Putting One’s Self Ahead of God
- St John of the Cross was a 16th century Carmelite mystic who was incarcerated by his fellow Carmelite because they did not understand his deep relationship with God or why he was urging reform on the order. St John wrote a lot but one thing he wrote was this plea to God:
“Remind me too that as long as I cling to what I can understand, imagine, or even desire, especially as long as I depend upon my own efforts, I will never enter into a life that transcends all that I am, all that I can achieve through my own efforts. It is time to move from knowing to unknowing from daylight to the night of faith.”
In this passage, St. John calls us to mentally put aside the so called assurities we have built up around ourselves, and think instead about the wider unlimited assurities God has provided for us in this life and promised for the next.
In the 16th Century people were well on their way to mastering the universe. They were beginning to use scientific experimentation and exploration to unravel the mysteries of God’s universe. These discoveries instead of instilling a deep appreciation for the wonders God created, men began to feel that because they now understood some part of God’s creation they were loosed from the religious fetters. Beyond scientists and explorers, there were other men who accumulated great wealth through trade with the new worlds being discovered, these men also began to feel less need for religious belief as their survival seemed assured because of their great wealth.
St John saw these manifestations and warned against their deadly influence on the life of the soul. He saw them as limiting, as blocking man’s view of God’s world .
Today man’s self assurance dwarfs anything St John could imagine. Average men have homes and cars and computers and televisions and work saving appliances and retirement annuities and college degrees and steady employment and... and .... . The need for God and thoughts of a better existence in God are easily driven away by all this “stuff”.
In addition, the time pressures are awesome. Modern man lives with one eye on a clock or watch nearly all the time. Just think of the time spent commuting, hauling children to events, and just running errands. Many Americans live in places where they can’t do anything with out driving 10 or 15 minutes. No wonder people say I’d like to pray more but don’t have time.
Another major barrier for some men is the popularity of scientific discovery which convey the false impression that mankind has nearly mastered the universe. Of course, the exact opposite is actually true. Man has just begun to scratch the surface of the knowledge base needed to understand the universe. But even if man had full knowledge about how the universe worked that would only be a beginning. Think about all God had to do designing the universe. He had to chose between design alternatives. And then he had to figure a way to get it all started all working together properly. God keeps it all in existence. God is the only independent factor; all else is dependant on God.
So how does one keep God in his mind in the midst of all the distractions. Reminders are good. Pictures of a Crucifix, the Infant of Prague, the Blessed Mother, the Sacred Heart, etc should be placed where they are seen regularly. Taped to the computer monitor, to the dashboard in the car, to the edge of the tv screen. Also working on the habit of saying short prayers many times a day. It might be better to set aside an hour for contemplation, but twenty second prayers are not bad.
But of course God will not always be ignored. Think of storm Sandy, think of the great recession, think of auto accidents, or the diagnoses of cancer. God doesn’t prefer to cause pain and suffering, but sometimes He allows it, some people say He allows it particularly when people ignore Him. The pain doesn’t always hit those who have ignored God directly, but those, who have put “self” before God, get the message. Hopefully they repent and reform.............. (prepared by Hugh Murray on 4/14/2013)
It’s the Regulations Stupid!
- The "top 1%" and the Washington elites are starting to ask themselves "Why is the economy recovering so slowly?"
They had thought that low interest rates and a heavy dose of government spending would set the economy going again. However, after four years this “secret sauce” is not working. The unemployment rate has declined, but that is mostly because lots of discouraged workers have just stopped looking for jobs. The percent of working age Americans active in the work force (as job seekers or those currently employed) has declined from 66+% to 64+%. That change in the overall pool of workers is alarming.
Small businesses have traditionally seen the first strong jump in employment as the economy comes out of recession. Small businesses emerging from a recession must handle an increase in demand (either by working overtime or hiring new people), but they also need to exploit new opportunities (e.g. a competitor has gone out of business and there are customers available that need to be serviced, new technology has been introduced allowing the small competitor to compete with larger competitors , etc,). But this time something is broken.
Former CEO of Wells Fargo, Richard Kovacevich,, was asked on May 17, 2013, while appearing on Bloomberg TV, about why small businesses aren’t hiring? He didn’t hesitate. He pointed the finger at regulations which are scaring small business. He said Well Fargo is a big lender to small business and everywhere the reports are the same “too much regulation particularly in the health insurance area”. American small business is taking a wait and see attitude.
Also he went on to say most small business operate as some version of a partnership or sole proprietorship so they pay taxes on their owners’ individual 1040 forms. The recent rise in the top tax rate on individuals has small businessmen worried that other income tax hikes are coming. Additionally, they see their larger “C” corp. competitors, who pay on the corporate income tax form, about to get a big tax cut. There is no question that the tax rate on large US corporations needs downward revision to make America's large corporations more competitive worldwide.
Nevertheless, in the middle of a recession only a fool would increase regulations and taxes on small business, the most flexible sector of the economy; the sector best positioned to hire lots of people.
The situation is bad and, worst of all, the people in Washington seem oblivious to the problem. .................... (prepared by Hugh Murray on 5/18/2013)
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Lady Thatcher, RIP “She Urged America to Due Its Duty .... as She Saw It”
- In 1998, when Saddam Hussein, decided to restore the area of Kuwait to its historic place as part of the greater Basra geo-political area, Margaret Thatcher journeyed to the US to insist that the US set things right.
Thus began a string of inflammatory actions that have to this date cost America over 100,000 young men killed, injured, or psychologically damaged plus $6 trillion of actual and projected expenditure; this number includes the cost of caring for the injured for perhaps 50 years.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF A TROUBLED AREA ........
A little historical background is needed for a fuller understanding. After the First World War the British and French meet in Damascus and agreed to the Sykes Picot Treaty which carved up the Ottoman Empire’s territories in the Middle East. The Ottoman Empire had been on the losing side in WWI . Since oil had been found close the shore of the Persian Gulf in an area called Kuwait, Britain insisted this area be cut away from its tradition place associated politically with Basra, a city, in southern Iraq.
This little wedge of land was to be admistered separately by Britain. Eventually a local tribal leader was elevated to the status of price potentate while members of his tribe shared the oil income. This small group of arabs became so rich they brought in Palestinians and other less fortunate people to do all the work. Kuwait’s oil wealth was great indeed. British business, in general, and its banks, in particular, were greatly enriched by the association.
In the same process, modern Iraq, also a creation of the Sykes Picot process, was cobbled together. This “hodge podge” of a country contained some Kurds, some Shia, and some Sunni with smaller minorities of Jews and Christians.
This large area, called Iraq, had been negated by the Ottomans and needed to modernize. The money to modernize should naturally have come from the Kuwaiti oil, but that, the most developed oil fields in the area, had been cut away by Sykes Picot.
A small group became tremendously wealthy in Kuwait, while its traditional, larger neighbor to the north struggled.
BRITAIN’S ORGANIZES IRAQ AS WELL .... ............
Britain gave Iraq a royal ruler, but then came rebellion and intrigue followed by the emergence of dictators. By 1998 the incumbent dictator was Saddam Hussein, a particularly unsavory Sunni, who had, with American supplied WMD gas weapons, attacked and fought to a neutralizing stalemate its much larger neighbor, Iran, a Shia country in the mid 1990's. America was very happy with this outcome because the current religious managers of Iran had in 1978 displaced the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi , an American puppet, who had been modernizing the Iranian culture in ways that offended Shia religious leaders.
Saddam wanted Kuwait’s wealth to help recover from the Iran/Iraq War. He also wanted to end Kuwait’s practice of angle drilling under the Kuwait/Iraq border to produce Iraqi oil at Kuwaiti well heads. Accordingly, he asked the American Ambassador to Iraq, Susan Glaspie, what America’s attitude was toward Iraq’s differences with Kuwait. She said America urged peaceful neogotiation but also said America had no special commitment to Kuwait.
Shortly thereafter Saddam invaded Kuwait. However, British business interest became alarmed, and that triggered Lady Thatcher’s trip to see the every pleasant, very accommodating George H W Bush. Shortly thereafter America ordered Saddam to withdraw. Saddam declined sighting Glaspie statement. She was shortly replaced and sent on temporary assignments around the world that left her unavailable to answer questions from Congressional panels who were suddenly being asked by President Bush to fund an American war against Iraq.
THE US INVASION OF KUWAIT ..... .....
With permission of the Saudi government, America began assembling an Army on Islam’s most sacred soil, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to expel Iraq from Kuwait. Even the highly religious Saudi leaders had not properly calibrated how inflammatory it was to assemble a largely Christian army in the land where Islam’s most sacred sites are located.
The American army succeeded in expelling Iraq’s army from Kuwait, but just as surely it changed an American friend, Saddam Hussein, into an enemy. Suddenly both Iran and Iraq were anti-American. Additionally, by occupying part of Saudi Arabia it had offended the most devote believers across the Islamic world.
THE CAULDRON SIMMERS .......... .........
Now the unwholesome cauldron began to simmer in radical mosques around the middle east. The unrest began to manifest itself in minor attacks, such as, the explosion that blew a hole in the side of the American warship, USS Cole, and the later bombing of American diplomatic facilities in Tanzania and Kenya. The world had begun to realize that radical Islam was on a jihad against America, but America continually underestimated its potential. The alarm bell finally sounded in earnest when hijacked airlines destroyed three large office buildings in NYC plus a section of the Pentagon in Washington DC.
The president of the United States at the time was the son of the American president who had responded positively to Lady Thatcher’s request regarding Kuwait. This second George Bush decided to attack, not the Islam radicals who orchestrated the hijacked plane disaster, but rather he decided to attack, Saddam Hussein the dictator his father had converted from a friend to an enemy of the US.
THE SECOND AMERICAN ATTACK ON SADDAM’S IRAQ ........
So America attacked Iraq and within weeks it had on it plate all the sectarian conflicts that the dictator had cleverly and ruthlessly controlled. America discovered that the Kurds, the Shia, and the Sunni Arabs didn’t suddenly love each other just because the Americans had arrived.
After several bloody years America was able to install a Shia strong man named Maliki to replace the Sunni strong man, Saddam Hussein. Only one problem remained, the neighboring country, Iran, was a Shia country and remained an American enemy. So now America had strenthened the hand of its larger enemy, Iran, by giving Iraq over to Shia control .
FINALLY ISLAMIC TERRORISTS GET WASHINGTON’S ATTENTION .....
Then almost as an afterthought, America turned its attention to the radical Islamic group that had hijacked the planes. These scoundrels were hiding in the mountains along the Pakistan - Afghanistan border. The worst terrain in the world to hunt a well hidden enemy. It took until 2012, a full eleven years after the NYC attack, to find the radical leader and eliminate him.
RETURNING TO LADY THATCHER ....... ...
The premise of this essay is that Lady Thatcher’s intervention on the Kuwait issue was very unfortunate. The American president at the time should have said to Thatcher “we don’t have a dog in this fight between Iraq and Britain over Kuwait”. Thatcher presiding over a vastly diminished former empire would have had to accept the new status quo. America would be 6 trillion dollars richer and would have 100,000 more healthy young people rather than all the dead and wounded. The middle east would be far less inflamed, the character of the arab spring would doubtless be less radical, and NYC would not have lost three large office buildings and thousands of people.
Worst of all, as the radical element in the middle east seems gains power, the few Christians in the area are becoming homeless refugees driven from place to place as tolerant strong dictators are replaced by Islamic “democracies”.These new governments allow thugs to fire bomb churches, and rape young Christian women thus making it impossible for Christian families, who have lived in the area from the time of Christ, to stay.
Certainly Lady Thatcher never expected her request regarding Kuwait to cascade into so much pain, suffering, futility, cost, etc. but it has.
ISRAEL, ANOTHER MIDDLE EAST QUESTION MARK .....
A related question is of even greater importance, if that is possible. What is going to be the eventual outcome of the promise Lady Thatcher’s predecessor Lloyd George and his foreign secretary Lord Balfour made to Jews of Germany in 1917. He promised the Jews a homeland in ancient Judea if only they would undermine the German war effort in WWI so the allied powers could win. The allies won, Israel was created. Then the the British empire declined. Now Israel stands in the midst of a sea of inflamed radical Islamic governments. With the European country responsible for its creation unable to provide adequate aid. The American Jewish lobby has been able to get America to shoulder Britain’s rightful responsibility .
However, currently Israeli women use birth control and Palestinians don’t. When push comes to shove, as the Palestinian population becomes the majority population and eclipses the Jewish population, Israel will be forced to accept one man one vote, or suppress the Palestinian population the way radical Islamic thugs are currently suppressing Christians elsewhere in the middle east.
.Eventually the call will come from Israel to America, “come help us keep our Jewish state Jewish”, but America will lack the young men, the financial resources, and the will for such a rescue operation.
Thank you Lady Thatcher for unintentionally spawning a truly “revolting situation.”.............(prepared by Hugh Murray on 5/2/2013)
A Very, Long Papacy Oversees a Long Steady Decline in Catholic Participation, Particularly in the Traditional Catholic Areas of Europe and the Americas
- John Paul II had a very interesting time as Pope. He brought energy, an ability to relate to the world’s people, a ready smile, a desire to travel, and skill to handle very difficult people and situations with aplomb. Consider the way he handled the communist leaders in Poland and indirectly those in the USSR. Consider the way he handled the assassin who nearly took his life. He was very capable which was fortuitous because he became Pope at a most turbulent time.
THE SECULAR UPHEAVAL THAT JOHN PAUL II ENCOUNTERED
In the broader western world change was accelerating by 1979. The war in Vietnam had caused widespread distrust of authority figures; the sexual revolution, facilitated by the introduction of the pill and legalized abortion, was everywhere; women began to prefer paid work outside the home rather than child bearing and child rearing; and the general acceptances of all sorts of peculiarities in morals and mores fostered a decline in standards of dress, speech, behavior, etc.
RETURNING TO THE PARTICULARS OF THE CHURCH
Into this churning social stew, the Catholic Church added wholesale liturgical, educational, and cultural renewal supposablly called for by Vatican II. While the documents of Vatican II permitted such reform, they were not required, and given the state of flux in the secular world at the time, wholesale change at the core of the West’s most important religion was certainly ill advised. Nevertheless, the “spirit of Vatican II” was embraced by eager reformers and everything that had its roots in the pre Vatican II Church was immediately suspect.
And so John Paul II saw a steady decline of membership in Catholic Churches across western Europe, North America, and Latin America. Although there was some increase in Church membership in non-traditional areas like sub Sahara Africa and south Asia. He also oversaw a sharp decline in the typical Catholics knowledge of his faith, of Church history, of Church doctrine, and of the pantheon of saints.
So far as the liturgy, the music, and the sermons were concerned the supervising principle became “keep it simple stupid”. Catholic parochial education and adult education suffered. Parishes gave up “tried and true” instructional material, like the Baltimore Catechism, substituting instead insipid books that gave the impression that all religions were of about equal value and all believers had to do was help each other and love each other.
.JOHN PAUL II MADE SOME ATTEMPTS TO SAVE A DETERIORATING SITUATION
To his credit Pope John Paul II did commission a new Catholic Catechism which was design to provide guidance to Catholics, particularly priests and bishops, on the Church’s teachings, but this book was not promoted or referred to much from the pulpit during Mass. (It is interesting to note that popular book outlets picked up on Catholic hunger for knowledge of their faith and began carrying a small paperback version of this Catechism. How strange the local drug store was providing more substantive material about the Catholic faith than the priest’s sermon at Sunday Mass.)
Near the end of papacy, John Paul II’s gave greater attention to the admission policies, curriculum, and faculties at Catholic seminaries. Orthodoxy in seminaries, which had been compromised immediately after Vatican II, was gradually restored.
Of course, the priest abuse scandals began really rocking the Church under John Paul II. Here local bishops were mostly in charge of dealing with the problem; but many failed by attempting cover ups and transferring the offending priests rather than face the problem head on. A problem that originally involved less than 1% of priests ended up being a problem for over 90% of bishops. The actions of these bishops were understandable; they were looking at declining seminary enrollments and felt they needed every priest.
Additionally, the number of heretical and schismatic articles in Catholic publications began to multiply. John Paul II able assistant, Joseph Ratsinger, took on this problem and had many dissenters “silenced”. Ratsinger’s work earned him the appellation, “The Rat”, among certain groups of intellectual Catholic thinkers.
JOHN PAUL II’S CORRECTIVE EFFORTS DIDN’T GET DOWN TO THE LAITY
However, even as the seminaries, the abusive priests, and the dissenting theologians were being addressed, the laity’s need for substance was being ignored. Under John Paul II the sermons in the typical Catholic Church were devoid of any serious church history, discussion of doctrinal development, or detail information about important saints. The music was second class remakes of popular melodies with the addition of religious lyrics lacking doctrinal heft. Any use of traditional music or practice , per the “spirit of Vatican II”, drew disapproval.
The religious orders of nuns were particularly decimated by the “spirit of Vatican II”; the number of new novices dropped off while new habits and new ideas replaced the “tried and true” that had served these orders so well for decades. (Fortunately several contemplative orders and foreign missionary orders were loath to take up the “spirit of Vatican II”; these orders maintained or increased their memberships.)
THE MASS SUFFERS A GREAT REVISION
The post Vatican II Mass itself was supposed to be a modern rendering of what a Mass was probably like in the Roman catacombs. That ancient Mass was said in the vernacular with the faithful arrayed in a semi circle and Roman guards snooping around outside. The major differences are numerous. The ancient Roman Mass was generally said for a group of a dozen or so who knew each other. While this twentieth century version is being said for several hundred. Additionally, the Roman Mass was said with each participant feeling a heightened attachment to his faith because of very real persecution of believers.
The modern Sunday Mass, lacking the external persecution and often said for hundreds not dozens, has been unable to generate a response of strengthened religious commitment from the faithful. That is not to say the modern Mass is totally ineffective. The modern Mass if said for a group of friends or relatives in an intimate setting, such as around a dinning room table or in a side Chapel on weekday, can be very effective at generating the intended response. However, it is certainly not very effective when said for large groups who mostly don’t know each other.
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN CONFESSION AND COMMUNION IS BROKEN
Additionally, the Church, under John Paul II, stopped emphasizing that freedom from serious sin was a prerequisite for the reception of communion. Under JPII it became common for 95% + of those attending a parish Mass to go to Communion while the preceding year had seen fewer than 2% of the “faithful” from the same parish go to confess their sins. Either Catholics had become much less sinful or, more likely, they were either not aware of or not bothering with this requirement.
This disconnect, between reception of communion at Mass and dealing with serious sin, has cast the Catholic world adrift. Catholics subconsciously sense that the Mass, which is a non-bloody re-enactment of the sacrifice of Christ’s death to redeem humans from their sins, only makes sense for individuals who have a sense of their own sinfulness. If a Catholic has stopped going to confession, he will, in time, lose interest in the Mass as well. That’s logical for after all Christ said he had come to save sinners. Today only about a third of professed Catholics attend weekly Mass. Additionally, in the US, 23 million people raised as Catholics have stopped identifying themselves as Catholic. Many of these people have taken to attending non-denominational churches where everyone is friendly and the theology is simple.
John Paul II, despite his many fine qualities, left the Church with a Catholic laity far more ignorant of and far less involved in their faith. However, to be fair to John Paul II, this “spirit of Vatican II” movement was well underway by the time he became Pope; Paul VI had allowed the “spirit of Vatican II” to have unchecked sway over the church for 12 years before JPII was elected. (However, to be fair to Pope Paul VI regarding the “spirit of Vatican II”, he did say near the end of his life that that Vatican II had let loose the “smoke of Satan into the sanctuary”. Just as his predecessor John XXIII as he approached death had said of Vatican II, which was then in progress, that it should be “stopped”. )
Returning to John Paul II, his real failures were more of omission, rather than commission. He chose aggressive outreach to the world, a program that made for great headlines and classic photos. He appeared to be selling the “spirit of Vatican II” to the rest of the world while that same “spirit of Vatican II” was hollowing out the Church from within. . ........... (prepared by Hugh Murray on 06/08/2013) .
A Rotary Invocation with Handout
- Today, I call your attention to a book by
Missouri's most famous author. Mark Twain wrote Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn
, but he also wrote Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc
table, I have distributed copies of the introductory material from the book.
(handout page #1)
(handout pages #2 & #3)
Mark Twain was terribly conflicted about this book. He had it
originally published in 1895 anonymously. He wrote both the book and preparatory
notes using false titles like "the Translator"¯ or "Sieur Louis de Comte". He
felt his interest in a character like Joan of Arc could tarnish his reputation.
However, he felt Joan was , after Jesus Christ, the most
honest, self sacrificing person to tread the earth.
Joan herself. She was both a prophet and a mystic. She was in direct
communication with God who informed her of His detail desires for her. She was
also a general officer in the French army. She took a shattered, disheartened
force accustomed to defeat and led it to repeated victories over its enemy, the
Later she was captured by British forces and
tried for heresy before a court of traitorous French priests. She was convicted
and burned at the stake. Her life ended in her 19th year.
Because Joan's notable career was so well documented, Twain had a lot of
material to study from the French archives. He spent 14 years writing this work
which he loved the best of all his books.
In 1920, the
Catholic Church officially sided with Twain , set aside the conviction for
heresy, and declared Joan of Arc a Saint.
Now let's bow are
heads; repeat after me
Bless us Oh Lord and these thy gifts which
we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ, Our Lord. Amen .............. (prepared by Hugh Murray on 6/25/2013)
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This page hopes to bring a common
sense, old fashioned view to today's news. The comments displayed
on this page were prepared by
Hugh V. Murray, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org