Catholic Living


Image source here.

For a while now I have held my tongue about the ongoing oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Two of the men who were killed in the initial explosion on the Deepwater Horizon were local, and I have spoken with their families, heard their grief and

promised my prayers. Before this was a national ecological tragedy, for me it was a local human tragedy, one that has been a repeat of accidents in days past.

I have had numerous people tell me of losing family members in similar accidents, and on a personal level for my in-laws oil well explosions are more than — as some have put it — just one of those risks you have to be willing to take when you work in oil: my wife’s grandfather was killed in an oilfield explosion, dying before his last child, the child who would eventually become my father-in-law, was even born. With the memories of their own losses now refreshed, and the deaths of two men they knew, went to high school and attended church with still fresh in their minds, people around here can’t talk about what is going on in the Gulf without talking about the loss of human life.

And now, due to the ecological disaster, there is a significant potential for a second wave of human tragedy. SBTS Professor and Biloxi native Russell Moore sums it up well, demolishing the logic behind BP Representative Randy Prescott’s flippant remark that there are places in the world other than Louisiana that have shrimp.

We’ve had an inadequate view of human life and culture.

What is being threatened in the Gulf states isn’t just seafood or tourism or beach views. What’s being threatened is a culture. As social conservatives, we understand…or we ought to understand…that human communities are formed by traditions and by mores, by the bond between the generations. Culture is, as Russell Kirk said, a compact reaching back to the dead and forward to the unborn. Liberalism wants to dissolve those traditions, and make every generation create itself anew; not conservatism.

Every human culture is formed in a tie with the natural environment. In my hometown, that’s the father passing down his shrimping boat to his son or the community gathering for the Blessing of the Fleet at the harbor every year. In a Midwestern town, it might be the apple festival. In a New England town, it might be the traditions of whalers or oystermen. The West is defined by the frontier and the mountains. And so on.

When the natural environment is used up, unsustainable for future generations, cultures die. When Gulfs are dead, when mountaintops are removed, when forests are razed with nothing left in their place, when deer populations disappear, cultures die too.

And what’s left in the place of these cultures and traditions is an individualism that is defined simply by the appetites for sex, violence, and piling up stuff. That’s not conservative, and it certainly isn’t Christian.

You can read the rest of Moore’s essay at The Christian Post.

(I thought I’d borrow Serge‘s posting style)

From Fr. Ernesto:

To me hobbits are a wonderful picture of holiness in daily life. No, they are not perfect. But, they are mostly content. They live their lives in simple joy, carrying out their family duties generation after generation, faithful to their families and to the land. They are not worried about massive acts of asceticism, neither do they write long theological tomes. They are not the “great” of the land, nor are they pictured that way. But, they are a people of faithfulness and promise-keeping. They are committed to each other and their community.

But, when the time of testing comes, the hobbit turns out to be much more than what one expects. Their life of quiet family holiness, of consistency and of promise keeping, stand them in good stead when great evil befalls them. It is their actions during the time of great testing that is the proof of their quiet holiness.

If only we could all be Hobbits.

From Arturo:

In my life as a Catholic, it has veritably all been a game of “the more you know, the less you know”. You go through most of your life thinking that such-and-such is traditional, only to find out that it is less than a hundred years old: a drop in the bucket in the vast well of human history. The obsession of the Catholic Church, even prior to Vatican II, was an obsession for novelty, which was often compensation for the shame Catholic scholarship felt before that bitch goddess we know today as “historical scholarship”. Having not paid attention to what was really thought and believed, we found that what we had been doing and saying for centuries was all the fruit of novelty. And the only anecdote for novelty was more novelty. God forbid that we should actually stay the course.

What Arturo goes on to discuss is the evolution of Thomistic thought in the Catholic Church, a discussion that is about five levels above my pay grade, but his initial point certainly rings true, both in the traditional communions and in the lowest of the low church traditions: what we label as traditional Anglicanism is actually the work of 19th century Anglo-Catholic tract writers and the 1928 BCP, and many of those in the Orthodox convert movement are guilty of mistaking pious practices that aren’t that old in the grand scheme of things as dogma; in the low church arena, what is considered traditional Baptist practice is mostly the codification of 1920s and 1930s fundamentalist reaction to modernity and Pentecostalism, with Pentecostalism itself being barely a century old. Old time religion, indeed.

From Peter Leithart:

Marjorie Garber argues that our view of Romeo and Juliet has been altered by contemporary trends and events.  Romeo has become the standard American high school Shakespeare play, and some of its themes and sensibility were taken up by the cultural revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s.

As a result, the play ends up being part of the framework for our interpretation of the play: Romeo affected our conceptions of love, especially young love, and our conceptions of generational differences, and we now read the play in the light of those conceptions.

Literary mores become social mores, creating an interpretive echo chamber; what was tragic and foolhardy (albeit an elegant observation) in the 1600s seems like the obvious end result to kids who would otherwise be reading novels about a teenage girl lusting after an undead centenarian with a glitter problem.

It’s been a few weeks since I first ran across it, but I just re-read this story and it still moves me:

Source: Fox8Live

Baton Rouge – It was a funeral like no one had ever attended before. Thirteen babies, all abandoned by their families, buried by people who never knew them but loved them nonetheless.

In a home-made coffin, a baby boy from Baton Rouge, as well as 12 babies born to Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

“I’ve been asking over and over as a father and a grandfather, I can’t imagine having a baby and just walking off. But I think God cares, and we care,” says Brother Dennis Terry, pastor of Greenwell Springs Baptist Church.

Members of Greenwell Springs Baptist Church volunteered to bury the Baton Rouge baby after learning his mother dumped him in the sewer.

When the Baton Rouge coroner’s office heard the church’s offer, it asked if the church would also be willing to bury the 12 Hurricane Katrina babies.

“If the church doesn’t do this, who will?” says Terry, who didn’t hesitate to say yes.

These are babies who were either stillborn or died in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Five years later, no one has ever come forward to claim them.

Technically, the East Baton Rouge Coroner’s Office is supposed to cremate any unclaimed body left for more than 2 months.

Dr. Cooper didn’t want them to never be known like they never existed.

“That’s essentially what would have happened. We would have cremated the bodies, sprinkled the ashes and it would have been like they never had been. They would have been gone forever. No one would have known they were here,” says Don Moreau with the Coroner’s Office.

The congregation of Greenwell Springs Baptist wanted to do everything they could now for the youngest victims.

“It’s important they have a Christian burial. I named each one of them,” says Sissy Davis.

She’s with Threads of Love, a ministry that makes clothes for babied in need. She spent hours researching the definitions of Christian names.

“Each one had to have a “Praise God” or “God’s Child,” says Davis.

Davis gave her favorites to the 13 babies along with the common last name that sums up the congregations feelings.

Mary Elizabeth Love

Ester Joy Love

Twins Abigail Grace and Gabriel Edom Love

John Mark Love

James Matthew Love

Daniel Luke Love

Samuel Joseph Love

Michael Joshua Love

Simon Peter Love

Jacob Bartholomew Love

Timothy Abram Love

Moses Daniel Love

A donated headstone will stand at the grave, bearing those names so no one ever forgets.

I used to be pretty OK with cremation, but for reasons that sound both theologically pretentious and vague I’m starting to get really uneasy with the practice, and something in me — maybe the father in me — is glad someone decided to bury these babies.

4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9, NKJV

Lately, we’ve been trying to develop a routine family worship time in the evenings. When I envisioned it, I — perhaps unrealistically — pictured the four of us singing hymns in perfect far-part harmony and having a lovely discussion of Galatians before prayer. So far, it’s been halting and interrupted by evenings away from home, and the actual “service” is just me reading a chapter of Mark aloud, interrupting to explain to Micah what is going on, and asking him a few questions at the end.

And that’s OK. He’s four. The reason for doing this (and ultimately, keeping him in church services even though he is squirmy) is so he will both be used to it and — bit by bit — learn something.

Growing up, we had a family Bible time almost nightly. At times I hated it, and at times I got bored, but family Bible time, probably more than any class I took in the religion department in college, contributed to my biblical literacy. Can I want anything less for my own children, even if they fidget?

Besides, both the Reformed and Orthodox agree: the family is the smallest unit of the Church. Sunday School, after all, was started for the children of unbelievers — the children of believers were expected to be taught at home.

I am tempted to begin this with “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…,” but I’ll resist that urge.

The projected due date for my daughter’s birth was last Friday. It came and went, and still no birth. The anticipation keeps building, but in the meantime we have largely continued to live our lives as normal.

There have been small changes. At work, instead of collecting all of the information I need and completing all of the tasks at the end of the day (which is normal procedure), I complete a task as soon as I have everything I need to do so in case I need to leave suddenly during the day. At home, we’ve rearranged some furniture to accommodate the baby we know is coming — we know she is coming soon, but we don’t know when. Otherwise, things march on, even as our hearts and minds are filled with more longing and eagerness every day.

Now, back to my opening — I had a little bit of an epiphany today: this is how we should feel about our Lord’s second coming. The days may seem to stretch longer and longer, and the anticipation only adds to this feeling, but he is coming again. We know he will come, and he promised it would be soon, so we wait eagerly. It may not be when we expect it, but it will happen.

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

(And — on a different note — come, baby girl, come!)

In a season dedicated to fasting, a little perspective:

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. –Matthew 6.16-18  ESV

A couple of days ago, I was passing by a television when I heard this question posed: How much will Octomom’s children cost taxpayers?

Fox News. How crass. How typical.

In case you’re lucky and have somehow missed the media blitz, Octomom is a woman in California who recently had a healthy set of octuplets. Where the story differs from the story of other celebrated parents of multiples like the McCaughey septuplets, though, is that Octomom (real name Nadya Sulman) was not the second half of a whole wedded bliss. In fact, she was unemployed, on government assistance, living with her parents and already had six children.

Her story is the same as the other parents of multiples, though, in that her multiples were conceived by IVF. (For my views about IVF, see what the Catholic Church has to say.) The father of Sulman’s multiples was a sperm donor, a friend who was in fact the father of all of her previous children through the dubious miracle(s) that can be performed in a petri dish. I cannot even begin to fathom the thought process that led to this situation.

But putting aside the immoral and incredibly stupid situation that led to the birth of the children, I want to address the original question by Fox News. Maybe I’m more sensitive to this right now because my second child is weeks or perhaps days away from being born, but I am convinced that we live in a child-hating society, or at least one with strangely screwed-up priorities when it comes to children. Like my friend Calley says: “The Bible tells us that children are a blessing and debt is a curse, but we try to avoid for the blessing and apply for the curse.”

The problem is that Fox News was lifting up these children and making a spectacle of them, saying, “These lives are a burden. Their existence harms you, the taxpayer.” They were asking, “What, per dollar, is the value of one of these lives?”

And that’s the crux, not only with how society views the octuplets, but children as a whole. They are seen as a burden and necessary debt at worst, or as something you should save for for 10 years before making an investment, like a house or a nice boat. (As if to confirm the children as a commodity theory, it’s becoming a trend among the wealthy to have trophy children.)

The New York Times recently ran a piece about people with five or more of children, and one of the mothers quoted in it said that when people would admonish her about having more than the average 2.5 children, she would respond that it is not children that are expensive, but lifestyles.

But having a biblical understanding of children helps us counterbalance the propaganda that raising more than two children is an an irresponsible act or — God forbid — accidental.

As for me, I never really considered a small family an option outside of providential hinderance. After all, I am the second of six.

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