Lent in Art: The Seven Acts of Mercy

Caravaggio, The Seven Acts of Mercy, c. 1607, Oil on canvas, 390 x 260 cm Pio Monte della Misericordia, Naples

Caravaggio, The Seven Acts of Mercy, c. 1607, Oil on canvas, 390 x 260 cm
Pio Monte della Misericordia, Naples

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God Bless the Byproduct of Rainy Springtime

California is in peril secondary to a terrible drought. Water reserves are at extremely low levels. Without a massive influx of precipitation, crops won’t get watered, nevermind lawns and gardens.

Thankfully, we’ve had a good little string of wet weather over the last week or so, and everything is nice and damp.

Amphibians, as they do in the springtime, are taking advantage of this time to breed and taking their leisure in ideal weather conditions. They are out all over our yard most evenings.

My four-year-old son is an enthusiast of the American Toad, the bigger the better. Waaaay better than tv or video games. Between the toads and our hens (more on that in a future post), he’s outside a lot more than his average peer. Today they (briefly) caught a 2-foot garter snake.

Toads, hens, and snakes have their merits, but they are waaaay ickier than tv and video games. Mrs. Q, the doctor (I guess, technically, she’s Dr. Q), goes on about salmonella and hand washing. I quite agree, he needs to wash every time he comes inside.

I just installed, using zip ties*, an old Christmas basket to his bike. Here he is “conveying” and “serenading” two of his “passengers”:

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* Zip ties are an awesome invention. Good for everything. You can babyproof a whole house just using zip ties.

Someone tell President Obama: Truth Distortion Fields Don’t Work on Pope Francis

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Francis in prayer: “Lord Jesus, give me the words to say.” Obama in photo-op: “Geez, this room is huge; that teleprompter is FAR away.”

I’m really embarrassed — and irritated — that our President can’t even have the decency to be forthright and open about his meetings with the Holy Father and the Vatican’s Secretary of State.

Why do I think that the President — and not the Vatican — is telling tales? Because, prior to Pope Francis receiving President Obama in audience earlier today, a story ran on the Vatican Radio website on March 26 (Vatican Radio is under the direction of Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office) entitled “Pope Francis to meet with President Obama on Thursday“, the last paragraph of which states:

His [Obama’s] upcoming audience with Pope Francis will take place in the context of a complex phase of the administration’s relations with the Church of the United States, marked, in particular, by controversy on the implementation of health care reform (the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” commonly known as “Obamacare”) having to do with rules on mandatory health care coverage of sterilization, contraception, and abortion; and on other issues at the centre of public debate in the United States, such as the legalization of homosexual marriages.

According to this, the news article was sent to the press by Fr. Thomas Rosica, who is Fr. Lombari’s “English language assistant.” In other words, it was likely issued with Fr. Lombardi’s approval and not by some low-level functionary. We can take from this that these issues were important enough to the discussion to mention publicly before Pope Francis received the President in audience.

Then, earlier today the Vatican issued a statement following the President’s audience with Pope Francis, which described the topics of the meeting:

…there was a discussion on questions of particular relevance for the Church in that country, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection, as well as the issue of immigration reform. Finally, the common commitment to the eradication of trafficking of human persons in the world was stated.

Both statements are direct and to the point. The issues were identified. The one released before the audience mirrors the one that followed it. Neither explicity mentioned the issue of “economic equality” that the President and White House kept trumpeting. Instead — almost uncharacteristically — the Vatican/Fr. Lombardi endeavored to clearly define the principal issues on the table, both before and after the meeting.

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 3.34.18 PMAnd, you would think that the President’s handlers — or good ‘old common sense — would tell Mr. Obama that the Vatican would have set forth the issues discussed, even if he did not have a chance to read the statements beforehand. You would think that the President would check his words carefully, so as not to be seen as contradicting or disputing the Vatican.

Apparently, only the photo opportunity actually mattered to the President, because during a press conference after the audience, the President could not even bring himself to admit what was actually discussed.

President Obama said, “We actually didn’t talk a whole lot about social schisms in my conversations with His Holiness. In fact, that really was not a topic of conversation…” According to this, “Obama was vague in his description of the extent of his discussion of the ACA’s contraceptive mandate with the pope, saying that Francis ‘actually did not touch in detail’ on the issue:

Obama described two main topics of conversation during his meeting with the pope — “the poor, the marginalized, those without opportunity and growing inequality” and conflicts around the world, especially in the Middle East and Latin America. The common theme throughout their discussion was “a belief that that in politics and in life the quality of empathy — the ability to stand in somebody else’s shoes and to care for them even if they don’t look like you, talk like you… — that’s critical,” he said.

The Vatican says both before and after the audience, these are the issues that matter to us. These are the things we want to discuss and in fact did discuss. But the President, perpetually operating in his own “truth sphere“, says “Not really.”

It’s one thing to say, “What the Holy Father and I discussed is between me and the Holy Father.” But that’s not what the President said.

On to MEGABREW.

Corruption, Hypocrisy and Scandal, Oh My!

State Senator Leland Yee, a Democrat representing San Francisco and San Mateo, was arrested and appeared in federal court yesterday in connection with charges that he was involved in trafficking in firearms with organized crime and scheming to defraud citizens of honest services.

One of his alleged co-conspirators is Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, a notorious Chinatown gangster. I heard on the radio that “Shrimp Boy” also ran prostitution rings years ago. Evidently Mr. Yee is the third Democrat in the state legislature who has been arrested on corruption this year. Until today, Mr. Yee was running to become the California Secretary of State and previously ran for mayor of San Francisco in 2011.

According to this on Mr. Yee’s Facebook page, last year he “partnered with Catholic Charities” to help with “childhood arrivals” in immigration.

Mr. Yee was/is an outspoken advocate for gun control measures, including the outright banning of “assault rifles” in the state. If the charges against him are true, I guess now we know why.

MEGABREW for Religious Liberty

MEGABREW. MEGABREW. MEGA-BREW! What exactly is a MEGABREW, you ask? Well, I’m making it up as I go along.

Please let me explain.

Quartermaster, Mr. Karl, Fr. A, Deacon P.

Quartermaster, Mr. Karl, Fr. A, Deacon P.

I like to brew beer. I dispense pints, provisions, and orthodox Catholic joy. My brewing operation has been blessed by all sorts of awesome Catholics, both clerics and laypeople.

I have a little tradition for each brew day: asking a saint’s intercession whose feast it is — for my intentions and also for successful brewing and healthy enjoyment of the beer itself. 20130802-140013.jpg

A brew day is a day of Thanksgiving, because it’s an opportunity to spend some time outside, slightly detached from the responsibility for (yet within sight of) the chaos of four young children. It means that there’s no homeschool today, and Mrs. Q is (most likely) home. It means nice weather. A good day.

This week is a big deal for religious liberty here in the United States. On Tuesday, March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation) the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the HHS Contraceptive Mandate. At stake is the fundamental right to the free exercise of religion. No state can justly compel a citizen to violate his or her deeply held religious convictions.

20140125-164226.jpgAnd, on March 27 President Obama will meet the Holy Father at the Vatican. [UPDATE: read my take on the meeting here]. It would be natural to relish the fantasy of Pope Francis jingling the keys a little bit, and scolding the President for his anti-family, anti-life and anti-Christian policies.

Apart from the delicious vindication, something like that would bolster the image of Pope Francis as the champion we all want him to be. But the prayer we need is not one for a chastened President, but a converted one who will once and for all reject the Culture of Death. The prayer we need is not for a pope who is champion, but shepherd and pastor to another of his Master’s wayward sheep. Temporal power is a mighty tool in the world but a worthless token at the throne of the Most High.

IMG_4660After much rumination as to how I might achieve the twofold objective of both praying for — and brewing — Religious Liberty, I proclaim that the glorious crusade of MEGABREW awaits this fearless alemeister. In other words, yes, it IS happening!

What I have in mind is this: I have equipment which normally allows me to brew 10-gallon batches of beer at a time. I have containers for fermenting up to thirty gallons at one time. So, I plan to brew two 12.5 gallon batches of Religious Liberty Ale in a single day, which will yield 25 gallons — or five 5-gallon kegs.

It will be a long day, but symbolically if each 5-gallon keg of Religious Liberty Ale stands in for one Justice of the Court (for whom we should be praying), then five 5-gallon batches constitutes the necessary voting majority for the Court. I’ll also ask for St. Thomas More’s intercession over the whole project and another patron saint for each 5-gallon keg. So far, I have St. John Fisher and St. Thomas Aquinas. Suggestions are welcomed. IMG_0746

Secession: Join the Club!

Various proposals are in the very preliminary stages here in California to “secede” parts of the state and form new states. According to one of the proposals, the new state in which Quartermaster and his family would reside would be called the “State of Jefferson”, which is not quite as classy-sounding as the Repubblica Veneta, but nonetheless something (or some variant of same) I’d like to see happen.

Huzzah to Cardinal Leo Raymond Burke

The “Chief Justice of the Vatican” says that regarding the various policies of the Obama Administration, they “have become progressively more hostile toward Christian civilization.” Of the President himself, the Cardinal says that “He appears to be a totally secularized man who aggressively promotes anti-life and anti-family policies.”

Some Spin on the HHS Contraceptive Mandate Cases

Today the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument on the HHS Contraceptive Mandate. The Washington Post reports that the Court was “divided” but “seemed inclined” to sustain religious liberty over employer-funded birth control. It also reports that Justice Anthony Kennedy is widely perceived as the “swing vote” between the “conservatives” and “progressives” on the Court, and the hinge as to which way the decision will go.

It’s hopeful that the justices didn’t come out during oral argument and start dancing all over religious liberty. But don’t assume that the reporting means anything for the outcome.

If you recall, two years ago the Court heard arguments on the “Individual Mandate” question for the ACA, which was essentially whether an individual can be required at law to purchase something, in this case health insurance, or else pay a penalty, or tax, for failing to do so. Distinctions abounded for how the individual mandate differed from — for example — a state government that requires automobile operators to maintain minimum liability coverage.

Speculators who heard oral argument in that case suggested that based upon the questions from the bench, the Court would likely decide to overrule the mandate. Speculators also suggested — parroting what everyone says about the makeup of the Court — that Justice Kennedy was the lynchpin then too. Instead, Chief Justice Roberts voted against the other “conservatives” on the Court and authored the majority opinion.

So, don’t assume that probing questions from the bench somehow means that a favorable decision is forthcoming. Instead, continue to pray for all of the justices, that they make a decision guided by the principles of the Constitution, and a well-formed conscience.

Huzzah and Felicitations to Sacramento Diocese’s New Auxiliary Bishop

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 3.03.35 PMHis Excellency, Bishop Myron J. Cotta was ordained a bishop today at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Sacramento, and will serve as auxiliary bishop for the Diocese. Prior to the Holy Father elevating him to this new position, he was the vicar general for the Diocese of Fresno. He speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese, and grew up in California’s Central Valley.

A few interesting things that I noticed looking over the program for the installation mass: first, he is named a Titular Bishop of the Diocese of Muteci. What does that mean? A titular bishop is one who is not in charge of a diocese. But since “bishop” means “overseer” of a Christian community in Greek, and since there are more bishops than actual dioceses, he is appointed to a “titular see”, i.e., to be the head of a diocese that effectively no longer functionally exists. According to this, the Diocese of Muteci is “perhaps near Ain-El-Anab in today’s Algeria” and “an ancient episcopal see of the Roman province of Mauritania Caesarean”.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 3.22.48 PMSecond, his coat of arms. According to the same program linked above, “For an auxiliary bishop, a fully empowered bishop but without territorial jurisdiction, the shield of his arms is composed completely by his personal design, in this case they are the arms of Bishop Myron J. Cotta…. For his motto, His Excellency, Bishop Cotta has chosen the phrase “GRACE AND MERCY,” for this sums up all that God’s relationship with His People is all about. To reflect the bishop’s heritage, as an Azorean, the motto is rendered in Portuguese.”

Third, there was some speculation among our group of friends as to who would consecrate Bishop Cotta. Turns out that the privilege belonged to Bishop Jaime Soto, ordinary of the Diocese of Sacramento, which seems appropriate. Co-consecrators were Most Reverend Armando X. Ochoa, Bishop of Fresno and Most Reverend Joseph Madera, MSpS, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of the Military Services. Nearly thirty other prelates also attended and concelebrated the mass.

A very good (ordained) friend sent me this picture from the ordination mass today:

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Praying for Religious Liberty and Planning a MEGABREW

I was thinking a bit about a fitting way to remember that this week our Supreme Court hears oral arguments concerning the ACA HHS Contraceptive Mandate and the need for us all to pray for a just outcome. No state can justly compel a citizen to violate his or her deeply held religious convictions.

So, naturally, with such an auspicious and solemn occasion, the mind naturally finds itself resting upon the brewing of beer. Specifically, a “MEGABREW” of “Religious Liberty Ale” for Religious Liberty.

IMG_0622What exactly is a MEGABREW, you ask? Well, I don’t quite know yet. I just made it up. What I have in mind is this: I have equipment which normally allows me to brew 10-gallon batches of beer. I can also have at least five or six 5-gallon batches (up to thirty gallons) in primary fermentation at one time. So, I plan to brew two 12.5 gallon batches of Religious Liberty Ale in a single day, which will yield 25 gallons of finished beer, using my four 8-gallon primary fermenters.

It will be a long day, but symbolically if each 5-gallon batch of Religious Liberty Ale stands in for one Justice of the Court (for whom we should be praying), then five 5-gallon batches constitutes the necessary voting majority for the Court. I’ll also ask for St. Thomas More’s intercession over the whole project and assign another patron saint to each 5-gallon batch.

Unfortunately, due to my schedule, the earliest day for MEGABREW will be Thursday, and I’m likely to brew on Friday, but I think we’re close enough that all the praying will have purchase.