Friday, May 18, 2018

Met Opportunities

The Met Gala has come and gone. The hoopla has  begun to die down. Most of what can be said has been said, I suppose. It has been analyzed and criticized. Just goes to show what's wrong with the world. Just goes to show what's wrong with the Church. We've drawn our conclusions, we've formed our opinions we've had our say and here is where we end it. But here's the thing...hoopla tends to grab and narrow our focus. We don't realize that we might be missing something. Things can get lost somewhere along the line. Controversy can kick up a lot of dust and it is only when that dust settles that you can often see a bigger picture. 

More than a week later a few articles about the Met Gala continue to trickle across my news feed. Some of them written to express anger and outrage, to justify anger and outrage, to stir up the anger and outrage of others. Articles, blog posts, memes and comments all giving voice to how the Met Gala displayed a mockery of the Catholic Church, loudly proclaiming the many insults and offenses to our Catholic sensibilities. As well as complaints against the Church for allowing it. It may very well be true that we have good reason to feel mocked and insulted. There may very well be good reason for the anger and the outrage. Then again, Satan does like it when there's a ruckus and we get stuck in our right to be right. Dust gets kicked up either way. There's nothing he likes more than an inability to see the God thing because we're too busy looking at and fighting his thing. We may want to ask if the anger and outrage is serving us, the Church and the Gospel or could it be, instead, that it is actually getting in our way? 

Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil. Eph 4:26-27

Know this, my dear brothers: everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20

It may have been necessary to point out some of the problems and incongruities between what the Catholic Church represents and what was displayed at the Met Gala. Now that we have done that, however, should we move beyond the offenses because to do otherwise might leave room for the devil? By continuing in a posture of anger and offense do we inadvertently give the devil his due? Do we proclaim that the devil had the power to win the day and that he continues to do so? Should we examine if how we have gone about things has really been productive in accomplishing the righteousness of God?

Whomever you forgive anything, so do I. For indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for you in the presence of Christ, so that we might not be taken advantage of by Satan, for we are not unaware of his purposes. 2 Cor 10-11

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is  his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11

Forgiveness, overlooking an offense, even refusing to be offended have practical applications when it comes to spiritual warfare, in order to avert the purposes of Satan. It disarms him. Better yet it often takes the very weapon the enemy intended for evil and turns it  back against him for good. Satan is quite satisfied with our anger and the bitterness that comes with it. It narrows our vision until he and what has been wrought by him are all that we can see. It is all that others will see as well, because we are pointing it out to them. We then ignore opportunities that would allow the last word and the remembered images to point towards Christ rather than away from him. 

Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God, that no bitter root spring up and cause trouble, through which many may become defiled. Hebrews 12:14-15

All the celebrity, all the excitement, all the controversy, all the agitation from the Met Gala has overshadowed the exhibit itself. The last time the Vatican lent pieces to the Met was 35 years ago, in 1983. That Vatican Collections exhibit was the third most visited exhibit in the 148 year history of the Met. The current exhibit Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination will run from May to October, six months instead of the usual three. There are items in this exhibit that have never left the Vatican before. Many will  appreciate the aesthetic beauty of each and every item. The Catholic Imagination, however, is much deeper than a mere aesthetic. Its aesthetics point to literal realities and those realities find their source in Jesus Christ. We have the opportunity here to deepen our own knowledge, appreciation and actualization of that. We then have the opportunity to transmit that to the rest of the world. 

The Met Gala is in the past but the exhibit continues and we can use it to begin conversations that focus on those realities. We can let the misappropriation of Catholic imagery at the Gala be what people will remember, we can cry about it while letting them have it or we can turn our eyes away from the Gala and turn them on the Vatican exhibit itself. We can angrily point to the bondage mask with the rosaries hanging from it in the secular part off the exhibit, thereby letting that be an image that is remembered or we can point to the beauty of a Vatican item. We can leave the image of a papal miter in the hands of Rihanna or we can point people to the authentic miter of Pope Pius XI that is in the exhibit, explaining its symbolism, its function and its importance. The Vatican exhibit can give us many opportunities to talk about the Church and its history as well as the richness and function of its imagery and the literal realities that they represent. The following are but a few examples.
How the Church transmits the word of God. 
The Church's primary function is to answer the question: "Who do you say that I am?" concerning Jesus Christ (Mt 16:15-16) and to bring the Gospel to "all nations" (Mt 28:19). They do more, however, than merely convey the story of Christ but, rather, transmit him throughout history as the living Word of God. This is not confined to the written and spoken words of scripture and doctrine. The Church makes use of the physical world and all of our senses to bring Jesus, as "God with Us" to each generation. The items in the Vatican exhibit are part of that transmission. The visual images of art, symbolism and vestments literally communicate beyond and through barriers of language and literacy.

The red shoes of Pope St. John Paul II
The Met finds it interesting that the red shoes of Pope St. John Paul II are said to be by Prada. I'm not sure that's true. Catholics know, however, that those shoes are the embodiment of "feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace." Pope St. John Paul II traveled to 129 countries and took more pastoral trips than all of his predecessors combined. He was probably seen by more people in person than any other figure in history. He was instrumental in the downfall of Communism. He not only talked the talk but walked the walk of evangelization and ecumenism. When the red shoes met the road, he was a living testimony to it. Evangelization is not merely a matter of increasing our numbers and filling the pews. It is a mandate of Jesus Christ. We are gathering in all he suffered and died for that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). The unity of Christians is not just a matter of "why can't we be friends?" but marks us as belonging to Christ (John 17:23)

The Liturgical and Sacramental Life of the Church
Some of the items in the Vatican exhibit are vestments used during liturgies. Many outside the Church might see the vestments worn by our priests as purely ceremonial. Something to bring gravitas to our ceremonies and they see our ceremonies as pure ritual. In part the vestments do bring a sense of dignity, seriousness and solemnity. They are sacramentals. Sacramentals are "sacred signs instituted by the Church that dispose people to receive the chief effects of the sacraments and they make holy various occasions in human life"  Each piece has a meaning, and function that, as I said before, goes beyond symbolism, acting in concrete ways to transmit the Word of God to us. Our liturgies and sacraments do so as well. The sacraments are more than symbolic ceremonies, but actions that, in fact, produce a result. In the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church something real is going on and the visuals are there to indicate that.

There are so many ways that we could use the Vatican exhibit at the Met as a jumping off point to foster an appreciation of the Church in those who do not understand it. We also have opportunities ourselves to become better catechized concerning our faith. We have an excellent opportunity, as well, to examine how we are presenting ourselves to those outside the Church.

Suiting Up
The Vatican Exhibit will be at the Met for six months. A more influential and lasting exhibit of the Church are Catholics themselves. How do we suit up as Catholics both literally and figuratively so that others can plainly see what the Church is all about? We can't expect others to know better when we haven't shown them better. How do we wear our faith? Do we exhibit the fruits of the spirit in our interaction with others? Do we live the beatitudes? Do we follow the Golden Rule? Do we put on the armor of God? Do we show people what true charity, true mercy, true justice, true holiness and virtue looks like? Do we foster unity? Do we show respect for the things of the Church and for the pope and the bishops? Or do we merely give lip service to such things and act like everyone else? Do we literally wear things that would identify us as Catholic? Do we publically do things such as pray? When we dress for Mass to we show a proper understanding and respect for what is going on there? Do we actualize our faith by what we exhibit? Do we consciously and coherently exhibit what it is to be Catholic and why it is of value? We should be demonstrating this in such a way that not only will others respect us, but they should want to be us.

The Met Gala demonstrated that people outside the Church have only a surface understanding of the "Catholic Imagination". The Met Exhibit gives us an opportunity to demonstrate that the Catholic Church is more than its aesthetics. It reminds, us as well, that we are to constantly look to the bigger picture that we might accomplish the righteousness of God. That we are the living exhibit of Jesus Christ, his Church and the way, the truth and the life he offers. 

Will the Met opportunity be an opportunity met or an opportunity missed?

For What It's Worth.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Spinnin' Wheel Spinnin' True? Did Cardinal Dolan loan Rihanna a Miter?

Most of us experience news and events second hand. We read about it, we hear about it. Often ideas, impressions and opinions will be formed by what we read about something through what is shared on social media as well as news articles, opinion pieces and blog posts. The fact is most people will form their impressions and opinions because they heard it through the grapevine. They will view it through the lens of someone else's spin.

Spin gives a particular bias, interpretation or point of view to a story. It is intended to give a favorable or unfavorable impression when presented to the public. The way we experience news is not always a matter of "just the facts, ma'am." Many of us follow certain news sources precisely because of their spin. We tend to follow them because their point of view or interpretation agrees with ours. Birds of a feather tend to flock together. Sometimes spin is merely the by-product of the fact that people tend to have opinions, points of view and differing perspectives and we like to gather with the like minded. 

Sometimes, however, spin does more than reflect a point of view or perspective. Sometimes spin attempts to manipulate the reality of a story. Sometimes our bias causes us to accept a story and continue to report a story without checking out it's validity because it fits our narrative. Sometimes a story becomes fake news because we have taken something that may have happened and through insinuation, speculation, inflammatory language or misreporting we twist it until becomes a misrepresentation.

he question then becomes, who's spinnin' wheel is spinnin' true?

So what has brought me to my keyboard to pound out a blog on how spin is spun? What else? The most recent story du jour, the Met Gala, of course. Particularly a specific story about Cardinal Dolan, the Met Gala and an accusation of spin that came up in a discussion.

You have to admit that the Met Gala has given people something to talk about. You can catch a lot of pretty ponies on that particular spinning wheel ride. There has been no shortage of opinions and points of view being shared with both favorable and unfavorable spins. People are particularly critical of Cardinal Timothy Dolan's choice to attend the Gala as well as the Catholic cosplay of its attendees. The biggest splash being Rihanna in a bishop inspired ensemble with a miter headpiece.

The day after the Gala I read many of the stories. I checked out pictures of many of the fashions. Then I come across Cardinal Dolan interviewing about the Gala on Conversations with Cardinal Dolan. I think "Well, let's see what the Cardinal's spin on this is going to be". During the interview, while talking about Rihanna and her miter the Cardinal quips "And she gave it back to me this morning" along with a joke about Rihanna volunteering to perform some confirmations. Everyone laughs and I thought it was pretty clear that he was joking. Later, however, I come across an article by The Wrap reporting that Rihanna had borrowed the miter that she wore from Cardinal Dolan. "Oh please, he was joking about that". Even so the story spreads like a real rumor weed with many other online publications repeating what the Wrap had reported. I've noticed that there often isn't much fact checking anymore, just one publication parroting what another has reported. I guess they just assume that the first report did their due diligence and just go with it. Even so they are secular publications. You can't expect them to know what an outrageous claim that is. You can't expect them to know that the miter is a symbol of the bishops office, that he wears if for liturgical reasons, and that he wouldn't be letting just anybody borrow it. I was hoping that Catholics would know better and would check out the story before believing it outright. 

It seems, however, that some are so used to reacting with outrage when it comes to our prelates and automatically assume the worst not matter what. A Catholic publication on facebook repeats the story. Some of the commenters assume that it is fake news. The publication insists that they "do NOT report fake news." Well, yeah, you sort of did due to that fact that it is inaccurate. Someone posts a fact check article but they are unfazed. Since I have been following and researching that particular story I post a couple of comments and there is some back and forth. Finally the publication takes the position that they are not buying the Cardinals explanation.

"Actually, all we have to go on is that the Cardinal claims to have been 'joking' when at the event nobody thought that he was. We call 'fake' on the Cardinal -- and 'PR spin' on his office"

Well, there you go. They opened the door by insisting that "they do NOT report fake news" and laying down a gauntlet by accusing someone else of "fake" and "spin". I hate that... especially when a bias causes one to not care about the accuracy. It disturbs my sense of fair play. So let's let the spinnin' wheel fly shall we? Let's see whose spin is spinning true?

Is it true that all we have to go on is the Cardinals claims? Or can we find a directing sign on the straight and narrow highway? Can we find a reflecting sign and let it shine within our minds to show us what is real? (Lyric paraphrase, you know I can't help myself)

If you google this story you will find lots of headlines saying that Cardinal Dolan let Rihanna borrow a miter for the Met Gala. I suppose you could take all of those articles and put them in your arsenal as proof. But there is something in following the progression of a story that allows a bigger picture to emerge. There is, indeed, more to go on than the Cardinal's claims.

-- First of all the Cardinal's comments were not made at the event itself. They were made the next day during a podcast of Conversation With Cardinal Dolan. Judging by the laughter they did indeed think it was a joke. So the very fact that you did not even know where the comments were made indicates a lack of accuracy in fact checking.

-- Have we ever seen Cardinal Dolan wearing a jewel encrusted miter like that? Or maybe we think he gave RiRi a plain miter and when asked if he would mind if they bejeweled it he said "sure, go right ahead"?  Also, the bishop's miter usually has the two tails hanging down the back and Rihanna's headpiece did not. 

-- Most of the reporting describe Rihanna's headpiece as being custom made.

-- The Instagram of the design house responsible for the outfit wrote this on their Instagram Maison Margiela is proud to announce that honorary co-chair @badgalriri wore a custom made ‘Artisanal’ outfit inspired by Heavenly Bodies created by @jgalliano, for this year’s @voguemagazine Met Gala.The outfit is a three coordinated piece, comprising of a sculptural jacket and a skirt worn over a bustier dress and a custom made hat. In total, the outfit took 250 hours to sew and 500 hours to hand embroider by Maison Margiela’s Paris Atelier. No mention of borrowing the hat from Cardinal Dolan

-- Vogue reports that the hat was made by Stephen Jones Millinary

-- The Daily Mail reports on a related piece of fashion history. "Rihanna's headpiece was designed by John Galliano, first for Dior in 2000 and then updated last night for Margiela, where he is now the creative director".  As a matter of fact the Dior piece is on display at the Met.

-- The Wrap, who I believe originated the story, is now reporting that the Cardinal was joking.

I am not making an attempt here to defend everything the Cardinal did. I am not defending his choice to go to the Gala. You might even be able to say that the Cardinal might want to be a little more careful about how others will perceive it when making a joke. I wouldn't give you an argument. There seems to be plenty of fodder for criticism where you might actually have a point. We don't need to resort to inaccuracies. Cardinal Dolan often places himself in the public eye. He should be aware of not only the intentions of his words and actions put also how others may reasonably perceive them. 

When there are controversial stories in the Church it is really easy to hop those painted ponies on the spinning wheel ride and let those spinning wheels turn. There is nothing wrong with having an opinion or a point of view that may be unfavorable. The problem is when we allow our bias to cause us to interpret a situation inaccurately and unfairly. The problem is when we knee jerk a reaction because it fits our narrative without investigating its validity. We are Catholic, we listen to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. We follow a golden rule. We seek the good, the true and the beautiful. We repay evil with blessing. We have to be careful that we do not allow our bias to lead us into behavior that is equal to or worse than the ones we seek to correct.

For what it's worth

LYRICS REFERENCE: Spinning Wheel - Blood, Sweat and Tears - 1969

Monday, January 15, 2018

Raymond Arroyo and the Piano Men

It looks like I have some follow-up material to the piece I wrote the other day on Stephan Walford. I wrote because I saw a comment that dismissed Walford as a piano teacher and not a theologian, implying that ordinary Catholics have no place in discussions and debates concerning the Church.

I actually thought that it was mainly a combox thing but it seems that even Raymond Arroyo has resorted to this same dismissive tactic and is riding the "piano teacher and not a theologian" bandwagon. In a recent discussion with Fr. Gerald Murray on a segment of The World Over, Arroyo is quoted as saying.

"Now I should say, I've done some research on Mr. Walford. Near as I can tell he is a piano teacher with no other credentials, theologically or otherwise, except for a papal visit with his family"

Either Mr. Arroyo's researching skills are severely lacking, which would then make me question his qualifications as a broadcaster and reporter, or he deliberately misrepresented Stephen Walford personally. Even a cursory, rudimentary google search would have revealed that Walford is, indeed a piano teacher but also a Catholic writer and author. It would seem to me that Arroyo made a deliberate omission in order to make Stephen Walford appear to be inconsequential.

Not only did they deliberately misrepresent Mr. Walford himself they also misrepresented his arguments. Arroyo equated Walford's position as one who sees the Church as a political institution that changes its policies with each new elected official. Father Murray said that Mr. Walford was taking the position of saying that adultery can be a good thing. Walford's writing reflects neither of those positions. In fact, Arroyo only pulled two quotes from Walford's articles, one that was critical of  himself and another that was critical of Fr. Murray. In essence, Arroyo and Fr. Murray were defending themselves.

I wonder if Mr. Arroyo would find if unfair for someone to disqualify him by asking what kind of theological or ecclesiological credentials you receive from New York University Tisch School of the Arts when you study acting? I am sure he would say that he only reports the news. However as he also includes commentary and his own opinions you might wonder what qualifies him to do so. Or if they invalidated the many lay apostolates of EWTN in such a way? It would indeed be an unfair assessment and a deliberate misrepresentation to make them appear irrelevant.

Another Piano man not a theologian, Scott Eric Alt responds to Arroyo on his Facebook page:

"If Raymond Arroyo wishes to attack Stephen Walford for being a piano teacher but having the audacity to depend the pope (I mean imagine--a Catholic defending the pope; what new paradigm is this?), then let him go after me too. I also teach piano, and I also defend Amoris Laetitia. When's my turn? An attack on one pianist is an attack on all"

Alt does list his occupation on Facebook as piano teacher. He also formally taught writing and literature. He has been writing in the area of apologetics for years. In September he wrote a 7 part series correcting the Correctors, refuting the allegations of heresy made by the signatories of the Correctio Filialis. Like Stephen Walford, Scott Eric Alt has often defended the pope against all comers. I wish Arroyo would invite them on the World Over. My money would be on the Piano Men.

Whenever I think about defending the Pope, I am reminded of the bible story of Moses, Aaron and Hur.

Moses therefore said to Joshua, "Pick out certain men, and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle. I will be standing on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand." So Joshua did as Moses told him; he engaged Amalek in battle after Moses had climbed to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur. As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he left his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight. Moses' hands, however, grew tired; so they put a rock in place for him to sit on. Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady till sunset. And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. Exodus 17:9-14

The staff of God represents God's authority. As God sends Moses on his mission he institutes Moses' staff as the sign of authority. The staff is used throughout in the signs and the plagues. At the Red Sea, God even asks Moses why they are crying out to him rather than using the authority that he has already given Moses to use the staff to part the Red Sea.(Exodus 14:15-16) In the same way that Moses was chosen as the one in whose hands the staff of authority was solely given, so too has the authority of Jesus Christ been placed in the hands of his Church through the pope and magisterium.

Aaron and Hur held up the arms of Moses in his human weakness but the staff remained in the hands of Moses. It is important to note what did not occur in this story. Aaron and Hur did not seize the staff, taking it into their own hands. Nor did they begin to berate Moses for his human weakness fearing that he will endanger them all. Joshua does not call up from the battlefield, "Moses, your weakness will be our destruction". Aaron and Hur came along side of Moses by necessity precisely because of human weakness. Joshua did not lose heart and stood firm.

We might want to be mindful of certain attitudes regarding the Pope. If we want to know what happens when we don't uphold the one who holds the staff we need only read Numbers chapters 16 and 17. When the people said to Moses and Aaron "Enough from you! The whole community, all of them, are holy; the Lord is in their midst. Why then should you set yourselves over the Lord's congregation?" God's response involved the perpetrators of this rebellion being swallowed up by the earth, consumed by fire, as well as a scourge upon the people that was stopped in mid wave by the intercession of Aaron at the direction of Moses. Suffice it to say that it is an illustration that indicates that it is the prayers of the Church, the established authority, on our behalf that can turn the tide of the wrath of God even as the blow falls. And when Moses misused the staff it was God alone who dealt with him.

Jesus said "All power in heaven and earth has been given to me" (Matt 28:18). In Matthew 16 Jesus gives the keys of the kingdom that represent his authority into the hands of Peter and his successors. The gates of the netherworld cannot prevail against that authority. We cannot expect the tide to turn, that we will have the better of the fight if we will not support the arms of the one into whose hands such authority has been given.

This is why my money is on the Piano Men and those like them. Because they understand that there is one way and one way only to have the better of this fight. They understand that you can't equivocate a distinction between upholding the Pope and upholding the teachings of the Church. For it is impossible to support the teachings of the Church without supporting the one into whose hands the guarantee of those teachings has been given. Because they chose to be as Aaron and Hur in supporting the arms of the Pope. They chose to be like Joshua who stood firm and did not lose heart, with confidence in the power of God rather than relying on his own proficiency in battle.

Not so with many of the critics of the Pope who believe that they can wrest the staff from his hands and hold it up themselves without him. Or those who berate him for being human. Or those who fear that human weakness will bring about the collapse of the Church. Or those who believe that it is the proficiency of their arguments or their qualifications and credentials that will win the day. And when they resort to misrepresenting and misapplying the teachings of the Church in order discredit the Pope? When they resort to omissions and misrepresentations in order that his defenders will appear inconsequential and irrelevant?...I gotta say...they're probably on shaky ground.

For what it's worth.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Stephen (Against All Comers) Walford - Just a Piano Man?

I just finished listening to Mark Shea on Connecting the Dots with his guests Stephen Walford and Peter Vere. They engage in a "wide-ranging discussion of Francis, Amoris Laetitia, and the fake “crisis” that has been ginned up about him. " I enjoyed the discussion but that's not why I decided to write this piece. As often happens for me, I become more interested in writing about the reaction to something, than the thing itself. The thing that brought out the blog in me was one of the comments.

"Just FYI, Stephen Walford is a piano teacher, not a theologian.'

It's not the first time I've seen a comment of that nature concerning Mr. Walford. But more on that later.

I "met" Stephen Walford  over 4 years ago. Tim Haines and Wilson Orihuela had him on Vericast to interview him about his book "Heralds of the Second Coming". I was one of the call-in commenters. I very much doubt that he remembers our conversation. A few months ago I read his Open Letter to the Four Dubia Cardinals and thought "hey, I know that guy" remembering his interview with Vericast. So, by "met" and "know" I mean, well, internet and not a personal relationship, unless I just be name dropping.  I like his style and much of what he has to say, though. His articles are intelligent, intelligible and well researched. I have added the parenthetical "against all comers" to his name in a nod to a quote from a sermon by Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman.

"Our duty is, - not indeed to mix up Christ's Vicar with this or that party of men, because he in his high station is above all parties, - but to look at his formal deeds, and to follow him whither he goeth, and never to desert him, however we may be tried, but to defend him at all hazards, and against all comers, as a son would a father, and a wife a husband, knowing that his cause is the cause of God."

Walford has certainly taken the words of Cardinal Newman to heart as he has entered into the fray of discussion, debate and controversy with his defense of Pope Francis. He has definitely taken on all comers with the article I previously mentioned, as well as a more recent article The Amoris Laetitia Dissenters.

I have not read every article out there that disagrees with Stephen Walford's arguments. I'm sure some of them have been written in a true spirit of discourse. At least I hope so, anyway. What I am seeing, however, are comments that are meant to dismiss Walford, to diminish him rather than truly debate him. It makes me wonder what the value of their arguments actually are if they have to resort to throwing shade. He's got nothing to contribute, he's just a piano teacher, not a theologian. Just an amateur, a dilettante. My favorite is the headline "Wherein faithful canonist Ed Peters guts papolatrous dilettante Stephen Walford". Well, we have no need to read any further do we? Nor do we need to examine both arguments. We already know who has cred and who doesn't now don't we?

For a Piano Man, Walford is no slouch. Not too long ago he was granted a private audience with the Pope. (Maybe when you publically have the Pope's back he might want to shake your hand. "Thanks for being like Aaron and Hur for me") He has published 2 books and is working on a third. He has written for various publications. Which elicited another combox gem about how he was just a journalist. So says the combox authorities of what is worthy. 

What is that? Elitism? Just plain bougie, pretentious idolatry of the intellect, academia or the titles of men? Who says that a regular Catholic can't know and defend the faith? Who says they can't defend the Pope? Who says they can't make a solid and well formed argument, enter a debate or speak to error or controversy? Who says that a regular Catholic can't grasp theological concepts and nuances? Quite frankly, if that is so than most of the bloggers on the internet might just as well pack up and go home. How many saints, as well, who are now called theologian, not because of credential but because of their love of Christ and his Church and their openness to and trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit of that Church, would then be disqualified and dismissed?

Our Lord, himself, entrusted his Church to twelve ordinary men, not theologians. He did that, in the words of St. Paul, that "the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength" and "God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God". This indeed has been the way of the Church from the beginning.

I began blogging nearly 5 years ago. I was quite aware that I had no cred and no rep. Quite frankly, I am just a grandma. It was by reading the first encyclical of Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei, that I became inspired and encouraged to give my faith a voice. I hadn't even read the whole thing but it was this line that was the impetus for me to "go public", as it were. "Those who have opened their hearts to God's love, heard his voice and received his light, cannot keep this gift to themselves. Since faith is hearing and seeing, it is also handed on as word and light." So I took the small talent I had for expressing myself in the written word and stepped outside of my own little life. I began writing a blog, then added a second with a separate theme. I have written about theology, I have written about catechesis and apologetics though I am no formal theologian, catechist or apologists. I have written opinions about situations in the Church. I have researched and studied in order to share the teachings of the Church and I have seen the need to defend the Pope in the current climate. One day I stepped out of my comfort zone and called in to a show on the Vericast Network. The hand holding the phone literally shook the whole time from nervousness and I felt like I stuttered through the whole thing. Speaking in front of people is not my strong point and how am I qualified anyway? I soon became a regular contributor to the conversations on the shows, was asked to write blogs for Vericast and eventually was given my own show on their network. I was given the nickname of Miss Magisterium not because I was an expert on the magisterium but because of my stanch loyalty to, defense of and unwavering confidence in the authority of the Pope and the magisterium.

I guess the Piano Man and I have something in common. We both have taken to heart the words of Cardinal Newman to defend the Pope against all comers. We do it because we know that in defending his cause we defend the cause of Jesus Christ. I know that I trust Jesus and his promises to protect his Church and his Vicar. I believe in the unerring guidance of the Holy Spirit. Scripture tells us that when the rains fall and the floods come, when the wind blows and beats against the Church, the rock on which the Church is built is the one thing that will not fall.

As far as qualifications go? We are Catholics baptized and confirmed in the faith. We are members of the Body of Christ. We are essential links in the chain of witnesses that makes it possible for others to see the face of Jesus in every age.

Pope Francis tells us in Lumen Fidei: The light of Christ shines, as in a mirror, upon the face of Christians; as it spreads, it comes down to us, so that we too can share in that vision and reflect that light to others, in the same way that, in the Easter liturgy, the light of the paschal candle lights countless other candles. Faith is passed on we might say, by contact, from one person to another, just as one candle is lighted from another. Christians, in their poverty, plant a seed so rich that it becomes a great tree, capable of filling the world with its fruit. The transmission of the faith not only brings light to men and women in every place; it travels through time, passing from one generation to another. Because faith is born of an encounter which takes place in history and lights up our journey through time, it must be passed on in every age. It is through an unbroken chain of witnesses that we come to see the face of Jesus...As salvation history progresses, it becomes evident that God wants to make everyone share as brothers and sisters in that one blessing, which attains its fullness in Jesus so that all may be one. The boundless love of our Father also comes to us, in Jesus, through our brothers and sisters. Faith teaches us to see that every man an woman represents a blessing for me, that the light of God's face shines on me through the faces of my brother and sisters...Finally, faith is one because it is shared by the whole Church, which is one body and one Spirit. In the communion of the subject which is the Church, we receive a common gaze. By professing the same faith, we stand firm on the same rock, we are transformed by the same Spirit of love, we radiate one light and we have a single insight into reality.

I am just a grandma and Stephen Walford is just a piano man. Abraham was just a nomad. Moses was just a guy with a stutter. Gideon's family was the lowest in the family of Manasseh and Gideon was the most insignificant in his father's house. David was just a shepherd. The apostles were just 12 ordinary men. St. Peter was just a fisherman. And our Lord himself? Many saw him as just a carpenter's son.

God will furnish us with all that is good that we might do his will and will carry out what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ. It is God, as well, who works in each one of us for his good purpose and his grace is sufficient.

It's ok Piano Man. You can come sit by me. If you don't mind sitting by a nobody. We will be joined by all the apologist and Pope defenders out there that are just ordinary Catholics. All the people who have entered into public discourse whose background of study was just literature, or music or art  or journalism and not theology. Just moms, just dads, just brothers and sisters in Christ. Knowing that we are blessings to each other. The others, they can throw shade if they want to. Funny thing, but many of those who are so strongly against Pope Francis, who call those who defend him popalators? Who try to diminish and dismiss by throwing shade? Not long ago when they thought there was something in it for them, when they thought they had a Pope who would champion their idea of what the church should be, when they thought they had a Pope that was worthy they sang a different tune. They told us to love the Pope no ifs, ands or buts and quoted the words of Pope Pius X on loving the Pope. Funny thing that.

And how must the Pope be loved? Non verbo neque lingua, sed opere et veritate. [Not in word, nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth - 1 Jn iii, 18] When one loves a person, one tries to adhere in everything to his thoughts, to fulfill his will, to perform his wishes. And if Our Lord Jesus Christ said of Himself, "si quis diligit me, sermonem meum servabit," [if any one love me, he will keep my word - Jn xiv, 23] therefore, in order to demonstrate our love for the Pope, it is necessary to obey him.

Therefore, when we love the Pope, there are no discussions regarding what he orders or demands, or up to what point obedience must go, and in what things he is to be obeyed; when we love the Pope, we do not say that he has not spoken clearly enough, almost as if he were forced to repeat to the ear of each one the will clearly expressed so many times not only in person, but with letters and other public documents; we do not place his orders in doubt, adding the facile pretext of those unwilling to obey - that it is not the Pope who commands, but those who surround him; we do not limit the field in which he might and must exercise his authority; we do not set above the authority of the Pope that of other persons, however learned, who dissent from the Pope, who, even though learned, are not holy, because whoever is holy cannot dissent from the Pope. -Pope Pius X

For what it's worth.

By the way, everybody who sits with me has to put up with that free association thing I have with music. So we're going to enjoy some Billy Joel. It's that quirky thing I got going on. Nobody says that Catholics can't be a little bit quirky.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Eerie and Ominous Seagulls at the Vatican

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's some birds in the air over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it's time we stop, children, What's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

You know, when a flock of seagulls mounts a protest of the Pope on New Year's Eve it must certainly be a sign of something going down. A sign that we got to beware.

Not the band.

Actual birds. Although there was a band called the Birds, not them either. A literal flock of birds from the Laridae family. This breaking news was brought to us courtesy of Lifesite News. Thank goodness for them because otherwise we may have never been aware. Other news sources have not even reported on the highly organized protest action. Those who defend the Pope most certainly would conspire to bury such breaking news.

The headline reads 'Eerie and ominous' sign appears as Pope Francis visits Vatican Nativity. The article reports.

At exactly the same time as the Pope left St. Peter’s Basilica and walked to the crèche in St. Peter’s Square, a squabble of about 500 seagulls suddenly flew up from behind the basilica and circled around the crèche.
They swarmed above the nativity scene, squawking and squealing for about the exact time it took for the Pope to walk from the basilica to the crèche. They then disappeared into a night sky lit up by an almost full moon.

Gives you chills. They posted this picture of the protesting birds.

I don't see the seagulls either. That doesn't negate the fact that we better stop, children, and listen to what's going down. Apparently the birds were protesting Pope Francis himself and this pontificate in which degradation and squalor continue in the Church, as well as the lurid nature of this year's Nativity Scene. This is truly eerie and ominous stuff. The birds at the Vatican, especially the seagulls, have been trying to tell us something for years and we just haven't been listening or maybe there has just been a deliberate attempt in the Catholic news media to keep us from knowing the truth.

Don't believe me? Well, I've done some research on bird activity at the Vatican going back several years and have connected the dots.

Pope Benedict XVI and the Peace Doves
In January, 2012 Pope Benedict released a peace dove from the a window of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican. Begun by Pope St. John Paul II, the gesture has become a yearly custom of the Popes. The bird once released turned around and flew back in the window. Just over a year later Pope Benedict resigned and Pope Francis became our new pope. Surely, that bird was trying to tell us about the uncertain future that we would soon face under the pontificate of the new Pope and flew back into the window in abject terror. Never mind that birds are often confused when being released from windows. It is irrelevant, as well, that the same thing occurred to Pope John Paul II in 2005 and to Pope Benedict the previous year. It is only in hindsight that we can see that a bird doing what  is natural for a bird to do was actually an omen. Which is why it went unnoticed at the time, merely an amusing mishap.

Pope Benedict XVI and the Seagull
The following year, January 2013 Pope Benedict again released the customary peace dove from the window at the Vatican. This time the bird flew off only to be viciously attacked by a seagull. Again the story was reported as merely a kerfuffle. Again, in hindsight, we can see it for the sign that it was. Just weeks later Pope Benedict resigned from the papacy and Pope Francis became our new pope. Surely this seagull was telling us that there would be "no peace for you" during the coming pontificate. Never mind that you can see the seagull outside the window before the Pope releases the dove and it may have been unfortunate timing to release a dove right in front of a predator. Who would have thought that a seagull just might attack another bird that it has preyed upon and eaten in the past. Again, birds acting like birds went ignored. Not unlike the lone seagull that whacked Tippi Hedren in the head in the movie "The Birds" a bird acting like a bird can portend a coming momentous and calamitous event.

Conclave Seagull
Less than 2 months later, in March of 2013, we have another bird trying to tell us something. During the conclave that gathered to elect the new pope a seagull perched atop the chimney of the Sistine Chapel as people waited to see the smoke emitting from that chimney, letting let us know if a new pope had been elected. Never mind that seagulls and other birds probably perch there on a regular basis. This bird was there to tell us something. Most likely he was there to warn us concerning the new pope. His message being that the sole purpose of the new pontificate would be to blow smoke up our butts. According to the bird himself on one of his many twitter feeds he seems more interested in his 15 minutes of fame.

Angry Birds at the Vatican
January, 2014. Pope Francis releases two peace doves from the window of the Vatican. Both doves are again attacked as happened the previous year, this time by a seagull and a crow. Many are now getting the message and see this as a omen of the pontificate of Pope Francis. There are many blogs written concerning the significance of this most recent attack. This was the last time the Pope released the peace doves. The following year he decided to release balloons instead, effectively silencing the birds and the message they have been sent to bring to us.

That is until now when the seagulls decided to rise up and speak truth to power with an eerie and ominous sign.

You can judge for yourselves. I am just reporting the facts. But don't come crying to me when we look out the window and see this

The birds are determined to be heard. 

There's something happening here
What it is, is becoming more clear
There's some birds in the air over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it's time we stop, children, What's that sound
Everybody look what's going down


tongue-in-cheek: with ironic or flippant intent; figure of speech used to imply that a statement or other production is humorously or otherwise not seriously intended; a statement witty in some way, particularly to the speaker. The tone or the context of the statement may make it to be taken seriously by the listener.

Sometimes when you write a tongue-in-cheek satirical piece there are those who don't recognize it as such, even though it seems to the writer that the exaggeration in order to expose the truly ridiculous is quite obvious. Anyone who has read my blogs knows that I am a defender of Pope Francis. Hopefully my readers will recognize the tone of this post and not worry that I have gone the way of those who once defended the Pope but now search for the smallest thing with which to criticize him. Some may worry however that since I haven't written in awhile I may have spent that time struggling with my loyalty to Pope Francis and decide to go over to the dark side. Although that seems to be a popular trend recently with some fairly well known apologist.

I began writing this particular blog "A Catholic Mind - For What It's Worth" so I could investigate stories that I thought were being used to manipulate. Which is why I chose the lyric from the Buffalo Springfield song "For What It's Worth"... there's something happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear. Everybody look what's going down as my tag line. Because I wanted to show people that we really should investigate certain stories more fully before we allow ourselves to be emotionally manipulated into making a negative judgement. Especially when that judgement concerns the Vicar of Christ. In my opinion Lifesite News took a story about birds being birds and turned it into a negative critique of the pope.

Here's what Lifesite News didn't tell you. The city of Rome (not just the Vatican) has a serious seagull problem. They really are a nuisance there. It is a common sight in the evening to see a flock of seagulls take flight. They are going after a feast of bats. They are seagulls being seagulls.  When that so happens to occur when the Pope was out and about it becomes an eerie and ominous sign.

It is a serious matter to turn the minds of the people against a Pope, regardless of whether he is a good one or not. We should pray for those who do so. Especially when they are more interested in the sensational rather than the truth.When reading such stories, before you get chills from the ominous and eerie you might want to check it out. Or you could follow the advice of another Flock of Seagulls.

And I ran
I ran so far away
I just ran
I ran all night and day
I couldn't get away.

As the last line says, sometimes we can't get away from it. But then there is always someone like me who will just write a blog about it.

For What It's Worth