Of Dodgers, And Not Dodging The Virus

Image result for LA DodgersI notice that Los Angeles has collected the second championship of the pandemic era. I had a good friend in ministry years ago in Virginia who was all things Dodgers. I imagine he is thrilled his favorite baseball team has triumphed.

I feel less thrilled about the accompanying “celebrations” associated with this win. Two things, really. First the player who was nicked with a positive test for the virus and was yanked (not NY Yankee’d) from the game. After the final out he insisted on making his way to the field, and joining in the celebration. I guess it was bad enough he had to miss the pile-of-guys-on-grass, so he unmasked and chummed with teammates, team officials, and loved ones after the losing team vacated the park. The MLB braintrust is apparently considering punishment. Should it be more if some teammate, wife, girlfriend, or kid gets the virus and dies? Or does the potential for this merit something like a million-dollar fine for the team or even a deduction like they do in soccer. We’ve never seen a baseball team crawl out of a ten or twenty-game hole at season’s start.

I wonder what the protocol will be for the team today. Send them home on a plane and cross fingers? Send the personnel and families into a Texas lockdown for two weeks and send Justin Turner the bill? Maybe he’s earned it. A teammate:

To take (the celebration) away from him is gut-wrenching. I can’t image how he feels. That guy more than anybody deserves to take his picture with that trophy and celebrate with us. That got taken away from him. That doesn’t sit right with me.

Millions of deaths don’t sit right with me either. Sport is sport. Life is life. I think the fans and players know the contribution of Mr Turner to his team. I think families of virus victims are gutted too.

Maybe the one thing the Dodgers have going for them in my book is that they were diligent in applying safety protocols, and other teams actually consulted with how they were doing it.

I also noticed the celebrations in the home city got rough and rowdy. An amusing quote, I assume from a person of color:

The only people we want to see in blue are the Dodgers.

When the Lakers won there was also upheaval and such. I didn’t read anybody blaming antifa on those observances either. Teams win and things get trashed. It’s an American tradition. Opportunism, maybe. I don’t usually get excited about breaking windows or stealing alcohol when my team does well. My daughter the sports fan and I have celebrated, even championships. Usually that involves me listening to high-pitched shrieks and sharing lots of laughter. And there are always memories.

When it comes to sport, I realize it is the new American religion. But let’s remember some perspective in the bigger picture. Sport contributes to the quality of life. It doesn’t work the other way around. Life and lives do not, or should not, contribute to sport.

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Fratelli Tutti 24: Slavery

I don’t know if anyone has done a study on this, but I wonder: Have there never been more living slaves in history as there are now? Excerpts from Pope Francis’ message from six years ago:

24. We should also recognize that “even though the international community has adopted numerous agreements aimed at ending slavery in all its forms, and has launched various strategies to combat this phenomenon, millions of people today – children, women and men of all ages – are deprived of freedom and forced to live in conditions akin to slavery… Today, as in the past, slavery is rooted in a notion of the human person that allows him or her to be treated as an object… Whether by coercion, or deception, or by physical or psychological duress, human persons created in the image and likeness of God are deprived of their freedom, sold and reduced to being the property of others. They are treated as means to an end… [Criminal networks] are skilled in using modern means of communication as a way of luring young men and women in various parts of the world”.[Message for the 2015 World Day of Peace(8 December 2014), 3-4: AAS 107 (2015), 69-71]

People enslave others simply because they can. They have been formed in a system of hierarchy in which the wealthy and powerful pay for what they want. People who they can use. People who can collect slaves on their behalf. And while slave-like conditions can exist with chains and physical captivity, there are other ways to bind the weak, the needy, the powerless, the hidden, the young, the old, the laborers, etc..

A perversion that exceeds all limits when it subjugates women and then forces them to abort. An abomination that goes to the length of kidnapping persons for the sake of selling their organs. Trafficking in persons and other contemporary forms of enslavement are a worldwide problem that needs to be taken seriously by humanity as a whole: “since criminal organizations employ global networks to achieve their goals, efforts to eliminate this phenomenon also demand a common and, indeed, a global effort on the part of various sectors of society”.[Ibid., 5]

It may be that we do not take this seriously enough, especially the upper parts of the slippery slope: many products enjoyed by free people in free nations.

All citations of Fratelli Tutti (which can be found on this link) are © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Fratelli Tutti 23: Dignity and Rights For Women

Some will dismiss any word from Rome on women. While there are traditional and theologically-framed reasons for excluding women, the perception of mistreatment may make the words of Fratelli Tutti 23 ring empty. Nonetheless, they are here, partly quoted from an earlier Pope Francis document:

  1. Similarly, the organization of societies worldwide is still far from reflecting clearly that women possess the same dignity and identical rights as men. We say one thing with words, but our decisions and reality tell another story. Indeed, “doubly poor are those women who endure situations of exclusion, mistreatment and violence, since they are frequently less able to defend their rights”.[Evangelii Gaudium 212]

Indeed, words are one thing. Yet actions tell a truer tale.

All citations of Fratelli Tutti (which can be found on this link) are © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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The Armchair Liturgist: Reformation Sunday

As I understand it, Lutherans and Calvinists are the chief observers of Reformation Day, October 31st. Many churches in the US opt for a weekend celebration, and move the feast to the last Sunday of October. Today is the earliest it can occur.

I know there have been gestures from Roman Catholicism in the direction of this commemoration of Martin Luther’s gauntlet from 503 years ago. But it’s mostly ignored in places I’ve served.

However, assuming your parish is aware of it, how would you think an observance in a Catholic community should unfold? Consulting with the Protestants down the street so as not to blunder into an ecumenical faux pas? Offer a prayer for Christian unity during the intercessions? Celebrate a choir event (in non-pandemic times)? Sing German hymn tunes at Mass?

Image result for martin lutherOn that last piece, I once lived in a town where the churches did gather for a choir festival on a late October evening. I don’t recall we sang much along the lines of Ein Feste Berg. But it did have a following of sorts, if primarily along the lines of singers’ spouses.

Any thoughts from the purple chair?


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Fratelli Tutti 22: On Human Rights

The confluence of human rights and Pope Francis have been somewhat in the news this past week. I’d rather focus on his official word on what he has termed, “Insufficiently universal human rights.” This is covered in today’s paragraphs and the two that follow. He leads off with a quote from an address he gave in Albania over six years ago:

22. It frequently becomes clear that, in practice, human rights are not equal for all. Respect for those rights “is the preliminary condition for a country’s social and economic development. When the dignity of the human person is respected, and his or her rights recognized and guaranteed, creativity and interdependence thrive, and the creativity of the human personality is released through actions that further the common good”.[Address to the Civil Authorities, Tirana, Albania (21 September 2014): AAS 106 (2014), 773]

Society is bettered when every person is respected and treated with dignity: why is this so hard to understand? I suspect more people do realize it to a degree, but they are focused on personal advantage they can squeeze out of a situation. Unfair and rigged economies are pilloried:

Yet, “by closely observing our contemporary societies, we see numerous contradictions that lead us to wonder whether the equal dignity of all human beings, solemnly proclaimed seventy years ago, is truly recognized, respected, protected and promoted in every situation. In today’s world, many forms of injustice persist, fed by reductive anthropological visions and by a profit-based economic model that does not hesitate to exploit, discard and even kill human beings. While one part of humanity lives in opulence, another part sees its own dignity denied, scorned or trampled upon, and its fundamental rights discarded or violated”.[Message to Participants in the International Conference “Human Rights in the Contemporary World: Achievements, Omissions, Negations”(10 December 2018): L’Osservatore Romano, 10-11 December 2018, p. 8] What does this tell us about the equality of rights grounded in innate human dignity?

It tells us that some of our sisters and brothers are not ready to let go. They will whine about things being stolen or repurposed or wasted in reparations or taxes or such. It’s really more about fairness. Equality is a balance we will never achieve. But opportunity is something that can be generously given to all persons.

All citations of Fratelli Tutti (which can be found on this link) are © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On My Bookshelf: The Copernicus Complex

The Copernicus ComplexSome people like their science focused and tight. I prefer something more far-reaching. These days, with science and so many other disciplines well-honed and specialized, it is rare for an author to pull off a feat of delving into multiple disciplines. Astrophysicist Caleb Scharf manages this competently in The Copernicus ComplexHe begins with a look under a 17th century  microscope and takes the reader on a journey through the distant past and dozens of billions of years into the future, weaving together modern insights of cosmology, biochemistry, geology, physics, probability, while touching on assorted other fields of study. To what point?

Is life on Earth special or ordinary? The ancients saw us as accidents in a universe controlled by capricious gods. Judaism suggested the creation of human beings was a special intent of a loving God. And Christians adopted this. Likewise other religions today have a more refined understanding of human purpose in a universe not so hostile and random.

But western scientists have observed that perhaps we are not so special after all. Instead of being at the center of God’s creation, we are just one planet circling a star. Once, one planet among a handful. Today, a yellow star considered a “dwarf” and one planet among countless trillions. And maybe caprice will do us in in the end: a comet hitting the planet, or our star swelling up into a helium-burning red giant and incinerating the Earth in some future endgame of the solar system.

I like Dr Scharf’s approach in this book. He keeps readers on their toes. He keeps the science accessible without dumbing it down. I would say a sharp high-school student could follow the gist of this text and find wonder. It presumes a strong secondary education in the sciences. But the prose is engaging, even if a bit drawn out at times. The editing could be a bit tighter–modern effectiveness needs more than spell-check. But I say that about most any book I read these days. I still recommend this tome as one of the best I’ve read in five years.

Religion isn’t really a part of this volume, but the topics open up possibilities on that front. If we were one of many intelligent species in the universe, how does that affect our beliefs and assumptions about God? Some authors have swung away from Copernicus suggesting we are just an ordinary planet. Dr Scharf addresses the “rare Earth” thinking among some scientists. Before I read this book, I would have put myself into that camp. Now I’m not sure. Not that I’m self-identifying as a creationist or anything like that. At this point in time, we simply don’t have enough information to determine if intelligent life is unique,  Star Trek/Star Wars common, or somewhere in between those extremes.

We are just beginning to get a rational grasp on the question. Go with this author, and tighten your grip.

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Scripture for the Sick or Dying: Matthew 5:1-12

Name a Bible passage recommended for Catholic weddings, funerals, and penance/confession. Stumped? Likely not, my friend, if you are following this post and have read the title. You now know it’s also recommended for people who are sick or dying.

Guess what? It’s also coming up next weekend for the observance of All Saints.

It’s been mentioned many times on this site. In those series on Bible readings, certainly. I recall my wife’s and my wedding day fell on a Sunday in which this Gospel was preached. These virtues are applied to and urged for those who seek a Christian life, not just a fruitful marriage.

Some years ago my friend Fran suggested a lens of hope, especially for those facing loss at a time of a funeral. That makes much sense to me.

In the larger context of the Gospel of Matthew, the evangelist presents these principles as the opening statement of the Sermon on the Mount. That three-chapter speech covers a lot of ground:  relationships with others, prayer, charity, persistence, among other topics. The Beatitudes are a perfect set-up for all this. They are also a primer not just for the disciple’s life, but also for the time when believers face personal upheaval from serious illness or when close to death.

Looking over these virtues, and it seems any one of them might apply. At least one.

When he saw the crowds,
(Jesus) went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down,
his disciples came to him.

He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted
for the sake of righteousness,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.

Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.
Thus they persecuted the prophets
who were before you.

My wife tells me she is drawn to the first of these, the one regarding the poor in spirit. Such a person has an aspiration: the end of suffering in the Reign of God to come. I get that. In my pastoral life, I’ve known many people who have suffered chronic illness. They tell me it becomes a steady unpleasant drumbeat, reminding them of their inflamed nerve endings, their loss of mobility, the difficulty in speaking or taking breath. Some day mortal life will end. What is to come is unknown, but the promise of the Lord is that restoration will be ours.

Scripture scholars bat around exactly what Jesus meant by “poor in spirit.” It doesn’t seem he implies a lack of piety or religious belief. It might seem he is describing the full effects the anawim feel, those who are bowed down. Perhaps the main meaning is poverty and the crushing life that goes with it. It might also mean those who have been browbeaten by modern life, perhaps even in the Church itself.

No doubt, we mistreat the sick, the elderly, and the dying too often. Perhaps it is no wonder people choose euthanasia. For those who minister to the sick, it might be even more important to keep the Beatitudes in mind than the Ten Commandments o0r even the Great Two. I tend to go with my wife’s counsel. I find it fruitful. And if the Lord endorses it as well, I’d say this reading is well worth prayerful reflection whether the sacrament is marriage or penance, or even anointing or viaticum.

For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.

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Fratelli Tutti 21: Progress For All

Pope Paul VI penned Populorum Progressio in 1967. In it he suggested that human economic institutions needed to attend to the development of all people of the world, not just the wealthy few. We know that advancing technology has provided great wealth for a new generation of celebrities. The ever-present and always-evolving media of communications ensures we all know about them. 

21. Some economic rules have proved effective for growth, but not for integral human development.[Cf. Populorum Progressio] Wealth has increased, but together with inequality, with the result that “new forms of poverty are emerging”.[Caritas in Veritate 22] 

Pope Francis adds to the discussion by suggesting we look to the possibilities we’ve missed today, rather than a straight-up comparison between now and some previous age:

The claim that the modern world has reduced poverty is made by measuring poverty with criteria from the past that do not correspond to present-day realities. In other times, for example, lack of access to electric energy was not considered a sign of poverty, nor was it a source of hardship. Poverty must always be understood and gauged in the context of the actual opportunities available in each concrete historical period.

All citations of Fratelli Tutti (which can be found on this link) are © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Elmer Fudd For President

Election officials frequently see candidates written in for public office. In my state, the November slate for lieutenant governor features the top two vote-getters from August’s primary. Since they are both Democrats, a Republican is mounting a serious write-in campaign. Some write-in efforts are successful. Even in losing, a serious political person can surface in a community and begin to make a difference.

A celebrity like Kanye West, perhaps less so.

A fictional character is ineligible to serve in office. It may tickle a person’s feelings to write in “Mickey Mouse” and others, but here’s how it plays out in our processing room in Washington’s Kitsap County:

  • Write-in votes are separated from other ballots and labelled for “further review.” One part of this review consists of checking a candidate’s eligibility. For human beings, they would have to be a non-loser from the August primary. The third-place finisher in the race for governor is ineligible to run for that seat. But she or he could campaign for another office.
  • If a ballot contains one or more fictional characters, it counts as a submitted ballot. The citizen gets credit for voting. But it would be the same voting for a Looney Tunes figure as it would be leaving all slots in the race blank. Except that it takes some seconds of an election worker’s time here and there.
  • Our auditor doesn’t see the vote. He knows out of n ballots for an office, n-x are counted. “n” signifies the voter turnout, and “x” the total number of ineligible candidates.
  • And neither do party officials pick up the ballots and sigh about missing something. They know the “protest” voter wasn’t one of theirs anyway. They’re just glad you didn’t vote against them. Whew!

If Mr Fudd is a protest, I think you’d make more of a difference marching in protest for Black Lives Matter. If you are unhappy with a political party, there’s always the choice of joining to change it, joining another party to defeat it, and/or running for office yourself. I saw two ballots today with “Me” written in for some offices. We have no idea who “Me” is. Ballots are anonymous.

I think the expression of writing in a silly character is one of emotion. I suspect many protest voters think of themselves as rational beings making a statement against the crazy of modern politics. Many have simply joined the crazy adding to the ineffectiveness of the democratic process. By all means they are free to continue to do this. But they underestimate the impact.


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Fratelli Tutti 20: More On Discarding People

One might think that skill in selling to the people would be a prime business value, be it for a product or a political candidate, or a point of view. The reality is that many self-proclaimed experts in politics, business, and other social fields are really noobs. 

Pope Francis is deeply critical of those who “discard” other human beings. 

20. This way of discarding others can take a variety of forms, such as an obsession with reducing labor costs with no concern for its grave consequences, since the unemployment that it directly generates leads to the expansion of poverty.[Cf. Address to the “Centesimus Annus pro Pontifice” Foundation(25 May 2013): Insegnamenti I, 1 (2013), 238]

Here, he ties in the unwhacked mole of racism:

In addition, a readiness to discard others finds expression in vicious attitudes that we thought long past, such as racism, which retreats underground only to keep reemerging. Instances of racism continue to shame us, for they show that our supposed social progress is not as real or definitive as we think.

Some would say we can’t totally succeed, so why bother to try. By the same token, we might well say we can never succeed in business, ideology, sports, or other modern passions. Some of these are indeed worth trying, as we are told.

All citations of Fratelli Tutti (which can be found on this link) are © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Suffrage Centenary Coin

Did you know the US Mint continues to produce silver dollars? You’ll never see them in picket change though. For something north of a 6000 percent mark-up, a collector can own a silver dollar honoring the American women who scored the right to vote a hundred years ago.

It’s an interesting design: one older woman, a younger person, and someone possibly of color. I’ve never liked the use of the dollar sign–a 2007 innovation for the presidential dollar series. It looks cheap to me.

Don’t forget to vote, and do it early if you have the opportunity. If you feel pressured not to do so, resist. Insist on your right.

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Fratelli Tutti 19: Concerns For The Elderly

19. A decline in the birthrate, which leads to the aging of the population, together with the relegation of the elderly to a sad and lonely existence, is a subtle way of stating that it is all about us, that our individual concerns are the only thing that matters.

The condemnation of consigning older people to ghettoes as western so-called civilization has done for people of color is stark. But it’s not completely inaccurate. On one hand, there is an objective good in allowing elderly persons to receive diligent attention to their special needs. The reality is that most of their waking time is spent alone, apart from loved ones. I’m not sure a higher birthrate would help; our corporate masters would find some way to employ or enslave/imprison a massive younger generation. And the challenge for the elderly would remain.

Picking up on the theme of disposability from paragraph 18:

In this way, “what is thrown away are not only food and dispensable objects, but often human beings themselves”.[Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See(13 January 2014): AAS 106 (2014), 83-84] We have seen what happened with the elderly in certain places in our world as a result of the coronavirus. They did not have to die that way.

True. But this is less a commentary on a public policy on the virus than a criticism of the way the elderly are treated because of existing systems of law, medicine, housing, etc.. Old people can be annoying, and let’s face it: it’s easier to be out of sight so they can be out of mind.

Yet something similar had long been occurring during heat waves and in other situations: older people found themselves cruelly abandoned. We fail to realize that, by isolating the elderly and leaving them in the care of others without the closeness and concern of family members, we disfigure and impoverish the family itself. We also end up depriving young people of a necessary connection to their roots and a wisdom that the young cannot achieve on their own.

That image of disfiguring the family: devastating. And all too accurate in many situations.

Always keep in mind that if you want to go directly to Fratelli Tutti, click here. All citations  are © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana


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Three Bodies, No Problem

Moon sweeps by the planets Jupiter and Saturn.The next few nights the fat crescent moon drifts past Jupiter and Saturn as they appear from Planet Earth.

Leaving church this evening, the rain clouds had largely cleared, but it was a beautiful sight. The moon illuminated the edges of clouds and the giant planets hung nearby.

Keep an eye on those planets as the weeks continue. They will remain in the western sky and gradually draw closer to each other from our perspective. In reality, they are about 400 million miles apart.

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Fratelli Tutti 18: A “Throwaway” World

Remember that if you want to go directly to Fratelli Tutti, click here. This and the next few paragraphs fall under the title of “A ‘throwaway’ world.” It doesn’t take genius to figure out that the 1% and some associates think little of the rest of humanity. The pandemic has certainly drawn that more into the fore.

18. Some parts of our human family, it appears, can be readily sacrificed for the sake of others considered worthy of a carefree existence. Ultimately, “persons are no longer seen as a paramount value to be cared for and respected, especially when they are poor and disabled, ‘not yet useful’ – like the unborn, or ‘no longer needed’ – like the elderly. We have grown indifferent to all kinds of wastefulness, starting with the waste of food, which is deplorable in the extreme”.[Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See(11 January 2016): AAS 108 (2016), 120]

Wasting food doesn’t fall in the same category of gravity as the concerns of abortion or euthanasia, but I would agree with Pope Francis it can betray a like attitude of wastefulness. To be clear, not every abortion or leftover is a matter of being selfish. There’s no doubt the notion of waste is well with modern sensibilities. We have much, and there is often the promise of plenty more. So, why bother about conserving resources of employees, children, gasoline, or cake?

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Suffrage Centenary

19th Amendment: Women VoteAnother collectible, left, the 2020 USPS issue honoring a hundred years of US women voting in federal elections.

While I like the classic designs on commemorative stamps of the 1930s through the early 60s, this is a pleasing design too.

Remember, whether you are a woman or not, get yourself out to vote this year. And in the years that follow. Every election is important. Women struggled long and hard to win the recognition of full citizenship. Let’s not throw that effort to the winds.

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