Saturday, August 31, 2013

Magnificat meditation: Taking the Lowest Place

By: Guigo de Ponte,
Carthusian monk of the Grande Chartreuse
in the French Alps
1297 A.D.

The gloss comments, “Pride is the last vice to leave returning to God and the first to greet those leaving God behind.” Someone has put it well: Although you are fighting well and think you have uprooted everything, pride still threatens to recontaminate you and must therefore be conquered. For the proud enemy uses pride from the start to make a man who is eager to hurry to heaven think that he amounts to something in the Lord’s eyes or in the eyes of certain men, to think that he is more virtuous and less given to vices than he really is- and to have just the opposite opinion of others.

In this light it is a great grace to steady the heart (Heb 13:9) and, by steady humility, to acquiesce to the Word of God that says, When you are invited to a wedding feast, sit down in the lowest place (Lk 14:10) and Esteem others better than yourself (Phil 2:3).

Let us then humbly and pragmatically put into practice the advice Saint Bernard rightly gives in his sermon on the Canticle: “I do not want you to compare yourself to those greater or lesser than you, to a particular few, not even to a single person, etc.” For we do not even know for sure what state we are in or what shall become of us tomorrow- much less can we know the truth about others. We are all created by one Creator, who establishes the members of the Body of Christ not according to our judgments but according to his own knowledge. Brought to you courtesy of the September edition of the Magnificat

Strategies, Same-sex Marriage and Liberty Rights

Reposted for new Sky View readers:


There are certain strategies used by gay-rights advocates that have been particularly successful in appealing to the sympathies and gaining the support of the American public. The New Evangelization, it would seem, is charged with the mission of preaching the Gospel and addressing the premises upon which same-sex marriage is argued.

With this, religious liberty will not only have to be defended against the encroachments of an intrusive federal government (i.e. H.H.S. mandate), but its defenders will have to make a case why the preservation of traditional marriage is the only viable union a society can thrive on. Furthermore, there will be the unfortunate task, as is already the case, of dispelling the accusation that to exclusively favor marriage as being between a man and a woman is inspired by bigotry and phobia. As Pope Benedict XVI warned, “Very soon it will no longer be possible to affirm that homosexuality (as the Catholic Church teaches) constitutes an objective disorder in the structure of human existence…”

PBS: Orgullo Latino

The PBS channel runs a production of documentaries known as In the Life Media. On their website it says that there mission is to “produce change through innovative media that exposes social injustice by chronicling lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender life.” Several months ago, PBS featured one of their documentaries entitled, Orgullo Latino (meaning: The Pride of Latinos). The whole premise of the film was to show that although the Latino community places a high premium on masculinity and traditional values, it, nevertheless, is accepting the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) lifestyle with greater frequency.

What is particularly instructive for the Catholic Church are the methods and themes used to promote homosexuality. In short, their evangelical-like fervor and mission have been very effective on a political, social and religious level. LGBT advocates have demonstrated that they will settle for nothing less than making disciples of all nations. Their quest is to make a “new kind of family” (cf. ABC Family channel) socially and politically acceptable in every quarter of society. And as for those who oppose them, the Orgullo Latino documentary singles out Catholicism as the main point of contention. I cannot help but believe that the political agenda of the LGBT community will soon come into greater conflict with the Church’s mission to preach God’s truth about human sexuality. It is even conceivable that the pulpit and the altar will not be spared. Indeed, this push to redefine marriage and the family will likely proceed from the public square into the sanctuary. More on that later.

Orgullo Latino highlights the significance of the growing population of Latinos in America. The program reports that the United States of America has no less the 50 million Latinos. In fact, one out of every four babies born in this nation is of Hispanic descent. For this reason, there are political and economic advantages in getting Latinos to accept LGBT values. To be sure, Latinos will be a strong cultural force both in the public square and in the market place. Yet, according to Orgullo Latino, there are stereo types to overcome. Chief among them is the masculinity or macho persona of the Latino community and the traditional values they embrace. As for the former, they would argue that seemingly irreconcilable difference between the effeminate gay community and the more masculine Latino culture is superficial and can be overcome.

It is an interesting and yet a concerning side note that Hollywood has methodically set out to cast a feminine image on those subcultures that have a reputation for being more masculine. For instance, the main character for the movie Tooth Fairy is Dwayne Douglas Johnson and Tooth Fairy II was played by Larry Guthrie (Larry the Cable Guy). I guess Hollywood gets a kick out of seeing men in tights. And as for pacifying the stereotype that ranchers and cowboys are exclusively rugged heterosexual men, the movie, Brokeback Mountain (2005), was an honest attempt to do just that. The film was about a romance between two ranchers from Wyoming (main actors Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal). In the same spirit, the PBS program, Orguillo Latino, highlights many Latino gay men who defy the stereotype.

Overcoming stereotypes is not the only strategy of LGBT activists. They masterfully associate their cause with the civil rights movement and even the good old fashion pursuit of the American dream. And here it is important to take note that the pro-gay rights movement transcends mere political objectives. In many ways, it mimics the Christian religion. The LGBT community honors their martyrs and victims such as Matthew Shepherds and those who died from AIDS. They also canonize and celebrate heroes such as Daniel Hernandez. Hernandez is a gay Latino man who came to the aid of Congresswoman Gabriel Gifford immediately after she had suffered a near fatal wound to the head during the Tucson shootings in early 2011. He uses his celebrity status to advance pro-gay rights among Latinos and Americans. Moreover, Eduardo Xol (last name pronounced “sole”) from Extreme Makeover, Ricky Martin the once renowned pop singer, and Jane Velez-Mitchell CNN Headlines news anchor are just a few of the celebrated gay and lesbian Latinos who proudly came out of the closet. They are held up as models to imitate. Indeed, all of them, as reported in Orgullo Latinos on PBS, had their mountains to climb, discrimination and persecution to endure, and inner personal struggles to overcome. Such inspiring stories make for good “altar calls” and testimonies for the LGBT way of life. No doubt, this kind of emotional appeal to the public’s sympathy can make their opponents look like Scrooge.

Exposing false premises:

When themes conjure up images of a persecuted minority with heroes, victims and martyrs, a discerning eye on the part of Christians is needed. To be sure, making distinctions and disentangling the good from the bad as well as just causes from unjust causes will be a big part of Catholic teaching and evangelization if traditional marriage and the family are to remain intact. As already indicated, television programs such as Orgullo Latinos cleverly aligns the LGBT cause with the cause of civil rights, minority rights and women’s rights. Whereas such causes are justified because no one has the right to discriminate against color, minority status and gender, promoting same-sex marriage and alternatives lifestyles is a different matter. The former involves an injustice against persons with certain ethnic or social characteristics. Such characteristics are beyond a person’s control. For this reason, racially motivated discrimination is morally reprehensible. However, homosexual activity- in contradistinction to orientation –is a behavioral, moral and spiritual matter. Although same-sex attractions can develop without ones choosing (i.e. due to a deficit of fatherly love or sexual molestation), to act on those attractions is within the realm of choice. As such, for the State and society to honor traditional marriage while denying same-sex marriage legal recognition finds no parallel with civil, minority, and woman’s rights. In fact, as those interviewed in the PBS television program argued, LGBT values, if accepted, would fundamentally change the institution of the family as we know it. With the alteration of the family- and marriage, for that matter –society itself would be transformed.

The appeal to equality or equal rights, therefore, should be identified by the Catholics as false and misleading. We forget that equality is a Christian realization. The Gospel of Christ gave it meaning it never had before. All who stood before the altar possessed an equal dignity and an equal calling to heaven. As St. Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28) From the sanctuary this God-given equality made its way to the public institutions. Mind you, equality didn’t count for much in ancient pagan civilization.

Fast forwarding to modern times, secular-liberalism pushed this principle to an extreme. Economically, this push gave birth to socialism and communism; seeking to reduce all classes to one dead level. Academically, this push gave birth to outcome-based education in which every student moves on the next grade no matter how bad they perform. And socially, this push has forged the way for same-sex marriage to share equal status with traditional marriage. Nevertheless, in God’s eyes and in reality, same-sex unions and lifestyles enjoy no such status. Without wincing and cringing, Catholics are duty bound to make this clear to the public. But in doing so, we would do well to anticipate reactions to the Catholic moral objection on the part of some in the LGBT community.

By and large, the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender community does not recognize the moral argument against homosexual activity. I have never heard a high profile gay-activist say to his critics in a debate, “I see your point.” For most, the Christian moral argument is categorized as one of two things: fear or hate. That is, moral objections to same-sex marriage are borne from homophobia or bigotry- pure and simple. Conversely, many Christians have made a sincere attempt to offer an olive branch to homosexual persons by saying, “Although I love you, I cannot agree with what you are doing.” But for gay activists, no truce is possible. In fact, to oppose homosexual activity is akin to racism for many in the LGBT community. This is precisely what Catholics who seek to bear witness to the truth of human love and sexuality must prepare themselves for.

A teenage girl recently asked me, “Why does the Catholic Church hate gay people?” This girl happens to be a student at a local Catholic high school. If those people within Catholic institutions are asking this question- mind you, based on a flawed premise -I can only guess that outside the visible walls of the Catholic Church this same question has gained currency without much a challenge to the premise on which it is asked. In fact, if the average Catholic is made to respond to this indictment (wrapped within the question), then his or her attempt to bear witness to people with same-sex attractions will largely be a defensive one. And to be sure, such a response is likely to be interpreted as being apologetic and uncertain.

The premise that moral objections to homosexuality are the result of phobia or hate does not stand under close scrutiny. Christians are bidden to make distinctions between the person in question and moral behavior all the time. To begin with, every good parent targets bad behavior, seeks to eliminate it while still loving the child. God does the same for the sake of a sinner’s salvation. As for heterosexual sins, the bible is replete with condemnations of adultery, lust, divorce, incest, prostitution and fornication. And yet, the human dignity of the sinner is never in question. God’s favor and his grace can also be restored through heartfelt repentance. Homosexuals are no different in this regard.

This is the point. The LGBT community is marked with hypersensitivity to criticism. A lifetime of coming to terms with their same-sex attraction, deciding whether or not to disclose it to others and the fear of rejection upon such disclosure contributes to a great deal of anxiety. Their reaction to criticism, therefore, such as a show of intolerance, ridicule and retaliation, is product of this anxiety. The lesbian couple featured in Orgullo Latino on PBS, whose names are Mita and Samone (picture posted above), talked as though the original court ruling which forbade them to legally adopt each other’s children was socially unacceptable. All of their heterosexual friends, they said, were in a state of disbelief. The impression they had attempted to communicate to viewers is that those who do object to same-sex couples adopting children are clearly in the minority and out of step. This approach, without a doubt, is to create the appearance that critics of LGBT values are already marginalized; an oddity, if you will.

In a brief moment of candor, the Orgullo Latino documentary singled out Catholicism as an obstacle to LGBT acceptance. The narrator said, “Conflict with LGBT acceptance can vary depending on the generation; that is why some LGBT Latinos have left Catholicism for other faiths.” Immediately afterwards, they feature a Latino participating in spiritual exercises of Buddhism. Of course, Eastern religions such as Buddhism are not dogmatic nor are there Ten Commandments to obey. For this reason, these religions appeal to many who opt for alternative lifestyles.

Our part as doves and serpents:

With that said, people in the LGBT community will come to the knowledge of Christ only through love, sometimes heroic, on the part of Christians. “Heroic,” because Christians must love them courageously enough to tell them the truth of who they were created to be in God. And if the spoken truth should be met with ridicule or hostility, still, that same love borne from within should inspire us to forgive and press forward just the same. As St. Paul said, “When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently.” (I Corinthians 4:12, 13)

Herein lies the difficulty for many Catholics. Our Lord told his disciples to be simple as doves but wise as serpents. Therefore, juggling opposites is a must. What this means is that bearing witness to Christ’s love for those who struggle with same-sex attractions requires that we are ever mindful of the distinction between the sinner and the sin. This two-sided reality behooves a two-sided approach.To be simple as a dove is to resist the temptation of condemning the person. Moreover, it means to love, to understand and to offer a helping hand to the person with same-sex attractions. Bearing witness to the love of Christ is to also recognize that chastity for them does not involve the same sacrifice that heterosexual singles are called to. As for the heterosexual who aspires to chastity, they can, at least, date and eventually marry. Romance, for them, even as a single, is still within reach. They can licitly engage in some affectionate behavior outside of marriage. But for those who have same-sex attraction, they have to abstain all together; that is, abstain entirely from romantic and sexual behavior. Hence, for a Catholic to generalize and say that we are all called to chastity, and leave it at that, is to show a lack of empathy for the real cross a homosexual person must carry. Without this recognition, I am afraid that the disciple of Christ will lack credibility in their eyes. In any case, even when Christians loving disapprove of homosexual activity among friends, family members or colleagues are likely to be accused of bigotry.

But in reality, a bigot makes the mistake of hating the sinner along with the sin. Just as bad, however, is when liberals make the mistake of loving the sin along with the sinner. The Christian must “hate” the sin of homosexual activity for the simple reason that he loves the sinner and wills him good. And the highest good is to inherit the kingdom of God. But as St. Paul said, “boy prostitutes and practicing homosexuals” will not inherit such a kingdom (I Corinthians 6:9). Indeed, the sinner must be loved but without giving the appearance of approving the sin!

On the other hand, in the political sphere, being wise as serpent is to be confident in our message, bold in our approach, creative in our strategies and mindful of the evil at hand. Christ uttered rude and unpopular denunciations during his public ministry. As a result, he offended men in high places. When responding to his critics, he wasn’t reduced to being nice as many Christians would have us be. Sometimes he cut to chase and laid out the truth in its bare naked reality. Other times, however, he was diplomatic and amiable in response to his critics. The Apostles, Church Fathers and the Saints followed suit. The bottom line is that different circumstances warrant different responses. In any case, effective evangelization cannot be advanced by walking on egg shells or by shooting from the hip.

As for our political engagement in 2012, Catholics ought to be unapologetic opponents of the LGBT agenda in the public square. Being compassionate and understanding is certainly appropriate for ministering to persons with same-sex attractions. But a pastoral approach should not diminish a clear and unwavering reproach of homosexual sin nor should it lessen opposition to the promotion of the homosexual lifestyle as it pertains to public policy. A failure to be firm, decisive and uncompromising is to seriously compromise the welfare of our nation. As the Princeton professor, Robert George, said, “The legalization of same-sex marriage will be an unmitigated disaster.” Hence, loving the sinner and hating the sin is the responsibility of every Catholic who bears witness; the two are to be held in tension for the good of souls and for the welfare of our nation.

In the end, the LGBT movement will win out or Catholicism will. I cannot foresee these belief systems peacefully co-existing side by side in America. It is either the catacombs for Catholics or the closet for gay-rights activists. One of the two will have to be publicly sanctioned while the other retreats into irrelevance. My fear is that those who are leading the charge for Gospel values are not as confident in revealed truth as the other side is in their ideology. And the revealed truth that has liberated and sanctified relationships, families and communities is that God's image is comprised of a man and a woman. It is through this sacred image that each child (who is blessed to have a mother and a father) sees God, himself and the world under a certain light. And within the context of this image, Scripture tells the love story of Christ the Bridegroom and the Church, his Bride. Salvation history cannot be understood apart from this love story nor can mankind be redeemed outside of this male and female relationship.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

San Antonio Proposed Ordinance Bans Christians from City Government

August 27, 2013

by Bethany Monk

San Antonio City officials will discuss a proposed ordinance on Wednesday that state leaders say would severely threaten religious freedom. It could also a dangerous precedent for other cities throughout the country.

Mayor Julian Castro and gay activists call it a “non-discrimination” ordinance. But really, it is quite the opposite. If passed, those who hold a biblical view of marriage and relationships could be banned from being involved in city government.

Councilmembers are expected to vote on the issue next week.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement Monday that it violates the state Constitution.

“I oppose the proposed ordinance because it would not prevent discrimination, but impose it: stifling speech, repressing religious liberty, and imposing burdens on those who hold a traditional view on human relations,” he said. “The proposed ordinance runs contrary to the Texas Constitution, which prohibits religious tests, and also defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

To read the complete article, visit: Citizen Link

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Price of Tough Love: The Martyrdom of the Baptist

Revised and reposted for the feast day of St. John the Baptist's martyrdom:

He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men; he was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life and deserved to be called a bright and shining lamp by that Light itself, which is Christ.

John was baptized in his own blood, though he had been privileged to baptize the Redeemer of the world, to hear the voice of the Father above him, and to see the grace of the Holy Spirit descending upon him.

But to endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather it was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward.

  -St. Bede, Divine Office Reading

Honoring a Decapitated Man:

August 29 marks the feast day of the beheading of St. John the Baptist. Not many institutions celebrate the beheading of men. And for many, this celebration carried out by the Catholic Church may seem morbid. Obviously, what Catholics are called to commemorate is not the beheading of a man, per say, but the moral courage which led to it. It is a testimony that there are more important things in life than even life itself. And if the more important things in life such as the sanctity of marriage are compromised, then social decorum and diplomacy must be set aside to make things right. Indeed, there are times when the hardcore truth in all of its rudeness and abrasiveness must be applied; and in public, if necessary.

Recall that St. John the Baptist publicly confronted King Herod, not on national policy, but on the importance of something which escapes many politicians. This rustic prophet of the desert gave voice to the unlawfulness of a marriage that King Herod contracted with his brother’s wife. But as Bishop Fulton Sheen said, this prophet loved Herod too much to let the matter drop. Indeed, he loved his king too much to leave the sin of adultery unprobed and undiagnosed. And he certainly knew that the consequences could very well be life threatening. It was no surprise to St. John the Baptist, it's safe to assume, that Kind Herod and Herodias didn’t like being criticized.

Weakness of a King:

Interestingly, however, the adulterous king was impressed with the outspoken Saint. There was something about St. John that appealed to him. But as one who was attached to his political power, the righteousness of St. John the Baptist was not enough to make Herod a good man. Worse yet, it was not enough to make him repent. But, unlike his father who killed scores of babies in Bethlehem when his throne was threatened by the prophecy of the new born Messiah, "Herod junior" was ambivalent; he didn’t want to act in haste like his father did. Rather, like all weak men, he hovered in the middle; hoping that the voice of his conscience would be muted.

Still, the king's wife, Herodias, knew how to harbor a grudge. When she took offense at what the Baptist said to her husband- which implied that she too was an in an unlawful marriage -her grudge turned into vengeance. And when her husband, King Herod, promised to give her daughter anything she wanted after having danced for him and his court, Herodias seized the opportunity! Unlike her husband, she acted decisively. She told her daughter to request the head of the Baptist. Like Pilate who knew that Christ was innocent when charged with treason, King Herod too knew that St. John the Baptist did not deserve the execution. Nevertheless, he carried out his daughter’s wish.

St. John the Baptist would be the first among many Saints under the New Covenant to die for having told the truth. Yet, just as the Holy Spirit filled him and sanctified him in his mother's womb, that same Spirit inspired a premonition as to his imminent imprisonment and martyrdom.

To Decrease and Fade:

One day on the shores of the river Jordan, St. John the Baptist had gazed upon the long awaited Messiah. Israel had waited centuries for this moment. To be sure, things were about to get exciting; at least for the Apostles and the disciples who would accompany Jesus Christ for the next three and a half years! But as for the Baptist, he was called to fade into the step aside. Pointing to Jesus, he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Soon thereafter, the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah would be imprisoned. And within the dark dungeon of his cell, he would hear all of the stories about Jesus: the miracles, the teachings and so much more. Yet, probably more painful than being beheaded was the fact that he could not accompany the Lord during his public ministry; the very Messiah that he worked so hard to "prepare the way" for. But God had preordained that the Baptist would sit on the sidelines, so to speak. This dying to self- this submission to "decrease" while Jesus increased -would prepare St. John for his martyrdom. It was probably a very hard thing to do.

The Rudeness of Love:

The Catholic Church not only honors St. John the Baptist the man, but she holds up his witness for all to see. Yet, not only is his martyrdom recalled by the Church on August 29, but what is especially meaningful to us today is what led to his martyrdom. Out love for King Herod and the countless souls who would be influenced by the sin of adultery, the Baptist spoke up! He drew attention to the very thing that undermines kingdoms and nations; and that something is the breakdown of marriage. Out of love for souls, this prophet from the desert didn't spare the feelings of a king. He had to speak the truth. But in order to do this, he had to be willing to decrease- to die to his self. And in dying to himself, he gained that which gave him strength during the long days in the imprisonment, namely, a foretaste of heaven! For pious souls, even prisons can be a kind of retreat house where Christ can be encountered.

The Church holds his example up for all to see because it is worthy of imitation. Hopefully, it still has the power to inspire members of the Catholic Church- both clergy and laity alike -to give this kind of witness before state leaders, the rich, and even celebrities. For St. John the Baptist,  the circumstances required a public confrontation. To whisper a warning to the king behind closed doors was not an option.

Today, we might call this "tough love" but it was the kind of love King Herod needed at the time. And it is the kind of love that many Catholics and non-Catholics need in the twenty-first century need.

Letter to Governor Walker: Common Core State Standards

An Open Letter to Governor Scott Walker
on Common Core State Standards

August, 2013
Dear Governor Walker:

On the national scene, as well as in Wisconsin, there is a rising tide of opposition to Common Core “State” Standards (CCSS). Several states have now decided not to use CCSS testing, one or two have dropped out of the initiative entirely, and others are reconsidering their involvement with it. The Lt. Governor of North Carolina, for example, recently wrote a long and detailed list of questions that deserve to be answered regarding the history, development, and potential ramifications of CCSS. c.f.Common Core Letter to the governor of NC

As people who have supported you in many respects, we would ask you now to support us by heeding our concerns. The annual meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA) in Milwaukee seems an opportune time to correct a previous mistake on the part of the NGA, namely, endorsing and funding CCSS. We would ask you, a member of the NGA executive committee, publicly to draw the attention of your colleagues to national concerns surrounding CCSS and the need to reconsider the role of the NGA and individual governors in advancing it. As just one example, should the possibility exist either to offer or sign onto a resolution rescinding NGA endorsement of CCSS and/or defunding it entirely, we would ask that you seize the opportunity.

Here are just a few reasons why:

1. CCSS federalizes education and grossly undermines state and local control. It represents a
top-down, centralized planning model that has failed every other time it has been tried. Actions taken by the Federal Department of Education to facilitate the development and implementation of CCSS are thus in violation of not only the 10th amendment but also at least 3 federal laws. The federal government funded CCSS every step of the way and required CCSS compliance in order to get NCLB waivers and Race to the Top funding. It also requires CCSS participation. Claims that the standards are voluntary are false.

2. CCSS eliminates competition. Under this system, even private and home schools will have little choice but to comply with this program. In every other segment of the economy, competition tends to make things better. Yet, CCSS will greatly reduce the opportunity for schools to compete and excel. Why even have private or home schools if they must use the same framework as public schools? To make education homogenous will reduce rather than increase quality.

3. CCSS has not been adequately field-tested. Early results from those few places where it has been are not encouraging. Organizations such as the Fordham Institute that claim otherwise fail to mention the troubling methods by which they arrived at their conclusions.

4. CCSS will dumb down education in many states in the name of elevating standards.

5. The cost of implementing CCSS represents a huge burden for citizens. The cost of CCSS is currently estimated at around $300 per student per year. For Wisconsin alone that comes to around another $250 Million. In light of the soft economy we now have, we should consider each budget increase carefully. CCSS requires electronic test-taking, with each student having their own computer, tablet, or other electronic device. This is a huge up front expense. In addition, there are maintenance issues, software to maintain, and additional internet bandwidth to consider. Moreover, IT support will be needed. If there is a glitch in the system, it could waste an entire day, adding to already heavy financial burdens.

6. CCSS is inflexible. It requires at least 85 percent compliance with its standards and no one has yet been able to explain how one would measure the remaining 15 percent.

7. CCSS testing will frustrate young children. The brain develops various capacities over time. CCSS asks young children to grapple with certain concepts that they are not yet developed enough to conquer successfully. This scenario will lead to frustration and defeatism for many. Hardly the path to greater achievement.

8. CCSS will under-challenge older children. In later grades, CCSS is often not challenging enough. The only mathematician to serve on the standards committee, Professor James Milgram, has stated that “it is a joke to think CCSS will prepare students for college level math.”

9. CCSS compliant-materials communicate a collectivist worldview. The program places
international government ahead of concepts on which our nation was founded, such as national sovereignty and individual rights.

10. CCSS reduces actual instruction time. We all agree that something must be done about
diminishing educational achievement. However, the fact that children aren’t learning suggests a need for more rigorous instruction, which is very different than more rigorous testing. Unfortunately, CCSS places profound emphasis and dependence on testing, reducing current instruction time by approximately one-third. CCSS, in fact, demands up to 20 days of testing per year. If we are always testing
and never instructing, how will we be able to make real gains in academic achievement?

Our concerns do not stop there:

11. CCSS requires an intrusive database that violates the privacy of children and their families. The sample data model includes more than 400 data points, but could easily be expanded to 4000. Included is information such as pick up/drop off times and places. No one but the parent, the child, and the school transportation director should have such information. Parents should not be expected to cede information about their work histories, social security numbers, health histories, and voting
histories in order for their children to receive an education. Given recent media intimidation by the current presidential administration, the IRS and NSA scandals, and other similar debacles that involve abuse by government of personal information, it is not far-fetched to be concerned about how this student databank may be misused by this or future administrations. Moreover, FERPA language has recently been rewritten; where FERPA previously protected children's privacy, it has now made their personal information available to anyone who claims to "need" it. The fact that this information is to be shared on an individually identifiable basis with almost any bureaucrat and numerous corporations only heightens our concerns.

We hope you will protect the rights of citizens, most particularly children and their parents, not only here in Wisconsin but across the United States by taking bold action this weekend to move the NGA away from CCSS.

[the undersigned]

Todd Welch
Interim State Coordinator
Wisconsin Campaign for

Ken Van Doren
Education Director
Wisconsin Campaign for

Michael Murphy
Wisconsin Liberty Movement

Jeffrey Horn
Prairie Patriots
Sun Prairie, WI

David Stertz
Fox Valley Conservative Forum
Appleton, WI

Kirsten Lombard
The Wisconsin 9/12 Project
Madison, WI

Kristi Lacroix
Kenosha, WI

Alan Scholl,
Executive Director
FreedomProject Education
Appleton, WI

Mary Black,
Student Development Director
Freedom Project Education
Appleton, WI

Kim Simac
Northwoods Patriots
Eagle River, WI

Marv Munyon
Rock River Patriots
Fort Atkinson, WI

Oriannah Paul
Sheboygan Liberty Coalition
Sheboygan, WI

Joanne Terry
Ozaukee Patriots
Mequon, WI

Orville Seymer
CRG Network

Andrea Lombard
Sauk County Tea Party
Baraboo, WI

Charles Brey
United In Freedom
Beaver Dam, WI

Jayne Gohr
Mayville Tea Party
Mayville, WI

Sally Giedd
Chippewa Valley Tea Party
Elk Mound, WI

Jennifer London

James Murphy
Green Bay TEA Party
Green Bay, WI

Ronald Zahn
Northeast Wisconsin Patriots
Green Bay, WI

Greg Luce
LaCrosse Tea Party
LaCrosse, WI

Greg Lipovac
Young Americans for Liberty
UW Oshkosh

Michael Hintze
Tea Party Patriots

Ed Willing
Caledonia, WI

Kip Ertel
We The People
Sheboygan, WI

Seth Cowan
Wolf River Area Patriots
New London, WI

Jane Carpenter
Suburban Republican Women’s
Milwaukee, WI

Eric Shimpach
Young Americans for Liberty –
Sauk County
Baraboo, WI

Sandi Ruggles
Eagle Forum of Southeast
Menomonee Falls, WI

Tony Nasvik
Wisconsin Faith & Freedom
Hudson, WI

Darin Danelski
Lake Country Area Defenders
of Liberty
Oconomowoc, WI

Georgia Janisch
Rock County Voter Education
Janesville, WI

Steve Welcenbach
 Conservative Insurgency,
Menomonee Falls
Taxpayer Association, &
Waukesha County Taxpayer
Menomonee Falls, WI

Karl Koenigs
Wisconsin TEA Party
Committee on State
Peshtigo, WI

Matthew Strublic
Greater Milwaukee Patriot
Milwaukee, WI

Joana Briggs
Greendale Tea Party
Greendale, WI

Tracie Happel
LaCrosse, WI

James Leist
Manitowoc County TEA
Manitowoc, WI

Paul Lembrich
 Southern Wisconsin Alliance of
Taxpayers, Beloit, WI &
Citizens for Better Government,
Janesville, WI


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Why Nietzsche's Prediction is being Realized in the West

Nietzsche’s Prediction:

Frederick Nietzsche, a 19th century atheistic philosopher from Germany, broke new ground in his day by boasting that “God is dead.” Still living in what could be considered a Christian time period, this German philosopher was emboldened by something he recognized. He sensed that Christianity had begun to weaken from within. In his book, Daybreak, published in 1881, he wrote the following:

“[O]ne should notice that Christianity has thus crossed over into a gentle moralism: it is not so much 'God, freedom and immortality' that have remained, as benevolence and decency of disposition…And [when] the belief that in the whole universe benevolence and decency of disposition [should] prevail: it is the euthanasia of Christianity.”

But what is wrong with benevolence and decency of disposition? And why would it lead to the euthanasia of Christianity?

Again, Nietzsche was able to pick up on something a hundred and thirty years ago that many Christians today have a difficult time grasping. That something is this: When one set of principles or virtues are impressed upon the minds of people at the expense of other complimentary principles or virtues, an imbalance is created. Disorder sets in. As for Christians in the late nineteenth century, Nietzsche took it for granted that if the exclusive emphasis on “gentle moralism” or just “being nice” was to prevail within Christian circles, soon, other needed virtues would fall by the wayside. From there, the defenses that for centuries had preserved the mission to win souls for Christ would eventually wither on the vine.

God Uses Opposites:

You see, the strength of Christianity is the ability to juggle opposites. For instance, the Holy Spirit is symbolized in the New Testament with both the fierce image of fire and gentle image of water. Christ, too, is given the title the “Lamb of God” and the “Lion of Judah.” St. John the Evangelist is said to have “leaned back against Jesus' chest” during the Last Supper as a son would affectionately do with a father. (John 13:25) But in book of Revelation his familiar disposition towards Christ gave way to awe and reverence: “When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead.” (Rev. 1:17)

As we transition from theology to pastoral practices we find the same principle of juggling of opposites as well. Not infrequently, the admonition to be gentle is emphasized by the apostolic writers. “A slave of the Lord,” St. Paul said, “should not quarrel, but should be gentle with everyone, able to teach, tolerant, correcting opponents with kindness.” (II Timothy 2:24-25) And as for St. Peter, he said, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence…” (I Peter 3:15-16) Indeed, we can be sure that diplomacy has its place in the New Testament.

Painful Remedies:

Yet, in addition to gentleness and diplomacy, there are other pastoral approaches to consider. For one, Jesus uses violent imagery to communicate our moral obligations. He said if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. And as for those who might lead a child astray, he said that it would be “better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matt. 18:6) He also characterizes his followers in a peculiar way: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force.” (Matthew 11:12) And, when needed, a kind of forceful approach was used by the Apostles.

St. Paul, for instance, in writing to the elders at Corinth, gave them pastoral counsel on how to deal with an unrepentant Christian man who was living with his father’s wife. Evidently, diplomacy had been exhausted and the time was ripe for tougher measures. The Apostle instructed them to do the following: “You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” (I Corinthians 5:5) And who can forget Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts? After committing their misdeeds, St. Peter informed the two of them would die as a result. (Acts 5:1-11)

Paralysis Amid Evil:

With our modern and refined sensibilities, we have a difficult time coming to terms with the taking of the kingdom of heaven by force. Frederick Nietzsche, prophetic in his own sinister way, saw what this difficulty would imply. Benevolence and decency of disposition, without their opposite virtues, leads to a paralysis in the face of evil. When reluctance to confront evil becomes normative among Christians, as it has, evil advances with very few checks while goodness is slighted at every turn.

Like Nietzsche in the nineteenth century, the Church Fathers in the early years of Christianity took this truth for granted. Taking the kingdom of God by force, they saw to it that souls entrusted to their care would not be scandalized by public evils. As Pope St. Gregory the Great wrote in his Pastoral Rule, public offenses were to be confronted publicly. More important, for those who wanted to be in good standing with the Church, the pastoral policy among the Fathers was always one that insisted on repentance as a precondition to living the life of Christ. Without repentance from serious sin, the good seed is bound to fall on rocky ground, thus bearing little fruit, if any.

St. Augustine was one Church Father who maintained that many Christians set out to do good but have difficulty enduring evil. As such, they stop short from doing what their duty demands of them. In his book, On Pastors, he said this was especially case when one’s pastoral duty requires them to correct the wrongdoing of wayward Christians. But he said to heal and bind up what is broken, the pastor must reveal what is hidden:

“There are men who want to live a good life and have already decided to do so, but are not capable of bearing sufferings even though they are ready to do good…Weak men, are those who appear to be zealous in doing good works but are unwilling or unable to endure the sufferings that threaten…Reveal therefore what is hidden, and thus you will open the roof and lower the paralytic to the feet of Christ. As for those who fail to do this and those who are negligent, you have heard what was said to them: You have failed to heal the sick; you have failed to bind up what was broken."

A Painting: No Longer Understood

St. Augustine, it should be said, was privileged to learn these pastoral and moral lessons from a wonderful mentor. His name was St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan. It just so happen that St. Ambrose was instrumental in St. Augustine’s conversion. In any event, it was St. Ambrose who was put to the test when it came to his willingness to publicly expose the misdeeds of a powerful man. And this test of heroic virtue is captured in a beautiful painting in St. Xavier’s Cathedral in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The painting clearly shows the Bishop of Milan putting out his hand as if to say, “Stop right there!” The story goes that he was confronting a Roman emperor in front of his cathedral. It is an old and cherished painting in our vast heritage of Catholic art. But I’m afraid that the moral lesson it conveys is understood by fewer and fewer Catholics.

 In 392 A.D. the Roman Emperor Theodosius II, a professed Christian, killed 7.000 Thessalonians in an uprising. Having been informed of this while the emperor was still miles away, St. Ambrose wrote him a letter. In this letter he said, “I urge, I beg, I exhort, I warn, for it is a grief to me, that you who were an example of unusual piety, who were conspicuous for clemency, who would not suffer single offenders to be put in peril, should not mourn that so many have perished.”

In no uncertain terms, the saintly bishop cautioned Theodosius that “sin is not done away but by tears and penitence. Neither angel can do it, nor archangel. The Lord Himself, Who alone can say, ‘I am with you,’ if we have sinned, does not forgive any but those who repent.” St. Ambrose then recounted a dream he had of the emperor coming into the cathedral in Milan. In this dream, the Lord had forbidden the saintly bishop to offer the Sacrifice at the Mass because the emperor was in attendance. St. Ambrose took this to mean one thing: If the Theodosius does not heed his warning, he had to be willing, if necessary, to publicly confront the unrepentant head of State.

A Needed Love:

Inspired by this conviction, St. Ambrose was determined to publicly call the Roman emperor to public penance. There came a day when Theodosius presumptuously attempted to enter the cathedral where St. Ambrose was presiding. However, this heroic bishop physically prevented him from entering. This is what was captured in the painting at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. St. Ambrose demanded that this powerful head of State repent from his sin of killing so many Thessalonians before partaking of the Holy Sacrifice of the Liturgy in Milan. This Saint was too concerned for Theodosius’ soul and the souls of onlookers to let his sin go uncensored.

The inevitably confrontation was not only an act of courage but it was the highest kind of pastoral love a spiritual father could give to a son. Amazingly, Theodosius II did public penance. A clean heart and a steadfast spirit were renewed within him (cf. Psalm 51). Furthermore, the pastoral intervention by St. Ambrose was the standard that pastors aspired to in the centuries that followed. It forever changed the relationship between Church and State. As Lord Acton said, Christ, through his Church, gave to the “civil power, under the protection of conscience, a sacredness it had never enjoyed, and bounds it had never acknowledged.”

But from time to time this truth had to be renewed and preserved through violence; that is, through the blood of martyrs and the heroic virtue of Church Fathers like Ambrose. They demonstrated that Christian love sometimes requires us to go beyond the “gentle moralism and benevolence of disposition” that many Christians in our day primarily concern themselves with. And to be sure, the forgetfulness of this truth plays no small role in hastening the realization of Frederick Nietzsche’s prediction.

The Biggest Embarrassment in Higher Education

Professor Mike Adams is a tenured professor at the University of North Carolina. He happens to support the Christian definition of marriage; that being a union exclusively reserved for a man and a woman. But not a few same-sex marriage advocates- progressive in their ideology -have proven to be utterly intolerant of such a view. In fact, more and more Christians are being discriminated against and even persecuted in academia. Professor Adams, who has made his views on marriage known, is starting to experience this himself.

It just so happened that a colleague of his from UNC, Professor Ed, wrote him a letter, complaining that he is “the biggest embarrassment to higher education in America.” What Professor Ed did not know was that he was standing on thin ice when making this charge. You see, once the light of faith is diminished in any given institution or society, moral goodness is attacked while moral evils and the most unseemly behaviors are tolerated; especially by those who lose their faith. In his letter to Professor Ed, Mike Adams does a fine job in making this very point. You will be shocked what our universities have come to.


Dear Edward:

I want to take the time to thank you for writing and telling me that I should be fired from my position as a tenured professor because I am “the biggest embarrassment to higher education in America.” I also want to thank you for responding when I asked you exactly how you arrived at that conclusion. Your response, “because you insist that marriage requires one man and one woman,” was both helpful and concise.

While I respect your right to conclude that I am the biggest embarrassment to higher education in America, I think you’re wrong. In fact, I don’t even think I’m the biggest embarrassment to higher education in the state of North Carolina. But since you’re a liberal and you support “choice” – provided we’re talking about dismembering children and not school vouchers for those who weren’t dismembered – I want to give you some options. In fact, I’m going to describe the antics of ten professors, official campus groups, and invited campus speakers in North Carolina and let you decide which constitutes the biggest embarrassment to higher education.

1. In the early spring semester of 2013, a women’s studies professor and a psychology professor at Western Carolina University co-sponsored a panel on bondage and S&M. The purpose of the panel was to teach college students how to inflict pain on themselves and others for sexual pleasure. When you called me the biggest embarrassment in higher education, you must not have known about their bondage panel. Maybe you were tied up that evening and couldn’t make it.

2. At UNC Chapel Hill, there is a feminist professor who believes that women can lead happy lives without men. That’s nothing new. But what’s different is that she thinks women can form lifelong domestic partnerships with dogs and that those relationships will actually be fulfilling enough to replace marital relationships with men. I can’t make this stuff up, Ed. I don’t drop acid. Well, at least not since the late 1980s. But I promise this story is real and not an LSD flashback.

3. At Duke University, feminists hired a “sex worker” (read: prostitute) to speak as part of an event called the Sex Workers Art Show. After his speech, the male prostitute pulled down his pants, got down on his knees, and inserted a burning sparkler into his rectum. While it burned, he sang a verse of “the Star Spangled Banner.” I believe that stripping incident was almost as embarrassing as the other one involving the Duke Lacrosse team.

4. A porn star was once paid to give a speech at UNCG. The topic was “safe sodomy.” After her speech, the feminist pornographer sold autographed butt plugs to students in attendance. I’m not sure whether the ink could contribute to rectal cancer. I’m no health expert. But I do know it was pretty darned embarrassing when the media picked up on the story.

5. A few years ago at UNC-Chapel Hill, a feminist group built a large vibrator museum in the middle of the campus quad as a part of their “orgasm awareness week.” I think that was probably the climax of the semester, academically speaking. But they certainly weren’t too embarrassed to display a vibrator that was made out of wood back in the 1920s.

Keep your batteries charged, Ed. We’re about halfway done.

6. A feminist administrator at UNC-Wilmington sponsored a pro-abortion event. During the event they sold tee shirts saying “I had an abortion” to students who … well, had abortions. That’s right, Ed. The students were encouraged to boast about the fact that they had killed their own children. That’s how the UNC system is preserving the future of our great Tar Heel state.

7. The following semester, that same UNCW administrator sponsored a workshop teaching students how to appreciate their orgasms. I learned art appreciation in college. Today, college kids are taught orgasm appreciation. I will let you decide whether that’s an embarrassment to higher ed., Ed.

8 A few years ago, a UNCW English professor posted nude pictures of under-aged girls as a part of an “art exhibit” in the university library. The Provost then ordered the nude pictures to be moved away from the library and into the university union. This decision was made after several pedophiles had previous been caught downloading child pornography in the university library just a few yards away from the location of the display. The English professor was incensed so she asked the Faculty Senate to censure the provost for violating her “academic freedom.” The faculty senate sided with the feminist professor. The provost was later pressured to leave the university.

9. A different feminist professor at UNCW accused a male professor of putting tear gas in her office. She was later caught putting her mail in a microwave oven. She did this because she thought people were trying to poison her with anthrax and that the oven would neutralize the toxins. She was not placed on leave for psychiatric reasons. Instead, she was designated as the university’s official “counter terrorism” expert.

10 And then there is Mike Adams. He thinks marriage is between a man and a woman. So those are the choices, Ed. You can simply write back and tell me which of these professors, groups, or guest speakers has caused “the biggest embarrassment to higher education” – either in North Carolina or in America altogether. Or you can just concede that our system of hire education is the real embarrassment because it has been hijacked by radical feminism. And please pardon any puns – especially those that take the form of ms-spelled words.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Verily Magazine: O Alma Mater

Preface:  This article comes to you courtesy of Verily Magazine. The title is: O Alma Mater and is authored by Anne-Marie Maginnis.
I do not repost full articles from contemporary sources too often. But from time to time, the vocation and sacrifice of a stay-at-home mother needs to be recognized for what it is: If not the most important, it is certainly one of most important jobs in the world.

O Alma Mater

It all started one quiet Tuesday morning. I’d dropped my daughter off at preschool, and the baby was sleeping. The dishes washed, I settled down with a cup of coffee to check my email. Upon seeing a Princeton Alumni Survey in my inbox, I felt the warm glow of affection that always flows over me when I see the name of my university. Since I can’t donate large sums of money to Princeton, I thought, the least I can do is fill out the survey.

Soon I was clicking my way through questions about whether I’d published any articles in journals (no), participated in any political campaigns (no), gotten a graduate degree (no), spent time traveling (no). By this time, my chipper spirit was beginning to dampen, but I pressed on. Donated time to service (no), started my own business (no), current salary range ($0). Only one question on the whole survey applied to me: Do you have children? (Yes).

As I sent off the survey and sat back, I felt suddenly disappointed—and disappointing. According to the survey, which was in fact comprehensive and sensitive to a broad range of life choices, I was either dead or sitting in a zombie-like stupor in front of the TV, stuffing my face with Cheetos.
I knew my life as a stay-at-home mom was incredibly demanding, creative, and meaningful—not a narrow niche occupation, but a very real option for half of every class graduating from Princeton. And yet, my path was not even on this survey’s radar as a life choice. How was this possible?
As it turns out, a sizeable debate is raging regarding the growing numbers of Ivy League graduates choosing to stay home and raise their children. Several recent articles have questioned the value of this choice. One such thought-provoking piece was written by Kelly Goff of the U.K. Guardian, entitled “Female Ivy League Graduates Have a Duty to Stay in the Workforce.” In it she argues,
Any Harvard Law School degree obtained by a woman who then chooses not to use it in any sort of professional capacity throughout most of her life is a wasted opportunity. That degree could have gone to a woman who does want to spend her entire life using it to advance the cause of women—or others in need of advancement—not simply advancing the lives of her own family at home, which is a noble cause, but not one requiring an elite degree.
This type of thinking is regressive for women for many reasons. First, while I agree that “to whom much is given, much is expected in return,” to state that “advancing the lives of her own family at home . . . does not require an elite degree” completely overlooks the value of that degree to the woman herself.

If a woman at home doesn’t need an elite degree, as Goff argues, one wonders, does she need a college degree? A high-school degree? At what point is a woman not worth educating at all?
This perspective completely disregards the inherent worthiness of educating a human mind to know the world, to think independently, to judge accurately, and to live confidently. For these reasons alone, an elite education should be available to the best and brightest minds. To concede Goff’s point would be to reverse hundreds of years of progress in women’s rights.

Second, at the purely pragmatic level, insisting that elite degrees are pointless for women who want to stay home with their children overlooks the fact that many stay-at-home mothers resume their careers after their children are in school. In fact, this may be a more appealing solution than the insane juggling act of work and family that is normal life for many working mothers.
Princeton professor Anne-Marie Slaughter touched on this issue in last year’s much discussed Atlantic article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” Slaughter explains how she was forced to re-examine her long-held belief that women can do it all—in other words, reach the top of any professional field without sacrificing their role as a committed parent. When she took a sabbatical to spend two years in her dream job in the Obama administration, she experienced for the first time what it was to work outside the relatively flexible schedule of a university professor:
The minute I found myself in a job that is typical for the vast majority of working women (and men), working long hours on someone else’s schedule, I could no longer be both the parent and the professional I wanted to be. . . . I realized what should have perhaps been obvious: Having it all, at least for me, depended almost entirely on what type of job I had. The flip side is the harder truth: Having it all was not possible in many types of jobs, including high government office—at least not for very long.
Slaughter admits that there is no easy solution. Addressing mothers who choose to stay at home before embarking on a career, she points out that they do so at a cost. They give up momentum and forgo building a résumé optimal for competing in the workforce when they do re-enter it. Nonetheless, it appears that a growing number of women are choosing to sacrifice maximum career potential in order to stay home with their families. This does not mean they will never re-enter the workforce, but these women see something of equal or greater value in staying home to raise their children.

Third, it is simplistic to assume that mothers who spend part of their lives outside the workforce are not using their elite degrees in the service of society. These women contribute in myriad ways: fundraising, mentoring, volunteering, speaking, writing. And while it may appear that anyone can do these things, it is far more difficult for a working mother to add these into an already packed schedule than it is for a stay-at-home mother.

I worked full time after my first child was born, at a job I loved, with great hours, and with a dream child-care situation. Nonetheless, I found myself grocery shopping at ten o’clock at night, folding laundry while catching up with my child while making dinner. It is plain fact that juggling a full-time job, family, and the necessities of daily life leaves little time for a working mother to take on additional service and cultural activities. This is not a criticism, just a realistic analysis that working mothers and stay-at-home mothers serve their communities in different ways.

Lastly, perhaps the most meaningful way in which stay-at-home moms use their elite degrees is by raising their children to be well-educated, confident leaders of the next generation. When a mother with an Ivy League education stays home to raise children, she is making it her full-time job to invest the best that she has received, including her education, into these children. She is choosing to form a few people in a profound way, rather than to affect a broader audience with a smaller per-person investment.

These mothers are not sacrificing pay, prestige, and a stimulating career without good reason. They feel they are giving their children something they could not otherwise give if they were out of the house all day. This is not to denigrate mothers who cannot afford to stay home; they obviously serve their family, often at great personal sacrifice. Nor is it to criticize working mothers who choose to share their talent with the larger world. It is merely to point out that highly educated women who choose to stay home with their children have a unique contribution to make as well.
What they are giving is time. Stay-at home mothers can use their own intellectual and personal formation to transform quantity time into quality time, and thereby greatly enrich their children’s lives.

For example, when my daughter is driving me to distraction, I stop what I’m doing, pick up a book, and read to her. We read the entire Little House on the Prairie series in a couple of weeks, which I love for its sense of history and appreciation for craft. We’ve read the original translation of Pinocchio, all 347 pages of it, with its masterful appreciation for human nature and the struggle to improve. As my daughter is only four, I anticipated that she would grasp the plot, but to my surprise she picked up deeper elements in the stories than I ever would have imagined.

And that’s the thing. Reading these books to my daughter is a reflection of my own passion for literature—the very literature I majored in at Princeton, where my eyes were fully opened to the beautiful intricacies and art of books. But before I ever went to Princeton, my love for reading was ignited by my own mother. She read to us every night. Once I could read for myself, I devoured a book a day for years—which helped when I took the SATs and earned a perfect verbal score, one of my stronger selling points when I applied to Princeton. Now I am repeating that cycle with my own daughter.

Another example is music. Sometimes we turn on the radio and guess the composer. I’ve had a love of classical music since I was little because my own mother played it. By the time I got to Princeton, I really wanted to know more, and I began music classes with a curiosity and delight that I owe to my mother. She, in turn, had learned it from her stay-at-home mother, a graduate of Radcliffe.
My point is, when a highly educated woman is home with her children day in and day out, she weaves the riches of her education into their lives in continuous, subtle, living ways. This is a priceless preparation for a lifetime of learning. This gift is the transmission of culture.

Having received the wonderful gift of an elite education, I didn’t leave it behind. I carry it with me in who I am today. It enriches my life in ways that no salary can measure. It is worthwhile in a way no measure of productivity is needed to justify. Passing on this education to my daughter, a human being whose worth I know intimately, I see even more clearly that broadening a girl’s mind, filling it with beauty, is never, to quote Goff, “a wasted opportunity.”

We call the schools from which we graduate “alma mater,” nourishing mother, and I have always been grateful to Princeton for being just that. Now that I am a mother myself, however, and as I nourish the bodies and minds of my own children, I find yet deeper meaning in those words.

To view this article at Verily Magazine, just click on O Alma Mater

Loved ones and lost souls

Feast day of St. Monica: August 27th
Feast day of St. Augustine: August 28th

In honor of these two great Saints and so as to give hope to those who are praying for the salvation of a friend, family member or acquaintance, "Loved ones and Lost Souls" is being reposted.

Through the saved, God very often searches for the lost. Loved ones of lost souls are the means by which the Good Shepherd finds his lost sheep.

This couldn't be truer for St. Monica who, in the fourth century, followed her son, Augustine Aurelius, all the way to Milan, Italy from her home in northern Africa. At the time, St. Augustine was pursuing a career in teaching rhetoric. He didn’t particularly like her tagging along, so he tried to find ways to lose her. However, she was determined to track her oldest son down so that he could be won over to Christ.

In his youth, St. Augustine was an intellectual who was given over to false beliefs about God and the world. He was also a worldly and sensual man; as such, he did not have any scruples about “shacking up” with his lover. Living the wild life, he presumed the Lord’s patience by praying, “God, make me chaste…but not yet.” As one might expect, a baby came from this out-of-wedlock union. The boy was given the name, Adeodatus. St. Augustine, being the wayward son that he was, would be the source of sorrow for his saintly mother.

Mother Theresa once told a friend of mine that for those souls who need to be saved from moral and spiritual darkness- such as prostitution and drug addiction -a price needs to be paid. Jesus said as much to the disciples wheb they failed to exorcise a man possessed with demons: "But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.” St. Monica, in her mystical union with the Lord, needed to pay the price for her son Augustine. It can be said, she “carried about in her heart the dying of Jesus.” (cf. II Cor. 4:10) What was true for St.Monica is true for every Christian. And that is, "Christ's sufferings overflow to us."(I Cor 1:5) His Passion does not render our sacrifices null and void. On the contrary, Jesus suffered for sinners so that we could suffer for sinners. Augustine’s soul was purchased with his mother’s tears; and those tears were mingled with the blood of Christ.

St. Monica, however, was given some relief through a dream she had. It would seem that her prayers were heard. In the book, Confessions, St. Augustine relates the following about what would turn out to be a prophetic dream of his mother:

“She saw herself standing upon a certain wooden rule [a measuring rod which symbolized the rule of Faith], and coming towards her a young man, splendid, joyful and smiling upon her, although she grieved and was crushed with grief. When he asked her the reason for her sorrow and her daily tears- he asked, as is the custom, not for the sake of learning but for the sake of teaching –she replied that she lamented for my perdition. Then he bade her to rest secure and instructed her that she should attend and see that where she was, there was I also. And when she looked there she saw me standing on the same rule.”

Soon thereafter, St. Monica arrived in Milan only to join the company of a great bishop, St. Ambrose. She sought his counsel and how she might save her son from the erroneous sect called Manichaeism. In response, Bishop Ambrose said to her, “Only pray to the Lord on his behalf. He will find out by reading what the character of that error is and how great is its impiety.” She then implored the saintly bishop to talk to Augustine. But St. Ambrose refused. He said to St. Monica that her son needed to be willing to talk to him; that a conversation about the Faith should not be imposed or forced. Nevertheless, she persisted, with tears flowing, in asking the same favor over and over again. Finally, St. Ambrose grew annoyed and said, “Go away from me now! As you live, it is impossible that the son of such tears should perish.” (That’s right. Saints get annoyed too). In any case, instead of getting offended, St. Monica took it as a sign from heaven that her prayers and sacrifices would pay off.

Those words of the saintly bishop would redound in her heart. "It is impossible that the son of such tears should perish.” The tears of St. Monica were the anointing applied to St. Augustine's soul before his sins were wiped clean from the waters of baptism. When a son or daughter strays from Christ, sometimes the tears of a mother make up for the lack of tears we ought to have for our own sins.

As for St. Monica, her perseverance paid off. To make a long story short, St. Augustine, along with his son Adeodatus, entered the Catholic Church in the year 387 A.D. After being initiated into his new life with Christ, he became Bishop of Hippo in northern Africa. He would go on to lay the cornerstone of Western Civilization with his sanctity and theology. To be sure, St. Augustine is considered one of the most important Fathers and Doctors of the Catholic Church. All this was made possible by a mother who did not give up.

On her deathbed, St. Monica glanced at her son and said, "Remember me at the altar." It just so happened that prayers for her soul in purgatory were unnecessary; for she did not go there. Instead, her intercession would be invoked by the Church in subsequent years.

On earth, St. Monica traveled many miles so that she could follow her son, St. Augustine, so that he might find eternal life. But in the year 430 A.D., St. Augustine followed his mother to heaven.

Throughout the centuries, these two great Saints became benefactors for those parents whose children had walked away from Christ and His Church. God counted the tears of St. Monica and they added up. What God did in the fourth century for St. Monica, He could do for twenty-first century parents who find themselves in similar circumstances.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Hell There Is

I often wonder if the social pressure to conduct scoreless games in children’s sports- where everyone wins and nobody loses –is a latent denial of the ultimate loss in life. I also wonder if this has anything to do with socialism’s quest to reduce everything to one dead level. By making everything equal, socialism aims at bringing about one class. Indeed, the rejection of any kind of inequality in this life may be an attempt to erase from the collective memory of socialists that there exist, in the spiritual world, a great deal of inequality.

Let me explain: According to the Gospel, there are winners and losers in eternity. The winners go to heaven and losers go to hell. Angels, Saints and the elect are the winners. And Satan, demons and reprobate souls are the losers. The former class will be rewarded; the latter class will be punished. Such is the Christian belief about the great inequality between heaven and hell.

It just so happens that the Gospel reading in Sunday’s Mass [August 25, 2013], we hear the words of Jesus reminding us that there are winners and losers. There are some who will be first while many others who will be last. In Jerusalem, he warned his critics that not everyone wins; not everyone will be first. He said, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough... And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

Now, I have to tell you that protective parents who can’t stand the thought of their children losing a game and socialists who dream of perfect equality are not the only ones who suffer from the illusion that everybody should win. There are several people within the Church who would rather not hear that there are eternal losers. But since they have little control over what gets read during the Mass, the next best thing to do is to just ignore any reference to hell. To be sure, that is what some do.

Nevertheless, in the vast reservoir of the Catholic Church’s spiritual literature, there is a great deal of exploration on this topic. In fact, the mercy of God and the redemptive work of Christ are unintelligible without the belief in hell. Perhaps, this is why our Lord mentioned it several times in the Gospels. And perhaps this is why the Saint, throughout the ages, did not shy away from teaching about it.

For instance, in St. Ignatius of Loyola’s book, The Spiritual Exercises, has served as the template for countless retreats for five centuries. It is a series of meditations on God’s revelation. Interestingly, he wastes no time in presenting the theme of hell for the Christian to meditate on. This meditation was not placed at the end of the book, it is treated in detail at the beginning.

The founder of the Jesuits begins by asking, “What is hell?” He answers this by saying that “the Holy Spirit calls it the place of torments (LK 16:28). A prison, where the condemned shall be imprisoned by the justice of God, to be tormented through the ages of ages.” Furthermore, St. Ignatius refers to hell as a society of devils. It is a place where their hatred of God continues unabated. Since they cannot harm God in any way, St. Ignatius says they take out their revenge on him torturing man, who is made in his image.

In order to aid the imagination, The Spiritual Exercises details various torments. For one, he says that the faculties of the human soul such as the imagination, the memory, the will, and the understanding will be subject to the pains of hell. The body too, with all five senses, will suffer likewise. As for the memory, St. Ignatius tells us what it will recall to mind with great regret and remorse:

“It recalls the graces received- the faith; a Christian education, the example of so many virtuous persons, the instructions of the ministers of Jesus Christ and the Sacraments of the Church…It recalls the warnings that were given on earth. How often has he heard that it is terrible to fall into the hands of the living God, that there is no mercy in hell.”

The value and necessity of meditating on hell is that presents to our mind what we can ultimately choose; and that is an eternity without God. Pope Leo XIII said that the greatest of all misfortunes is to never have known Jesus Christ. But believe it or not, there is a greater misfortune: to forfeit Jesus Christ for an eternity. As Peter Kreeft once said, to reject Infinite Love is to become infinitely loveless. This is hell.

Before closing, it is important to note that hell is not something that happens to us like a natural disaster. Rather, it is a choice or a series of choices. When people die and go there, they know chose to be a loser. The strength to enter the narrow gate is not analogous to physical strength. The strength that our Lord refers to a human attribute that everyone enjoys, and that is free will. Indeed, failing to love God and our neighbor through the gift of free will weakens the soul; so much so that it cannot muster the strength that is needed to enter through the narrow gate. This is how losers are made. This is why hell exists.

Today, sometimes it seems that hell is prevailing over heaven. But I would like to propose something for your consideration. Sometimes the most unlikely sources can be prophetic. In the book of Numbers, Balaam, a gentile uttered a prophecy about the Messiah. He 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…” Likewise, Hollywood, for all of its worldly ways, can be an instrument in God’s hands too. For instance, at the end of the 1940 movie Fantasia, we are treated to the final chapter of world history where the darkness gives way to light. I ask you, could these last two parts of Fantasia be on to something?

Make sure you watch “both” YouTube video clips below of Fantasia. Also, for your reading pleasure, scroll down and you can read what God told St. Catherine about hell and what hell looked like to the three Fatima seers.
  1. The losers
  2. The winners

God tells St. Catherine of Sienna about hell:

God the Father said to St. Catherine of Sienna, “I tell you, in hell there are four principal torments and all the others are offspring of these.

The first is that these souls are deprived of seeing me. This is so painful for them that if they could they would choose the sight of me along with the fire and excruciating torments, rather than the freedom from their pains without seeing me.

The first suffering revives the worm of conscience, and this is their second torment. For when they see that their sinfulness has deprived them of me and of the company of the angels and made them worthy instead of seeing the demons and sharing their fellowship, conscience gnaws away at them constantly.

The sight of the devil is their third suffering, and it doubles every other torment. At the sight of me the saints are in constant exaltation, joyfully refreshed in reward for the labors they bore for me with such overflowing love and to their own cost. But it is just the opposite for these wretched little souls. Their only refreshment is the torment of seeing the devil, for in seeing them they know themselves better: that is, they recognize that their sinfulness has made them worthy of him. And so the worm gnaws on and the fire of conscience never stops burning.

Their suffering is even worse because they see the devil as he really is- more horrible than the human heart can imagine. You will recall that when I once let you see him for a tiny while, hardly a moment, as he really is, you said (after coming to your senses again) that you would rather walk on a road of fire even till the final judgment day than see him again. But even with all you have seen you do not know how horrible he really is. For my divine justice makes him look more horrible than still to those who have lost me, and this is in proportion to the depth of their sinfulness.

The fourth torment is fire. This fire burns without consuming, for the soul cannot be consumed, since it is not material (such as fire could consume) but spiritual. But in my divine justice I allow my fire to burn these souls mightily, tormenting them without consuming them. And the tremendous pain of this tortuous burning has as many forms as the forms of their sins and is more or less severe in proportion to their sins.”

Our Lady of Fatima shows Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco hell. Lucia recalls the vision:

"She opened Her hands once more, as She had done the two previous months. The rays [of light] appeared to penetrate the earth, and we saw, as it were, a vast sea of fire. Plunged in this fire, we saw the demons and the souls [of the damned]. The latter were like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, having human forms. They were floating about in that conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames which issued from within themselves, together with great clouds of smoke. Now they fell back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fright (it must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me). The demons were distinguished [from the souls of the damned] by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals. That vision only lasted for a moment, thanks to our good Heavenly Mother, Who at the first apparition had promised to take us to Heaven. Without that, I think that we would have died of terror and fear."

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sheen Tweet: Stuffing our children with facts

Sheen Tweet:

“Education once seemed the gateway to Heaven-on-earth for everyone. Now that we’ve tried it, we know that schooling alone will not save society. Never before was there so much education, and never before so little arrival at truth. The twentieth century is the century of the greatest attempt at universal education in the history of the world- and yet it is the century of the most terrible conflagrations, wars, and revolutions of history. We have stuffed our children’s minds with facts, and neglected to teach them how to live.”

-Bishop Sheen, Lift Up Your Hearts

Of what use in the fool's hand are the means to buy wisdom,
since he has no mind for it?
Proverbs 17:16

Sky View Post Script:

Facts help us to form opinions about a given topic or event but values give shape to how we live. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that God and Christianity have no place in public schools, it hastened the erosion of values. In the absence of Christian principles, the average student in the public school is taught that we live in a value-free or morally neutral universe. For instance, in classrooms from coast to coast chastity is deemed to be no better than promiscuity, marriage between a man and a woman no better than same-sex marriage, saving a unborn baby no better than saving an owl, and dying a natural death no better than euthanasia.

For centuries, Christian education not only provided a hierarchy of values from which to live a moral life, it also gave unity, priority and meaning to a nation’s curriculum. Theology, for instance, was the primary and center of all subjects and disciplines. From this academic order, a worldview and lifestyle was fostered. Civilization, in turn, benefitted from this. Internationally, wars were fewer and domestically, neighborhoods and streets were safer.

However, in the early part of the twentieth century secularism began to make its way into our educational institutions. The cohesion and unity of education and its ability to inspire sound values began to show signs of weakness. As early as 1940, the President of Yale University, Robert Hutchins, spoke to the effects of secularism. In an address entitled, “The Higher Learning in America: 1940,” he stated that “today the young Americans comprehends the intellectual tradition of which he is a part and in which he must live only by accident: for its scattered and disjointed fragments are strewn from one end of the campus to the other. Our university students have far more information and far less understanding than in the colonial period.”

“The crucial error,” he continued, “is that of holding that nothing is any more important than anything else, that there can be no order of goods and no order in the intellectual realm. There is nothing central and nothing peripheral, nothing primary and nothing secondary, nothing basic and nothing superficial.”

Just eleven years earlier, in 1929, Pope Pius XI wrote an encyclical on Christian education. For him, as with the Church’s two thousand year tradition, education cannot be reduced to providing mere facts. It has to be a value based system that develops the whole person; one that is not indifferent to the student’s eternal destiny. Pope Pius XI put it this way:

“[S]ince education consists essentially in preparing man for what he must be and for what he must do here below, in order to attain the sublime end for which he was created, it is clear that there can be no true education which is not wholly directed to man's last end, and that in the present order of Providence, since God has revealed Himself to us in the Person of His Only Begotten Son, who alone is ‘the way, the truth and the life,’ there can be no ideally perfect education which is not Christian education.”

To repeat: There can be no true education which is not wholly directed to man's last end for which he was created. Christian education is inspired by a long-term vision; one that children in the public schools so desperately need today. Children need to be taught how to live, then, only then, can they use the facts to make this world a better place.

So, let's talk about getting the State out of education so that local communities can be free to re-introduce this long-term Christian vision for our nation's children. Our future depends on it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

From Servants to Celebrities: A growing phenomenon in the Church

Fred A. Allen, a radio comedian who was popular in the 1940’s, once said, “A celebrity is a person who works hard all of their life to become well known, and then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized.” In other words, fame is not all what it seems to be. There is a price to pay for being well known. Nevertheless, it is coveted by many. The night of the Oscars, for instance, with the red carpet and adoring fans, can make the life of a celebrity look rather attractive. And why not? Being adulated and accommodated by admirers has its perks.

Unfortunately, Catholics are not immune from coveting the kind of accommodations Hollywood stars enjoy. We have many gifted speakers, writers and musicians within the Church who set out to be servants of Christ but who, nevertheless, behave like celebrities. Instead of setting out to wash people’s feet like our Lord demonstrated, too often, some of these gifted Catholics come to parishes wanting their feet to be washed. Oh yes. They have a list of demands to be met. They, like the Hollywood celebrity, want to be accommodated.

If you are a diocesan or parish event-organizer you may know what I am referring to. Increasingly, I am hearing more stories from people who work for the Church. They tell me that high profile Catholic speakers and musicians go beyond requiring the essentials; that is, the means necessary to carry out their ministry. The funny thing is that these Catholics- many of them well known –profess to follow Christ and hold up the Saints as models to imitate.

For some reason, however, when their God-given gifts and talents are sought after by Catholic communities, something happens. Something gets lost. And that something is the instructions our Lord gave to his disciples. For instance, he said, “Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you…” (Lk 10:8) Elsewhere, he had this to say: “Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick.” As you can see, Jesus requires of his followers a simplicity and detachment from material things. Why? So we can avail ourselves to more effectively serve souls.

Now, many Catholics who are gifted speakers, writers and musicians start off with the intention of being servants. But when they become well known, some turn into celebrities. Instead of wearing sun glasses so as not to be noticed, the Catholic celebrity develops a long list of demands; not of essentials but of luxuries.

One musician from Canada came to a parish in America to share her musical talents. Before the event, she sent word to the parish leaders that she was “hyper-carbohydrate intolerant.” No, she wasn’t allergic to any foods. She just wanted a Jenny Craig-like entrée because she wanted to watch her weight.

Another high profile Catholic author and speaker demands a specific kind of purified water in addition to other non-essentials. And yet, another one insists on having a certain kind of granola bar. As for one musician I recently heard about, he will not play for any event unless the host has the newest top-notch keyboard.

Probably what is of high symbolic value of why Church is struggling the way it is with Mass attendance decline etc., has a lot to do with the hotel accommodations our leaders enjoy when they travel on their missions; hotel accommodations that the average person would be hard-pressed to afford. This suggests that many of our leaders- both clergy and laity –have either lost their way or are missing the point. I could be overstating this, but what has happened to many of them is that they turned a vocation of service into a position of privilege.

This, it should be emphasized, is a radical departure from what Christ and the Saints have taught us. The great spiritual classic by Thomas Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, tells us that they endured hardships and persecutions. And yet it was through these trials that souls were saved. In it, Kempis wrote the following:

“Saints and friends of Christ, they served our Lord in hunger and in thirst, in cold, in nakedness, in labor and in weariness, in watching, in fasting, prayers and holy meditations, and in frequent persecutions and reproaches. Oh, how many grievous tribulations did the Apostles suffer and the Martyrs and Confessors and Virgins, and all the rest who resolved to follow the steps of Christ!”

Several centuries later, our Lord confirmed the spiritual value of sacrifice and suffering to St. Faustina by saying, “You will save more souls through prayer and suffering than will a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone.” Yet, how is this truth being observed when our Catholic celebrities practically demand a manicure from the parishes and dioceses they are supposed to serve?

If suffering is an instrument through which conversion is brought about, then they better learn how to start washing feet again.