Thursday, November 19, 2015

Pernicious nonsense

Hi, there! I'm NOT blogging just now. No, really. I'm almost at 50,000 words in NaNoWriMo and I should be crossing that line today. Plus I want to finish the manuscript so I'm shooting for 70,000 words, but that's my own private insanity that shouldn't trouble anyone else.

However, someone shared this piece by Taylor Marshall with me on Facebook and asked me to comment. So I did. Quickly and off-the-cuff. And then someone else asked me to share those comments here.

So: this is not a blog post. It is quite literally what I just put up on Facebook with the slight alteration of the link placement.  I'm not even changing the font:

I had someone ask what I thought of this piece. My reply: it's pernicious nonsense. I'm not blogging just now because fiction writing is taking up all of my time, but here's a few random observations:
1. There are, according to the UN, 9 million Syrian refugees. Even if every one of them was an observant Muslim bent on imposing Sharia law on America, and even if our nation granted them instant citizenship (two very big "ifs"), there aren't enough of them to create a 51% voting majority. Now, perhaps Marshall is arguing that eventually there will be enough of them to do this (given a few generations and assuming no American assimilation whatsoever). But I'm pretty sure St. Thomas Aquinas wouldn't allow us to neglect charity in the present to avoid, preemptively, a potential future ill.
2. It is arguably true that a greater threat to the common good of our nation (as Catholics understand it) exists right now from militant secularists who are already voting in their own "Sharia law" of sexual license and rampant immorality (and taking steps to punish those who disagree). Yet these, mostly, are our fellow citizens by birth. I do not think St. Thomas Aquinas would advise us to go all Maccabees on reckless secular humanist revolutionaries' hindquarters even though they threaten public morality and virtue way more than a Syrian widow and her children do. It would sort of be against order and whatnot.
3. Marshall falls off the rails with his "homeless person" analogy and his "Good Samaritan = hotel accommodations" analogy. To take the latter first, the Samaritan paid to put the wounded man up in a hotel because the Samaritan was traveling on business and presumably far from home, not because he cravenly feared having a wounded man in his house, which is so blindingly obvious I'm surprised it even has to be said. To go back to the first: I think that it depends on who the "homeless person" is. If you refuse to open your home to a homeless person who happens to be, say, your own son, brother, nephew, cousin etc. who is in dire need and who promises to respect your property and live according to your house rules (and you have no legitimate reason to suppose he won't keep those promises) then you would indeed be sinning against charity if you refused. But how does that relate to the analogy of the refugee? No one is demanding that we turn our homes into *either* homeless shelters OR refugee shelters. Some extraordinary individuals actually do invite the homeless or a refugee to share their homes, and this heroic charity models Christ better than all of our fearful formulations do. But such an act of charity remains the proper discernment of the individual. What the Christian *state* ought to do, in terms of both homeless shelters and refugee populations, is ask itself, "How can I welcome the stranger?" not "How can I make sure that none of my personal tax dollars are going to bums or Muslims?" Alas, we are not a Christian state.

Okay, then! Back to noveling. :)

Monday, November 16, 2015

What if the pope doesn't like you? Or, guest post # 2: my sister writes again!

My awesome sister, Heather Sprinkle, wrote a guest post for this blog last week that was quite well-received. She has sent a second installment that I'm sure you will also enjoy! I appreciate so much that she is willing to write a few posts for me during National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. November) because right now I'm about 38,000 words into a space adventure in the middle of a war involving people who move ships by teleportation (otherwise known as: Tales of Telmaja; see the sidebar for links to more information especially regarding the three books in this series I've already published!). So having Heather's take on some of the ongoing issues in the Church and the world to share with all of you is especially nice!

So here, without further ado, is her latest:

What If the Pope Doesn’t Like You? 
Heather Sprinkle

Edward Pentin wrote a post on his blog at the National Catholic Register titled: “Pope Francis on Keys to Authentic Christian Humanism” in which he focuses on the Holy Father’s apparent dislike of “conservatism and fundamentalism.” Pope Francis, according to Pentin, was addressing the Italian Church in Florence in “a lengthy address,” but Pentin’s quotes largely deal with the Pope’s rejection of conservatism and fundamentalism as demonstrated by what the Holy Father defines as Pelagianism and Gnosticism.

Cue the wails of those leaning toward sola historica. Comments immediately ensued moaning about the state of the Church, the imminent preaching of heresy at the highest levels, fear for the future, and just how horrible horrible horrible this pope of ours is.

And I started to wonder: What if the Pope doesn’t like me?

Yeah, just think about that for a minute. We all want to be liked, don’t we? We want to be affirmed in our okayness and esteemed. And it’s personal. It really is. When the Pope; someone we should respect and to whom we should give the benefit of the doubt says, according to Pentin, “…it is useless to look for solutions in conservatism and fundamentalism, in the restoration of practices and outdated forms that even culturally aren’t able to be meaningful,” it seems like he’s looking right at those of us who care about the historical forms and practices of the Church and saying, “I don’t like you. Your insistence on dressing nicely for Mass is meaningless. Your study of Gregorian Chant is a waste of time. Your organization of forty hours devotions is obstructionist.”

What to do, what to do…? Well, what not to do is get upset and call the Pope ugly names. What not to do is assume that a) you have the whole story, and b) the Pope is addressing you personally and c) that you are one hundred percent perfectly totally right in your interpretation of the Holy Father’s words. Maybe a little examination of conscience is in order. You know, it’s possible to go to Mass nicely dressed and spend time looking down on, and feeling sorry for those poor dweebs who don’t know any better, isn’t it? It’s possible to give a great appearance of being good so as to become a burden to those who look to you for an example but can’t measure up to your perceived perfection. It’s possible to get so caught up in this novena or that appearance of Our Lady that we spend too much time measuring our lives against certain promises that we forget to live. Maybe a little perspective is in order. The Holy Father has a world full of children to minister. Just because we have instant access to nearly every word that drops from his lips doesn’t mean that every word is directed to us, personally. In other words, “It’s not about you!” Remember there was a time prior to the internet when this address of the Pope’s would have been recorded by a journalist, archived, and forgotten until an official biographer dug it up.

But what if the Pope really doesn’t like you? Does it really matter? I mean if you’re respectful of his official words, mindful of the unchanging and unchangeable teachings of Holy Mother Church, doing your best to be the best Christian you can be, day by day, always learning and growing in the Faith, then what can it matter? None of us is so important that the Pope has to like us or the Church will suffer. None of the “practices and outdated forms” we like or find meaningful or spiritually healthy are so essential that the Pope has to like them or the Church will suffer. Those leaning toward a sola historica mentality often accuse ordinary Catholics who give the Pope the benefit of the doubt of “popolotry.” Yet it seems to me that getting upset about everything he says is just as bad as thinking everything the Pope says is Inspired-by-God. It’s another kind of popolotry. So what if the Pope doesn’t like us? He doesn’t have to. My wise mother taught me that we don’t have to like anybody; we just have to love everybody. So as long as the Holy Father love us, and we him, we’re all good.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Sola historica--a guest post!

I'm so sorry it took me all day to find the time to put up the guest post that I told you about on Friday. Here it is!


Heather Sprinkle

Modernism, that heresy of “anything goes,” has been with us a long time. Condemned in 1907 and 1910 by Pope St. Pius X, it essentially holds that the Church must change with the times. It has reached its tendrils into all aspects of Catholic thought where that thought informs the sciences and modern life. It even seems that it has now been around long enough to engender a reaction that goes beyond a vigorous opposition. This reaction is Modernism’s counterpart; its “equal and opposite,” so to speak. This trend of thought in its most extreme form engenders a break with the Church as with the Pius X groups or their more extreme brethren. It also has a form which is becoming more prevalent, or at least more vocal. This trend of thought has certain characteristics that both align it to and set it apart from Modernism, as well as some distinct dangers to the faith of its own.

This growing trend has been noticed with some concern by other Catholics who have tried to define just what they think is going on. For example, it has been called neo-Pelagian in nature, perhaps because of its appearance of relying more on forms of virtue than on indwelling grace to achieve salvation. This characterization, I think, fails to grasp the essence of this trend and only looks at the externals. Jansenism is another possible characterization, with its rigid morality and emphasis on the difficulty of attaining salvation. This may be somewhat accurate, but it also fails to tell the whole story.

This new trend of thought has several important aspects which characterize it.

One: A deep distrust of modern Church leadership that goes beyond merely having rational concerns about this or that individual prelate. It evinces a “guilty until proven innocent” mentality and also “guilt by association.” It often assumes the worst possible interpretation of a prelate’s actions or words. For example, you might hear something like, “Cdl. Kasper is a liberal theologian. Pope Francis obviously likes him. Therefore Pope Francis must have a secret Modernist agenda.”

Two: A dislike of both Vatican II and the Novus Ordo that goes beyond rational concerns about the wording of this document or that prayer. You might read something calling the Novus Ordo illicit, or Vatican II heretical.

Three: An impressive knowledge of Church history and doctrine, coupled with a willingness to use that knowledge to make accusations of heresy regardless of the dictates of charity. You might hear, “That interview proves that Pope Francis is promulgating heresy. St. Thomas Aquinas makes it perfectly clear. We have a duty to warn the faithful!”

Four: A willingness to tolerate certain sins for what is perceived to be the greater good. Arrogance is perceived as strength, wrath is always righteous, and rumor and gossip are the only means to the truth.

Five: A belief in a sort of crypto-Church. This one’s a bit difficult to explain, but essentially it is the belief that the post Vatican II Church is in all important aspects a new religion, though the old true Church still exists underneath, protected and passed down by her faithful few who reside in a type of mental catacomb.

All of these beliefs combine to form a trend of thought that, while it may have its roots in a resistance to Modernism, has become something else, something that like Modernism can be a danger to the faithful. It is a mentality of, perhaps, sola historica: a divorce from the entirety of Catholicism and a reliance on bits and pieces of Church history and doctrine, read and studied but used not to deepen faith and understand the Church as a whole, but to do war on a church that is increasingly perceived as an enemy. It foments distrust, derision and despite between laity and leadership and ignites fear and confusion. It cannot be Catholic. It must be resisted.


--Heather Sprinkle writes from the Midwest, where she has been attending the Extraordinary Form Mass for over twenty years. (She is also my awesome older sister, the mother of seven of my nephews, and the kind of homeschooling mother who makes the rest of us look like pikers.) 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Watch this space

I've been working hard on my new NaNoWriMo novel, but I wanted to pop in here for a second to tell you that I'm going to have a guest-poster on Monday!  She has written something that I think is a really interesting look at the various reactions we're seeing to Pope Francis and his endeavors. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Countdown to National Novel Writing Month

On Sunday, Nov. 1, National Novel Writing Month 2015 will begin.  Which means it's about to get even quieter around this blog than it has been.

This will be my ninth year participating, and I'm going to be writing the first draft of Book Seven of the Tales of Telmaja series.  I hope to have good news soon about the publication of Book Four, which means I only have two unedited manuscripts in the series to work on (well, until December, anyway, when Book Seven will join the queue).

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo this year and want to add me to your "buddy" list, my nickname over there is the same as it is here: Red Cardigan.  Hope to see you there!

Monday, October 26, 2015

A few things I wish everybody knew about migraines

This past Friday, I ended up in bed with the worst migraine I'd had in a while.  I blame the rain that rolled through Texas at the end of last week; others of my migraine-prone friends and family members who live in this area were suffering too.

I went through my usual emotions of frustration and irritation. I hate missing a whole day because of a migraine.  I hate missing parts of days, too, which happens a lot more often.  But I'm lucky, after all--my husband is used to migraines because his mom had them for years; one of my daughters (so far) seems to have inherited the "migraine gene," and lots of my sisters and friends in the area are also among the millions of Americans who suffer from migraines.

Why am I lucky? It's not because misery loves company; most of us who have migraines wouldn't wish them on our worst enemies, let alone our siblings or children. No, I'm lucky because being surrounded by people who either get migraines themselves or are closely connected with people who do means that I don't have to spend a lot of time clearing up misunderstandings about migraines.

It occurred to me, though, on Friday, when I was lying in a dark room with ice in a kitchen towel feeling physical pain with each flash of lightening and the louder roars of thunder, that other migraine sufferers aren't that lucky.  For their sake, I'd like to share a few things that I wish everybody knew about migraines, in no particular order:

1. Migraines are not "a bad headache."  Everybody gets bad headaches sometimes. They're no fun, certainly.  But when someone equates migraines with "a bad headache" and further implies that the sufferer just needs a brisk walk or a hearty snack to be able to get back to normal, they really aren't helping the situation.  Here's what one website says about migraines:
Migraine is a complex condition with a wide variety of symptoms. For many people the main feature is a painful headache. Other symptoms include disturbed vision, sensitivity to light, sound and smells, feeling sick and vomiting. Migraines can be very frightening and may result in you having to lie still for several hours.
The symptoms will vary from person to person and individuals may have different symptoms during different attacks. Your attacks may differ in length and frequency. Migraines usually last from 4 to 72 hours and most people are free from symptoms between attacks. Migraines can have an enormous impact on your work, family and social lives.
2. Migraines are not all alike. You may know somebody who gets the kind of migraine where he or she (more sufferers are women, but I've known men who suffer terribly from them) must go to bed for 12 hours but is then fine, and who only gets these migraines once or twice a year, but that doesn't mean that someone else is exaggerating if he or she ends up in bed for three days or gets migraines weekly.  There is even a kind of migraine, the Status Migrainosus, which is a debilitating migraine that can last for weeks--the pain can occasionally be so bad that the person must be hospitalized.

3. The affects of a migraine can vary person to person and attack to attack.  For instance, I'm still catching up on emails etc. from last Friday because it wasn't a terribly good idea for me to spend time looking at a computer screen until today.  However, with my more ordinary, garden-variety migraines I can often spend a limited amount of time on the computer--so long as I'm sitting still and don't mind correcting tons of stupid spelling mistakes, because I often lose my ability to spell correctly when I'm in migraine mode.  Others I know have similar limits regarding what they can or can't do on any given day.

4.  Because of those limits, some people who suffer from migraines are sort of hesitant to make long-range plans or commitments, especially when these involve optional (as opposed to mandatory work-related, school-related, etc.) activities.  I personally tend to cringe when people ask me if I can join an activity a couple of weeks ahead, or sign up for a weekly event, because while I hate letting people down I also just don't know how I will feel tomorrow, let alone a week from today or a month from today or every Wednesday from now until next spring.  Many of us who deal with frequent migraines already feel like we are using all of our energy to do the things we have to do on a daily or weekly basis, so if we're not terribly enthusiastic about joining something, it doesn't mean we're antisocial or extremely introverted (well, it doesn't necessarily mean that).

5. People with migraines will draw the lines in different places when it comes to social activities, too.  I don't like to go to movie theaters, for instance, because the noise, flashing lights, and extreme temperatures are all inclined to be migraine triggers for me.  Other people may have to avoid certain kinds of stores or venues (for instance, those stores which carry lots of highly-scented products).  Again, though, because there are different kinds of migraines, there are different places that are problematic for some but fine for others.

6. In general, migraine triggers can be different for each person.  Yes, some triggers--like hormones or weather--can affect large numbers of migraine sufferers (though when it comes to weather, for example, some will suffer before a storm reaches the area, some during the storm, and some as it moves through and away--and some unlucky souls will be in pain the whole time). But other triggers may cause migraines in some people but not in others.  Food triggers can be especially hard to track down; one of mine is chocolate.  (Some doctors believe chocolate isn't actually a migraine trigger but that we women, being all emotional and whatnot, think it is.  The last time I ate chocolate it was by accident--there was cocoa in a sweet "french toast flavored" bread I had bought.  I didn't know the cocoa was there, and really enjoyed the bread, but had puzzlingly persistent migraines as long as the loaf was in the house.  It wasn't until one of the girls looked at the ingredients and realized that chocolate was a major ingredient that the headaches were explained--and they went away as soon as I stopped eating that bread.  But, you know, some doctors are quite sure that chocolate can't possibly trigger migraines.) Other foods that can trigger migraines include alcohol and foods that are rich in tyramine such as aged cheeses and certain meats.

7. I think the worst question migraine sufferers can get is, "But can't you take something for that?" Sure, there are lots of migraine medications on the market, ranging from over-the-counter drugs to prescription-only medicines to off-label use of drugs meant to treat different conditions. The problem is that migraines are frustratingly difficult to treat. Some people will be helped by a medicine and experience both real relief from pain and a lessening of frequency or duration of migraines and associated symptoms, but others--a lot of others--will not. One fairly common problem is that a medicine or treatment may help for a while, but then stop helping, and unfortunately in these cases the migraines sometimes become worse than they were before the treatment was tried. And if you are battling any other health conditions as well as migraines, some of the migraine medications may not be recommended for you.  Sometimes the answer to the "can't you take something" question is, "Yes, and I do take something, but it doesn't always help, and it's not helping today."

8. The bottom line here is that migraines are a frustrating and difficult reality for lots of people, but our lives are made a lot easier when we have people close to us who understand, and are patient with us on our bad days.  Like I said above, I'm lucky this way.  If you know someone who deals with this problem, I hope you are as understanding and patient as my family and friends are, too!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A blast from the past

Well, it's Back to the Future Day, which means that it's the day that fictional characters from a movie set in 1985 traveled 30 years into the future, to October 21, 2015.  The funniest part of all the various movie references I've seen in recent weeks is the strange coincidence that the Chicago Cubs still have a shot (however small) at the World Series (in the movie, they were the alleged winners of the 2015 Series--at least, before Marty McFly wrecks the timeline). But naturally a lot of people have been talking about how the 2015 of the movie creators' imagination compares to the real year (obviously, we still need real hoverboards).

Coincidentally, I've just stumbled across something that I consider a real blast from the past, courtesy of Patrick Archbold who is now apparently guest-blogging at a site called What's Up with the Synod: Liveblogging the Apocalypse.  Patrick has apparently decided that the Synod, and the state of the Church today generally, is explained by Fatima:
Besides the prophecies and teaching about the end-times proper (The time of Antichrist, the Return of Christ, and the end of the world), no other period in Church history has been prophesied more than the end of this current era. More on that in a moment.
How can I be so sure that our era is the era so long taught and prophesied? Fatima, that is why. Fatima is not a stand-alone event in the history of private revelation. The warnings and promises of Fatima concur precisely with the teaching of the fathers and doctors and copious amounts of approved private revelation from saints over millennia.
A very short summary of events looks like this:
The Church is in crisis and seems close to its eclipse.
The climax of this Church crisis occurs concurrently with a global war (particularly in Europe and starting with civil strife/war breaking out in France and Italy),
grievous but short-term persecution of the clergy and faithful,
AND a heaven sent chastisement [...]
How long until such things might happen? We don’t know. If one looked at the cold war of the sixties and the devastation to the Church and the liturgy that occurred with and after the Second Vatican Council, one might have been convinced that the moment had come. But in retrospect, we now know that those events were just the opening volleys in a war that has brought us to this moment. Truly, in very real ways, the errors of Russia have spread around the world in the post cold war era. They are now so pervasive that prelates at the very top of Church hierarchy espouse them daily without blush and to much applause. (All emphases in original.)
Now, why is this a blast from the past?  As a teen who was nearly the same age as Marty McFly in 1985, I got sort of caught up in Catholic-apocalyptic stuff.  It started with my avid reading of the ultra-conservative Catholic paper The Wanderer, which I still respect (which is why this blog still hosts the "History of the Wanderer" posts you can find in the sidebar).  Unfortunately, from The Wanderer it was (at times) a relatively short step to all sorts of books, videos, and so on which held as their main position the idea that the Church was in a terrible state of crisis, that most if not all bishops hated the Mass (the real one, anyway), and that it was the supreme and sublime duty of every true faithful lay Catholic to resist at all costs anything the institutional Church came up with, because the institutional Church was so corrupt and rotten that pretty soon she would fall completely apart, save for a brave but tattered remnant of those select elite people who really, truly understood why Latin is the only heavenly language, why lay EMHCs were a mark of the devil, why women on the altar were all Jezebels who should probably be fed to wild dogs like their Biblical predecessor, why the sight of a woman with an uncovered head at Mass was deeply disgusting to Our Lord, why the Three Days of Darkness which would sweep the wicked from the world in violence and terror and leave only the faithful behind was really proof of God's great mercy, and why all of these things had been somehow predicted by--you guessed it--the seers of Fatima.  Oh, but not the false Lucia who was paraded in public from time to time and who never really distanced herself from the corrupt Church; no, everyone who was anyone knew that the real Lucia was being kept a prisoner somewhere so she couldn't verify to everyone the true contents of the Third Secret (which would say something like the mark of an anti-pope was his willingness to pray the Mass in the vernacular) or that Fatima hadn't really been consecrated to Mary properly as of yet.

I've written about some of these sorts of things here and here before. The important point is this: when I gave credence to writings about how most of the Church was corrupt beyond belief, and few bishops or even priests actually believed in God or in Christ's Real Presence in the Eucharist, or that the hope of the future of the Church rested in a tiny band of faithful Catholics most of whom lived in the US and spent their leisure hours watching videos about how God was going to smack down the rest of the world any day now, I was not exactly brimming over with charity toward my fellow men, let alone my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I can only be thankful that those days were long before the Internet, when websites and other sources are only too ready to steer Catholics onto the shoals of sedevacantism. I can also be grateful that thirty years later I'm not still caught up in that sort of thing, but have been blessed beyond belief to see the face of Christ in many bishops, priests, and lay people who share with me their faith in Christ and love for Him in a million little ways, none of which are in any way diminished if they don't particularly like the Latin hymns and Mass parts I honestly do prefer, or if they assist Father at Mass as EMHCs.