Sunday, March 27, 2016

Bear's Official TLDR Easter Manifesto [Re-Updated]

For whatever reason, the Bear has greatly expanded his discussion of "Science Fiction Judo" with some Bear apologetics he believes some may find helpful. Real science is growing unfriendly toward materialism, and the Bear wants his readers to know about these developments. He has also cleaned things up, added headings to break this long essay up into bite-sized chunks, and proofread it. (For some reason, proofreading after publishing makes perfect sense to a Bear.)

The Bear Hates Christmas (Stay With Him, Easter is Coming)

You know how when you're feeling down at Christmas time, and everyone else has that brittle hypomanic buzz you recognize from the lady in church who keeps asking if you've approved her Facebook request yet? Anyway, these Christmas people, hopped up on frankincense shooters, decorate their houses until they're visible from space, so you have to go out at night and pull it all down, not forgetting to leave a yard reindeer hanging by its neck from the eaves as a warning.

Okay, by "you," the Bear may have meant the Bear, although he's fairly certain there are a lot of people who do that. (In fact, once Pope Francis realizes your average American suburban neighborhood has a carbon footprint the size of Guatemala's from November through January, he'll be demanding every Catholic make Christmas a season of darkness in their neighborhood.)

The Bear never sent a Christmas present until Amazon gift cards. Open a fifth of Jack Daniels at 9 p.m. Christmas Eve and start emailing those babies out to as many of your own children as you can remember. Once, that is, the Jack combines with the tranquilizer darts you have to jab yourself with just to get in the mood and navigate Amazon.

Give your kids different amounts on each of their cards every year, guaranteeing a lifetime of fun for you, and therapy for them. On your wife's card, use a different email address and name for yourself, and put, "We'll always have Paris. Love, 'Pie Man.'" Act offended when she brings it up. (Use "Bangkok" if you've actually been to Paris). It's hilarious. Well, until the tranquilizer darts wear off.

So what's the Bear babbling about Christmas here at Easter? The Bear is describing how he just never fits in with the Christmas everybody else seems to be having. The more feverish joy he encounters, the more depressed he becomes. Always out of sync, always out of sorts, sometimes suffering from his distemper.

Easter: When the Bear Believes What He Knows Isn't True

The Bear is always truthful with his loyal readers, aside from a bit of embroidery here and there to keep things rolling. You need to know the Bear has a dark side besides tranquilizer dart abuse and equine serial killing, in case you've missed it.

The utter lack of joy the Bear experiences at Christmas time, goes along with the utter lack of discipline he experiences during Lent, which -- and this is the point -- goes along with the utter lack of faith the Bear experiences at Easter. Everyone around you is saying "Christ is risen!" with their faces all aglow, and the Bear is thinking, "Yeah... about that."

Now the first two challenges, you can survive. The Church does not require you to be an over-stimulated elf for Christmas, or a stylite for Lent. But if you can't step into the center ring for the Big Event of the Christian Calendar, the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; if you wake up Easter morning with a sinking feeling in your gut, and say, "There's just no way I can swallow all that stuff," you have a serious problem.

You more or less have to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, except for the "more or less" part. It's right there in the Creed (both of them, plus the third one that is the combination of the other two you say at Mass when you're distracted). Non-negotiable. And if Jesus didn't rise from the dead, then we won't either, and we might as well go wild Saturday night and sleep in Sunday morning (which is no small consideration for a Bear).

The Bear doesn't know how many share his contrary reactions to the principle Catholic seasons. Anybody? Maybe it's a Bear thing. Maybe it's the Devil. Maybe it's massive doses of psychotropic drugs, or ECT after-effects. (A lot goes into complying with Fish, Game, and Wildlife's Department of Large Talking Predators rules.) However (and you knew this was coming) this sinful and unqualified Bear, who is probably the last voice you should listen to on anything, has a few observations.

Faith First Aid

First of all, there are  reasons to believe. Like this: the testimony of women at that time was presumed to be unreliable, therefore someone inventing a fake resurrection account would have had men make the discovery.

The Bear doesn't have any particular reason not to believe Jesus rose from the dead. The Gospel accounts ring true. There would have had to have been a lot of rocket fuel to spectacularly launch Christianity, e.g. like someone rising from the dead. All the apostles, save John, were martyred, so the people in the very best position to know the truth testified to it with their blood. There were very many other martyrs. It's kind of coincidental that temple Judaism with its sacrifices ended shortly after Jesus's death, with the Roman's thorough destruction of the temple. Basic apologetics provide many reasons to believe.

The Bear remembers times he has believed. What's changed? Has any new information come to light? No, Doubting Bear is working with the same facts. So why should Bear be Doubting Bear instead of Believing Bear? C.S. Lewis got to the heart of the problem in Mere Christianity when he said this:

"Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.

What niggling problems bring the Bear down? There are a few. (Now that the Bear has written them down, they seem small and silly.)

"I hope Jesus doesn't come back right now."
The Second Coming Has Been Postponed

First off, everybody expected Jesus to come back real soon. 2000 years later, the Bear -- who, ironically, is only here to complain about this because Jesus didn't come back real soon -- is still waiting. The New Testament is all over the place on this issue (see the Olivet discourse). It is confusing.

Ultimately, however, even Jesus said he didn't know, and the balance of the evidence favors simple uncertainty. Maybe God wants many generations to know the fear of wondering if Jesus is coming back the very moment they're looking at porn.

Common Sense: a Misleading and Incompetent Witness

The other problem is that people just don't rise from the dead. And you know, that's true. They aren't born from a virgin, either. They don't recover their sight when they've been born blind. All those miracles -- we don't see them anymore, if anyone ever did.

The answer to this is that's why they call them miracles, stupid Bear! The other answer is if they really happened, of course they would seem weird, but that doesn't disprove anything!

Bear sense -- common sense in humans -- is a wonderful thing that throughout our whole lives helps us navigate claims and facts and survive in the world. Common sense says, "People don't rise from the dead." And as far as common claims and facts go, that is correct: people do not rise from the dead. We don't have to make contingency plans for great-grandma Elsie showing up at the door one day.

But here's the rub. Common sense is absolutely useless when faced with un-common claims and facts. That feeling of common sense that is whispering, "this cannot be true," is what trial lawyers call "an incompetent witness." It lacks the knowledge and qualifications to say anything about miracles in general or any particular miracle! Its testimony is barred. In this matter, common sense has no place. The verdict must flow from other sources, such as evidence and inferences and faith, the last of which the Bear shall say a little about at the end.

Bonus first aid measure. Take a good look at the people who vehemently don't believe in the resurrection. Are they generally the ones who get even worldly matters right? Do you share their opinions? Do you want to be one of them? The Bear's rough and ready guide on any issue is to look at the people, not the issue. It usually works surprisingly well.

Science Fiction Judo: Refuting Materialism

The Bear has noticed that in these matters, people always assume it is only the believers who have issues. In a very one-sided fight, faith can take a beating. However, the Bear is here  to say that an atheist has his own problems, so let's drag a couple out into the light.

Cosmology

First, it is well-established that the universe had a beginning. Cosmologists can even tell us how old it is. It is expanding, apparently from a single point, out of nothing. Almost as if the Genesis God had created it. Its properties make it exquisitely fine-tuned for life. So much so, that those people who get nightmares from the above have made up all sorts of crazy theories. For example, they claim there must be an infinite number of universes, which (conveniently) we can never observe to prove or disprove.

Then there is our beautiful solar system, chock full of mechanisms that protect life on earth. We have an enormous gas giant -- Jupiter -- to sweep up dangerous celestial trespassers. We also have a relatively large moon that fixes the axis of the earth at a tilt, allowing for seasons.

Not essential to life, but to discovery, our solar system is situated in the perfect Happy Place in our galaxy to permit the study of the cosmos. Almost as if God wants us to learn about His work. (Perhaps daring some.)

There are great books about all this, like Guillermo Gonzalez's Privileged Planet, and Donald Brownlee's Rare Earth. Real science is our friend.

You are Not Your Brain

Then there is the aptly named "hard problem of consciousness." It's hard to say we are nothing but our brains (although that doesn't stop some people). There is too much evidence that mind is independent, and possibly even non-local.

Pam Reynolds had an aneurysm in her brain. Surgeons could not repair it as long as blood kept it swollen. So they removed every drop of Pam's blood and reduced her temperature to 60 degrees. Her heart stopped, and all brain activity ceased. By any definition, Pam was dead. When she was eventually revived, she was able to accurately describe in detail the instrument used to bore through her skull, snips of conversations in the operating room, and other things.

Things she saw and heard when she was dead and her brain was completely inactive. This is a medical impossibility, yet it undeniably happened. In fact, such occurrences are not all that uncommon.

A woman named Maria, who was clinically dead and revived after suffering cardiac arrest, described a tennis shoe on the ledge of the north side of the third floor of the hospital. She not only gave the location, but described the shoe itself in detail -- that one of its laces was stuck under the heel and it had a worn toe. She begged Kimberly Clark, her critical care social worker to investigate. Sure enough, although it was impossible, the shoe was found exactly where and in the condition that Maria described.

Materialists have come up with all sorts of different explanations for such experiences, but all of them have fizzled.

Mind Over Matter

There are established correlations between brain areas and memories or experiences. You have probably seen a neurosurgeon electrically stimulating the brain of a conscious patient and reproducing vivid memories. Here's a short, fascinating clip featuring Dr. Wilder Penfield, who discovered this technique. It is useful for brain surgeons to know how a brain is "mapped" so they're not operating blind.



You may be surprised to learn that Penfield was not a materialist. He believed that we are all made up of two different basic components. One assumes he means brain and mind, body and soul. He pointed out that when he made a patient move their hand, for instance, they invariably said, "You made me do that." Detailed memories were recognized as belonging to the patient, but the patient would always say, "You made that happen." Something else recognized a disconnect between the experience, however real, and the self. In other words, this subtle, but important, point goes like this:

  • you have a physical brain which immerses a patient in a memory upon electrical stimulation of a particular part
  • at the same time, the patient recognizes that the experience is an artifact of the procedure performed by the surgeon
  • therefore it appears that some sort of "non-brain observer" is at work discriminating what the brain is experiencing from a natural memory

Dr. Penfield said he never found the part of the brain where decisions took place.

Scientists have also discovered the "plasticity" of the brain. It can change, adapt. The brain can take orders from thoughts, which are immaterial, after all, and it can actually physically reconfigure itself. See the famous experiment with London cabbies, who developed abnormally large hippocampi, a part of the brain associated with navigation in animals, after memorizing 25,000 streets and landmarks in London.

Your Brain on God

"Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2 RSV)

Into your spiritual life welcome... the brain. What kind of brain are you molding with your thoughts, your mind? After all, Christianity is not spiritualism. God likes our bodies so much He's going to resurrect them one of these days.

As an example, studies have shown that viewing pornography over time shrinks your brain. Specifically, it reduces the brain's gray matter of the dorsal striatum (reward circuit). [Frank discussion of studies and problem at link.] In other words, internet porn use can cause addiction-related brain changes.

In fact, everything we do is dutifully recorded by our brain. Habits (and vices) are revealed as supported by actual changes in the physical brain over time.

The Spiritual Brain, by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O'Leary, is a fascinating study of the link between religious experience and the brain. The brains of Carmelite nuns in deep prayer showed every indication of a brain interacting with another real person. A Canadian researcher had gotten a lot of press with a so-called "God Helmet" which allegedly produced a religious experience by subjecting the brain to strong magnetic fields. Unfortunately for him, no one else has been able to replicate his findings. Brain Wars, also by Mario Beauregard, is another good one.

To advance in virtue, it looks like we must do more than change our hearts and minds. We must change our brains.

Yet there are still materialist scientists who are trying to convince us that we literally do not exist. That our thoughts, feelings and loves are mere illusions without an audience, and free will is impossible. Chemical reactions in a piece of warm meat can't choose anything, you see.

The Bear bets they don't live as if that were true, though.

Poor Old Charlie D.

Darwin has gotten quite a beating the last several years, and scientists are scrambling to prop the old infidel up, although the Cult of Darwin is stronger than ever. Darwin's Doubt by Stephen Meyer is a wonderful book about the fossil record and early life that excites that little-kid feeling of discovery and wonder, while presenting a devastating critique of Darwinism. He also wrote The Signature in the Cell. Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box is another good one.

You Are a Walking, Talking Miracle, as Much as the Bear

But just you: Your presence. Your faculties. Your marvelous brain, with up to 200 billion nerve cells, connected by 125 trillion synapses, each of which has 1000 molecular brain switches.

The fact that if you cut yourself shaving this morning, an almost unbelievably complex cascade of reactions will clot your blood precisely there, and nowhere else, which would be a catastrophe. You can perhaps even read the Bear's rambling ephemeris this far (that is a miracle). The more you know with an open heart, you can see God's fingerprints all over the world we live in.

The Fool Says In His Heart, "There is No God"

Infinite number of universes? There's no "you" in you? We're just the product of blind chance? Common sense, which is qualified in these matters, isn't buying any of it. In fact, it seems desperate. Believe the Bear, there are many brilliant scientists who would just love to be the one to put these issues to rest, but they can't. Materialism keeps its stranglehold on academia by marginalizing, punishing and even destroying the careers of those who challenge the materialist narrative.

How does all this relate to Easter faith? If the materialist paradigm is bankrupt, then the curtain of rationalism that has separated us from the spiritual realm since the "Enlightenment" is torn from top to bottom. It is not faith, but it can be an aid to faith, while we are weak.

The Bear wonders if infidels have nights when faith in their theories has turned to a cold, dark, random exchange of neurotransmitters that offer no comfort. Perhaps God seems like a terrifyingly distinct possibility at 3 a.m. on some restless night.

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." (Psalms 14:1 RSV)

Faith

The Bear must admit to feeling a little better after his little exercise.

But what is faith, anyway? "Now faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not." (Hebrews 11:1 Douay Rheims) That is the most famous formulation, but the Bear has a hard time understanding it. 

It is the "substance," or reality of the things we hope for, e.g. the resurrection of Jesus. It is also called "evidence" of things we don't see. A thing may exist without being seen, of course. As a lawyer, the Bear understands evidence, so it appears that faith is a substitute way of knowing or experiencing things we otherwise cannot know, that "appear not." We can confidently mark them as exhibits, in the certainty that each one will be visible with the eyes of faith.

Of course, normally, a jury cannot decide a case on something that "appears not." The prosecutor cannot enter into evidence a murder weapon that nobody can see. Apparently, however, we must accept things we cannot detect in the most important matters pertaining to our religion and our own salvation. The only way we can do that is through faith.

Credo Ut Intelligam

That sounds a little scary to the Bear. The Bear feels he is in the center ring, and has his act well-rehearsed, when, suddenly, the Ringmaster says, "Alright, Bear, it's time to walk the high wire without a net. Blindfolded. Don't worry. I promise nothing bad will happen. Have faith."

The Bear's intellectual powers, of which he is so proud, are only so much baggage that he will have to shed on his journey. He'll never know that way, and there's no getting around it. Believe the Bear. He has tried. Maybe that's the problem. "Credo ut intelligam," said St. Anselm. I believe that I might understand. Believing is seeing.

"Hope" and faith are intertwined. Hope is the first step of faith, and not only because it directs faith to an object. It's like a good-faith deposit that allows matters to proceed in a particular direction. There is a huge difference between a Bear that hopes Jesus really did rise from the dead, and an atheist who hopes he didn't. 

But how can you believe in something that "appears not" when the evidence of it is believing in it? Isn't that the mother of all bootstrap arguments? Sure, unless you believe without seeing. Oh, there may be evidence, and you may draw certain inferences, but God puts things backwards and says "believing is seeing." Maybe God is telling us that he has gifts and mysteries that are beyond understanding, and we must not rely on it so much.

Now faith is a virtue, and virtues usually requires some cultivation, but that is beyond first aid. It is also a gift, and God gives it in various degrees to different people.  

The Bear is not certain, but suspects faith is a feeling. If strong, or weak, it may prompt feelings, but a lack of feeling should not be interpreted as a lack of faith. In fact, there may be medical conditions, antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs, tranquilizer dart abuse, personality types, and lots of other reasons that numb the feeling of what may be a very real faith.

So, perhaps the Bear isn't quite as bad off as he first thought. He can genuinely, if dryly, participate in another Easter, and wish all his readers a joyous one. Maybe next time will be better.

***

Quotes on Faith

Here is a wonderful gift from reader Ever Mindful that the Bear is going to move from the comment box to the center ring:

Chocolate eggs I cannot give, but please enjoy this basket of faith-related quotes...

“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

"Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there's a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.” 
― Helen Keller

“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.” 
― Rabindranath Tagore

"When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.” 
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

"To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” 
― St Thomas Aquinas

"Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” 
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

"Sorrow looks back, Worry looks around, Faith looks up” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Faith is an oasis in the heart which will never be reached by the caravan of thinking.” 
― Kahlil Gibran

"Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.” 
― A.W. Tozer

"My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself.” 
― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

"God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful.” 
― Mother Teresa

"I can only say that I am nothing but a poor sinner, trusting in Christ alone for salvation.” 
― Robert E. Lee

"I love the recklessness of faith. First you leap, and then you grow wings.” 
― William Sloane Coffin Jr., Credo

"The greatest act of faith some days is to simply get up and face another day.” 
― Amy Gatliff

"What if we lived like Jesus really did rise from the dead?” 
― Sarah Holman, If He Lives

"It seems to me some people just go around lookin' to get their faith unsettled. That has been the fashion for the last hundred years or so.” 
― Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

"Now listen. Faith is like oxygen. It keeps you afloat at all times. Sometimes you need it. Sometimes you don’t. but when you do need it you better be practiced at having faith, otherwise it won’t work. That’s why the missionaries built all the churches. Before we got those churches we weren’t practicing enough. That’s what prayers are for—practice, children. Practice.” 
― Lloyd Jones, Mister Pip

"Just think of what would have happened to poor old Naaman if he had decided to dunk himself only once?” 
― Lawana Blackwell, The Courtship of the Vicar's Daughter

"Take faith, for example. For many people in our world, the opposite of faith is doubt. The goal, then, within this understanding, is to eliminate doubt. But faith and doubt aren't opposites. Doubt is often a sign that your faith has a pulse, that it's alive and well and exploring and searching. Faith and doubt aren't opposites, they are, it turns out, excellent dance partners.” 
― Rob Bell, What We Talk about When We Talk about God

"Little faith sees God's hand in great things. Established faith sees God's hand in little things.” 
― Ralph Bouma

"He that hath the steerage of my course,
Direct my sail.” 
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

"Believe to the end, even if all men went astray and you were left the only one faithful; bring your offering even then and praise God in your loneliness.” 
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

(John 11:25-26)”

32 comments:

  1. A very blessed Easter to my favorite bear.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I suspect our Lord Jesus Christ when He Rose from the dead didn't put a big grin on His glorious face and start singing showtunes, nor when He appeared to Mary and the Twelve did He yell, "Surprise!". This salvation stuff is serious business. And He retains His Wounds just so we won't forget as we are apt to do. Our Lord and His Business is as serious as a heart attack. He wants our repentance, assent, trust and obedience. I think you are OK there, Bear. Our faith will always be challenged and questions come up from time to time. That's part of the Cross. Keep carrying it, brother and never put it down until He brings you Home. He is right there with you as is the Church. Have a blessed Easter. Thank you for your faithful witness.

    ReplyDelete
  3. St. Thomas Aquinas devoted an entire article in the Summa to Hebrews 11:1 http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3004.htm. I still find it obscure.

    May your Easter be blessed, whether or not it is joyous.

    Elizabeth R

    ReplyDelete
  4. Take heart Bear. According to the Easter Gospel today Peter and the rest of them had no faith in Jesus either. They didn't buy the idea that when Jesus said he would rise again on the third day he meant he was going to rise again on the third day. Skepticism is the message of today's Gospel. It wasn't until Jesus actually appeared on the scene that they believed him. So the Bear may be acting just like St Peter. Anyway faith is a gift which we should always try to enhance with prayer. Let's all pray for the Bear in this year of Mercy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, it's worse than that. Even after Jesus was resurrected the apostles doubted.

      16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted.

      (Matthew 28:16-17 RSV)

      Delete
  5. Chocolate eggs I cannot give, but please enjoy this basket of faith-related quotes...

    “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”
    ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

    "Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there's a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.”
    ― Helen Keller

    “Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.”
    ― Rabindranath Tagore

    "When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.”
    ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

    "To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”
    ― St Thomas Aquinas

    "Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

    "Sorrow looks back, Worry looks around, Faith looks up”
    ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

    "Faith is an oasis in the heart which will never be reached by the caravan of thinking.”
    ― Kahlil Gibran

    "Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.”
    ― A.W. Tozer

    "My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

    "God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful.”
    ― Mother Teresa

    "I can only say that I am nothing but a poor sinner, trusting in Christ alone for salvation.”
    ― Robert E. Lee

    "I love the recklessness of faith. First you leap, and then you grow wings.”
    ― William Sloane Coffin Jr., Credo

    "The greatest act of faith some days is to simply get up and face another day.”
    ― Amy Gatliff

    "What if we lived like Jesus really did rise from the dead?”
    ― Sarah Holman, If He Lives

    "It seems to me some people just go around lookin' to get their faith unsettled. That has been the fashion for the last hundred years or so.”
    ― Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

    "Now listen. Faith is like oxygen. It keeps you afloat at all times. Sometimes you need it. Sometimes you don’t. but when you do need it you better be practiced at having faith, otherwise it won’t work. That’s why the missionaries built all the churches. Before we got those churches we weren’t practicing enough. That’s what prayers are for—practice, children. Practice.”
    ― Lloyd Jones, Mister Pip

    "Just think of what would have happened to poor old Naaman if he had decided to dunk himself only once?”
    ― Lawana Blackwell, The Courtship of the Vicar's Daughter

    "Take faith, for example. For many people in our world, the opposite of faith is doubt. The goal, then, within this understanding, is to eliminate doubt. But faith and doubt aren't opposites. Doubt is often a sign that your faith has a pulse, that it's alive and well and exploring and searching. Faith and doubt aren't opposites, they are, it turns out, excellent dance partners.”
    ― Rob Bell, What We Talk about When We Talk about God

    "Little faith sees God's hand in great things. Established faith sees God's hand in little things.”
    ― Ralph Bouma

    "He that hath the steerage of my course,
    Direct my sail.”
    ― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

    "Believe to the end, even if all men went astray and you were left the only one faithful; bring your offering even then and praise God in your loneliness.”
    ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

    “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

    (John 11:25-26)”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wonderful quotes. The most practical, perhaps, is the C.S. Lewis quote.

      "Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.”

      ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

      Bears are very moody and unpredictable. That's part of the problem.

      Delete
  6. I can relate to much of this. I'm a cradle Catholic. At no point in my life did I ever doubt the Resurrection and at never for a minute did I doubt the Real Presence. But for years in early adulthood I was vague on the significance of both. Professional Catholics stake our entire religion on those two things and for years I treated them with a shrug. Now I understand that the facts of the historical faith are important, but it's also important to convey how those facts are relevant in the world today. A much harder proposition, sometimes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your comment sounds similar to my experience growing up Catholic as well. See Pete at 7:59.

      Happy Easter!

      Delete
  7. You have explained to me my "blind belief in the Faith" - an incompetent witness, right? That, and the Helen Keller quote choked me up. But so much better than chocolate eggs. Thank you and Blessed Easter to St. Corbinian's Bear.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Common sense is the "incompetent witness." It simply has nothing to say about miracles, and so should not be listened to. The Bear thinks this is important, because it seems that so often what pulls us down is just a general sense that "it's a nice story, but of course we know none of those things really happened."

      Delete
    2. ok - thanks for your patience. I am a dull horse - no, horses are never dull, just tired sometimes.

      Delete
    3. another day-Deo gratias
      Good morning St. Corbinian's Bear. I used to think Christmas/Easter JOY meant I had to be happy/clappy; but of course that's not it. It really is a two-edged sword believing in the resurrection: GRIEF beyond our comprehension for His death and then RELIEF that He took on our sins. How does one even process that? Oh yeah, it is called faith, I guess.
      And St. John Chrysostom says it perfectly

      If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast.
      If any man be a wise servant, let him enter rejoicing into the joy of his Lord.
      If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.
      If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward.
      If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
      If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings, because he shall in no wise be deprived.
      If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing.
      If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him also be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has worked from the first hour.

      And He shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts.
      And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering.

      Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord, and receive your reward, both the first and likewise the second.

      You rich and poor together, hold high festival.
      You sober and you heedless, honor the day.

      Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast.
      The table is fully laden; feast sumptuously.
      The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
      Enjoy the feast of faith; receive all the riches of loving-kindness.

      Let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
      Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shone forth from the grave.
      Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free: he that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.

      By descending into hell, he made hell captive.
      He embittered it when it tasted of his flesh.
      And Isaiah, foretelling this, cried: “Hell was embittered when it encountered thee in the lower regions.”

      It was embittered, for it was abolished.
      It was embittered, for it was mocked.
      It was embittered, for it was slain.
      It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
      It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
      It took a body, and met God face to face.
      It took earth, and encountered heaven.
      It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

      O Death, where is your sting?
      O Hell, where is your victory?

      Christ is risen, and you are overthrown.
      Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen.
      Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice.
      Christ is risen, and life reigns.
      Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.

      For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
      To him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.

      – St. John Chrysostom



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    4. Thank you for reminding SCB of this wonderful sermon. He finds it vert comforting.

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  8. I have to admit that I have wondered (and am doubtless not alone in this) just how unspeakably terrible we humans have to be to each other and to ourselves, before He will come again to sort us out (to use that British expression). We wonder what He is waiting for. I try not to, though. I have so much to praise and thank Him for.

    Blessed Easter to you and yours, Bear.

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  9. I have often been stymied as to why at these holy seasons I experience that same phenomenon, as in, a case of Faith Fatigue, where, typically all things Catholic interest me greatly, but suddenly I am out of steam, my mind prone to wanderings, my spirit flagging. Rather than be my usual interested self I have doubts, and think, oh bother. It's certain Satan is prodding us at all times and he probably gets out a bigger pitchfork when it's Easter or Christmas, but I attribute it to just holiday fatigue. So much is expected of us, even if our families are small, there's the faith expectations for Lent which is considerable, and then the secular expectations, which exist no matter what. We SHOULD be doing more of something, somewhere, for somebody, or we aren't "living" our Lent out as expected. At these times I just give it all a rest and remind myself not to overthink things, which I sometimes do.
    For all of this to be just a nice story not one thing written about Jesus can be right, no miracles have ever happened, no one cured, all apparitions bunk. No evil exists and nothing holy either.
    That just can't be.
    One of the best things to ponder to my mind is the apostles. Scared and timid and denying Jesus all over the place, then a sudden and extreme transformation into willing martyrs?
    They saw something.
    My advice to the bear, if he asked, would be to just chill for a few days and just be. We soon look around and pine for Jesus.

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    1. The Bear mostly just sleeps and doesn't eat these days.

      The worst of it is that due to medicine the Bear must take to comply with Fish, Game and Wildlife's Department of Large Talking Predators, sometimes it is literally impossible to wake up. Easter morning the Bear was dead to the world and nothing his mate did could rouse him to full consciousness.

      Jesus rose on Easter morning, but the Bear couldn't.

      So the Bear feels bad and left out of the whole Easter thing. Even the Chreasters made it, but the Bear didn't.

      Part of the problem was that the Bear lost track of time writing this overlong essay. But that was his way of applying first aid to seriously injured faith. He had to remind himself of things during the crisis. He didn't take his meds until late, so there you have it.

      Lent, as bad as it was, was wasted, and the Bear missed the Church's celebration. That sucks.

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    2. P.S. Yes, attacks by the adversary cannot be discounted. When you lose interest in religion, and things connected with it become distasteful, that sounds like acedia. (Use the search function in the right-hand column if you want to read more.)

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    3. Well, you've got Divine Mercy Sunday to look forward to. That's something.

      OTH, there's the Exhortation coming. Best not to miss DM Sunday.

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    4. The Bear lacks enthusiasm for Divine Mercy Sunday. The Exhortation may have consequences for the Bear's opinion on things.

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  10. I have accepted Jesus' resurrection. In my wandering from Catholicism, I never spent any time (I dont mean mere moments, I mean substantial time) in lack of faith in the Gospel. I accept that it's true. It was a subject in school like math or science. So, it's fact to me in that sense. I can't explain or fully understand. That is faith. THe faith was never personal. I never had my "own personal Jesus" (Depeche Mode) until experiences in protestantism helped w/that.

    I think of Thomas Aquinas' incredible hymn. So rousing, so meaningful, beyond description, "Tantum Ergo Sacramentum." First verse tells us that our faith kicks in where our senses fail: "Faith for all defects supplying,
    Where the feeble senses fail." (I've seen several translations that of course make that same point.)

    All that said, I don't feel very spiritual or "attached to" my faith in God and the Gospel at Easter and Christmas masses. Those are the two worst days to attend mass, with all the C&E Catholics chatting, disrupting, more babies than usual, having to stand, kneel on a hard floor. All I can think of is getting the family through it. When the innovations and creativity are minimal, I am grateful!

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    1. Johnny Cash has a great cover of that song.

      Did you find your "experiences in Protestantism" helpful?

      The only time the Bear "feels" anything is when he receives the Blessed Body and Blood of his Lord. It's a sweetness in the heart, like honey. There are other things related to that the Bear shall not speak of. Sometimes, too (rarely) during Divine Office the Bear feels like he's actually praying, rather than just flipping pages and reciting psalms.

      The newer liturgy is not as sound from a ritual point of view. It's harder, the Bear thinks. But good enough, he supposes. [shrug]

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    2. My experiences in protestantism led me to study the bible more and made me more Catholic! It led me back to the faith which saints believed of old as the song says.

      Actually, my Catholic faith was not personal. I did not 'feel' attached to a God or His Son who died for me. When our protestant and evangelical friends speak of Jesus, they speak of a personal relationship with Him. I was missing that. Our Catholic faith does speak of Jesus having a relationship with us. B16 would talk about us entering into that relationship and our faith being about that God/Man, Jesus. And protestantism was missing the Real Presence, real reverence, sacredness. Nothing to genuflect at. No reason for a sign of the cross. No cause for kneeling. No smells, no bells. [Wait, that's like my parish!] The sanctuary was the whole place that held us all, not only the holy of holies, as in a Catholic church.

      It is tough b/c we can at times get this real "connection to God" and have intense feelings of religiosity, but that passes and we move on to pay the bills, mow the lawn, wash clothes, cook dinner, respond to clients, etc. We lose that feeling. Faith has to be more than that passing feeling. We have to have it even when we don't feel it. Our faith is based on reason, not feeling as we know.

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  11. Here are some faith quotes that have greatly reduced my peace of mind:


    “Some call him Allah, some simply God. But we all have to acknowledge that it is he who made us for the greater things: to love and be loved”
    - Mother Teresa -


    “Of course I convert. I convert you to be a better Hindu or a better Muslim or a better Protestant. Once you’ve found God, it’s up to you to decide how to worship him.”
    Mother Teresa Touched Other Faiths, AP, Sept. 7, 1997

    I know she was a great humanitarian, but I am doubtful of her sainthood.

    Seattle Kim

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    1. Could have been said by a lot of high-level Catholics these days. Bear agrees that there are questions. No one got painkillers, because their suffering was of value. It is said (not sure how anyone would know) that she received the usual palliative care.

      Bear's mate worked for a GI doc who claimed he was turned down to work at one of her clinics because he was not Christian.

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    2. Mother Teresa was a great humanitarian, but when I read that quote it makes Catholicusm look like just another ice cream flavor. On the other hand it's pretty much in keeping with Vatican 2's Nostra Aetate. Here's another:

      “Some call him Allah, some simply God. But we all have to acknowledge that it is he who made us for the greater things: to love and be loved”
      - Mother Teresa -

      I could give you some even more troubling quoted by pope "Saint" John X xiii, but suffice to say I don't believe Frank is a pope so I don't have to accept any of his canonizations. However, he might have gotten a few right.

      Seattle Kim

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    3. But aren't canonizations infallible acts of the Church? The Bear must confess to being less than impressed with the V2 saint-a-thon. It reminds the Bears of when they used to make a big production out of lobotomies, like doing two patients at once. Then it turned out lobotomies maybe weren't the best idea in the first place. The Bear does not think he ever had a lobotomy. That would complete his check-off card, though. Jorge Bergoglio has punched all of the Bear's buttons. Bear means, who does that? Punch ALL a Bear's buttons? Do they no longer teach that to children? Of course, there are no real Bears in Argentina, so maybe he never learned.

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    4. Yes, they are infallible acts of the Church. Only a true pope can canonize, so Kim's logic at least is sound. If the 'pope' really isn't pope (due to heresy), then the 'canonizations' would not be valid.

      It may turn out that 1958-I am not sure when will be a period of blackout for the Church and the memories of future Catholics will need to look on this time almost as if it didn't exist.

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    5. Utubeo---anyone who made those 2 Mother Teresa statements 500 years ago would have been burned at the stake. These statements were made late in her life so it's clear that she adopted a very modernist and heterodox view of religion in general. I can, of course, make no assumption on where her soul is now. As a "saint", she stands as a model for all. No wonder the UN is using her to push their nefarious agendas. If she is a true Saint , then no one here has any business criticizing the current pontificate. If she is a saint worthy of veneration, then we should just be loving this papacy and hanging on Frank's every heterodox word and deed.

      Seattle Kim

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  12. I just came from the Cloisters in NYC where every Triptych, every tapestry, every birch carved Virgin and Child, every chalice and monstrance and breviary proclaims the sacred mysteries. On display is a liturgical comb the priest used to comb his hair before saying Holy Mass! From cradle to grave all of life in medieval Europe was drenched in Faith--the Church was not going to let you off the hook. True mercy lived! What happened!? Protestantism happened! It's a great mystery to me how we are going to get back on track.

    Happy Easter to all! May our Beautiful Lady and her Risen Son illuminate minds everywhere.

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    1. Protestantism a problem? Heavens no! Our Pope is going to Sweden this Halloween to celebrate the blessings of Protestantism with a Lutheran ladybishop! The problem is we haven't adopted more of those blessings! (And not shoveling in more refugees fast enough.)

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  13. Mother Angelica RIP said that we must be willing to do the ridiculous so God can do the miraculous.

    If you have doubt, hang out before the Blessed Sacrament. Meditate on that mystery. Your head might explode because you can't explain it but you believe it. Help though my unbelief, God!

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