22 September 2016

Wake Up the Helmsman!

It wouldn't take much convincing these days to get people to agree that our current political system seems like a mess. If you ask ten different people to explain the difference between a Democrat and a Republican you may not be surprised that you receive as many different answers. When I was in grammar school we were taught that Democrats favored a strong central government and Republicans favored strong states rights in opposition to an overly powerful central government. As it was explained to us innocents (at the time) the result of this was a dynamic tension between the two parties. This, along with the checks and balances of three separate branches of government, helped the ship of state to maintain a steady course. It was like there were some invisible hands on the tiller. That all seemed quite reasonable back then but since that time the ship of state has been zigzagging quite a bit like the helmsman is asleep at the wheel.

Liberty should be connected with order and any political movements that undermine either liberty or order should be challenged at all costs. What set of rules or basic assumptions did the founding fathers use when they wrote the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and the Bill of Rights? Are we still following those basic assumptions? The basis for these rules is called “ethics” and ethics is based on four natural virtues that philosophers going back to ancient times agree are common to the continuous welfare of human beings. The four cardinal or "natural" virtues that perfect the soul can be found in Plato. They are also found in the biblical book, Wisdom of Solomon, chapter 8, verse 7: “And if a man love righteousness her labors are virtues: for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice and fortitude: which are such things, as men can have nothing more profitable in their life.” The Roman philosopher Cicero popularized the four virtues as such: "Virtue may be defined as a habit of mind (animi) in harmony with reason and the order of nature. It has four parts: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance.”  Let's take a look at these four virtues one by one.

1.) Prudence:
Prudence is the habit of proper decision making. It is the knowledge of what to seek and what to avoid. It is the acceptance of the possibility of uncertainties or things unforeseen and making allowances for them. Prudence is more than animal instinct or habit. It is a continuous effort to see things as they really are and act accordingly. It is a responsibility to seek the truth always and make rational binary decisions rather than simply follow instinct or habit. It is knowing the difference between subjective emotion and objective fact or between inductive conjecture and deductive certainty.

2.) Justice:
Justice is giving each being or entity their due. This includes includes family, friends, community, leaders, nations, and especially our Creator. Offenses against justice include murder, injury, theft, gossip, cursing, vengeance, lies, and cheating. Justice means to be fair in relationships with others and to be grateful to benefactors. Justice requires us to be friendly and generous. If we draw undue attention to ourselves it is an offense against justice because we diminish others by enlarging our own image without justification.

3.) Fortitude:
Fortitude is a virtue that perfects the appetites of our irascible passions including fear and daring (which is an over-extension of our bravery). All acts that do not observe a definite line between being cautious and being foolhardy are contrary to fortitude. A person with the virtue of fortitude is courageous, responsible, and trustworthy and their life is marked by patience and perseverance.

4.) Temperance:
Temperance is the virtue that perfects the concupiscent desires for food, drink, and sex. It involves control over the lust for pleasures involving the five senses. Offenses against temperance are the most disgraceful because they lower us to the level of irrational beasts. These offenses involve such things as gluttony, drunkenness, seduction, rape, adultery, fornication, incest, and sodomy. Temperance includes the avoidance of even thinking about immoral or unnatural sexual relations.

A person who makes good decisions (prudence), gives everyone their due (justice), proves to be courageous(fortitude), and moderates their drive for pleasure (temperance), is a virtuous person. This is the type of person that would be ideal as a candidate for political leadership because their integrity would be beyond approach and the four natural virtues are something that we can use as a guide to see how our particular candidate measures up.

Now, for those politicians who prefer to be identified as Christians there is another set of virtues, three in number, that are the supernatural virtues. They are faith, hope, and charity. They are called "supernatural virtues" because they exceed man's natural capacities. They are also called the theological virtues. In the Catholic Church in which I grew up and in other Christian denominations we learn from the scriptures that they come by way of Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. However, these virtues are known to all religions that believe in One God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

Christian Faith:
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”(Hebrews 11:1) Faith is the belief or trust in all the teachings of Christ given to the twelve Apostles. These teachings are summarized in the Apostle's Creed.

Christian Hope:
Hope is an indication of certainty.  “Hope” in Scripture means a strong and confident expectation that our faith is correct and justified. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

Christian Charity:
Charity is the virtue of love for God, with our whole mind, our whole heart, and our whole soul, and the love of our neighbor as ourselves. Charity is sacrificing ourselves for others in the same manner that Christ sacrificed Himself for us. Charity means to humble ourselves and to have the patience to tolerate others.  Jesus said: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. The second is: Love thy neighbor as thyself. There is no other command greater than these." (Mark 12:30-31)

How many politicians these days follow what we (and they) learned as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts? A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent. Those would all be good qualities to look for in a candidate for any public office, and that brings me to the point of why I wrote this. First of all, I wanted to record my thoughts on how I could best evaluate a candidates character objectively. Then I wanted something that I could give to others who might be helped by following a guideline of suggestions on how they might evaluate a candidate based upon some observed character traits. I looked for the answers in philosophy, theology, and the ethical and moral guidelines with which good citizens in a democracy are brought up from childhood. It may not be a perfect guide but it is a good place to start. Amen.

Steady as she goes Helmsman. Aye, aye, Captain!

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16 September 2016

Politics from Hell

Feisty young millennials all in a row
Ready to challenge you blow by blow.
They are sophists all and pundits too,
Who can take either side, or leave it,
Love it, or hate it, or beat it 'til it's blue.
It depends upon what the going rate is.
There is no room for right or wrong
It is whatever it is that it needs to be,
I'll give you a clue, it's all about ratings.
Claws that scratch and eyes that flash
One glance could set the other on fire
And talking points increase the ire,
Spoken in haste and driven by greed,
Woe to the truth and woe to the target,
In any case may both be damned.
Winner take all and loser cast blame
After all, you know it's just a game,
From the very depths of Hell's belly.

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02 September 2016

When it's hot you're hot!

It's hotter than hell today.
Let's sell the heat to the Devil.
Hey you Devil you. Listen up!
Hot! Hot! Hot! We got it!
Hey, hey, you, come get it!
Cheap, cheap, cheap, we sell it.
Cash, cash, cash, no credit!
All sales final! Don't bring it back!
Bring your biggest bucket Jack.
Hurry while the offer lasts and
You should have a real blast.
Roll the dice, how 'bout it, Mo.
Boxcars! You lose, you Schmoe. 
Snake eyes, better go to blazes.
Oops! I'm running out of phrases.
Okay Devil, take the hindmost,
And now just get the hell out!

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23 August 2016

The Woman at the Well

Reading the Bible is one thing but studying the Bible in depth with both interest and patience is infinitely more rewarding. Even for those who might not believe that the Bible is the inspired work of the Holy Spirit it has been proven through the fields of archeology, anthropology, and historical linguistics to be a remarkably consistent record of the moral, social, and political history of both the Middle East and the West. There have been numerous theatrical and literary works, musicals, and movies based on the Bible including such stories as that of Noah and the Ark, Moses, the Nativity and the Passion of Christ, etc. However, there are many more stories of lesser scope but nevertheless interesting and informative once one digs a little deeper and fills in some of the finer details regarding local customs and related scriptures. A case in point is the Samaritan woman at the well.

After Our Lord had driven the money changers from the temple and performed miracles in Jerusalem and after He had his conversation with the Pharisee Nicodemus, we find Him in John 4:3, leaving Judea and on His way to Galilee, going there by way of Samaria. This was significant in itself because the usual route of the Jews going from Judea in the South to Galilee in the North was through Perea which was the portion of the kingdom of Herod the Great. Perea occupied the eastern side of the Jordan River valley, from about one third of the way down from the Sea of Galilee to about one third the way down the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. To go to from Jerusalem to Galilee a Jewish traveler would take a long swing to the right to detour around Samaria and avoid contact with the Samaritans. However, in John 4:4 it tells us “And it was necessary that he go through Samaria.” Why? Because the Jews and the Samaritans were of the same religious ancestral stock and therefore Jesus considered the Samaritans part of the same flock. The two groups were separated only by religious dogma about which both parties were very stubborn.

Between Judea and Galilee There is a section of land that was inhabited by a people who were formed by a combination of Jews and Assyrians who are called Samaritans. We won't delve into the details here regarding the events that formed the combination because that is a long story by itself.  In short, the Samaritans believe that their religion is the true religion of the ancient Israelites from before the Babylonian captivity of the Jews. The major disagreement between the Jews and the Samaritans is that the Samaritans claim that Mount Gerizim is the original holy place of of Israel and the Jews believe that the holy place is the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. There remain some Samaritans to this day although their numbers have been greatly diminished. Mount Gerizim continues to be the center of the Samaritan religion and there are still Samaritans living in the city of Kiryat Luza near Mount Gerizim.

So, as Saint John tells us in John 4:5, Jesus came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph (of the many colored coat). Sychar was about a half mile north of the well that according to two thousand years of tradition the Patriarch Jacob had dug. Joseph's tomb is located nearby and there is little doubt that it is indeed the tomb of Joseph. The Old Testament is silent as to when or why Jacob dug this well, but Jewish, Samaritan, Christian, and Muslim traditions all associate the well with Jacob. It is one of the few biblical sites about which there is no dispute. When Jesus reached Sychar he was weary from the journey, he sat down beside the well about noon to rest while his disciples went looking for something to eat. A Samaritan woman came to the well with a jar to get some water, so Jesus asked her for some water to drink. To the woman it was obvious that He was a Jew and she was astonished that a Jew would ask a Samaritan woman for a drink for Samaritans had absolutely nothing to do with Jews and vice versa. She said to Him:

“How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?”

Note that she addressed Him as “a Jew”.

Jesus said to her:

“If you knew the Gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”

The woman said to Him:

“Sir, you have nothing to draw water with and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?”

Note that this time she did not address Him as “a Jew” but as “Sir.”

Then the woman went on to say:

“Are you a greater man than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself as did his sons and his livestock.”

Note that now she refers to Jesus as a “Man.”

Then Jesus said to her:

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The Samaritan woman replied:

“Sir, give me this water so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

At this point Jesus began to draw the truth from this woman. In the first place it was very unusual for a woman to be fetching water alone, unescorted. For another thing it was unusual that she was fetching water in the heat of the noonday sun. The women normally would go to the well in a group for the sake of modesty and security and also to avid the heat of the day. Perhaps this woman was not welcome in their company. Jesus tested her. He said to her:

“Go, call your husband and come here.”

The woman answered him:

“I have no husband.”

Jesus said to her:

“You are right in saying, 'I have no husband,' for you have had five husbands and the one that you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

She said to Jesus:

“Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where we ought to worship.”

Note that as the woman replied to Jesus she adds “Prophet” to the list of names that she had previously used, namely a “Jew”, a “Man”, and “Sir”. Furthermore, as she was using flattery by the suggestion that He is a prophet, she also tried to change the subject. Jesus understood that she was trying to divert His attention away from her sins. He said:

“Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

The woman said to Jesus:

“I know that the Messiah is coming, He who is called the Christ. When He comes He will tell us all things.”

Jesus replied:

“I who speak to you am He.”

Just then His disciples came back. They marveled that He had been speaking to a woman but they didn't say anything. The woman ran home and said to the townspeople:

“Come and see a man that told me my past. Can this be the Christ?”

The people ran out of the town to seek Him. In the meantime His disciples were urging Him to eat. They said to Him: “Rabbi, eat,” but Jesus told them that His food was to do the will of He who had sent Him and to accomplish His work. As a result of this encounter, many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman's testimony and they asked Jesus to stay for a few days which He did. The people told the woman:

“It is no longer because of what you told us that we believe for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the World.”

This story illustrates the progression of a soul upon the realization that Jesus Christ is Our Lord and Savior. At first Jesus was to the woman merely a “Jew”, then “Sir”, then a “Man”, then a “Prophet”, then “the Messiah”, “the Christ”, and finally, the “Savior of the World.” It also illustrates that the only thing required of a soul to begin the process of conversion to Christianity is faith in God Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and Earth. The Holy Spirit will guide the soul to God through Jesus Christ.

A final word. In this story there is no physical miracle, there was no curing of sickness, no making the blind to see, or the raising of the dead. The wonder that was wrought was the cleansing of sin from a repentant soul. The cross was not mentioned but the Savior was, and the Samaritan woman who was at first suspicious and doubtful was brought from being a creature of God to being a child of God. From sinner to saved, she blossomed like a rose to become one of the first evangelists.

(NoteThe idea behind this story came from both the Gospel of John and also from a wonderful book called “The Life of Christ” by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. I highly recommend his book.)


01 August 2016

A Blessed Tomorrow

The rustling leaves talk together like wise men.
They express great optimism for the future,
But we all know the future of a summer leaf.
In the autumn they will dry up and blow away.
There is no need to fuss about the future.
Enjoy today before it's your turn to fly away.
The future is in every new minute of this day.
It is best to make the most of the time in hand.
We should accept the immensity of our reality.
Everything including the unheard of is possible.
We must pray for courage to meet the strange,
The wonderful, the awful, and the inexplicable.  
Do not measure your life in relation to time only.
We should measure our lives in terms of ripening.
Some people never ripen. They live and die immature.
Only patient people can truly understand maturity.
They know that all eternity stands before them.
When we wait upon the Lord time means nothing.
The future is vast and untroubled by useless anxiety,
Like a tree planted by the water I shall not be moved.
I will wait upon the Lord forever until He shall come.
From the feelings of today and the memories of yesterday, 
The new hope and old hope we throw under our pillow. 
We live for today and dream of a blessed tomorrow.

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09 July 2016

The Conversation

Aha, so here we are together, debtors and sinners before heaven,
Pursued by a hundred demons and making haste for heaven's sake,
And it's a long, long way to heaven if you don't know the way!
Don't look back, there's a scare-sinner following us right now, and
He wouldn't be following me if it weren't for a sin bait like you!
Oh yeah, well if it weren't for laziness I would be a perfect angel.
Go on downstairs, your mother is calling. Satan has come for you.
Curb your wild imagination friend, it's just the pizza delivery man.
Yup, I hear the bell ringing. That must be Pavlov with the food.
God's blessing upon the smart guy who first invented pizza!
Hey you idiot. Ain't it your turn to say something? Okay,
There is no future, there is no past, there is only this pizza,
And it goes down fast. Now shut up and eat your pizza!

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05 July 2016

From the Depths of Purgatory

O Lord, allow me to speak for I am addressing Thy mercy.
May I move the ear of my humble heart closer to Thy mouth, so
That Thou can explain why weeping is such a relief when I am sad?
How does it happen that out of the many bitter things in this life,
Relief is found by moaning and groaning and weeping and sighing?
Does the sweetness of relief come from the hope that Thou hear us,
Or does the weeping help us avoid the memory of pain and suffering?
Misery is the state of every soul who counts too much on the material.
We should lift our hearts to the spiritual instead and focus on Thee.
In our pessimism we gradually become tired of living but afraid of dying,
As if death were a sad end and not a new life for those who choose Thee.
Look into my heart, O Lord, and cleanse my soul. Rescue me from
Vanity, Pride, and Avarice, or in other words, the "Human" condition.
The person who enters into joy with the Lord will need not be afraid.  
We should confess our sins to God deep within our hearts simply because,
We can do it less painfully here and now, than from the depths of purgatory.

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24 June 2016

Oh, Adam.

Said the man without a navel as he bit into an apple,
"Well, I wonder what new thing I will do today".
Oh, Adam. "Quid fecisti?" (What have you done?)
"Tu coepit destruere mundi."
("You have begun to destroy the world".)
The Earth mourns for the untimely death of so many people,
For out of her came the first and out of her shall come all others.
Each and every one of her inhabitants is a fruit of Mother Earth,
And has a time and a season and a mother who will mourn us.
If we acknowledge Almighty God, and know that he is just,
In good time we shall be restored to our mothers and our fathers,
And our children will be restored to us and we to them.
While I sleep, my spirit is out roaming about,
Looking for truth and marking the borders,
Of the dim narrow path that my heart must follow.
From the feelings of today and the memories of yesterday 
The new hope and old hope we throw under our pillow, 
And dream of a tomorrow when we shall all be together.

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15 June 2016

What say you?

Those who drink deeply of pride, envy, ambition, and hatred,
Will see ignorance and ugliness in everybody they look upon.
Everything looks yellow to one who has jaundiced eyes.
Love dreads to cross paths with such perverse judgment.
She shuts her modest eyes at a glimpse of the first symptom.
She questions whether or not it was only a fleeting shadow
That crossed her path, and not an actual and deliberate sin.
If love is forced to recognize sin she quickly averts her vision,
And strives to forget the willful evil act that she has witnessed.
Love is the great healer of everything that ails body and soul.
We should always be as charitable in judgment as we can,
And if our neighbor has two faces let us accept the best one.
Our Lord, Jesus Christ said, "Love your neighbor as yourself"
He did not say, "Love the neighbor that you like the best."
He said, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."
I say "Amen to that!" and what say you? Are you forgiven too? 

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11 June 2016

How Often Dost Thou Wander

O Lord, before I had a name I belonged to Thee.
I need no other rules and regulations but Thine.
To love Thee with all my heart and my neighbor too,
Knowing that I can trust Thee unto death, and beyond.
O my God, why can't I always be looking upon Thee,
Even as Thou lookest daytime and nighttime on me?
Why do I think much of me and so little of Thee?
Oh my Soul, thine only true resting place is God,
And yet, my friend, how often dost thou wander.

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About Me

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.