Catholicism in the Car

Friday, May 27, 2022

A Lonely, Silent Night - A Short Story

It was a lonely, silent night. The sun just having set its rays behind the plains of flowing wheat. One night it was. A relative quiet filled the air, a train whistle heard in the distance. Something was off, but no one to witness. A barn cat purred while scratching its back against a growing elm tree. The wheels of the train, hitting the uneven seams of the tracks, screamed into the dark. Clap clap, clap clap.

There was a stressful thought whispering upon the wind as an old, beaten down Cutlass Ciera turns down the gravel drive of an ancient farmhouse. The grass recently mowed, but not pristine in appearance. The last bit of sunlight faded as a figure opens the car door, and places one barefoot upon the drive, feeling the rocks between his toes. As his head ducks slightly under the car roof, he scoots himself out and stands, leaning on the door. His shadow is struck in front of him, barely visible in the fading light. He breathes heavily and raspie. A hollow man he is. No one seems to notice the stranger’s presence. 

Upon the farmhouse porch lays a Model 21 Winchester with its black walnut stock, and handsomly crafted steel barrels. As dark overtook the property, a yellow light shone from a second story window facing the setting sun. The man standing on the drive could be seen clearly if anyone had been there to observe him. Silence again carved out the clapping of train wheels upon the ears of all and one alike. A few crickets chirp, and the wind blows.

A cream light is cast by the headlights upon concrete stairs leading up a small berm to another walk stretching to the porch. Now the man leans on the front of his car to observe the proceedings which forthcame. Rays from the car’s light rode around his calves, striking even darker shadows upon the berm, and even casting light upon the closed storm door leading into the house. A shimer reflects off of the steel barrel of the gun, leaning upon the door hinges. 

Stars now shown in the sky, as it was a clear night. A slight glow indicated the small town nearby, maybe 7 miles away, and obfuscated the stars’ light.

A door slammed within the house. This came from somewhere inside the house, but its exact location could not be ascertained. A muffled yelling could be heard from the drive; these sounds started loudly and abruptly and had been heard here before. They continued as they had many nights before; slamming to yelling to screaming. Pounding of fists on wood, and the stomping of feet.

Escalation turned to escalation, but nothing seemed particularly awry Until…

Smack. A closed fist on dainty flesh. A collapse. Then the silence returned, as though welcomed by the crickets and train. 

The storm door flung open, as a man brashly walked out. He is dazed and wobbling. The wood of the porch creaked below his steps. Stunned, he notices the car and figure standing at the end of his drive, but it seems to him that they are a figment of his stupor. After letting the storm door swing shut behind him, he turns, grabbing the steel barrels of the gun, straightens himself up, and heads back into the house. The faint sound of the gun’s being cocked sounds. Clap, Clap. 

On the drive, the figure can do nothing. He is not even light, but he does see.

The cat’s tail swung and an ear flicked.

A relative quiet filled the air, as a train whistle was heard in the distance. It was a lonely, silent night.

The Boy Dreams - A Short Story

A vision clouds itself forth within the mind. Bright fields with warm light from a steady sun. A rippling pool. Tepid air blowing the fields of wheat, as though they were running across the earth. Birds chirped quietly in a large maple tree whose leaves grew crimson in the hot sun. Coarse sand stood at the bank of a small pond; the water still and lifeless. Algae bloomed on the surface, creating a green carpet almost thick enough to walk upon. The toes of a young child tipped into the waters edge, as he sat upon the shore. Sand. Then, green grass for the length of a gunter’s chain. Lastly, the field of wheat leading to the small cottage that sat upon a hill. His parents knew he would be here.

A frog jumped into the pool via the bank adjacent to the boy. This slightly startled him out of his deep thoughts. Two dragon flies buzzed by his head, stuck together in a mating dance. The boy had come down to the water to fill his canteen, but seeing the algae growth he reconsidered his decision. The canteen had been given to him by his grandfather who had been a strong, hardy man. A farmer his whole life, that is, until he fell from a balcony that he was in the process of repairing. This was many years ago from the boy’s point of view. The old man had broken his back in two places, and had a gash on his head. Luckily, his wife heard him crying for help and was able to call an ambulance in time. He healed alright, but was not able to farm any longer. 

The boy laughed, thinking of what happened next in the story. After his grandpa had arrived at the hospital, the nurses and doctor checked him over, and were particularly worried about internal bleeding. They felt his abdomen, and assumed that there was a build up of blood there because of how hard it had gotten. The nurses began to tell his wife that she needed to prepare herself, for her husband would be needing surgery. In reality, his grandfather had been so physically fit that he had developed “rock hard abs,” as the children at school would say. 

Shaking his head to himself, he got up, found a stick lying nearby, and began to trail it along behind him as he walked along the edge of the pond. He walked for a little while, observing the squirrels racing around in the willow tree across the way. Such fun they had! So care free they were. What he would give to be able to live like them. Looking back at the line he had drawn, an idea popped in his head: art. He was not an artist, and had never really drawn much before. Some crayons had been utilized when he was much younger, but he didnt have time for drawing now. After all, why would he draw on paper with ink when he had such a colorful imagination? He would think, “I do not need to waste my time drawing; I can just dream up ideas.” This time, however, the urge to place pen to paper, or in this case, stick to sand was so great he had to follow through. 

It began with some quick circles. Then, a line down between the circles with a bend at the end. There! Eyes and a nose. He drew some goofy looking ears, and caused himself to laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of the face he had made. Joy. It brought him joy to do this. He knew he was no good at it, but the release it gave was invigorating. He began to draw everything he saw around him in the sand. The frogs, dragon flies, maple tree, leaves, and even attempted to draw the pond itself. This just ended up looking like an oddly shaped circle with squiggly lines down the middle representing the ripples. Before he knew it, he had created a whole city of masterpieces upon the sand.

Smiling and happy, he laid down on the sand, looking up at the sky. This escapade into the world of art had been exhilarating, but also exhausting. “No one would ever see these works,” he thought. They would be trampled under foot, blown away by the wind, or washed clean by the rain. As he lay there, he looked up at the sky. Clouds were blowing around like cotton tailed bunnies hopping across the front lawn to their dens. He watched them move, ever so slightly. Sometimes he wondered whether they moved at all! His eyes eventually started to droop, and he drifted off to sleep…

A fly landed on his face, and his eyes opened. It was hot and muggy; very humid. He woke up next to a pool of water much like the one he had just been near when lying down, but this pool was larger, more murky, and full of life such as he had never seen before! He leaned up upon his elbow, still slightly groggy from the nap he had been taking. As he looked around, he noticed that there was a stream that came into the pool, and then flowed out of it further down. He, laying on the bank, was situated perfectly to see the entire expanse of this large body of water. Getting up now he walked along the edge until he reached the mouth of the stream downwind from him, noticing the rushing water ripple as it was funneled into the smaller space.

He then continued on, and as he did so, the stream became widened until it seemed it was no longer a stream but a rushing river! Vines would hit his face every so often, and birds sang out loud macaws. It was peaceful here, yet edgy. 

He couldn't help but sense that something was a danger to him at all times. Just then, a small bird no larger than the palm of his hand swooped down and perched itself upon a branch near him. It chirped at him for a little while, staring. He stared back, and was surprised by the creature’s interest. He attempted not to blink, and looking in the direction of the bird, he noticed a number of other creatures around him. Snakes camouflaging themselves in the trees, and giant flying insects buzzing to and fro. He heard a large splash behind him, and turning around, saw ripples in the river. Pointing himself in this opposite direction, he waited to see if the creature would resurface. 

A few bubbles popped, releasing themselves from the water. Then, like lightning, a fish maybe two feet in length jumped straight out of the water and flew across the surface before being driven back in again by gravity’s pull. The boy was in awe. It was such an unexpected sight! He chuckled to himself and began to walk further along the banks of the river. He had thought about attempting to cross it, but had decided this was not such a good idea, being that he did not know what lived in the deep…

WHAM! He woke up with a jolt. An indent of his head and torso had been made behind him, where he had been sleeping. The stick he used to “paint” was still in his hand. He realized, after looking around, that he had also been tossing and turning at some point in his sleep, and that he had ruined many of the pictures in the sand. A slight disappointment welled up within his breast; he had not expected his art to be ruined so soon. 

Proceeding to get up from his position, he started to walk back towards the cottage across the field. He un-observantly dragged the stick in the sand behind him as he did so. A long, winding line was drawn; seeming to separate experience from reality. Or was it the other way around? He was to stay where he was. No adventure, no dreams. As a failed artist, he sulked. Or was it failure? As the wind blew across the fields of wheat, it seemed to say, “Why not dream?”

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Willing to Change by Listening

I have recently been listening to talks by Dr. Gavin Ortland. He is a Baptist pastor out of California and is one of a few very active protestant intellectuals on YouTube -- and particularly, he comports himself in an incredibly irenic way. He has given me a lot of food for thought. I am a committed (and convicted) Catholic, and I have had many extensive conversations with Protestant friends, coworkers, and mentors. 

One of the first people to witness true faith to me was the leader of my small group in high school, who was/is a very committed and on-fire protestant. We would have many conversations over the years about the differences between protestants and Catholics, but he was not as steeped in history as I would have found helpful at the time (and now). 

Dr. Ortland has his doctorate in Historical Theology, which as far as I am aware, is only a degree offered at protestant universities. I had never heard of a "Historical Theology" degree until recently, and it has only been protestants whom I have seen that have such a degree. I am not trying to down-play his education at all. He has proven to me, on more than one occasion, that he knows what he is talking about.

Anyway, in one of Dr. Ortland's recent videos, he stressed a quote that has stuck with me -- and encompasses the main thrust of what I have learned from him so far: true listening when in ecumenical/apologetical dialogue. The quote reads, 

    "You're not really listening unless you are willing to be changed by what you hear."

This idea has penetrated my soul. It convicted me. How many times have I talked to Protestants (in particular) and am not willing to be changed by what I hear. I have often been dismissive of their claims because they are not (as Dr. Ortland confesses) always the most thought-out and historically protestant claims. I am often more willing to truly listen to Atheists and Agnostics than I am to my Protestant brethren.

Over the last year I did a deep dive into protestant theology and thought for the main purpose of giving me a grasp on where they are coming from. For example, before this time, I really took to heart the St. John Henry Newman quote, "to be steeped in history is to cease to be Protestant." I do not think Newman had bad intentions when writing this quote, but I do think that Catholics (and Orthodox) today use it for more than its worth. I would pull up anti-protestant tropes in my head like, "there are more than 30,000 denominations, how could there be truth in such chaos?;" "Protestantism was born in 1517, so it clearly cannot trace its roots back to Christ and the Apostles;" and "Sola Scripture is self-refuting." I may dedicate another article to each of these issues and the thoughtful protestant responses I have learned to them, but that is not my intent here.

I am imploring myself and all Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, Agnostics, "Nones," and everyone in between to have an amiable and conciliatory attitude towards one another when in dialogue. Seek to steel-man the other side's position. Try to understand it as well as your own.  I spent the last year trying to really understand where my separated, protestant brethren are coming from. I spent over a year before that trying to understand atheism and agnosticism. Next on my list will be continuing study of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox; as well as a study of the Assyrain Church of the East. I might also try to get to know more about Old Catholics, as well. After that: Islam.

"You're not really listening unless you are willing to be changed by what you hear." It still strikes me. I claim to be someone who tries to search for the truth at all costs, but if I am being utterly honest, it is clear to see that I do not always have this mindset at the fore; however, I am trying. Come with me!

Friday, July 30, 2021

The Sexual Abuse Scandals in the Catholic Church

 The below post is an answer I gave to a question asked of me on the site "Quora." I have republished it here. You can find the original answer at:  

Original Question: Are you ashamed to admit that you are Catholic over the scandals of covering up cases of pedophilia by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church? Especially homosexual pedophilia when, on the one hand, they condemn normal gays, but tolerate molesters?

This is a great question! On the one hand, yes, I am extremely ashamed that those in my Church (The Catholic Church) have made such despicable choices that have caused so much scandal to the world. I wish it would have never happened, especially for the sake of the victims of these perpetrators. There is no defending these horrific crimes and sins, so often caused by leaders in the Church.

But, notice that I described my shame as being towards those in my Church. I did not describe my shame as being in the Catholic Church itself — and therefore, I am not ashamed in my identifying as a Catholic despite the Church’s scandalous members.

See, the thing about being Catholic, is that we believe that the Church is an entity larger than the members that make it up. The Catholic Church is, as Saint Paul says (in Romans 12:5,1; Corinthians 12:12–27; Ephesians 3:6, 4:15–16 and 5:23; Colossians 1:18 and 1:24; etc.), “The Body of Christ.” The Body is made of many members, but no individual member makes up the whole body.

We are also told by Jesus, in Scripture, that the Church (Christ’s Body) is like a vine:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1–2, RSV).

This means that those members of the Catholic Church, who are desperately trying to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, must allow (and even encourage) this “pruning” of the fruitless branches (members). The fruitless branches include those individuals referenced in the original question above, as well as many others. The pruning itself is done in many fashions, but the bad branches — also identified in scripture as chaff — are doomed for eternal punishment, if they do not repent:

“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:12, RSV).

This brings up another, very important point: I should not be ashamed of being Catholic, but I certainly should feel shame about those within my Church who do shameful and despicable things. HOWEVER, I will always hope and pray for these shameful members of the Church to convert, ask for forgiveness, and repent. This hope, though, does not expect the sinner to get off without reparation to be completed.

If I break my neighbor’s window, he can forgive me if I ask his forgiveness, but I must still repay my neighbor for the damages and/or fix the window myself. This is what we call “Penance.”

So, even if Cardinal McCarrick publicly asked forgiveness for his crimes, and even went to each victim (where possible) and asked their personal forgiveness, he would still need to give reparation to those he directly harmed and scandalized through his actions. This might involve financial compensation to victims (out of his own pocket), or even other forms of reparation. It would also involve some sort of reparation to the greater society, and the Church herself, for his scandalous actions.

One of the main beauties of the Christian message is that, “God always forgives. His mercy is endless.” But, we must not assume that, because of His mercy, that God is not also just. He forgives the sinner, but also requires repayment (reparation) for the sin committed. This is the basis for the Catholic idea of Purgatory. Purgatory is a state, after death, for those who have sought genuine forgiveness of their sins, and have thus been forgiven (and are therefore guaranteed Heaven). But these persons lack sufficient reparation for said sins. This lack of reparation is an imperfection within the person. They have not totally “fixed the broken window” caused by their wrongdoing. As the book of Revelation says, “…nothing unclean shall enter [Heaven], nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood…” (Revelation 21:27, RSV), one cannot enter Heaven (even though one has been fully forgiven, and has repented) until these reparations have been completed.

This does not mean that Jesus’ sacrifice has been for nothing, or that we (in any way) are “meriting” salvation. Jesus died that we might be forgiven of our sins. He died to take away our punishment (Hell), and give us the opportunity for eternal life (Heaven). Jesus’ sacrifice has healed (and will heal) those that accept him through baptism, and who persevere to eternal life. However, Jesus’ sacrifice does not enable us to presumption of His forgiveness, and the reward of Heaven. It does not give us license to sin, and then simply ask forgiveness from God, without there being any need for us to fix the wrong we have caused by said sin.

This issue matters so much to the aforesaid question. We all know that the perpetrators of sexual abuse (especially those within the Catholic Church) may end up repenting of their grievous sins. Without this view of the necessity of reparation, it seems unjust to us that the persons who have caused such suffering could get off so easily (just by saying “I’m sorry” to God alone, before their deaths). The necessity of reparation is one salve that can heal our wounds in this crisis. Knowing that these men, who have committed such atrocities, cannot get off so easily. Sure, they can repent, ask forgiveness, be forgiven, and thus eventually end up in Heaven—BUT, they will need to go through much purgation before being allowed to enter the Heavenly bliss. They will need to make reparations to all those they have hurt, either in this life, or on the other side of the veil in Purgatory. They will not be able to enter Heaven if they do not repent, do not ask forgiveness, are not thus forgiven, and do not repair the damage that their sins have caused.

This is the beauty and majesty of the Catholic understanding of sin. In an odd way, I think that God will use these horrible crimes done by these horrible men to strengthen the Church for the future. In a paradoxical way, I think that these men will show both the judgment and (if they repent) the mercy of God. I do hope that all of those who have committed these crimes will eventually repent, ask forgiveness, be forgiven, and make full reparations to those they have wronged. I do not, and cannot, wish Hell on anyone. They can choose Hell by their actions, but I will not wish it on them.

This was a long answer to a short question, but I think that people deserve a thorough explanation of why I am not ashamed to be a Catholic, despite the actions of these terrible men. I do not claim that this answer has been written perfectly, or that it will be satisfactory to anyone. I will never defend what those men did, but I do hope that I will see them in Heaven. We must always keep in mind that each of us is one choice away from being as horrible as sexual abusers. We can judge actions as right or wrong, but we can never judge the state of a person’s soul.

Please ask questions for clarity. I am trying my best here.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

What are some questions that should be asked more often?

 The below post is an answer I gave to a question asked of me on the site "Quora." I have republished it here. You can find the original answer at: 

Original Question: What are some questions that should be asked more often?

What is the nature of reality? What is being? Why do things exist? How do things exist? Does being itself exist? Does truth exist? Can the truth be found? For that matter, does any concept exist? How do we know that we know anything at all? If existing things are made up of other existing things, can anything not exist? Does existence have a beginning or end, or is it simply eternal? If it does have a beginning or end, what was before everything existed, and what will be afterwards? Being itself? Can being itself exist? Would it be that nothing exists before and after what currently exists? If it was nothing, how can nothing exist, if it is nothing? Or would it be some other concept or reality? Can we know the answers to any of these questions directly, or is our best bet to believe answers that most fit with our perceived reality?

These may seem like unanswerable questions, but they are very important for human life, and must be answered by each individual. Without an answer to these basic questions, one has no basis for any sort of morality, amorality, or really any sort of social, physical, psychological, or spiritual conjectures whatsoever. Without thinking about and answering these questions for himself, man cannot begin acting in a rational way.

Does everyone experience the glory of God eventually?

 The below post is an answer I gave to a question asked of me on the site "Quora." I have republished it here. You can find the original answer at: 

Original Question: Does everyone experience the glory of God eventually?

In Catholic theology, everyone does eventually experience the glory of God. It would either be in Heaven (where the glory of God is experienced in an accepting nature, and is thus pleasing to the individual rationally, spiritually—and after the Second Coming—physically.
In Hell, however, the glory of God would still be experienced, but it will not be pleasant because the individual vehemently hates the glory of God and does not wish to accept it.

This is similar to how when one invites the embrace of another person, the embrace is accepted with pleasure, but when one does not wish to be embraced—even though the embrace is good—it is experienced as pain.

In Catholic theology, man does not get “sent” to Heaven or Hell—man chooses Heaven or Hell by his actions and interior volition. This choice is an eternal choice based upon the nature of man’s soul, the nature of God, and the idea that if that final choice was not an eternal one, then Heaven of Hell would not be eternal—being that Heaven is an eternal state of beholding the glory and goodness of God, and Hell is the eternal state of attempting to not behold that divine glory and goodness.

One’s actions in this, non-eternal life, do have eternal consequences in the next. If one lives consistently denying the goodness of God in his life all the way to the brink of death without repentance, he will inevitably deny the goodness of God in eternal life. If one lives consistently accepting the goodness of God in his life all the way to the brink of death without denial, he will graciously accept the goodness of God in eternal life.

Purgatory is another matter, and can be explained more deeply in a different question, if desired. But basically, Purgatory is not an eternal state, and will end at the Second Coming of Christ. Everyone in Purgatory will be in Heaven eventually—they just need a bit of “cleaning up” before they can do so. They will eventually experience the glory of God in Heaven.

How do you explain the idea that the reality we experience is the reality we create? What, then, is "real"?

 The below post is an answer I gave to a question asked of me on the site "Quora." I have republished it here. You can find the original answer at: 

Original Question: How do you explain the idea that the reality we experience is the reality we create? What, then, is "real"?

Reality is, by definition that which is real. That which is real, exists. And that which exists, does not, not exist. So what then does not, not exist? Well, everything that is. Everything that is has being. Something cannot exist unless it is, and therefore that which is not, does not exist.

How then can reality, what is real, be that which we create? What is real—what exists, exists whether we think it exists or not. It thus can be concluded that our perception does not create reality. What we consider perception is either true or not true. Some may have true perceptions and others may have false ones. One person can have both true and false perceptions of various forms of reality, but in regard to the question of reality itself, one can either believe that reality is true or that it is false. Both cannot be true. Either reality is true or it is false. Something is either real or it is not. It cannot be both.

If you are looking for a “rational” explanation, I do not think one can argue that reality is what we create. Relativism (the idea that truth is created by the truth-seeker, or that truth simply does not exist) is a very old philosophy, but it is inherently flawed. For example, If I create my own truth, is that statement true, or is it false? If truth does not exist, how can that be true if truth does not exist? This line of thinking is very attractive, for it often seeks to not hurt or offend people with the truth—and for this reason, along with others, is very popular in much of modern Western Culture—but it is not a “rational” philosophy. Such ideas are, by definition, the opposite of Philosophy. Philosophy is not just “thinking” or “communicating ideas”—for I can think of many things that do not exist—but, it is truly the “study of wisdom/truth.” One cannot make a philosophy based upon truth being non-existent or determined by the individual. This would be a contradiction and in the realm of the imagination, not Philosophy.

A Lonely, Silent Night - A Short Story

It was a lonely, silent night. The sun just having set its rays behind the plains of flowing wheat. One night it was. A relative quiet fille...