What I Learned Today, #3

1. Don Quixote is to windmills as Labrador Retriever is to dragonflies.

2. If you’re stupid enough to turn around for 12 seconds, 135 fluid ounces of liquid dish soap, 16 ounces of Jet-Dry and 11 ounces of liquid hand soap can be used to make exactly zero portions of “bubbles” by a three-year-old. Oh, you need a handful of dirt in the mix too. The grit helps maintain a cohesive molecular structure.

3. There are two “modes” in Minecraft: “creative” and “survival”. I do not know the difference, except that in “survival” mode, the sound effects create an atmosphere of dread.

4. Just text the kid the shopping list. He’ll forget the paper you made listing exactly what to get that’s on sale. Or if you prefer, write out the list, take a picture of it, and text it to the kid. Paper is for old people.

5. The word of the day is logorrhea. I’m doing it right now.

6. In some circles, I’m not really an orthodox Catholic. In some circles, I’m not Catholic at all. I hope God’s not in those circles, or maybe at least God’s circle holds those circles and my circle too.

7. You can make your own ranch dressing using what you already have in your spice cabinet. I didn’t learn that today; I’m just thinking about ranch dressing.

8. Tie-dye isn’t for hippies; it’s for shirt-stainers.

9. If you get a fly-swatter, the flies stop landing on you.


Constitutional? Of course!

Because our chief constitutional right is feeling safe. That’s what matters most, even more than actually being safe. In fact, we’ll exchange all of our other constitutional rights for our right to feel safe, even if it means turning every American citizen into a suspected terrorist and using taxpayers’ money to spy on law-abiding taxpayers (i.e., terrorists). Because you know that Facebook is just a big terrorist networking site and Twitter is just terrorist Morse code and e-mail is electronic terrorist carrier pigeon.

That word — “terrorist” — really begins to lose meaning when it’s applied so loosely, but we must lock up terrorists forever — wherever and whoever they are — because terrorists violate my constitutionally-protected right to feel safe.

And I feel very safe, because I trust that the government can infallibly determine the difference between citizen suspects and terrorists, and they would never, ever, ever, ever, ever, think that I am anything but a citizen. They certainly got it right with the Japanese internment. They did a stellar job driving out the reds with the help of Joe McCarthy. They really know which rebel force or potential dictator to support in all the third-world countries we’ve helped.

Besides, we’d know which lists we’re on, because we can fully trust the government, because the government is totally forthcoming about its lists, right?

The Devil’s Justice and Equality, and Screwtape

It’s just as unjust to treat unequals equally as it is to treat equals unequally.” Dr. Peter Kreeft offers a mnemonic device — “PHONEYS” — for losing the culture war in seven steps.

Have you ever read the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis? It opens the eyes.

There’s a Reason why they put it in a Gourd…

And we’ll get to that in a minute!

One of the “national” drinks of Argentina, and apparently the favorite beverage of Pope Francis is something called “Yerba Mate”. I’d never heard of it before seeing pictures of the Holy Father holding a funny little ball-shaped gourd with a straw in it.

According to the maker of Guayaki Yerba Mate:

Yerba Mate has the “strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate” all in one beverage.

Yerba mate (yer-bah mah-tay) is made from the naturally caffeinated and nourishing leaves of the celebrated South American rainforest holly tree (Ilex paraguariensis). For centuries, South America’s Aché Guayakí tribe have sipped yerba mate from a traditional mate gourd for its rejuvenative effects. These rainforest people find tremendous invigoration, focus, and nourishment in yerba mate.

The leaves of the rainforest mate tree naturally contain 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, abundant antioxidants. In fact, The Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific society in 1964 concluded “it is difficult to find a plant in any area of the world equal to mate in nutritional value” and that yerba mate contains “practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life.”

Since I didn’t have a gourd (really? A gourd? I hope they clean it out really well first because I doubt steeped gourd innards taste great) I heated water in my kettle (not to boiling, according to the instructions on the package), placed three teabags in my teapot and steeped for 6 minutes. I then added a tablespoon of sugar and some 2% milk. I drank the yerba mate in place of my regular morning coffee.
First, how did it taste? Kind of like tea. Reminded me of English Breakfast, with a bit more of a pronounced straw or dry grass flavor, and also with a slight toasted grain flavor. Not at all bad-tasting. The amount of sweetener and milk was correct for me. I could probably have steeped it for up to 10 minutes.

Second, how did I feel? Kind of like a drank a couple shots of espresso. Maybe not as tremorous as you sometimes get when you have too much coffee. I would say that the promises of the “euphoria of chocolate” are a bit hyperbolic. Perhaps I felt a bit more “balanced” than with the equivalent dose of caffeine from coffee. It is definitely a “stimulating” drink!

Finally, why the gourd? The gourd seems like it was a traditional or ceremonial thing; I don’t know if there is an intended practical purpose. But for me, the color of the yerba mate was slightly off-putting. Especially with the milk in it, the drink has a disturbing pea-soup-green color that isn’t very appetizing. The gourd and opaque drinking straw typically used with yerba mate means that you wouldn’t have to look at the color while you drink it.

Concluding thoughts: I felt a little closer to the Holy Father drinking his favorite drink, but I will likely keep my current beverage lineup of coffee, water and beer unchanged.

Monday Morning Arm-Chair Quarterbacks on WYD

Some Catholic bloggers are pretty upset about this:

One blogger, a priest, posted the video above along with a Nazi “don’t be this guy” photograph. Another blogger, a layman who I highly regard, indirectly attacked the blogger priest because of the imprudent comparison.

The principal reason (far as I can tell) why people are upset is because they feel that it is “undignified” for bishops to dance silly dances with or for young people.

We as Catholics are going to need to grow accustomed to being “incompatible” with culture. We continue to expect that a certain level of deference should be paid to bishops by virtue of their office alone, and we expect that not just “us Catholics” but other Christians and even non-Christians owe the bishops this honor. But the example of Pope Francis is disarming to the secular culture AND many traditional or orthodox Catholics, for different reasons.

We hear the Holy Father encouraging clergy (especially bishops) to stop thinking that it is acceptable to stay in their chanceries and residences, keep their cassocks clean, and stay away from reaching down to lift someone else up (if it means becoming less dignified). He’s saying the same thing to us, the laity, too. He’s saying we need to go out.

We don’t look far before we find good examples of what Pope Francis is encouraging us to do: was St. Peter always dignified, even when our Lord wanted to wash his smelly dirty feet, or when he denied our Lord and ran away, or when he rotted in a hole of a cell in Rome, or when he asked to be crucified head-down?

We can all sit here and say, “That was really stupid. They’re not fools for Christ; just fools.” But the bishops weren’t there for those of us reading or watching from the sidelines. They were there to meet part of the living Church and to attempt to connect with it. Calling a bishop a fool for waving his arms is a pretty low threshold for the foolishness of the rest of us. So the bishops got silly dance lessons. Shame on them for trying to connect with the young people who they have an obligation to pastor.

Just to be clear: I’m not saying that silly dancing is necessary for effective outreach or pastoring to the youth. But some comments made concerning this issue truly epitomize an “arm-chair quarterback” mentality, calling it all folly and superficiality. My point: it wasn’t FOR you. I think hymns from Marty Haugen and the other guy are folly and coated in saccharine too, but rather than believing there’s something wrong with Haugen-lovers, I try to remind myself that since the Church is supposed to be universal, there has to be room for many forms of spiritual and liturgical practice, and it does not unify or edify to constantly complain about the ones that we think are dumb.

Jesus knows what each of us needs, and we must thank Him for giving us a Church that He established to hold it all.


How Compatible are You?

It will take weeks — even months — to completely unpack all of what occurred at WYD in Rio and all of what Pope Francis said. Right now, many have seized upon a few choice soundbites: telling a group of Argentinian youth to “make a mess” in their dioceses (and apologizing to their bishops!), speaking about solidarity and the need for those with adequate resources to remain sensitive to the needs of those suffering social injustice, speaking against clericalism and the inclination to be oriented toward the sanctuary in an effort to avoid going out and being of service to others.

Hopefully all that Francis said and did will not be overshadowed by the press flash from a statement the Holy Father made while being interviewed on the return flight to Rome concerning the fact that it is not okay to judge homosexual persons, which, despite the major news outlets’ efforts to make it appear somehow different from what the Church teaches on the subject, is not a change in anything at all.

I think that Pope Francis knows that the only way we can offer authentic Christian witness is by discerning our “compatibility”. On July 27, as St. Sebastian Cathedral, he said:

“Read the first book of the Maccabees. It describes how they wanted to be in tune with the culture of the time. They said, culture, sure let’s take a bit of everything like everyone else. Laws? Sure, just as long as it’s not too much. But in time, they began to lose their faith because they tried to be compatible with the culture of that time.  Have the strength to go against this. Stand up against a culture that only accepts what’s convenient and throws out the rest.” 

The only authentic version of Catholicism today is the version that is not compatible with the culture of our time. We Catholics should be experiencing a personal incompatibility with mainstream culture now. It should not be too easy to watch television or choose a movie. It should not be perfectly joyful to shop at the mall. We should not be undisturbed when we throw away food. We should not automatically choose to buy the most expensive car we can afford. We should not happily consume all the advertising messages delivered to us.

G.K. Chesterton says that only something that is alive can swim against the current. If we are without a feeling of resistance to the things found in secular culture, we have a severe crisis of faith. Since Pope Francis is pointing out that our incompatibility with culture is a preservative of faith, we must ask ourselves, “How compatible am I?”. Step one is recognizing the need to ask the question.

Huh?! Where am I? The Planet of Dystopia?

If I’m dreaming, please wake me up:

Feds tell Web firms to turn over user account passwords – “Secret demands mark escalation in Internet surveillance by the federal government through gaining access to user passwords, which are typically stored in encrypted form.” [NSA PRISM program now obsolete. Now it’s just low-level computer nerds, cheetos, and a master password list. Or maybe that’s what it always was. Either way, I feel much safer.]

Planned Parenthood Will Run Federal Data Hub With Private Patient Info – “‘Planned Parenthood is among the long list of…organizations that are expected to receive taxpayer-funded navigator grants. The navigator grants would further enable Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in America, to continue its misuse of taxpayer dollars to [supplement] their big abortion business,’ said Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), who says she wants to eliminate the navigator program — for which $54 million in funds will be made available — even without a Planned Parenthood link because it’s ‘ripe for fraud and abuse’, violations of privacy and identity theft.” [Great. So Roe v. Wade manufactured a so-called “right to privacy” which supersedes the rights of millions of unborn babies to live, but now Planned Parenthood is a de facto arm of government and gets to violate anyone’s actual privacy rights by having access to their personal medical records.]

Government Caught Paying Protesters After Trayvon Martin Shooting To Create Racial Division – “Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained documents in response to local, state, and federal records requests revealing that a little-known unit of the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Community Relations Service (CRS), was deployed to Sanford, FL, following the Trayvon Martin shooting to help organize and manage rallies and protests against George Zimmerman.” [Government takes another page from Planned Parenthood’s playbook — paid protesters — in order to fan the flames of racial tension.]

Catholic Relief Services distributes abortifacients in Madagascar: on-the-ground investigation – “The Population Research Institute issued the first of a series of reports this afternoon after they sent an investigator to Madagascar for a month to interview officials and witness the Catholic agency’s work first-hand. According to PRI’s report, the Catholic agency employs over 250 community health workers in the country who distribute contraceptives ‘under the name of Catholic Relief Services.'” [Please, please, please, someone PLEASE disprove this story.]

Pope Francis has a Message for Us

“I would like to make an appeal to those in possession of greater resources [you, and me!], to public authorities and to all people of good will who are working for social justice: never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity! No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world! Everybody, according to his or her particular opportunities and responsibilities, should be able to make a personal contribution to putting an end to so many social injustices. The culture of selfishness and individualism that often prevails in our society is not, I repeat, not what builds up and leads to a more habitable world: rather, it is the culture of solidarity that does so; the culture of solidarity means seeing others not as rivals or statistics, but brothers and sisters. And we are all brothers and sisters!”

Visit to the Community of Varginha (Manguinhos)
Rio de Janeiro
Thursday, 25 July 2013

Read the rest here.

Awesome Report on WYD from a Reporter on the… BEACH?

That’s right. Mass at Copacabana Beach:

“The sights, the sounds, the smells, the sheer old-fashioned excitement of it all: Woodstock (the music), the Olympics (the flags), and a massive beach party (the surf), all rolled into one.”

“I saw a disabled young man being carried over the heads of the crowd like a rock-star – because his wheelchair got stuck in the sand. Then the Mass began – and suddenly it was prayer-time, with an attention and participation worthy of any open-air cathedral.”

I’m not much of a beach person, but I’d go to that. Read the rest here.

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast Admits to DEFRAUDING Taxpayers

Alliance Defending Freedom announced a legal settlement Tuesday in which Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast will pay massive fines for participating in Medicaid fraud. Abortion isn’t about preserving personal freedom or choice; it’s about money and death.