Friday, January 21, 2005

The Last Seven Commandments 

RCIA Monday night will be Chapter 21 in "This is our Faith" by Michael Pennock: "The Last Seven Commandments: Love of Neighbor:

1. Love your God and have no other gods before Him
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain
3. Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy
4. Honor your Father and your Mother
5. Thou shalt not kill
6. Thou shalt not commit adultery
7. Thou shalt not steal
8. Thou shalt not bear false witness
9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife
10.Thou shalt not cover they neighbor's goods

As I've said before, I believe, the Catholic Catechism's teaching on the 10 commandments is a major point of departure from my Methodist roots. Catholics go deeply into what each of these commandments mean and how they affect people living today. I remember no such study or investigation into the commandments growing up Methodist. Certainly, we talked about the commandments, but never any discussion like this:
The seventh commandment condemns 'theft,' defined as taking another's property against his or her reasonable will. Also forbidden is any unjust taking and keeping of another's property. This includes business fraud, paying unjust wages, price fixing, corruption, shoddy work, tax evasion, forgery, padding expense accounts, wasteful practices, and the destruction of public or private property (vandalism). Promises and contracts must be kept, debts must be paid...
The discussion of the seventh commandment goes on to talk about gambling, social justice, the treatment of the poor... The Catholic Catechism's discussion of the 10 Commandments is a document that all Christians would benefit reading and studying. Not only do Catholics inform their conscience by studying the 10 commandments, they examine their lives before Reconciliation/Confession using these same commandments and try to actually live their faith. Certainly, all Christian faiths try to honor and consider the 10 commandments, but in my (limited) experience, the Catholic Catechism calls on the faithful to live up to their precepts more strongly and more completely than others.

Et Tu 

Peggy Noonan has some thoughts on the President's speech yesterday:
Americans, countrymen, and Republicans! hear me for my cause; and be silent, that you may hear: believe me for mine honour, and have respect to mine honour, that you may believe: censure me in your wisdom, and awake your senses, that you may the better judge. If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of Bush’s, to him I say, that my love to 'W' was no less than his. If then that friend demand why I rose against Bush, this is my answer: Not that I loved 'W' less, but that I loved America more. Had you rather the President were successful, and die all failures, than that Bush were seen as stupid, to live all as you have been? As 'W' loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honour him; but, as he was ambitious, I slew him. There is tears for his love; joy for his fortune; honour for his valour; and death for his ambition. Who is here so base that would be a Democrat? If any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so rude that would not be an American? If any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so vile that will not love his country? If any, speak; for him have I offended. I pause for a reply.

None, Peggy, none.

Then none have I offended. I have done no more to Bush, than you shall do to me.
You can click on the top link to see Noonan's real article since the above is, of course, the speech Brutus gave after killing Caesar in Shakespeare's play "Julias Caesar." I thought it fitting since Ms. Noonan complains so strongly against the President's ambition. I wonder, after reading Noonan, whether it was she who would have liked to replace Bush's retiring head speech writer, and whether, perhaps, she was not asked. If you want to read Antony's reply to Brutus, in defense of Caesar, read it here. I'm sure you remember how it starts, "Friends, Romans Countrymen, lend me your ears!"

Update: I understand that President Bush has been much inspired lately by the book "The Case for Democracy" by Natan Sharansky.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Inaugural Speech & Coverage 

There was some kind of disruption during the inaugural speech, but the crowd cheered over it and cheered louder when some signs were taken down and some people were led away. Here are a few of my favorite parts of the president's speech:
The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time.

We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.

In America's ideal of freedom, the exercise of rights is ennobled by service, and mercy, and a heart for the weak. Liberty for all does not mean independence from one another. Our nation relies on men and women who look after a neighbor and surround the lost with love. Americans, at our best, value the life we see in one another, and must always remember that even the unwanted have worth. And our country must abandon all the habits of racism, because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time.

We have known divisions, which must be healed to move forward in great purposes - and I will strive in good faith to heal them. Yet those divisions do not define America. We felt the unity and fellowship of our nation when freedom came under attack, and our response came like a single hand over a single heart. And we can feel that same unity and pride whenever America acts for good, and the victims of disaster are given hope, and the unjust encounter justice, and the captives are set free.

We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner "Freedom Now" - they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.

I thought the speech well done and rather well delivered... with the one protest marring the end of the speech.

Update: Dan Rather is on CBS complaining now because President Bush didn't write his own speech. "Is it too much to ask," says Mr. Rather, "that a President write his own Inaugural address?" The other reporters point out that they are the President's thoughts and that all modern presidents have speech writers.

Update: Peter Jennings and Cokie Roberts and George Stephanopolis and company are on ABC discussing Tyranny vs. Terror and how other countries will feel about the speech, other countries like China and Saudi Arabia and Egypt and Russia. Peter Jennings says Bush's speech will be seen as a threat to other countries and ABC is talking about the hypocrisy of America in talking about freedom, but having relations with Saudi Arabia.

Update: Brian Williams and Tim Russert are on NBC discussing how it was an easy speech to give, but rather impossible to implement. Doris Kearns Goodwin, the historian, is saying it was a Democrat speech, not a Republican speech. She says that Bush's tax cuts and the international distrust birthed of our intervention in Iraq make Bush's ideas more difficult, if not impossible, to implement. She says we don't have the money or the cooperation to move ahead. Russert is calling Bush simplistic in his views. Brian Williams brings up Ohio and how the vote for Bush is not a mandate.

Update: Brian Williams is talking with Michael Deaver (R) and Joe Lockhart (D) and Tim Russert on NBC about why Bush is so hated by Democrats... saying that Bush bites their hands everytime they reach out. Lockhart says that if Bush wants to achieve the things in his speech, he will have to reach out to the Democrats.

Update: CBS is talking about the Supreme Court now. "No matter who Bush nominates to replace Renquist on the Supreme Court, it will be controversial. There will be a huge fight no matter who it is." "The Democrats will fight whomever Bush nominates for Chief Justice."

Why, why, why can't anyone talk about anything positive on a day as bright as this... the first day of a new presidency.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

A Disgusting Display 

I watched the confirmation hearings for Condi Rice off and on the last couple of days. I thought Joe Biden, in particular, put on a disgusting display.

Biden later grilled Rice on the number of trained Iraqi forces, charging that the administration was exaggerating the number of police who have been trained.

"For God's sake, don't listen to (Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld. He doesn't know what in the hell he's talking about on this," Biden said.

Rice insisted in her first day of testimony there are more than 120,000 trained Iraqi forces, while Biden said it was just over 4,000.
This is a very important person, a senator, one of 100, saying another VIP, in fact the Secretary of Defense in a co-equal branch of our government, in a very dangerous time of war, doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. And not only that, his whole line of questioning 1) put down the Iraqis who have been trained and 2) put down our own, American forces by implying that a few weeks of training could turn anyone into an equal of our fine, dedicated, intelligent soldiers. I plan on calling Senator Biden's office and complaining.

Senator Barbara Boxer, too, put on a show for the cameras, implying that Condi Rice lied to the American people and was a "yes-man" for President Bush. I kept asking myself, who would ever WANT a job if they have to sit and take abuse like this to be confirmed. Not me.

The Second Inaugural Address 

As we wait to hear President Bush's Second Inaugural Address tomorrow, consider these words from Lincoln's, which many consider to be the best Presidential Speech ever delivered:

...Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered--that of neither has been answered fully.

The Almighty has his own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through his appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to him? Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.

I particularly find Lincoln's statement, "if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword" pertinent today. What was he talking about? Slavery. 250 years of slavery and how the civil war was this nation's price to pay for that evil. But today, with the reparations movement, Lincoln's time, indeed history itself, is ignored and some believe the cost of the civil war, in blood and money, was not enough.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Idol Chatter 

OK, I'm wasting my evening watching American Idol, I admit it. When I was growing up, if I tried something (like singing) and I was bad, my brothers and sisters took the opportunity to be completely honest with me -- ruthlessly honest. These poor souls trying out for American Idol apparently don't have brothers and sisters. Is this what the low birth rate will yield for the world, people who have never been told they sing horribly? People with a huge self-esteem and nothing, nothing upon which to base it? When my own teen children viewed themselves, as so many teen children do, as future rock stars, I popped their bubbles by demanding that they try out for band or choir at school or at church. I asked them how they could measure how good they are if they didn't get feedback from their friends and teachers and directors. Of course when my kids would come home talking about self-esteem I would tell them, "you get self-esteem from achieving something, from success in sports or band or choir or grades or from getting and keeping a job, from saving up your own money to buy your own car. You get self-esteem by overcoming difficulties, from doing excellent work, it isn't something someone else can pour into you."

Some of these poor souls trying out for American Idol, some who say they can't envision living without expressing themselves in song, must have just never been told the truth in their lives. I wonder if perhaps the best gifts I've been given were the rejections: not making the team that first year of little league, being cut off the basketball team in 8th grade, being barely good enough for third trumpet in the band. These days, especially in little league, all kids make the team and all kids have to play -- rules. What's wrong with an eight or nine year old learning to deal with failure? Look at the results when people are grown and still don't have an honest self-perception.

I'll get off my soapbox now.

Global Warming & Life Expectancy 

I finished reading Michael Crichton's "State of Fear" and Dean Koontz' "Life Expectancy" over the Christmas break. Crichton's book is hardly a story, it's more of a global warming list of footnotes and links with the barest of plots wrapped around it. I'm not much of a fan of the theory of global warming, whatever swings in climate are occuring now are drawfed by larger swings of the past in which Man had no part. To blame the warming of the atmosphere on Earth on Man while a giagantic ball of nuclear fusion burns just eight light minutes away seems ridiculous. (Or, since my children have had me watch "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" about a thousand times, "Ridikulus"). But even though I agree with Crichton about Global Warming, his story was sophomoric, more like a skeletal attempt at an Ian Fleming book that anything else. He should have taken more time and developed the characters and plotlines more fully. I could find little lifelike in the characters to take to heart.

Dean Koontz, on the other hand, writes a surprisingly funny, a genuinely funny, novel in "Life Expectancy." The characters use humor to overcome horrible events throughout their lives. It reminds me somewhat of the people I've met who spent time in England during WW II: as children, they were moved out of the city, away from the blitz, to the countryside... constant air raids, growing up losing friends, family, homes, shortages of everything... but full of humor over the little things. It is a book about coping, loving, trusting -- no matter what. Koontz, as I may have said before, is still growing as an author and his books always surprise.

Psychics and Sundays 

RCIA was very good last night. We've had some personnel changes and now our priest is teaching three out of four weeks a month. Last night, I actually learned a few things and the discussion was excellent.

In discussing the first three commandments, which all deal with love of God, we had a lively talk about psychics and exorcism and astrology and Ouija Boards and the like. Our priest said that dabbling in such things violate the first three commandments and are also dangerous. There are such things as evil spirits, you can't believe in God and Jesus without believing in the Devil/Satan, and you shouldn't open yourself up to the occult. This is far different from using your God-given gifts for the good of man. It isn't wrong, for example, for a psychic to help the police solve crimes, but it is wrong for a psychic to try to make contact with the dead like so many do on TV these days. The difference? The psychic on TV is undermining faith in God: people go to these psychics because they are worried about loved ones, whether they are in heaven, whether they are suffering, etc... faith and trust in God should be answer enough for those questions.

Note: Jesus cast demons out of people and in every case, the demon knew who Jesus was and feared Him. Those men in power at the time, however, did not recognize Jesus for who he was.

We also talked about keeping the sabbath holy. We need to attend Mass weekly and there are very few excuses that make any sense since there are Masses in town from 5pm on Saturday until 7pm on Sunday. Make Sunday different from the other days. Try not to focus on secular things so much, try to have some time for God.

Things I learned:

On the weekend, February 19th/20th, our class will be in front of the Church again. Our parish will give us the "Rite of Sending" to send us off to the Cathedral to meet our Bishop for the "Rite of Election." In the Rite of Sending, our names will be written into a book and then our names will be read off at the Cathedral with the Bishop for the Rite of Election.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Chapter 20: Love of God 

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, where you lived as slaves. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make yourself carved images or any likeness of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy.

RCIA tonight is Chapter 20: "The First Three Commandments" in Michael Pennock's "This is our Faith." The main sins against the first three commandments are things like heresy (the denial of a truth of the Christian faith), apostasy (the total denial of Christ and the Christian faith), schism (the refusal to accept the authority of the pope and a refusal to be in union with other Christians). The text also says we should not be presumptuous and think we can obtain salvation on our own without God's grace and conversion. The opposite is also true: we should not despair and think we cannot obtain salvation or forgiveness of our sins. Of course, the first commandment also condemns false gods, superstition, idolatry, divination, magic, atheism (as if they care) and agnosticism.

A note about images. Catholics often take heat from iconoclasts, especially muslims, for prayers to Mary and other saints and from the statues that adorn our churches. The Catechism, though, makes it clear that we are to worship and adore God alone. Mary and the saints, we venerate (regard with profound respect). The Second Council of Nicaea in 787 made it clear that representational art is fine and good and helps in the spreading of the gospel.

Pennock goes on to say that its OK to take a vow (you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain), that's not "in vain" unless you don't plan to keep that vow. Blasphemy (cursing of defying God) and cursing using God's name are sinful.

Keeping the sabbath holy is interesting. Pope John Paul II recognizes the importance of Sports, but also clearly understands that Sports conflict with Church on Sunday. When I was growing up and attending public school in rural Indiana, practices or games on Sunday were unthinkable. A coach would have found himself all on his own if he or she would have called a Sunday practice or a Sunday game. Today, this happens all the time. If it isn't sports that takes peoples' attention on Sunday, then it's going to the mall or to movies, etc. This is something that has really changed in my lifetime. Sundays used to be a time to gather for church and perhaps a family meal... now such things are nearly impossible to organize among all the schedules that never stop, nor wait for a moment's breath.

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