Shameless Papistry, Fantastical and Paleontological Musings, General Hilarity

General Incoherent Babblings

Teasers Galore

I think it high time to explain my silence over the past month or so. First, work became very busy, and I had other tasks at hand to deal with. Second, my personal computer is still in the shop, so I’m doing this little bit on my lunch break at work. I figure that I at least ought to give you something to read over, even if this is only filler until I actually have the time and means to write. As my head has been bursting with ideas for some time and I have had nowhere to put them, there are a good many articles coming in the near future. So without further ado, take a glance at my schedule.

Making Yourself Look Bad-All about what Catholic (and thereby Christian) having solid Christian relationships can and should do for you.

Warning Claxon-Digging through some of the layers of the HHS Mandate debacle we American Catholics find ourselves in.

Going for the Throat-A multi-part, knock-down, drag-out thrashfest targeting Atheism and its results with the very same tactics used by most of its prominent proponents.

Things You Never Expected to See Catholic-Looking deeper into pop-culture and yanking out the Good contained therein.

Clashing Mental Imagery-An exercise in getting your brain to think differently about what the Church really is.

Toy Soldiers and Belief-A critical analysis of Warhammer 40,000 and its various factions, accompanied by an actual ideology that fits each one the best.

Musical Manifestation-The way I practice Catholicism represented as a collection of songs.

Extinguishing the Rising Sun-An evaluation and critique of the Eastern Philosophy that was condensed and used effectively in Avatar: The Last Airbender

Seven Deadly Allegories-A portrait of Evil in Full Metal Alchemist, the manga.

The Savior of Shannara-Terry Brooks and his Word and the Void worldview.

As you can see, you all have an army of words on the march toward your waiting minds. Brace yourselves!

 


Filler Because I’m Responsible

So, Final Exams are coming up, and I am awash in papers and tests of all varieties. As opposed to writing for this, I’ll just drop in with the occasional tidbit or artwork that I’ve muddled with to relax between pounding the intellectual turf. Have a taste!

 

This has to be one of my favorite pictures of Christ. I know, I know, it looks hippy, but I like the Universality of it. He’s just beckoning to each and every one of us, wearing a robe that shows in no uncertain terms that He really is the Lord of All Nations.

I recently began watching Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix. I highly doubt that I need to explain why I love this picture. Also, props to Bad Catholic for introducing me to it.

I first read the quote “He went consenting, Or else he was no king…It was no man’s place to say to him, “It is time to make the offering.” from Mary Renault’s “The King Must Die” as the chapter header of some portion of Watership Down. I instantly thought of my own Bleeding King. To that end, I butchered the construction of this on Picnik.

I made this based off of a Full Metal Alchemist one my friend the Catholic Chaoticist over on tumblr had posted up. As many flaws as Bleach had to begin with, and as many as it developed, I did enjoy what I watched of it, especially these two fellows. To date, Kubo Tite is the only man who has created a main character I can identify with fairly well. What that says about me, or more importantly, Kurosaki Ichigo (the serious looking gentleman with the glorified carving knife), is besides the point. On a side note…Abarai Renji is holding his sword in the most uncomfortable way possible. I’m estimating that monster weighs about 15 Ilbs…so why would you ever rest that weight on your body, blade down?

Expect more to come!


Dark for Dark Business

(Names replaced to avoid any breaches of confidentiality.)
It was fairly cold out around 1 AM Friday Morning. A few hours ago I had been at a Latin Holy Thursday Mass with some friends, muddling through a wonderful Sacrament that I knew well in a language that I did not. My friend Perry and I were sitting on the inside of the giant metal modern art sculpture, hiding far back in the cleft facing the NKU University Center, keeping to the shadows and keeping nearly silent. Last night had been easier, as me and my two other friends, Jackson and Mark, had been blessed with more shadow to hide in. The nearly full moon had been covered by clouds then. It had also been warmer and the wind had not bitten half so harshly. Earlier Perry, Jessa, Sally and I had been hiding among roughly broken rocks underneath the UC/BEP walkway. The wind had knifed through the support pillars, howling and chilling us to the bone as it went.

It is entirely reasonable to ask why on earth we were hiding out like this, and why myself and other compatriots had been hiding out the previous night until 3 AM.

The answer is simple. We were hiding near the Northern Kentucky University Right to Life Onesie Display, to protect it from vandals. You see, a simple sign with a properly researched and cited fact on it, coupled with a few clotheslines that had baby clothes hung on them, is apparently enough to warrant the destruction of property under the cover of darkness. Did I mention that the display was approved by the University, or else it would have never been put up in the first place? Or that once used, the baby clothes, of which every fourth article had a red X in tape that was easily removable, were to be donated to babies in sore need of help? Yet, of course, because our stance is not the most popular, on Monday and Tuesday night our display was torn down, with all the onesies picked from their clothespins like cherries and dropped to the dirt. We do not know what time this happened on Monday, but, Tuesday, we know it happened before 1AM, as Perry, Jackson, and I, along with several of our friends, had gone to check on it and found the onesies taken down again. We also know the deed was done after 11 PM, thanks to a passerby who remarked that she had been out smoking around then, and the display had been just fine at that time.

Being very tired of this sort of guerilla trampling of our Right to Free Speech, we called the Campus Police, and various measures were taken to ensure that if it happened again, the perpetrators would be identified and caught. However, we decided that we would do what we could ourselves, after making sure our methods were legal by checking with the proper Authorities. You see, this is not the first year this sort of thing has happened. When our club was founded, one of NKU’s Professors took her class outside to tear up the crosses in our Cemetery of Innocents. Each cross represents a varying number of children slain daily by abortion in the USA, depending on the space available. She was let go and soundly chastized. Year after year, semester after semester, despite constant recriminations and condemnations from the University, displays have been damaged, and flyers torn down. With the flyers at least, some of our members have caught those responsible in the act. They were almost always unrepentant and hostile.

To that end, on Wednesday and Thursday night, several of us stayed out of sight and in the cold, watching our display to make sure that this would not happen again and that the vandals would be caught. We were lucky Wednesday, nothing eventful occurred. It originally seemed to Perry and I that the same would hold true for Thursday, and up until around one we waited, wedged in a cramped, freezing, steel hideout, whispering back and forth to pass the time. Then, he motioned for me to be silent. He had heard the distinct snip of scissors when I had not. I saw one of the clotheslines jerk, and it half fell. I was calling the police that instant, and Perry was readying his camera. I saw a short man steal up and cut down the remaining end. Then, I was busy trying to whisper into the Police Operator’s ear. My voice came out so hushed and garbled that they originally thought I was telling them that someone had pulled a gun. While I was sorting that out, Perry stepped from our hiding place and began snapping pictures. He saw four men rushing to stuff the clotheslines and baby clothes into the trash cans outside of the Art Building. By the time I had exited the art and found my bearings, after I was sure I had gotten the situation through to the Operator, I saw them running hard and fast towards the Natural Science Center. Perry was already in hot pursuit. I followed, but being slower and fatter and more out of shape than my speedy friend, remained far behind. I was roaring into the phone by that point, having figured that any noise could only help our cause. My own voice and heavy breathing, combined with my pounding footsteps, drowned out Perry’s yelling. Afterwards, he explained that in the rush, what he had meant to say got mixed up in his head, and he had bellowed “RUN, YOU COWAAARDS!!!!” instead. I sincerely wish I could have heard that.

A few moments later, both he and the fleeing vandals had vanished around the front end of the Science Center, and I was beginning to catch up, having finally found strength in my tightly-cramped legs. I kept talking to the Operator, and realized that it was very likely my good friend was alone with four criminals who had at least one cutting blade between them. I had no knowledge of whether they carried scissors or buck knives, and so when I caught sight of one of them doubling back, possibly to see if I was still on the chase, I was ready to charge in, fighting like a madman, in the event that they had turned back upon him. Praise God that such evil did not take place. When I rounded the corner, I could not find the man I had seen before, and saw two of them standing by Perry and a squad car with its lights flashing away in the parking lot behind the Norse Commons Cafeteria. Still relating everything to the Operator, as best as I could between breaths, I stopped running and shakily walked up to the Officer who was now questioning the two that had been stopped. The Operator left me in his capable hands. Officer Serious demanded that they call their fellows, and the man I had seen by the Science Center did not abandon them and reappeared in a few minutes. Their fourth man, I found out from Perry, had ducked into a building somewhere along the way, and could not be reached.

While they were standing there, I asked Officer Serious if I might say some polite words to them. He allowed it, and I asked them why they had done this, when none of us had ever torn down any Pro-Choice Display at this school. Their response was unified, instantaneous, and loud. The three began leaning forward, angry and belligerent, speaking about how horribly offensive and vile our simple baby clothes had been. One barked that the information of the sign had been a lie, that the phrase “1 out of four babies die from Abortion” was untruthful. I explained that the Guttmacher Institute, which was where we had gotten that fact, was founded by a man who had once been the President of Planned Parenthood. I was shouted down and told that Mr. Alan Frank Guttmacher, an obstetrician and gynecologist as well as a member of the Association for Voluntary Sterilization, had no idea what it was like to be a woman. As if womanhood had anything to do with the ability to report valid statistics. Perry coolly remarked, “Yes, and it seems that the three of you have much experience with knowing what it’s like to be a woman.” During these few sentences, which had originally begun as an innocent request for an explanation, they had moved forward several steps, and Officer Serious found in necessary to step in front of me and tell them to shut it because there would be no debating here. To be frank…I am six foot three, two-hundred and twenty pounds. The biggest one of them was probably two-thirds my size, at the greatest. One of them could not have been more than ninety pounds. If you are willing to be that aggressive to a man that much larger than you, WITH an Officer of the Law present, to the point where he has to literally move in front of you to block your path, and YOU are the one who has committed the crime, you might want to seriously reconsider your position.

They were already trying to downplay what they had just done, and had begun apologizing like children caught with their hands in the candy jar. I was more than somewhat amused when they declared that “surely, we can work something out, come to some sort of resolution”, considering what had happened minutes before. Perry and I accepted their apologies personally, but I warned them that I was not the President of NRTL, and that if my Club Officers asked my opinion of the situation, I would advise them to do whatever the University Code and the Law required, without any thought for pleas for leniency. Given the history of actions like theirs, a strong and clear example needed to be made that this sort of behavior was intolerable. Their faces darkened then, but they remained silent, probably because they had learned overt aggression would not be looked kindly on by the Lawmen present. I gave them a brief lesson on all that had taken place before that night, starting with the first destruction of our displays and going all the way to the present moment. Now, by their own admission, they were not the ones who had taken down the onesies earlier in the week. It does bother me that the vandals were not contained in one isolated group, but, we at least caught somebody. During this, two other Officers, Jogger and Comedian, pulled up and took over the parking lot situation, while Officer Serious took Perry back up to the display. Officer Comedian took over further questioning, from which we all learned several things. It turns out that they had planned to do this earlier in the day during classes, and that all three were Theater Majors at NKU. They also had been drinking beforehand, even though one of them was only 18. The other two were 21. It turned out later that the 18-year-old tried to tell my President that he was actually Pro-life and that he had been a lookout. His behavior towards me on this night proves that statement an outright lie. I saw no disapproving look in his eyes when the three of them began shouting at me in unison. They had used scissors, thankfully, so my fears of having to face knives had been unnecessary, though not entirely unfounded. They repeatedly gave their reason for vandalism as the terrible offensive nature of our display. Officer Comedian, who has my undying applause for his handling of the situation, detained them, made them wait on their knees in the cold, and then took them off under arrest to jail. While he was doing this, he kept up an impressive stream of humorous and educational banter. When the underage man remarked that he had relatives in the military, he asked him how those relatives would feel when he told them that he had violated the very Constitutional Rights they had been fighting for. His weak response was a mumbled ‘Disappointed”. He also managed to sum up the stupidity of what those three had done by explaining that if he saw a sign declaring “Kill the police!” in someone’s yard, he did not have the right to go tear it down, break their windows, raid their fridge, and eat their food in their easy chair.

One of the vandals complained that the pavement was really hurting his knees. I remarked that the large chunks of rock and cold wind under the walkway by the University Center had hurt while we were waiting for them earlier. They responded that that took dedication. “Well, we’re tired of you tearing our shit down.” I said.

In summation, all three planned this ahead of time, got themselves a little drunk, and came up to campus to cut this display down and throw it in the trash. They seemed unphased when I explained that the clothes were to be donated to needy children. So much for their love for those in need. All of their behavior was admitted to Campus Police Officers, who promptly processed them, including the fourth man, who turned himself in later that night. In addition to various alcohol related charges, the have been charged with Criminal Mischief. the University, while unable to tell us what punishment they would receive due to confidentiality rules, made it clear that they would handle the situation, and I have full confidence in their ability to do so.

There is something about waiting in silence in the dark of the night which tests the soul. Even laying in wait with a group of people can be a trying experience. As the time wears on, and you become accustomed to your surroundings, the initial nervousness and shock wears off, only to be replaced by a feeling more pervasive and paranoid. At the start of things, every skitter of leaves across the ground, every bit of movement, every stray person walking past your field of vision, they all spook you a little bit. You get jumpy and your head darts around, trying to investigate anything that seems like a possible threat. Late at night, everything does. Once that period subsides, you can relax a bit, and let yourself breathe a little more easily. The tension never leaves the depths of your mind, though. It is the background melody to your evening symphony, playing throughout the whole piece, and rising to a thunderous crescendo every time thereafter that you hear something that might be amiss. I do not recommend doing this for an hour, let alone five of them at a time.

There is a kind of madness in being forced by necessity to stand guard over your own Freedom of Expression at a University dedicated to helping you develop your ability to use it. The madness is trebled when at that University, which for you has become a place where you come to learn and grow, a place where your friends and loved ones reside, a place that stands for something good and wholesome in your life, you are made to feel, even for an instant, that you are about to fight for the life and limb of one of your friends simply because someone disagreed with what you said. The full weight of this outrage did not sink home until recently, as in the moment, I was actually too full of adrenaline and get-at-them to be afraid of much of anything, or give any thought to the issue beyond resolving to knock some heads together should it come to that. But now, with the anger and rush of the chase gone, I look at those brief five seconds of time in shock and horror. For in those five seconds I was forced by the unknowns of the situation to prepare myself for something almost unthinkable: I had steeled myself to come snarling around a corner and begin unleashing my wrath upon four armed men, with my bare fists, in an effort to preserve the well-being of my friend and myself. Because someone had decided that the way were talking was offensive. This may sound silly or paranoid to you, but you try chasing down four strange men who, by any stretch of reasoning, have to have some sort of blades on them. Then imagine losing sight of your friend and your marks, and having all sounds but your own voice and the wind vanish with the suddeness of the Big Bang. Do I sound overly concerned to you now? Again, I thank God that the men we hunted down were too frightened initially to turn on us instead of flee, and that they were not armed, but we had no way of gauging their intent or equipment. This point is especially poignant, for after hearing of the events I have just described, some of my friends and relatives have noted that their behavior indicated that were the police not present, we may very well have had a fight on our hands. I am inclined to agree with their assessment of things.

What kind of mongrel do you have to be to decide that another’s voice should be silenced merely because it makes you angry? This is even lower than silencing a voice for the “greater good”, for at least that requires that the silencer gag their victim in a badly executed attempt to save or protect society. But simple disgust with another’s opinion? Please, the Propaganda machines of Red China and North Korea have more honor than you. They at least have an ideological reason to eliminate Free Speech, you are just a cantankerous child complaining because somebody said something you find ugly. Your reaction to opposing opinions is akin to a man punching another in the nose because he just stated that he did not like rutabagas.

Folks, I sincerely ask that if you know men or women like the ones my friend and I dealt with, you counsel them on a better way to get out their frustrations. There was one such man who did so, with this very display. He calmly sat in front of it, for two days, with his own homemade sign, answering questions when asked. At no time was he offensive or impolite. He staunchly disagreed with our ideals, but handled that disagreement the appropriate way. I thank that lone man, for those like him remind me that not all those I face when it comes to standing up for what I believe will be dogs and swine, regardless of the evils I have seen done for the sake of trying to tear myself and those like me down.

Oh, and of course, if you know anyone preparing to vandalize something, call the Police. And get yourself an ice cold beer afterwards.


An Ally Has Entered the Arena!

It would be swell of you to get your tumblr watching behinds over to this guy and start following his stuff. Also, if you don’t, I will sic my Papal Velociraptor upon you when you least expect it.

http://catholicchaoticist.tumblr.com/

Psssst, we’re buddies.


A Certain Flaw

Many folk out and about in the high and mighty halls of academia today, and a handful here and there not quite so educated but willing to throw their lot in the same communal pot, have come to the conclusion that Science is the be all and end all of Humanity, and that it shall eventually solve all human problems. They claim that it needs no aide from any other school of thought to accomplish this goal. I will not bother to discuss whether this is actually possible or not, there are many lengthy arguments for or against this concept, and none of them have any bearing on what I am about to say.

There is a problem present in this worldview that is not readily present to the eye of the public, or even the eye of those men and women, myself included, that consider themselves students of the School of Scientific Thought. There is a potential and potent danger in removing Science from the constraints of Philosophical or Religious Ethics. Now, one could easily turn this argumentative thrust aside by remarking that many scientists do not desire the removal of Philosophy, or even Religion from the minds and hearts of the human race. I would be happily inclined to agree, as I am one of those people, despite my “in-training” status. Yet there is a growing faction within the Intellectual Community that holds this to be true. Part of what these men and women have forgotten is that Science is a wonderful tool, but that from its conception was never intended as a master. There is a very strong reason for that.

Who are Scientists, anyway? The general public today thinks of several things when that word comes to mind. It conjures up images of staunch, possibly socially awkward and shy men in lab coats and glasses, pontificating on various subjects with a cold, alien self-assurance that they know exactly what it is they speak of. On occasion, they are envisioned as hyper-critical, rationalist men with a flair for keeping absolutely calm and detached positions even in the most heated debates, sometimes stoically like the stone-faced Mr. Spock, or with a face painted in some sort of clever little smirk and a dash of twinkle in their eye. Very rarely, they are cruel and unforgiving folk with an acidic tongue and a distinct hatred for any kind of thought they find wanting in intelligence, lacking in wit, or from someone who dares to oppose their intellect.  The general idea of all of these conceptions boils down to extreme intelligence and a nearly absolute knowledge of their field, almost to the point of infallibility.

This is not only false, it is dangerous. When you give any one group of men, or any school of thought, for that matter, total domination over a society’s way of thinking, history shall show you that bad things will most certainly happen. What I am willing to bet that a large portion of the world, America included, has forgotten, is that Science is not an absolute. That Scientists are not perfectly logical machine-men who only serve Humanity or Science or Truth itself. We have this problem of image where we see the men of Science as people who live austere lives, almost as separated from the rest of us as Trappist monks are in their monasteries. We look and find a supreme superhuman dedication to rational thought and the betterment their own field which consequently betters the lives of our species. The title PhD has become as significant and respected as the title Rev. or Fr., which, in itself, is nothing wrong. What is wrong is awarding those possessing such titles the same sort of confidence and devotional respect. What is wrong is that to many I have met, the white lab coat a Professor may wear is viewed in a like way to the raven cassock of the Roman Catholic Church.

At this point you might begin to feel that I am taking things a tad too far; I assure you, I am not. As a man of Faith myself, I can recognize it quite clearly in others, even others who are so wrapped up in their own thinking that they fail to notice where they have left rationality behind for, strangely enough, the sake of rational thought. I can guarantee that those of the secular mindset, especially those raised in that manner of thinking, have a much harder time recognizing their own pseudo-religious behavior or thought. We, who live and breathe such things, can see it as plain as the nose on their faces.

Any man who has attacked Religion or expressed the dangers that come with it, and even as a practicing Catholic I assure you that I acknowledge some of those dangers myself, for they do exist, can tell you that such a view of men in the sort of financial, political, intellectual, and governmental positions is no good thing. Like Priests, and Bishops, and even Popes, contrary to what some Protestants would have you believe, Scientists are flawed, fallible, and human. Unless guided by some outside source (I.E., in the cases of Church Council or Papal Infallibility, which relate only to Church Teachings and not personal thought or behavior, basically, no Church Council or Pope can order me to jump off of the Empire State Building, or shoot a heretic, for that matter, and claim that it is the direct Will of God that I do so), they will continue to be flawed, fallible, and human. And still, I cannot count the number of times I have voiced a disparate opinion or hypothesis regarding some bit of evidence or data and been told that Science has decreed that this or that Theory is absolute and final. Any proper Scientist should scoff and deride such madness. The very way Theories are given life is by the interpretation of data. All because we have begun to view Science and its practitioners as a strange sort of secular priesthood.

Scientists are subject to great pressures in their daily lives, which increase or decrease depending on their field. One such pressure which remains ubiquitous for all of us is the need to find funding for research, or even just to support ourselves. We are not humble hermits working in secluded labs for the betterment of all, while what we do might involve that. Like any other lay (as in not of a religious order) person, we work to feed ourselves and keep our families afloat. Now, because I am a Papist, I will take this moment to congratulate the Church for creating a class of men and women freed from that grind by providing them a reasonable amount of food and shelter while removing their need to provide for a family. It was a stroke of immense brilliance, though part of the celibacy issue is Divinely given and the credit belongs to God, not us. You see, Priests and Nuns and all the rest can go about their work completely out of a desire to help others, as opposed to worrying over keeping themselves and their loved ones taken care of.

I have already witnessed firsthand the sort of jockeying that can occur over funding. I have been edging closer to it as my undergraduate research becomes more important and meaningful to the field of Paleontology at large. I have not liked what I have seen, and had several ugly realizations that shattered my own false imaginings of who and what scientists were. We are anything but intellectual ascetics. My experiences, I am told, are still not fully what “things are really like” in Academia. Aside from all the ego-fanning, fame-mongering, and political jockeying within the Universities and other institutions that put clothing on our backs, food in our mouths, and our names into magazines and newspapers, there is even the monetary angle to consider. I am a mere meddler in things long dead that at best bring media attention, that, while valuable, can also be drawn in by other more lucrative research. Can you comprehend the pressure placed squarely upon the shoulders of researchers in genetics, pharmacology, or any number of other fields where they are by nature part of a multi-billion/trillion dollar industry? Especially in an environment where the University has in many ways become more of a business than a place of learning, such things are rife with temptations and all manner of corporate espionage/backbiting/assorted treachery. Or consider yourself as a member of the American Psychological(or Psychiatric) Association, both of which have ties to our Government and the Pharmaceutical Industry. The point is, just because a nice man with the looks expected of his profession says something, you should not immediately consider it to be the truth and nothing but.

With all of that said about those who are in the Sciences, it is time to move on to Science itself. I would say that the best description of the purpose of Science is to explain the how the Universe works through Empirical study. This is a good and wholesome thing. However, left unshackled, what was once a blessing can become a curse. The logical progression which leads to the End Goal of Science is one very few have bothered to give more than a cursory glance at. This End Goal is Omniscience. For man to understand the Universe, completely and with certainty, man’s knowledge must become virtually Omniscient. And it follows that man would then be virtually Omnipotent. The other “Omni’s” follow as part of that first goal, likewise in a virtual manner. Plain and simply, Science with no outside guide is the pursuit of ultimate knowledge and therefore ultimate power. It does not take a Religious man to feel a bit of trepidation when confronted with the idea of Man attempting to become as many view God. This has even more weight to it when you consider that by many philosophical definitions, mine own included, it is impossible for Man to reach that state of perfection (hence the use of the word virtual). What horrors would a demi-god race wreak upon the stars and themselves in their search for ever-more growth and perfection? Considering our own herky-jerky chaotic advancement thus far in our history, we have little to hope for and much to fear as far as this is concerned.

In closing, Science is one of the greatest tools of Man. But any object or tool pursued for its own sake becomes an unforgiving slave-driver of a master, one more likely to consume its wielder than bring about anything good.


Go Go Catholic Priesthood, Part 2!

On with the show!

I think I will write on Father Jester next. He was the Chaplain of my University’s Catholic Newman Club for the first two years of my membership, and is also the Vocations Director for my Diocese. In layman’s terms, he goes out and finds new young men to take a crack at joining the Priesthood. I first met this man at the tail end of a dark time in my life. I will not go into gory exposition about my past sins, to call them hideous suffices. I was very lost, and in searching for my footing (and running from my true calling, as far as I can discern what it is right now), and for whatever reason I got it in my thick skull that I should be a Priest. I think some of this was me wanting to play the hero, which I confirmed later when reading The Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton and realizing that he had done the same. So I made the call to Father Jester, and met with him to discuss the situation. Shortly afterwards I wound up being forcefully removed by the Hand of God from my own Darkness, and had to bashfully admit that I was mistaken in my choice.

When I showed up at the Newman Club a few months later, it was shocking and uncomfortable to find that he was our assigned Priest. My fears were unwarranted, for he has never once, ever mentioned the fact that I even spoke to him about becoming a Priest. Not even breathed a syllable. He was also uncompromisingly friendly towards me, with no hint of being let down by my awkward decline. He was generous to all, often taking us out to dinner or buying the entire Club pizza with his own paycheck, so that our group had more funds for greater works on campus. I can hardly remember a time when he was not cracking some sort of sarcastic joke at his own or our expenses, in fact, his good humor was the chief thing I remember about him, even though his complete lack of self-importance and other finer qualities were by far more important. I recall one day while we were all sitting around, that he was talking about the larger than average Seminarian group that had joined up this year. As a result, his budget had been boosted, and other departments had received cuts. He quipped that the Pro-life Office probably had a hit out on him for that.

Father Hippie is the Pastor at a Parish very near to my house, in my hometown. I see him fairly often, as the church has an attached 24-hour Eucharistic Adoration Chapel that I attend. He also taught some Religion classes at my High School, though I never had him as a teacher. Like Father Kinship, he usually sports a nifty sweater-vest, though his are generally patterned argyle, or whatever those patterns are called. I am no fashionist. When you meet him, you will note that his hand gestures and posture are somewhat like Obi-wan Kenobi’s, or some other venerable Jedi Knight. He is the least intimidating man I have ever met, despite his height being about mine, for he is soft-spoken and nearly unflappably even-tempered. The only time I have ever seen him become annoyed is when I tried to wheedle around a sin in Confession. I was caught off-guard by the look he gave me, and quickly silenced myself like a tiny child. His temperament serves him very well in his position, and moreso in his Ministry, which involves regularly counseling mothers who have aborted their own children. He is so non-threatening that his powerful words are like harmless dust that floats about your head, which are subsequently inhaled. Once in the body, they reveal their true nature as powerful anti-biotic agents, destroying sinful or poorly thought out morality and eating away at your inner fears. His keen insight echoes into his homilies as well, it is a rare day when I come to Mass at his Parish and come away having not learned something awe inspiring that should have been obvious to me from the beginning. Father Hippie’s manner of speaking is light and airy, like the whisper of wind that is God passing by. He is very much in awe of his Creator and Creation, and were he not so excellently Catholic, it would not be amiss to see him in a tie-die shirt and bell-bottom jeans, in the middle of an aggregate of Flower Children. He moves and breathes to imitate Christ in his demeanor, and has that Meek and Holy Strength that few ever attain with any degree of accuracy. Again, like so many of his compatriots, he walks through life blissfully unaware of his own greatness, and turns all the Glory back to the Son of Man who set him apart for this noble task.

Speaking of humility, I know no man more humble than Father Humble. He, like Father Hippie, has a quiet and reserved nature, and remains calm through much. He is the current Chaplain of the Newman Club, and Pastor of a local Parish at the same time. Some may overlook the man due to his simplicity and unassuming posture, and those souls that do would be unfortunate to an extent that is disheartening. He holds Saint John Vianney in high regard, and tries to emulate him as the ideal Priest. He is resoundingly successful. The man is a spiritual workhorse. He goes about his duties without complaint, and without the slightest sense of fanfare. I have never seen him once mention being tired, or needing a break, though lesser men, myself included, regularly do, for far less difficult tasks than managing an entire congregation and a group of college students simultaneously. His homilies are practical, short, and to the point, as are his Confessions and his helpful spiritual advice. Yet, all these qualities are nothing compared to his reverence before the Lord. How Father Humble prays, and how he celebrates Mass, are things I have never seen before. He stands before the Lord as a little schoolboy receiving instruction from an Almighty Schoolmaster. His reverence is complete, and flawless as far as my mortal senses can tell me. Surely, such humility before the Lord has led to his miles-above-par servant leadership throughout his Vocation.

On to the Religious Priests. We shall begin with The Most Interesting Priest in the World. For shorthand, I shall call him Father Interesting. This man has been all over the place. South America, Mexico, Canada, Europe, and I think even a few places in Asia, though I am not entirely sure. He has several degrees beyond his schooling at the seminary, most of them in Science and Engineering. His interests include being epic, military history, history in general, various branches of science, philosophy, theology, and sports. The man is an embodiment of the life of the party. He has more anecdotes, and ones of a more wholesome nature, than Mick Jagger and Keith Richards combined. He is a member of Legionnaires, a roving order of Missionary Priests. Father Interesting has fished for marlin, and done well at it, catching at least one massive swordfish while in South America. His order is devoted to traveling wherever they will exercise the most spiritual influence on people, be it hundreds of schools that they visit and/or run, or the offices of prominent businessmen and politicians seeking moral guidance. He can lecture and discuss almost anything under the sun for hours on end, and, like all great men, loves J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. He serves as co-Chaplain at my campus Newman Club, and helps proselytize the campus and invigorate our hearts and minds with the Gospel at every opportunity. Often times he is called upon to run games of Mafia at our parties, during which he carries a large NERF rocket launcher that he fires at those who the Mafia has murdered during the night. His order runs a camp for boys somewhere in the wildlands of Indiana, where the theme ranges from sports to Lord of the Rings. The camp itself is on top of a steep hill, by a pond, and at its base is what I have dubbed “THE Catholic Man Lodge”. It is a beautiful three story house heated by fireplaces and nothing else, with enormous windows to look out at the farmlands and woods surrounding. It has a wonderful rustic and outdoorsy feel, complete with multiple animal heads (all named, of course), antler racks, pictures of Mary, Blessed Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, rosaries, battle maps, and crucifixes. Attached is a large wooden shed that is more of a barn, and on the second floor a chapel for Mass, and a giant plasma TV for movies. My compatriots and I are taken on Men’s Retreats there, and oh, the grand tales of feasting and laughter, the quiet, solemn Masses, the excellent discussions of Faith and Manhood, and joyful hours of hard labor chopping wood or making repairs, or expanding the boy’s camp at the top of the hill.

Among men, Father Interesting is a natural leader. He knows how to master a situation, directing people where to go and what to do, and jumping in himself wherever things are going slow or there is a gap in manpower. Person to person, he is concise, to the point, and practical, and becomes even more so when in Confession. He is a man who gives the impression that he knows exactly what he is doing, and that impression is anything but false. Again, like so many others, he does not seem to understand, or even care to dwell on, how amazing it is that he travels the world in the name of Christ,with no permanent bed to call his own, relying on his Order and the kindness of strangers for his sustenance and the very roof he sleeps under. To us, he is a General decked out in medals. To himself, he is an average man who happens to be a Priest, one who sees his Vocation as important, but at the same time views it as one among the millions of different jobs contained within the Body of Christ.

Brother Canadian is, in fact, a Canuck. He is Father Interesting’s apprentice of sorts, a Priest-in-training, if you will. I would be hard pressed to name a more helpful and friendly person than him, if you asked. He looks like the image of any popularly depicted younger Priest from the 1940’s-50’s, and behaves with the same quiet grace and dignity. As he cannot do much aside from give us spiritual advice at this time, there is little to say about his capabilities in that regard, although judging from all his other attributes, when he does turn his hand to that branch of Ministry he will no doubt be exemplary at it. He is an inquisitive fellow, always full of questions about what the rest of us have been up to, and his eagerness to know our habits and our hearts is entirely genuine, as opposed to the current trend of asking after someone out of empty formulaic politeness. It is rare to find him at rest, even during these conversations, as he has a sort of dynamic energy about him that usually gets spent on tidying up, gathering things, or hustling through tasks he has been assigned. I have often spent the first hour or so during our Men’s Retreats talking with him while we prepared dinner, myself answering his questions and taking things he hands to me while he is shoulder deep in the expansive refrigerator searching out choice bits from the vast quantity of food therein. One might think him overly submissive, but I would have to adamantly disagree. The young man, not much older than myself, actually, is simply incredibly considerate and polite, in the honest manner that so many of us have forgotten or deemed anachronistic. In a nation of rowdy, angry, often-rude, ill-contented people, he is a startling and wonderful breath of fresh mountain air. Speaking of mountains, he may not look like it, but he goes rock-climbing and hiking all the time. The gentleman who seems so meek and mild in a kitchen or domestic environment is exactly the man you want at your side when you happen to be facing a trek through some very real and very dangerous wilderness.

Father Aragorn I had the pleasure of meeting through The Most Interesting Priest in the World and Brother Canadian. Now, my friends and I have mock combat with full-contact LARPing weapons on a regular basis (think Role Models without the uncalled for vulgarity, perversion, and weird costumed finery), and I was explaining the principles of the various weapons to Father Interesting on one of the Men’s Retreats. He explained that every Summer at the Boy’s Camp, they hold a Lord of the Rings week-long camp that deals with virtues and basic concepts of Good and Evil, and that at the end of the week, they have a mock battle with similar weapons. I was promptly told to contact Father Aragorn and explain to him what I did and how to construct more effective safe weapons for the boys. After a few phone conversations, I was invited to their local Order House that they stay at when in our area to show them the weapons I had made and explain some of their options and tactics they could teach the kids. After an introduction over breakfast we talked for an hour or two, I did as I was asked, they found out I had a Ringwraith costume, complete with sword, and I lent it to them. I was then invited to give a talk on proper use of the weapons they had available, basic group tactics, and spiritual warfare. While I waited for the boys to be assembled, I had another chance to talk to Father Aragorn about a range of things, including their plans for the camp. It turned out that Father Interesting and Brother Canadian were running a Work Camp at the Catholic Man Lodge down the hillside, and that the ten or so teenagers they had there had played orcs that occasionally attacked the young boys on nighttime raids, with all sorts of special effects and sneaky optic tricks. For example, they had flaming arrows powered by ignited hand sanitizer, and one of the Priests pretended to be shot and run away with a burning arm that was literally on fire. I was summarily invited back to be an Uruk Hai (I was the tallest person there, barring Brother Canadian who like me is around 6’3″, but he was with Gondor for this fight) at their battle at the end of the week. It was great fun, with charges and continuous retreats (You try fending off 30-something smaller people you have to go easy on for fairness’ sake, especially when they have arrows and you have no shield…), firecrackers and smoke bombs, and, at my suggestion and Father Aragorn’s gleeful assent, my return as a cave troll with my home-made 6’6″ sword. Words will never express those boy’s faces when they had the orcs on the run and I came lumbering up behind them, bellowing like mad, while Father screamed, “CAAAAVE TROOLLL!!!! CAAAAVE TROLLLL!!!!” I will admit, I have not gotten to know the man very well, but you cannot deny, awesome is a perfect word to describe him.

And that is everyone. Now that all is said and done, I suggest that the next time you see a Priest, you thank him for his work. They deserve every drop of gratitude we give them.


Go Go Catholic Priesthood, the Mighty Roman Catholic Priesthood!

Today I think I’ll talk about some of the excellent Priests I have had the pleasure of knowing throughout my life. They shall be given cool code names of course, so that none will grapple with Pride should they read this (which is unlikely at best), and so that their humble anonymity will remain intact.

I always hear horror stories about Priests from lax Catholics or people who have fallen away from the Church. I was even told once that a major factor in why a girl did note like the Church was that a Priest called her fat once. To be honest, though he was not behaving properly when he made the comment, he was speaking the truth. I found that situation both sad and humorous at the same time, given her strange reason for disliking the entirety of Us over one offense, and the audacity of the Priest’s statement. While I have known a handful of lazy so-so Men of the Cloth, and one or two very poor, even down right awful, men who bear that title, the number of excellent and stalwart men I have met and talked with over my brief span of mortal life has far outweighed any negative impression I might have had.

A short note on many things people do not understand about the Priesthood. For one, every Priest you will ever meet has at least a Master’s Degree worth of education in him, just by nature of how long Seminary lasts and the topics covered therein. This does not include the prior instruction he may have received as a layman at a secular University, nor the Doctorate level studies that many go on to obtain after they are Ordained. There are even branches of the non-Diocesan Priesthood that devote special attention to education, such as the Jesuit Order. Now that I’ve mentioned it, there are two kinds of Priest. Some belong to a religious Order and may or may not wind up attached to a Diocese/Parish as part of their job description, and they may rely not only on their own hierarchy, but that of the Diocesan Priesthood as well. Some are focused on prayer, others on scholastic endeavors, still others on charitable works. There are hundreds of Priestly Orders, all with unique perspectives on the Catholic Faith. Diocesan Priests are the ones you normally think of, and are the most common, for everywhere there is a Catholic Church, there they are. They are the neural network of the Church, linking together Parishes in a Diocese and Diocese to Archdiocese and so on, all the way up to the Holy Father in the Vatican. I have been lucky enough to know both varieties of Priest, and name them friend.

We’ll start first with the Diocesan fellows, the hundred thousands of “grunts” that serve us in every spiritual (and many physical ones as well) aspect of our lives. I will begin with Father Kinship, as he was one of my first contacts with the Priesthood, and is also a blood relative of mine, as his moniker suggests. Father Kinship is a lax, jovial man, quick to laughter and jesting, and his presence at our family table during the customary get-togethers is a boon to everyone in the room. He is rarely anywhere but the heart of a conversation, and each one of us looks forward to the appearance of his white collar, often suspended over a classy solid color sweater-vest, at the door. He is extremely knowledgeable about many subjects pertaining to his Vocation, and dispenses that knowledge with endearing kindness and benevolence. He has been Priest and Pastor at many places, most recently a Parish with an attached school. He runs his ship well and with dignity, making sure the Next Generation is well-schooled in their Faith and in every other subject besides. Yet, Father Kinship shows absolutely no sign that he recognizes how impressive or valuable he is. He is humble throughout, refusing the best seat in the house in favor of others, even when no elderly, afflicted, or ladies are present, in favor of our own comfort, despite the fact that all the work he does would warrant such a position by the standards of most.

Father Luigi is an equally humble man. He is my pastor, though I rarely see him during the school year, as there is Mass with my University’s Newman Club (REPRESENT!!!) at that time. He is normal in temperament, if a bit on the kind and fatherly side, which tends to be the case for most Priests anyway. He dutifully runs his Parish and the attached school, handling delinquents, and even a collection basket thief, with strong but merciful hands. Having received Confession from him once or twice, I can vouch for this unabashedly and with great assurance. A man from a traditional Italian family, his love for his mother is great, and his love for his Parish, also very great. He never ceases to tell us how much he cares for his flock, for to him, we are his enlarged and beautiful family. I cannot recall a Mass where he has not referred to us as “The Miracle on (Street Name Deleted For Privacy)”. And should he sense that he has done something amiss, he immediately and with honest and true gusto, gives us an apology and asks obediently for our forgiveness. Of course, he has never done anything worthy of scorn from what I have seen, but, if he feels he has, may God bless him for his sincere heart.

Father Tough-as-nails was the Pastor before Father Luigi, from when I attended the attached Parochial School as a budding teenage boy. As his nickname might suggest, he was certainly hardcore. While he would speak powerfully against wrongdoing and problems within the community, he gave us a glimpse at a courage and determination sorely lacking in our society. There were some who disliked him for his fire, though he went easy on the brimstone by any definition of the phrase. I never understood this. It takes all sorts of men to make the Church run, and being of a somewhat lively and oft aggressive man myself, I could see where he was coming from. True, there were times when he may have let his anger get the better of him, but, he saw to it that he did better for each slip. He was strict, which was annoying at that age for all of us, but he helped me become a better Catholic and taught me more than any other clergy had, barring Father Kinship, until my High School years. He deeply loved his flock, especially us children. He could be found, during playground hours, roaming around and conversing with us at whim, while making sure nobody pulled any funny stuff, as was our wont. My brother was especially fond of him, having spent far longer under his care than my one year before High School. He often came to Religion Class and taught us about the proper way to read the Old Testament, or the importance of Sacraments, or told us moralistic, yet fun, anecdotes. I have not seen him for some time, and wish that I could find his whereabouts, so that I might thank him for what he did.

 

As I am running short on time, I will have to make this a two-parter! Expect more soon, for I still have to relate to you the examples of Brother Canadian, The Most Interesting Priest in the World, Father Hippie, Father Aragorn, Father Jester, and Father Humble.


A Shot Across the Bow

Before anything else, I’d like to thank you for reading this first virgin post, complete with that aromatic new-blog smell. Inhale deeply of my intellectual vapors, you must. I hope we have grand fun on this new Journey.

Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, it’s time to immolate some heretics.

NO WAIT! COME BACK, I WAS ONLY KIDDING!

Humor aside, I do intend that this first post set a general tone for some of what I will be doing as long as this thing lasts. And, as this is an infant blog, it could go up in smoke just as fast as I can say Velma the Velociraptor vaulted voluptuously, verifying V’s vicious vocal vendetta against Velma’s vacillatory vibes. Probably even faster because my tongue is uncannily clumsy with alliteration. So let us begin.

I would ask those who attack the Catholic Church to consider this line of thinking before they do anything else. What exactly are you attacking, and are you attacking it in a manner that will result in something good? Using data I have conjured up through statimancy, which I learned from Television News Broadcasters, I would say about 90% of the time you do not understand exactly what you are attacking and make your jabs with little idea as to their effect.

Nearly all of the people I have met or read or heard of have a habit of attacking the Church for the following; something horrible its members have done, or a bad personal experience with one of its members. As I am about to show, this is unproductive and actually destructive to society at large. There are far better ways you could handle the situation than trying to rip apart a two-thousand year old institution.

This is not about debating theology or doctrine or science or any of that right now. This is about looking at what the Church’s purpose is and what it is intended to accomplish. I will demonstrate that by giving you an outline of what my home country, the good old United States of America, would like if every citizen was Catholic and practiced it darn near perfectly. I would say perfectly, but then that would entail Heaven and ruin the point I am trying to make.

Firstly, all those poor, jobless, struggling people? Gone. They all are being cared for in hospitals, educated by donated money from their friends and neighbors, fed and clothed until they can get back on their feet, and spiritually healed by the ministrations of dedicated Priests and Nuns. All those greedy politicians? Gone. Politicians would work solely to manage the resources we have so that we function excellently as a country, for they would see it not only as a civic but divinely ordained duty that they must care for those that put them in power. Crime? Gone. When everyone respects the sanctity of human life, murder and violence become unthinkable, and theft is already pretty much gone due to the lack of poor people. The Death Penalty would no longer exist, and any current criminals would be healed by a new and vibrant influx of Priests. Abortion would not exist, there would be no need for the day after pill because rape would be unthinkable. Who would dare defile a daughter of God? Any children unable to be supported by those that had them would be cared for out of the benevolence of one’s Parish, which all would happily give money and time to. As for our fears of over-population, they are out of place. With everyone practicing abstinence before marriage, we would pretty much eradicate sexually transmitted disease, and with the strength of character and matrimonial love being celebrated, sex would be reserved and respected in a way that did not result in an obscene glut of children. Of course, people also forget that we have enough food to feed the world’s hungry by ourselves right now, and that more people means more minds focusing on how to feed the new population through better farming techniques and the like.  In fact, most forget that an ideal Church would have roughly 25% or more of its population living in celibacy as Priests, Brothers, Sisters, and Nuns, to say nothing of the lay single life vocations. As for homosexuals, for I have heard voiced the fear that they would be exterminated, this is not part of Church teaching. Those with that trial to face would fare far better than they do now, being lovingly accepted by all and aided in their quest for a chaste life so that they might happily live out God’s plan for their lives. Respect for the arts and sciences would boom as people and the Church itself poured money into new technology and more and more beautiful works of art. The only limit to either of these things would be that they respect humanity in its sacredness. So, no fetal stem cells or cloning. No intentionally crass art. That’s about all we’d lose. Medicine itself would rise to new heights as people threw themselves body and soul at the behest of their God to heal the sick….

I’d go on, but I think I’ve said enough here. All of the above? THAT is the Church’s mission, along with the Salvation of the World. Granted, such an idealistic place is improbable, for the Church is a Hospital for Sinners, not a Country Club for Saints, and thus can be home to many a blackened and hardened heart. That is what you attack when you try to tear down the Church. Your efforts do not seem so righteous now, do they? If you would like a better suggestion as to how to deal with us, here’s one. When you see or hear or know any one of us who is not living out the Commandments of God, not living as a true Catholic should live, do not attack that which can make him do good. Remind him of the teachings of his own Faith, and send him back to us for some spiritual advising. This is easily applied to all Christians. I am asking you not to lay there and allow people to do Evil in the Name of God, but to enlist the Church in turning them back to the straight and narrow path. And time and time again, that is what we fight to do with any of our sheep who have gone astray. Westboro Baptists getting you down? You think that street-preacher is being too vicious? You hear that a Catholic shot an Abortionist? Let Christianity right the wrongs of its members, and help Us do so by pointing them to the Church teachings that forbid such things. Don’t sit there and shriek about how all of us are evil and try to tear the whole Church down.