Monday, February 19, 2018

Lentblogging Day 6 - 10 Unintended Lessons

Blessed Holy Water gone from stoups,
but where is the traditional
Blessed Lenten Sand
this Year? 
One thing about live Lentblogging is that, if the blogger is honest, some days are going to be better than others. Sunday was pretty lousy. Poor Bear spent a lot of time in thought and prayer that night.

Funny how Saint Corbinian's Bear Lenten Companion for Bearish Humans describes the very same challenges. Religion as a near occasion of sin and legitimate disappointment in one's shepherds. Poor Bear has been dealing with this stuff since the 8th Century and still struggles.

Most of all, the Bear realizes that he foresaw what would challenge him Sunday, and yet, stupidly, he did not prepare himself in advance. For a Bear who is supposed to be Lenting smart, this was a huge oversight.

Here are 10 unintended lessons he learned Sunday. At the end is a video that inspires the Bear during Lent, although he must admit St. Benedict would not approve. One of the most important lessons is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.

10 Unintended Lessons the Bear Learned Sunday
  1. Most important is this: Usually, we are hurt more by our reaction ("the very idea!") than the actual injury. There may be a bit of ego hidden beneath the scandal (although that does not take responsibility from the one causing scandal.) A little bit of Bearish righteous indignation goes a long way.
  2. The second is we do not have to stick our heads in the sand and pretend there are no problems. That would not be honest. There are big problems. The real question, then, is narrow: How do we plan on dealing with them during this Lent? Are we stuck complaining about the same things from year to year?
  3. We must Lent smart. That means planning to meet foreseeable challenges. For example, if we know some upcoming religious event will be turned into political theater, we should decide in advance the best response. You may hear some obnoxious hobbyhorse flogged every Sunday. Where the Bear is, it's all about the interfaiths. The Devil is clever, but prefers to get under your skin in ways that have proved reliable in the past. His tactics should not surprise smart Christians and should definitely be a part of the plans for your Tower of Lent.
  4. The Bear expected some jiggery-pokery with the holy water during Lent. Yes, he thinks removing it shows confusion between a blessed sacramental and a mere symbol and is a dumb local innovation. What can he say, except, o tempera, o mores? He can use all the holy water he wants at home, or even bring it with him to church if he needs it that bad. (See 1 above.)
  5. Similarly, when it comes to Holy Scripture, the Bear knows the USCCB's NABRE has inclusive language and smartest-kid-in-the-room footnotes that appear to question the unique inspired character of the Bible. Since that bothers the Bear, he must either ignore it or pick a different approved translation.**
  6. We must expect that the Devil will hit us where it hurts the most during Lent: our religion. Knowing this going in, we should plan a sound strategy and pick ourselves up when we get knocked down anyway. For the Bear, that usually takes 24 hours: some growling, some ranting, some thinking, a quiet talk with God, and a good night's sleep. (Reading Lamentations helped put things in perspective, too.)
  7. During Lent, we should focus on prayer, fasting and alms, one day at a time. We should take each day as a lesson, just as the Bear did during his very first Lent and is still doing 1300 years later. We can learn even from our failures. Remember: experience is not what happens to you, it's what you learn from what happens to you.
  8. Whatever else is going on in the wide world beyond our homes, the actual daily practice of Christianity remains the same: (1) a consistent prayer life; (2) regular devout reading of Holy Scripture; (3) cultivating an appreciation for the presence of God in our daily lives; (4) trying to conform ourselves to the requirements of our religion; and (5) following a sensible personal rule.
  9. We are all psychologically different. Some of us meet frustration with plenty of room to back up and handle it. Others (Bears) live with their backs to the wall. We should always strive for insight into our own psychology as one ingredient to Lenting smart- and living smart. In a way, you might see your Christian life as a whole boiled down to the essentials during these 40 days.
  10. If your religion consistently robs you of the peace of Christ, you might sit down and take inventory of specific problems. Where can you humble yourself by submitting your intellect? Where are you being stubborn and self-willed? How often do you seek and find perverse enjoyment in scandal? How do you plan on dealing with the real obstacles while remaining true to your faith?
On second thought, perhaps these lessons might not have been intended by any human, but God Himself knows what the Bear needs to learn.

Some Wise Words on Lent from Fred & Ginger
(Unless Ginger is a Near Occasion of Sin)
from Swing Time, RKO, 1936

*As an aside, suggestions to find a traditional parish are not helpful for many who live hours from a major metropolitan area. Moreover, it's just not the style of Bears to give up their territory. Experience has taught the Bear that if he cannot live his faith in his own parish, he doubts he would be able to do better somewhere else. His instinct is to stay and adapt to harsh conditions.

**The RSV2-CE Ignatius Press Didache Bible is much better, but even it includes a disclaimer for the beginning of chapter 9 of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) about the Jewish "patriarchal society," to go with the NABRE's fancier "androcentric viewpoint." So much fuss over sound advice to men about avoiding near occasions of sin! See this EWTN page for a concise rundown of Catholic Bibles.


  1. You "learned" ALL of that on Sunday? That "c"athoic parish, I mean "faith community", has really helped you, much like a whip on a exhausted horse. I think I'll pass. I'l let you enjoy your penance.

    "Others (Bears) live with their backs to the wall." That's how I used to be except my teeth were barred too. That was until we started to attend a Dominican Priory. I no longer have that dread before Mass and my family almost never hears me complain afterwards, unless we attend somewhere else.

    1. God can find Bears wherever they go.

      Where shall I go from your Spirit?
      Or where shall I flee from your presence?
      If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
      If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

  2. I can sure relate to Fred and Ginger since I was a professional ballroom dance teacher and competitor for a Fred Astaire Studio (about 1200 years ago.)

    I am blessed to be able to attend a thriving FSSP parish (and I'm not in a large city.) We're building a new church just minutes from my home. We're in a rental now.

    1. Please teach Bear how to dance. And not stupid “dancing Bear” tricks, but like Fred and Ginger. That scene, btw, is the one that has arguably the most joyous-looking and effortless-seeming dancing, and Swing Time is their best movie. Ginger thought so, too.

      There is an Institute Of Christ the King oratory, very beautiful Baroque, two hours away, and our Archabbey is three plus (a very reverent Mass of the usual sort). So, we go to the same church we were married in 40 years ago.

      Looking back, given the Bear’s history of bolting, e.g. to Orthodoxy, he feels the value of an interpretation of Benedictine stability that means learning from a parish he finds uncongenial to him is probably better for someone as proud and ill-tempered as a Bear than someplace nice. It certainly makes remaining in the Church a frequent conscious choice. It also lets him address other Catholics who are stuck in similarly demoralizing situations, especially now.

    2. Everyone knows bears can't dance, but I can teach you to throw:

  3. It also lets him address other Catholics who are stuck in similarly demoralizing situations, especially now.

    And it's a good thing you do, Bear. It'a great service you do.

    I would be happy to teach you to dance. Over the years I had a few really difficult cases who eventually learned. I taught quite a few couples, so you may feel free to bring Mrs. Bear (Red Death?) That way you'll be stepping on her and not me. ;-)

  4. "learning from a parish he finds uncongenial to him."

    The problem, as I'm sure you have realized, is not a matter of "fashion", style and so forth, but often the public rejection of the Truth, revealed
    Teachings and deliberate adding of those things NOT truth. After many years of it, it was time to move on to a parish that WANTED to be Faithful Catholics. I find it peaceful. To pray the Mass as the Church wants us to is a simple thing but hard to find.

    Perhaps the next time your Parish priest is rotated out you'll do better.

    1. Bear is glad you are content. Were there a reasonable alternative the Bear would deem it prudent to avail himself of it. There were early Christians who foolishly courted martyrdom on purpose, then found they were not able to continue their profession under threat of imminent death.

      It is not just what goes on in our own parishes, however. The truth has taken quite a beating for a while, not only in the Catholic Church, but among other Christian groups. Bear has often written about the “cognitive dissonance” we suffer when things don’t seem to playing out like they’re supposed to. In blogging through this pontificate, the Bear has seen many different ways people have tried to resolve that distress. Some people have gone from the despised “Novus Ordo FrancisChurch” to Sedevacantism, and then have left Catholicism altogether, whether for Orthodoxy or some kind of Protestant experience. And the Bear sympathizes.

      Part of the Bear’s philosophical reason for trying to be open to God where God finds him now is that a rigorous attempt to resolve his cognitive dissonance intellectually would, he fears, for him, lead him step-by-step right out of the Church, and who knows if he would find himself still a Christian whenever he died.

      This is not saying everyone must decide the same. It is right for the Bear and Red Death. He thinks he could be learning worse lessons from staying put. And, it is not so much that he learned all that in one day, of course. It is that, being forced to deal with it, he turned to God and realized these things.

      If you are not sorely tried during Lent by something that requires some difficult soul-searching then, of course, you are not a Bearish human, and probably this day’s Lentblogging won’t have much to say to you.

  5. Seems to me there is an obvious answer to all the BS that substitutes for Catholicism. Just stop it. Stop going to Church. It's pointless. Go to Mass during the week to avoid weakening your faith on Sunday. I'm sure Christ would approve of this modification under the circumstances.

    Another suggestion to start a new 12 step Catholic recovery program for Vatican II Protestantized Catholics. The Bear could provide the various steps and a suggested meeting agenda.

    1. If Bear really believed that, he would be something else besides Catholic.

  6. 2. 4. 6. 8. Who do we appreciate?!!
    Really, all those learning points speak to us here.
    P.s. my daughter touring Israel right now made a confession on MT Carmel and has talked with a lot of faithful Catholics there. I am thrilled.

    1. That is wonderful news and Bear rejoices with you! Mt. Carmel has some beautiful scenary, although Bear must confess he mostly remembers the USO. He was in port in Haifa as a JAG and had a lot of spare time to drive around Israel. The Sea of Galilee / Sermon on the Mount location were his favorites. Nablus, not so much!


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