Monday, March 23, 2015

Half Full or Half Empty

The Bear could not avoid hearing about Pope Francis liquifying half of St. Januarius' blood. He assumes it happened as reported. What does that mean?

The Bear has a pretty good idea what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean the smoking light is on over the adultery shack. It doesn't mean sodomy is suddenly swell. It doesn't mean we're just one, big, happy, ecumenical, Christian family.

The Bear is not being flippant. It probably means something, but the Bear supposes it depends on whether you are are half-full or half-empty when it comes to Francis. The reality is, we have no idea. We should always look at the fruits of the tree, as Jesus taught.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Quick-Eyed Love

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.

"A guest," I answered "worthy to be here";
Love said "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee."
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply
"Who made the eyes but I?"

"Truth, Lord; but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve."
"And know you not," says Love "who bore the blame?"
"My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love "and taste my meat."
So I did sit and eat.

-- George Herbert 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

David the Bear-Killer

Just who really was the underdog in the David and Goliath match-up? David may have come up short in the tale of the tape, but when it came to sheer killing power, David towered over the Philistine giant.

34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him.

(1 Sa 17:34–35).

In other words, David could hunt bears with a switch, as the old saying goes, only without the switch. Youthful braggadocio or a matter of fact?

Sadly, David's boast of killing innocent bears could very well be true. David's secret was state-of-the-art Bronze Age weaponry: the sling. Slingers were prized missile troops in the ancient world because a practiced slinger could hurl a good-sized stone (or lead) missile with incredible accuracy and lethal effect. Some lead missiles have been found with graffiti on them: "FROM ROME WITH LOVE," or the equivalent.

It is not beyond possibility that one or more shots from an expert slinger could stun a bear, making him vulnerable for clubbing. One suspects the bear usually retreated before it came to that, though. As for Goliath, he was the first person in recorded history to bring a knife to a gunfight.

St. Peter wrote: "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." (1 Pe 5:8). We need to be "watchful," just as a shepherd is watchful, and courageous and clever. Some temptations we might be able to meet head-on, but we must flee others, as Joseph fled Potiphar's wife. Prayers are the closest thing we have to sling missiles. Most importantly, the devil doesn't fight fair, and God doesn't expect us to, either. In fact, God calls the very idea, "stupid." Sometimes we must engage in a curious battle against ourselves, staying one step ahead of the world, the traitorous flesh, and the devil.

If David ever killed a bear with his bare hands, you can be sure he did not do it without God's assistance. All the saints agree that the biggest mistake we can make is to rely on ourselves.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

An Icon Is Worth A Thousand Words

Russian fighter in its fighting colors.

Russian fighter with an icon of St. Michael the Archangel painted on the belly.

I wonder how they negotiated the minefield of whiny Wiccans and angry atheists to actually do this?

Saturday, March 7, 2015

This Is How We Play Fetch at Zoar


Beau is all grown up already. He has adopted Teddy Roosevelt's adage to "walk softly, but carry a big stick."

The flock has been spending time in the barn under heat lamps. The shepherdess went out to find a sweet scene: Deuce, and his mommy Holly, cuddled up together with the daddy, Billy.

We made snow ice cream yesterday. Simple and delicious.

We're making a good Lent, if external practices matter, but the interior so often lags behind. The Bear has been listening to an audiobook of Dr. Ralph Martin's Fulfillment of All Desire. This book synthesizes the teachings of a number of doctors of the Church on spiritual growth. It gets the Bear's highest recommendation. (Dr. Martin also wrote Will Many Be Saved? a rebuttal to the near-universalism popular today among establishment Catholics like Fr. Robert Barron.)

The Bear trusts you are having a rewarding Lent, too.

Sts. Perpetua and Felicity: The Most Touching Martyrdom

Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, Martyrs


In 203 a persecution by the emperor Severus reached Carthage, where it found five catachumens, including Perpetua and her slave girl Felicity. Perpetua was a young nursing mother, and Felicity was eight months pregnant. There is no more poignant martyrdom than that described in Perpetua's own account, supplemented by eyewitnesses.

Her captors used every form of psychological torture against her, including visits by her pagan father begging her to save her life on account of her baby. Felicity almost missed being martyred with her mistress so close to the fatal date did she give birth. A guard mocked her labor pains by reminding her of the pain of the arena.

They were kept in stocks for days to be gawked at. When the day came they were scourged, then exposed to wild beasts. The crowd was temporarily moved to pity by the spectacle of the two young mothers, but the cruel games and bloodlust took their course. After being violently tossed by a wild cow, it is recorded that Perpetua took care to rearrange her clothing and hair in an effort to preserve her dignity.

The young soldier assigned to dispatch her was so nervous he botched the job over several attempts, adding to Perpetua's suffering. She finally took the sword blade in her own hands to guide the fatal thrust.

The ancient martyrs like Perpetua, Felicity and their companions still have power to move and inspire. We belong to the same Church, and they radiantly intercede for us before God. Today is their feast day.

You can read their remarkable and authentic acts here.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Catholics Can't Walk the Walk Unless They Talk the Talk

a
There's a rather optimistic saying among criminal defense lawyers: nobody talks, everybody walks. Of course, someone always talks, usually your client long before you ever meet him. Sometimes, though, nobody talks and everyone does, indeed walk.

Steven Lee Goff walked into a police station on Easter Monday, 2013 and talked. He confessed to the murder of a friend and partner in crime 23 years before, a murder he had gotten away with. He had kept his silence and his liberty, but became convinced that something was more important than liberty, or, rather, that he was not truly free as long as he kept his secret. He is now serving a sentence for murder.

What do we face after we go to confession? "Say a prayer for the blessings in your life?" A decade of the rosary? Whatever it is, it cannot compare to spending the rest of our lives behind bars. Yet when we take into account how great a Majesty we have offended through our repeated sins, and the gates of Heaven our confession opens, can we say even the price paid by Steven Lee Goff would be too much?

Are our sins as hard to confess as murder? Surely, the paltry catalog of petty sins most of us carry could be confessed without too much injury to our own feelings.

Sometimes the Bear does not understand humans.

Nearly every week he trundles off to confession, and sees the same ten or so people out of a parish of 500 families. Either his parish is the home of hundreds of people who never sin, or confession is scandalously neglected. Yet everybody, without exception always goes to communion.

Steven Lee Goff confessed to murder and his secular penance was to live the rest of his life in a small cage containing a bed and a toilet. Yet the vast majority of people in the Bear's parish would need a map to find the confessional in their own church.

There are many reasons for this. Sin is simply out of style in our age. A demon of Pride stands between us and the confessional. (The Bear always says that sound you hear when you walk into the confessional is that demon of Pride hitting the floor.) We tell ourselves, "I'm not any worse than anybody else."

Lent is a great time to get into the habit of regular confession. It really isn't that hard, and gets easier. It is beneficial to face your sins regularly, and to identify your weaknesses. Best of all, there is nothing in this world like hearing those blessed words of absolution.

Here's some free legal advice: when it comes to confession, you can't walk as a Catholic if you don't talk the talk -- that talk that begins "bless me Father, for I have sinned."

(Steven Lee Goff's story is told in the Lent 2015 ed. of The Word Among Us.)

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