Friday, October 19, 2018

I think I made someone angry (but first, let's try to rescue an orchid)



I am quite stupid -- you should know this about me right away. In fact I tell the good Lord this all the time, and I am only occasionally guilty of false modesty. For example, regarding the corporal works of mercy -- feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and so on -- I tell the Lord, "I have not done a single corporal work of mercy in my life, but I am very stupid, so you must now show me exactly how I may do them. One can't simply walk into godforsaken neighborhoods with fruit, or into prisons and say, here I am to help. Although saints do (see Mother Antonia Brenner, here)."

And God has been kind and has shown me, plainly. Recently when I was at the church, on my way out of the narthex, a man who helps run the St. Vincent de Paul society happened to be busy in the St. Vincent de Paul kitchen, arranging foodstuffs. So I knocked on the half-open door and talked to him for a few minutes. It was exactly as if God were saying, This is the St. Vincent de Paul kitchen, d-----t. I learned, "We could use more canned fruit." So I bought some.

It's the same with orchids. A few years ago I bought this Maxillaria sanguinea, above. It flowered precisely once. One time, one flower. When well kept, the plant should display a knot of little green bulbs sprouting fine, lush grassy foliage, with soon an abundance of full-lipped, maroon lady's-slipper-like blooms. After its first and only show, I put mine outside on the porch of my apartment for the summer. Rain, fresh air, and humidity are said to be good for orchids. In the dark wee hours of one summer night, I heard in my sleep a strange, juicy, loud sort of crunch-croil-crunch. The next morning, all but two of M. sanguinea's plump little green bulbs were gone. Eaten.

I thought I might nurse it back to life, and so after some dithering I eventually planted it in a large safe pot with some other specimens, in fact the usual supermarket Phalaenopsis. The poor remnant stayed barely alive, but that was all. I never dreamed that M. sanguinea, trim fine boatmight have different watering needs than three huge Phalaenopsis floating like ocean liners in that sea of processed bark chips (which I might douse at the kitchen sink once in ten days) that inexperienced growers like to use for all orchid re-potting needs.

Today was the day the light broke. Of course. They're different. Pot it in some tiny pot and water it much more often. Who knows what might happen? D-------t?

Who knows what might happen, also, with the angry lady who snapped, via email, "Please take me off your subscription list. Thank you."

This has nothing to do with orchids.

Regarding this I thought, mercy, good woman, I have no control over anyone's mailing list. I got on it myself months ago, I think by saying "Oh! Sure," to some person I actually knew and was speaking to, in another room just off the narthex. It happened that when I had a question for the people on that list this week, about how one does that peculiarly modern corporal work of mercy which may encapsulate and promote all others -- I'm talking about praying to end abortion -- I reasoned, Why not ask them all in general? And I plainly wrote,

Does anyone have any experience just going by yourself to pray outside a PP* site? I went to the Flossmoor location one Saturday recently because the 40 Days for Life site showed someone else had signed on for that hour. When I got there, a man was there praying but he said he had just stopped by to pray because he had the time. Whoever was scheduled didn't show. 

A little later, some parishioners from St. Laurence O Toole arrived and said it was better not to go to PP clinics alone for personal security reasons.  

 The PP clinic on LaGrange is 5 minutes from my house and I could easily spend an hour there on my days off (which are random because of my work schedule). Does anyone do this or is it not safe? I found the experience of praying at the Flossmoor site rewarding and I am just looking for other thoughts.

And I received a few helpful answers and then, today, the cold command. Take me off your mailing list.

Who knows, it might not be my short letter to forty or so acquaintances and strangers which prompted that command. Perhaps somewhere in the addressee list is someone else whose name my lady suddenly caught sight of, and remembered she loathes. Or maybe my lady is just busy cleaning up her spam folder, and is still polite enough to say "Please" and "Thank you" about it.

Or else she is outraged at the idea of anyone's standing athwart, even in prayer, a woman's "right to choose." For myself, I would not even argue that point anymore, nor any of the usual points regarding abortion really. The legal and political ships have long since sailed. The commercial ship too. You cannot live in the modern world and not support companies who support Planned Parenthood. Not to mention your taxes. It's almost comical. I go to the grocery store after an hour of vigil and find even my eggs have a "Susan G. Komen for the Cure" stamp on them. So I am there outside PP* for me. I'm not completely stupid. All I can do is eventually stand before God and, when he asks me, "What did you do about the worst evil of your time and place?" say, Well Lord, I stood and prayed outdoors.

There were about fifteen of us. Quite a few people driving by on a chilly, blowy Friday honked their horns and flashed a thumbs-up. Later I got an update through my email telling me that this morning was less busy than the usual Fridays, but that Tuesdays seem to be picking up. Perhaps the women are being forewarned.

Shall I cheerfully report all that to the email list, and accidentally forget to expunge my lady's name beforehand? That seems rather mean and self-regarding, perhaps prayer is better for her and me too.


*Planned Parenthood 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Laughing in five hundred years

It's always a good day, don't you think, when you learn one interesting thing and one annoying thing, and both from the same source (Msgr Swetland at Relevant Radio)?

The interesting thing was that "my yoke is easy and my burden light" means that what you are inclined to do or have a vocation for, is the easy yoke and light burden. Now I don't think the church marks out every old predilection we enjoy as a vocation, certainly not, say, bank robbery. Blogging, maybe. I'm pretty sure there are only two major ones, either marriage or the religious life; but still the yoke as the hand-carved harness fitted to the individual oxen, and therefore very right to wear, is an enlightening image. We wear that yoke in order to better follow Christ, yes?

The annoying thing was the claim that one must accept all the gospel, even the aspects one doesn't like. All right, but it seems to me the instant political slant fails here. "The leftist Catholic social justice warrior must accept that abortion is wrong." "The conservative Latin Mass wannabe must accept social justice, a living wage and so on." I notice that our good radio host did not mention leftists also accepting the death penalty, which the Church tries to avoid but admits is sometimes correct. I hope he would not simply say "Pope Francis changed that," because I don't think the dear Holy Father can.

But that is a digression. What annoys me about the argument that You Conservatives Must Accept Social Justice because it's Gospel is that it's not. There is no way the monstrous egg of "social justice" can be disentangled from the modern, deeply anti-religious and yes Marxist nest where it was laid. Sell what thou hast and give to the poor and come and follow me is Gospel and is a command given to the individual. It tends to his conversion. Social justice looks at people as things, and cannot help but say instead "this thing, x, has too much and has no right to it; it must be confiscated for the good of the poor -- more things -- so we get justice." Running through it all is original sin itself. The claiming of the divine prerogative, to judge right from wrong regardless of following Christ ourselves.

Even so holy a person as Mother Teresa includes the great modernist social justice mistake in her Constitution for her Missionaries.* Here is someone who lived a life of total love given out to the poorest of the poor, to the dying and the sick in Calcutta and now, all over the world. But her charter says, "no one has a right to a superfluity of wealth while others are dying of starvation."

And there is the social justice rub. Who ever said anyone had a right to their wealth? In order to make this judgment, and condemn the money, the money had to be earned first, by people whom Mother Teresa did not know and would not have condemned had she merely met them on the street. And the background for her ire has to be the universal human conviction (my economics book bluntly said "peasant," not human,) that the rich man is rich at my expense: he has not created, but has robbed me. If, say, Bill Gates' wealth is therefore a wrong, then there are two options, to confiscate it, or to see that a world is built such that no one else is able to amass wealth. Neither reaction is Gospel or useful for filling the stomachs of the poor. A third option, to preach the Gospel to Bill Gates such that he and his wife convert, and give less of their money to promote abortion, has apparently not been tried with much success. 

No, I don't have to accept that social justice, modernly defined, is in the Gospel. That kind of justice never involves love but always rather committees deciding who is to be hunted and how to divide up their things. If the Lord ever said "From each according to his ability and to each according to his need," I would be glad to know chapter and verse. Far from it, I think he told a story in which the owner of the vineyard asked, "Am I not allowed to do as I wish with my own money?" You see that's the odd truth: the Bible is perhaps "conservative" all the way through, which is why the modern world, having crowned man lord of all, hates it. And yet, as someone once said of the U.S. Constitution, it may be that the principles it conserves are very radical indeed.

I learned one more thing but it's so unsavory that all you can do is shut the laptop and go to bed, saying to yourself "it's too much information and I'm sure randy stuff went on during the Renaissance too." Some aged and horridly elfin-looking cardinal was presiding over a (homosexual) sex and drugs party in the Vatican when a guest overdosed and the cops were called. They saw to it that the cardinal 'skedaddled' before arrests were made. If only these men also patronized great art, people could laugh in five hundred years.     

*See Something Beautiful For God, Malcolm Muggeridge, 1971 (1986).   

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Still sitting at the counter at Schwab's

Oh God. I have this thing where I just balk at shelling out $27 a month to "join" wonderful Bishop Barron's Word on Fire Institute. Granted, that's a cheap fee for all the scholarship and the on-line video wizardry he and his team do, but still. I think at bottom we nobodies are just waiting for our blogs to be discovered, so we can become "Fellows," never mind forming real communities and actually meeting each other, like, in our houses and stuff. (What a bore. "No American feels really free unless he is alone." I read that somewhere recently.) And all the Fellow positions have been filled, by Ph.Ds who are already famous anyway.

Isn't that a terrible attitude? What about the joy of hidden-ness and humility, a la the Virgin Mary and all the saints? Then again, what about other paths and streams of scholarship, besides those laid out by the Word on Fire team? Not that the team aren't very, very good and noble.

But one has to weigh it all. Thirty bucks a month, for there must be taxes, is thirty bucks a month.  What do you really want, and how can you really serve? Is your "community" not exactly where you are now? -- and not trapped in the dream of influencing and catching the eye of someone else, who cannot say to you, he that finds his life shall lose it, and he that loses his life for me will find it?
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