Saturday, December 20, 2014

Merry Christmas

The Bear is taking a break to enjoy his family and pick up the spiritual thread of Christmas. He wishes a heartfelt Merry Christmas to all his readers, without whom there would be no St. Corbinian's Bear.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

If the Church Ran Your World...

If the Post-Vatican II Church ran your world...

You would live in an unadorned barn, the largely empty space echoing with amateur recordings of showtunes.

Your kitchen table would be... just the same as it is now. At every meal all the neighbors would be invited in to help serve.

Conjugal relations would subsist in the broader society of marriage, and members outside of yours would nonetheless enjoy certain privileges flowing therefrom. (Your guess is as good as the Bear's, but it sounds weird.)

Policemen would come and make a bonfire of all your books and belongings from before 1965. You would go to work in a tie-dyed suit.

English would be banned. You would be required to speak Esperanto. Actually, anything but English.

The previous president would be confusingly called Mr. President, and he would continue living in the White House.

The Supreme Court would issue a new opinion every week. In anagrams. No one would figure out what they meant before the next one came out, but there would be lots of heated discussion.

Half your kids would disappear overnight. You might see some of them Christmas and Easter.

Just when you think you had things figured out, Germans would change everything somehow.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Good Piece at Father Z's

Here's a good piece at Fr. Z's by Anthony Esolen about the libido delendi -- the lust for destruction of the Church. It's one of those essays the Bear wishes he had written.

Fr. Z's solution is to work until your parish is traditional, or at least offers a traditional Mass for those  will attend.

The Bear thinks that's excellent advice for Catholics living in a Metropolitan Statistical Area who can bring together the critical mass to overturn fifty years of bad architecture and worse liturgy.

For the rest of us, we may have to make do with nailing our foot in front of our favorite pew in our ghastly novus ordo church. Our victories will be of the nickle and dime sort, and we'll have to be content.

Monday, December 15, 2014

New Poll: Do Pets Go to Heaven?

Buster and Dahlia.
The new puppies.
I've always thought the picture of Buster and Dahlia should be in an advertising campaign."She'd be the last to complain, but..." The product would be dog shampoo, or breath-freshening treats, or something.

One thing to consider is that we enjoy many pets in our lifetimes, if we are the pet sort. We're sorry when they pass away, but time heals all wounds, and we scarcely think of them in later years. But there are a few special animals that become part of us, such that we feel a pang no matter how much time has passed. Those are the ones we want to see again.

Under Islam, dogs are reviled and casually abused (which was hard to take for my son in Afghanistan). In the Christian West, dogs are generally appreciated, and often bring joy to their owners.

The truth is that of all religions, the Christian religion is the most silent concerning the afterlife. (The absence of fanciful promises or fleshly delights speaks to its truth, the Bear believes.) There are two mistakes we can make, it seems to the Bear.

One is to speak of Heaven as if we float in eternal, timeless bliss, absorbed into the godhead, the resurrection an irrelevancy.

The other is to imagine a materialistic Heaven where we're busy doing all the things we liked to do before, watched over by a benign, but remote deity.

The Church does not require of us belief that animals are not to be found in Heaven. Nor does it require us to believe they are. The Church's silence probably indicates it is not something we should worry too much about. Perhaps the best answer is: "But, as it is written: That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him." (1 Corinthian 2:9)

The only thing we know for sure is that it will be perfect.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Why Dogs Go to Heaven

St. Christopher Depicted With a Dog's Head

The buzz seems to be swinging away from Pope Francis having said dogs go to heaven. The fire brigade is out, citing theological consensus that animals lack an immortal soul. And Pope Francis would never depart from that, would he? The story says more about how we view Pope Francis than the eternal fate of pets. We'll believe any alleged quote by now.

Please forgive the Bear if he seems to engage in special pleading, being, after all, an animal himself. The Bear concedes better minds than his have concluded the sign over Heaven's gate reads "No Dogs Allowed." Nonetheless, the Bear will argue to the contrary, it not being, after all, de fido, er, fide.

We don't know very much about what it will be like to be in Heaven, except that we will enjoy the Beatific Vision. Coupled with another fact of our heavenly existence -- our resurrected bodies -- the Beatific Vision sounds unfortunately static and visual. We stand, we look at God, and enjoy bliss. The Church doesn't precisely teach this, at least the Bear doesn't think so, but let's say the theological terminology is more precise than evocative.

But our resurrected bodies are what the Bear can't stop thinking about. He suspects there will be a lot going on with those bodies. Why else would we have them? That implies a setting, and yes, there will be a new Earth. This will be another Paradise, and there were certainly animals there.

But will any of these animals be our pets? Each beloved animal companion of course remains complete in God's consciousness. It is perhaps not too much of a stretch to imagine that we "find" them in our contemplation of God. And why should they not be present bodily for our delight? If we are to have bodies, why, if not to rejoice in the Good God's gifts? And one of the greatest, innocent, everyday pleasures is petting and playing with a beloved pet.

Buster Wants to Play

We draw dogs, especially, into our human lives. Anyone who has loved a dog knows that it has its own personality. A dog feels, and thinks. The Bear rejects any argument that rests on the supposed lack of consciousness of dogs. Dogs are the symbol of loyalty. He anticipate his master's moves, mirrors his moods, remembers, solves problems and initiates interaction. Stories of dogs mourning their dead masters are too numerous to catalog. The Bear could fill a book with examples of his Yorkie's consciousness, and so could any dog owner.

Of course dogs do not have a human consciousness, and the Bear is not arguing that they have the same soul as a human. To speak in such terms is to get off track. The Christian Heaven is not Nirvana, where we are dissolved into the One. It is a bodily Paradise where every moment is suffused with the glory of God. The Bear is confident that God will not neglect to once again fill it with animals, and some of those will be our beloved pets.


No one is certain why St. Christopher is sometimes depicted with a dog's head in Orthodox iconography. The Bear notes that Roman light infantry of certain periods wore wolf heads with wolf skin capes, perhaps as an aid to recognizing individual soldiers. Others theorize it was a symbol of barbarism, although they do not explain why that should apply to a Roman soldier.

Animals are smarter than we give them credit for. Here's an amazing experiment involving a problem-solving crow.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What Kind of a Disgraceful Excuse for a Blog Is This, Anyway?

Posts trailing off to once a week, lost comments, just what kind of a blog is this, anyway?

The Bear is quite sorry he has let things get slack lately, but, after all, he is a Bear. Laziness is considered a mark of character among bears, which is just as well, since one might as well make a virtue out of vice if you have no immortal soul, right?

But wait! Big news in the woodland! Pope Francis said that animals go to heaven.

Among those sending Tuffy to Hell, or at least oblivion, would be Pope Benedict and Fr. Mitch Pacwa from EWTN. (Bears have long memories.)

The Bear has to side with Pope Francis on this latest non-magisterial statement on the fate of animals.

So make that two posts this week, albeit at least one of them sort of lame.

A Bear Planning Next Week's Blog Articles

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Immaculate Conception

Bouguereau's "Innocence"
Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is a Holy Day of Obligation. The United States is under the patronage of Mary, Immaculately Conceived. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception was promulgated by Pope Pius IX in 1854 in a rare exercise of papal infallibility.

It means that Mary was preserved from the taint of Adam's sin -- Original Sin -- right from the moment of her conception.

Of course, the Bear suspects his readers knew all that already.

The rest of us must struggle against the inclination to sin, which we call concupiscence. The psalmist's plaint is all too personal and real: "For behold I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me." (Psalm 50:7).

What does The Immaculate Conception mean to us? Is it a mere fact, a technicality required by dry exegesis?

The sinlessness of Mary can seem remote, even something which incites more shame in us than encouragement. We are so far from sinlessness ourselves. But she is first of all our mother, and loves our boldness with her.  She is not a standard for us poor, wounded sinners. That would,be impossible. She is, rather, a standard bearer. She is the first soldier on the ground in an army invading Paradise. We cannot go very wrong if we simply follow her the best we can.

William Wordsworth summed this day up in the wonderful phrase: "Our tainted nature's solitary boast." Here is the poem, "The Virgin," from which that line comes.

Mother! whose virgin bosom was uncrost
With the least shade of thought to sin allied.
Woman! above all women glorified,
Our tainted nature's solitary boast;
Purer than foam on central ocean tost;
Brighter than eastern skies at daybreak strewn
With fancied roses, than the unblemished moon
Before her wane begins on heaven's blue coast;
Thy image falls to earth. Yet some, I ween,
Not unforgiven the suppliant knee might bend,
As to a visible Power, in which did blend
All that was mixed and reconciled in thee
Of mother's love with maiden purity,
Of high with low, celestial with terrene!

Where's My Comment?

SCB is not moderated. That means anyone can post in a current topic and it just shows up. The Bear relies on the good sense of his guests and Blogger's anti-spam measures. That way no one has to wait for the Bear to green light their contribution to a discussion.

But once a topic is "stale," (however Blogger defines that) comments do get held up. That's because the Bear doesn't keep track of 433 articles this year alone and would never see posts on older ones.

Sometimes Blogger does odd and unfortunate things. If you have commented on an older post recently, and don't see your comment, rest assured the Bear has not censored or ignored you. (It's not impossible that the Bear could click the wrong button, too, but he's putting the blame on Blogger absent a guilty recollection to the contrary.)

So please accept the Bear's apologies if your comment hasn't shown up. You can always try again, although the Bear realizes that is frustrating.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Lady Marchmain on Animals

Bears Stealing Honey

The Bear found this amusing from the reading he is sharing with his mate: Brideshead Revisted.
"But of course," she said, "it's very unexpected for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, but the gospel is simply a catalog of unexpected things. It's not to be expected that an ox and an ass should worship at the crib. Animals are always doing the oddest things in the lives of the saints. It's all part of the poetry, the Alice-in-Wonderland side of religion."
Oddest things indeed, the Bear mused. Do you suppose a bear was drawn to the lights and sounds of the Nativity, only to hold back, not so much fearful, as afraid of being fearsome? Yet perhaps he should have paid his respects, after all. The most terrible things can be the most comforting. The Bear becomes the Teddy Bear. God becomes a Baby. As long as they're on your side, the very best friends are the most ferocious.

Oddest things indeed. Heroic bears were the friends of Elisha, but ferocious to a dangerous mob of youths.
23 And he went up from thence to Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, little boys came out of the city and mocked him, saying: Go up, thou bald head, go up, thou bald head. 24 And looking back, he saw them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord: and there came forth two bears out of the forest, and tore of them, two and forty boys.
 (2 Ki 2:23–24. Douay-Rheims).

And, if the Bear may draw attention to his own place in the catalog of odd things, he permitted himself to be laden with St. Corbinian's baggage all the way to Rome.

C.S. Lewis wrote, "Aslan is not a tame lion," in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. He is ferocious, yet gentle. He lies down like a lamb, and might lie down with the lamb, but not because he is any less of the Lion.

If the Old Testament takes pains to illustrate God's ferocity, St. Luke's Gospel begins with a Babe and ends with a sacrificial Lamb. Yet the final book of the Bible reveals the truth: the Lamb of the Apocalypse with a two-edged sword issuing from His mouth, a terrible, wonderful Lamb.

If animals do the oddest thing in the lives of saints, it is because our God is the oddest God: the Warrior Lamb. What Lady Marchmain called the "Alice-in-Wonderland side of religion," appeals to our appreciation of the poetic and even the absurd. Credo quia absurdum.

A hand-fed Bear carrying baggage indeed!

Punch a Heretic Day

I came to give presents to kids and punch heretics. And I'm all out of presents.

St. Nicholas, shown above in the Russian iconic style was the bishop of Myra. His reputation for generosity stems from his surreptitiously leaving money at a poor man's home as a dowry, so that his three daughters would not be forced into prostitution. Tales have also come down regarding his miracles, which is why he is also called St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. He is the patron saint of sailors.

One of the most famous stories about St. Nicholas comes from his participation in the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325. The old bishop apparently dozed through most of the proceedings. He did rouse himself, however, when Arius denied that Christ was both true man and true God. (Arianism would rip the nascent Christianity apart, so St. Nicholas' ire was warranted.) He seized Arius by the beard and punched him right in the face. St. Nicholas was arrested and locked up. However, the Virgin Mary miraculously freed him, which was good enough for the council fathers.

(Should any of his readers take the title of this article seriously, the Bear is available for the defense at a reduced fee and normal expenses, but must advise that the "St. Nicholas defense" is not likely to fly.)

Should you peradventure come across this after St. Nicholas' Day, remember, every day is Punch a Blasphemer Day. St. John Chrysostom told his assembly of the faithful to "sanctify thy right hand" by punching a blasphemer.

The first week of Advent almost gone!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Word of the Day: Apokatastasis

Apokatastasis means the belief that all will be saved. Something near to this repeatedly crops up on Fr. Robert Barron's Word on Fire blog.

Today's iteration is a meditation on the new Bill Murray movie -- which looks good -- St. Vincent. Murray plays his usual lovable rogue. An adulterer, a drunkard, and a thief. But, you see, he has some good qualities, too. He's not bad enough for Hell, but he's no saint, either. He's what Aristotle would call the incontinent man, according to the contributor, Fr. Damien Ference.

Catholicism knows what to do with people like this, he says. It's called Purgatory.

Think about this. You can revel in mortal sins, but if you're kind to dogs and visit your mother on occasion, you're not all bad. Surely Hell is out of the question.

Purgatory is becoming the routine layover for those not saintly enough for the nonstop flight to Heaven. Hell is occupied solely by a few Nazis of the absolute worst sort, and perhaps Osama bin Laden. You know, the very people our culture happens to condemn the most. (Imagine that.)

The road to Hell is narrow and few travel it. The road to Heaven is wide and nearly everybody makes it through the pearly gates, although there is a bad stretch through Purgatory.

This is quite different from the historical understanding of Heaven and Hell, as readers of this blog will know. The question is, why does Fr. Robert Barron, the Carl Sagan of Catholicism, promote this error?

The article quotes Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's Spe Salvi, which always reminds the Bear that he was a German theologian, after all.

For the great majority of people -- we may suppose -- there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate openness to truth, to love, to God. In the concrete choices of life, however, it is covered over by ever new compromises with evil -- much filth covers purity, but the thirst for purity remains and it still constantly re-emerges from all that is base and remains present in the soul.

(Emphasis added.) Certainly, the tone of Catholic discussion over the last fifty years supports Fr. Barron and practical apokatastasis. Did the Church of yore overdo Hell? It would be so easy to drift along the lazy current to Paradise, secure in the knowledge the Bear managed not to be Hitler.

But, if that's all there is, life becomes a routine journey on a conveyer belt: birth, a not-too-horrible life, death, some Purgatory, then Heaven. What does that mean? Right or wrong, at least old Catholicism had some drama to it.

And it had something else: motivation. To be good. To spread the gospel. To fight for the truth.

Is it coincidental that the Church lost its supernatural motivation just as it nailed shut the door to Hell?

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