St. Andrew’s Day: Would you drop your nets?

St Andrew

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew, the apostle who was martyred in Greece on an X-shaped cross. Coming as it does right before Advent, St. Andrew’s Day by tradition marks the end of the Church year.

We read in the Gospel at Mass today that after Christ called St. Peter and St. Andrew, the two “immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him” (Matt. 4:22).

Reading this passage, it struck me that we should ask ourselves today whether we are quite so docile as St. Andrew and St. Peter were that day on the shore.

I know I like to think that if I got a clear call from God, I would drop my nets on the spot too. But I often ask myself: would I even recognize the call?

I know like to think that, should that great moment of reckoning come one day when I’m called to make some heroic stand for faith or family, I would readily rise to the occasion. But would I recognize the moment before it passes?

More and more I’m learning that I can’t expect to follow God in the big things if I’m not following him in the little things, which is ho we build up heroic virtue. As the theologians tell us, one of the marks of heroic virtue is spontaneity, which means the tendency toward the good act is so engrained in your soul that you act almost without thinking. As the late spiritual theologian Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange wrote, “Heroic virtue is present when one practices all one’s duties with ease and spontaneity, even in particularly difficult circumstances.”

Besides some special grace, we will only be capable of making that supreme sacrifice if we’ve prepared ourselves by limitless small sacrifices along the way. Before the red martyrdom there was always first the white martyrdom.

As a priest once asked us: “How do you expect to be ready to die for the faith if you can’t even make your bed every morning?”

Hollywood: Where Christian conversion is a ‘meltdown’

Only in Hollywood is conversion to Christianity compared to a drug-induced “meltdown.”

Everybody’s now familiar with the news that the “half man” on CBS’s Two and a Half Men joined a Christian church in Alabama and released a video where he calls the sitcom “filth” and urges viewers to stop watching.

As Matthew Archbold at Creative Minority Report put it, it appears the half man “is now a real man.”

I don’t want to make any claims about the authenticity or longevity of Mr. Jones’ conversion, and I don’t know anything about the church he’s joined up with. I pray he’s sincere and is able to stay the course.

But what’s amazing is how his reported conversion to Christian faith and profession of traditional sexual values is somehow being compared to the meltdown of former lead Charlie Sheen.

For example, on a screenshot of Sheen and Jones from the show, the UK’s Daily Mail writes: “Cursed? Both actors have apparently suffered very public meltdowns”.

It appears the theme began with Sheen himself, who told People magazine: “With Angus’s Hale-Bopp-like meltdown, it is radically clear to me that the show is cursed.”

Sheen himself was canned from the show in 2011 after a series of bizarre outbursts and attacks on the producer, apparently connected to alcohol and drug abuse.

In various interviews, the actor infamously claimed he was a “warlock,” and that he had “tiger blood” and “Adonis DNA”. “I’m tired of pretending I’m not a total bitchin’ rock star from Mars,” he said.

On the other hand, here’s Jones’ now-famous advice to viewers: “Do some research on the effects of television and your brain, and I promise you you’ll have a decision to make when it comes to television – especially with what you watch.”

Seems like good counsel, but I guess in the sex and drugs world of Hollywood the two “outbursts” are really not that much different.

This piece originally appeared on LifeSiteNews. It is republished here with permission.

Homeschooling: freedom’s last stand

 “This new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.”

Thus Hitler famously declared in 1937 as he ordered the nation’s children into government schools – a law that is still enforced to this very day. The Nazi tyrant knew, as all dictators do, that the home, left to its own devices, is a far worse threat to state ideology than any foreign power.

We are fortunate in North America today that the home remains more or less free. However, homeschoolers even in my own province of Nova Scotia are currently arguing that the province risks becoming the “worst place” in Canada for home-based education if the government adopts a new report by the Auditor General calling for increased oversight of their activities.

Really what the Auditor General is proposing is mild compared to places like Germany or Sweden, where some homeschooling parents have lost custody of their children and even been jailed. But as Western culture descends into increasing secularism, homeschooling families are right to be vigilant. In fact, everyone should be, because the right to homeschool is the last bulwark of freedom; it is our last stand against tyranny.

The state may stomp on our freedom of expression, conscience, and religion; it may demolish our churches and ban our soapbox diatribes. But these are all in the external forum – regulating words and deeds. Forced attendance at school, on the other hand, attacks the internal forum. Its goal is to control the thoughts of the next generation. As long as the home remains unscathed, a sanctuary amidst the chaos, there’s still some last vestige of liberty. While greatly impeded by the loss of religious and cultural institutions, the family can still keep the fires of faith and truth alive around the evening’s hearth or the morning’s math lesson.

But the sanctuary is breached as soon as the state forces the child to school – a threat so great the family risks losing its very soul. Though the hearth remains, it is now invaded by state propaganda. Though parents can still teach their child the values of faith and family, they do it while the child is indoctrinated in the opposite worldview through the best hours of his day. Though they are parents by nature, father and mother are now mere guardians under the law.

The education of children, taken in the widest sense, is the parent’s most basic duty besides keeping their children alive. But to fulfill it they need the freedom to direct their child’s education. It’s the parent’s natural right to decide where, how, and by whom their child will be educated. That means where government-run schools are the norm, they need the freedom to keep them out, even if they don’t exercise it.

Freedom simply cannot exist where the state usurps authority over education. Under such a regime, any lip service to freedom is Orwellian. The illusion of liberty might persist so long as state-sanctioned values line up with those of the parents, but the reality comes into focus as soon as the two conflict.

Take Germany and Sweden, both considered among the great democracies of the world. Johan walks openly to his neighborhood church, Hans readily protests his government’s latest tax hike, and both think they are free. But ask Christer Johannson or Juergen and Rosemarie Dudek, who have all been jailed for homeschooling, and I think you’ll find that these so-called liberal democracies are now wholly engulfed in what a certain Bavarian theologian has called the “dictatorship of relativism.”

The totalitarian state – whether outwardly democratic or not – knows the challenge of controlling adults’ minds, so it goes after the young: “He alone who owns the youth gains the future.” Faced with evil dictates from the government, adults have the maturity to hold fast, but children are impressionable by design. Their thoughts are easily molded, which, while a great boon to their development in the care of a wise and loving guide, is a disaster in the hands of dictators.

So parents like those in Nova Scotia are right to decry any unnecessary incursions into their proper area of authority. We need to ask: If parents are responsible to the government for what they teach their children, then what’s to stop the government from telling parents what to teach them?

We already saw warning signs last spring in Alberta, when a spokeswoman for the Minister of Education told LifeSiteNews in a phone interview that morally conservative homeschoolers would not be permitted to teach that homosexual acts are sinful. “Whatever the nature of schooling – homeschool, private school, Catholic school – we do not tolerate disrespect for differences,” she said.

After a massive public outcry, the government backed down. But the point is, no matter what you believe about homosexuality, if the government can tell one person what to teach their child, they can do it to you too.

This op-ed was originally published at LifeSiteNews.com. It is reprinted here with permission.

A meditation for the Feast of Christ the King

From the Office of Readings for today, a discourse by Origen:

The coming of the kingdom of God, says our Lord and Saviour, does not admit of observation, and there will be no-one to say “Look here! Look there!” For the kingdom of God is within us and in our hearts. And so it is beyond doubt that whoever prays for the coming of the kingdom of God within himself is praying rightly, praying for the kingdom to dawn in him, bear fruit and reach perfection. For God reigns in every saint, and every saint obeys God’s spiritual laws — God, who dwells in him just as he dwells in any well-ordered city. The Father is present in him and in his soul Christ reigns alongside the Father, as it is said: We will come to him and make our dwelling with him.

Therefore, as we continue to move forward without ceasing, the kingdom of God within us will reach its perfection in us at that moment when the saying in the Apostle is fulfilled, that Christ, His enemies all made subject to Him, shall deliver the kingdom to God the Father that God may be All in All.

For this reason let us pray without ceasing, our souls filled by a desire made divine by the Word Himself. Let us pray to our Father in heaven: hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come.

There is something important that we need to understand about the kingdom of God: just as righteousness has no partnership with lawlessness, just as light has nothing in common with darkness and Christ has no agreement with Belial, so the kingdom of God and a kingdom of sin cannot co-exist.

So if we want God to reign within us, on no account may sin rule in our mortal body but let us mortify our earthly bodies and let us be made fruitful by the Spirit. Then we will be a spiritual garden of Eden for God to walk in. God will rule in us with Christ who will be seated in us on the right hand of God — God, the spiritual power that we pray to receive — until he makes his enemies (who are within us) into his footstool and pours out on us all authority, all power, all strength.

This can happen to any one of us and death, the last enemy may be destroyed, so that in us Christ says Death, where is your sting? Death, where is your victory? So let our corruptibility be clothed today with holiness and incorruption. With Death dead, let our mortality be cloaked in the Father’s immortality. With God ruling in us, let us be immersed in the blessings of regeneration and resurrection.

And today’s Collect:
Almighty ever-living God, whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of the universe, grant, we pray, that the whole creation, set free from slavery, may render your majesty service and ceaselessly proclaim your praise. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Hope amidst chaos

WRITING in The Catholic Thing on Sunday, Canadian columnist David Warren discussed the fallout of America’s election. In his view the election signalled that “we are now complete foreigners in this North American culture.

Some excerpts:

I wonder how many Americans, on the morning of November 7th, got up feeling something terrible had happened. From a number of my Republican friends, I got this impression. It wasn’t the same as 2008, when they got up feeling they’d lost the election.

It was instead a feeling of being surrounded by people who don’t get the point, who didn’t grasp the stakes, who let something pass. The people had now voted explicitly to go over the “fiscal cliff,” to accept ObamaCare as a new way of life, with the destruction of Catholic institutions, etc.

And there’d be no going back. America was the last place on Earth where the people did not accept being pushed around, being changed by social engineering. They’d taken pride in this.

But now America is an occupied country.

It is against this background reality that the Church’s mission now proceeds. Pope Benedict understands this, though I’m not sure many of his bishops do: that we are now complete foreigners in this North American culture, as throughout the post-modern West; that we are Gershom, strangers in a strange land; that we are mustard seeds again.

Besides the re-election of a President who’s both strongly pro-abortion and intent on curtailing Christians’ religious freedoms, the most devastating result of Nov. 6th was the passage of same-sex “marriage” in Maine, Maryland, and Washington state.

Same-sex “marriage” had already passed in six states, either in the legislature or by judicial fiat,  but never before had it won when it was put to a popular vote. Up until now, pro-marriage advocates had won all 32 state referenda on same-sex “marriage” going back to 1998.

Sadly, I think Warren is right on this point as well:

My own sense was that, as soon as even one such referendum is lost, by the tiniest margin, anywhere, the game is over. The other side has won. Within a moment of historical time, a majority of Americans will now find same-sex marriage acceptable. They may not actually like it, but they will keep this to themselves. Irritation will now be focused upon those still trying to resist “the inevitable.”

So long as we could point to that 32-0 victory record, we could stave off that feeling of inevitability. Though I believe strongly we are winning public opinion on abortion, all the evidence I’ve seen suggests we are losing, badly, on homosexuality and marriage. Of course, that’s old news to my readers from Canada, where we’ve had same-sex “marriage” since 2005.

I might be sounding defeatist or pessimistic to some people, but authentic Christian hope must be realistic about the surrounding landscape. Our hope is rooted in Christ, not the blustering winds of the age. The martyrs of the Colosseum sang out songs of praise even as they were fed to the lions.

O my God, relying on your almighty power and infinite mercy and promises, I hope to obtain pardon for my sins, the help of your grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer. Amen.