27 February 2014

Clothing: Vanity or Actually Important?

Sub Tuum.

The Christian faith teaches modest and promotes a path that brings people away from vanity. It's difficult to think about vanity without clothes coming to mind as one way in which vanity, a form of the sin of pride, may manifest itself. People struggle to keep up with the latest fashions and trends. Yet I do not suggest we pay no attention to the clothes we wear. Rather, I say that clothes are important. We spend most of our lives wearing some form of clothing. It is difficult to imagine that something that is so much a part of our lives can be of no importance. And, if it were not important, then there would be no dress codes and no fashion industry, and people would not debate whether certain types of clothes are appropriate. 

I say the people should dress modestly and conservatively, but should also dress well. General Patton found that soldiers who dressed slovenly, even though they were in uniform, performed poorly as soldiers. They didn't look like soldiers, so they didn't act like soldiers. When he changed them from the outside by requiring them to look good, they began to change on the inside. This in turn was reflected by their continued and voluntary good outward appearance. 

Another related good quote by General Patton is that pride in self begins with pride in appearance. Now, this pride is not, or at least should not be, the type that falls in the realm of the sin of pride. Rather it is the type of pride such as pride in a job well done. This type of "pride" necessarily involves a profound humility for the source of one's talents, for it is those God-given talents that were developed by human will to result in the job well done in the first place. 

Put another way, taking appropriate care in one's appearance shows respect for the temple that one has been given, the temporary earthly dwelling-place of one's soul. It also shows respect for those with whom one interacts. (Remember, even in the Bible those who were not properly attired were turned away from the wedding celebration.) Self-respect and respect for others are sorely lacking in today's society. 

22 February 2014

How "Traditionalist vs. Liberal" is destroying the Church from within

Sub Tuum.

First, let me say that I agree with Pius IX, Pius X, and many other Church fathers and leaders in that liberalism and modernism are dangerous heresies that threaten to tear the Church apart from within. These threats are nothing new, and thus the faithful must always battle them. The Church Militant is constantly in a state of crucifixion and resurrection, and hence constantly in a state of renewal. Tradition, firmly rooted in Scripture and the authority of the Church, is the guide.

That said, one of the most unfortunate outcomes of the liberal changes of the 1970s is the division of Catholics into two broad camps: Liberals and Traditionalists. It is difficult not to be in one of these two in one way or another. These camps are defined both in terms of liturgy and theology. Thus one in theory could like the new mass and lean more towards conservative, traditional theology. Not surprisingly, though, these camps are generally centered around the liturgy. 

Before these modifications, there was one mass. Whatever the debates and disagreements in theology and social doctrine might have been, there was one mass. There was one form of common prayer that we all used. (Even the various rites were consistent in spirit, and thus a different form of the same thing.) Now we have various traditional masses. Some are with the local diocese. Some are not. Even among Novus Ordo parishes, there is a wide range of style. Today one never knows what one is going to get, as liturgy reflects more personality and local groupthink rather than the one, unified doctrine of the Church. 

As for me, I'm a Catholic, plain and simple. I refuse to participate in these debates. Yes, I hold to the traditions of the Church. Yes, I profess the traditional doctrine and theology of the Church. I took a solemn oath to do so, even to the shedding of my own blood if necessary. The bickering between jurisdictions and even between parishes is counterproductive and nothing more than a tool of Satan to instill division within the corporate Body of Christ. I agree there can be no compromise on the immutable doctrine of the Faith. What will I do? I will simply continue to say mass for the people of the world. 

21 February 2014

The strange modern notions of Church and State in America

Sub Tuum.

It is only in the recent period of America's history that the idea that religion should have no place in the public sector has been considered the norm. Of course, anti-Catholic policies and sentiments have always persisted and sought to limit or eliminate the influence of Catholicism. Religion, particularly Christianity as a whole, was not only tolerated, it was upheld. Several of the first states had state religions. Laws pertaining to things like blasphemy remained on the books in some states until quite recently. Thomas Jefferson stated that the government had no right to meddle in the affairs of the church. From the Colonial days, though, the church was right there in government. There are chaplains for the Senate and House of Representatives. Invocations are given at Presidential Inaugurations. The list goes on and on. It was simply considered normal until the past decade. 

The funny thing about all this is that the secularists who are promoting this shift in American mentality claim that America really is secular and was originally secular. Yet the facts suggest quite the opposite. America was and is a Christian nation. I remember my childhood, no matter how much the secularists want me to forget. Yet so many people forget. Those of us who remember will eventually be overshadowed by the many young people who are growing up with no knowledge of their history. They will believe in secularism because no one has told them otherwise. They will believe religion is not part of America because no one has taught them otherwise. The Church is being crucified by the secularists. It is the duty of the Church Militant to work through the grace of God to rise again for the good of the souls of mankind!

15 February 2014

Lessons from the Retirement of Evgeni Plushchenko

Sub Tuum. 

Those watching the Winter Olympics in Sochi (or at least the figure skating portions) are doubtless aware that famed Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushchenko not only retired from competition as planned, but withdrew from the men's individual competition moments before he was to skate. He was apparently experiencing severe pain due to old injuries for which he had surgery. The crowd rose to its feet as he left the ice, but the reception from the Russian people overall was about as frigid as a Siberian winter.

The claims were many. Some say he choked because he didn't think he could beat the Japanese skater who won the gold medal. Some say he just physically wimped out. Others claimed he never should have been in the Olympics in the first place due to his prior injuries. It is far easier to shout advice or criticism from the cover of the sidelines than to risk defeat at the point of attack. While only Plushchenko knows the reason for certain, the reason probably was the obvious fact he was in severe pain. In any case, it was his decision to make, and he made it. 

At 31, he is old for a high-level competitive figure skater. He is known not only for his brilliant artistry in performance, but also for his incredible strength and jumping ability. These feats of strength were not without their toll. As Plushchenko himself said, he is a normal person and not a robot. Injuries from years of competition resulted in several operations, including on his spine (the old injury that apparently caused his withdrawal from the competition). Prior to the Sochi Games, he already had three medals, one gold and two silver. In the first part of the Sochi Games, he helped to propel Russia to a team gold medal. That he could accomplish this at his age and with all his physical problems that he had to overcome is an inspiration. Yet, some say he should have quit after the last Olympics or, even better, after the one before that, where he won his gold medal. That might be true if the only purpose is to "go out on top" and be popular. I like to think it is about more than that. It is about overcoming challenges, ignoring the naysayers, and developing and using one's God-given talents to show the highest capabilities of one of God's greatest creations, the human body. It is about being willing to try to accomplish something great, even at risk of failure. And, yes, it is even about having the maturity to know when to quit; not when to quit based on accolades or public acclaim, but based on one's self. 

The unfortunate thing is that this discussion would not even be necessary had he been able to skate in the competition, and especially if he had at least won a medal. How unfortunate that the public is so fickle. How unfortunate that so many people live vicariously through others rather than being in sympathy with their fellow man. As for me, all I can do is be thankfully for having been able to witness a truly great artist and athlete via a television screen and wish him blessings and best wishes in his retirement from skating competition and in the next phase of his life. 

13 February 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sub Tuum.

As couples all over prepare for an day of romance this Friday on the Feast of Saint Valentine, it is wise to remember that the true source of all love is God. Even true love between a man and a woman is a reflection of God's love and a way for humans to experience God's love. Too often in today's society people see "romance" as a means to get something. Yet, true love is necessarily sacrificial. On this day of romance, remember the example of Saint Valentine himself. He was an Roman priest. So much was his love of God and his devotion to the Blessed Mother that he was martyred in one of the many persecutions of Christians in the early Church. So this Valentine's Day, don't concern yourself with what your significant other can do for you, but instead ask what you yourself can do for them. This life is so short that we ought not waste even one heartbeat of it.

Relics of Saint Valentine in Rome

Saint Valentine receives the rosary from the Blessed Virgin