Worries enough of my own

I didn’t blog much last year. Maybe because I stopped watching the news to preserve my sanity, and without news there’s not much craziness and stupidity to point out and comment on.

I have a friend who’s older than I, who recently fell and broke his elbow and his hip. That’s a tough combination. If it were only his elbow he would be mostly fine while it healed; and if it were only his hip he could get around with a walker. But his elbow had to be replaced, and with the artificial elbow he can’t put any weight on that arm, not only now, but ever. So he has a very hard time getting up out of bed or out of a chair, with only one arm and one leg to lift himself with; and he walks very unsteadily since he can only hold a cane with one hand, rather than using a two-handed walker. So he is constantly in danger of falling, and when he falls he can’t get up.

And yet, he insisted on leaving the rehab place where he had been staying for over a month. I understood they weren’t going to release him until they were sure he could get himself up and move around without danger to himself. In fact he had chosen a date to leave, and then called and told me he would have to delay it a week because they felt he wasn’t ready.

So when he told me he was ready to go and was being released, I assumed he had reached the point where he could move around adequately. Therefore when he asked me for a ride home, I said sure. This was a couple days ago.

When I arrived in his room at the rehab facility, he had me help him stand up, which he was able to do with my help and a cane. A nurse came in and showed me how to fold up his wheelchair. Then he got back in the chair, since they insisted that he use it until he got to the car.

I wheeled him to the car and helped him out of the chair and into the car, which went relatively smoothly. We (my wife and I) got him home, helped him out of the car, and he walked, slowly and carefully, towards his front steps. There were five steps and he just managed to climb them, again with my help. This was a little scary, but I figured he was OK on flat ground, and as long as he didn’t try to go out of the house on his own, he would be OK.

But when he got to the top step, he was out of gas. He couldn’t get his injured leg up to the level of the porch and regain his balance, so he dropped to his knees. I tried to help him up as I had done when he got out of the chair, but this time he couldn’t manage it. I was in the position of having to lift his entire weight with barely any help from him, and he’s not a small guy – about six feet and 200 or so pounds.

I just couldn’t do it. But there he was, kneeling in a precarious position at the top of a flight of five stairs. He wasn’t complaining. After a couple of minutes all he said was, “Do you have any suggestions?”

I said, “Well, I can try to lift you but you need to try to get your legs under you.” I called my wife from inside the house and asked her to stand behind him so he wouldn’t tumble down the stairs. In the event, she helped to lift his weight, and between the three of us we got him to his feet, with cane in hand. What a relief.

He shuffled into the house and got into his wheelchair, but then we discovered the wheelchair would barely fit into his hallway and through his bedroom door. And once he got into the bedroom, he was unable to get up from the wheelchair in order to get into bed. So again I had to heft his bulk out of the chair and onto his feet. At this point he started taking off his pants so he could get into bed, and again he fell down.

Fortunately at this point a neighbor of his had come by, and with his help we got him into bed. But what now? How did he expect to move around and take care of himself in this condition? I don’t live anywhere near him and certainly couldn’t spend entire days helping him shuffle around the house and picking him up when he fell. His neighbor too – who wasn’t that young himself — protested that his back wouldn’t stand that kind of lifting on an ongoing basis, so that if my friend fell again, he was just going to have to call 911.

Basically I felt I had been had. My friend misled me as to his capabilities, and I felt I was leaving him in a desperate situation. I said, “Are you sure you want to do this? I don’t see how it can possibly work.” But he insisted, “I’ll be fine until tomorrow.” The next day he had an in-home appointment for people to come by and assess his situation, see what kind of care and equipment he needed. He planned to stay in bed until then, and hopefully at that point they would send people to assist him with his needs. So we brought him a bottle of water and his urinal bottle from the rehab place so he wouldn’t have to get up to go pee, and a phone in case he needed to call for help, and left him there.

Needless to say we worried about him that night, but the next day heard from a neighbor of his that he was still OK.

Of course this got me thinking about what will become of me in my old age. But I won’t go into that. My point is just that there are enough things to worry about without watching the news. Let the people whose job it is to deal with those things, do the worrying. After all they get paid for it.

Do not worry about tomorrow, for today has worries enough of its own (Mt. 6:34). By the same token, your own life and those of your loved ones have worries enough of their own without filling your head with more things to worry about that you can’t help.

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Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Mammon

“Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.”

Goldsmith’s sad paradox is with us yet;
in fact, the situation’s sadder still:
dollars, by nature sterile, now beget;
the human race is eunuched by a pill.

Mark Amorose, from City under Siege: Sonnets and Other Verse (which I highly recommend — $6.99 on Kindle)

Free-floating theology

Many regard as unobjectionable the changes in church discipline to allow civilly divorced Catholics who have remarried to regularly receive communion. It seems to them a reasonable accommodation to the unfortunate reality of widespread divorce. But this change disrupts the logic of penitential preparation, which maintains the truth that union with Christ delivers us from our sins. Under the proposal, marriage is not permanent and a remarried person is not committing adultery. Or adultery is not a serious sin. Or Christians have always misunderstood the gospel, and we need not renounce our sins to unite ourselves with Christ. The logic forces us to affirm at least one of these fundamental changes in Christian doctrine. We can’t evade this unpleasant prospect by saying that “we’re all sinners” or that the Church is not the “Church of the pure,” as Pope Francis has on many occasions.

The proposed pastoral approach does not purport to solve theological problems by clarifying which of the three prongs is being decisively altered. It simply muddies things sufficiently to obscure the contradictions. This evasion of explicit change follows a post–Vatican II pattern, which has been one of ad hoc accommodations to contemporary sensibilities, undertaken in the context of the collapse of an older scholastic theology that supported precise analysis and clear conclusions. The theological culture of today’s Catholic Church lacks rigorous philosophical discipline. A great deal of theology now runs on evocative and free-floating concepts. Pope Francis uses “mercy” in this way.

R. R. Reno, “Sacramental Realism,” First Things, August/September 2018.

The coming festival of our redemption

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AND THERE SHALL COME FORTH A ROD OUT OF THE ROOT OF JESSE: AND A FLOWER SHALL RISE UP OUT OF HIS ROOT. AND THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD SHALL REST UPON HIM: THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM AND OF UNDERSTANDING, THE SPIRIT OF COUNSEL AND OF FORTITUDE, THE SPIRIT OF KNOWLEDGE AND OF GODLINESS.

(Is. 11:1-2.)

May we receive Thy mercy, O Lord, in the midst of Thy temple, that with due reverence we may prepare for the coming festival of our redemption. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

Postcommunion prayer for First Sunday of Advent, New Roman Missal (Fr. LaSance) (Benziger Brothers, 1956).

A humiliating confession

The Hallmark Channel recently had the top-rated show on a Saturday evening with 4.6 million viewers. The show was the movie “Christmas at Graceland.”

I didn’t see this particular movie but I’ve watched quite a few of the Hallmark Christmas movies over the past few years. Frankly they’re bad. Corny and just bad. Usually not well written and not very well acted, although it’s hard to fault the actors given what they have to work with. You have to laugh at the constantly recurring themes:

A city woman returns to her home town, often called Christmas Village or something; she meets a guy and they butt heads at first, but eventually see the good in each other; the family home is about to be sold but she decides to buy it and move back home; it’s a lifestyle downgrade, but she takes a job at her father’s company or takes over running the family business. Sometimes it takes place in the big city, but it still involves a big city sophisticate of some kind, who realizes she needs to shed her tough outer shell, stop being so ambitious, and let Christmas soften her heart. There’s never a scene that doesn’t include Christmas decorations, whether indoors or outdoors, and no matter what room in the house. And there’s always a climactic kiss near the end.

So why do so many people watch them?

I have a nephew who is a partner in a Big Four accounting firm, and he says he loves them, simply because they’re clean and wholesome and always have a happy ending. I started watching them because my wife enjoyed them and they were fun to watch with her, but I have to admit that I started to enjoy them too. They’re not my favorite thing and they can get monotonous. But my nephew is right, their clean-and-wholesomeness is appealing.

I think the nub of the matter is that they take Christmas seriously. Granted, the vast majority of them make no mention of Jesus. Some do mention God and prayer, and they don’t shy away from explicitly Christian carols like Silent Night and O Holy Night. Characters often wear crosses around their necks. But apart from the religious aspect, they take Christmas seriously in the sense that they don’t treat it ironically. It’s not the generic “Holiday,” nor is it Santa and His Elves Day. They don’t wink at Christmas, as though assuming that sophisticates like us know better than to take it seriously. It’s Christmas straight-up, imbued with power and beauty and goodness, a thing we need deep down in our souls.

A lot of people are tired of the constant barrage of irony and cynicism with regard to Christmas. We’ll put up with corniness because we crave earnestness.

What’s wrong with this picture?

[Note: This was originally posted on December 14, 2016. See below for an update.]

This is a map showing alleged “incidents of hate” that have occurred since the November 8 presidential election (from the website ThinkProgress.org):

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A couple of interesting things that I noticed:

1. The two states with the most incidents are New York and California — notoriously the two big states that the candidates never bother to campaign in, since they are a lock for the Democrats, i.e. states with large liberal majorities. There have been a total of 36 incidents in those two states.

2. The states in green are those which have no reported hate crimes since the election. Many of these are notoriously conservative states. What stands out to me in particular are the Southern states of Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama and South Carolina, all of which have zero reported incidents according to this map. Louisiana has one reported hate incident, Georgia two, Tennessee three, for a total of six incidents in the entirety of the Deep South.

I wonder, if you asked random liberals who hadn’t seen this map, which states they predict would have the most reported “incidents of hate”, and which would have the least, how many would predict that California and New York would have six times as many incidents as the Deep South.

You might say that this is due to the larger populations of California and New York. Let’s look at this: California and New York have a total combined population of 58 million, and there were 36 incidents in those two states. Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee have a total combined population of 37 million, and there were six incidents in those six states. If you do the math, you will see that California and New York have an average of 6.2 incidents per 10 million people, while the Southern states have an average of 1.6 incidents per 10 million people; or in other words about four times as many incidents per capita in the coastal, liberal states compared with the Southern states.

Remember, what is supposedly fueling this “wave of hate” is that Trump supporters are being “emboldened” by his election to act out their hatred. If that’s the case, how is it that people living in states that voted Democrat by wide margins are emboldened to act out their hate, while those living states that voted for Trump, are not?

When you consider that the Deep South states are purportedly those with the highest concentration of haters (read “white conservatives”), and the large majorities by which Trump won those states, why aren’t they going absolutely hog-wild with hate, letting their hate flags fly, burning crosses left and right, confident in the approval of all their friends and neighbors?

There’s something wrong with this theory….

[UPDATE (November 12, 2018):]  There were (purportedly) 150 “incidents of hate” as of December 14, 2016, about a month after the election. Since then there have been 111 more. So, 150 in the first month after Trump’s election and about 5 per month since then.

In New York and California we now have a total of 60 incidents, for an average of 10.34 per 10 million people; and in the Southern states listed above there have been 13 incidents, for an average of 3.51 per 10 million people. So about three times as many incidents per capita in the liberal, coastal states as in the Deep South.

Note that no incidents at all were reported in Mississippi or Arkansas; and one each in Louisiana, Alabama and South Carolina. So evidently, the thing to do if you want to escape hate is move to the South!

Random quotes

“I’m a married man, as you know, Peter. A comic figure, the married man kept by his wife.”

“We all have to be kept by somebody, you know. Better one’s wife than a person of low character.”

Lord Peter Wimsey in The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers, BBC production, 1973.

The statistics on crime and guns are often confounding. Nationally, guns account for 60 percent of all homicides; and yet gun violence has been declining for the last decade. The murder rate in Texas has dropped from 16.9 per 100,000 in 1980 to 4.8 in 2015 — an astonishing decline. In California, the most restric­tive state in the country for gun ownership, the murder rate is exactly the same as in Texas. The states with the lowest homicide rates are North Dakota and Wyoming, which have very permis­sive gun laws; and lowest of all, at 1.6 per 100,000, is Vermont, which has ‘constitutional carry’ — i.e., anyone over the age of sixteen can carry a gun. (Vermont is one of thirteen states where permits to carry concealed weapons are not required.) Chicago, which has highly restrictive gun laws, also has one of the high­est rates of gun homicides in the country, but it doesn’t compare with the District of Columbia, which tops the charts in both restrictive gun laws and gun homicides.

Lawrence Wright, God Save TexasAlfred A. Knopf (2018), pp. 150-152.

I once tried to explain the problems faced by faithful Catholics to my good friend Eric Metaxas. [author of good books on Bonhoeffer and Wilberforce] “Imagine you felt your salvation depended on staying inside a Church with apostolic doctrines, which is run by liberal Protestants.”

John Zmirak at Stream (quoted by Fr. Z).