Saturday, January 03, 2015

Random New Year Thoughts

This four-day weekend after a high-octane December seems a good opportunity to regale the world with my ruminations.

-- 2015 is my 20th year living in Idaho.  That is almost half my life.  But, while you can take the girl out of Southern California, you can't take Southern California out of the girl.  We simply did not have winter in SoCal, where 50 degrees is bundle-up weather.  Winter is therefore a great trial for me, even after all these years, many of which were in the Idaho Panhandle, where ice and snow are far more plentiful than in the Treasure Valley.

-- Given which, I would need a damn good reason to venture out in freezing weather for New Year's.  Which brings us to Boise's answer to the Times Square Ball Drop: the New Year's Eve Potato Drop. We do not have a Times Square or a ball.  What we have got is a giant foam potato hanging from a boom crane, lit by two or three blue and green laser lights; a guy in a potato suit; and, presumably, to gin up the applause, a bottomless supply of booze and perhaps other, less legal stimulants.  When I first saw a picture of the potato on the news, I was struck by its almost exact resemblance to the evidence in a prison contraband case I just handled.  Sorry, but this does not constitute a damn good reason sufficient to justify braving the cold on New Year's.

-- Challis, Idaho started out the new year with a 4.9 magnitude earthquake.  It was reportedly felt clear in the North End of Boise.  I live in Boise, but not in the North End.  I did not feel anything.  An earthquake, for those who have never been in one, is quite unmistakable, no matter how weak.  It is qualitatively different from, say, construction in the area or a heavy truck driving by.  If you're not sure whether you have ever felt an earthquake, you probably haven't.

-- My patroness for 2015 is St. Ann, mother of the Mother of God.  Although she is my namesake, I have neglected her most of my life.  I have been thinking about her lately, and at midnight adoration on New Year's I started a novena to her.  While preparing our New Year's Day dinner, one of my lay Dominican sisters showed me a little statue she acquired at a thrift store.  It was St. Ann instructing her immaculate daughter on Scripture.   A sign?

-- As we enter the new year, it is increasingly clear that the majority of priests and bishops in our time are hirelings.  Sorry, but there is no getting around this and it's time to face up to it.  These hirelings -- most of whom were ordained in the '60s, '70s and '80s -- bear the heavy responsibility for having spent the last half-century (a) trying to transform the Church into something entirely unrecognizable from what she had previously been, and (b) propagandizing the laity into thinking this is a good thing.  Like the process by which a tree trunk is transformed into a piece of stone by the gradual replacement of its organic components with minerals, this attempt to re-invent the Church has transformed the hearts of her members into stone by gradually replacing their Catholic faith with the minerals of socialism, pop psychology, materialism, narcissism and a host of other evils, until they no longer recognize their plight.  Fortunately, most of the current generations of hirelings have not got many more active years left; but, absent an intervention by the Holy Spirit -- which we are not close to deserving -- it will take a long time to undo their damage.

-- If you don't know how to recognize a hireling, here are just a few signs: (1) he can't stick to the Missal at Mass, or to the forms of other Sacraments, but must always interject his own comments and/or improvisations.  (2) He preaches errors from the pulpit.  (If you can't recognize errors preached from the pulpit, get yourself a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and get busy.)  (3) He treats being a priest like an ordinary job.  (4) He devotes little time to prayer or actual ministry; he seldom darkens the door of a church or chapel, or makes himself available to administer the Sacraments.  The former deficiency will be harder for the laity to discern than the latter; but if he denigrates or makes fun of popular prayers and devotions like the Rosary, that is a clue.  (5) He has a great love of humanity in general, but little use for human beings in particular; therefore, he treats particular people with coldness and even rudeness.

-- In 2015, Benedict XVI will turn 88.  If he dies while Francis is still the reigning Pope, I fear what will happen to the liturgical reforms he began.

-- Shortly before the close of the old year, I started reading The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War.  Of course, it is a pro-Confederate book, which is what makes it politically incorrect, since conventional "wisdom" has the Confederacy pegged as a bunch of racist neanderthals.  The book makes some good points and gives rise to some considerations that give one pause.  For one thing -- and despite embarrassing sentiments like the one articulated by Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens to the effect that the Confederate government was founded upon the "great truth" that the Negro is not equal to the White Man -- Dixie was not All About Slavery, any more than the North was All About Abolition.  Dixie, for all her faults, was also about a lot of things the world is much poorer for having less of: honor; chivalry; faith; subsidiarity; the worth of the individual and the family.  The North, on the other hand, was already imbued with the pragmatic utilitarianism that now dominates our own age -- thanks in large part to the North's conquest of the the South.  To this conquest we may also, I think, trace the destruction of the several states as buffers and defenses against an overreaching and domineering federal government, to whose influence no aspect of our lives is now immune.  And then there is the concept of total war, as put into practice by Union generals, most notably Grant, Sherman and Sheridan.  The evil, racist, backward, slave-holding South, on the other hand, did not practice total war.  Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee rejected the idea of deliberately making war on civilians.

-- It is worth noting, by the way, that in his celebrated and unabashedly pro-Union series on the Civil War, Ken Burns was careful to make clear the unpopularity in the North of abolition as a cause to fight for.  As for Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation (which did not in fact free the slaves), it was decried in the North, not merely by Jefferson Davis.

-- Speaking of Jefferson Davis, have you never been struck by his close physical resemblance to Abraham Lincoln?

-- And speaking of Lincoln: recall that he said, in his Second Inaugural, that the Civil War was God's judgment on the entire country for the sin of slavery.  About 620,000 American soldiers died in the Civil War -- almost a quarter of a million more than died in World War II.  In this country, we enter the new year stained with the blood of nearly as many aborted babies as the total number of dead from all countries in World War II.  If it is true that 620,000 dead was the price we paid for the institution of slavery, what must be the punishment that awaits us for abortion? 

-- And then there are the micro-conflicts.  A small incident over the holidays got me to thinking about what it really means to win or to lose.  There are times when one wins by losing, and times when one loses by winning.  For example, if you engage in a contest of wills with someone who truly wants the best for you, you cannot win except by losing.  Of course, you must be able to recognize those persons who truly want the best for you; and the key is to know what it means for someone to want the best.  It does not mean what a lot of people think it means.  It means the opposite of what the world means.  Ultimately, it means that person wants you to be eternally happy in heaven, even at the expense of your temporal and transitory happiness on earth.

May your New Year be filled with the best, and may it lead you to eternal happiness.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

First Post of 2015...

...just to get it over with.  Not feeling especially inspired at 11:34 p.m.

Happy New Year!