Monday, February 28, 2011

Democrats Cause Obesity

The following article gives a brief sketch of what happens when people feeding at the public trough have impediments placed in their way.

The first thing the politicians do when confronted with the moment of truth is to RUN and HIDE, if they're Democrats, that is.  When they are Republicans, they stand in front of the train, make their arguments, take the hit, and let the public sort things out at the next election.  Democrats hector them that "elections have consequences," and dismiss Republican concerns by flicking the wrist and saying": "I won."

But when Republicans win, Democratic senators flee the State in order to prevent a quorum.  That sounds mature, doesn't it?   The rule in modern politics is presumably that what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, but only when Democrats are are the gander.   Noman says that if those awol senators can't find their way home to make their arguments, take their lumps and let the people sort it out in 2012, then they should be fined, recalled, and subject to compensation clawbacks.  New elections should be held ASAP to refill the seats with legislators who will perform the tasks delegated by the people through their constitution.  Republicans have lawyers; they should use them.

Noman has a news flash for public sector unions across the nation:  there are too many of you, you live too well, and you cost too much.  And, you have the nerve to do this not only at other people's expense, but under the color of a right!  You are fat at a time when the people picking up the tab for your obesity are lean.  Your victories are not the people's victories.  They are the middle class's enslavement to a perpetually overgrowing, and overweening state.   The people you ostensibly serve are sick of it.  Your diet has begun, whether you face the fact, or not.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

It Could Always Be Worse

At 5am, Noman awoke from sleep as if by a thunderclap--head and chest splitting down the middle.  He stumbled to the medicine cabinet, downed some Ibuprofen, and fell back to sleep in a fog of pain.  Two weeks of incessant cough, with fevers working mercifully down from highs of 102 degrees, were taking their toll.  Three hours later, Noman awoke as if by a second thunderclap--to the angelic choir of no-children ## 6, 7 & 8 playing.  The bliss he experienced startled him; he wasn't in pain.  His temperature was normal, and his bones no longer throbbed and ached like on old jalopy's.

Noman remembered the farmer's tale, who complained to his rabbi that he couldn't stand the tumult in his house. 'How many children do you live with?' asked the rabbi. 'Ten,' said the farmer, 'and they never stop making a clamor.' "This is what I want you to do,' said the rabbi, 'bring your chickens into your home and come back again.' The farmer didn't understand, but did what he was counseled to do.  This progressed until the man had brought pigs, cows, horses and every animal he owned into his house.  'So, how is your problem?' asked the rabbi.  'Terrible!' lamented the farmer.  "I used to get a little sleep before.  Now I can't get any.'  'This is what I want you to do.  Remove the horses, and come back again' said the rabbi.  So, the farmer removed the horses, next the pigs, and so on until all of the animals were out of the house, and only his family was left. "So, how is your problem now?' asked the Rabbi.  "Gone!' replied the farmer.  I sleep like a baby now that the house is so quiet.'

Noman never realized before how blissful it was just to feel normal.  He humbly thanks God for the favor.  But, being no man, he hastens to assure the almighty--if its OK with Him--that maybe he's had enough favors for awhile.

Living Vicariously Through Children

Noman: So, how was work sweetie?

Nochild #1: I walked up to a customer and asked "Can I help you sir?"  As I got closer, I saw it was a woman, but with a really thick neck and shoulders, and hair cut masculine.

Noman: (eyes widening) Oh, no.  What happened?

Nochild #1: That was when fate stepped in to save me (grinning broadly)!  It turned out she was Mexican, and didn't understand a word of English.

Karol Wojtyla, aka Pope John Paul II

Friday night is movie night around Nohouse.  Noman's recent retreat so brought to mind the oft-mentioned John Paul the Great, that he's tempted to pull out his favorite movie, bar none, about the humble titan-- Karol: A Man Who Became Pope (2005).  The movie captures the sheer miraculousness of the event: a non-Italian, and Pole (!), becoming Pope of the Roman Catholic Church in her dark hour of insecurity.  The movie ends with John Paul's introduction to the roaring throngs huddled in St. Peter's Square awaiting news of the conclave, and begins with the Nazi invasion of his beloved Poland during his university days at Lublin.  The three hours in between paint a completely believable portrait of a man learning to hope, love and keep striving in some of the most oppressive and hateful conditions in human history.  The Nazis take their turn in the first half; the Communists in the second.  For Noman, the movie credibly depicts how the man who emerged as the world's fearless champion of truth, who counseled the faithful to set out into the deep, who (also like the Master) instructed believers to be not afraid, became the witness to hope he was.

The movie was filmed using two companies, one Polish, the other Italian.  This really worked for Noman, by giving the movie an authentic, ethnic feel though it's filmed in English.  The only actor familiar to Noman was the one who played Pontius Pilate in "The Passion of the Christ."  Noman applauded him in that movie, and applauds him in this one.  He plays an extraordinarily persuasive bad guy, sort of like a theologically complex Edward Arnold (Frank Capra's villain in "Meet John Doe," Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," and "You Can't Take It With You").  The performances are superb without exception, none more so than Adam's--a Soviet spy planted to tape Wojtyla's lectures, and confessions.  His is a powerful conversion story--similar to Robert DeNiro's character in the first half of "The Mission"--about the triumph of Christian love over secular hatreds. Special mention must be made of the actor who played Karol.  Never was Noman in doubt that this man on the screen was the one he'd seen on the world stage for decades.  Of the Pope's many traits, the ones best captured were his warmth, and gift for reaching out to people to draw them close to the Lord.  Noman goes so far as to thank the actor who played a decent German guard, willing to give his life to reclaim his soul: his performance stripped Noman's conscience bare.

Noman is a sucker for stories featuring heroism, triumph against impossible odds, and the supernaturalization of human suffering.  He first saw this movie at the home of a Belgian nofriend, and spent the better part of three hours blubbering.  He's seen it since, to similar affect.  Noman says there's nothing like a good metanoia, and a joy to encounter art capable of provoking it.

Friday, February 25, 2011

State of the Union - An About Face

In a move away from the center and towards his party's gay but debilitating sexual ideology, President Obama has instructed Attorney General Eric Holder to stop defending the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.  You might recall DOMA as one of President Clinton's steps to the center.  

Contrary to the Obama Administration's position the day before yesterday, it now believes that a federal law defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman violates the Constitution.  Presumably, polygamists will be jumping in droves onto the President's joy ride leftward.

We can remotely thank Justice Anthony Kennedy for today's metamorphosis for copying-and-pasting liberal talking points into constitutional law.  In the 1996 case of Roemer v. Evans, Justice Kennedy, fresh from ascending to the left's Pantheon of Useful Idiots in 1992's Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, wrote for the majority that Amendment 2 to Colorado's state constitution was a violation of the federal constitution.  

Amendment 2 manifest the nefarious design of preventing any governmental entity in the state from bowing to leftist pressure to recognize gays and lesbians as a specially protected class.  All kinds of neat privileges flowed from that designation.  

Joseph Sobran once observed of the scam that it takes a great deal of political clout to be identified as an oppressed minority.  

The "inevitable inference" drawn by Justice Kennedy was that Coloradans' overwhelmingly expressed desire to be left alone could only be "born of animosity," a "bare...desire to harm a politically unpopular group."  Noman says poppycock.  

In Justice Kennedy's Constitutional estimation--now law--hate is the only explanation for why Coloradans would not want its landlords forced to rent to gays and lesbians despite moral objections to gays having sex on their property, for instance.

That's the trick with specially protected classes: only they have rights; everyone else has duties despite moral objections.  Noman says that's a counter-intuitive conclusion to reach from an alleged "application" of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

By 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court overturned its 1986 precedent, Bowers v. Hardwick, which upheld the constitutionality of state anti-sodomy statutes.  In a mere 17 years that living, breathing Constitution--which lives in Georgetown and breathes only with its left lung--erected the right of a 55-year-old man to bugger a 31-year-old man (perhaps it was the other way around) alongside the hallowed rights of free speech, religious practice, open assembly, arms bearing, and the like.  

The founding fathers, we are to believe, risked life, limb and property in order to assure that any-and-every American adult could indulge in whatever bacchanalia his fantasy could devise, contingent upon his securing consent from everyone at the orgy.  

Justice Kennedy writing for the Court proclaimed that "Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today."  Funny, that's what Julia Roberts said in 1993's "The Pelican Brief."  You don't think that's where the Justice gets his constitutional philosophy from, do you?  

Noman says that decades of unremitting 24/7/365 bombardment from Hollywood's big guns undoubtedly explains the "changing legal and social views on gay rights."  Which brings us back to President Obama and Attorney General Holder.  

They ascribe DOMA to an era "of stereotype-based thinking and animus" that violates the Equal Protection Clause.  They offer Lawrence--that left-wing mugging of justice--as evidence that legal and social attitudes regarding gay marriage have swung gays' way.  They claim that they are bound neither by precedent they don't like, nor to defend laws differentiating gays from non-gays, even those with a rational basis for their enactment.  

At least we can be thankful that this is political branch "reasoning," which the people can repudiate at the next election.  Unfortunately, the President's two orientationally-ambiguous appointees to the Court will undoubtedly be joining a slender majority in the near future to impose lasting damage on the American soul, with Catholic Justice Kennedy likely penning the opinion.

This entire exercise is so vast and unnecessary an over-reaching of federal power (So what else is new with this Administration?) as to make Noman cling to his guns and religion and want to join a tea party.  The sympathetic case of Edith Windsor cited in the article --what would a liberal argument be without a tear-jerking story?--is disgusting, but not for the reasons proffered by the Administration.  

If her and Thea Spyer's union had been federally recognized, it would have saved her $350,000 in estate taxes.  Noman is irate that the federal government deigns to tax the dead after having taxed them their entire lives!  

The Administration's conclusion is that federal non-recognition of their "marriage" therefore must violate the Equal Protection of the Constitution.  Noman's conclusions are that (1) the federal estate tax should immediately be abolished; (2) this problem was set up by bad tax planning, not federal discrimination; and (3) even were that not the case, there are less radical ways to narrowly address the supposed defects in DOMA.  

First, there would be no disparity in estate tax treatment if President Obama had made President Bush's elimination of the estate tax permanent and liberals hadn't fought tooth-and-nail to stave off total elimination until some year after Thea Spyer died.  Liberals who clamor to tax people's money at death lose the moral authority to whine about unfairness when one of theirs gets hit.  

It's their own fault!  It is so typical of the Left to create problems, and then to propose solutions that accomplish yet more Liberal objectives, all-the-while creating more problems to "solve."  

Second, it's a pity that Thea Spyer's tax advisors--any woman with an estate large enough to yield a $350,000 tax bill must have had tax advisers--hadn't heard about Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship, considered a merger, or devised any of the myriad other ways that one might (and will have to in the future, thanks to the President's "compromise" with post-election Republicans last year) devise in order to avoid exactly this kind of governmental abuse.  

Gays and lesbians seem to disproportionately suffer from this problem.  It makes Noman wonder if Edith and Thea were lazy, stupid, or intent on setting this challenge up.  

Third, if DOMA has a severability clause, which the DOJ's letter seems to presume, the defect can be more narrowly addressed than by declaring the millennia-deep understanding of marriage to violate the U.S. Constitution.  Just think about the audacity of that declaration.  

What's next, a declaration that private property violates the Constitution?  Noman says these people's hubris knows no bounds, and won't until reality establishes some for them through The People.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ten Days to Decide the Future of Planned Parenthood!

That alarming title is meant to stir the faithful into emptying their pockets into Planned Parenthood's coffers.  The House of Representatives voted Friday to kick it off the public dole.  Noman wonders what they were doing on it in the first place.  He was also surprised to read on Planned Parenthood's website that such a relatively meager sum was involved: $363 million.  In the age of Obama, that's chump change.  Noman had assumed that they, like Americorp ($6 billion) and Acorn ($5 billion), had reaped those essential stimulus billions necessary to keep the unemployment rate from hitting 8%.  In any event, there is no shortage of billionaire population controllers--Warren Buffet, Ted Turner, Bill Gates, The Packard Foundation, George Soros and others--who can think of nothing more important to do with their customer and investor generated billions than to make sure there are fewer customers and investors in the future.  Noman suspects that these philanthropic Paladins would be happy to make up whatever shortfall  PP might be inconvenienced with.   [Noman wonders what it is about these (old or dead, white) men that makes them think it's so important to spend their money on controlling population in the third (dark-skinned) world.]  Contrary to PP's fundraising alarums, it is in no danger of being shut down even if it loses Uncle Sam's millions.

In Noman's opinon this fight is not about the money. It's about legitimacy, the kind that federal patronage confers, just as the fight about stem cell research funding during the second President Bush's term was.  Noman suspects that the left positively enjoys forcing people opposed to their idea of the common good to fund it, and therefore endorse it in practice, regardless of how evil or repugnant they find it, perhaps especially because they find it so.  The left's project is always to dull consciences by forcing its preferred social outcomes on society, and spreading the blood around on collective hands behind compassionate-sounding phrases.  All the time, there are fewer unsullied people to object.  In this it's true, as the letter below indicates, PP always keeps on going; nothing stops them from forcing American taxpayers to pay for their preferred vision of the good society.

Noman recalls some of those "one in five women who have been to a Planned Parenthood health center in their lifetime." He wonders though if they're all in PP's corner now.  In late 1960's California, where abortion was legal before Roe v. Wade, PP was the place to go to get the contraceptives necessary to allow virgins to go all the way with their frisky boyfriends without their parents finding out about it.  Ah, how Noman's friends loved it then.  PP was essential to sexualizing young women against their parents' wishes, and without their knowledge.  That's just the way PP has always liked it, and fought to keep it.  Naturally, if contraception failed--an all to frequent occurrence--PP was there to expunge the incriminating evidence, and allow couples to pretend that nothing had happened.  Noman's recollection is that relationships so affected had short life spans, and that women leaving them were often bitter about men.  Noman has always thought that the most abhorrent aspect of abortion is not that  babies die, but rather that mothers kill their own babies.  It does something awful to them inside, though it maintains their bright economic prospects as we are incessantly reminded.  Because of the Supreme Court's fanciful and tendentious reading of the Constitution over the decades, there is no danger that this scourge will be lifted from our land anytime soon.  But, because Americans have generally come to question the role of federal government as an agent of redistribution, and as Santa Claus bringing good liberal children whatever their hearts desire, at least we may not be forced to pay for it.

The list of Senators "in play" is listed on the article from Catholic Vote.  I don't put much credence in Democratic "pro-lifers."  We all saw what their convictions were worth last year.  Still, they're scared for their jobs, and may embrace this relatively harmless way of reestablishing their prolife bona-fides with the disgusted electorate.  If President Obama can successfully posture as a conservative after showing everyone his fangs and claws for two years when he couldn't be stopped, why can't they?  After all, they'll have the inestimable benefit of the same media cover.  As for pro-choice-of-abortion-Republicans, they're a hard breed to pry away from the plaudits of a fawning media that swoons over them whenever they break ranks with their party.  The wages of political sin are fabulous.  They should, however, contemplate how Senator Bob Packwood was repaid for his devoted service to the pro-abortion left during Ronald Reagan's Presidency.  Stranger things have happened, however.  Noman says that it would be a blow on behalf of liberty to privatize PP's funding, and he hopes that the Senate evinces half the clarity and guts on this issue that the House has.

From: Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund
Sent: Saturday, February 19, 2011 8:02 AM

Subject: Ten days to decide the future of Planned Parenthood
Dear supporter, 

The next 10 days will decide the future of Planned Parenthood. 

And at the end of those 10 days, every single one of us who cares so deeply about the millions of women, men, and teens Planned Parenthood health centers serve will ask ourselves, "Did I do everything I could to protect this irreplaceable organization from these devastating attacks?" 

I am determined to say yes. Absolutely, unequivocally YES. I'm counting on you to agree — so, if you can, please help by making an emergency contribution to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund today. 

Yesterday, after the House of Representatives voted to bar Planned Parenthood from all federal funding for any purpose whatsoever, we didn't waste a single moment. Instead, we did what we do best: we kept going. 

The work that lies ahead of us as the bill moves to the Senate for consideration is nothing short of astonishing. We need your help to rise to this incredible challenge. 

Over the next 10 days, we will make sure that every single senator knows just how critical Planned Parenthood health centers are to three million women every year. And we will make sure that every single senator sees the faces of the one in five women who have been to a Planned Parenthood health center in their lifetime. That's millions of people, standing as one. 

You are a vital part of the plan. Your actions, your voice, and right now, your generous emergency contribution are what will make the difference in stopping this attack on funding for birth control, lifesaving cancer screenings, HIV testing, and other essential care. 

You know just as I do that Planned Parenthood has been the target of persistent attacks for most of our 95 years, and nothing — nothing — stops us from standing strong to protect and promote women's health day in and day out. But we've never seen anything like this. The bill to bar Planned Parenthood from federal funding is part of an unbelievable and unrelenting campaign meant to shut down Planned Parenthood health centers and deny women access to basic health care. We can stop it — and we must. 

Thank you so very much on behalf of Planned Parenthood — and the women, men, and teens who are counting on us — for your actions thus far, for the actions we will ask of you in the days ahead, and for your emergency contribution today. You are amazing.

A Necessary Concession to Decency

Nowife, being Noman's unerring guide to lines that shouldn't be crossed, objected to his self-description, which read "Bitter teabagger clinging to his guns and religion."  The use, of course, was ironic.  She, like Noman, knows that the term is a sexually graphic slur used by the President of the United States (Think about that!), and television anchors that still hold their positions, to denigrate citizens that attended tea parties on which they ostensibly were reporting.  Noman's use of the term was meant to underscore the depths to which one of our political parties regularly sinks in order to mock political opponents, and to hold it up as a mark of opprobrium against those who use the term, not those who are tagged with it.  Nevertheless, Nowife was concerned that children reading this blog would be exposed to something they'd be better off not knowing.  She's got a point, and Noman has changed his profile to respect Nowife's counsel.  The fact that the left is indecent, doesn't exonerate the surly right from respecting the strictures of propriety.  It is held to a higher standard than are anti-dogma dogmatists whose coarsening of the nation's social fabric traditional believers decry.  This post stands as Noman's protest to the debasing of mainstream media, and White House discourse.  Thank you sweetheart.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Scrivener's Report

Naturally, there was more to the retreat than was recounted in previous posts.  However, Noman was busy praying, reading and attending sessions.  Just in case you might like to know, what follows is a digest summary.

Fun fact: Men spend 2.5 minutes per day talking with their wives.

Re: The universal call to holiness (Mt. 5:48): In order to make it personal and real, it's important to realize that the task of a life is to become the person that God thought of when He created me.  We are each priests of our own existence insofar as we are free and self-determining beings.  It is our choice to become friends of God, or not.  To become one, it helps to have a micro-level plan addressing how we shall live each day so as to be in conformity with God's wishes.  Traditional means proposed by the Church include mental prayer, daily mass, penance, visits to the blessed sacrament, praying and contemplating the mysteries of the rosary.  Of course there are more.  But the aforementioned are a great place to start.  To use a dated example, these daily norms are like a row of telephone poles upon which the wires carrying communication rest.  Our daily norms of piety carry the conversation we keep up with God.  The more ambitious in this one becomes, the more important it is to find a "coach."

Re, Work: Jesus Christ spent 30 of his 33 years on earth working quietly, thereby dignifying and supernaturalizing it for all people.  The example of his hidden life should move us to become contemplatives in the middle of the world.

Re, Apostolate: Every person that we meet on earth will die.  Means that we can use to help them get to heaven include making them an explicit intention of our work and prayer; appealing to each one's guardian angel; working well, with competence; being a good friend; and organizing activities, e.g., discussion groups.

Re, The Cross: Christ suffered, and loved us through it.  Imitation of Christ requires that we do the same.  John Paul II gave the world possibly the greatest public example of suffering in history.  Right until the end, he showed us how to handle it.  Some crosses are involuntary; life imposes them on us, e.g., work or family problems, financial crises, aging, betrayals, calumny.  Some are voluntary, taken on in order to be free, e.g., smiling when something annoys us; denying oneself a second helping, or desert; going to bed and rising at fixed times; order.  Perhaps the most interesting are the crosses we bring upon ourselves, e.g, in business or personal relations; out of stupidity.  Regardless of how the cross enters our lives, we must be willing to suffer if we aspire to do great things.

Re, The Four Last Things: Death, judgment, heaven, hell.  Our lives are measured by time, which is limited.  The task for each person is to bring his life to fulfillment in that time.  While each of us celebrates a birthday, there is also a day on which we will leave this earth.  We pass it each year without ever marking, or even knowing it.  How will God receive me?  Be serious, but don't fear, as Christ wills all of us to be saved, and will help us if we let him.  Yet, he speaks of hell 25 times in the gospels, and uses parables strongly suggesting that many if not most people will go there.  When you think of it, there would be no point to human life if we couldn't choose to reject him.  Heaven should be filled with people that we helped get there, waiting to greet us.

Re, The Eucharist: It is what makes us a Church.  Jesus alluded to it 11 times in the gospels, and he lost followers every time he brought it up.  John Paul II proclaimed a year of the eucharist towards the end of his life.  He didn't live to see its conclusion.  Pope Benedict ended the year by writing about it.

Re, Parenthood:  What will our children learn from us?  Where will they go when they die? We don't raise children; we raise adults.  Husband and wife play Simon of Cyrene to one another, and the children are Alexander and Rufus who became Christians in later life because of their father's example.

Noman says there was much to contemplate, and bring home.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Prepare For Landing

Coming home from retreat is a little like what I imagine reentering the earth's atmosphere after space flight is like: bumpy, challenging and dangerous.  It's good to get away periodically though, and come home reloaded with grace and a couple of resolutions. 

Despite no-child #8's whining--he is sick, and two-years-old--and no-child #5's piano practicing, which reminds Noman of Janey in "It's A Wonderful Life," this year's reentry has been pretty smooth.  'Heaven, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."  

Noman is a lucky fellow


FCJM delivered a meditation on humility, a unique virtue insofar as it's neither theological nor cardinal, yet it's indispensable to situating oneself correctly in reality.  It best expresses our relationship to God: we are creatures, He is creator.  Humility, thus, captures the only appropriate response to the truth of our being.  As in all things, Jesus is our example.  He tells us: "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Mt. 11:29).  He performed miracles and cured people throughout the gospels, only to tell them to not tell anyone.  He didn't seek notoriety, because he wanted people to be drawn to him by grace, not because of his miracles.  He called little children to himself, and taught that "unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt. 18:3).  It is hard to be like little children once you are an adult, which raises the question of how.

FCJM recommended frequent short acts of sorrow and contrition for the myriad ways in which we fall short of the perfection we are called to.  "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect" (Mt. 5:48).  Moreover, time spent in prayer concentrates the mind on our total dependence on God, from beginning to end.  Frequent confession, weekly if possible, and nightly examinations of conscience help us to see ourselves as we really are.  None of this is done to put ourselves down.  Rather, it enables us to reach our goal, which is to give glory to God, and to fulfill our desire: to share our joy with others--especially our significant others.

As hard as it is to live humility with God, it's even harder, but good, to live it with others.  St. Josemaria has a lengthy point in Furrow (#263) that gives us some food for thought.  "Allow me to remind you that among other evident signs of a lack of humility are: Thinking that what you do or say is better than what others do or say; Always wanting to get your own way; Arguing when you are not right or--when you are--insisting stubbornly or with bad manners; Giving your opinion without being asked for it, when charity does not demand you to do so; Despising the point of view of others; Not being aware that all the gifts and qualities you have are on loan; Not acknowledging that you are unworthy of all honor or esteem, even the ground you are treading on or the things you own; Mentioning yourself as an example in conversation;  Speaking badly about yourself, so that they may form a good opinion of you, or contradict you; Making excuses when rebuked; Hiding some humiliating faults from your director, so that he may not lose the good opinion he has of you; Hearing praise with satisfaction, or being glad that others have spoken well of you; Being hurt that others are held in greater esteem than you; Refusing to carry out menial tasks; Seeking or wanting to be singled out; Letting drop words of self-praise in conversation, or words that might show your honesty, your wit or skill, your professional prestige...; Being ashamed of not having certain possessions.  Noman says "Ouch!"

The meditation ended on a humorous note with an anecdote about NBA great, Karl Malone.  At the height of his fame with the Utah Jazz, he was mistaken for a skycap at the Salt Lake City airport where he was picking up his brother.  A woman asked him to carry her bags to the car, which the millionaire superstar did without protest.  Only when she pulled out bills to tip him did he introduce himself, and decline to accept.  A similar incident happened recently at a Washington dinner when White House advisor, Valerie Jarrett, mistook Four-star General Peter Chiarelli--the army's #2 ranking officer--for a waiter.  The General served Jarrett a glass of wine as requested, and good-naturedly excused her for the faux-pas.  Both men demonstrated a magnanimity and bigness possessed only by people not stuffed with a mistaken sense of their self-importance.

As in all good things, Mary illustrates the point.  It was her humility that drew God to her, and made her the woman He chose to bear His son.  Only a humble woman, not to mention St. Joseph, could bear her child in a manger and ponder things in her heart as shepherds and wise men came to adore him.  Noman says he's inspired to work on it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friendship With Christ

Noman's second retreat meditation was about friendship with Christ, with a special emphasis on the indispensable role played by prayer in developing and maintaining that friendship.  Jesus is the one who initiates the relationship, and invites us into friendship with him.  "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Rev 3:20).  "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you" (Jn. 15:15).  "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Mt. 18:20). The fulness of Catholicism is responding to this invitation, and having an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  We don't want to have it said of us that "he came to His [friends] and those who were His [friends] did not receive Him (Jn. 1:11).  This friendship is crucial to our success, the only measure of which, ultimately, is the amount of grace in our hearts at death.  Death happens; it's the one thing the world wants to conquer, but can't.  We want to live.  And if someone saved me from drowning, he'd be especially precious to me; I'd acknowledge that I owed him my life.  That is the case with Jesus, who saved our souls.  Our goal should be to become his best friend.  The way we do that is through prayer--adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication (ACTS)--a conversation whereby we open ourselves up to our friend, and let ourselves be known.   In the Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio Inuento, Pope John Paul II writes that "training in holiness calls for a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer... Prayer develops that conversation with Christ which makes us his intimate friends: 'Abide in me and I in you' (Jn. 15:4)...  Learning [the] Trinitarian shape of Christian prayer and living it the secret of a truly vital Christianity..." (#32).  We can't live a vital Christianity if we are  not people of prayer.  FCJM had the privilege in 1991 of praying with Pope John Paul in his Vatican chapel.  The Pope was hunched over with eyes closed for a half hour, and more, several times groaning in the Holy Spirit.  At one point JP II whispered to the tabernacle.  The Lord answered his prayers rather dramatically: communism fell; dictatorships collapsed; World Youth Day took off; vocations flooded to the priesthood, and more.  St. Edith Stein was renowned for her remarkable dedication to prayer even before she became a Carmelite nun.  People marvelled that she could keep it up with her heavy workload of teaching, translations of St. Thomas, and intense work with the poor.  She responded that her ability to do things increased correspondingly with the number or things that had to be done.  She didn't think of it as her using her talents, but rather as God working through them.  He expanded her time to accommodate the increasing number of things she needed to do.  If we believe that the more we pray, the better we'll get things done, God will not be outdone in generosity.  Our goal is to become contemplatives in the middle of the world, which we accomplish through friendship with Christ.  Friendship is sacred, and much more important than acquaintanceship.  The result of prayer is that we'll be happier, as we are always happier after spending time with close friends.  Noman wants to pray now, but before leaving, echoes the words of a close friend: "He who has ears, let him hear" (Mt. 11:15).

He who has ears, let him hear.

How to Live Like a Christian in the Middle of the World

Noman is on retreat this weekend and will be sharing what he hears in various meditations and talks.  The opening meditation was about the lives of the first Christians.  Their cultural circumstances weren't so different than ours: deadlier than in the present day US, but not than in the Sudan or other Moslem countries.  Fr. CJM quoted Walker Percy to the effect that the battle today is between Rome and Hollywood; and Bernard Nathanson, who in 1988 predicted that abortion would pale in comparison to what would be coming in the next 20 years (i.e., to what's here now): cloning, genetic manipulation, fetal experimentation and the like.  FCJM said that the Roman Christians lived in a world much like our own; we just have better technology.  Until the Edict of Milan (AD 313), they were openly persecuted, stripped of property and put to death.  Within 100 years, the empire was Christian.  They accomplished this by being confessors of the faith, living it fully in the world.  We will do the same by recognizing that now is the acceptable time to rise out of lukewarmness, mediocrity.  Luckily, we have a Pre-Milan description of the way Christians went about their lives in the letter to Diognetus (1st or 2nd C).  "Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs.  They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life... With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.  And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives.  They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through.  They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens... They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh.  They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law..."  Noman says that this short letter is worth a careful reading, and serious prayer.

Today's problems are the same as yesterday's: me, you, and the human desire to have it all in this life.  God, who gives us freedom, wants us to choose eternal life rather than temporal gratification.  The letter turns to the hatred this arouses in others.  Christian witness is a reproach to those who don't want to be bothered: "Christians love all men, but all men persecute them.  Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again...  For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life... To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body... The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures.  Similarly, the world hate the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments...  It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together...  Such is the Christian's lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself."  Noman likes his pleasures and enjoyments as much as the next man.  And, thankfully, one need not give them up altogether in order to follow Christ or confess the faith.  But, Noman gets the point that not every pleasure and enjoyment is a good thing to bask in, an "authentic good," as Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas would have put it.  Some diversions are only "apparent goods."  Noman says that lots of pass times that posture as hallmarks of freedom are, in fact, agents of dependency, depravity, degeneracy and death.  Christians know this.  They always have.

A Day In the Life

Noman had morning coffee with some nofriends yesterday to discuss baptism of the Holy Spirit.  At issue was whether the charismatic understanding of speaking in tongues was the only authentic one.  The mere asking of this question might puzzle Catholics unfamiliar with charismatic worship in the Roman Church.  Nevertheless, there are millions of Charismatic Catholics around the world, hundreds if not thousands of them clustered in my parish and at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.  God bless them!  Noman has great affection for his pastor and fellow parishioners, who wed a boisterous form of worship, song and praise to an enthusiastic embrace of doctrinal orthodox, fidelity to the Pope and to the teaching magisterium of the Church, and 24 hour eucharistic adoration.  The result is liturgy that sticks to the ribs, vibrant parish life, and joyful attendance by young and old alike.  It's the way things are supposed to be.  Noman would be concerned about everyone's getting swept away (including himself and his nofamily) on a cloud of good "feelings"--a notoriously unreliable guide to thought and action--were the evident love for Jesus anchored in anything other than Rome: viscera for instance.  Happily, that's not the case, and this is a faithful as well as fun parish.  Nevertheless, there is this question about tongues, and whether uttering generally incomprehensible sounds is the only authentic meaning of the term.  Noman readily acknowledges that the New Testament is littered with descriptions of this phenomenon, which it refers to as speaking in tongues.  But the description of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-4, when the apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit, indicates another meaning: "And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance... And at this sound the multitude [from every nation under heaven] came together, and they were bewildered because each one heard them speaking in his own language.  And they were amazed and wondered, saying... 'How is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?... Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.'"  Commenting on this passage in Dominum et Vivificantem, Pope John Paul II notes that Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, speaks before the multitude as he surely wouldn't have had the courage to do before, and convinces the world concerning sin.  This is a fulfillment of the last supper discourse.  This passage, then, indicates another phenomenon referred to as speaking in tongues, viz., the gift of speaking to people about convincing concerning sin--which leads to repentance, forgiveness of sins, and certainty of redemption--in a way that they'll understand "in their own language."  In sum, tongues is more than one type of phenomena.  And while Noman readily acknowledges incomprehensible utterances to be an authentic expression of tongues, he grants neither the exclusivity, nor universality of that form.  But, none of that is why Noman posted on this topic.  Rather, it's that Noman loves the devotion to Christ and apostolate manifest throughout his parish, and also the fact that so many parishioners take their faith as seriously as a heart attack.  In a way, that's an apt expression: the Holy Spirit clearly attacks hearts around here with love for Jesus Christ.  This is as it should be.  Noman says 'thank you' to his brothers for taking the time to speak with him about their relationship with Christ.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Can You Guess Which President Said This?

"Our true choice is not between tax reduction, on the one hand, and the avoidance of large federal deficits on the other… It is between two kinds of deficits—a chronic deficit of inertia, as the unwanted result of inadequate revenues and a restricted economy—or a temporary deficit of transition, resulting from a tax cut designed to boost the economy, produce revenues, and achieve a future budget surplus.  The first type of deficit is a sign of waste and weakness—the second reflects an investment in the future."  
It's certainly not President Obama for whom "investment in the future" means "tax-and-spend."  Actually, that's not fair to the President.  His style is to SPEND first, and tax later.  (Can't you see his reelection campaign slogan now?: "Spend-and-Tax--A Change Liberals Can Believe In!")  If you guessed President Kennedy, you are absolutely right.  He was a supply sider before there was a term for it.  The media has been working even harder than usual to link the two presidents in the public's consciousness.  But, there are substantive differences between them as the quotation above attests.  Their similarities are superficial.  For instance, both were blessed with charisma, and both are gifted orators.  But, JFK had class.  BHO has style.  Noman says that the difference is one of kind, rather than degree. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

This Man Has Your Back

Douglas Laycock is a professor of law at the University of Virginia.  His efforts to reason legally with unreasonable lawyers are the primary barrier standing between Attorney General Eric Holder's garrote, and religious organizations' right to receive federal grant money even though they hire only co-relgionists.   Groups on the left like neither this right, nor the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel's 1997 opinion that affirmed it.  In their estimation, OLC's opinion should be withdrawn, and the law should require Catholic Charities, for instance, to hire candidates from Act Up, Planned Parenthood and the Muslim Brotherhood if it wants to serve the needy with federal money.  Noman wonders what the needy think about that.  Noman also wonders why money is funneled to the needy through federal grants in the first place.  This wouldn't be an issue if the federal government stayed out of the money-funneling and condition-imposing businesses, and left more money in private pockets from which citizens could dispense beneficence according to their own lights.  That would end the legal quagmire, and allow well intentioned people to help others without having to bow to the left's sacred cows.  Why should they have to?  This episode underscores an unsavory and all too familiar feature of contemporary governance.  The left agitates to expand federal control over ever-increasing sectors of life, and then agitates to prejudice "incorrect" groups from participating in those sectors unless they capitulate to the left's will-to-power.  All the while we are to believe that we are ruled by law, not men.  Noman says that we'd all be freer and more civil if the federal government had less of our money to engineer society with. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Those Pesky Social Issues

China has passed Japan as the world's number two economy despite having only one-tenth of Japan's per capita GDP.  How is that possible, you ask?  Answer: China's population is 11 times that of Japan's.  It transpires that "population counts as much as productivity in determining economic power."  Power in this context means the ability to shape global markets through buying and lending decisions.  The US is "safe" for now as our $14.66 trillion GDP swamps both China's $5.88 trillion and Japan's $5.47 trillion combined.   But, our population is only one-quarter the size of China's meaning that China can surpass the US in raw economic might by boosting its per capita GDP to one-fourth of US levels.  Not to worry though as its current fraction of US levels is only one-eleventh, meaning that at current economic growth rate differentials, the US will remain top dog until 2030.  Of course, the US can thwart that descent in the rankings even at comparatively lackluster economic growth rates by merely boosting its population growth rate.  Another nugget implicit in these news is that China's one-child policy is inevitably sewing the seeds of its own decline.  In case you haven't heard it said lately, people are a source of economic strength, not weakness as Nancy Pelosi famously suggested during the health care debate.  Noman agrees with God who commanded us to go forth and multiply, and says it's good for the economy, as well as the soul.

Rising China Bests a Shrinking Japan
Massive Population Lifts Nation's Growth

Noman says things were backwards between 2006 and 2010, when this great social philosopher regularly imparted her vision of the person.

The Great White Hope: An Impassioned Black Congressman

He's no Barack Obama, but Allen West gives a pretty good speech.  On substance at least he is infinitely preferable to our silver tongued baritone-in-chief: solid on the economy, national defense and cultural values.  Much to his credit he's already getting the Sarah Palin treatment from the other side.  We'll know he's arrived when, like Sarah, he starts getting it from his own.  Noman's fingers are crossed that whatever he's got is infectious and that congressional Republicans catch it.  In case you've got 10 minutes to spare on politics while you're multitasking, this HuffPost article provides video.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Jimmy Carter's Second Term

Noman was struck by the irony of recent events in the Moslem world, as Hosni Mubarak fled Egypt on the 32nd anniversary of the Shah of Iran's downfall.  Barack (without the "Mu") has been pouring gasoline on the fire beneath the unpopular Egyptian strongman for the past couple of weeks with Demosthenean perorations about democracy, peaceful protesters and leaders having to listen to the will of the people.  Noman only wishes that he'd reacted similarly to the tea parties, which sprang up to protest his trillion dollar bailout of whoever got that money, his odoriferous healthcare stratagems and the like, all against the will of the people who have to pay their own bills, plus his, despite precarious economic circumstances.  In fact, the thuggish actions of pro Mubarak counter protestors the other night reminded Noman of Democratic apparatchiks who showed up to impose discipline at town hall meetings two summers back.  But, it's the Iranian protesters who in 2009 decried election theft, and oppression that Hosni Mubarak could only dream of that really come to mind.  As Noman recalls, we left the Iranian protesters to their own devices while their government ruthlessly crushed them.  No win for democracy, human rights and international norms there; no bending of the arc of history towards justice.  Noman appreciates the President's eloquent words spoken during the Egyptian crisis on behalf of noble principles such as self-determination, non-interference from foreigners (meaning us) and the like.  Nevertheless, as international events unfold in hostile, turbulent regions of the world, and chronic domestic unemployment compounds with impending global inflation, Noman says that President Barack Obama looks a lot like President Jimmy Carter, but on steroids.