On Giants' Shoulders

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time there was a country known for its Christian faith. The head of the country spoke out about his Christianity, the people routinely went to Church, gave charitable donations, and celebrated Christian holidays. Then something happened. It felt like overnight, although in fact it was several years in coming to a head. The head of the country started demanding things of his people that those who were truly Christian could not do. People spoke out, but because the government was very powerful, they spoke out carefully. Torture was already being used by this government to deal with people who disagreed with it. Ultimately, a lot of the Christians in the country chose to look the other way. Some of them pretended to go along in public, but tried to keep their conscience clear in private. Only a very few refused to go along at all. Some of those who refused to go along were fined. Some had their property seized, some were put in jail, some were executed. No one would have believed a generation before that these things could have happened. They did happen, however, they happened in England under the rule of Henry VIII and continued under the rule of two of his children. Pray God, that this story is not one that will be told hundreds of years from now about the United States of America. Saint John Fisher, pray for us. Saint Thomas More, pray for us. Saint Margaret Clitheroe, pray for us. Saint Anne Line pray for us.

The question facing Catholics and other Christians who actually hold to Biblical faith today is: will we follow the Thomas Wolseys of the world or the Thomas Mores? Will we follow the Ann Boleyns or the Anne Lines? The choice most assuredly is ours. There were lots of arguments that people made to try to salve the conscience of St. Thomas More, but he cut through them all to the very basic premises. There are lots of arguments being used today to salve the conscience of Sister Carol, and other Catholics, but Cardinal George and Cardinal Dolan have cut through those arguments to basic premises. At the moment no one is threatening to sever the heads of bishops from their necks. They are merely threatening to take away property. Oh, wait, didn't Henry take away property before he took the head of St. John Fisher?

We may believe that none of this could happen here, but tell me truthfully if you were alive 40 years ago could you have seen a state in the United States requiring churches to allow homosexuals to have wedding ceremonies in them if their facilities were available for money? No church in Washington state can now charge for their facilities if they wish to refrain from having homosexual marriage ceremonies performed in them. When you look at all the things that have happened in the past 40 years that no one would have believed if you'd predicted it, how can we know what will happen next. We live in a country that sends drones to assassinate our enemies, we now prosecute whistle blowers instead of praising them, we hold people in jail for years without even bringing them to trial. That sounds more like Soviet Russia than the America I was taught about in elementary school.

Apocalyptic novelists through the years have attempted to predict what's next. Seldom have they gotten things exactly right 1984 came and went and Big Brother wasn't really watching inside our homes. Sometimes, however, some of the more basic ideas in the books have come true. We certainly have news media that serve disinformation a lot of the time. We certainly have schools that either take a "new twist" on history, or fail to teach much of it at all. RH Benson's Lord of the World gives us one apocalyptic scenario that's becoming altogether too believable (euthanasia forced on an old Catholic women who is also denied Last Rites by her daughter-in-law, because after all it's simply superstition). The more recent novelist Michael O'Brien's novels have dealt with things like the curtailment of the freedom of speech, especially for journalists. I must admit that in recent years I've frequently felt like I was living in the beginning pages of a Michael O'Brien novel (right before things got really, really bad). I'm sure that Mr. O'Brien would dearly loved to be proven a lousy prophet. However, so far he's identified things that actually are beginning to happen in places. Once upon a time moving to the backwoods, throwing away the TV, and growing peaches might have seemed like an option. In a world where GPS can locate you most anywhere, and the government can send in drones to surgically remove you from the face of the earth, the more prudent thing to do is to pray. The most courageous thing to do is to support the Catholic bishops while we still can and boldly proclaim that the free exercise of religion is not confined to a worship service on Sunday morning.

Just remember, no Englishman would have thought that his local parish church would be looted, or the common grounds on which he grazed his livestock would be taken away in the early years of Henry VIII's reign. No one would have believed that simply owning a rosary would be a crime. No one would have believed that the medical facilities staffed by monks would have been closed down and the property turned over to friends of the king. So just what will we say twenty years from now about what no one would have believed? When we have turned sex, abortion, and government into religion, and turned religion into something that a candidate is not supposed to truly believe, what else is on the horizon. A few years back a governor of Colorado made news by advocating euthanasia of elderly people. Would it even make news today, when it is quietly happening in hospitals around the country? How much further do we have to drift before even the so- called liberals among us see that we've gone too far? Taking away freedom and life doesn't seem like such a liberal thing to do now does it? However, when the man whom the Pope dubbed Defender of the Faith began the dissolution of the monastaries I suspect that some people were surprised at that turn around as well.

Recently, I've been saddened to see people whom I once thought of as fairly serious Protestant Christians start advocating for gay marriage. I got defriended by one of them on Facebook recently because I put up a link on my page that was protesting the propagandizing of homosexuals in schools. A lot of years ago now I made an observation about the drift of our culture. I couldn't even have imagined either what was about to happen or how fast it would happen. However, my observation was that in my grandchildren's lifetime all serious Christians were going to have to be Catholics because no one else was going to take Biblical faith seriously. At the moment there are still some serious Biblical Protestants out there, but they are rapidly being made unwelcome in any mainline denomination, and even in the evangelical world such compromises have already been made (with respect to divorce and remarriage for example) that I suspect that they are simply a few decades behind the mainline crowd as far as abandoning Biblical standards are concerned. I've watched people I knew to be not simply sort of evangelical Christians, but people I knew to be rock solid proponents of Biblical inerrancy go soft when the culture battles took victims in their own homes.

St. Margaret Clitheroe converted to the Catholic faith during the reign of Elizabeth I. She was the first woman martyr during the Tudor's persecution of Catholics (although not the last). St. John Fisher was the only Bishop in England to not knuckle under to Henry VIII. St. Thomas More of course was made famous by the movie and play A Man For All Seasons. St. Anne Line, like Margaret Clitheroe was martyred for hiding priests. Each of them gave up their lives rather than give up their faith. Today we are reluctant to even give up our social standing with our old friends who've adopted the new wave thinking that the media has promoted. Pray for our Bishops, pray for pastors, turn off the TV and pick up some books written before 1950. The hour is late, but perhaps not too late yet. Margaret Clitheroe believed that what was happening in England in her time was the result of Christians in earlier times giving too little attention to their faith. Perhaps the same is true now. Perhaps for a long time we've been given the pastors we deserve (who merely tickle our ears) rather than the ones we need (who would call us to repentance). Perhaps it's time to pray to be given the pastors and leaders we really need.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Well Lent has begun, and so begin the meatless meals. On Weds. we had white lentil soup, poached cod with parsley egg sauce, boiled potatoes and peas. Thursday it was shrimp wiggle. Friday I made salmon loaf with mashed potatoes and beets. Tonight we had spinach mushroom crepes and mystery cake. Next week on the agenda is pasta putanesca one night, minestrone soup and foccacia another. That's as far as I've got it figured out thus far. My husband bought crab to make crab cakes, so I think that's on his agenda for dinner tomorrow (he clearly forgot that we do usually eat meat on Sundays in Lent). We're scrambling around in cookbooks looking for recipes, but no panic so far.

On the rest of the Lenten front, our parochial vicar wished us a challenging Lent on Ash Weds. On Friday I had my first visit with the physical therapist and I think that may be my biggest Lenten challenge. It really, really hurt. I know it's all about healing places that have been damaged for a very long time, but it was not easy in the least. The easiest part was laying on the spinulator (I wish I could take that home!), I managed to get a whole Rosary said while I laid there, a wonderful use of my time I thought. The rest of it, well I said some definite Hail Mary's while I was stretched out in a doorway and while I was leaning over stretching my lower back. While the PT was actually working on me it was more simply internal offering it up. Monday, I go back for more, after spending part of the morning at the dentist's for a cleaning. Sounds like a really fun filled day!

I have found some really good Lenten reading to do, and since most of it is on my Kindle, it's have Kindle will travel, and I can get some reading done in the various waiting rooms of my life.

So thanks to Father Dodson for his Lenten wishes. I'm sure that there will be great benefit from them.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Not Ready For Lent

I just realized today that Lent starts next week. I am so not ready for it. Around here we essentially do a meatless Lent. I say essentially because we do eat meat on Sundays and on St. Patrick's Day. You'd think that after years of doing this (at least a decade at this point), I'd have the system down. You'd be wrong. I go into Lent with some ideas, but by the end of the second week, either I'm sick of what I'm making or everyone else is. I'd be perfectly happy to do some sort of meatless soup several times a week, but the males in the family don't consider soup and bread adequate for dinner. Since my son does the traditional fasting of limited meals all through Lent (not just Good Friday and Ash Wednesday), I can understand why he wants his one regular meal to be more substantial. However, my grocery budget simply won't stretch for fresh or frozen fish every night. So I'm back to looking again at recipes that aren't soup, that aren't tuna wiggle (which I'd happily eat), which aren't quiche (which apparently real Vermont men don't eat for dinner), and which aren't too spicy.

Most years I at least go into it with a bit of enthusiasm, but somehow this year my enthusiasm is at about the lowest ebb ever. I've got other things planned for Lent (some saints' biographies to read for one thing), but this meal thing is simply hanging over me like a pall at this point. Perhaps that's a good thing. It truly isn't the going without meat that's a problem for me, it's coming up with meals that actually please the rest of the family. Making them cheerfully may be my greatest Lenten penance.

So how about you? Are you ready for Lent? Do you have any marvelous meatless recipes to recommend that aren't heavy on beans or spice? At the moment I'm trying to figure out things to do with various types of canned seafood which seem to be lots less expensive than fresh or frozen.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Gone Too Soon

We heard you were coming
It gladdened our hearts,
Then all to soon, you were gone.
There's an empty space where we thought you'd be.

Today I picked up a book of knitting patterns
And I realized,
That I hadn't even had time to pick one out,
Say nothing about begin knitting one for you.

You left too soon to even say hello.
And we don't really understand why.
All we know is that you were here,
And now you're gone.

We trust you to the merciful care of God,
But we will miss getting to know you.
And your grandma will miss picking out something to make
Just for you.