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The Pledge of Martin Treptow

Private Martin Treptow was mentioned in U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural speech. This was the pledge he wrote in his own hand during World War I:

“”America shall win the war. Therefore, I will work. I will save. I will sacrifice. I will endure. I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the whole issue of the struggle depended on me alone.”” — Quoted from http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/martin-treptow.htm

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Catholics Called to Change or Not?

In homilies and retreats, we sometimes hear that we are already perfect, that God is already pleased with us, and likes us just as we are. Perhaps these speakers grew up watching Fred Rogers on television, but we are no longer small children in need of comfort only, but adults in need of both sustenance and growth. Certainly, God may be pleased with some of us, as we are pleased when we pass a familiar point on the road that indicates we are getting closer to home. But some of us are on the right road, and some are not. To those on the right road, the Scriptures say “”beware of corruption, stay on the road.”” To those off the road, “”get on the road before it is too late.”” To tell people they are fine, as a blanket statement to a thousand at once, is to call Christ a liar. The argument might be that our perfection was achieved by the cross and resurrection, and we no longer need to hear warnings and correction, but this is not Catholic, and it is not human. We are not yet complete and humans change constantly: we call it aging. We grow complacent at times and need to wake up; we go astray at times and need correction. Jesus gives us a wake-up call and our leaders hit the snooze button.
At the same time, God does love us just as we are, because He loves us — period. This love provides defense against discouragement, comfort when we fail, and incentive to rise up to try again. Some voices claim this love means we have no reason to exert ourselves, and there is no heroic effort to be made, yet when we read about the Saints we see heroic effort, and past writers have told us that to live an ordinary life well takes extraordinary effort. Perhaps this is why we read about the disciples falling asleep while Jesus prayed? And perhaps Samuel Beckett was thinking of this when he wrote Waiting for Godot:

Vladimir:
Was I sleeping, while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now? Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today? That with Estragon my friend, at this place, until the fall of night, I waited for Godot? That Pozzo passed, with his carrier, and that he spoke to us? Probably. But in all that what truth will there be?
(Estragon, having struggled with his boots in vain, is dozing off again. Vladimir looks at him.) He’ll know nothing. He’ll tell me about the blows he received and I’ll give him a carrot. (Pause.) Astride of a grave and a difficult birth. Down in the hole, lingeringly, the grave digger puts on the forceps. We have time to grow old. The air is full of our cries. (He listens.) But habit is a great deadener. (He looks again at Estragon.) At me too someone is looking, of me too someone is saying, He is sleeping, he knows nothing, let him sleep on.
Let us not sleep on, but awake and begin the work of growth and change, starting with ourselves.

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Comparison of Ten Commandments and Seven Deadly Sins

A reader asked for this, so here we are. Given that the Ten Commandments are specific actions and the Seven Deadly Sins are attitudes, we have a matrix, below. Later, we will try to detail each connection, but that will take some time. This is a first try at connecting the two lists.

 

Pride

Greed

Envy

Wrath

Lust

Gluttony

Sloth

1. God

X

X

X

 

X

X

 

2. God’s Name

X

X

 

X

 

 

 

3. Sabbath

X

X

 

X

X

X

X

4. Honor

X

X

 

X

X

X

X

5. Killing

X

X

X

X

X

 

 

6.Adultery

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

7. Stealing

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

8. Lies

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

9. Covet wife

X

 

X

 

X

X

 

10. Covet goods

X

X

X

 

 

X

X

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The Dark Knight Ending and What People Want

What do people really want?

In the movie, The Dark Knight, Gordon and Batman agree to create a lie so that people can have things the way they want them, the way they think it should be. Harvey Dent is called a White Knight, and he looks the part. He has the right role in society for law enforcement, he is handsome, has wealthy fundraisers, says the right things, and fits the public’s idea of a savior.

Do we want to feel good or do we want the truth? When Jesus began to preach, it was clear he was different and he spoke with authority. But the people wanted him to be an earthly king and fight the battles they chose. They wanted freedom from Rome, but not from sin, and so they chose Barabbas. Even more, they chose the ruling party over a new way of life that has still never been embraced. As Morpheus said in The Matrix, most people are so used to the system that they do not want to escape. Instead, they will fight to protect it.

And so humanity has created an illusion, while rejecting the reality. For some, embracing the reality will result in great worldly loss. For others, it will bring freedom for the first time, but only with time and difficulty. It begins with a choice.

To be committed to reality, we must embrace the idea that we do not create it. If this is not frightening, we do not understand the choice. To leave our illusions is to leave an illusion of safety as well, that things are as we wish they were. That we can trust those we trust, that friends are friends and those we dismiss are always wrong. If we strive to know the truth, it is not only difficult but dangerous, and everything becomes unfamiliar and we must learn how to live all over again.

Here is a trailer for a movie out that explores the theme of humanity, Surrogates.

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Seven Deadly Sins: Consequences

It is often said in the Bible that God punishes the wicked, and this is something that people often cite as unfair and a reason to avoid religions that believe it. Does God punish the wicked for not living up to His standards, or does everyone simply get what they want? We call the results of these sins consquences

Deadly Sin
Consequence(s)
Pride Proud people have to work hard to keep up their illusions, and clever people can easily manipulate them through flattery. They fail to grow as human beings because they never engage with life directly, only through illusions, and these may cause a financial impact. Because they cannot admit the truth, they can crash hard when it can no longer be avoided. In some cases, they are a joke to others but are never aware of it. Paranoia and delusions of grandeur ensue. The proud usually fail to achieve because they cannot play well with others, but also because success in life is best achieved when in touch with reality.
Avarice/Greed Greed may result in wealth, but not peace of mind. There is always a concern that some gain was missed, some opportunity not fully exploited. People are tools to obtain more, so genuine love cannot be given. Others resent being tools, or valued less than gain, which leads to hurt feelings all around. Like the proud, the greedy can be manipulated easily, and may lose everything because they tried too hard to have it all.
Envy Envy never knows the joy of seeing someone else succeed. Personal success is not appreciated because someone else is always doing better. The bitterness of envy can keep others away, and the envious person may not be aware of the nasty remarks they make. It is a lonely life.
Wrath/Anger Anger may, of course, result in jail time. It also drives most others away, except masochists, who will not encourage the angry person to pursue peace. Anger is so overwhelming that many good feelings in life will be drowned out. Guilt, regret and depression follow from anger, and much of anger is turned inward at some point, bringing additional stress and even illness.
Lust Being a very physical sin, lust of course brings diseases, and the medical profession is not even close to removing the physical consequences. The spiritual consequences are a deadening of the senses, so that the person is just after their next sexual fix. The lustful person may be reduced to a pathetic shadow, masturbating and desperately looking for some pleasure without too much embarrassment. There may be jail time involved, or divorces. In some cases, what appears to be lust is really a desire to exert power over others and use them for pleasure, in which the person is reduced to an animal state in which their humanity is very nearly lost. There are often financial implications as well: sin is expensive.
Gluttony When it comes to food, gluttony results in fat. This is denied with surprising frequency and indicates the way we deceive ourselves. If we are gaining a lot of weight, we must be gluttons (aside from medical conditions that cause water retention, etc.). All kinds of illnesses result from gluttony, including cancer and skeletal issues from the excessive weight. Gluttony takes resources away, and may impact financial well being. The glutton may have to buy two airline seats.
Sloth Laziness often brings financial ruin, but it also brings failed marriages and lost love. The slothful person may have to work harder in bursts, though, when their inaction has brought them to dire straits. Because they fail to take action, action is forced upon them, and their failure to choose costs them their freedom, as they can be forced into situations because they failed to move at the right time.

 

 

 

 

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Antichrist Movie and Petition

We just received an e-mail asking us to sign a petition against a movie named “”Antichrist.”” From early reviews, it appears to be another ultra-gory horror film in the line of others like Hostel and Saw. Apparently, this is what people want to see, or at least enough that the producer expects to profit by it. But they profit more if we help publicize it. Of course, a real Christian does not want to give their money to it, and neither does a devout Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Sufi, etc. But let’s ignore this one. They hoped to get us to provide controversy by the title, but it is the same as a lot of other movies and not worth the trouble. Here is the petition text:

You won’t believe Hollywood’s latest assault on our tender and impressionable children: It’s a movie called ANTICHRIST coming out this month (October). This sexually graphic movie contains mutilations and dark perversions along with a wicked worldview.

And we are working hard to make sure that it receives the NC-17 rating it deserves and not an R by the Motion Picture Associates of America (MPAA). Sign the Petition to force the MPAA to be accountable.

Here’s why NC-17 rating is so critical:

• An R rated movie easily makes its way to the cinema in your local neighborhood. Thankfully, many local cinemas still won’t show the movie if it’s NC-17.

• An R rated movie stands a chance to make more money than NC-17 and this will only encourage some producers in Hollywood to make more vile movies like this.

• And most importantly, children under 17 cannot get into movies with an NC-17 rating, unlike R rated movies, which admit them.

 Wicked worldview? Just about every movie contains this. Please, please, just leave this movie to die and go to DVD, as it was destined to do. There is no reason to give the enemy free publicity.

 

 

 

 

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Zeal

Ardent Desire for God


“”Zeal for your house consumes me”” – Psalm 69:9, John 2:16-17


“”It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way. “” – Proverbs 19:2


Zeal and Zealots


Zeal, according to the dictionary is an ardent interest or desire. It doesn’t say what the object of the desire is. But the virtue of Zeal only has God as the object. Anything else is a waste, or even dangerous, because we can make gods of lesser things, and this nearly always ends in disaster. This is the case for zealots: they have created some idea and then pursue this shadow of themselves fanatically. Spiritually, the worst thing for a human being is to create a “”God-image”” in their head and then pursue it madly like a dog chasing its tail. It is an excuse for the worst crimes and atrocities, with an apparently clear conscience. Once a false God has been created in the mind, the human vices are amplified and rationalized, with the worst possible results: evil is done but God is blamed.


Some of the modern fear of Zeal comes from a rational distrust based on observation. We need very little persuading to believe the zealot is really pursuing God, because it provides such a convenient excuse for our laziness.


The Lord’s Name in Vain


The Commandment says not to take the Lord’s Name in vain, and we usually think of swearing, but it also applies here. When we take our own ideas, rooted in our vices, and declare them to be the will of God, we violate the Commandment. It is truly blasphemous to say, “”God wants me to be rich.”” It may be the will of God, but it is a safer assumption, given such an idea, to think it is we who will it, not God. In general, our desires for worldly success originate in us, not in God. To anoint our desires is to invest them with the dignity and authority of God. A healthy distrust of oneself is important in spiritual matters: if we stand to gain in a material way, we should doubt whether a course is truly the will of God.


True Zeal


True Zeal is informed. As the proverb says, knowledge is crucial to Zeal. Our visions and intuitions can lie, and we can filter out any knowledge that conflicts with our desires, but knowing God through prayer, Scripture, good counsel and fellowship is the best defense we have against ourselves. Obtaining knowledge is so easy in our modern world, easier than ever before, but avoiding it is just as easy. There are plenty of preachers, motivational speakers and self-help books to keep us delusional, and so few honest friends willing to risk a friendship for our sake. Many excellent and ancient books are available on the Internet, but few take the time to study them.


To prevent self-deception and misdirected zeal, there is no better corrective than the Gospels. Given the number of zealots who claim a Gospel basis for their actions, this may seem surprising, but there is a common thread to them all: they claim an ability (or right) to interpret the Bible in their own way.


For example, there are people who believe the pursuit of wealth is a divine command, but a brief reading of the Gospel should show otherwise: Jesus was poor, he said so. And nowhere in the New Testament are we counseled to chase after wealth, in fact, we are told the opposite. We are never told to use violence, but the Ku Klux Klan (and others) have claimed to be “”Bible-believing”” Christians while killing and terrorizing so many. Clearly, Jesus taught peace, so how can people kill in his name? Other examples include using Bible verses to justify cheating, cruelty, lies, bad marriages, divorce and adultery. The Gospel speaks against each one of these, clearly and without any room for doubt.


A good starting point for informed Zeal is to read the Gospels. Then read them again. Repeat until they are nearly memorized. “”What Would Jesus Do?”” is not a good guide unless we know Jesus well through the Gospels.


Some will say, “”But I know Jesus without reading the Gospels. He speaks to my heart. A priest told me this is better than the Gospels.”” There is no answer for such a person but the Judgement. Anyone who seriously thinks they have this kind of arrangement is seriously disturbed, possibly to the point of being mentally ill. And any priest or other spiritual leader who promotes this half-baked thinking is not fit for spiritual guidance. Jesus went to great pains (literally) to establish the Church in a certain way, and he never promised “”personal revelations”” that lead people away from what he did in his ministry. Claiming visions is a way of avoiding correction by a kind of spiritual intimidation. We are expected to accept even the most stupid or blatantly self-serving pronouncements because the person claims a vision, and forget St. Paul’s admonition, “”Test every spirit.””


Others will say, “”But some visions are true!”” Yes, you are right, but what are the marks of the true visions? Visionaries never really benefit much from their visions. They are thought insane, examined, doubted, called possessed, impoverished, and often die young. Their fame is seldom great until after death. Miracles nearly always accompany true visions, and conversions always do. True visions never tell us what we want to hear, in fact they usually destroy the earthly life of the visionary and deny them the simple comforts we take for granted, like a bit of peace and quiet, family life and anonymity. But this is digression.


True Zeal has God for its object, not a “”God-image””. Because we cannot know God completely in this life, there is a certain caution necessay in Zeal, and not a few “”safeties””. Zeal should drive us to take the obviously right paths with great vigor: patience, gentleness, the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge, prayer, self discipline, sacrifice and above all, selfless love. Strangely, doubt and uncertainty can help purify and direct Zeal, by focusing on the one thing we know for sure: “”God is love””.


For Continued Reading


The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2302, also 2262, 2286


“”Mere Christianity,”” by C.S. Lewis (also, “”The Screwtape Letters””)


“”The Little Flowers of St. Francis”” (Franciscans are often reminded to use time well)

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