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Monday, July 30, 2007

Pedaling Forward

I'm back from another week at the beach. Constant sand in my shoes, (and diaper bag) are some of the perks of living in South Jersey. I've never gone through so much sunscreen as I have this month.
Bike travel is popular in Ocean City, although renting a bike for a morning jaunt on the boards is as overpriced as anything else in town. I often think how nice it would be to have the option to bike everywhere. Stores, family visits, church; only a pedal away. In our town they have bike paths on the sides of some roads and through out the state I see signs to "Share the Road."
Ideally, bikes would be a viable option for the average Joe. We cut down on emissions and gas consumption, get exercise and avoid the hassles of car ownership. However, realistically, today's world is very bike unfriendly. Suburbia was not designed with the two wheeling commuter in mind. On our way to church, our van approached a family on bike. They filled the lane, disobeyed traffic signals and otherwise annoyed motorists who tried to squeeze around them without hitting oncoming traffic in the small town we were passing through (already congested with construction cones.) Our roads are designed for cars and although I try to be charitable, these streets are not made for sharing. Which is a shame for all the above mentioned benefits. Those few who do try to take advantage of pedal power are at great risk for injury (or death.) Nothing will change because more of us can't switch to using bikes as our primary form of transportation because our lifestyle won't allow it. How many live within biking distance to our jobs? How many of us want to bike in the rain to an appointment in our designer clothes with a helmet smashed on our coif? Where will our $300 in weekly groceries fit? That tiny basket in front? And most of us just couldn't stand the blow to our egos if we had to part with our luxury vehicles for a Huffy. So, we'll pump money into the roadways via taxes, which fuels the construction that clogs the commuter arteries, which feeds the anger and frustration of road rage which leads to accidents and violence...and so on. Who is willing to go simpler and smaller and live closer?
If you visit an old small town, everything is in walking or biking distance and most properties (save for a few downtown locals) have enough of a yard for a garden or a game of catch. People didn't need cars to go to the store or visit with friends so roadways were less jammed and safer for kids on their bikes heading to the park. Maybe you even had the neighborhood trolley or bus. The communities I'm talking about are too small for subways or major public transportation. Now these communities are surrounded by sprawl and their roadways are packed to capacity during normal daylight hours. Most stores have moved out to strip malls and have been replaced with specialty boutiques, pizza shops, bars, etc. if the town is lucky. How many small towns so you know are struggling to "revitalize?"
So it's a kind of a catch-22; cars and an expansive road system allow us to spread out and see the world, however, cars and an expansive road system spread out the *community* to encompass a larger area and so many aspects of the community and the principles of subsidiarity are pollution, gas prices, yada, yada.
How we can move from a sprawled, cookie cutter development, copycat strip mall society to smaller, localized neighborhoods I don't know. But secretly, I hope rising gas prices will force us to stay closer to home. What will we decide; work from home, bike down the street or work two jobs to pay for gas for our daily commute? Only time will tell.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The New Distributist League

Well, I guess if you blog long enough and don't totally suck, someone will eventually ask you to write for their blog. I'm just lucky that I was asked by none other than Athanasius to contribute to The New Distributist League. As I do here, I will be passing along the teachings of Dorothy Day and hopefully clearing up some misunderstandings about her message along the way. Her writings on Distributism and the Church's ethic of work provide a breath of fresh air amongst our suffocating capitalist culture. You will recognize other contributors Roy F. Moore from The Distributist Review, Gen Ferrer from The ChesterBelloc Mandate and Leo from A Voice Crying in the Wilderness. Hope I can keep up with these guys. No promises on when the first post will be but hopefully within 48 hours. Be sure to swing by before then to check out the great stuff already up.

"No one should bear the burden of their behavior"

Charlotte over at IWF has a great article. Check it out.

Friday, July 20, 2007

In the face of a scorning world

"In our eulogies of poverty which we have printed again and again in The Catholic Worker, one of which is running in this issue of the paper, we write with the recognition that we stand as Americans, representing in the eyes of the world the richest nation on earth. What does it matter that we live with the poor, with those of the skid rows, and that those in our other houses throughout the country are living with poverty which is so great a scandal in a land of plenty. We know that we can never attain to the poverty of the destitute around us. We awake with it in our ears in the morning, listening to the bread line forming under our window, and we see it lined up even on such a day as the gale of last Saturday when glass and tin and bricks were flying down the street.

The only way we can make up for it is by giving of our time, our strength, our cheerfulness, our loving kindness, our gentleness to all. We have to overcome our Leon Bloy tendencies to bitterness and recrimination.

Let us pray that we do not hear our Lord call out to us, "Woe unto you rich!" "Woe unto you who judge!"

What are we to do? Young men in the draft age feel caught and torn in their humility and in their desire to share the sufferings of others, and in their very real desire to fight the gigantic evils of this world under what ever name they are called. Some of them are having the grace to resist, to oppose the draft, to oppose participation in fruitless slaughter. But if they do it with pride, with condemnation of others, with bitterness, then their stand is questionable also. It is true they will suffer with bitterness, and even the little Flower herself said that bitterness was a part of suffering that made it harder. If they are jailed there are plenty of opportunities for the works of mercy in jail among the poor there. They will be even more on the side of the poor.

If they obey the call as we have seen quite a number go, against their convictions, let us pray that they have opportunity to minister to the suffering. There is no due deliberation and full consent of the will in wartime, but a blind instinct for self preservation. We can make no judgements on the armies involved, but on war itself, the means used of atomic warfare, obliteration bombing, the ever increasing use of destruction to wipe out ideas, philosophies. We can quote Ezekiel who wrote "Woe to the Shepherds who do not feed their sheep the gospel of peace."

It grows ever harder to talk of love in the face of a scorning world. We have not begun to learn the meaning of love, the strength of it, the joy of it. And I am afraid we are not going to learn it from reading the daily papers or considering the struggles that are taking place on the other side of the world and in the United Nations halls here at home."

"The Message of Love"
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, December 1950, 1, 2.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Cleaning up the house

I hope in my brief absence you've all had the chance to read Summorum Pontificum and the CDF's recent release. I sipped champagne and Chartreuse in celebration on the 7th and then retreated to the shore, ignoring all ignorant media coverage for a whole week. Why ruin a good thing? A 40 year detour into the desert is coming to an end and I can only hope the radical changes so quickly accepted through the last 40 years will be as easily forgotten.
The notion of rebellion seems to figure into much of popular culture. Children outsmart their clueless and uptight parents in sitcoms, women wear revealing clothes to (somehow) liberate themselves from our male dominated culture and gay couples press for equal marriage acceptance against all known cultural and societal norms.
Many in the Church seemed to take the Second Vatican counsel as an opportunity to act out and push the limits; like a teenager whose parents went away for the weekend. Who wouldn't hold a party? Now it's up to the JPII generation and B16 to clean up the mess and straighten up the house. If you want to rebel, and do something different, join in the effort. Children, respect your parents and parents, don't get walked on by your children. And for heavens sake, get them to an extraordinary mass. Ladies, cover yourselves, dress modestly. Who's really shocked by anything that comes off the runways nowadays? Wear a long skirt everyday this week and you'll turn more heads than with any mini. If you experience same sex attraction, live a chaste life. That is rebellion. Don't indulge in every desire and perversion because our society is so morally depraved they say it's okay. It's not. Self control, deprivation and chastity will raise more eyebrows than another gay pride rally. To fit into current society you *must* rebel against all that is good and true. Today, piercing your lip and dying your hair is not as shocking as living an authentic Catholic life. I, for one, am ready to rebel against the culture and against the relativism that has invaded the Church. Turn off the TV, break out the ankle length skirts and mantillas and let the good times roll.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Friday, July 06, 2007

To be a Worker like Day, tradition is the only way

This blog fills a small niche in that not only am I writing about the Catholic Worker Movement, it's issues and it's founder Dorothy Day, I am also of the "traditional" persuasion. Usually, the the two are viewed as mutually exclusive. I hate that I have to identify myself as 'trad' or even 'practicing' because to me, it should be enough to say Catholic. Would it be too much to have universal beliefs held by all? But, alas, current divisions in the Church require me to identify my allegiances, confusing as they might be to some. Thankfully, I'm not alone with my split personality. Perhaps the best mix of 'trad' and rad is found in Day herself. Her love for the poor was driven by her love of Jesus, and His Church on Earth. Her daily routine included helping the poor, yet she made time to read the bible, attend Mass, attend retreats, study the saints and meditate over her missal. Can you still find her faith today amongst most Catholic Workers? Can you still find such faith amongst most Catholics? Where has all the love, devotion and reverence gone? Why do so many from the inside try to change the Church and the message Jesus sent rather than obediently serve Him? The key to the renewal is the Mass. The Mass that nurtured Day was the Tridentine Latin Mass. She wasn't holding hands, clapping, singing pop tunes and chatting it up with the Jones before and after Mass while our Lord sat ignored in a tabernacle off to the side in some dim chapel. The Mass is the summit of our faith. When we treat It like a social gathering and consider our Lord to be some hippie who loves everyone no matter what, we make a mockery of almost two thousand years of tradition. And for what? Why bother? What's the point? With the misinterpretations and abuses that came out of the Second Vatican Council we've distorted everything that nurtured people like Day and centuries of saints before her. When you put God in His proper place, as in the Tridentine Mass, your life finds immediate direction. The Mass represents the ultimate sacrifice, and your life should be a sacrifice. The Novus Ordo has become about accommodating and giving everyone what they want to hear. The fruits of such an approach are apparent. If Tridentine was good enough for Day, it's good enough for me. The Next Worker welcomes Summorom Pontificum and hopes the feeling is universal.

"This is probably my last chance, this issue of the Catholic Worker for me personally to write about some things that are in my heart about the Mass, for instance, that holy sacrifice, which is the heart of our life, bringing us into the closest of all contacts with our Lord Jesus Christ, enabling us literally to "put on Christ," as St. Paul said, and to begin to say with him, "Now, not I live, but Jesus Christ in me." With a strong consciousness of this, we remember too those lines, "without Me, ye can do nothing," and "with Me you can do all things."

The New Man

We know through long experience how hard it is to think in these terms, and only through constant exercise in the works of love and peace, can we grow in faith, hope and charity. Only by nourishing ourselves as we have been bidden to do by Christ, by eating His body and drinking His blood, can we become Christ and put on the new man.

These are great mysteries. Most of the time we do not comprehend at all. Sometimes the Holy Spirit blows upon us and chases some of the fog away and we see a bit more clearly. But most of the time we see through a glass darkly. Our need to worship, to praise, to give thanksgiving, makes us return to the Mass daily, as the only fitting worship which we can offer to God. Having received our God in the consecrated bread and wine, which still to sense is bread and wine, it is now not we ourselves who do these things except by virtue of the fact that we will to do them, and put ourselves in the position to do them by coming to the Holy Sacrifice, receiving communion, and then with Christ in our hearts and literally within us in the bread we have received, giving this praise, honor and glory and thanksgiving.

How inadequate words are to say these things, to write them. [snip]
But the Mass begins our day, it is our food and drink, our delight, our refreshment, our courage, our light. [snip]

With this recognition of the importance of the Word made flesh and dwelling among us, still with us in the bread and wine of the altar, how can any priest tear through the mass as though it were a repetitious duty? This is the impression they give people when they do this, like the children at Fatima who used to say only Hail Mary, or Our Father, and think they had said their prayers, and perhaps they had if they realized the holiness of these words. The priest often says the first words and slides through the rest in meaningless mutter. And some of the best priests I have met do this, abusing the prayers of the Mass in this way.

I am begging them not to. I am begging them to speak as though the words were holy and inspired and with power in themselves to produce in us the understanding--the participation that should change our lives."

"The Council And The Mass"
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, September 1962, 2

Monday, July 02, 2007

Warning! Journalism ahead.

"I shouldn't care what people think or say. It's just the fact that everyone knows I'm the kid. It was bigger than Houston. It was bigger than Texas. It was bigger than America. Everybody in the world knew what had happened and everybody knew the details of it."
-David Ritcheson

I can always depress myself by reading headlines. I came across this story and was reminded once again on how much today's media fails us. Here's a young man who was made a victim, not once, but twice. First by the deviant actions of some classmates and second by a media hell bent on exposing every disturbing detail of the crime to the world at large in the hopes of scoring more viewers and readers. This is a disturbing trend. Not only do we have to worry about excessive sex and violence in our movies, video games, websites and TV shows (many of it fictional, and grossly exaggerated) ; we have to be weary when reading the headlines and watching the news with our families after dinner. No longer is the journalist concerned with passing along information, he or she seeks to expose the gritty details better left unsaid. We've moved beyond the "if it bleeds it leads" motto which allowed us to show a twisted wreck of a car on the news to showing bodies in sheets, detailed descriptions of injuries and in depth interviews with grief stricken families. And don't think for a minute, these newsmen give a damn about what they're covering. Maybe I'm a skeptic or maybe I'm just ignorant of how things have always worked. I know it's not entirely recent; I've got a book of Weegee prints. But when did graphic depictions of sex and violence become newsworthy at even the highest levels, beyond the cheesy tabloid? This young man was attacked. Do we need to say how? Does everyone need the details? Why do people in Maine need to know about this party in Texas? What does that sensationalism do besides contribute to the desensitization of sane people and over-stimulation of the rest? Is it just me or does it seem like every abduction, party gone bad, or hazing ritual now involves sexual assault-all of which is given in detail on the 6 p.m. news for junior to hear. Where are these misfits getting the ideas for these attacks? Does the news normalize this violence? I don't know, but it does make it seem common. I would never suggest restricting freedom of speech. But what steps must be taken to stop people from consuming such media filth? I'd like to think that as decent people, we are abhorred by perverse and violent behavior and would do everything to prohibit it's spread. However, when one continues to consume violent and overtly sexual movies, TV shows, video games and support media outlets who profit from proudly detailing events *stranger than fiction* I see no end in sight. It wears us down and chips away at our morality when exposed to this trash day in and day out. What would have made our grandparents blush, is commonplace for most Saturday morning cartoons. The media believes this is what we want and they are ruthless in their hunt for the most private, personal and ultimately painful memories and details of *the story.* What control did David Ritcheson have over the media frenzy around his story? What control does any deceased victim of violence, or their family, have over the flashbulbs and microphones if their tale has been dubbed newsworthy? Yes, the attention may also bring forth prayers, donations, community support but that is not reason the story is being told over the airwaves and survivors are foolish is they believe so. If we truly want relevant news that affect us instead of frighten, educate instead of brainwash, we need to be selective in our media choices and more than likely, we need to limit our exposure. There is good journalism, and good journalists, we just need to find and encourage them. St. Frances de Sales, pray for us!