Behind the quiet, introverted, melancholic countenance of this young man dwells a lion -
Here are some highlights from the annual CSOTFA championships in Oroville last month:
We were privileged to visit Thomas Aquinas College again this month. I attended one philosophy class and two theology seminars, and left greatly impressed with the participating students. One of the children remarked that TAC feels more like “home” than home, and I can definitely see the point. Here are some photos taken by a family friend who accompanied us:
“There is not a more wicked thing than to love money: for such a one setteth even his own soul to sale:
because while he liveth he hath cast away his bowels.” – Ecclesiasticus 10:10
“Be not solicitous therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all
these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the
kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” – Matthew 6:31-33
I grew up like many Americans do with respect to money. As a child, I had a weekly allowance, starting at 25 cents when I was around seven years old. As I grew older, I was paid for doing chores around the house and, eventually, the farm. There were always some chores that were exempt, though – we boys did them just because we were part of the family. I saved up money working in the orchards one summer, and at age 14 bought my first vehicle for five hundred dollars – a ’61 Chevrolet pickup, straight six cylinder engine. I worked on our own almond farm, my grandparent’s farm, my cousin’s farm, and I worked for many of the other farmers in the area. I earned thousands of dollars before graduating from high school, was always proud of that fact, and I remain grateful for the lessons learned in the process.
But I do remember feeling kind of guilty when my grandmother would pay me. I adored her and felt a sense of obligation to her after my grandfather died. She was extremely generous and always paid a little more than I expected. Sometimes I tried to refuse, but she would insist and that was that.
Years later, when our children were old enough to work around the house, we considered paying them for chores or paying them an allowance. But my thinking had changed considerably by then. I really didn’t want them making such an explicit connection between work and money, or even thinking about money at all. Nor did I want them adopting the ubiquitous American error of confusing price with value: i.e., “knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing”. We’ve never given them an allowance, and only seldom paid them for chores. Although we do encourage them to save the money they earn from music performances and odd jobs, money is not one of their priorities. That may sound bizarre to American ears, but let me explain.
What is the highest Christian motive for work? It certainly isn’t money. A Christian works because he has an obligation to work, to do something useful, to serve God and his fellow man. Christian family life, in particular, ought to have a strong communal element. Marx, the son of a Jew who had converted to Christianity, wasn’t entirely off base with his dictum “from each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need”. As a matter of fact, he was paraphrasing Sacred Scripture:
“And the multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul: neither did any one say that aught of the things which he possessed, was his own; but all things were common unto them. And with great power did the apostles give testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord; and great grace was in them all. For neither was there any one needy among them. For as many as were owners of lands or houses, sold them, and brought the price of the things they sold, And laid it down before the feet of the apostles. And distribution was made to every one, according as he had need.”
Now Marx, as we all know, took a little bit of Christian truth and used it for evil ends, creating a monstrous materialistic ideology. But every heretic has hold of some bit of truth, and in our combat against heresies the danger is that we lose sight of those truths. Family life ought to be lived communally, with every member contributing what he can, working not for his own private benefit, but for the good of his family. Children raised thusly will not lose sight of the common good of society when they leave the nest. Certainly, it may be prudent that children earn and save some money, and learn to handle money independently. The “real world” demands that adults be wise and enterprising with respect to Mammon. But the more important thing is that children are raised with the highest possible motive for work, which is essentially love – love for God, love for neighbor, and love for the goodness of work itself.
(This painting is just something I found online, without attribution.)
My lovely daughter now has her own web log: Sequens Lucem. I think some of you may recognize yourselves, and perhaps others, in her second blog post. Her thoughts remind me that I may never know my children as well as I would like. At the same time, I realize that the protective “shell” she talks about, if not too hard and impenetrable, allows a child’s personality to develop as it should – and creates a little space reserved to God alone.
Some eight years ago we packed up and moved almost two hours away from a thriving, orthodox Catholic parish in Sacramento. There were lots of reasons. With young children, fighting the wicked culture of the city was becoming a daily nuisance. I wanted a more serene life for my family, preferably in the country. We wanted to move closer to aging relatives. My wife was having ethical conflicts in her employment. It all seemed to come together at once. We bought a small ranch and started a little homestead. Our children were blessed by it in many important ways. The only problem was that we could not take our parish with us.
We planned to solve the “church” problem by driving to the city on Sundays. That was fine, but it left little opportunity for traditional parish life – choir rehearsals, altar guild, first communion classes, feast days, home school co-ops, volunteer work, and the like. Very soon thereafter the possibility opened up for a weekly Latin Mass in Chico. We felt obliged to support the fledgling new community and try to help it grow. Visits to our former parish in the big city became few and far between. So also did exposure to vigorous, challenging, orthodox spirituality in the homilies at mass, in confession, and in the lives of our fellow parishioners. Friendships and community life suffered as well. While we are immensely grateful for the Latin Mass in Chico, our numbers are dwindling, and it does not come close to replacing what the F.S.S.P. provides at a wholly traditional parish.
We’re staying put, and it’s for the best, but I can’t recommend that anyone else follow this pattern in their own lives. It is vital to stay close and connected to orthodox Catholicism in all of its manifestations. In the history of salvation there have been many saints who achieved holiness in near isolation – the prophets, the desert fathers, hermits and anchorites, and so forth. But this isn’t the norm. For those of us who still lack heroic virtue (and that’s most of us), the many helps of Catholic culture are essential. We need to hear the whole unvarnished truth of Christianity from the pulpit: the “be nice to everybody just like Jesus was” mantra doesn’t cut it. The effect of weak and insipid and unspiritual homilies, Sunday after Sunday, is absolutely pernicious. And how does one raise children to respect priests and the priesthood when, on the drive home, it is always necessary to explain why Father was wrong about this or that point of basic Catholic doctrine? We need homilies that strengthen our faith rather than water it down. We need to be challenged to grow spiritually. We need the support and example of holy, orthodox priests who are clearly devoting their lives to Christ. We need the fellowship and inspiration of better Catholics. Yes, that’s right, some Catholics are better than others, and there’s nothing elitist about admitting this. Just as chess players seldom improve unless playing with those who are more advanced, so Catholics seldom grow in their spiritual lives unless they spend a lot of time around their betters.
Which brings me to Dr. Taylor Marshall’s recent post on The Great Catholic Migration. I am convinced, as he seems to be, that the majority of Catholic parishes in this country are beyond human help. You can’t save your lukewarm Novus Ordo parish by staying and fighting. If you’re lucky, you might succeed in tinkering around the edges – eliminating the most grievous abuses, getting the tabernacle back on the altar, maybe improving the music a little. Meanwhile, you exhaust yourself and put your family at risk. Worse still, you will develop a nasty habit of criticism. That’s right. The whole Novus Ordo mentality, in which everyone is supposed to “participate” and be “involved”, in which every taste and preference and opinion is supposed to be accommodated, encourages constant criticism and endless tinkering. Your tinkering, if generously permitted, is viewed merely as the preference of another faction that needs to be appeased for pastoral reasons. My advice? Get out of Dodge. Flee, if you can do so without sin, to those parishes and communities where the holy Catholic Faith is taught and lived without compromise. A good rule of thumb: stay close to the F.S.S.P.
My eldest son has a new blog – A Foretaste of Wisdom. The title is rather modest, for at this blog you will find plenty of uncommon wisdom indeed. This is where he posts the gems he finds in his spiritual, theological, and philosophical reading, along with personal reflections on topics of interest. Recent entries include Divine Intimacy – Humiliations, Two Forms of Pride, Johann Sebastian Bach – Cantata: Ich Habe Genug, and Interior Trials in the Spiritual Life. But nevermind all that: the blog is worth reading for sake of surfing the many worthy links in his sidebar. He invites my few remaining readers to visit and comment.
My girls wrote the book, apparently. Here’s their account of the whole affair: Kittens!!!
This nectarine pie was accompanied by the following heartfelt notes:
1. “MY dear father: PLEASE dady get us the kittin. – 4 y/o daugher“
(Hmmm, this looks mighty suspicious. She writes a little too well for a four year old!)
2. “Dad PLEAS Let us get a kittin! i mean, its free, we (the kids) will take care of it. and you don’t have to help with it if you dont want to. pleas say yes. – 9 y/o daughter“
3. “Dear Dad, May we please have a kitten? Hope you like the pie. Yours truly, Three daughters, one son, and a good friend.“
So far, the “free” kitten has only cost $22.80 for cat food and kitty litter. And that very night I had a dream about kittens …. wonder what else they put in that pie.
As mentioned previously, my two oldest participated in a student-led choir while at the high school summer program of Thomas Aquinas College. Someone was thoughtful enough to make a couple of recordings for the families back home.