"Wherefore We must interrupt a silence which it would be criminal to prolong, that We may point out...as they really are, men who are badly disguised." Pope St. Pius X, September 8, 1907, Pascendi Dominici Gregis


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Season of Reparation Begins

When the United States emerged as the lone superpower at the end of the Cold War, the powerful governmental apparatus built up to defeat the Soviet Union was hijacked. Politicians were not prepared to cede back to local institutions the excess power they had hastily relegated to themselves since the end of the Second World War. Our peace dividend was never fully paid.

No longer constrained by an equalizing force on the world stage and all too ready to use power to justify retaining it, US politicians fell prey to all sorts of special interests. Power remained concentrated in Washington. Eventually, well-connected think-tanks like the Project For A New American Century schemed a little too far, evening hastening "some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor."

Hopefully we can recall our recent history. The American people were distracted with two illusory economic booms, first in internet stocks and then in housing. Meanwhile, with criticism held at bay by 9-11, US politicians began the longest and most expensive military effort ever, surpassing in many ways even Vietnam and World War II. Concurrently, we experienced an explosion in growth of the surveillance state at home and with the end of the housing bubble, welfare dependency metrics hit unsustainable highs.

What ensued was the hideous cultural agenda of the Obama administration and wild assertions by the same that US institutions were now to play second fiddle to their international counterparts. Only the dimmest mind refused to recognize that we were headed on the road to a Satanic New World Order, long a dream of psychopathic leftists and ruthless financiers.

Actually, our President does a fine job of summarizing what came next in yesterday's address to Congress.
We've defended the borders of other nations, while leaving our own borders wide open, for anyone to cross -- and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate.
And we've spent trillions of dollars overseas, while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled.
Then, in 2016, the earth shifted beneath our feet. The rebellion started as a quiet protest, spoken by families of all colors and creeds --- families who just wanted a fair shot for their children, and a fair hearing for their concerns.
But then the quiet voices became a loud chorus -- as thousands of citizens now spoke out together, from cities small and large, all across our country.
Finally, the chorus became an earthquake -- and the people turned out by the tens of millions, and they were all united by one very simple, but crucial demand, that America must put its own citizens first ... because only then, can we truly MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.
As above so below. The liturgical seasons of the Catholic Church are themselves a fractal representation of the larger eons of human existence. Today March 1, 2017 is Ash Wednesday, starting the Catholic season of reparation, an exact similitude of the immediate need for America and European nations to repair the damage of the previous decades and a God-given opportunity to do so.

Catholic theologians do not attribute to evil any power that it does not have. In fact, all that sin consists of is a lack, an absence of some due good. Something that should be there but is missing, this is sin. We are all painfully aware of the social consequences of sin. The good news is that God gives us the ability to share in His creative powers; we are able to make up in some way for our own faults and even in a limited way for the faults of others.

Giving something up for lent is not just some trite ritual. Austrian economics explains that capital, and properly allocated capital, is a necessity for human growth and flourishing. By giving up something unnecessary, we make room for the things that are necessary. And by giving up resources used for a lesser need, we free up resources to be used for a higher need.

Instead of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we should have built new ports, municipal water systems, and highways at home. Instead of eating meat and full meals today, we can use the money to buy a new book or spend the extra time praying. From Fisheaters.com:
We meditate on "The Four Last Things": Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell, and we also practice mortifications by "giving up something" that would be a sacrifice to do without. The sacrifice could be anything from desserts to television to the marital embrace, and it can entail, too, taking on something unpleasant that we'd normally avoid, for example, going out of one's way to do another's chores, performing "random acts of kindness," etc. A practice that might help some, especially small children, to think sacrificially is to make use of "Sacrifice Beads" in the same way that St. Thérèse of Lisieux did as a child.

Because of the focus on penance and reparation, it is traditional to make sure we go to Confession at least once during this Season to fulfill the precept of the Church that we go to Confession at least once a year, and receive the Eucharist at least once a year during Eastertide. A beautiful old custom associated with Lenten Confession is to, before going to see the priest, bow before each member of your household and to any you've sinned against, and say, "In the Name of Christ, forgive me if I've offended you." One responds with "God will forgive you." Done with an extensive examination of conscience and a sincere heart, this practice can be quite healing (also note that confessing sins to a priest is a Sacrament which remits mortal and venial sins; confessing sins to those you've offended is a sacramental which, like all sacramentals one piously takes advantage of, remits venial sins. Both are quite good for the soul!)

In addition to mortification and charity, seeing and living Lent as a forty day spiritual retreat is a good thing to do. Spiritual reading should be engaged in (over and above one's regular Lectio Divina). Maria von Trapp recommended "the Book of Jeremias and the works of Saints, such as The Ascent of Mount Carmel, by St. John of the Cross; The Introduction to a Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales; The Story of a Soul, by St. Thérèse of Lisieux; The Spiritual Castle, by St. Teresa of Avila; the Soul of the Apostolate, by Abbot Chautard; the books of Abbot Marmion, and similar works."

As to prayer, praying the beautiful Seven Penitential Psalms (Psalms 6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129, and 142) is a traditional practice. It is most traditional to pray all of these each day of Lent, but if time is an issue, you can pray them all on just the Fridays of Lent, or, because there are seven of them, and seven Fridays in Lent, you might want to consider praying one on each Friday. These Psalms, which include the Psalms "Miserére" and "De Profundis," are perfect expressions of contrition and prayers for mercy. So apt are these Psalms at expressing contrition that, as he lay dying in A.D. 430, St. Augustine asked that a monk write them in large letters near his bed so he could easily read them.

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