Cry ‘Woof!’

And here’s the big news: starting today, I’ll be blogging over at the Catholic Channel at Patheos, at my new blog: “Cry ‘Woof!’ and let slip the dogs of whimsy“.

The blog title is a Dominican thing; go see my welcome post for more on that.

The Foothills aren’t going away…but on the other hand, I’m not likely to be blogging here much— so point your feed reader at “Cry ‘Woof!’” if you don’t want to miss anything. There are multiple subscription methods at the new blog.

There Will Be News

Things are going to be changing around here. Got a couple of days to go, yet, and then….WOOSH!

We are Saved, We are Being Saved, We will be Saved

If you’re Catholic, and you’ve ever been asked, “Are you saved?”, Aggie Catholics has you covered.

This may be the best short explanation I’ve seen of the difference between the Catholic understanding of salvation and the Evangelical Protestant understanding.

Field Hospital

In his recent interview with America Magazine, Pope Francis suggests that the Church needs to be a field hospital:

“I see clearly,” the pope continues, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds….

And our wounds, of course, are the consequences of sin: our own sin, or, heartbreakingly, the sins of others. Christ came to heal those wounds, and he wants to use his body, the Church, to do that.

Now, here’s the thing. I can look at someone, someone I know something about, and say, “Gosh, he has a problem. He needs to fix that. Right now.” And maybe he does: but from where I sit, I don’t know whether I’m seeing high cholesterol or a sucking chest wound. And I don’t know what wounds the person has that I can’t even see.

But Christ sees. And given access, he’ll heal those wounds, and he’ll do the job in priority order, as he sees the priorities.

I know in my life (I may not be representative), Christ seems to deal with one issue at a time. I expect that I’m as sinful as the next guy, but Christ doesn’t seem to bury me under the weight of all my unexamined and unrepented sins all at once. He picks one, or two, and works with me on that. Right now, it seems to be my temper, and keeping my mouth shut when I’d rather give my tongue free rein. There have been others in the past, and will no doubt be others in the future: but I don’t know what those are. Christ, in his mercy, isn’t banging on me about those.

Pope Francis is asking us to extend that mercy to our opponents in the culture wars. Christ loves them. He wants to heal them, too. He’ll give the job as much time as it takes for each individual, and it’s a job that will take the rest of each patient’s life. But they need to come see him and ask him for help.

This is hard for us Catholic bloggers. Good warriors in the Culture Wars, we strive to uphold the truth and defeat falsehood (sometimes too stridently). We so often have a passionate desire to share the truth with the world. If only they could see! But for that, Francis tells us, we need to share the Truth, the Truth Himself, Christ our Lord. It’s His face they need to see.

You Are Loved

When we say, “That is wrong, that is wrong, that is wrong,” people hear, “You are bad, you are bad, you are bad.” When we say, “This is right, this is right, this is right,” people hear, “You are wrong, you are wrong, you are wrong.”

Pope Francis says, “You are loved, you are loved, you are loved.”

Now, we are speaking the truth, and it’s a truth that needs to be heard. But Francis is also speaking the truth, and he is speaking to them.

From Up On Poppy Hill

When Joseph Susanka noted on his blog that the latest from Studio Ghibli, Up On Poppy Hill, was now available in this country on DVD I went forthwith to Amazon and ordered it sight unseen. Tonight we all sat down to watch it, and I can say that it was money well spent.

I’ve been a Hayao Miyazaki fan since I first saw Spirited Away a little over ten years ago—a life time in blog-years. Poppy Hill isn’t precisely a Miyazaki film; or, rather, it is: Hayao Miyazaki worked on the screenplay, but the film was directed by his son Goro Miyazaki film. And I have to say, I can see three significant differences between Poppy Hill and previous Studio Ghibli films I’ve seen.

First, there are no fantastic elements. It’s a tale of young love in a high school in post-war Japan. The couple meet, there’s a snag, you know the drill. Meanwhile, there’s a beloved high school building that’s going to be torn down, and a bunch of hard volunteer labor cleaning it up. There’s a certain amount of goofiness, and fair amount of sweetness, and on the whole I enjoyed the heck out of it. All four of my kids, from the sixteen year-old down to the nine-year-old, were very much engaged, and my older girl’s first words after it ended were, “I want to see that again.”

So it’s a different kind of story than Studio Ghibli usually tells, but it was well done.

Second, the characters in Miyazaki’s movies usually look Caucasian, even when the movie is clearly set in Japan. The characters in Poppy Hill are definitely from the Miyazaki playbook (Umi, the female lead, looks more or less like Nausicca/Kiki with pigtails) but the skintone is different, and the Japanese setting is emphasized.

Third, Miyazaki’s movies are known for being visually stunning. When I sit down to see one for the first time, I know I’ve got a visual treat in store. Poppy Hill, however, sets a new standard for awesome.

It’s sweet, it’s funny, it’s beautiful. Take a look.

Archie Says

Wolfe was in the office looking at television, which gives him a lot of pleasure. I have seen him turn it on as many as eight times in one evening, glare at it from one to three minutes, turn it off, and go back to his book.

— Rex Stout, The Golden Spiders

Discovering the Saints: Thomas Aquinas

My latest for Discovering the Saints.

Anthony Esolen’s Word of the Day

Until this week I’d occasionally heard Anthony Esolen’s name here and there around the blogosophere, but hadn’t actually read anything by him. Turns out I’ve been missing something fun. He has a new blog at Patheos called “Word of the Day” where he discusses, in entertaining detail, the origin of some specific word, with ancillary anecdotes. Here’s his recent post on beer. Go give him a read.

Accidental Heretics and the Power of N

Last week I wrote a post in which I purposely used the emotionally loaded term “heresy” in its precise technical sense. And I did this not because I wanted to slam Evangelicals (I like Evangelicals) but because it’s a useful word, and I because I planned to say more about it.

The essential thing about a heretic isn’t what they deny, but what they affirm. Bishop Arius held that the Son wasn’t of one being with the Father, but was the first and greatest creature in all of creation. In saying this, he wasn’t so much trying to drag Christ down, but rather to protect the status of the Father as the one true God. He was mistaken; but he was mistaken because he took the part of the Gospel that he understood best and judged to be the most important and upheld to the exclusion of other Gospel truths.

I think we are most of us in the same position, even those of us who have every desire not to dissent from Church teaching. I think it’s unavoidable. We are parts of the Body of Christ, and different parts of the body have different functions. (I have sometimes thought that the Catholic blogosphere is the spleen of the Body of Christ.) And each body part is naturally most concerned with its function. You can’t blame a hand for being all about grasping. You can’t blame a nose for smelling.

Given that each of us has a call and particular gifts in support of it, we naturally emphasize it, and the theology that goes along with it. And that will naturally lead us, if we aren’t careful, into a kind of accidental heresy. I don’t mean anything intentional, mind you: but there it is. And when birds of a feather flock together, as they so frequently do, we can be strengthened in our accidentally heretical views of the world. I believe it was Chesterton who described orthodoxy as a kind of balancing act: and keeping your balance can sometimes be next to impossible.

So let’s think about this from Jesus’ point of view. You’ve come to Earth as a man, God-incarnate. You are, yourself, the fullest revelation of God to his people. You bring the Deposit of Faith, with the intent that it be passed down from generation to generation. And you’re dealing with people who are inclined to go off of the rails, even when they give you all of their love and devotion. What do you do?

What Jesus did was, he gave it to a group. And those apostles appointed successors, the first bishops, and passed on the Deposit of Faith to them. And they passed it on to their successors.

Now, each of these men was just a normal human being, and each of them had the same tendencies I described above to emphasize the parts that were most important to them, personnally. So how is it that the Deposit of Faith gets passed down without error? The Holy Spirit, of course, ensures that it will be; we’ve been promised that. But I’ve noticed that Jesus likes to work through simple human things. And here’s the thing about a group: individually, the members might go astray, but collectively they can correct each other. Bishop X emphasizes this while Bishop Y emphasizes that, and so both points of view are preserved. And when Bishop A goes too far and leaves the rails, bishops B through Z can call him on it.

It’s rather like a radio tower with guywires on all sides. Each wire pulls the tower in its direction, but collectively the tower stands vertically and can withstand the winds. Our natural tendency to emphasize one thing and ignore another becomes not a source of division, but a source of strength. I love it when that happens.

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