelo, Texas. The only people they knew were a small number of students at a top-secret crypto school at Goodfellow AFB, and a few people in the Catholic church.

They were quickly made welcome by the small, but active group of Charismatic Catholics. These presented a "Life in the Spirit" seminar and passed out copies of a red-covered paperback by Cardinal Suenens. There was a whole program, the Life in the Spirit Seminar.

And that was the Bear's introduction to the Catholic charismatic movement.

It was a strange collection of people, ranging from a traditionalist Catholic who dragged his 1962 missal with him to Mass (and lived in a house furnished almost entirely with stacks of The Wanderer) to guitar-strumming Irish nuns. There may have been an ecumenical element to it, but if there was, the Bear does not remember. We were Charismatic Catholics. That's how we identified.

The Bear does not remember anything untoward going on during Mass, but decades called "the 70s" tend to blend together for a 1300-year-old Bear. What he does remember is Thursday night meetings in the activities hall of the Cathedral, which featured a circle of chairs and a microphone. People would testify about the good things in their lives God had done, and sometimes one of them would burst into an unintelligible language, or announce a rather bland prophecy. God is saying, children, that He loves you very much.

The Bear does not mean to be disparaging. He had a hard time speaking in tongues, though. Finally he was advised to "fake it," in order to break the psychological barrier. The Spirit would be sure to come whenever the Bear was ready. Finally, he spoke in tongues. He never made it a habit, though, and always half-wondered if he was still faking it.

Bears are surprisingly analytic and not given to emotional outbursts.

The experience lasted until we moved away from San Angelo to a place where there were no Charismatic Catholics. What remained was a rather un-Catholic love of Holy Scripture (don't protest; stereotypes don't get to be stereotypes by being wrong). The Bear supposes there are worse things that he could have been doing in the 1970s, and it was certainly not the strangest sojourn in his spiritual quest. (Someday, once the appropriate releases are executed, the Bear may, with sufficient wheedling and gin, tell you about that.)

To this day he maintains an uncharacteristic benevolence toward arm-waving Catholics. As long as they don't grab his paws and try make him wave along. That's a quick way to lose a hand, pilgrim. He's not a Polar Bear, but they don't call him ursus arctos for nothing. (Ditto for hand-holding during the Our Father, which some Catholics seem to feel should be called the Our Neighbor.)

As the Church changes from the foundation of Christendom to a Third-World curiosity, the Bear supposes we Northern European Ice People are going to have to get used to excitable Latins and Africans dancing in the aisles and what-not.

Oh, yes. Now the Bear remembers. There was dancing. Suddenly the Bear feels less benign.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Couple of Additions

Just a reminder about the home shrine, or icon corner article, before it gets buried in the feed. (Sometimes the Bear wonders if he doesn't feed you to much at once!) Be sure to click on the pictures for a much larger image.

The Bear has made three additions to the sidebar. One blog, Linen on the Hedgerow, from Wales, a mutual link. There is also a wonderful find by our Badger: the Institute of Catholic Culture, in the recommended sites. The Bear is listening to a lecture on the Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Romans even as he writes. Finally, there is Lighthouse Catholic Media, home of the excellent dramatized New Testament and many good lectures by to Catholic speakers. (There is a very small fee for most; a couple of bucks.)

Anything on the sidebar has the Bear's enthusiastic endorsement. These are all excellent resources for you.

Query: why does the Bear not see women at confession? Is this something about his parish? Are women more righteous? Seriously, every Saturday the same thing: a dozen men, and at most, two women. What's up with that?

The Future Belongs to the Traddies


From The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Benedict Center.

Witness, in this article, the fruit of the contraceptive culture and abortion. Moslems are having lots of children. The only families having normal numbers of children in this country are Hispanic. As it is, the only families that will provide a future for the United States are Hispanic and traditional-minded Catholics (this includes every nationality). 

Update: Is the Pope stealing the Bear's material?

If there is a red-hot-button issue for the Bear, it is demographics. No, let's not hide behind a fancy word.

Catholics would solve all of the world's problems if they had big, Catholic families like they are supposed to.

Ow, that's going to leave a mark, Bear. Who are you to tell young Catholics how many children they -- without cramping their style and wasting money on children that they could otherwise use on vacations -- can afford to bring into the world. (Of course, the Bear is not addressing those who have truly legitimate reasons, like health or real destitution; this is about those Catholics who are simply drifting with the anti-life culture of the West.)

Having children is the most natural, loving, and trusting thing a married man and woman can do.

Catholics would solve all of the world's problems if they had big, Catholic families like they are supposed to.

Few children means few priests. Duh. Few children is a sign that a lot of Catholics are contracepting, which is a serious sin. They should be breeding like God-fearing, amorous, Malthusian, baby-crazy, rabbits. Catholic marital beds should be launching pads for myriads of babies, their trajectories taking them into the future where they will be priests or parents themselves. Babies are our secret weapon. This is not rocket science. It is what normal young Catholic couples like to do, anyway.

But only traditionalist Catholics seem to grasp this truth.

The Bear went to a traditional Latin Mass a few weeks ago in a major city. It seemed that every woman was carrying a baby. There were men with babies, too. There were even babies with babies. It was heart-warming to see entire pews staked out by a single family. (When the Bear Clan is assembled, we take a whole pew, and that's without any grandchildren. Yet. Then again, we're a large family. No, I mean a family with large, burly men.)

It looks like the future belongs to the Traddies. Everyone else is slacking off to oblivion.

We could do worse.

How to Make a Home Shrine

The home is the domestic Church (CCC 1658). Nothing could be more Catholic than to dedicate a corner of your home to the worship of God. When people walk into your house, you want them to know that you have a Catholic home. It is a place of witness, as well as private prayer.

Every shrine should reflect what is meaningful to you. But at a minimum, there should be a crucifix, and a table for things like the family Bible, prayer books, and a votive candle. Cut flowers are nice, when available. We have a lampada with a perpetual flame that burns olive oil. (You learn a lot about the importance of not running out of oil, and trimming your wicks.) They may be easily found through Orthodox suppliers. In fact, since the Orthodox maintain a tradition of the "icon corner," a good Orthodox supplier might be a good first stop.

Here is a picture of our home shrine, in a corner of our dining room.

The crucifix is from St. Meinrad Archabbey. Yes, it's big. The large icon of the Theotokos is from Russia, and was a gift. In front of it burns our lampada, which would not be out of place at the Czar's Winter Palace. It is much more imposing than it looked in the catalog, and the Bear's mate was a bit surprised when we unboxed it. Oh, well. It is beautiful.

The seasonal icon is displayed below, in this case, Christ breaking the doors of Hell and leading out Adam and Eve for Easter. During ordinary time, we bring out various other icons: The Ladder, Christ the Sower, or maybe a patron saint. Christ the Good Shepherd is to the left of the Theotokos, and below Him is a cross-shaped Western-style icon of St. Benedict. (We are a Benedictine household, after all.)

It is traditional for Catholic families to "enthrone" the Sacred Heart of Jesus and possibly the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and both may be seen to the right.

On the table is a statue of the Virgin Mary (lest anyone mistake us for Orthodox), a votive candle, a Bible (Douay-Rheims, if you're wondering, with Haydock's notes) and two copies of "Christian Prayer" to do the Divine Office.

The cloth on top is a great way to use heirloom linens. We found this in my mom's house after she died; it has shamrocks crocheted into the borders. Of course, we rotate them for cleaning purposes.

What about the fire hazard? one might ask. The Bear has kept the lampada lit for many years without a mishap more serious than a drop of spilled olive oil. With ordinary care, it shouldn't be a danger, but use your own judgment. We try not to leave candles unattended, say, when we go to bed, or when we leave the house.

That's really all there is to it. The only particular custom associated with "icon corners" is that Orthodox will go to it upon entering a house and say a brief prayer, a "greeting," as it were. Common decency requires that one keep the lamp clean, and dispose of any oil or tissues used in cleaning in an appropriate way (e.g. buried in the flower bed), not dumped into the garbage.

The home shrine is a powerful witness to visitors, and an excellent place to pray. It can also a creative way to personalize your devotion to the glory of God.

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