Time and money

I took today off work. Not yesterday and not tomorrow, just today, Wednesday, December 29. This was because everyone on my team can’t be out all at once, and other people had claimed the days adjacent to Christmas and New Year’s. But it worked out beautifully. I worked two days, I’m taking one day off, tomorrow I’ll get off work early, and Friday is another off day, followed by the weekend. It’s an embarrassment of riches, and for the first time in months I’ve got time on my hands with nothing I need to be doing. I went to bed feeling no time pressure, and this morning woke up late and didn’t care. My wife and I took a leisurely walk in a lovely neighborhood here in town, then had a leisurely breakfast, then watched a leisurely Christmas movie.

Then we got dressed and went out to “paint the town,” as my wife likes to say, by which she means that we’re going shopping and we’re gonna buy stuff.

A few weeks ago I got word that I was getting a raise, which wasn’t unexpected; but I also learned that my salary was being adjusted in compensation for not having gotten a raise last year, in the midst of the pandemic. It ended up being a good year for the firm after all, so I got a healthy bump in pay. For the first time in our married lives, my wife and I can go out and buy pretty much whatever we want, without worrying about straining our budget.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean we’re rich. When I say “whatever we want,” it should be understood that we have modest tastes in “stuff.” But even modest stuff would strain our budget for most of our lives.

So we went out shopping, and I realized that I was more relaxed than I’ve been in maybe 30 years or more. We spent over an hour in the first store and I never felt the need to look at the time, nor at the price tags of the things she was buying.

She’s a gem and a jewel, and I’ve always felt sorry that we couldn’t afford nice things for her sake. She’s not high-maintenance by any stretch, but she likes to serve good food on nice dishes in a nice setting. We’ve somehow managed to do that, partly by racking up debt and partly by shopping in thrift and antique stores. We’d see something nice and imagine how it would look in our dining room the next time we celebrated someone’s birthday; and we might buy it, but not without qualms, a feeling that we were being irresponsible, that we’d never get out of debt at that rate, and so on.

She retired last year, a year earlier than expected. We both thought it would be a struggle once she retired; almost certainly we’d have to sell our house. Yet somehow — I’m not good enough at accounting to quite understand it — our money has been going farther than it did before. We hardly curbed our spending at all, yet like the Widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17), when our checkbook was balanced we found that it never ran dry.

She’s never said it but when we got married, I think she had high expectations for me. She thought I was exceptionally smart and could be anything, a lawyer, an accountant, a business executive, whatever, even though I was just a clerical worker in an office at the time. And I thought I would do better too. It was a challenge figuring out how I would manage college since I was already working full-time to support myself, but I imagined some solution would present itself. But it didn’t. I could go to school at night, and I did for a while. But I had no goal, I didn’t know what I was working towards other than just “getting a degree.” Meanwhile we got married and had our first child, and at some point I dropped out.

She supported that decision. Classes took so much time on top of working hours, plus homework, that life was just a blur of working and commuting to and from work and classes. I might have endured it had I known what I was working toward, but I had no idea whether it would bear fruit in the end or not.

So we got by on what I made in my clerical job, and once the kids reached school age she started working at their school, and we muddled through financially, paying private school tuition for both our kids from K through 12, and doing what we could to get them through college, mostly by borrowing money from relatives.

This afternoon while we were out shopping our older son called. He had been told that his company would be adjusting everyone’s salary to “market rates,” and he just found out what his adjustment would be: He received a raise of nearly 15%. Just recently he had been worrying that the skill set he was acquiring in his job might not be worth much on the open market; something about them doing things differently from other places, and his job title not fitting what other companies meant by the term. But evidently his firm thinks his skills have value in the market, since they felt the need to raise his pay or risk losing him. He’s not yet 30, but makes almost as much as I did when I was 50 (about five years ago).

Life is good sometimes, and this is one of those times. I feel like my life has been a long chain of worries and regrets. Though my marriage is undoubtedly happier than most (thanks be to God), I’ve regretted not being a better provider. Though my sons are good men, trustworthy and faithful (TBTG), I failed them in so many ways, and have never felt that I’d earned their respect.

In the car heading home a Pearl Jam song came on, a lovely ballad called “Just Breathe.” The first verse talks about the inevitability of death, and how he felt blessed to count the people he loved on both hands. Some people have only one such person (he said), others none. I quickly counted up two hands’ worth of people whom I loved and who loved me. Tears came to my eyes as I thought of my wife, sitting there next to me. While we were dating, I knew she was a jewel. She was pretty of course, with a big, radiant smile, but much more than that. She was the kindest and best friend I ever had, and it wasn’t long before I proposed.

She’s still the kindest and best friend I’ve had, and it’s impossible to express how glad I am that I chose her for my wife, and that she accepted me. And she’s still here, and at last we’ve attained happiness. Our sons are grown, we have a lovely home, and we’re free of worries about money. I’m calm inside.

If this were a movie we could put “THE END” on the screen and call it a happy ending. But life is real, and there’s suffering yet to come. She’ll die, or I will — I pray that she goes first since I don’t want to think of her grieving my death. (I’ve seen her grieve; she does it without shame or reserve and it’s heart-rending. Someone so kind and sympathetic really feels it when people suffer.) Our sons or our grandchildren may have problems, or there may be accidents or illness. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. But let tomorrow worry about itself (Mt. 6:34); for today, I’ll rest in the present. We’ve carried our crosses and borne our burdens, and now we’re reaping our rewards. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Merry Christmas.

They rule with cruelty and violence

It is characteristic of the way that arrogant people teach, that they do not know how to convey their knowledge humbly and cannot express straightforward truths straightforwardly. When they teach, it is clear from their words that they are placing themselves on a pinnacle and looking down on their pupils somewhere in the depths – pupils unworthy to be informed and scarcely even worth the bother of dominating.   

The Lord rightly admonished such people through the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel, saying You have ruled your flock cruelly and with violence. For they rule with cruelty and violence when they do not try to correct those under them with rational arguments but try to dominate them and crush them.

St. Gregory the Great, Moral Reflections on Job (ca. 591 A.D.)

Why Jesus Died on the Cross

Thomistic Philosophy Page

Every Good Friday, the question is raised again, “Why did Jesus have to die?”

A common answer, though not really the Catholic answer, says that Jesus is a substitute victim, an innocent, and infinitely holy person, the Son of God, who suffers the punishment which sinners deserve in their place, and thereby frees them from this just punishment they deserve. He thus allows them to receive a reward of eternal life they do not deserve. God the Father, being infinitely just, demands a sacrifice for sin, but also being infinitely merciful, sends His Son, Jesus, to offer the only sacrifice that could pay that infinite debt.

To many people skeptical of the Christian gospel, this makes no sense, and seems to show that God is cruel and arbitrary in dealing with offenses against himself, as well as being abusive toward His Son. It is reasonably asked, could not God just…

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Random Quotes

I know my body’s of so frail a kind,
As force without, fevers within can kill;
I know the heavenly nature of my mind,
But ’tis corrupted both in wit and will:

I know my Soul hath power to know all things,
Yet is she blind and ignorant in all;
I know I am one of Nature’s little kings,
Yet to the least and vilest things am thrall.

I know my life’s a pain and but a span,
I know my Sense is mocked with every thing:
And to conclude, I know myself a MAN,
Which is a proud, and yet a wretched thing.

~ John Davies (1569 –1626), Nosce Teipsum (Know Thyself).

* * *

This shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone. It spreads ruin in sacred and civil affairs, though some repeat over and over again with the greatest impudence that some advantage accrues to religion from it. “But the death of the soul is worse than freedom of error,” as Augustine was wont to say. When all restraints are removed by which men are kept on the narrow path of truth, their nature, which is already inclined to evil, propels them to ruin. Then truly “the bottomless pit” is open from which John saw smoke ascending which obscured the sun, and out of which locusts flew forth to devastate the earth. 

~ Gregory XVI, Encyclical Letter Mirai vos (1832).

* * *

But the people have not come back to him who struck them,
they have not come looking for the Lord of Hosts;
hence the Lord has cut head and tail from Israel,
palm branch and reed in a single day.
(The ‘head’ is the elder and the man of rank;
the ‘tail’, the prophet with lying vision.)
This people’s leaders have taken the wrong turning,
and those who are led are lost.
And so the Lord will not spare their young men,
will have no pity for their orphans and widows.
Since the whole people is godless and evil,
its speech is madness.
Yet his anger is not spent,
still his hand is raised to strike.

Yes, wickedness burns like a fire:
it consumes briar and thorn,
it sets the forest thickets alight
and columns of smoke go rolling upwards.
The land is set aflame by the wrath of the Lord of Hosts
and the people are food for the fire.
Not one spares his brother,
each devours the flesh of his neighbour.
On the right side they carve and still are hungry,
on the left they devour and are not satisfied.
Manasseh devours Ephraim, Ephraim Manasseh,
and both hurl themselves on Judah.
Yet his anger is not spent,
still his hand is raised to strike.

~ Isaiah 9:13-21.

Black Trump supporters

What is it about black Trump supporters that warms my heart?

I’m white and my parents separated (later divorced) when I was very young. My mom later took up with a black man, who eventually moved into our house and, years later, married her. I lived with my stepfather longer than my natural father, and he was more of a father to me than my “real” dad.

He had a son, my stepbrother, who lived with us part-time and became close to me and my sisters. We’re still in touch and see each other a few times a year (in non-pandemic years).

I had three girlfriends while growing up, none of whom were white. My first and only white girlfriend was in my twenties. After that I dated two other non-white women, the latter of whom I married.

A funny thing happened to me after I grew up: I became a Republican. Does this mean I became a racist? Race never entered the picture; it was all about abortion. When President Clinton was up for re-election, although I had voted for him the first time, I couldn’t do it again. So I voted Republican for the first time, but not for Bob Dole. I still had this anti-conservative residue in my psyche that made Dole unpalatable; he was too much of a typical, old conservative. So I voted for a black (and Catholic) Republican named Alan Keyes. Again, it was never about race.

Since then I’ve voted for every Republican presidential nominee, with one exception: Trump. I just couldn’t do it. He was too crude, lewd, and petty. Too playground-like with his name-calling and verbal pigtail-pulling. I didn’t sense any strong principles underlying his policy positions and his conduct. He struck me as a loose cannon, and with his hands on so much power, what might he not do?

Still, he was right when it came to immigration. On that topic as on others, he was crude and puerile. But he was the first serious presidential candidate who dared to say outright that immigration was out of control and needed to be reigned in; that it was absurd that anyone who managed to get across our border, legally or not, was entitled to benefits at our expense; which, logically, meant that the American taxpayer owes benefits to the citizens of any and every country on earth, so long as they manage to set foot on our soil.

I was also sick of being told that my position on immigration made me a racist. And it seemed to me that the main reason Trump was called racist was because of his immigration stance. So I sympathized with him.

For all that I don’t like Trump and his style and seeming lack of principle, I didn’t like Hillary’s style and lack of principle either. And Trump at least is willing to appoint people who are openly anti-abortion to cabinet positions and judgeships. So I didn’t cry when Trump won.

Lately I’ve been watching YouTube videos of black Trump supporters. Of course everyone has heard of Candace Owens and I like her alright. There are other black conservatives too who post videos regularly and have fairly large followings. But what I’m talking about now is interviews of black Republicans on the street and at rallies and so forth, as well as #WalkAway videos by black conservatives.

[NOTE: The original video linked in this post was removed from YouTube, I’m guessing as part of The Purge. I’m linking another video below that includes the same interview that was featured in the original one.]

They absolutely warm my heart. Why is that?

I think it stems from the constant accusations of racism against white conservatives by the media and academics. Trump’s election was a surprise largely because whites (though not only whites) were shy about expressing support for him, in polls and otherwise, so that his support was underestimated. People hide their support for Trump for fear of being harassed or boycotted, or of harm to their careers. This is because the overwhelming message from news outlets and social media is that Trump is racist, and therefore all other Republicans are too.

But along come these black Republicans, and put the lie to the accusation that only a racist could support Trump. The more blacks come out publicly in support of Trump, the harder it gets to support that insinuation.

There’s a second element to it as well. Since the ubiquitous message is that Republicans are racist, and 90% of blacks vote Democrat, it follows (or at least it feels like it does) that 90% of blacks think I’m a racist. Therefore black people are off-limits when it comes to discussing politics. They’re people with whom I need to tread lightly, not only because they oppose me politically, but because they themselves are the victims of the racism inherent (as they see it) in my political views.

What’s happening, of course, is that I’m racially profiling blacks. But is that due to my own racism? Not at all. It’s because of the message that has been drummed into me by the liberal media and academia, that the mere fact of my being a Republican will (or should) be deeply offensive to virtually any black person I might meet.

But if there are black Republicans, then this doesn’t hold water. This means there are blacks that I don’t have to tread lightly around, but can talk politics with like anyone else. Liberalism has created a situation in which I’m brainwashed into thinking of blacks as “other” — because they purportedly see me as “other” — but when I see a black Republican I no longer see “other,” I just see a guy. I can be myself with him because I don’t have to assume that he thinks I’m a racist.

And that’s a beautiful thing.

When I was a little white kid going to backyard barbecues at my black relatives’ house in South L.A., I never worried about this stuff. I had a black cousin close to my age, and we were like peas in a pod. I loved his mom and dad (my aunt and uncle) dearly. We might have a gang of 10 or 11 kids running around playing football or hide-and-seek, of which me and my sister were the only white kids, in a virtually all-black neighborhood, and the idea of race, or any kind of uneasiness on account of it, never entered our heads. Those ideas don’t occur naturally, they’re drummed into us.

Nowadays, it’s not conservatives who are doing the drumming.

The funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life

Education Department opens investigation into Princeton University after president deems racism ’embedded’ in the school

In short, the president of Princeton published an open letter in which, like a good politically correct academic, he self-accuses the university of being racist. So the Department of Education opened an investigation which, in part, seeks the names of “each person who has, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, been excluded from participation in, been denied the benefits of, or been subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance as a result of the Princeton racism or ‘damage’ referenced in the President’s Letter.”

‘Cause, you know, if they openly admit they’re racist, there’s a good chance they’ve broken some civil rights laws. If so, let’s nail ’em.

This is moving their abstract notions of racism into the world of the concrete. They’re put in the position of having to either prove they’re racist, in which case some people are going to be in real trouble; or admit that they can’t find evidence that their racism has affected anyone in concrete ways.

Thank you Lord for letting me see this day.

There be dragons

Politics is first philosophy for us. All real questions are political, and the liberal pretense of excluding questions of ultimate meaning from public deliberation only reinforces this habit of mind. We do not look or think beyond liberal order because for us there is no beyond. There be dragons.

Michael Hanby, “A More Perfect Absolutism,” First Things magazine, October 2016.

Courage and public witness

Went to confession for the first time since the lockdown. Wow!!

Later the same day, was walking into a store as a priest was walking out. “Hi, Father!” You don’t often see priests wearing their collars in public nowadays. Like policemen, I like to give them a little moral support when I do.

Afterwards the image of the Roman collar stuck in my mind. This is the symbol of the priesthood of my faith. Regardless of the man wearing it, it stands for the power of the Faith, power to forgive sins and offer the Holy Sacrifice of Calvary.

It takes courage to wear the collar in public in this time and place. Speaking of which:

Catholic youths heroically stop California mob from tearing down saint’s statue

Maybe “heroically” is a bit much. But courageously, sure. I’m going to guess that some of these young people were students of Thomas Aquinas College in Ventura County. These kids don’t take the Faith lightly. Also, one was a priest in a Roman collar.

The current trend being to punish people posthumously for historic misdeeds and violations of political correctness, how long before we’re called to stand in front of our churches the way these people stood in front of the Serra statue?

 

Days of anguish and tribulation

In her voyage across the ocean of this world, the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life’s different stresses. Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course.

The ancient fathers showed us how we should carry out this duty: Clement, Cornelius and many others in the city of Rome, Cyprian at Carthage, Athanasius at Alexandria. They all lived under emperors who were pagans; they all steered Christ’s ship – or rather his most dear spouse, the Church. This they did by teaching and defending her, by their labours and sufferings, even to the shedding of blood.

I am terrified when I think of all this. Fear and trembling came upon me and the darkness of my sins almost covered me. I would gladly give up the task of guiding the Church which I have accepted if I could find such an action warranted by the example of the fathers or by holy Scripture.

Since this is the case, and since the truth can be assaulted but never defeated or falsified, with our tired mind let us turn to the words of Solomon: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own prudence. Think on him in all your ways, and he will guide your steps. In another place he says: The name of the Lord is an impregnable tower. The just man seeks refuge in it and he will be saved.

Let us stand fast in what is right and prepare our souls for trial. Let us wait upon God’s strengthening aid and say to him: O Lord, you have been our refuge in all generations.

Let us trust in him who has placed this burden upon us. What we ourselves cannot bear let us bear with the help of Christ. For he is all-powerful and he tells us: My yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Let us continue the fight on the day of the Lord. The days of anguish and of tribulation have overtaken us; if God so wills, let us die for the holy laws of our fathers, so that we may deserve to obtain an eternal inheritance with them.

Let us be neither dogs that do not bark nor silent onlookers nor paid servants who run away before the wolf. Instead let us be careful shepherds watching over Christ’s flock. Let us preach the whole of God’s plan to the powerful and to the humble, to rich and to poor, to men of every rank and age, as far as God gives us the strength, in season and out of season . . . .

A Letter by St. Boniface, Office of Readings, Friday of 9th Week in Ordinary Time.