Charlie's Blog: November 2014

11.30.2014

The Cowardice of the Minimalist Aesthetic


I will not subscribe to the argument that ornament increases the pleasure of the life of a cultivated person, or the argument which covers itself with the words: “But if the ornament is beautiful! ...” To me, and to all the cultivated people, ornament does not increase the pleasures of life. If I want to eat a piece of gingerbread I will choose one that is completely plain and not a piece which represents a baby in arms of a horserider, a piece which is covered over and over with decoration. The man of the fifteenth century would not understand me. But modern people will. The supporter of ornament believes that the urge for simplicity is equivalent to self-denial. No, dear professor from the College of Applied Arts, I am not denying myself! To me, it tastes better this way.
ADOLF LOOS
Ornament and Crime

There is a show on HGTV where a couple flips houses for a living. They take old houses in states of decay and ruin and remodel them to sell for a profit. Naturally, the remodel of an old home into a newer home requires aesthetic judgments, and those judgments tend to be on the safe side. Walls are always painted white. New appliances tend to be gray stainless steel. Wallpaper is a no-no. The aim of these aesthetic choices isn't to make a home the most beautiful it can be but to give the least offense to the prospective buyer. When buyers look at a home, they tend to complain of a "dated" look and a preference for a "modern" look. But what is modern? And when did this become an aesthetic? And why does it matter?

The stupidity of minimalism came to a head for me when Apple decided to produce an iPhone in white. Stop the presses! A white iPhone?! What boldness!! What courage! Now, you could express yourself in either black or white. It seems people forgot the existence of products like this:


Apple used to make fun products before they started making cold gray boxes. They brought back color for their iPods when they stopped selling so well. But you're never going to see a woodgrain Apple product. Anything regarding personalization and expression are relegated to after market accessories for your Apple products. People don't like the minimalist aesthetic. They have an insatiable need to decorate and personalize everything they own. This impulse seems hardwired in the psyche of the human being. Even cave men were interior decorators.


The modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was miffed when residents of his minimalist Lake Shore Apartments hung curtains in the windows. This variety could not be tolerated. The chief virtue in minimalist design is uniformity. The expression of humanity and individualism is forbidden. Variety is the enemy. Ornament is a crime.

The minimalist aesthetic is an anti-human aesthetic. It is a hatred of humanity and individuality. Adolf Loos expressed this clearly in his landmark essay, "Ornament and Crime." The common man loves ornament and variety. The modern man loves the absence of these things. The modern man wants smooth lines and the absence of decoration. His color palette gets reduced to white, black, and gray. The modern man wishes for the timeless quality that is achieved when all ornament and decoration are removed. The minimalist aesthetic is never dated. It is always new.


Loos would make the argument that this sort of minimalism was more productive. By eliminating ornament, the production of utilitarian objects would take less time to build or make and could be offered at a reduced price. The argument seems to make sense from a purely rational viewpoint except that minimalist objects devoid of ornament almost always cost more than those with decoration. In addition, industrial designers like Apple's Jonathan Ive will spend considerable time and resources to achieve the perfection of drab in their products. Who knew that boring required so much effort? As Mokokoma Mokhonoana put it, "A minimalist does not charge you for what he did. He charges you for what he did not do." Basically, minimalist designers are like the tailors of the emperor's new clothes. They make nothing and get paid and celebrated for it. But minimalism does not come cheap. A Barcelona chair will cost you more than a caned rocking chair that took many hours to complete.


Another argument that Loos made was that the absence of ornament would remove the dated aspect of things making them timeless and never needing replacement except for wear and tear. Minimalism is immune to fashion. An aesthetic like Art Nouveau is married to a time and place. The minimalist aesthetic is wedded to nothing. Of course, this argument is also nonsense as people who buy minimalist objects are always upgrading to something simpler and more refined. The iPhone is already on its sixth incarnation, and Apple fans will no doubt eat up the iPhone 7 which will have only a minimal difference in design.

So, if Loos's original arguments don't hold water, why do people opt for this minimalist aesthetic? The answer goes back to our house flipping couple. The minimalist option is the safe option. It is the least offensive of aesthetics, so it should have the broadest appeal. No one ever complains that their toilet paper is too white. It is better to be boring than to be ugly.



Any aesthetic commits you to a worldview. When you decorate something, you are making a choice. Choices are dictated by values, and values are determined by worldviews. This is why the punk rocker looks decidedly different in contrast to the suited businessman. The workman chooses his tools according to function and utility instead of color. The homemaker chooses her decor to appeal to the desires for comfort and warmth. The rich man will choose things that highlight his wealth like a gold watch while the poor man will choose something that lasts long or costs little. Minimalism attempts to be valueless. The same iPhone the poor man carries is the same as the rich man. It is one size fits all. There is no worldview represented by minimalism. It is a blank, a void, a zero.

When minimalist aesthetics become problematic is when its austere emptiness becomes equated with beauty and perfection. It's like believing the best book ever written is a notebook with blank pages, and writing in those notebooks will make them worthless. Blank space is a good place to start, but minimalism makes it the finish. There is no room for humanity in the minimalist aesthetic. The human becomes a blight on the platonic perfection. You can tell in Mies van der Rohe's madness that he would have preferred that no humans actually live in his structures. The problem is that people rarely pay architects to make buildings with no function. When they do, lawsuits happen.

Who does the minimalist fear? The minimalist fears the critic both now and in the future. Like the unprofitable servant who buried his talent in the ground out of fear, the minimalist refuses to gamble by making a commitment to a choice of values. The minimalist refuses to convey beauty but prefers the blank page and the blank canvas. Maybe someone else will put something in that blank space, but the responsibility will be all theirs. Minimalism is creation done by the CYA method.

Emptiness is not beauty. Austerity is not functional. Minimalism is not courageous. Art and design always requires a commitment to something, and minimalism is the refusal to make the commitment. As one minimalist put it, "What you see is what you see." Any minimalist who disagrees with this assessment will have moved away from their minimalism in their disagreement. Minimalism is cowardice. It is a retreat to a neutral zone of nothing. The result is a lot of cold looking buildings people don't mind seeing torn down and a lot of timeless products nobody ends up caring much about.

11.27.2014

The Vicar of Christ


And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.
MATTHEW 16:18-19 DOUAY-RHEIMS

It is rare to get two Protestants to agree on anything. This hit me as I was going down a country road and saw a Baptist church and right beside it was another Baptist church. Protestants schism and fight among themselves such that denominations number in the thousands. It is so bad that many churches remove these denominational signifiers in favor of " Such-and-such Community Church" or "Willow Creek Oak Tree Something Woodsy Church." Or, they opt for something even less like just plain "Elevation" or "Vizion" with a "Z" or some other vague but empowering word. The biggest denomination today is "non-denominational." All of these tricks are to hide the many and various differences that afflict these separated brothers and sisters. But there is one thing that unites them all including uniting them with the separated believers of the Orthodox churches. They all deny the authority of the pope, and they all despise the Roman Catholic Church.

This realization came to me while trying to have a civil but ultimately contentious conversation with a Protestant friend of mine. We discussed various doctrines, but they all ended up swirling towards the drain of the authority of the Pope. I told him about Matthew 16:18-19 and the authority given to Peter and his successors. I told him that the Pope was the Vicar of Christ. His face contorted in disgust, and he said through clenched teeth, "I will never become a Roman Catholic." At that point, I realized the conversation was done. I shook the dust from my clothes, got in my vehicle, and left. I have not spoken to him again.

Why do Protestants hate the Pope? The reason is obvious though no one has the audacity to say it. But I do. They hate the Vicar of Christ because they hate Christ Himself. Let that slam into your gut for a bit. Now, let me share the words of Christ in John 15:18, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you." Now, not all Protestants realize that the Holy Father is the actual Vicar of Christ but have been fed lies and falsehoods believing the pope is the antichrist. I can understand that hatred. This was what I was taught and what I believed for virtually my entire life. But once the reality is known and established, to hate the pope and his authority is to hate the authority of Christ Himself.



St. Peter was the first pope. He was the guy Christ left in charge. Protestants will try and fail to argue that the words of Christ in Matthew 16:18-19 are based upon Peter's declaration of faith in Christ. This declaration is the "rock" that the Church is built on. This is utterly absurd. If this is the case, why does Jesus go on to talk about keys and the kingdom of Heaven? Why did all of the Christians recognize Peter and his successors as the final authority in the Church?

The pope is Christ's vicar on earth. The reason people reject this fact is because they wish to be their own popes deciding what is orthodox and binding upon them in matters of faith and morals. Recently, I had a conversation with a non-denominational Protestant, and he tried to argue for his heretical viewpoints based upon having some kind of special knowledge direct from the Almighty. I pointed out to him that he was not the pope. I also pointed out all those other denominations and believers who were united with him in the same belief in their own authority but all coming to differing conclusions. I just don't think Christ would be or could be the author of the mass confusion that is Protestantism.

Christ gave us a pope. He did not leave us fatherless orphans in this world. Those who know the pope as the Vicar of Christ and still reject him reject Christ Himself. This is strong stuff, but you can see what happens to all those who reject the pope. They are left with disarray and confusion. Father Robert Barron likes to use the baseball analogy of the pope as umpire. Without an umpire, the game of baseball would be utter chaos. The church is the same way. Those in communion with the pope have a father who keeps them in line. Those out of the communion with the pope behave as bastard offspring not knowing a father. They decide what is right and wrong, and it shows. And they also wish to forget who the Holy Father is which is why their knowledge of church history is virtually zilch. But all Christians have a father. They should do themselves a favor and come home to the Roman Catholic Church.

11.23.2014

The Workplace Kool-Aid


. . .cursed is the earth in thy work; with labour and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the days of thy life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herbs of the earth. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.
GENESIS 3:17-19 DOUAY-RHEIMS

The Jonestown Massacre of 1978 didn't do a whole lot of good for the Kool-Aid brand. The members of the Jonestown cult killed themselves by drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide. The drink mix covered over the bitter flavor of the cyanide and made it more palatable. Those who refused to drink were murdered. Since that incident, "drinking the Kool-Aid" has entered the vernacular as a way to describe when people subscribe to a set of beliefs that are untrue and harmful. They should know better, but they choose to not know better because they intend to profit from the delusion, want to be self-deluded for the sake of conscience, or remain silent for fear of reprisal and punishment. Today, the place where people drink the Kool-Aid the hardest is the corporate workplace.

Over the years, I have read article after article that are merely variations on the same theme. Blue collar workers enjoy their jobs more than white collar workers. This was the shocking conclusion of Mike Rowe when he made the TV series Dirty Jobs for Discovery Channel. Why is this? Why are the people doing the dirty work happier than the the people with the ties and the clean fingernails? I think it comes down to expectations.

Blue collar people have low expectations of their work. They know the work is hard. It isn't glamorous. They may or may not achieve satisfaction from the completion of a task. But they do the work because they expect to be paid. Work is basic. We work to provide for our needs and the needs of others. There is nothing more higher level to blue collar work than that.

White collar work is different. People in white collar work pursue careers and career satisfaction. They speak in fuzzy terms of achievement and fulfillment. It gets rather nauseating especially when you consider that fulfillment would vanish the moment their paychecks bounced. So, where does this fulfillment crap come from? It comes from one man--Abraham Maslow.


Abraham Maslow lived from 1908 to 1970 and worked in psychology. He gave the world his famous hierarchy of needs with self-actualization at the top of this pyramid of needs. Here is what it looks like:


Maslow was a leading light in what is known as "positive psychology." The problem with positive psychology is that it is more philosophical than empirical. The basic gist of the hierarchy is that as baser needs for survival are met then higher needs for emotional, spiritual, and psychological fulfillment become more important. This is where you get that grape flavored workplace Kool-Aid.

Management types are supposed to be above the basic physiological needs of food and money that seem to preoccupy the wage slaves. So, they spend their days crafting the perfect email, deciding on misson statements, finding ways to "empower" and "motivate," and other variations of corporate psychobabble that amount to absolute squat. And why do companies indulge in this psychobabble horsecrap? Because it is cheaper than giving workers a living wage.


People who work for a living as opposed to people who "manage" just want to earn their pay and go home. They may or may not want to fulfill the higher needs on Maslow's hierarchy, but they certainly don't expect to fulfill them on the job. A job is where you endure misery and suffering for money. Once the money is earned, you go home and spend time with the people you love, pursue your real interests, worship your God, and get some well-deserved rest. It has always been this way for the working man and woman and will always be this way. Naturally, this infuriates the management in the workplace who cannot fathom why anyone would have a life outside of work, or why they seem to only care about getting paid. But managers are idiots. Maslow was an idiot, too.


The reason managers are so frustrated in their pursuit of this higher need for fulfillment is because it doesn't exist. You can find fulfillment in art, music, writing a poem, attending a worship service, prayer, or what have you. But work is work. The trick is to try and convince workers that they aren't working but actually playing. But this would require workers to be as stupid as managers, and they aren't. The managers try and convince themselves that this falsehood is true, but they are always disappointed. No amount of pyschobabble perfume will disguise the pungent aroma coming from that steaming pile of crap.

Work is suffering. The Christian can take comfort in the fact that this suffering can be offered up to the Lord, and he will be rewarded for his faithful service to the Almighty. In this regard, work is fulfilling. But it doesn't make it cease to be suffering. Work is a cross to be borne daily in a ritual of corporal mortification. By doing this, the work is sanctified. St. Paul writes,
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
Colossians 3:23-24 NAS
The Christian is to work and not loaf. If you're not working, you're stealing. Though work may be suffering, the fact that it is sanctified should encourage us to do it with vigor, skill, enthusiasm, and excellence. Management finds this unfathomable since they tend to do their own work with the least amount of effort possible. Motivation of workers is nothing more than a clever trick pulled on hapless dupes who were either too unlucky or too dumb to get out of working. The workers are not stupid. They see that the laziest employees in their organizations are the ones in charge. The reason workers have no desire to be in management is because they want to be moral people, and corporate middle management is inherently immoral.

The common worker is happier than the manager because of this moral aspect of the work. People who do honest work have clean consciences and sleep well at night. People who are dishonest are always denied happiness because you can't be happy and evil. Evil is never satisfied. If you look at Maslow's hierarchy, self-actualization at the top involves morality, direction, and a higher purpose. The worker who sanctifies his work and offers it to the Lord experiences this self-actualization in spite of low pay and lousy work conditions. This is irony. Those who seek self-actualization are denied it. Those who embrace suffering for the sake of the Lord find self-actualization. Blue collar wins. White collar loses.

Nothing is ever going to change the fact that work is suffering. Managers try to escape it. Workers try to endure it. But the worker who does it for the Lord finds the true path of fulfillment. Work is never going to be easy, and the job of management seems to be to make it more difficult while cheating you out of pay. But this, too, is part of the cross of working. If you want to be happy in your work, take up that cross and bear it. You will see that Maslow got it wrong, but Jesus got it right. Remember, Jesus could have come as anyone, but He chose to be a humble carpenter. Jesus was blue collar.


11.20.2014

The Purest Form of Pain


Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.
ECCLESIASTES 1:18 NAS

Wisdom is the purest form of pain.
AN OLD FRIEND OF MINE

At my old job, I had a boss who was also a friend. He is the only good boss I have ever had in my working life, and I would work for him again in a heartbeat. The thing we had most in common was a surprise/disgust thing with corporate stupidity. One example would be how our multi-million dollar operation was going to be shut down as we waited days for an essential part to arrive. Using ingenuity and common sense, one of our maintenance people fixed the problem with a 2 cent paperclip and kept things going until the part arrived. For his valiant efforts on behalf of the company, the powers that be wrote up that maintenance guy and threatened him with termination because he had not followed the "policy." For anyone familiar with this management move, it is called putting policies before profits. My old boss shook his head at this outlandish stupidity and uttered his oft repeated catchphrase. "Wisdom is the purest form of pain," he said. I would hear it many times if not almost daily.

The gist of the catchphrase is that it is hard to be a person with common sense in a world gone mad. Frederick Douglass experienced the same thing when he managed to do what few slaves in his day were allowed to do and able to do. Douglass learned to read. Reading opened his mind to the larger world beyond slavery and gave him a taste for freedom. You would think this enabled life to be better for Douglass in his chains, but it didn't. It made it worse. By increasing his wisdom, he had increased his suffering because he knew things were really messed up instead of just sort of messed up. His brothers and sisters in chains could always retreat to their ignorant place in their free moments but not Douglass.

They say that ignorance is bliss, and they are right. My life would be way more pleasant if I didn't keep up with the news from around the world. Instead of watching wars, atrocities, Christian persecution, disease, and starvation, I could just saturate my brain with celebrity gossip. Or, I could do one better and just watch sports. So much of today's media consumption, gaming, and the rest exist not to make people smarter but to nurse their ignorance. It is like a gigantic Ignorance Support System that keeps people largely brain dead concerning the world. If you can't change the world, the next best thing is to make it disappear. The ISS is a great way to do this.

I think the ISS is antithetical to the Christian life. If you believe that pleasure is the good and pain is the bad, then the ISS is what you need. Epicurus would applaud the ISS because it was a teaching of Epicurus that knowledge was only useful if it decreased suffering instead of increasing it. Since conventional hard news will bum you out, it is best to tune it out like most cows eating grass do. The problem with this strategy is that ignorance does not last forever. Reality has a nasty habit of intruding, and this is why people talk about being "shocked." What is the shock? Where does this come from? When the doctor tells you that you have cancer and will die, why is this such a shock? The answer is obvious. In the world of ignorant bliss, you forget that you are mortal and that life will end. It becomes an illusion and a fantasy. But when reality hits, it devastates the ones not prepared. They never saw it coming, so the sting of it all is much worse. It would sting less with better preparation, but this preparation is known as "wisdom." It was because of wisdom that Frederick Douglass found the will and the brains to escape his slavery.

People don't like wisdom. Tell the truth to people, and you will see where it gets you. You will share the fate of prophets and whistleblowers who are always maligned and ill treated for daring to pull back the curtain of ignorance. People don't want this premature enlightenment. They want to be stupid right up to the point that the stupidity is no longer tenable. Then, when the crisis passes, they return to their illusions like dogs returning to their vomit.


As a wise person put it, what you don't know can still hurt you. Pain is not optional. It is ultimately inescapable. People try in their various ways to escape the pain, but there is no escape. There are times of momentary relief, but this life is a sort of hell. Pretending it away is a losing strategy. Epicurus discovered this when that gigantic kidney stone lodged in his urethra. His pleasant life ended in an exrcuciating crucible of pain and torment. He may have tried to assuage it by surrounding himself with the company of good friends, but intense and chronic pain has the capacity to diminish all pleasure. You are going to suffer. Nothing is going to change this.

At this point, Gentle Reader, I could just leave you twisting with this depressing wisdom. I know what you are thinking. You want me to answer the question. How can I escape this suffering? My answer is that you can't escape it. To end suffering in this life would require hitting the reset button on all of creation. What you want is Heaven, and life is not Heaven. It will never be Heaven. But it isn't quite Hell either. The atheists wish to deny Hell. Once this denial is confirmed in them, suicide is not long in coming. I think Johnny Mandel captured it well with the song "Suicide is Painless" that people may remember from M*A*S*H:

The game of life is hard to play
I'm gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I'll someday lay
So this is all I have to say.

The only way to win is cheat
And lay it down before I'm beat
And to another give my seat
For that's the only painless feat.

The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn't hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger...watch it grin, but...

A brave man once requested me
To answer questions that are key
Is it to be or not to be
And I replied 'oh why ask me?'

'Cause suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please.
...and you can do the same thing if you please.

Suicide is painless if there is no God, and there is no Hell. Suicide is the infantile attempt to shut off one's consciousness. The only difference between suicide and the Ignorance Support System is that suicide is final. The Buddhist religion is essentially the same thing as the ISS. Buddhism seeks to end suffering by a trick of the mind with that sound of one hand clapping which sounds remarkably like an escape from common sense. The ancient Stoics attempted much the same thing in their retreat to their inner citadel. All of this represents varying degrees of mental and spiritual suicide.

The Bible is pretty clear on this. There is a Hell. Suicide is not an escape. It merely increases and makes permanent the misery and despair you feel in this life. The Bible is also clear on where suffering comes from. Suffering comes from the knowledge of good and evil.


The story of Adam and Eve is important because it shows us where our misery comes from. What separates humanity from the animals is having a soul but also that knowledge of good and evil. Animals are ignorant in their bliss. They don't know where they came from, and they don't know where they are going. They are innocent in all things. Their lives are mostly pleasant fulfillment of their desires until they die or get slaughtered. The goal of all worldly philosophies and religions is to make humans like the animals once again. It is to return in some way to the blissful ignorance. But this return to Eden is not possible, and it is not God's will. Once enlightened, a soul can never return to its ignorance. You can't unknow what you know. You can only forget for a time.

The only way out of the pain is through the pain. People acquainted with suffering know this. An Army Ranger returned from multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan told me this. They had a saying over there when things were really tough. "Embrace the suck," they said. It seems counterintuitive, but it brings relief. If avoiding the pain only increases it, acceptance of the pain makes it endurable. People in the military and competitors in ultra-endurance events know this truth. They go to the dark places of suffering and depression on purpose. As Leadville Trail 100 creator Ken Choluber put it, "Make friends with pain, and you will never be alone."

Is this masochism? The answer is no. It is the pursuit of deeper wisdom. This is where mystery comes into the mix. Even the hardest life has illusion in it. Pain strips away those illusions. Suffering takes you to a place that is more real than real. This is because there is joy, renewal, redemption, and resurrection on the other side of that suffering. If suffering is all that came from suffering, it would be masochism. But we suffer in order to enjoy something better.

Women in pregnancy know this truth better than anyone else. They don't get pregnant, so they can ejoy the misery of carrying around that extra weight which culminates in the painful delivery of a new life. They get pregnant in order to have children. This image of the mother in labor recurs in the Bible. Whether it is Eve or Mary, birth begins in pain and ends in joy. In this great mystery is God's purpose with all of this project known as creation. God allows no bad thing which will not result in a greater thing. The end of the suffering will herald something better than what existed before the suffering. Otherwise, suffering would have no purpose or meaning in our lives. The work of Christ was not merely to correct an error. Both the Fall and the Redemption bring about a better world and a better place than what was before the Fall. This is our hope. This is why we can embrace suffering because we know that it will bring much good at the end. This is Christ, the apostles, His blessed mother, and all His saints.

The punishment of the Fall was to be denied access to the Tree of Life. The reward of Christ's life, death, and resurrection was to open up once more that access to the Tree of Life. This is what the Tree of Life looks like:


When Catholics take the Eucharist, they are eating from the Tree of Life. I know. The mind can't wrap itself around this. How did an instrument of torture and death become the Tree of Life? That is a mystery. Here are the words of Christ:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 
 MATTHEW 16:24-25 NAS
You see this in life today. Everyone seeks to avoid pain and suffering, and they seek it so hard that they destroy themselves in various ways including drug overdose and suicide. Blissful ignorance is a form of suicide. It attempts to kill the mind while leaving the body alive.

All other paths in life are mere attempts to escape the suffering. The Christian path especially the Catholic Christian path embraces the suffering. It is the only path that does this. By embracing the Cross of Christ, you experience life instead of trying to escape it. You embrace the cross when you accept the sufferings of this life and put your hope in our Blessed Savior who will never abandon us. The reason there is suffering is because we do not have the capacity to love God, others, or even ourselves. The Tree of Life is the Tree of Love. In the Cross, Christ offers to God and to us the absolute degree of His love. Life is to know the Love of God. As Jesus put it in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."

The simple fact is that people would rather be miserable, suffer, die, and even spend eternity in Hell than love God. This is the wisdom people do not want. They want to seclude themselves in some far off place where the love of God is absent. When they succeed, this secluded place is Hell. As C.S. Lewis put it, "The doors of Hell are locked on the inside." People put themselves in Hell by their own choices and actions. This is the opposite of wisdom. This is foolishness. But fools have free will, and they get exactly what they choose.

Jesus praises wisdom. The best example of this praise is the Parable of the Unjust Steward,

Now He was also saying to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.’ And he summoned each one of his master’s debtors, and he began saying to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’  Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’  And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light. And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.
LUKE 16:1-9 NAS
Now, the unjust steward was a scoundrel and not a good man at all. It boggles the mind that Jesus would praise such a character. But what He praises is the good sense that this scoundrel had to take care of himself for the inevitable. This is a message to us to be wise and repent of our sins before it is too late. The unjust steward was wise because he had longer time horizons. He did not bury his head in the sand and wish his fate away. He got down to work and made an escape plan and executed on the plan.

Ignorance may be bliss, but this bliss does not last forever. Let us never envy the foolish. Instead, let us be patient because times may be tough in the short term, but they will result in a great blessing in the long term. Wisdom is painful, but it isn't painful forever. Folly is pleasant, but it always ends in pain. Embrace the pain for the time being but never lose sight of the reward that is to come.

11.08.2014

Greed


There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
JOHN ROGERS

It was reported that at the funeral of Ayn Rand that a 6 foot floral arrangement in the shape of a dollar sign was placed near her casket. At any other funeral, such an arrangement would have been in poor taste, but it was considered appropriate for Ayn Rand who often used the dollar sign as a personal symbol of her life and her philosophy. This philosophy is known as Objectivism, but most critics dismiss it as greed elevated to a school of thought. Ms. Rand has long been a punching bag for those who despise capitalism and greed, but you have to admire one thing about her. At least she was audacious enough to embrace it openly instead of trying to dress it up as something altruistic.

What is greed? Is it greed to want to keep what you have earned? Is it greed to want a sports car and a McMansion? Is it greed when some poor person envies the advantages of the rich? In all of these things, we see an interconnection with all of the deadly sins. Greed accompanies pride when you want a fancy piece of bling to show off to your friends. Greed accompanies envy when you are the friend who wants that fancy piece of bling. But is it greed for a father to want to be able to feed his family?

The problem with the Ayn Rand philosophy is that it immediately strikes you as lacking in common sense. It seems extreme though rigorously logical. But the reason for this is obvious. Objectivism is a godless philosophy. Without the person of Christ to center our values upon, we are left with something else to align with. For a godless philosophy like communism, it was aligned with the "collective" which obliterated the individual. As a victim of that philosophy, Ayn Rand turned it around and aimed her godless philosophy at the individual. You should live for yourself. This is the essence of greed.

You can live entirely for others, or you can live entirely for yourself. But the person you should really be living for is God. By living for God, you avoid the extremes of egoism and altruism. You look out for others because you see each person as sharing in the image of God, and you refuse to sacrifice them to the abstraction known as the collective. Conversely, you take care of yourself realizing that you are also made in the image of God. With our attention and lives properly focused on God, our lives achieve a balance and harmony that can only be described as "common sense." Communism and Objectivism lack common sense because they are both founded upon philosophical abstractions carried to their logical and foolish ends.

Greed is simply living in pursuit of things instead of in pursuit of God and sainthood. Now, things are necessary in order for us to live and achieve these goals. For instance, rosary beads are material aids to prayer. A cathedral is a material aid to worship. Tools are material aids to doing work. We need houses, cars, and clothes. These needs will vary from person to person and from one society to another. But here is the thing about material things. They all have a limit. You don't need to live in two houses in the same place. You don't need a Maserati to get to work when a Ford will do just as well or even better. Common sense tell us what we need relative to time and place and vocation. Greed is when we exceed our needs. Like gluttony, greed aims to fill some other need with the wrong thing.

It is tempting to believe that money will make us happy because most of our problems are because of a lack of money or can be solved with the acquisition of money. But money does not solve our ultimate problem which is the lack of God. Most people are spiritually bankrupt. They want to live a more abundant and robust life, but they settle for buying things instead. This is because buying a thing is easier than doing a thing. Yet, material things are often an impediment to doing things. I don't see a person running a Fortune 500 company and catching the waves on the daily in Hawaii. Similarly, a life lived in pursuit and consumption of wealth is not one lived in the pursuit and knowledge of God.


I remember watching and enjoying The Razor's Edge with Bill Murray which tells the tale of a Post-WWI Lost Generation member that ditches his materialistic friends who decide to go Great Gatsby while he goes on a radical pilgrimage to find spiritual enlightenment. I liked the movie not because it offered answers but because it was about the realization of spiritual poverty. I would go on and read the book by W. Somerset Maugham and liked the idea that Bill Murray's character of Larry goes on to find happiness as a simple working man while the others got what they were looking for except for happiness. Of course, it is a work of fiction because I don't think anyone finds happiness in Eastern philosophy or religion. But I can agree that you can't find happiness in Western materialism either.

People know that you can't buy happiness. Money does not brings happiness. It simply brings relief. It puts food in your stomach, a roof over your head, clothes on your back, fire in the hearth, and a bed for you at night. Beyond that, it is worthless. Money does nothing for the spiritual side of the ledger until you give it away. Once your needs are met, you should focus on meeting the needs of others. This would be your family first and spreading out from there. This would be anathema to Ayn Rand who was at pains to show that everything she did was for herself. But she slipped up constantly by doing things for others. Her egoistic reasoning on these things was ex post facto. This sort of reasoning is behind the ridiculous title of the book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids by libertarian economist Bryan Caplan. There may be value in the book, but the reason we have children is because we love them. We don't need selfish reasons to love others. It is part of our nature as people created in the image of God.

The point of generosity is not to live a miserly existence or a profligate existence. A true saint lives a life that generates abundance. Why do apple trees produce apples? Because that is their nature. They don't need selfish reasons to make apples. Biologists may make arguments for selfish genes and how producing fruit propagates the species. But when a saint produces good fruit which prompts others to also produce good fruit, where is the selfishness in that? But any fruitless tree has a pointless existence.

Greed does not lead to abundance. When people hoard wealth and live for themselves, they acquire the stench of death and decay. This happened to Ayn Rand as her creative energies left her such that her days were spent demagoguing the world and watching Charlie's Angels. This decaying aspect of greed is captured perfectly in the Dickens tale, A Christmas Carol, where Marley and Scrooge were like two dead things imprisoned and chained by their own greed.


Ignore what Gordon Gecko said. Greed is not good. It goes against God, humanity, and nature. A greedy person becomes the poorest person. The irony of it all is that all that hoard of wealth will eventually and inevitably go to others. As the old joke goes, "There are no U-Hauls behind hearses." You're not taking it with you, so you might as well have a say in where it will go before you assume room temperature.

Generosity breeds wealth. This seems counterintuitive to people. Or, they may think I am teaching some variation of the Prosperity Gospel/Law of Attraction philosophy. But I am not. A debate was had in the 70's between two thinkers. The first was economist Milton Friedman who argued that the primary purpose of a company was to create value for the shareholders. The second was management guru Peter Drucker who said that the primary purpose of a company was to create value for the customer. Friedman won the argument in the 70's in the minds of many. In practice, those who pursued the Friedman philosophy suffered for it. Meanwhile, those who embraced the Drucker philosophy prospered. You can read about it here.

The Drucker philosophy makes sense because there is a difference between creating value and merely getting money. Those interested purely in getting money have the nasty habit of sticking it to the other guy. As Brian Tracy put it, "Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. 
Unsuccessful people are always asking, 'What's in it for me?'” This is known as the game of "heads I win, tails you lose." In theory, you can't ever go wrong with this game so long as there is a steady supply of suckers to be the losers. But this is theory. In practice, people get wise to the game. So, the company that does its customers wrong loses their patronage. The company that cheats workers out of fair wages is paid back in kind by less productivity and inferior work. Likewise, the company gets back at the workers by cutting their hours, pay, and benefits. It becomes a ridiculous race to the bottom. It is a vicious cycle ending in stagnation, bankruptcy, and death.

When you create value, you aim to leave the other person feeling like they got the better part of the deal. This is called "making a customer." When people find value, they tend to come back for more. Value is created out of our generosity. When you have a lot of happy customers, you end up with a lot of happy shareholders. This is wisdom. Wisdom seems like foolishness to the fool because the most direct path to the end seems like the most obvious one. Why plant the seed corn when I can just eat it now? Why save this money when I can just spend it now? Why earn money when I can just steal it? Why make a customer when I can just trick them out of their money? Much of wisdom consists in having longer time horizons and the patience to see it out. The ultimate time horizon is eternity.

People cannot see longer time horizons because of their attachments. This is the proverbial monkey trap where the monkey's hand is wrapped so firmly around the prize that he cannot pull his clenched fist from the trap. This illustration has long been used to demonstrate the nature of greed. 

To conquer greed, you have to let go of the attachment to material things. People automatically assume this means selling all you have and giving it to the poor. Of course, that would work. But it becomes like the cup of Diogenes. Diogenes used a cup to drink from water sources but was chastened to see a child using just his hands. "A child has beaten me in plainness of living," he remarked as he threw his cup away. This is a nice story of detachment, but do we really have to do this? If you have a cup fetish, this may be an answer, but I think most of us realize that it is the inner disposition that matters more than the extremes of outward practice. Remember, Jesus had nowhere to lay his head, but he still enjoyed staying in the homes of his friends.

The miser and the pauper both share the quality of having a meager existence. The miser becomes a pauper because of the lack of generosity in his spirit. The miser may dress this up as merely prudence and provision against future contingencies, but death is the ultimate contingency. No one escapes death. It makes no sense to live in misery now in order to live in misery later. Many is the tale told of bag ladies who perished with fortunes squirreled away in cat food boxes and grocery bags.

Generosity of spirit is that quality of character where you are willing to share from your bounty of blessings because you know more are coming. It is believing in the positive sum game of God's goodness and your own goodness. Someone asked me once if I was angry that someone had taken something I had written and passed it off as their own work. I was not angry but flattered that someone cared enough to steal it. But I don't worry about the "loss" of my writing because I can always write more. I write in the same way that an apple tree grows apples. It is my nature. Similarly, God's nature is one of liberality and giving and generosity. We fail to see this because we do not appreciate the goodness of His blessings preferring the blessings of lottery winners. If you want the antidote to greed, be generous in the giving of yourself, your talents, and your resources to God. They already belong to God, but He gives you the privilege of being as generous with it as He was with giving it to you. God shares. And, you have to remember He doesn't have to share. But it is His nature to be good to all. I think you will find yourself richer in the process and pursuit of this generosity.

Among the rich you will never find a really generous man even by accident. They may give their money away, but they will never give themselves away; they are egotistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it.
G.K. CHESTERTON


11.06.2014

Gluttony

I don't mind that I'm fat. You still get the same money.
MARLON BRANDO

Marlon Brando was an awesome actor. In his prime, his talent was matched only by his dashing good looks. His talent would remain with him for much of his life, but his body would betray the emptiness he felt inside as his weight ballooned to over 350 pounds. This was one of the problems Francis Ford Coppola dealt with while filming Apocalypse Now. Brando was supposed to be playing a trim and fit Green Beret colonel. Instead, he played a debauched and overweight Green Beret colonel. It was brilliant acting. Brando played a man who was a complete wreck mentally and spiritually. He was less trouble than his drug addicted co-star Dennis Hopper who didn't even remember making the movie. If there is one thing we can appreciate about Brando, he did not suffer from vanity. As the great actor put it so well, "Most of the successful people in Hollywood are failures as human beings."

The reason Brando ate so much is the same reason that others indulge in drugs, alcohol, sex orgies, and the like. All things considered, Brando sitting down with a gallon of ice cream and a spoon makes a lot of sense because the other indulgences kill you much quicker and leave a toll on those around you. But all of these indulgences share the common trait of trying to fill the emptiness in a heart that is not filled with God. Gluttony is fundamentally addiction, and all addictions are consequences of the emptiness inside.


Jesus deals with this fundamental aspect of gluttony and addiction in Matthew 4:1-4,
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”
The body is easily satisfied with bread. The soul is not. Jesus would say the same thing to the woman at the well that He would give her living water, and she would not thirst again. In respect to spiritual hunger, we are all gluttons in that we seek to satisfy that hunger with anything and everything but God Himself. This is why a glutton continues to eat long past the point of bodily need. The same is true of drunks who snort lines of cocaine to stay conscious as they drink all night. With sex, Viagra and porn push the body past satisfaction. But all of these things are a waste because of one true thing. Evil is never satisfied. There is never enough to satisfy the appetite. It always wants more. Walter de la Mare got it right in these lines,
Oh, pity the poor glutton 
Whose troubles all begin
In struggling on and on to turn
What's out into what's in.
The infinite hunger of the soul can only be satisfied with the infinite mercy and grace and love of Christ.

The Christian who draws close to Christ is satisfied with Christ. The Christian needs nothing else except Christ Himself. Whatever is left is known as concupiscence which is the residual weakness left in a believer after the remission of Original Sin through baptism. This is why a heroin addict can still want a shot of smack years after overcoming the addiction in rehab. Though the body no longer screams for the heroin, the memory of it remains as a temptation. Indulgence never yields satisfaction but actually produces remorse and regret in the Christian. The memory is actually more satisfying than the actual thing. I discovered this after becoming vegan. I have fond memories of greasy cheeseburgers and barbecue pork, but the smell of those things now makes me feel sick to my stomach. It would take Herculean effort for me to go back to eating meat because I would have to overcome my revulsion and nausea. The same thing applies to sin. I don't know of anyone who enjoyed their first cigarette. I also know ex-smokers who would love to have a cigarette but the smell of smoke makes them want to gag now.

Mortification is the process of pulling away from these old habits and putting on the new habits of Christ. At this point, I will lose the Protestant. As a former Protestant, I can say that my life was one of wanting to be a better person but failing at it. I migrated from being an evangelical to being a Calvinist because this seemed to make sense of my struggle with sin and constant defeat. I could never become holy no matter how hard I tried. Calvinism said it was a lost cause because I was born wicked and would remain this way until I died. The result was that I was filled with endless self-loathing. Becoming Catholic was the exact opposite of this experience. Connected to the means of grace denied to me as a Protestant, I was able to do things I never could do as a Protestant. The upside of all those years in error is that I know that it is not me doing these things but Christ and His grace. I am not a good person in my own eyes, so it is sort of disorienting when people say good things about me. But I know that I don't struggle with the same sins I did a year ago. My life is mostly venial sin now where a mortal sin was a daily thing for me. Holiness has gone from an impossibility for me to something that I can think anyone can achieve by the grace of Christ. My best advice on this is to urge the Protestant to become Catholic. It makes a huge difference.

Corporal mortification is where one gains strength over concupiscence by deliberately enduring pain. Once again, I will lose the Protestant on this, but it is in the Bible. When Jesus fasted, he was practicing corporal mortification. St. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:27, "But I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway." This verse runs contrary to the conventional Protestant thinking because it is thoroughly Catholic. It strikes a blow against the faith alone doctrine and "once saved always saved" while exhorting believers to follow the example of so many Catholic saints who used disciplines, hairshirts, and cilices to inflict pain upon themselves.


This may seem like macabre stuff, but it is no different than someone getting up at 5 a.m. to go for a run around the block or not having a slice of cheesecake after dinner for dessert. Pain and suffering are essential to growth in sanctity. It is in these trials of self-denial that you cling more strongly to Christ. This is what happens when a Christian fasts especially during Lent. Trial and adversity give strength to the soul. I might add that these acts of corporal mortification don't mean you can't have a cold beer or a nice meal when it is done. Catholics are known for fasting and for feasting and are criticized mercilessly for both.

One's appetites must always be in subjection to one's love for God. There is nothing inherently wrong in food or drink, but they must be used in proper regard to one's devotion to Christ. I recommend fasting at least once per week. Friday is a good day for this because it is the day Christ suffered and died. For breakfast and lunch, eat only bread with a glass of water. Do this until 3 p.m. when Christ died on the cross. This is the "hour of mercy." After 3, eat normally for the rest of the day. The hardest part is not telling anyone what you are doing because people who may see you eating an "air sandwich" for lunch will wonder what is wrong with you. During Lent, you do this same routine for 40 days with Sundays as a rest from the fasting. It won't kill you. Instead, you will grow closer to Christ.

For myself, I struggled with gluttony my whole life until I became Catholic. My body still carries the evidence of this as I am still overweight. I follow a low fat vegan diet these days, but I can honestly say that the self-discipline to follow this diet has been aided immensely by my faith. Prior to this, I was a regular at the fast food burger joints near my home such that the ladies at the drive thru would just ask me if I wanted the usual at the speaker. I realize now that I was a food addict for all those years just like Marlon Brando. When I would consume a fat burger or two with a side of fries and a milk shake, I would feel a narcotic rush that would just make me feel an immense feeling of calm and peace. This would last for about an hour until the emptiness swelled in me again. I understand now that the fat in the food provoked all sorts of pleasure chemicals in my brain that gave me this drug like high. As a vegan, I don't have this experience anymore when I eat. I enjoy food now but only because it tastes good and stops me from being hungry. But the addiction aspect is gone. My becoming vegan was like Hugh Hefner becoming celibate. I could only do it because I don't need a fat burger to make me happy anymore.

Skinny people are prone to thinking they are free of gluttony, but I find that it merely takes different forms. Tobacco use and abuse is one of the most prominent. When smokers quit, they usually report weight gain. Compulsive gambling is another form of gluttony. I could add excessive gaming, Facebook, the internet, and other things to our list. The problem is the excess. Almost anything can be done beyond what is reasonable. Even things like exercise and work which are normally considered virtuous can become vices when taken to excess. The one thing they have in common is the urge to fill a spiritual need with the wrong thing.

Satisfaction can only be had in Christ. Anyone who tells you differently is lying to you. When you are in a state of grace, pleasures and pains both become indifferent to you. Good things are enjoyed without excess while bad things are endured without despair. Go to Confession. Go to Mass. Pray the Rosary. Spend time in the morning and the evening in prayer. Read Scripture and read the saints and church fathers. If you do all these things, you will find the satisfaction that eludes you in everything else.

11.01.2014

Authority and Obedience


Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them."
MATHEW 23:1-3 NAS

There has been great controversy lately over the recent Synod on the Family. This controversy has caused a great deal of confusion and many faithful Catholics feel disheartened as a consequence. They wonder what is going on. They wonder if the Church is about to go off the rails and schism. Headlines and gossip swirl. Cardinals and bishops attack each other in the media, and the Holy Father Pope Francis has taken some hits as well. To add insult to the injury, Catholic bloggers feel that they have to weigh in on the matter because they need material for their readers. Social media has added a dimension to all of this that has never been a factor in the past. The temptation for me is to also add my two cents to the matter. But I don't have to do this. I call this the Layperson's Prerogative.

Laypeople can voice opinions, but they effectively have no say in the affairs in the Church. This may rankle people a bit who are used to living in countries with democratic forms of government. But Jesus did not establish a democracy with His church. He established a hierarchy. He also expects us to be respectful and obedient to this hierarchy. Whether it is boss, parent, governor, president, priest, bishop, or pope, the Christian attitude is to be one of obedience. Now, someone in authority may like the sound of this, but they should tremble. The reason is because with great authority comes great responsibility. Those with authority will be judged more harshly than those under authority. In addition, that authority should be exercised in harmony with the teachings of Christ who is the ultimate authority. If the government forbids the exercise of your faith, you will disbobey because people must obey God rather than men. But we still pay our taxes.

The Layperson's Prerogative is simply to sit back and let the bishops and cardinals fight it out. Nothing really has changed for the layperson. We are to pray, go to Confession, attend Mass, tend to our families, and do the works of mercy. This never changes no matter how silly our leaders may get. This is essentially what Jesus tells us to do in Matthew 23. Our Lord has many rebukes for the leaders of His day, but He still commands people to "do and observe." I confess that I was always troubled by this verse, but I get it now. We are judged by our obedience in the same way that those leaders will be judged by their obedience to Christ.

There are two great temptations in our present time. The first temptation is to assume an authority that does not belong to us. This is the Monday morning quarterback routine people pull when they criticize leaders. As Benjamin Franklin put it, "Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain - and most fools do." The problem is that those who are critical would probably do as bad or worse if put in charge. It is enough to eat what is on our own plate without looking at what is on the plate of another.

The second great temptation is to shirk responsibility for the authority given. This would be that group of leaders who are eager to take credit for the good but always offer up excuses for the bad. Basically, they want all of the credit and none of the blame. And when a crisis hits, these leaders are nowhere to be found. This sums up the vast majority of corporate middle management. I have to wonder why companies continue to employ these non-leaders.

It is no secret that the Roman Catholic Church has had bad bishops and even bad popes. But it has also had saints at the helm as well, and I know of no other organization where you can find saints. Anyone who wants to castigate the Church that Christ established must answer one question. Where are your saints? Where are your holy people? When the Catholic Church does bad, it is merely the bad of every other institution and person in the world today and in human history. The Catholic Church is not always better than the world, but it is never worse than the world. But when it is obedient to Christ, it is the only source of hope this fallen world has.


Quiet saintly obedience should be our reaction and response to whatever our leaders tell us especially those leaders within the Church. It matters not if they are good or bad. The alternative to this obedience is revolution. Along with democracy, revolt is also popular because people think that revolutions turn out like the American Revolution. But this is an error. They mostly turn out like the French Revolution with heads falling into baskets from bloody guillotines. When the revolution ends, the end is worse than what preceded it. The French Revolution deposed a king and got Napoleon. The Russian Revolution deposed a czar and got Lenin and Stalin. Even the American Revolution rejected a king and his tax to end up with a central government that is every bit as bad or worse than old King George. Then, there is the Protestant Revolution that rejected the Pope and the Magisterium and ended up with the doctrinal clarity and unity of thousands of denominations and false teachers proclaiming different and opposing things. Revolution changes things but almost always for the worse.

The reason revolutions are so awful is that the revolutionaries seek to seize the authority they do not have. Once you establish a precedent of disobedience, the big problem becomes making others obedient to your disobedience. Legitimate authority is a moral authority derived ultimately from God. Revolutionary authority can only fall back on fear and intimidation. Revolutions can never bring about the desired effect. Conversely, when times are bad, the only lasting change is a return to first principles and obedience to Christ. This is why Christ is the only one that can save our crumbling Western societies. A great example of this would be the Council of Trent and the "Counter-Reformation" within the Catholic Church. People need renewal and obedience to make things better. They don't need revolution.

The recent controversy within the Church centers on this concept of obedience. Can laypeople be obedient to the teachings of Christ on divorce and remarriage? Can cardinals and bishops be obedient to those teachings? And can traditionalists be obedient to a pope who may not share their viewpoints? This last question is an important one because those on the traditionalist side of the Catholic continuum have historically been those most prone to disobedience and schism. There is an irony in this and a caution. This is what lead Martin Luther to his schism and heresy.

Martin Luther is a great example of disobedience. He should be contrasted with a great example of obedience--St. Pio of Pietrelcina. Padre Pio was a humble but miraculous friar in the Capuchin order who lived from 1887 to 1968. He bore the marks of the stigmata and performed many miracles and was considered a great confessor. He was massively popular and developed a large following. Naturally, those in authority despised him and imposed severe sanctions on Padre Pio. The severest of the sanctions were reversed as Pio's admirers threatened to revolt. But this only went to demonstrate the greatest sign of Pio's sanctity--his obedience. St. Pio did whatever was commanded of him, and he did not speak against those who contradicted him. He bore the humiliation with humility and endured the calumnies against him. Even today, those who despise the saint repeat the lies told about him. Padre Pio had a large base to draw upon if he wanted to flex his muscles and stir up a revolt. This never happened. St. Pio was always a most obedient servant and son of the Church.


Like St. Pio, Martin Luther was a consecrated religious. Unlike St. Pio, Luther was disobedient and defiant leading many others in his Protestant revolt. The result was a split and confusion that exists to this day. And as Martin Luther demonstrated in his words and actions, he was no saint. Here was his attitude towards sanctity:
Do not ask anything of your conscience; and if it speaks, do not listen to it; if it insists, stifle it, amuse yourself; if necessary, commit some good big sin, in order to drive it away. Conscience is the voice of Satan, and it is necessary always to do just the contrary of what Satan wishes.
As for authority, here is Martin Luther on how to exercise authority over the poor:
 Peasants are no better than straw. They will not hear the word and they are without sense; therefore they must be compelled to hear the crack of the whip and the whiz of bullets and it is only what they deserve.
* * * 
To kill a peasant is not murder; it is helping to extinguish the conflagration. Let there be no half measures! Crush them! Cut their throats! Transfix them. Leave no stone unturned! To kill a peasant is to destroy a mad dog!
For Luther, violence was a necessary recourse. This is because he pulled the cork out of revolution's wine bottle and was desperate to put it back in. But he could never regain control of what he set in motion. John Calvin would attempt to succeed where Luther had failed, but he could only multiply the errors. This lesson goes all the way back to the Tower of Babel where confusion and division scattered the enemies of God. And as I point out repeatedly, there are no saints in the Protestant churches. The best you will find resemble Old Testament figures instead of New Testament saints. Cut off from the means of grace and joined to Christ only in baptism, the Protestant is a weak and frustrated sinner unable to change himself or herself. Somewhere, Satan has a laugh at this.

Those who speak of schism are no different than Martin Luther. People may believe that they are correct in their criticisms of the Catholic Church, and they probably are.correct. Luther was correct in many of his positions.  But the pope is still the vicar of Christ and sits in the chair of Peter. Even if Judas Iscariot himself sat in that chair, we are to be obedient. The irony of these times is that the people who rail about communion for the divorced and remarried contemplate their own divorce from the authority of the Church. But if Christ allows this confusion, it is merely to test our convictions and our obedience to Him. To disobey the Holy Father is to disobey Christ. And let's not dispute whether or not he is a legitimate vicar of Christ like the sedevacantists who are every bit as nutty and disobedient as Martin Luther.

The Layperson's Prerogative is the same as following the example of St. Pio in his obedience. We keep praying, hoping, and serving. God is always faithful to His church and to His people. The task for us is to always be faithful to Him. This may not always be easy. But God will never abandon us in our trials. Christ was obedient even unto death. There is no greater test than this. We are to live in imitation of Jesus who did not follow the path of the revolutionary that the people desired. We are most revolutionary in our obedience. And let us remember the words of St. Pio who told us to pray, hope, and to not worry. Our persistence and patience in obedience is what will win the day.