Friday, November 30, 2012

Mistrust prevents unexpected falls


In his book, The Way of Interior Peace (1888), Fr. De LeHen stressed that one needed quality for spiritual progress: it is a practical mistrust of self. Our Lord himself said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

The presumption of one’s moral strength in face of temptation, especially with regard to pride and lust, has not only led to the downfall of priests who were once in good standing, but it has led to the downfall of politicians, celebrities and people who, at one time, were minding their own business.

If truth be told, the spiritual principle of mistrusting self has been largely been forgotten or at least dismissed by today’s Christians because of the high premium our culture puts on self-esteem. But every Saint is well acquainted with it. It helps us to avoid presumption during times of prosperity and despair when adversity strikes us.

As for the practical ways of achieving this saintly quality, the author informs us of four means to get there. The fourth means, in particular, is probably the most difficult for us to digest. However, these means, including the fourth one, is repeated throughout the New Testament. Caution: it is the easiest thing in the world to read about it, assent to its veracity, and yet move on with our day without truly absorbing its implications. The virtue of mistrust, that is, to see ourselves as morally and spiritually powerless without Christ, leads to other heroic virtues.

On Mistrust of Self  by Fr. De LeHen :

“Mistrust in one’s strength is so necessary in the spiritual life, that without it one cannot overcome the least perverse inclination. We must be thoroughly impressed with this truth, for we are only too prone, though without good reason, to esteem ourselves something. Self-confidence is the consequence of our nature’s corruption; but natural it is to us, the more difficult it is to understand it. God, who sees all, abhors it. He would have us convinced of the truth that we possess no grace or virtue that does not proceed from Him, the source of all good, and that without Him we are not able to think anything pleasing to Him.

Mistrust of one’s one strength is a gift of Heaven, which God grants to souls whom He loves- sometimes by holy inspirations, or again by hard interior sufferings; sometimes by almost unconquerable temptations, or finally by means of known to Himself alone. Notwithstanding the gratuitousness of the favor, it is His divine wish that we do on our part what we can acquire this virtue. It will infallibly be granted to us if we make use of the four following means:

The first is often to place before our eyes our lowliness and nothingness, acknowledging that of our own natural strength we are incapable of accomplishing anything good and meritorious for heaven.

The second means is that we humbly and earnestly pray to God for this essential virtue; for He only can give it to us. We must acknowledge that it is not only wanting to us, but also that of ourselves we are incapable of acquiring it. We must kneel at our Lord’s feet, and implore it of Him with a firm confidence of being heard. Lastly, we must patiently await the granting of our petition, and persevere in prayer as long as His divine providence pleases.

The third means is to accustom ourselves gradually to diffidence in self, to the unreliableness of our own judgment, to fear the violence of our evil inclinations and the innumerable multitude of our enemies. The latter are without comparison more artful, stronger, and more skillful in the combat than we; yes, they even change themselves into angels of light, to lay snares for us in the way of salvation.

The fourth means is, after every fault to turn our gaze inward and consider carefully the extent of our weakness. God permits our faults only that, being enlightened by a new light, we may more sincerely acknowledge that we are miserable creatures, that we may learn to despise ourselves and arrive at a desire of being despised by others. Without this last means we cannot attain to mistrust of self, a virtue that rests on humility and the experimental knowledge of one’s own misery.

He who would draw near to the Fountain of Light, the Uncreated Truth, must know himself thoroughly. He must not be like the proud, who open their eyes upon themselves only when they have unexpectedly fallen into some shameful sin. When milder means did not effect what His mercy intended, God permits them such experience in order to cure their presumption.”

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The proof of God's love

In his book, The Way of Interior Peace (1888), Fr. De LeHen recounted a message the Lord had for a discouraged soul:

“Never harbor the thought that I hate you when I send you sufferings, or that I crush you under their weight. Afflictions are proof of my love, of that love which gave you existence. They flow to you from a hand that was nailed to the cross for you. Do you think you can find a safer way than that of suffering when I, your Lord and your God, chose it as a path to my glory? Do you not know that men must labor in the sweat of their brow, and encounter a thousand dangers in order to acquire earthly goods? Do you not also see that earthly crowns are given only to him who fights courageously and gains the victory?

If you suffer with Me you shall also rejoice with Me; if you share my humiliations you shall have part in My glory, but not otherwise. If I knew a higher, more precious blessing upon earth than suffering, I should have given it to you and should have chosen it for My own portion in this world. But because I know that nothing leads more quickly and securely to the highest pinnacle of happiness than the cross, I present it to you with the same love with which I embraced it Myself.

It is I who placed those difficulties in your way; therefore, blame no one else, for I alone have so ordained it. Complain not of chance. By doing so, you would act against your conscience, as you well know that nothing happens by chance.

Accuse not the hostile elements of the earth, nor yet the stars of heaven, for they are but weak creatures, inanimate instruments which My hand wields according to My good pleasure. Neither complain of the world, nor of wicked spirits. Their malice can do you no harm, for their power is subject to Me; they can exercise it only in so far as I permit it.

To Me alone, therefore, should you ascribe whatever evil creatures do you. Your illness, your tribulations, your afflictions and contradictions are sent to you from Him who created you and who has you engraved in His Hands and in His Sacred Heart.

They are the love tokens of my heavenly Father, and He shares them only with His well-beloved children; and they are thorns from My crown, splinters from My holy cross, which He distributed to them as to His favorites; they are the chalice from which, in obedience to His will, I, because the first-born and dearest of His children, more than any other drank, yes, to the very dregs. -

Who would not eagerly respond to the call of Divine Love that leads him to the marriage of the cross?”

Demography and Economics: Why Humanae Vitae matters


The Examiner

U.S. Chamber: Europe is dying
November 29, 2012


Europe's once vibrant economy is slowly dying, robbing American companies of business and prompting calls for a new trade deal to revive the economic health of the continent.

"Europe is in a slow decline," said Thomas Donohue, president of the Chamber. "We need to see them get stronger."

Donohue, addressing the Chamber's board of directors Thursday, said that the organization is pushing for new trade deals to open markets in Europe for U.S. products. A new deal, he said, could spark an economic revival in Europe. Without it, the European economy could slowly fade, choking America's largest trading partner.

"It’s not going to go like that," he said later to reporters. "They are in a recession already. A lot of people over there, over here, are saying it could be eight to 10 years. Let's get them the hell out of it so we can sell them some more stuff."

Sky View comments: 

Japan is first but Europe is a close second! Everyone is talking about economic decline while few are talking about demographics. Without encouraging parents to have more children, demographics will trump economic growth for the foreseeable future. But what about America? Read below.


By the Next America: How demography shapes the national agenda
U.S. Birth Rate Hits Record Low
Decline Greatest Among Immigrants. Recession a Likely Factor, Report Says

By Stephanie Czekalinski

The U.S. birth rate dropped to its lowest level since the beginning of the Great Depression, led by a drop among immigrants, according to a report data released Thursday by the Pew Research Center.

In 2011, the overall birth rate was 63.2 per 1,000 women of childbearing age, the lowest since at least 1920, Pew reported, citing numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics. The birth rate reached 122.7 in 1957, the peak of the Baby Boom. After the mid-1970s, the birth rate stabilized at about 65 to 70 births per 1,000 women annually, until the beginning of the Great Recession.

Since 2007, both the U.S. birth rate (the number of live births per 1,000 women ages 15-44) and the number of births have dropped significantly, according to the report.

Overall, the birth rate declined 8 percent from 2007 to 2010. Among U.S.-born women, the birth rate dropped 6 percent. The decline among foreign-born women was 14 percent. Among Mexican women, the birth rate fell even more, to 23 percent.

Despite the recent decline, foreign-born moms continue to give birth to a disproportionate share of the country’s babies, the report said. In 2010, immigrants represented about 13 percent of the U.S. population while foreign-born mothers accounted for 23 percent of all births.

After 2007, the number of U.S. births, which had been rising since 2002, fell abruptly, according to the report. This decrease was also led by immigrant women. Overall the number of births between 2007 and 2010 dropped 7 percent, pulled down by a 13-percent drop in births to immigrants. By comparison, births to U.S.-born women dropped only 5 percent.

The Pew researchers attributed that drop to a change in behavior (the falling birth rates) rather than a change in the number of women (those born in the U.S. or immigrants) of childbearing age.

An earlier Pew report attributed the recent fertility decline to “economic distress.” The study showed that states with the largest economic declines between 2007 and 2008 were most likely to experience relatively large fertility declines the following year.

Hispanic women - both those born in and those born outside the U.S. - experienced larger birth-rate declines from 2007 to 2010 than other groups. They also experienced greater percentage declines in household wealth than white, black, or Asian households between 2005 and 2009, according to the report. Latinos also experienced a greater rise in poverty and unemployment than non-Latinos after the Great Recession began.

The recent decline in births to foreign-born moms reversed a trend in which immigrant women accounted for a rising share of the country’s births, according to the report. In 2007, immigrant mothers accounted for a quarter of all U.S. births, compared to 16 percent in 1990. By 2010, foreign-born moms accounted for 23 percent of all births.

Despite the drop-off among the foreign-born, Pew population projections indicate that immigrants who arrived since 2005 and their descendants will account for 82 percent of U.S. population growth by 2050. Even taking the recent decline in immigration into account, new immigrants and their descendants are still expected to lead most of the nation’s population increase by mid-century, according to the report.

Other findings:

• The majority of births (66 percent) to U.S.-born women were to white mothers. That share has dropped since 1990 when it was 72 percent. The majority of births to foreign-born mothers were to Hispanic moms.

• Teen mothers make up a greater share of births among U.S.-born women (11 percent in 2010) than foreign-born mothers (5 percent).

• Mothers ages 35 and older make up a higher share of births to immigrants (21 percent in 2010) than to moms born in the U.S. (13 percent). Mothers born outside the country accounted for more than a third of births to women ages 35 and older that year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dining to diapers: When romance turns to sacrifice

Society prospers most when its institutions adapts to the strengths and weaknesses of human nature as they really exists. When society is no longer structured to maximize its strengths and compensate for its weaknesses, then the first things that take a hit are relationships and marriages.

Take for instance the falling-in-love process. Hollywood and the music industry do a fine job at glorifying the initial phases of love and sexual attraction. But it does little in giving due attention to the unromantic acts of sacrifices that are needed to sustain that love when the demands of marriage are imposed.

Indeed, the very actors and musical artists who either portray the beginnings of love in movies or sing about them in songs are, themselves, involved in short lived relationships. Infidelity and divorce are astronomically high in the Hollywood subculture. Perhaps this is why Hollywood’s ill-adapted lifestyle to human nature produces just as many casualties as it does stars. Burnout and stardom are virtually an inseparable phenomenon there.

Unfortunately, the entertainment industry has an influence on the expectations couples have on what true love really is. There are many couples who go into a marriage unprepared for the natural evolution or growth that love- the forever kind of love –naturally involves. In the early years of marriage, the opportunities to court one another abound. To go for river walks, to dine frequently and to spend that quality time together are the benefits newlyweds enjoy. This is when the rewards of love are immediate and its demands are minimal.

Another perk is this: Dr. John Gray, author of Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, said that God gives every couple enough hormones too sustain a strong attraction to each for about three to four years. This is a current of romantic and sexual attraction that carries a couple through the beginnings of love. After that, love has to be an act of the will and must become sacrificial.

The mistake couples often make is that they use this beginning phase of love as the golden standard by which they measure their marriage in the later years. When a marriage turns into a family, and children are added to the mix, chores and sacrifices increase. The romantic sparkle of marital love therefore takes a back seat to its more sacrificial form. It is at this juncture when couples miss the good old days of dining and romance. The temptation comes in when they become alarmed at the contrast.

Some spouses count it a defect when they consider that the feelings of love are not what they were. After all, they do not spend as much time together. Instead of the husband taking his wife out to a movie, he is getting up at 3am to change the diapers of his crying child so his wife could get some sleep. Love, in this case, is far from being in a crisis. It has actually matured. And as love matures, its sparkle and perks do not come with ease. Married couples have to work- really work -at courting one another between all of their parenting duties.

However, in a good number of cases, disenchantment comes with this phase of growth. Why? Because love, quiet often, becomes stronger when it is least felt! It is then that it becomes an act of the will; one of self-denial and sacrifice. But the constant theme of “falling-in-love” played out in television shows, movies and songs would suggest to the consumer that when the thrill of love is gone, then true love no longer exists. Yet, the opposite is true. It may be that love is just becoming more selfless.

Just as individual happiness depends on the forgetfulness of self, so too do married couples need to unite around a common objective outside of themselves. And that common objective is raising children. But with more children there are hazards that spouses will stop courting one another. With this, buying flowers, dining and sexual intimacy can just become just another chore. For this reason, married couples wince at having more than one child. However, there is no study, that I am aware of, which suggests that couples with no or few children fare any better in terms of happiness than couples with many children. In fact, from all of the studies that I have read, the opposite is true.

The caution I wish to draw your attention to is this: The first three to five years of marriage is not the best standard by which to measure your subsequent years to. It may serve as content for nostalgia but the pleasantries of love’s beginning are not the things that make for the best kind of love. They certainly may be needed from time to time. Every couple needs reminding that they are first husband and wife before they are mother and father. Nevertheless, spousal love is perfected by the selflessness of parental love because the rewards of the latter are not immediate. More often than not, it is later in life when the married couple will reap the fruits of parenting. It is then that they will see that their labor was not in vain.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

War without tears

Reposting for Memorial Day:

An update: According to a Department of Veteran Affairs study, 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

I had the privilege of providing care for senior citizens on a part-time basis. Two elderly men that I serve in particular are veterans of World War II. This is a privilege, in part, because World War II veterans are becoming scarcer. Many of them are getting up into their late eighties and early nineties.

I always found it curious that many veterans who witnessed military action in war- be it WWII, the Korean War, or the Vietnam War -did not like to talk about their experience in the years to follow. It just so happens that hospices give special training to chaplains and volunteers so that they can properly minister to dying veterans who have suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome. This special training is needed because there are two currents that run counter to each other in men who have to live with these disturbing memories:

The first is that there is a strong tendency not to talk about their war experiences; the very experiences that they have nightmares about; the very experiences that changed the way they related to family members. One gentleman that I provide services for stormed Normandy on D-Day in 1944 and made it as far as Hitler’s house in Austria. And the other gentlemen happened to arrive in Europe just when the "Battle of Bulge" had ended. Although he did not witness any action or killing, he was amongst those U.S. soldiers who did. Almost sixty years later he can still recall their faces. He said there were no smiles. No facial expressions of any kind. Indeed, these survivors of the great battle were virtual catatonic. Yet, statistics would suggest that many of them did not talk about it when they returned home.

Perhaps this is why the U.S. military has a high rate of suicide; at least higher than in other demographics or professions. One report stated that in the year 2010, 54 active-duty airmen in the Air Force committed suicide — 13 more than 2009 — the highest rate since 1993. That’s a lot! This leads us to the second current that runs strong in men who saw people die: The need to talk things out.

These two currents- moving in opposite directions –can cause considerable tension and confusion. You see, military personnel are trained to see beyond the hazards of war. Setting aside vulnerability and hence to rise above pain, suffering and the fear of danger are qualities that make for a successful military operation.

Yet, this manly stoicism and toughness (a noble trait and one that is ingrained in military training) naturally continues into everyday life. Nevertheless, the need to talk things out still remains. Indeed, verbally disclosing what is troubling us on the inside has great therapeutic value. But for men- especially veterans -showing any kind of vulnerability is a sign of weakness; one that betrays the duty to be strong. With this vulnerability, there exists the possibility of shedding tears or sobbing while recounting the horrible scenes they had witnessed.

And therein lies the rub.  It is why a veteran I used to work with shared with his wife the trauma he experienced in Vietnam a whopping fifteen years after they got married. She just could not understand why he waited so long to open up. What she did not take into account was that her husband was trained in the military- and to an extent, by the culture -to rise above his suffering in order to achieve an objective. What he wasn't trained to do is to talk things out, and in talking things out, make himself vulnerable to the emotions that it evokes.

These two contrary currents- the one to be strong and the other to seek help -are ever so pronounced in men. In order for the average boy to become a man, he has to break with his childhood vulnerabilities; more so than a female. For instance, children cry when they get hurt. They immediately seek help. And when women suffer, they, generally speaking, are not ashamed to cry and to seek help. On the other hand, it is often the case that a boy learns his masculine traits in his athletic activities. For instance, he is taught to “shake it off” when he gets hit in the shoulder with a ball. This, I should mention, is not a bad thing. This is how masculinity is fostered.

However, with every strength there is a corresponding weakness. And the weakness ever so discernible in males is the difficulty in reconciling these two contrary currents-- the one to be strong and the other to seek help. Unfortunately, the ability to be strong when called upon by his country, and the willingness to show vulnerability when in a personal crisis, can mean life or death, stability or instability for the veteran or military personnel.

There is a great need for men who are currently serving in the military, and those who have fought in a war, to not only talk things out but to interpret the traumatic circumstances surrounding death in the context of faith and eternity. And if such an individual happens to be Catholic, so much the better because the graces of the Sacraments and the Communion of the Saints are real forces for good in this respect. Through a good spiritual formation, Christ teaches men how to juggle opposites.  He teaches them how to be strong through weakness. As St. Paul said, "I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (II Corinthians 12:10)

Like a good soldier of the Faith, St. Paul knew that his strength was really Christ's strength. And the strength of Christ is most accessible when we have no illusions about our own strength. Such illusions are often dispelled during times of crisis, when we encounter our own weakness and limitations. It is then that divine strength is there for the taking.

This is what veterans and military personnel can learn from a soldier of Christ; that power is made perfect in weakness. Far from being a failure or less than a man, the men who served our country or who are currently serving our country in the military, need to know that human weakness is God's chosen instrument for new life. With new life comes a renewed strength.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Recovering freedom for the American Republic

Orestes Brownson, a convert to Catholicism, wrote what is argued to be his greatest book, The American Republic in 1866. Peter Augustine Lawler, who wrote an introduction to an edition of The American Republic, gave voice to Brownson's view about what Catholicism means to America. He said, "Only the Catholic view of the relationship between political order and religious truth can form the basis of a true and complete understanding of the American Constitution." That relationship presupposes a knowledge about the spiritual and moral incentives upon which freedom rests. But more is needed than just right incentives.

When virtue, risk-taking and the spirit of sacrifice fade through bad habits and ignorance of citizens, conservative or even Christian ideas are not enough to recover freedom; especially, when affections, passions, instincts, and habits of the citizenry are going in the opposite direction. To say it another way: As dependency on the State and the illusion of security that it creates becomes more familiar to Americans, the unfamiliarity with freedom increases. With this, restoring freedom becomes all that much more difficult. The promotion of freedom has to appeal to the affections, passions, instincts, and habits of the American people. Institutions that fill this need are vital for today's American Republic. Below, Brownson spoke to this over a 100 years ago.

Excerpt from The American Republic:

“Men are little moved by mere reasoning, however clear and convincing it may be. They are moved by their affections, passions, instincts, and habits. Routine is more powerful with them than logic. A few are greedy of novelties, and are always trying experiments; but the great body of the people of all nations have an invincible repugnance to abandon what they know for what they know not. They are, to a great extent, the slaves to their own inertia, and will not make the necessary exertion to change their existing mode of life, even for the better. Interest itself is powerless before their indolence, prejudice, habits, and usages…

No reform, no change in the constitution of government or of society, whatever the advantages it may promise, can be successful, if introduced, unless it has its roots in the germ of the past. Man is never a creator; he can only develop and continue, because he himself is only a creature, and only a second cause.

The children of Israel, when they encountered the privations of the wilderness that lay between them and the promised land flowing with milk and honey, fainted in spirit, and begged Moses to lead them back to Egypt, and permit them to return to slavery.”

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Leaving the outcome to God

Pope Benedict XVI once said, “He who acts on Christ’s behalf knows that it is always the case that one sows and another reaps. He does not need to bother incessantly about himself; he leaves the outcome to the Lord and does his own part without anxiety, free and cheerful he is hidden within the whole. If priests today so often feel overworked, tired and frustrated, the blame lies with a strained pursuit of results.” (Called to Communion, 1991) The same applies to anybody seeking to do good for others.

Blessed Mother Theresa used to train the Sisters of Charity for God’s providential method of keeping his servants humble. She would say to her religious sisters that it should not surprise any of them that they strenuously labor to lay the foundation for some project or enterprise only to have someone else to put the finishing touches on it and get the credit for it. This kind of self-effacement is necessary if God is to be glorified. It is not only a great spiritual sacrifice but it is our gift to Christ, who, allowed himself to be effaced by hiding his divinity in his humanity and choosing to live in humble circumstances.

Hyacinth Blocker, in his book, Walk With the Wise (1950), said, “What better penance can we present to God than this effacement of self? So often we think of penance only in terms of detachment from bodily comforts, imagining that penance has reference only to food and drink, to sleep and recreation, to pleasures of sense. Penance also means detachment from honor and fame. It means the erasure from our hearts of pride, vanity, conceit and ambition. It means the rubbing out of that self-centeredness and that exaggerated opinion we often hold of ourselves.”

Another example of self-effacement is the seer of Lourdes, St. Bernadette. Our Lady appeared to her in a series of apparition in 1858. Naturally, as the miracles increased and as her fame spread throughout France, St. Bernadette became the object of admiration and public attention. However, in order to keep the Saint pruned, so to speak, the Lord allowed to her to undergo humiliations and opportunities to forget herself.

For instance, the first basilica at Lourdes was consecrated in 1876, eighteen years after the Blessed Virgin Mary had made this request. One would think that she would want to be present for this great festive moment. After all, she was the chief instrument through which the message of Our Lady of Lourdes was communicated and the miracles that followed. But she declined to attend in order to avoid the public attention. She even told the Sisters of Notre Dame at Nevers “Oh, if only I could see without being seen.”

Blocker then adds: “Perhaps this was the severest sacrifice of her entire life, to deliberately decline the invitation to attend the ceremonies; to remain, instead, in the shadows of obscurity and oblivion when all of her love centered around that holy spot where Mary had smiled upon her…” It would have been easy to attend this ceremony. And who would not have loved, at least deep down, to receive a little recognition? Especially after having gone through all the scrutiny and doubts that rained down upon her by the clergy and the press.

In the age of stardom that we find ourselves in, this virtue of self-effacement, practiced by all of the Saints, is unintelligible to most people. Nevertheless, it is a necessary virtue for us if we are to share in the joy and peace these same Saints benefited from. Furthermore, when we are not consumed with or distracted by not getting the credit for some great achievement or work we performed, the Lord can truly use us for even greater things. Even more important is to know that God will reward every act of generosity we do privately. He who loses himself will find not only himself as he was but a better self.

The desire for human respect, applause and the love of the multitude is not such a bad desire. In fact, the friend of God can expect that desire to be fulfilled…but only in heaven. On this side of eternity, however, such loving attention and applause works to our disadvantage. And as we make our to heaven, we, to use the words of Benedict XVI, would do well to leave the outcome of our labor to the Lord.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

What adult diapers can tell you about a nation

“The responsible exercise of parenthood implies, therefore, that husband and wife recognize fully their own duties towards God, towards themselves, towards the family and towards society, in a correct hierarchy of values.” -Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae 1967

“If our birthrate should again decrease as it did 15 years ago, and that decrease should continue, would we not become the prey of other nations? History does not reveal the survival of a single nation with a declining birthrate in a moment of trial and crisis.”

-Bishop Fulton Sheen, Communism and the Western Conscience 1948

Japan’s birthrate decline and economic challenges...from a business perspective:
What America can learn:

On November 23, 2012, Roben Farzad, from Bloomberg Businessweek reported, “Last year, for the first time, sales of adult diapers in Japan exceeded those for babies...”

Farzad continues: "In 1989, Tokyo-listed shares represented nearly half the planet’s equity value, while the land beneath the city’s royal palace was worth more than all of California. American nightly news anchors practically misted up when they had to report that Rockefeller Center was turning Japanese.

Two lost decades and massive property- and stock-bubble explosions later, Japan is a one-word cautionary tale. Caught in economic and demographic atrophy—and stewarded by countless false-start prime ministers—the country has become a hub for zombie banks, a generation of disenchanted youth, and fading brands such as Sony (SNE), Sharp (6753:JP), and Panasonic (PC)...

James Hunt, portfolio manager of Tocqueville’s International Value Fund and a rare Japan bull, concedes: One of the questions we are asked most often by investors is why we would invest in Japan. Normally, there is a slight tone of derision in the question, as if to say: ‘Everyone knows that Japan has poor demographics, a huge public debt and weak growth prospects.’ And of course, all of these things are true.’ Elsewhere, Hunt says, ‘Everyone thinks Japan is sinking into obscurity.’”

A few months earlier, Michael McDonough, in the Bloomberg Brief, reported some alarming demographic challenges Japan will inevitably face :

“In less than two years, more than one in four Japanese citizens will be over the age of 65, up from one in five in 2006 and one in 10 in 1985. The proportion of the population over 65 is expected to swell to 30 percent by 2022 and to 40 percent by 2050, according to government estimates. This will put the country as a whole in the demographic range of the prefectures that experienced the sharpest declines in growth in the decade ended 2009.

Fewer workers and less labor will reduce the potential output of the Japanese economy, which will increase the country’s reliance on imports as retirees continue to spend, inhibiting GDP growth. The rising number of retirees will strain the government’s welfare programs and the country’s pension funds, which have been major buyers of government bonds. Japan already maintains the world’s second-largest debt load in nominal terms at more than $13.7 trillion and growing.

The government sees this problem. Last week, Japan’s lower house of parliament passed a bill giving private-sector workers the right to remain at their jobs until the age of 65, rather than the current 60.

Japan’s demographics will also likely have an impact on consumer behavior. Japanese consumers older than 65 are less likely to shop for alcohol, clothing, books and electronics compared with younger consumers, according to a McKinsey survey from 2011. The average senior shops for books and clothing 38 and 35 times per year, respectively, compared with 73 and 58 times for people between the ages of 18 and 34. The only item seniors shop for more frequently than younger consumers is food, McKinsey found.

How Japan faces its demographic challenges over the next several decades may provide important lessons for countries such as China, which has a rapidly increasing senior population due largely to the one-child policy. People over 65 account for nearly 10 percent of the population in China — similar to Japan in 1985 — up from 6 percent 20 years ago.”

Friday, November 23, 2012

How Civilizations Die

“Religion is not so much a reflection of the life of a community, as it is the means by which the community seeks a life beyond its temporal existence. At the heart of religion is the encounter with mortality.

Secular political science reduces religion to a belief-structure. But to people of faith, religion is not an ideology, but a life-or-death commitment. The believer stakes his or her life on the hope of conquering death.

Religious communities that forget this- mainline Protestants, Reform Jews, and liberal Catholics –fade away in a generation or two. These questions seem primitive to the modern profession of political science, whose experts consider themselves superior to the obscure debates of the theologians and the enthusiasm of the faithful.

Despite the political scientists, though, communities and nations continue to define themselves by what they hold sacred, and when nothing more is sacred, they lose their reason for being… ----Small civilizations perish for any number of reasons, but great civilizations die only when they no longer want to live…

Greek civilization lost its will to live, prefiguring the condition of Europe today…Our best source on the declining Greece that failed to resist Rome is Polybius (220-146 B.C.), a prominent Greek general who became a tutor to the future conqueror of Carthage.. Meditating on the cause of his nation’s fall to Rome, Polybius blames the Greeks’ refusal to raise children:

‘In our time all Greece was visited by a dearth of children and generally a decay of population, owing to which cities were denuded of inhabitants, and a failure of productiveness resulted, though there were no long-continued wars or serious pestilence among us…For this evil grew upon us rapidly, and without attracting attention, by our men becoming perverted to a passion for show and money and the pleasures of an idle life, and accordingly not marrying at all, or, if they did marry, refusing to rear the children that were born, or most one or two out of a greater number, for the sake of leaving them well off or bringing them up in extravagant luxury…’”

-David P. Goldman, How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is dying too) 2011

The Reluctant Prophet: From empty pews to empty streets

"The Reluctant Prophet" is reposted a couple of times a year for new Sky View readers.

“The most important benefit of population size and growth is the increase it brings to the stock of useful knowledge. Minds matter economically as much as, or more than, hands or mouths.”

-Julian Simon, American Economist

Incentives to Survive:

It is becoming more apparent that there is a relationship between empty pews and childless streets. When the Church is reluctant to preach the fullness of the Gospel or when she omits from public discourse those doctrines which find little favor in society, the incentive for people to amend their lives fades. Without specifying sins from the pulpit- especially the sin of contraception and the consequent aversion to having children –people not only miss the opportunity to repent from immoral and harmful behaviors, but they will inevitably lack the motive to attend Mass and have their sins forgiven. Empty pews are the result of fewer people benefiting from grace.

In the absence of grace, that moral power to be good, a civilization which is rooted in love and based on human dignity becomes exceedingly difficult to sustain. As such, both the individual and society falls into self-destructive habits. People begin to live for the moment. The convenience of cohabitation replaces the stabilizing effects of marriage and couples opt to have fewer children in favor of possessing more things. Historically, the unintended consequence of such easy lifestyles is that whole societies fail to reproduce themselves and survive. Such was the case with ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. As Arnold Toynbee said, civilizations do not die from murder but from suicide.

The Reluctant Prophet:

It is to be regretted that Western Civilization will have to relearn the painful lessons of history. But unlike ancient pagan civilization (at least before the birth of Christ), we have a prophet in our midst; and the prophet is the Catholic Church. Our Lord conferred on the Catholic Church the authority to speak in his name . He said to the Apostles, “As Father sends Me, so I send you.” And throughout history- both in and out of season –the Church not only proclaimed the Good News but she also positioned herself as a Sign of Contradiction. As Pope Paul VI said, “To tell the truth, the Church is not surprised to be made, like her divine Founder, a ‘sign of contradiction’, yet she does not because of this cease to proclaim with humble firmness the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.”

In recent years, however, the Church has been a reluctant prophet to the modern world as Jonah was to the Ninavites. Just as the widespread use of contraception ushered in the Sexual Revolution in 1968, Pope Paul VI- as if compelled by the Holy Spirit –wrote an encyclical with the Latin title Humanae Vitae (On the Regulation of Birth). In this letter he reiterated the moral law concerning the use of contraception and its social repercussions; this, just when Paul Ehrlich, author of Population Bomb, and academia at large were propagating the myth of overpopulation.

Contracepting Ourselves Out of Existence:

For the next forty-plus years the pope's predictions about the effects of artificial reduction of births would come to pass: increased marital infidelity, the objectification of women and the general lowering of morality are but a few. And now, with the threat of a demographic collapse, one would think that the Catholic Church would see herself as being vindicated on this issue. Julian Simon, the American economist and former professor at the University of Maryland, vindicated what the Church has always taught. He said, “The most important benefit of population size and growth is the increase it brings to the stock of useful knowledge. Minds matter economically as much as, or more than, hands or mouths.”
Yet, it is as if the demographic challenges and social problems resulting from the widespread use of contraception has never happened. Indeed, the Church has been relatively silent about contraception and its perilous effect on Western Civilization. Her doctrine has been validated by recent economic and sociological developments and yet there is little confidence to show for it.

Japan, the first Western nation to legalize abortion in 1948, is now an aging culture resembling a top-heavy, inverted pyramid of elderly citizens. Japan's younger generations are increasingly carrying a disproportionate burden of subsidizing its elders. For the last 10 years its once prosperous economy has suffered decline. Japan is a good index of what our future might look like. Indeed, Europe and America are sure to follow Japan’s downward decline if it continues with the same old contraceptive mentality. As a matter of fact, there are 103 nations which are under the 2.1 replacement fertility rate needed to sustain a civilization. Most of these nations are European. Below are just a few nations that facing a demographic crisis:

Current Birth Rate of Nations:

US 2.06
Ireland 2.02
France 1.96
UK 1.91
Australia 1.78
Norway 1.77
Denmark 1.74
Finland 1.73
Sweden 1.67
Belgium 1.65
Canada 1.58
China 1.54
Spain 1.47
Switzerland 1.46
Georgia 1.45
Russia 1.42
Georgia 1.45
Germany 1.41
Austria 1.40
Italy 1.39
Greece 1.38
Poland 1.30
Lithuania 1.25
Japan 1.21

The Vatican's Backyard: Italy

Keep in mind that once the birthrate falls below 1.6 it is nearly impossible to reverse the trend. In any case, the most painful truth of the depopulation of the West is how reluctant the Church has been to raise her prophetic voice about this critical issue. The very backyard of the Vatican, namely, the nation of Italy is contracepting itself out of existence. How few children and pregnant women there are in Europe! As one Englishman remarked, “If an adult is walking with more than three children in public, the average European will assume that he or she is running a daycare.” To be sure, their aging population is palpable because their streets are childless and the Cathedrals are empty. And as I said previously, childless streets result from empty pews. After all, hope comes from faith. And without hope sacrificial love loses its value; children are then seen as a burden.

To Repent, Must Know the Sin:

Catholics, both clergy and laity, would do well to do an examination of conscience; to take the plank out of our eye before we assign blame to a decadent culture. If the Church is not going to bother to call Europeans to repentance by addressing specific sins- such as contraception and cohabitation -why should Europeans (or Americans for that matter) bother with church on Sunday's at all? In order for Jesus Christ to save us from our sins, we must know what those sins are, turn away from them and turn towards him. But if the Church does not cast its light on the sin of contraception and the unwillingness to have as many children as God wills, then Jesus cannot save us from these sins. Consequently, he will not be in a position to save our civilization.

Why the Silence?

For the life of me I cannot imagine why the Catholic Church- both on a universal and local level –does not implore Christians in no uncertain terms to "have more children!" In recent decades there has not been a papal encyclical or any urgent and bold campaign by the Holy See to remedy this cultural suicide. Sure, there has been a mention here and a document there, but so far these expressions have been mere whispers. We could also probably count, on one hand, the number of sermons in our local parishes which addressed the need to be generous with God in having children. As for myself, I have heard it mentioned in passing once or twice at the most.

Raising Her Prophetic Voice:

What is needed is for the Church- a reluctant prophet up to now –to raise her voice as she has done so many times in centuries past. In a direct and unequivocal manner, there is a need to repeat the message that children are a blessing to the world, not a liability. And the more there are, the better we become. The Gospel of Life demands this and our future depends on it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ancient Rome: The political and social crisis

Reposted: Just in case you missed it

Book: The Church of the Apostles and Martyrs (1948)
Author: Henri Daniel-Rops

Points from this excerpt:
• Centralization: demise of local authority
• State financial crisis
• Tyranny or autocracy
• Feminism and the shortage of real men
• Multiculturalism
• Depopulation
• Sexual revolution


Recently I have been posting excerpts from books by good Catholic historians whose insights are rarely considered nowadays. Hilaire Belloc, Christopher Dawson, Alexis de Tocqueville and Henri Daniel-Rops are some of my favorite. If we can learn from the causes of growth and decline in previous civilizations, perhaps the restoration of America’s greatness is still a possibility. Indeed, history bears witness that the main force of cultural birth and renewal comes from the Catholic Church.

By the time Christianity had been legalized in 313 A.D., the Roman Empire’s decline had long since started. Because the Catholic Church was suppressed for nearly three hundred years she was hardly in a position to save the public institutions of ancient Rome.

This is why the religious liberty of the Catholic Church is so important in America. If Catholics can recover the confidence that their spiritual ancestors possessed, the confidence needed to successfully carry out their mission, then America has fighting chance to retain her greatness. To put it bluntly, Europe appears to be a lost cause with its impending demographic collapse and decades of abandoning its Christian roots, but there is still hope for America.

Enter Henri Daniel-Rops on Ancient Rome:The political and social crisis:

The circumstances which the political crisis revealed in brutal fashion existed in every field of human activity. Though the word decadence cannot be applied to the Empire of the first two centuries A.D., its use begins to be justified by the third. All those cracks which the solid structure of the Imperium already possessed in the heyday of its splendor were now growing wider and deeper. Infection had triumphed over many parts of an organism which reacted more and more ineffectually against the forces of destruction…

[The] social crisis was fundamentally linked with the evolution of the State’s very principles. This evolution was a disastrous one. The Roman citizen, in fact, no longer existed. In 212 Caracalla [Roman emperor from 198-217 A.D.] had extended the right of citizenship to all free men living in urban communities or on land they owned, whatever their origin or place of residence within the Empire. What impelled the emperor to make such a splendid present in an epoch of disturbance and wretchedness? The inscription of a man’s name on the civic lists meant that it was inscribed also upon the register of new taxes! Did these raw new citizens at once acquire the traditions and virtues of ancient Rome? Increasingly, whatever classification might be used, there were no longer any citizens, only subjects, bound to obey a growing autocracy.

If the citizen was in decline the municipality was equally so. The municipal regime which had been the keystone of the early Empire, enabling immense structure to retain all of its flexibility, was showing signs of weakening. The local authorities, confronted with an increasingly serious financial situation, shirked their responsibilities. Municipal councilors could no longer be found, and it was necessary to go so far as to nominate men to the office, at the same time holding them as sureties for the fiscal collections! The almost federal system of the Golden Age was gradually replaced by centralization and bureaucracy, the typical evils of declining regimes. Only one solution could be found to the problem of supervising the cities: they were given imperial administrators. The reign of bureaucrats began. From about the year 200 decree after decree appeared, exempting the officials and the tenants of the emperor’s estates from all duties and taxes. The more time went by, the more the State intervened in all sectors of activity; the more precarious its authority became, the more it claimed the right to impose that authority everywhere…

And although during the first two centuries A.D. the Empire progressed farther and farther along the road towards centralization and state control, the Roman world did not yet know the defects inherent in these methods of government, defects of which it was subsequently to have most painful experience: incoherency of purpose and inertia, waste and ineffectualness.

Inscriptions dating from the first emperor’s reign have been found at several places in Asia Minor. On them we can read sentences like this one: "Providence sent us Augustus, as a Savior, to put an end to war and to regulate all of our affairs; the day of his birth marked the beginning of Good News for the whole world…"

The entire moral atmosphere of this epoch was permeated by a new style of feminism, which had been brought from the East by the Syrian princesses of Septimius Serverus’ [Roman emperor] family: women filled the roles of men because the men were wanting…

But there was something even worse than this landslide of society towards moral inertia; or, to put it more accurately, a second phenomenon existed alongside it, deriving from the same causes, and especially from the excessive enrichment of all sections of the population. Roman society was attacked in its most vital spot, at the source which sustains all societies; the structure of the family was shaken to its roots, and the birth-rate began to fall. The mother of the Gracchi had borne twelve children; and the beginning of the second century A.D. parents who had as many as three were to be praised as quite exceptional.

Men shirked marriage and its obligations: had not the orbitas, the bachelor, all the advantages the principal being to assure the rich man of a permanently faithful following of expectant heirs? And, after all, he was depriving himself of nothing, since slavery provided him with bed companions who were more docile than any legal wife, and who, moreover, could be exchanged whenever he wanted. Abortion and the ‘exposing’ of the new-born babies...acquiring terrifying proportions: in Trajan’s reign one inscription gives the precise information that, of 181 new-born infants, 179 were legitimate, and that the latter figure included only 35 girls. This proves how lightly people disposed of their daughters and their bastards. As for divorce, it became so common place that no one attempted to provide reasonable justification for it any more: the simple desire for change sufficed.

The substitution of the State edict for the individual conscience is always a sure sign of decadence, in every country and in every age. A nation is indeed sick at heart if in order to live decently and to produce children it needs a series of subsidies and rules to enable it to do so…It was no longer for the emperor and his jurists to attempt to restore the healthy foundations of Roman society. Nothing less than a radical change in the very bases of morality itself, and in its effects upon the individual’s mind, would now suffice [Here, Daniel-Rops was referring to the sanctity of the soul].

Was there any attempt to halt this moral disintegration? States have always shown themselves completely incapable of restoring their moral foundations once they have allowed them to weaken. The Roman rulers were far from being unaware of the peril, but their good intentions were absurdly useless, in view of the strength of the forces which were driving their society on to ruin. Augustus’s example is cogent evidence of this. He promulgated countless laws with the loftiest of moral intentions, in an effort to fight the twin scourges of adultery and divorce…


1. Ralph Martin Novak, author of Christianity and the Roman Empire, provides a sobering statistic of third century Rome which serves as a warning to our U.S. government.He said,

"It is estimated that whereas at the start of the third century A.D. the Roman emperors employed only about 300 to 350 full-time individuals in administering the Empire, by 300 A.D. this number had grown to some 30,000 or 35,000 people [italics added]. The expense of this vastly increased administrative and military structure was an enormous burden on the people of the Empire, and the burden only grew more oppressive over the course of the fourth century A.D....Rome's efforts to collect the taxes necessary to pay for defense and administration exacerbated the already deep social and economic divisions within the Roman empire."

The thankless job of Old Testament prophets

The Old Testament prophets were holy men who were persecuted by kings and ostracized by religious elders. If truth be told, their contemporaries had no use for them. And it is not an exaggeration to say that they were called by God to embrace a thankless job. Yet, several years after they had died, their writings were enshrined into the Old Testament canon. That's right. They were eventually heralded by the Jews as great men.

To be sure, the writings of the prophets took on great importance for the faith of the Jews in the centuries to come. They even had national significance for Israel. And after the Apostles were sent out into the world, the writings of the prophets were honored by many nations throughout the world.

Eventually, it was understood that these prophets spoke and had written the very words of God. Nevertheless, it took the destruction of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and Judah (the Southern Kingdom) in order for the Hebrews to realize this. Indeed, it wasn’t until after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. and the people of God were deported from their homeland that the writings of the prophets were seen for what they were- the inspired Word of God!

The suffering that afflicted Israel and Judah was captured in the writings of Habakkuk: “How long, O LORD? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and clamorous discord.” (Habakkuk 1:2-3) As for the prophets, during their lifetime they received little respect. They had to be content with being outsiders for the Lord’s sake.

The reason why the Old Testament prophets were met with such hostility when they communicated God’s message was because Israel enjoyed considerable prosperity and comfort at that time. Between the years 950 and 740 B.C., for instance, not a few citizens had a regular home and a vacation house. At the same time, however, many Israelites had fallen into idolatry and had practiced the lowest forms of immorality. The poor were neglected. Sexual deviancy was rampant. And child-sacrifices were even performed to appease their new gods.

Is it not true that false gods demand innocent blood? Pardon the digression, but I wonder if America has drifted towards a new god; certainly not a Greek god like Zeus or a Roman god like Jupiter, but modern god like the State. Keep in mind that prosperity or political power- by themselves –are no indication that God’s favor is upon those who enjoy it. Historian Guglielmo Ferrero, in his book, "Ancient Rome and Modern America," (1914) reminded us of this truth when he said, "A civilization is not always in reality richer and stronger in times when it bears the most visible marks of so being. We are rather apt to find that when it is most dazzling and outward seeming, its decadence has already begun."

In any event, the prophet Amos was from the southern kingdom of Israel known as Judah. He was called by God to minister to the northern kingdom; then known as Israel (Israel used to be one kingdom but it divided into two nations in about the year 740 B.C.). He was just a plain old farmer minding his own business when God called him.

In his book, he briefly mentioned the way in which he was called by God. Such a calling won him no friends among his contemporaries. In his book, he writes about how he was treated by the religious elders of Israel: “To Amos, Amaziah said: ‘Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying, but never again prophesy in Bethel; for it is the king's sanctuary and a royal temple.’ Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.’” (Amos 7:12-14)

That’s right. Amos and his message were not welcomed. In times of ease, spiritual sacrifices and repentance is rarely a popular thing. The rejection of the Amos probably had something to do with what he prophesied to the nation of Israel. He said, “Hear this word, O men of Israel, that the LORD pronounces over you, over the whole family that I brought up from the land of Egypt: You alone have I favored, more than all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your crimes.” (Amos 3:1-2)

As harsh as this message was to hear, it was one of liberation. Neither the kings of Israel nor the religious establishment took heed in the prophet’s words. But if the Israelites had taken to heart the Word of God as spoken by Amos, the nation most likely would have been saved. But no, Israel had to learn the hard way…like many nations throughout history. In fact, Israel (the Northern Kingdom with ten out of the twelve tribes) was totally destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.

The vocation of an Old Testament prophet was not an easy one; rather, it was lonely and strenuous. The prophet Jeremiah was a fine illustration of this very point. The Lord just happened to communicate His Word through his wild series of emotional highs and lows. Things would get so bad for Jeremiah, that he regretted the day he was born. At one point, he cried out: “Cursed be the day on which I was born! May the day my mother gave me birth never be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, saying, ‘A child, a son, has been born to you!" filling him with great joy.’” (Jeremiah 20:14-15)

He, like Amos and Habakkuk, knew what it meant to see his own people- a nation he grew up to love – disregard its great traditions and even the Word of God. And as a bearer of that Word, he knew all too well that a prophet is never accepted in his home town.

Perhaps it is better to say that a prophet is never accepted by the generation he is born into. Most of the time it would take years for people to take in and appreciate the depth, wisdom and value of what a prophet of God had to offer his contemporaries.

I just hope that America doesn’t take as long as Israel took to rediscover what God told us long ago: "For he who finds me finds life, and wins favor from the LORD; but he who misses me harms himself..." (Proverbs 8:35-36)

The Messiah’s Resume: Submitted Before His Career Began

Reposting for the upcoming Advent Season:


The date these prophecies were penned range from 1400 years to 300 years before the birth of Christ. Bishop Fulton Sheen said that if God were to come the least he can do is to tell the world beforehand. That is exactly what he did. In fact, he submitted his resume to his people before he descended from heaven and took on human nature. As such, the world was expecting the arrival of the Messiah. He was the only religious leader whose coming was foretold hundreds of years in advance.

I Existed Before Time:

Before the mountains:

Proverbs 8:22-31 The LORD begot me, the first-born of his ways, the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago; From of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no fountains or springs of water; before the mountains were settled into place, before the hills, I was brought forth; while as yet the earth and the fields were not made, nor the first clods of the world. "When he established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep; When he made firm the skies above, when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth; When he set for the sea its limit, so that the waters should not transgress his command; Then was I beside him as his craftsman, and I was his delight day by day, Playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the sons of men.

From God’s mouth:

Sirach 24:2-12 From the mouth of the Most High I came forth, and mist-like covered the earth. In the highest heavens did I dwell, my throne on a pillar of cloud. The vault of heaven I compassed alone, through the deep abyss I wandered. Over waves of the sea, over all the land, over every people and nation I held sway. Among all these I sought a resting place; in whose inheritance should I abide? Then the Creator of all gave me his command, and he who formed me chose the spot for my tent, Saying, 'In Jacob make your dwelling, in Israel your inheritance.' Before all ages, in the beginning, he created me, and through all ages I shall not cease to be. In the holy tent I ministered before him, and in Zion I fixed my abode. Thus in the chosen city he has given me rest, in Jerusalem is my domain. I have struck root among the glorious people, in the portion of the LORD, his heritage.

My Birth: Exceptional but Humble

The Rising Star:

Numbers 24:17 Balaam said, “I see him, though not now; I behold him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel…”

Virgin with child

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

Wisdom 3: 13 Yes, blessed is she who, childless and undefiled, knew not transgression of the marriage bed; she shall bear fruit at the visitation of souls.

A child is born to us:

Isaiah 9:5-6 For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever…

Where I will be born:

Micah 5:1-3 But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. (Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne, And the rest of his brethren shall return to the children of Israel.) He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the LORD, in the majestic name of the LORD, his God; and they shall remain, for now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth;

New Hearts Through Baptism:

My spirit within you:

Ezekiel 36:25-27 I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.

My law on your hearts:

Jeremiah 31:31, 33 The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

My Mission:

The coming Prophet:

Deuteronomy 18:15 Moses said, "A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen.”

I myself will come:

Zechariah 2:14 Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the LORD.

The Good Shepherd:

Ezekiel 34:15-16 I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal (but the sleek and the strong I will destroy), shepherding them rightly.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit:

Isaiah 11:1-4 But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land's afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.

From the shoot of David:

Jeremiah 33:14-15 The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land.

My Priesthood:

Melchizedek: A preview of Christ

Genesis 14:18-19 Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine, and being a priest of God Most High, he blessed Abram with these words: Blessed be Abram by God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth…

God ordains his Son from Eternity:

Psalm 110:2-4 The scepter of your might: the LORD extends your strong scepter from Zion. Have dominion over your enemies! Yours is princely power from the day of your birth. In holy splendor before the daystar, like dew I begot you. The LORD has sworn and will not waver: “You are a priest forever in the manner of Melchizedek.”

A clean sacrifice:

Malachi 1:11 For from the rising of the sun, even to its setting, my name is great among the nations; And everywhere they bring sacrifice to my name, and a pure offering; For great is my name among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.

The Church with altar and sacrifice:

Isaiah 56-5-7 I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name Better than sons and daughters; an eternal, imperishable name will I give them. And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to him, Loving the name of the LORD, and becoming his servants - All who keep the Sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, Them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; Their holocausts and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Building the house of God:

II Samuel 7:11-14 Words spoken to King David: “The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you. And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. It is he who shall build a house for my name. And I will make his royal throne firm forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.”

Palm Sunday:

Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, Meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.

My Abandonment and Death:

His accusers:

Wisdom 2:13-20 “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, Because his life is not like other men's, and different are his ways. He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the just and boasts that God is his Father. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him."

Holy Week foretold:

Daniel 9:24-27 “Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and for your holy city: Then transgression will stop and sin will end, guilt will be expiated, Everlasting justice will be introduced, vision and prophecy ratified, and a most holy will be anointed…After the sixty-two weeks an anointed shall be cut down when he does not possess the city; and the people of a leader who will come shall destroy the sanctuary…For one week he shall make a firm compact with the many; half the week he shall abolish sacrifice and oblation; on the temple wing shall be the horrible abomination until the ruin that is decreed is poured out upon the horror."

Our infirmities he bore:

Isaiah 53: 1-12 Who would believe what we have heard? To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him. He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem.

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all. Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth. Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, and who would have thought any more of his destiny? When he was cut off from the land of the living, and smitten for the sin of his people, a grave was assigned him among the wicked and a burial place with evildoers, though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood. (But the LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity.)

If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him. Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear. Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.


Zechariah 12:10 They shall look on him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a first-born.


Psalm 22:2 My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish? My God, I call by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I have no relief.

God Raised Me Up:

On the third day:

Hosea 6:2 He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up, to live in his presence.

He raised me up:

Psalm 18:5-7,17 The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction terrified me. The cords- of Sheol encircled me; the snares of death lay in wait for me. In my distress I called out: LORD! I cried out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry to him reached his ears. The earth rocked and shook; the foundations of the mountains trembled; they shook as his wrath flared up…He reached down from on high and seized me; drew me out of the deep waters.

Raising the dead:

Ezekiel 37:1-14 The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he led me out in the spirit of the LORD and set me in the center of the plain, which was now filled with bones. He made me walk among them in every direction so that I saw how many they were on the surface of the plain. How dry they were! He asked me: Son of man, can these bones come to life? "Lord GOD," I answered, "you alone know that."

Then he said to me: Prophesy over these bones, and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: See! I will bring spirit into you, that you may come to life. I will put sinews upon you, make flesh grow over you, cover you with skin, and put spirit in you so that you may come to life and know that I am the LORD. I prophesied as I had been told, and even as I was prophesying I heard a noise; it was a rattling as the bones came together, bone joining bone.

I saw the sinews and the flesh come upon them, and the skin cover them, but there was no spirit in them. Then he said to me: Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, son of man, and say to the spirit: Thus says the Lord GOD: From the four winds come, O spirit, and breathe into these slain that they may come to life. I prophesied as he told me, and the spirit came into them; they came alive and stood upright, a vast army. Then he said to me: Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They have been saying, "Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, and we are cut off." Therefore, prophesy and say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD. I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.

My Glory and Dominion:
The Son of Man on the clouds of heaven:

Daniel 7:13-14 As the visions during the night continued, I saw One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, He received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.

His inheritance:

Psalm 2:7-8 I will proclaim the decree of the LORD, he said to me, “You are my son; today I have begotten you. Ask it of me, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, and, as your possession, the ends of the earth.

My Mother and My Enemy:

Genesis 3:15 God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel."

Isaiah 14:12-15 "How have you fallen from the heavens, O morning star, son of the dawn! How are you cut down to the ground, you who mowed down the nations! You said in your heart: 'I will scale the heavens; Above the stars of God I will set up my throne; I will take my seat on the Mount of Assembly, in the recesses of the North. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will be like the Most High!' Yet down to the nether world you go to the recesses of the pit!"

Monday, November 19, 2012

Nanny-city mayors and our diet

Immediately following the New York City Board of Health approved a ban on the sale of large sodas at restaurants, street carts and movie theaters in September of 2012, Mayor Bloomberg said this: “This is the single biggest step any city, I think, has ever taken to curb obesity…It’s certainly not the last step that lots of cities are going to take, and we believe that it will help save lives.”

This week, just two months after Bloomberg’s unprecedented move to regulate what people drink and how much they drink it, Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago decided to crack down on the unhealthy eating habits of city folks. He said, “These new vending machines will make it easier than ever before for city employees and the public to make healthy lifestyle decisions…When city employees take their wellness into their own hands, we can reduce health care costs and also serve as a model for the residents of Chicago when it comes to making healthy choices.”

Although comparing Bloomberg and Emanuel to Nazi’s is extreme, what isn’t extreme is to put their policies side by side with what the Hitler Youth health manual stated. It reads: “Nutrition is not a private matter!” In the opinion of Germany's national socialist party, the nutrition and diet of Germans was a political matter. An activity that can be lawfully regulated by the State.

With a statist mindset, whether it be city mayors inspired by secular-liberalism or the Third Reich itself, the proper distinction between private domain and public domain inevitably gets blurred. Christopher Dawson, in his book, Religion and the Modern State, gave us a heads-up about this very development in 1938. He said,

“The new State will be universal and omnipotent. It will mould the mind and guide the life of its citizens from the cradle to the grave. It will not tolerate any interference with its educational functions by any sectarian organization, even though the latter is based on religious convictions…They will govern the whole life. It will be impossible to go one’s own way, as in the old days, and leave the State in control of politics. For there will be no department of life in which the State will not intervene and which will not be obliged to conform to the mechanized order of the new society.”

But when Christianity is allowed to act, in some measure, upon the State, lines are drawn in the sand and distinctions made between what we owe to Caesar and what we owe to God. The central Gospel truth that every person was created by God, created in the likeness of God and created for God naturally puts limitations on the State. In the past, it prevented the State from doing too much.

Is it not the case that where the government’s intervention ends, the initiative of the citizen begins? And is it not also the case that when a State assumes the role of a nanny, it will presume to take on the role of a master?

Bottom line: The nanny state has to be resisted if the master is to be kept at bay. I think mayor Bloomberg should be taken seriously when, after his ban on big soda drinks kicked in, he said, "It’s certainly not the last step that lots of cities are going to take and we believe that it will help save lives.” ."

God, save us from their compassion!

Why conservatives can’t save America

On a daily basis Rush Limbaugh talks about the decline of America and how conservatives are losing the country. On both counts he happens to be right. As a conservative commentator, Rush provides some good insight into political issues. But he, like many conservative media commentators and political operatives, suffers from a certain disadvantage due to blind spots. Because of this disadvantage, I would argue that conservatives cannot save America. There are three reasons why:

The first reason why conservatives can’t save America is this: Patrons of secular-liberalism, whether they are in the media or the political world, are a united front. In fact, not only do they use the same talking points but they often use the same words to communicate those talking points. They have no problem with belonging to a group or appearing on the same stage together or consorting with one another in order to advance one agenda.

On the other hand, when is the last time you saw Rush Limbaugh on the same stage with, let’s say, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin or Glenn Beck? These high profile conservatives rarely, if at all, come together to promote conservative causes. Sure, they attend, as featured speakers, conservative conventions like C-PAC and the Heritage Foundation conferences. But by and large, the most influential conservatives are like islands; they do their own thing without any sense of collaboration or community. They lack unity!

Even Rush admitted on his November 19th (in 2012) radio program that there is no single conservative leader or movement. From all appearances, it seems to be fragmented without any real principle of unity. And to make matters worse, the Republican Party- courtesy of the Republican establishment -seems to be moving away from conservative principles.

For instance, the Republican presidential nominee for the last two presidential elections in 2008 and 2012 were not to the liking of many conservatives. If it was up to Rush Limbaugh, McCain (2008) and Romney (2012) would not have been the candidates representing the Republican Party. As Rush himself admits, he is an outsider as it pertains to the Republican Party. But so is the Tea Party as is conservatism at large. If conservatism really does exist as a single movement, it is like a bird in flight without a nest. It doesn’t have a home because there is no principle of authority and unity to give it structure and form.

The second reason why conservatives can’t save America is this: Conservative think-tanks, as good as they are, cannot compete with a secular media and a State-run education system. Secular-liberalism currently enjoys a monopoly on public education. Its effectiveness lies not only with its universal reach; its propaganda also has been adapted to children in elementary school, middle school and high school.

Quite often, conservatives do not get to the average American citizen until after he or she has undergone a lifelong training in secular and liberal ways of thinking. Think-tanks and conservative talk radio do not have near the reach with younger generations as do public schools, the media or the entertainment industry. More often than not, if sound principles are not absorbed during the childhood years, it is too late. Catholic historian, Hilaire Belloc, points out the obvious disadvantage of late arrivals. He said, "For the most part what is not emphasized is not believed to exist. Often, from its unfamiliarity, that which is a stranger to education in childhood, is thought to lack credibility by the grown man."

Secular-liberalism is not only taught in schools, but it is expressed in songs, in movies, and in news reporting. It has become a cultural phenomenon precisely because it is not only an idea but a way of life. This ideology does not confine itself to fiscal and national security policies like conservatism does. Rather, it seeks to appeal to our sexuality, relationships, entertainment, the environment, to our diet and how we parent. It is, in every sense of the word, totalitarian; that is, secular-liberalism is comprehensive in its scope much like religion is. On the other hand, conservatism has a hard time translating itself into the realm of sexuality, relationships etc. And because it is not a way of life, it has a hard time sticking.

This leads us to the third reason why conservatives can’t save America: One of the reasons why conservatism is not a way of life is because it is becoming more and more disengaged from its roots; that is, from its social and religious values! Rush Limbaugh used to talk about the virtue of chastity, the sanctity of marriage and other Christian values on his radio program. With regard to abstinence, he used to say. “It works every time you try it.” But in recent years he has been using this phrase when speaking of cutting taxes. If truth be told, conservatism has become materialistic in nature. Indeed, conservatism has been reduced to a philosophy about jobs and the economy. These are good things but there is more to life than this.

It just so happens that the stern discipline of liberty and the sacrifices that a free market requires are becoming less palatable to the American public because they were never meant to exist in isolation. They need to be planted in an environment with other principles supporting it, aided by outside sources of strength and other incentives which transcend conservatism itself. For instance, the family is the institution where self-governance is best taught. But with the breakdown of the family, self-governance is less viable in other institutions. To put it another way: to the degree that discipline, virtue and self-governance are not fostered in the home, the State picks up the slack with its multiple regulations, bureaucracy and overall control.

Yet, more and more conservatives are supporting values and lifestyles that undermine the nuclear family such as same-sex marriage, extramarital sex and abortion rights. They are distancing themselves from Christian social values and even Christianity know, "the religious right." Ever so slowly they are wandering from the path that made America great. Worse yet, they are gradually becoming what they profess to oppose. That's right. Many of them are becoming liberal where it matters most.

Therefore, the answer to America's decline is not to be found within the narrow confines of conservatism. The answer is much bigger; it runs much deeper; its reach is much broader; and it is much older than today's conservatism. In fact, it gave birth to Western Civilization. Lord Acton alluded to it when he wrote the following:

"When Christ said, 'Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,' whose words, spoken on His last visit to the Temple, three days before His Death, gave to the civil power, under the protection of conscience, a sacredness it had never enjoyed, and bounds it had never acknowledged; and they were the repudiation of absolutism and the inauguration of freedom. For our Lord not only delivered the precept, but created the force to execute it."

This force was not conservatism. Conservatism, at least those principles that are praiseworthy and consistent with the Gospel, was but the outgrowth of that force. But as to the force itself, it is none other than the Catholic Church. She is the Mother of those institutions that made Western Civilization great.

Currently, the force that Christ delivered does not seem all that impressive. In fact, it even seems to be on the retreat in the face of aggressive secularism. But these words from Dr. Phil Jenkins are worth recalling: “Mark Twain remarked on how often the world had turned out for the burial of Roman Catholicism, only to find it postponed yet again..."

Secularism-liberalism is not an option but conservatism is not enough. For that reason, Catholicism will have to be summoned out into the public square to save what has been lost. And to be sure, there are many things that have been lost in American politics.