A Skimmer Full of Dead Mice

I beseech thee, saith he, be not angry, Lord, if I speak yet once more:  What if ten should be found there?  And he said:  I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.  And the Lord departed, after he had left speaking to Abraham:  and Abraham returned to his place.  
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Without getting into personal details, I’ve got as much Country Mouse cred as nearly anyone I encounter on the internet.  That isn’t to say much of anything interesting, other than – for the purpose of this post – rushing to defend the City Mice isn’t for me instinctual. For decent mice appalled at the cesspool, there’s an understandable temptation to view Big Cities as sci-fi level Filth Generators.  Manhattan, to take a typical example, is forever cranking up its Generator, pumping newly manufactured debauchery into the veins of polite America. (For some this is quite literal. Usually involving a Rothschild or two.).  Perhaps.
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But from my perspective, the Big Cities aren’t Filth Generators.  They’re more like Filth Concentrators.  If you pop open the skimmer of your swimming pool, you will find A LOT of trash (You might also find your lucky baseball, but I digress). But it would be silly to assume in light of this finding that the skimmer must somehow have produced all that trash. On the contrary you start to realize that, while taking a dip, you were also swimming blissfully among the pine straw, bird poop, and dog urine. Sure, it was harder to see, and it was diluted by the rest of the pool. But it was there. And in a sense, the skimmer was even doing its job so to speak (and believe-you-me with the upcoming carnival of hell known as “Pride” coming to town I’m all for cordoning off the freak show). But it’s important to remember that the problem – with regards to the trash – isn’t the skimmer. It’s actually the trash. And if the trash itself isn’t dealt with – if the sources aren’t cut off – it will ultimately overwhelm the skimmer, and the pool at large will be indistinguishable from our little round Trash Concentrator.
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There is manisfestly a whole lot of terrible in the Big City. And from a prudential standpoint, wondering why anyone would ever wish to sunbathe in the skimmer is a reasonable question. Well and fine, and I’d very likely agree.  But these types of discussions aren’t usually ones of prudence.  They’re usually in the frame of “aight fellas, time for us to get serious about this trash business!  Yes, please, God, make normal America great again by smiting those trash pumping City Mice!”  The Lord – in His justice – may very well decide to.  And for my part I pray to be found “one righteous man” should He decide to smite the city I happen to call home.
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Let’s be very careful though, as we attaboy each other calling down the Lord’s justice upon bad Big Cities for their “cultural effects,” that we don’t pull the scab back too far.  Be very careful, while wishing the fate of Sodom upon various and sundry folks, to be sure you are indeed Lot and not, say, his wife.  And that’s really my point in all this.  It is understandable to flee the trash, but you can only swim to the bottom of the deep end for so long.  Modern America’s problems aren’t – at root – those Trash Concentrating Big City Skimmers. America’s problems are its trash – it’s unquestioned commitments to liberalism and debauchery.  Its refusal – as a nation – to repent unequivocally and bend the knee before Christ the King.  The more I learn this, the less I care about much of anything I can read about in the papers.  And the more I need to repent, reaching for some sackcloth and ashes.  I’m probably being a jerk here.  But you can knock yourself out about makinAGA, about feudalism and distributism, about monarchy and minarchy, punctuations and spellings, and philosophy and books and art.  And these are – to be sure – very, very good discussions so far as they go.  But any discussion ostensibly about Making America Great Again! at the bedrock level that doesn’t terminate in repenting our liberalism, repenting (all) our grave evils, throwing ourselves into the arms of Holy Mother Church isn’t about dealing with the trash at all. It’s just fishing dead mice from the skimmer.

Finding a Hay in the Free Clinic Needle Stack

If to these we add other causes which induce to contract marriage, and, in choosing a wife, to prefer one person to another, such as the desire of leaving an heir, wealth, beauty, illustrious descent, congeniality of disposition such motives, because not inconsistent with the holiness of marriage, are not to be condemned.  We do not find the Sacred Scriptures condemn the Patriarch Jacob for having chosen Rachel for her beauty, in preference to Lia.  – from “The Sacrament of Matrimony,” The Catechism of the Council of Trent
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Modern Christians, who view dating as a means to the sacrament-of-marriage-ends and who do not believe these ends justify unchaste means, can understably feel that modern dating (“finding the one”) is like trying to find a piece of hay in a big ole used intravenous needles stack.  Less understandably, some Christian people feel very strongly that women – or men as may be the case – have an easier time with all this; that is, they have a more accommodating needle stack.  I suppose that can be interesting, but for those of us with boots on the ground that’s about as relevant – and helpful – as observing that women may have a few more pieces of hay hidden in their needle stack compared to men.  Or, in other words, “So what?”
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Similarly – and this being modernity and all – the stack of needles gets addressed from time to time rather bizarrely.  For example, pagan Game proponents break out their magic wands and perform incantations over their needle stack. Alpha-beta-gamma-SHAZAM!  Their incantations are believed to magically turn the needles into softest hay – to be plucked by the wizards at leisure.  Christian Gamers have their own magic:  Rough-and-tumble-weird-masculine-caricatures-rumble-SHAZAM!  The Christian wizard, now magically wardrobed in the impenetrable breastplate of Kumbaya in the key of ManCave, dives head forward into the needle stack grabbing grabbing GRABBING – cause the clock oh, it do be a tickin – for some hay.
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Normal people, looking at all this from the outside, wonder why these crazy people are rolling around naked in a pile of hypodermic needles, getting all stuck and bloodied and bruised and infected.  Trust me, I’m not at all joking.  And I stand before my own (freakin) stack of needles every day.  I have no grand ideas – or spells – really, how to deal with the needle stack.  Perhaps just realizing it is, after all, a stack of needles is the first order of business.  But I do think it’s ok to stop for a second and ask if I’m ready for the danger – is my eye trained enough to even differentiate between softest hay and a bloodied 18 gauge.  I’m sure its proof-positive of my lameness, but is it really such bad advice to recommend – before we reach into the needle stack – simply to be very VERY careful?

A Benedict Option of “NO”

I had just been thinking how much better it would be to carry a big sign that said: “My answer to your question will be, NO.”
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“Would you like an extra shot of espresso with that?”
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“Do you have a moment for Planned Parenthood?”
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“Do you have a Barnes and Nobles membership card?”
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“Will you help us stand up to Jeff Sessions?”
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“Can I get your email for the receipt?”
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“Time to stand up”
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“Would you like to upgrade for an additional $25?”
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Evaluating each intrusion into our lives takes up valuable time – and I’m all for eliminating intrusion in the main.  But cordoning ourselves off from the world – whether physically or mentally – is a zero sum game.  For most people, eliminating the intrusions – categorically – will invariably eliminate small moments of grace.  A very wise priest told me recently to find ways to beat the Devil at his own game.  To find ways to turn the awful of the world into small crosses to patiently bear or to find those small moments of grace that hit us where we’re most vulnerable.  And I need all the moments of grace I can get.
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“Could you spare some change for a coffee, sir?”

Hellfire and Brimstone. And Lottery Tickets.

And my people, upon whom my name is called, being converted, shall make supplication to me, and seek out my face, and do penance for their most wicked ways: then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins and will heal their land.

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For the good of the local economy and public schools, the demons have opened a lottery in hell. Participation is, of course, voluntary. The stakes of the lottery are such that the winning ticket allows the damned soul to move up a higher circle of hell. The losing tickets get the other damned souls tossed into a lower circle of hell where even worse never-ending torments await. The damned can play indefinitely. Now, like any good lottery, the House always wins. And, like any good lottery, the players don’t care or even (want to) know what that means, so long as they get to participate. One of the bummers of refusing to play – other than being a major grumpypants everyone hates – is missing out on the “fun” of awaiting to lose and be tossed into a lower circle of hell with even worse torments for eternity. The upshot of non-participation – other than not being tossed into a lower circle of hell – is realizing that this is all insane. Because from the non-participating outside of the lottery, you start realizing that – instead of giving the damned some hope – “playing indefinitely” is a curse designed to bring worse and worse torment – the more one plays the more one descends further into the abyss.

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Now, on the one hand this is all play-pretend. I assume there’s no local economy in hell (I’ll leave similar assumptions regarding public schools to more charitable people.). But on the other hand, the more one looks around the more one sees the lottery being played in all sorts of places. Here and there we see people buying tickets, just hoping to hit the jackpot of a higher circle of hell. Here and there we see “well meaning” people lining up at the ATM for cash to buy tickets. I suppose at first, participation gets hidden behind all those good intentions – only a crazy person wouldn’t want to go up a higher rung in hell! Of course, the further into the abyss one sinks the less is participation about “playing” and “fun.” The stakes haven’t changed – they never will – it’s just that the sense of urgency sinks in. The lottery continues to be played – MUST be played – because hey I never signed up for this 9th circle of hell business. The other interesting thing, psychologically, is that the more one plays – and loses – the more and more one blames the consequences on the lottery itself. On allllll those other people who are playing and taking my winning ticket. And the less and less does one realize the consequences are directly a result of playing the lottery at all.

It is said that Satan has been quite successful convincing modern pagans he doesn’t exist. Well perhaps Satan has been equally successful convincing modern Christians too much that he does exist. Living in a fallen world doesn’t require trading with hell. Living unchastely with your girl, hoping she’ll be the jackpot one that you’ll surely make an honest gal out of and hey after long enough no one will even remember all that. Refreshing the tree of liberty with the blood of babies, hoping we’ll pray the gay away enough to fix all that bad liberty. Its all lottery tickets in hell. For what reward? For a higher rung? I suppose the demons do let us play indefinitely.

Fatima, Conspiracy, and Headless Women

I’ve always been fascinated with conspiracy theories.  However, analogously I was always fascinated by the headless woman at the state fair.  The headless woman was clearly an absurdity, and it was the very suspension of disbelief required of the carnival act that made it all so much fun.  (I’m sure there is a life-of-the-party out there that thinks carnivals and headless women are pagan atrocities.  I’d bet a coffee such Uncle Scrooge McDuck’s didn’t grow up in the middle of Nowheresville surrounded by cattle and pickups.  But I digress.)  But unlike conspiracy theories and their theorists, the headless woman is confined to the carnival and not – one would hope – traipsing about in the real world occasionally bumping into reality.  In other words, conspiracy theorists aren’t harmless carnies.  Furthermore, my experience is – admittedly generalizing here – that conspiracy “buffs” are of a certain temperament.  Like with all temperaments there is a fair degree of naturing and nurturing going on here, but whatever the cause this particular temperament seems to make these folks susceptible to conspiracy theories.
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My own temperament tends to be of an anti-conspiracy theory bent.  I’m fascinated by the absurdity of it all, but – to be sure – I just don’t believe in most cases such theories are plausible.  That’s not offered as proof against any particular theory – we’re just talking temperaments at the moment.  But I do tend to think that the idea that a large number of the types of people who would get mixed up in conspiracies can hold together such complex schemes for days, years, decades, without spilling the beans is silly.
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This weekend is the 100th anniversary of the initial apparition of our Blessed Mother at Fatima. A certain corner of the internet will be filled with conspiracy theories regarding the Third Secret, Russia, Vatican II, and all that.  Temperaments can change – with difficulty – and as an example Ill offer my own personal Fatima conspiracy theory.  When I was first studying Catholicism, I stumbled upon all the Fatima writings at a very early point.  There was one trad theory that the 3rd Secret of Fatima warned to some extent against an evil Council (taken to be Vatican II) or against drastically altering the liturgy (taken to be the Novus Ordo).  Since John XXIII was already designing such councils and liturgical changes, he decided to keep the Secret hidden, against the explicit directions of Heaven.
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I had a much different take.  What if, after having read the Secret and having other knowledge, the Popes – far from trying to harm the Faithful for their own personal gain – realized that Fatima was fake?  What if they realized that, even if the apparitions were true, the 3rd Secret was a fake?  What if, instead of announcing this fakery to the world, they were trying to protect the Faithful by keeping all this hidden?  What if the headless woman had roamed about town, set up shop, and was the lifeblood of a rapidly deserted truck stop town?  A fake – but believed – Fatima could be far less harmful than a fake, humiliated Fatima.
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For the record, I do believe in the apparition of Mary at Fatima – even if I remain confused over some of the specifics, particularly this 3rd Secret stuff.  And my former “theories” continue to contribute to a temperament of mine that is hesitant to granting Fatima the “5th Gospel” heights that some would attach to it.  But regardless, it is astonishing that billions upon billions of rosaries have included a prayer recommended by shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, a century ago – there’s something so (big and small C) Catholic in all that.  Fatima separates us categorically from all other Christian confessions.  Fatima is a sign of contradiction, even if I get confused on which side to stand.
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Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death!

The Road to Hail

Roman Catholicism is the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

To not be Roman Catholic is to be in an objectively inferior position (as regards both temporal and eternal rewards) than to be Roman Catholic.

But it is not the case that to be Roman Catholic is always and everywhere to be in a superior moral position than to be non Catholic.

In fact, quite the opposite may be the case.

So why don’t we just stop all this objective position mumbo jumbo.

Becasue it’s not just mumbo jumbo, although there are different senses in which it is true.  The most wretched Roman Catholic has – presumably – heard the truth and has a greater chance of hearing the Truth again as well as having greater access to the ordinary means of grace and repentance (i.e. The sacraments, the sacramentals, etc).  We have no idea what Providence has in store for – even after the greatest of future falls – a tender hearted 10 year old devoutly praying the Hail Mary in a moment of love.

The non-Catholic, possibly even becasue of his very piety and fervency, may be less likely to hear the Truth and have access to the ordinary means of grace and repentance.  And has likely never said a Hail Mary.

We love you, Dear Mother.