Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Read Widely

I like to read Ross Douthat of the NYT.  I am more of a liberal than he is.  He makes me think.  He does not give flippant responses to issues.  I used to read William F. Buckley, of "National Review" magazine because he made me think.  I had to ponder my own position, how did I come to it.  This keeps me from becoming a lazy liberal,  or a lazy Catholic, reading only what I like, going to a church that suits my way of seeing things, living in a neighborhood where everyone is like me and so on.  I like to dialogue with people who disagree with me.  "Why do you think that?" or "How did you come to that conclusion?" I might ask and then listen, without making a quick judgment or thinking of my rebuttal.  I find some of my liberal friends reject Douthat but don't seem to give much of a reason why.  I find that many conservative reject me thoughts on a blog, but don't give much of a reason that indicates that really thought through the hard parts of life's ambiguities.  On both the right and the left I find that often anger cuts short a dialogue or openness to the "other."  Anger often hides a wound.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Media Literacy

I like this term, "media literacy."  Most of us are media illiterate in some area.  We believe something because of its source.  We are pretty good about seeing through advertising when it says, "sales."  We know a good one from a come on.  Some of us tend to buy into government babel if it already agrees with our politics or our wants.   If we are big business or big union they each have their own babel.  Babel is to maintain the organization and its power.  In my church a lot of people believed the pope back in 1968 when he said no to contraception.  They believed they had to leave the church if they disagreed, so they left in droves.  Why did they not simply say the pope is babel, that is, wrong, and simply go on with receiving communion?  Then, we believed the pope spoke truth.  Encyclicals mattered.   Now, the new pope says that the environment is a mess, it really hurts the poor more than others,  and it is our fault and we need to fix it.  This is a new thing from popes.  He is thought to be babel by many, often the same ones who think the pope speaks for Jesus when it comes to sex.  Why do we listen to the pope on sex but not on environment?   I suggest that there are two things we hold dear: convenience and money.  We prefer to drive when there in a bus as an alternative.  We want convenience and the flexibility that goes with it.  Fixing our world will cost money which is really the center of worship for corporate America.  Recycling costs money in taxes and can be an inconvenience personally with all that separation of trash and different dins to put it in. and so on.  When I was a young bachelor I did not care much for the pope's statement on contraception.  It is not that I read it closely and pondered it.  I just wanted what I wanted when I wanted it.  I wonder if that is the same with those who reject Laudoto Si today.  

Monday, August 3, 2015

Health Insurance

Anthem is buying Cigna for $54.2 Billion.  Where did Anthem come up with all that money to spare to buy another insurance company?  Plus, Anthem will pay 38% above the current premium share price at recent stock market closing.  Insurance companies say that they have to keep raising rates to keep up with the cost of medical care.  I think their profit margins say otherwise.  They must have a great lobby in Washington.  I tend to believe that insurance companies are not about insurance. They are about making money.  Insurance is the product.  Institutions, such as big business, church, government are more about preserving and enhancing the institution than in their stated purpose for existence.  The Catholic sex scandal was about preserving the institution from exactly that, scandal.  So the church got exposed.  Would that we could do that with Big Insurance.

Sunday, August 2, 2015


I just finished a novel, "Green On Blue," by a new author Elliott Ackerman.  He has had five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He gives a picture, well written, I find, of the how and the why of the ongoing war in Afghanistan.  He has a unique, and surprising to me, reason for how this war is conducted.  What if he is right?   It made me think.  I admit I am no expert on this war, why it has gone on so long with no real resolution.  He takes an insiders view of it all.  It is a short novel, no door stopper.  I recommend you give it a read.  Isn't this what is fascinating about reading broadly instead of just what seems to support a view you already have.  I would call this novel, historical fiction.

Saturday, August 1, 2015


It is not that I eschew parents exposing their children to things such as ballet, soccer and music to name a few.  It is the frenzy with which they go about it.  There is no time to learn about solitude, stillness and silence and its giftedness.  My contemplative dimension was born in the Bronx as a boy when my Mom told me to go out and play even though there might be no one about and nothing to do.  I knew that I was not alone.  The Catholic church taught me this.  Not the nuns and the catechism, but the building itself.  We had tabernacles.  When I walked into that vast empty space in the middle of a weekday, I knew it was not empty.  God was there in the tabernacle.  Now Protestants were more optimistic about people while Catholics were not.  The Protestants thought we could read the bible and just know God was everywhere.  We Catholics know we are dunces and we follow our Jewish ancestors who knew they were dunces.  See The Exodus.  When the Israelites wandered in the desert after they left Egypt, they would whine when they were hungry and thirsty, thinking God had abandoned them.  So God and/or Moses decided to build a tabernacle and have the people carry it wherever they wandered, to remind them that God was with them.  Tabernacles are to help ween us from the false notion that silence and solitude mean nothing is here but me and abject loneliness and boredom.  God is present.  Be still and know this presence without tabernacles.  Come to think of it the great ballet dancers and musicians already practice this.  Escape mediocrity and its frenzy.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Bad Catholic

In my church, today is the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola.  He founded the Jesuits.  I went to Fordham, a Jesuit college.  In spite of everyone's best efforts, I became a bad Catholic.  When I was little I knew my Latin, and catechism answers, was a good altar boy, but I guess I had leanings toward perdition.  I got to like all the people who were on that road to perdition: loose women, Protestants, Jews, and sundry non-baptized persons of whatever or no spiritual path, alcoholics, and homosexuals. I was taught that only good Catholics with the catechism answers got to heaven.  My sister Maureen said I was meant to burn, and it looked like she was right.  God had other plans.  I did not just turn around and be good.  Would that it were so.  God just never let go despite my best efforts to return to being bad.  I think love overcomes all.  "Where sin abounds, love abounds more."  That is in the bible.  One of my discoveries was that none of my old friends were on the road to perdition.  There was goodness in us all.  This is why I am very reluctant to put anyone down, or say someone is less than, or going to hell, or God does not like them.  God has a plan for all of us.  We may be all different in some ways but we are all made in the same image and likeness of the One God.  I hope heaven is not like a gated community where everyone seems the same.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Late To The Altar

People sometimes wonder why Irish men here or in Ireland waited so long to get married.  The Famine.  Before the famine the Irish peasants got married quite young.  Then they had lots of kids.  When the famine came there was lots of death especially among the children.  A response to this was that the Irish male would wait until he had a job, steady income and a home for a wife and then children.  My Dad was 24 when he got married, but was going to wait longer because he had his mother to take care of.  He already wanted to marry my Mom.  Grandma  knew that my Mom was a blessing  for her son, so she said that she wanted him to marry and not worry about her (Grandma).  If my Dad had waited longer, my sister Maureen (the oldest) might not have been born, and I would have been the oldest, the boss and spoiled.  I wish my Grandma had kept quiet.