Thursday, March 12, 2015

“Lord, who throughout these forty days ...”

Without warning, we here at man with black hat went on hiatus, for reasons to be explained herein. So much has happened in the Church and in the world during this time, much of which in the former realm of a most contentious nature, to the extent that this writer was at a loss to know where or how to begin. And yet, this period of reflection (not to mention several spirited discussions in social media) has allowed for some conclusions.

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We are ambassadors for Christ,
God making his appeal through us.
We beseech you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.
For our sake he made him to be sin
who knew no sin,
so that in him we might become
the righteousness of God.

Working together with him, then,
we entreat you not to accept
the grace of God in vain.
For he says,

“At the acceptable time I have listened to you,
and helped you on the day of salvation.”

Behold, now is the acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.

(IICor 5:20-6:2)

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This passage of Scripture, heard twenty-two days ago, marked the beginning of the great penitential season of the western Church known as “Quadragesima” (Latin for “Forty Days”), or in English as “Lent.” While not a holyday of obligation, the faithful need little encouragement to sanctify this day that is Ash Wednesday, an occasion highlighted at Holy Mass by the imposition of ashes on the forehead by the priest, with the words:

“Memento homo,
    “Remember man,
quia pulvis es,
    that thou art dust
et in pulverem
    and unto dust
    thou shalt return.”

Even those late for Mass are known to come to the sacristy afterwords and prevail upon the good Father for ashes. If nothing else, it is their mark, their witness to the world. With the explosion of the internet and social media, especially in the last five years, it is also the occasion for a "selfie," a self-taken photo using a cellphone and posted online. Some would call this an extension of that witness, while others would decry yet another exercise in self-aggrandizement.

This year's penitential season marks a change for your truly. Under the current discipline in the western Church, in addition to those fourteen years of age and older abstaining from meat on Fridays, those between the ages of fourteen and fifty-nine must observe a fast on both Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, eating only one main meal each day, with the other two meals adding up to less than the main one, and with not in-between meal snacking. Well, I'M SIXTY! That means I don't have to. But truth be told, not only do I observe the Friday abstinence for nearly all Fridays of the year, but I only eat one meal of any size in a day. On weekends I only eat two, brunch and dinner. So, I probably won't know the difference, even thought there's supposed to be a difference.

And so it goes.

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This writer would concede to his readership of falling under a dry spell of late; for the past several months, in fact. At the end of every year, this venue is the occasion for looking back at the year gone by, for anything that might have been overlooked, or would give inspiration to a broader view of the time passed. Not only that, but the opportunity was missed to feature the best of the Super Bowl commercials, and this past year had some real doozies. (Heh, maybe later.)

The prospects for inspiration have been less than encouraging. There has been a considerable drop in readership here, consistently less than half of what it would have been just three years ago. One can labor for hours with research, fine tuning a written work as if to craft a timeless sculpture or a great symphony, only to be outweighed by a blistering-if-warmed-over attack on some errant prelate by a lone (and usually anonymous) crusader out to save the Church from everyone but himself, or the latest comings-and-goings of a long and tedious line of celebrity converts. One of them even has a reality television show on cable. Personally, I just can't imagine the appeal. One can avoid any question of the sincerity of the object of this adulation, safely assured that the angels and saints rejoice at the homecoming of the least among these, and still wonder ...

Is it about the conversion, or the converted?

I'm a cradle Catholic. I was baptized at five weeks of age, and while I may have wandered a bit some years ago, I never really left. What could I offer this easily distracted audience looking for the fresh and zealous voice that is the newly saved?

Then there is the lightning rod that has become the papacy. Most people think it began with the election of Pope Francis, but for those with any semblance of an attention span it actually began up to a year earlier, as reports of tension within the halls of the Vatican, and the challenges faced by Pope Benedict from within, were beginning to come to the fore. His resignation two years ago, and the election of the Argentine archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, a successor to Peter from the other side of the world (aside from all else that has been said, and just about all of it has been said) brought a paradigm shift to the nature of the papacy. As I wrote last May on the anniversary of his election:

All told, it should come as no surprise to anyone, that the first Pope from the other side of the world, is going to have a different view of it. The same could be said of anyone coming from the other side of most anything.

But there's more to it than that, obviously. And through the daily dish of what Pope Francis said and when, and what he meant and didn't mean, and what is out of context and what translation was mistranslated -- Whew! We beg the question.

What is it about Catholic new media lately that everybody feels obliged to go completely off the rails?

This writer was once described by a leading aggregator of Catholic online news as “bringing sanity to contentious issues.” Such is very high praise given the source, obviously. And yet, who the hell wants to read anything with "sanity," when they can peruse the inflammatory jibes of this very popular and much-published blogger, or that highly successful video-based apostolate who is frequently depicted at odds with him, or the other combined news periodical and video outlet for the Latin-Mass-or-die crowd, and get their daily dose of dirty laundry and d**k measuring to last the whole day?

And now, even the high-class ladies at Gloria.TV News are getting in on the act. This has been a source of great heartbreak for this Black-Hatted Buckaroo, for you see, I have long had a very platonic yet secret crush on commentator Doina Buzut. (There. I said it.) Every day I would wait for her latest edition, wondering how she would braid her long and lovely dark hair. Would it be one single braid hanging to the left? Or maybe to the right? Or maybe she would play it safe, going for the classic pair of matching braids, one on each side? Then her sister Lucia shows up, often for days, even weeks at a time. The newscasts have lately included for most editions, a most strident editorial position (and they're usually right), but Doina will do so with such finesse, that you cannot help but wonder if the voice of an angel carries the message from on High. Her sister? Well, I cannot be unkind, for I must assume she means well. And one can only imagine the pressure to compete with … well, you know.

For the record, this writer has corresponded with Gloria.TV on more than one occasion, and have carried their daily news in the sidebar of this venue for the past several years. They have also featured this little corner of the Catholic blogosphere on more than one occasion. They also appear to laugh at my jokes, which renders this hopelessly hopeless romantic particularly vulnerable. For this we give a Tip of the Black Hat to the Buzut sisters (yes, both of them), and while their vast collection of video material is the occasional setting for various pseudo-Catholic, schismatic, or otherwise rogue sects or movements, warranting caution for the discerning viewer, their vast majority of excellent material, both of their own production and that of others, still warrants our recommendation, and Gloria.TV remains an item on our blogroll. (See "The Usual Suspects" to the right on the web edition.)

But the rest of you don't get off so easily.

The majority of anonymous crusaders, who hide behind their pseudonyms as they castigate the reputations of others, perhaps deserving, perhaps not, are nothing more than lily-livered cowards. Theirs in most cases is not a fear of reprisal from their local bishop (which occasionally does happen, admittedly), but the smug satisfaction that they are getting away with something, like the obnoxious little boy down the street who eggs your house in the middle of the night, and if found will hide behind mommy's skirts like a little girl. There is no heroism, no virtue, no self-sacrifice in defense of the True Faith, only the exalted view of one's place in the world, generating more heat than light. They could never be the harbinger for the reform of the Church, as they can barely see the need to reform themselves.

But alas, fools that we are, we will flock to their revelations like flies to a road kill.

This writer said all he needed to say about Pope Francis at the end of his first year. There will be more to say at the end of the second year. But at the end of the day, most of us have to admit the awful truth. We don't want to be informed about our Faith. We don't care about the spread of the Gospel. We hold little stock in the promise that Christ made, that He would be with His Bride, our Holy Mother Church, until the end of time. Oh no, we find no solace in that. We would just as soon put two pit bulls in a cage and let them fight it out until the last one is standing.

(WARNING: We are about to name names. We would tell no lies, we would harm no reputations, we would say nothing that the subjects in question could not honestly say about themselves. And with that, we continue ...)

We want to see Mark Shea castigate the Republican Party for their inconsistent claim to the pro-life cause (and the worst part is, he may be right), or Michael Voris of ChurchMilitant.TV give us the latest on the antics of the "Church of Nice" while not hesitating to name names (and let's give him credit for standing behind it), or Michael Matt and The Remnant or John Vennari of Catholic Family News, together or separately, go on an even longer rant than the other Michael, about how this Pope is one step away from spouting heresy because he seems to be friendly with those prelates who do (which isn't encouraging, but isn't quite the same thing either). We want to see the breakaway traditionalists of the Society of Saint Pius the Tenth come within inches of reconciliation with the Apostolic See in Rome, only to back out of the deal at the last moment, saying they'll never give in, even as their own fifth column decries them for selling out, even before they get up the nerve to go all the way with it. We want to hear more about the rampant spread of clown Masses, which haven't been nearly as rampant as they were twenty or thirty years ago. We want to hear about the decreasing number of priests, even as those numbers in some parts of the world, including our own, are on the INcrease.

We want this. We want more of this. GIVE US DIRTY LAUNDRY!

And in the darkness of the abyss, beyond the physical limitations of time and space, a war is waged between Heaven and Hell. Amidst the forces of evil, the great Prince of Lies employs every trick in his arsenal here on Earth below, using even the piety of the elect against them, and against each other.

He laughs, he taunts the Father in Heaven to which he once pledged his loyalty before his betrayal. He laughs for he knows that he is winning.

Or is he?

Oh, we of little faith. We who believe that God Himself has lost control of earthly events. We will deluge the world with our pious platitudes and our demonstrative rosary-wrangling, while secretly wishing the divine wrath upon those who disagree with us ever so slightly in the denizens of Facebook. Our "discussions" of all various and sundry topics -- they're never "debates," mind you, for we are much to sophisticated and hoity-toity to admit to stooping to such scrapping, even while we, uh, scrap -- will eventually metastasize into the same diatribe as we coughed up two or three days ago. It is the endless polemic, feeding on itself until exhausted, only to start anew with the next topic, whatever it may be.

We will make quick work of our enemy. Indeed, we have met the enemy, and he is … us.

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There would be none of that favorite pastime of the punctually pious, that of "giving up blogging for Lent." Maybe one day this lone and (possibly) original voice will be heard, not just one time, but another time, and another after that. Until then, it is discouraging, it is disheartening, to be the lone tree in the forest that no one hears falling, but this is a voice which cries out:

For Zion's sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest,
until her vindication goes forth as brightness,
and her salvation as a burning torch.
(Isaiah 62:1)

We are on a mission from God. It is admittedly of late, a mission at rest; beaten, broken, beleaguered by the obligations of work and home and service to others in real life. And yet it is not just our own. We are ALL on a mission from God. We are marching toward Heaven, eyes straight ahead, following the Cross that leads the way.

Until we build Jerusalem, we press on.

Here endeth the rant.

1 comment:

JBB said...

Glad you're back! Thanks for writing. There are those for whom it may be advisable to give up blogging for Lent; the MWBH isn't one, as I see it.