Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Government 101

This is definitely one for all students and Americans to see and remember!

It simplifies things so everyone can understand it.

Sooo many times I have heard people, including teachers, mistakenly say that we live in a Democracy!! Not so!!

All Americans should see this video. Pay particular attention to the end on the fall of the Roman Empire and why it fell. Does it sound familiar?

Please pass it around. Thanks.

What type of government do you want..........?

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(Compliments of The Eagle's View!)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What the FOCA?! Day of Action

Crude title, yes I know. But what's more to the point is the reality of abortion and the facts behind the so-called Freedom Of Choice Act, more properly understood as the Fulfillment of Chaos Act. FOCA will not bring 'freedom' to women, but will unleash chaos upon this country. Get the facts--ALL of them! Then understand true Horror!

Alas! I had the You Tube here until I started messing around with template! Oh well, live and learn! Anyway, here's the link to the info which is more important anyway!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power

In Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power Joseph Pieper begins building his case against sophistry by showing what Plato most deplored about the sophists of his day: their wealth (no surprise) and physical beauty and how the former is gained through the corruption of the latter as well as the manipulation of language. Pieper includes quotes from Hegel and Nietzsche -- both separated from the Father of Philosophy by more than a millennium -- which assure us of the pervasive continuity of sophistry from then until now, as if we needed any.

'Human words and language accomplish a two-fold purpose... First, words convey reality. We speak in order to name and identify something that is real, to identify it for someone, of course--and this brings us to the second aspect in question, the interpersonal character of human speech.'

We are then led to look at lies, the crafting of well-reasoned arguments and whether the author is seeking to convey the truth or deceive his audience. When such is the case, 'from that moment on (the author/artist) no longer considers the other as partner, as equal. In fact, he no longer respects the other as a human person.' Plato, through Socrates, calls this "flattery". Pieper says this 'becomes a speech without a partner, since there is no true other; such speech, in contradiction to the nature of language, intends not to communicate but to manipulate.'

The rest of the essay goes on to examine the loss of character in our language through slogans, advertising, propaganda, and mass media--just different forms of deceptive trickery and mental bondage.

Plato's three statements about the necessity of truth to the health of human society are summarized and as true today as ever: 1.) the good of man and meaningful human existence consists in perceiving, as much as possible, things as they really are; 2.) all men are nurtured by the truth; 3.) the natural habitat of the truth is found in interpersonal communication.

Pieper calls for 'an area of truth, a sheltered space for the autonomous study of reality, where it is possible, without restrictions, to examine, investigate, discuss, and express what is true about anything--a space, then explicitly protected against all potential special interests and invading influences, where hidden agendas have no place, be they collective or private, political, economic, or ideological.' His mentor, Plato, would no doubt agree with this necessity, recognize the description of his own Academie and be proud. Who indeed would disagree? And yet, where can such a place be found? Thankfully for this booklady at least, such a sanctuary still exists in my own home.

Profound essay! Never more relevant than it is today.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Love Is God

Today as I was watching the Inauguration and listening to the various talking heads I couldn't help but think how grateful I am that I am a Catholic and that my faith is in God, the God Who is Love, described in brief by Our Holy Father in the Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est.

So many people across our country are putting all their hopes today in a man, a man who has just taken on a very powerful position at the head of the largest free republic on earth. Nevertheless, he is just a man, a human being, and not God. His position merits our respect and we certainly want and need to pray for him as our president, but he is not God. And if he fails or makes a mistake, our world will not end. Our faith is in the One Who will never disappoint, hurt or abandon us.

I was also thinking about BEGINNINGS. Not only do we have a new president but Benedict's Book Club is beginning a new year with a new book, or rather, an Encyclical, a Papal Letter.

Our Pope chose to lead off his papacy with this Encyclical on Love. Love. God is Love . . . Even though he knew that love is an overused, misused, misunderstood word, still he braved the potential risk, the ridicule, and the certain misinterpretations to bring us a basic truth about God which we need to hear: God is Love. PBXVI's was another 'voice crying in the wilderness', only this time 'the wilderness' is our own modern culture of media, Internet, i-pods, cell phones, instant communication and gratification.

And what about love? Do we know what that is? If we don't understand what "love" is, then we're a little like the blind person being told the sky is blue. He can't fathom "sky" and has never seen a color; the description is worthless.

Many of us can't define "love" but we know it when we give it or receive it. The Holy Father identifies the different types of "love" in Section 2 and then goes on to say: 'Amid this multiplicity of meanings, however, one in particular stands out: love between man and woman, where body and soul are inseparably joined and human beings glimpse an apparently irresistible promise of happiness. This would seem to be the very epitome of love; all other kinds of love immediately seem to fade in comparison. So we need to ask: are all these forms of love basically one, so that love, in its many and varied manifestations, is ultimately a single reality, or are we merely using the same word to designate totally different realities?

That last question is one worth pondering!

Also, I don't know if anyone noticed the mention that "love" got in the "Praise Song", the Inaugural Poem today?

Here's the link for the entire poem, but here are the verses just about love:

"Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance."

It sounds to me as if the poet is in search of the same path that our Encyclical already clearly lights.

God bless our new president and America!

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Deus Caritas Est

On the eve of the Inauguration I am rereading Deus Caritas Est or God is Love for the umpteenth time and working my way through The Way of Love for additional insights to share with our book club; we began discussing this Encyclical last week.

I finished Deus Caritas Est or God is Love for the second time 15 January 2009. The first time I read Deus Caritas Est (DCE) was also my initial exposure to an Encyclical, a Papal Letter, as well as to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. I was not disappointed on either account; in fact just the opposite. This second reading, however, I really appreciated DCE and its author!

If you've never read any Church documents, I can't recommend a better place to begin. I'm sure PBXVI had that in mind when he contemplated his first Encyclical. Given 'his reputation as a strong authoritarian who was set upon disciplining many in the Church and reprimanding “the world”,'* no doubt Pope Benedict's choice of "Love" as a topic for his first official letter as pope must have surprised many. It would seem to be out-of-character to those who rely on the news media as their basis of opinion for public figures. But for those who knew the real man, the quiet scholar, the faithful priest, it was a statement about his life's devotion to Jesus Christ who is Love Incarnate.

The first half of the book is entitled "The Unity of Love in Creation and in Salvation History" and by the Pope's own admission, 'it is more speculative' since he wanted 'to clarify some essential facts concerning the love which God mysteriously and gratuitously offers to man, together with the intrinsic link between that love and the reality of human love.' (DCE 1) In this first section, PBXVI deals with the problem of language and how the word 'Love' is used, misused and misunderstood. (See my next post on Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power for more about the misuse about language.) There is an explanation of the differences between eros and agape love, a refutation of Nietzsche's claim that Christianity destroyed eros and the fulfillment of God's Love through The Word Incarnate, Jesus Christ.

The second part of the book, Caritas, The Practice of Love by the Church as a "Community of Love" deals with the proper practice for Church today, that of being manifest love. If we call ourselves Christians, then Charity, or Love, is our responsibility--Charity in all its many forms. Works of charity should not blind us, nor do they relieve us of the responsibility to work for justice. Even so, the Holy Father points out that, 'The just ordering of society and the State is a central responsibility of politics...(and) the State may not impose religion, yet it must guarantee religious freedom and harmony between the followers of different religions.' (DCE 28) However, no matter what system man creates, 'Love--caritas--will prove necessary, even in the most just society.' (DCE 28)

Deus Caritas Est reveals a man in love with a God of Love. It is a beautiful synthesis of the Christian Gospel and a perfect first Encyclical. Read it and rejoice!

* During his time as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger was often caricaturized as a “rigid” enforcer of Church Dogma. This adverse judgment on him had no basis in fact; nonetheless it was the portrait of him that many had chosen to accept. It is true that it was his job to protect Church doctrine, which sometimes required him to reprimand or to discipline wayward theologians, but the image of him perpetuated by the media was, and is, far from the truth. Those who know him well describe him as a brilliant, but rather shy and retiring professor type, who always strives to speak from the heart of the Church. Those inside and outside of the Church respect Pope Benedict for his great intellect and learning. By all accounts, he is unfailingly kind and has a great capacity for listening, even to those with whom he does not agree. In short, he is a faithful disciple of Jesus and the Church.' (Extracted from the Diocese of Pittsburgh Study Guide which our group is using).

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

I Am Bonhoeffer

The truth is I read everything these days with a view to gaining insight about him. I'm on a personal quest to learn all I can about our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, even to the extent of plugging the many holes in my German History education.

I found I Am Bonhoeffer: A Credible Life two days after Christmas and purchased it with my Christmas gift card. Interestingly (since I don't believe in co-incidents) I picked the book up the same day our family went to see the new movie, Valkyrie. Interesting as the movie is about the plot to kill Hitler which is the same reason Bonhoeffer was eventually arrested and executed.

Although this is a fictionalized biography, it is excellent. The writing is first class and the author's background as a journalist-historian tells in his tight, credible construction of plot, dialogue and character. Barz also demonstrates an exceptional ability to develop and describe the evolution of Bonhoeffer's theological thoughts and beliefs which is precisely what I was looking for in this work.

‘I am Bonhoeffer. Fine. But who is that?’ On page 222 of Paul Barz’s retrospective novel about the martyred German pastor we finally learn the significance of the title. Raised as a privileged prince, the youngest son in a large, loving, upper-class family, it may have taken imprisonment for Dietrich Bonhoeffer to really come to know himself. In any event, I am really looking forward to reading his Letters and Papers from Prison to see if such proves to be the case.

I am Bonhoeffer specifically refers to Dietrich’s climactic realization that – like everyone else – he, too, can be stripped of wealth, title, position, family, love, freedom and yet something still remains. This novel begins in two places: at his arrival in Nazi prison in 1945 and his idyllic childhood. It continues to progress along the two rails of his journey through his life behind bars and his life of freedom growing up in the first half of the 20th Century. The two separate ‘worlds’ are eerily juxtaposed as the final months of the Second World War drag to a close and Germany propels itself inevitably into cataclysmic ruin--all the while the young Dietrich is discerning his vocation, even at times his faith. Not his denomination necessarily, but his ability to believe, which according to those who knew him best, didn’t always come easy; depending on your viewpoint a comforting or a disconcerting thing in one’s pastor.

He traveled to and lived in Italy, Spain, America, England and Switzerland. Each country and its people left a mark on him and his understanding of God, religion and worship. Italy was omnipotent grandeur, sound, smells and blue, blue skies. Spain was where he learned pastors are a kind of matador. America was Uncle Tom, Gospel music, and simple, emotional faith. England and Switzerland were places to help Jews to escape to, but not for him. Germany always drew him home. I am Bonhoeffer tells more than just the story of one man’s developing maturity and ultimately heroic struggle against tyranny. It also gives some of the history of German Protestant Christian politics in the late 1920’s and through the 30’s and early 40’s. It’s easy to forget it’s a work of fiction; it reads like a well-written biography. Later when the Nazis came to power, it’s possible to trace the decline of the Church as a moral influence as well. Although far from a complete record of the time, as one witness to the era, IaB is telling.

Though Bonhoeffer couldn’t lie; his baby face and honest countenance weren’t made for espionage, the conspirators to kill Hitler still found use for his very innocence.

If the book has a weakness, it’s that it fails to relate or even speculate how Bonhoeffer reconciled his Christian ethics with his own participation in treason and murder, even if the victim of the murder was Hitler. Many other peripheral issues were discussed such as: would/should he defend himself when the authorities came for him; was his head already on the same deathbed at the Scholls, members of the “White Rose” resistance group executed while he was in prison; should he marry, did he deserve to, was he still of use in the normal world, etc. So perhaps he did not reconcile his own decision to kill the monster, Hitler, and yet felt it expedient and/or necessary for the greater good of mankind. This and other questions are left unanswered, as is the case whenever someone dies, but especially during wartime, and especially when the Nazis kangaroo try and execute the person in haste, in secret and burn the body.

Incredible book!

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

All Creatures

My book club just started studying Pope Benedict XVI's Deus Caritas Est yesterday. To me, this video shows God's Love. Animals don't need all our words; they just live them. Would that we could be as simple and as generous.

'All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.'
~~Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895)

Monday, January 12, 2009

different point of view

Her eyes met mine as she walked down the corridor peering apprehensively into the kennels. I felt her need instantly and knew I had to help her. I wagged my tail, not too exuberantly, so she wouldn't be afraid. As she stopped at my kennel I blocked her view from a little accident I had in the back of my cage. I didn't want her to know that I hadn't been walked today.

Sometimes the shelter keepers get too busy and I didn't want her to think poorly of them. As she read my kennel card I hoped that she wouldn't feel sad about my past. I only have the future to look forward to and want to make a difference in someone's life. She got down on her knees and made little kissy sounds at me. I shoved my shoulder and side of my head up against the bars to comfort her.

Gentle fingertips caressed my neck; she was desperate for companionship. A tear fell down her cheek and I raised my paw to assure her that all would be well. Soon my kennel door opened and her smile was so bright that I instantly jumped into her arms. I would promise to keep her safe I would promise to always be by her side. I would promise to do everything I could to see that radiant smile and sparkle in her eyes.

I was so fortunate that she came down my corridor. So many more are out there who haven't walked the corridors. So many more to be saved. At least I could save one. I rescued a human today.

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Place Within

I'm not a poet. I'm not even a great lover of poetry. But occasionally I think I should be. Or someone hands me a book of poetry and says, "You really need to read this!" A friend told me this was one book of poetry worth trying.

The Place Within is collection of poetry to be set next to your Bible or in your prayer corner. I'll be taking it with me to Adoration. The poetry reads more like reflections, wisps of prayerlike impressions.

Many of the selections are short and can be tied to specific Scripture stories/people such as: Jacob; The Samaritan Woman; The Samaritan Woman Meditates; Simon of Cyrene; Her Amazement at Her Only Child; John Beseeches Her; First Moment of the Glorified Body; Magdalene, etc. I recommend reading the Gospel passage and then the applicable poem.

Pope John Paul II has also written about places in the Holy Land and experiences of conversion. The are two longest pieces are entitled "Songs of the Hidden God". They completely lost me at times and yet I found them very beautiful even so. I couldn't help thinking the reader was supposed to feel a little lost or overwhelmed by the flood of images, all the while looking for the "You" with the capital "Y" because the search for God is reflected in the symbolic difficulty one has in figuring out the meaning of so many seemingly random sensory images. I think I may need to slow down a bit more the next time I try to read these particular selections. In fact the entire book invites the soul to step out of time and space and enter The Place Within where He dwells that He may speak and we may hear.

Here is a selection from the title poem, The Place Within. It is located in the grouping, "Journey to Holy Places" so we may presume the Holy Father is probably writing about a visit to the place of Our Lord's execution and burial but he combines that with the even more meaningful and beautiful journey within the human body/heart/soul through Communion, prayer and our fiat.

'My place is in You, your place is in me. Yet it is the place of all men. And I am not diminished by them in this place. I am more alone--more than if there were no one else--I am alone with myself. At the same time I am multiplied by them in the Cross which stood on this place. This multiplying with no diminishing remains a mystery: the Cross goes against the current. In it numbers retreat before Man.

In You--how did the Cross come to be?

Now let us walk down the narrow steps as if down a tunnel through a wall. Those who once walked down the slope stopped at the place where now there is a slab. They anointed your body and then laid it in a tomb. Through your body you had a place on earth, the outward place of the body you exchanged for a place within, saying, "Take, all of you, and eat of this."

The radiation of that place within relates to all the outward places on Earth to which I pilgrimage. You chose this place centuries ago--the place in which You give yourself and accept me.' 1965

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Salt of the Earth

Yesterday I drove to Texas to see a friend I hadn't seen in ten years. It was like we'd only seen each other yesterday! It was the old Feast of the Nativity and we exchanged gifts. We had lunch at a French cafĂ© and talked for hours, mostly about Him; His best friend, the white-haired gentleman, AKA, PBXVI and the book club. Although the picture on the left is a terrible picture of me, I love that we are in front of some very old books. Thanks lh for being such a great friend . . . and let's please try to get together before it's another ten years, okay?! ☺

And because this is a book blog, I must add that I listened to my favorite white-haired gentleman's interview on Salt of the Earth while I was driving there and back. It resulted in a few missed turns but it was worth it. I can't begin to say enough about how good it is. Well I can . . . and I think I just did. More to follow!

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Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Reflections

On this the first day of the new year I’m reading Mary, The Church at the Source contemplating the Mother of God, praying for a dear friend driving north to be at the bedside of her dying mother-in-law and looking on this sweet scene of True Love, my own dear in-laws, married fifty three years now. Thank you God for the gift of their health, the witness of their faithful marriage and the incredible visit we’ve just had. How is it possible my relationship with them gets better and better with each passing year? What can I do or say to help my friend in her time of suffering? I give her to You, dear Mary, on this your feast as the Mother of God. Comfort her. Watch over her with a mother’s tender loving care. Please help me treasure each moment I have left with my family.

As for Mary, The Church at the Source it is not so much a book on Mary or Mariology per se as a book on the Church's understanding of itself through its understanding of Mary in relationship with Jesus, hence the title, Mary: The Church at the Source. Although Mariology is an impossibly broad topic to begin with it is still generally limited -- according to the Catholic Encyclopedia -- to, 'the doctrine of the Mother of God, (which) cannot be separated either from the person or from the work of the Redeemer and therefore has the deepest connection with both Christology and Soteriology,' and doesn't explore questions of Church identity in quite the way this book does.

However, for that reason, this isn't really a good book for someone looking to begin their studies on the Mother of God. It has limited and narrowly-defined objectives which it clearly sets out and beautifully meets.

It was interesting (and recommended) to read this book during the Liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas as well as in conjunction with Bud McFarlane's Pierced By a Sword another book with deep Marian significance.

The first half of the book is a collection of essays written by Pope Benedict XVI and the second half are written by the Catholic theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar. Each essay is a stand alone entity and as such they can be read in any order, although I did see some benefit in reading them in chronological order.

Highly recommended especially during Advent, Christmas or any other Marian feast, month or season!

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