Thursday, April 25, 2019

Newer Articles on the USC Website

It's been a long time since I have had the free time to do more of the longer, scholarly articles on the other website that I like to punish myself with from time to time. Ah, I remember back in the days when I could write one or two a week! Consequently, the sister site has been neglected for some time.

However, I have been plugging along on the other site, posting articles here and there over the past year and a half as I have the time. I always post these to the Facebook page, but since a lot of you are not on Facebook, I thought I should post a round-up of new articles on the site like I used to when I was more prolific.

Here's what's new on the Unam Sanctam Catholicam website:

Papal Coins of the Renaissance and Baroque: Study of some of the eminent coins minted by the popes during the Renaissance and Baroque, from about 1447 to 1689, including sketch of the goldsmiths and sculptors who fashioned these charming medallions, as well as the popes who had them struck.

The Pantheon and Feast of All Saints:A history of the Feast of All Saints in its relation to the Roman building known as the Pantheon, focusing on the political background that culminated in the re-dedication of the structure to the veneration of all the saints in the year 609.

St. Bridget: Popes and Priestly Marriage:From the Revelations of St. Bridget of Sweden, the saint has a message from Jesus about God's view of sexually active priests and what would become of any pope who tried to normalize a sexually active priesthood.

St. Bridget: Punishment of Lustful, Immoral Priests: Christ narrates to St. Bridget the offense caused by lustful, prideful priests and details their punishments. Christ's words are especially poignant in light of the current wave of scandals unfolding in the American hierarchy.

Argument for the Infallibility of Canonizations: Argument for the infallibility of canonizations based on the theological arguments of some of the great theologians and manualists of the pre-conciliar era, as well as a compendium of some of my other essays on the subject.

Excavations at Tel Eton:The excavations of an Iron Age fortress, Hebrew in character, at Tel Eton provide compelling evidence for the existence of a powerful, centralized Hebrew state in Israel during the 11th century BC (i.e., the Davidic kingdom).

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Power of Resurrection

Happy Easter friends, near and afar—Christus surrexit sicut dixit! Today the Church celebrates the holiest feast of the liturgical year, the solemnity of the Resurrection of our Lord. 

The Easter feast of course calls to mind the historical Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, the cornerstone of our faith—the one truth of which St. Paul says without which our faith is vain (1 Cor. 15:14). Alleluia and praise to the risen King!

But more than that, the Feast of the Resurrection reminds us that we, too, shall one day rise again in glorified flesh to stand before the Lord of Hosts. The Resurrection of Christ, "the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep", (1 Cor. 15:20), is merely the first flowering in what will become the blossoming of the human race united with Christ our head. As Job says, "And I shall be clothed again with my skin, and in my flesh I will see my God" (Job 19:26). 

Yet, Resurrection means even more than this. It means in this life, here and now, through the grace merited by our Lord Jesus we, all of us, even the most miserable, can rise above our sins and live a life of holiness unto the Lord.

St. Augustine says that he power of the Lord to help us rise from mortal sin to newness of life is exemplified by the three resurrections in the Gospels: the the daughter of Jairus, the son of the widow of Nain, and that of Lazarus. The daughter of Jairus had just died when she was resurrected; St. Augustine says this signifies those souls who have just fallen into a single mortal sin and speedily repent. The son of the widow of Nain had been dead a bit longer—he was being carried out of the city on a bier prepared for burial. St. Augustine says this is the sinner who has allowed his sins to become habitual, and but for the intervention of grace is swiftly moving down the path to damnation. Then there is Lazarus, who has been dead so long for so long that his flesh has rotted "he stinketh" says the Gospel of John. Here is the man who is so long dead in his sins that all human hope for his salvation has been lost. The very sight of the man is an offense to God and his character has the stench of corruption. Yet, even this soul, though rotting in his sins, can be saved and restored to grace.

Thus, friend, whomever you are and whatever sins you are struggling with, the power of Christ can confer upon you victory over your sins. You are not called to manage your sins or negotiate or call a truce with them; you are called to victory, and in Him you can have it. Let the same faith you place in Christ's Resurrection be now placed in the hope of your own resurrection from sin through Him.

But Resurrection means yet even more than this. It means, in the most general sense, that evil and injustice do not have the final say. Your personal failures will not define you. Your professional setbacks are not all there is. Family tragedy, resentment, injustice, hurt feelings, fear—none of these things are the last word. In the midst of all the brokenness, even when the deepest darkness swirls about you, you can find the power of forgiveness, hope, and new life. And though the Christian life is always a journey and a battle, the forgiveness and grace and healing you need is not far—in fact, it is right where you are. Right here. Right now:

For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it (Deut. 30:11-14).

The power of the Resurrection is real. It is potent and vibrant and will transform all your weakness into strength that His power may be manifest. 

Blessed Easter everyone.

Mutans Tenebras Ad Lucem
"Turning darkness into light." ~ Pangur Bán

Friday, April 12, 2019

Interview with a Homeless Man

Lent is a time for works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual. The traditional call to almsgiving made me think about the situation of the homeless in the United States.

I recently reconnected with an old childhood friend of mine named Mark who is homeless and has been so for most of his adult life (he is my age, late 30's). Mark lives in the Pacific Northwest as a transient with no real possessions except some clothes, a backpack, and his dog. I asked him if I could interview him about his experiences as a homeless person and pick his brain about things he would like people to understand about the homeless in this country. He graciously agreed.

Below is my interview with him. Please note, Mark and I are of completely different worldviews.

USC: Thank you for being willing to talk about this.

MARK: I am an expert. I have answers, ha.  I'll try to answer the best I can, but keep in mind everyone's situation is different.

USC: To start off, how did you become homeless? Was it due to circumstances or was it a lifestyle choice?
MARK: I prefer the term transient, as originally I left my hometown and all that behind because of trouble with the law. Got myself a greyhound ticket to Portland, Maine, to meet a girl I met online. Stayed with her for a while until we all got kicked out, that was when I became a full-fledge squatter, and started hitchhiking around.

USC: Many people say they won't give homeless people money because they are afraid they'll spend it on booze, so they give food instead. Would you rather receive food or money? Explain.

Honestly, most homeless people do spend quite a bit on alcohol and drugs; some people are homeless because of their addictions, getting arrested for possession, losing everything while in jail. Others start using once they become homeless to cope with the feelings of hopelessness and depression. So I understand why people are hesitant to give out cash. While receiving food is nice, believe it or not a lot of those homeless hippy types are vegetarians so a bag of burgers is kind of a slap in the face. My recommendation is if you don't want your cash to go towards drugs is, gift cards. But here's something to consider: Giving homeless people money instead of food can save their lives, especially in the winter. Shelters can cost money. Being able to sit in McDonalds and sip a Coke for an hour while you warm up costs money. In some cities public toilets cost money, to use or just sit in to warm up. Giving a homeless person money in the winter can save their life. Food is easy to come by. Money, not so much.

USC: What are the biggest challenges you face as a homeless person?

MARK: The number one struggle being homeless is getting sleep. Gets cold at night, and if you're just camping out you take the chance of getting rolled on by jackers and police. Constantly being sleepy makes it that much harder to improve your situation. Shelters are sometimes available in bigger cities, but are stinky, overcrowded, and can be sketchy, to say the least.

USC: In America, there is a prejudice that if a person is homeless he/she must have done something to "deserve" that situation. In your experience, why are most homeless people homeless. Is there a single main cause?

MARK: People's stories are different. I choose this lifestyle.
But probably more than half of all homeless people have some type of mental health issue, not to mention all those returning vets. Nobody "deserves" to be homeless.
USC: West coast regions like San Francisco and Seattle have been making news for mandating minimum wages of $15 and $16 an hour. The argument is that these higher minimum wages will help the poor. Have these increases affected you in any way?
MARK: What people need to realize is that every time the minimum wage increases, so does the cost of living. That's why there are so many homeless people in those cities, the simply can't make ends meet. Also, when they raised the minimum wage in Seattle, McDonalds cut their dollar menu. This hurt homeless people because of lot of them depend on the dollar menu for food. Higher minimum wages don't really help us.

USC: People will say that the homeless should "just get a job." Why can't the homeless just get a job?

MARK: Who says homeless people don't have jobs?
I've been homeless while working full time. The cost of living is so high. Many homeless people do have jobs. Some also work temp jobs or side hustles to make ends meet. Just cuz someone is homeless doesn't mean they don't have a job.

USC: How important are religious facilities in assisting the homeless? This may include thrift stores (Salvation Army or Vincent de Paul), but also shelters/food pantries, soup kitchens. How big a difference to religious organizations really make in helping the poor?

A lot of churches help tremendously, I've found the Baptists help the most. Sally's is pretty good, but other organizations like Goodwill don't help at all, they accept free donations and turn around and sell them for profit. Google the CEO's salary and you'll see.
USC: Politicians spend a lot of time talking about fighting poverty. But from your point of view, what would actually help the homeless most?

Politicians have many different views, depending on region. Tends to be places with more temperate climate that "fight" homelessness, which translates to arresting people for vagrancy or trespassing. Other places, like northern states, or where I'm at here in Washington have a different approach. This last winter, here in my town, the city approved a designated area for a homeless tent city, right behind city hall, which I find appropriate. We also have a lot of resources, the Opportunity Council was actually the group that helped me find my first job here, taught me how to make a resume, supplied hygiene supplies so I wouldn't show up to the interview smelling like a bum. YMCA helps with showers.

USC: Cities often speak of "combating" homelessness but in reality try to simply make life difficult for homeless people. Have you ever experienced this?

MARK: Like I said, it usually means arresting people for vagrancy or loitering, putting bars around ledges to stop homeless people from sleeping there, ordinances against panhandling, and stuff like that. Cities don't combat homelessness. Most of the time they want to combat homeless people by driving them off.

USC: What is something you would like people to understand about the homeless?

MARK: What I would want people to understand about homelessness is that not all of those people are bums, many have just given up. How frustrating is it to apply for a job and you have no address or phone number to put down..? And also, I don't think people of wealth see the difference between "making a living" and "not dying for 2 more weeks"

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Praying Through the Mass

Last weekend I attended the Extraordinary Form Mass at Our Lady, Star of the Sea in Jackson, Michigan. I am blessed to live within an hour of several weekly EF Mass options and Star of the Sea is a beautiful historic urban church particularly well suited to the splendor of the Mass of Ages (pictured above).

I was feeling kind of lethargic and depressed when I went in. I didn't bother picking up the Mass booklet or the printed worship aid. I wasn't interested in following along or anything. I just slumped down and leaned my head on the pew in front of me and started to pray.

The music was beautiful, though, as always. It's easy to just relax and let the chant seep into your heart the way the smoke of the incense wafts into your head. I confess, by the time the Kyrie had begun, I was kind of in my own inner world. The beauty of the music had got me moved and I began contemplating the issues in my life, sorting through my troubles and bringing them before God.

I continued in this manner for some time, nominally going through the motions of standing, kneeling, etc. but the entire time deeply immersed in my own inner life and not giving much heed to externals. I don't think I even noticed the homily. 

Before I knew it, it was the final blessing and the Last Gospel. It was then that I realized that I had been in prayer the entire Mass. I don't think I have ever prayed continuously through the entirety of a Mass before, not like this at least. And I felt great afterward.

As I left the church, I realized that such an experience probably could never have happened at a Novus Ordo Mass. The Novus Ordo has too many "interruptions" and makes too many external demands upon the worshiper with the gestures and responses one is expected to make. The "active participation" that the architects of the Novus Ordo envisioned too often turns out to be a kind of surface activism ("I'm participating because I am physically moving and saying lots of things"). If I were to spend the entire Novus Ordo in prayer in this manner, it would necessitate me positively tuning out of the Mass—intentionally ignoring the liturgy.

Now it's true that in a certain sense, I was not paying attention to the Mass in this experience either, but not in the same way. I didn't have to tune out of the Mass. It was more like, the very structure of the Mass itself allowed for this particular sort of experience of it. It is as if in the Extraordinary Form, there is a hidden "low road" built into the form of the liturgy itself that allows oneself pass through it in a contemplative "mode." I'm grasping at straw trying to explain what I mean, but hopefully my meager words convey the substance of what I am getting at.

I'm not one of those people who believes the Novus Ordo is intrinsically offensive to God or impious or anything like that; but between the NO and the EF, it is crystal clear which one has a structure more conducive to prayer.