Sunday, July 31, 2011


“Don’t expect faith to clear things up for you. It is trust—not certainty.”
--Flannery O'Connor

I’ve worked very hard these three weeks in New Mexico, maybe too hard, work being one of the many places where I have a hard time distinguishing the thin line between passion and pathology. Have accomplished much and in a way have had the whole time to myself and in another have had very little time to myself and it is all prayer, all joy, and in some sense all pain. I’m not lonely the way I used to be almost all the time, though I often feel a great weight of sorrow. Sorrow that we all have to leave this earth someday, sorrow at all the ones who have already left, sorrow at the suffering and untruth and greed and evil of the world.

I mean we have a government that can’t or won't balance its budget out of nothing but greed. Stop spending money on the military. Start making your "political platform" that in a nation that claims to be based on Christ the wealthy will NATURALLY want to share. But no, and so now they are saying maybe old people won't get their Social Security checks this month. In the richest, most "powerful" country on earth! I mean is that not sad and embarrassing and emblematic of the fact that we are not only not one nation under God but not remotely cognizant of God--not the God whom Christ called the Father--at all?

“My” walk has been the mile or so the bottom of the hill and down to the narrow winding country road to the little Valdez capilla (chapel) where I went for six o'clock Mass last night. Just before the turnoff, bordering the road, is a pasture of soft woolly lambs and sheep, some of whom have little bells around their necks that make the softest gentlest tinkling chime. And I have just stood there a couple of times and wept at these lambs. "I know my sheep and my sheep know me." When you really look at sheep they are just not all that smart. They walk in circles and bump into each other and go this way and that way, and follow wherever they’re led, and bleat. And that is us, that is humans, every human, underneath

I'm off at the crack of dawn Monday morning but am not going to race. It'll be two days at least back to L.A. and I may even stop over somewhere for a day to break up the approximately 1000-mile drive. There's always a moment at some wind-swept gas station, surrounded by strangers milling around and eating candy, when you feel utterly utterly alone in a way that is both kind of thrilling and kind of scary and sorrowful unto death. And when I'm reminded of my youth, and hitch-hiking up and down the Eastern seaboard, and out West with my friend Laura "looking for America."

Which sometimes I think is forever lost, if it ever existed, and sometimes I think I may, at last, have found.


  1. I love your new book cover. I envy your time in NM. It's been a pleasure reading your blog, such grist for the mind and spirit. Contemplating the Great Mystery. Meeting St. Therese. That you had the time and place in NM to do this which such intensity, what a gift. Travel safe to LA. xo Amanda @ Try God

  2. I think America sees itself not only as Christian, but as ruggedly individualistic. And there's the rub, the lens through which everything makes sense: the large defense budget, the startling generosity of Americans when giving to charity, and the resistance to a more progressive tax code. There's a wariness of fostering a dependency or giving inefficiently (we are the land of efficiency, after all). Many rich Christians give heavily to the poor through private charities and yet will fight to the death against a small tax increase. It's the principle of it, the American loathing of waste, fraud and abuse and the Western thirst for justice, that paralyzing thought that somewhere, someone is getting a free ride. We've become "powerful" partially due to that desire for justice - it's the system of law and order that has given us advantages over, say, Mexico with its corrupt police and government - but the downside is apparent as well. On the bright side, no one is going to miss their social security checks. There would be other problems, like federal employees missing checks if the crisis isn't solved - but you can bet the old (i.e. "those who vote in droves") WILL be taken care of.

  3. Thanks, Dan--"That paralyzing thought that somewhere, someone is getting a free ride" is precisely what is profoundly, sorrowfully, infinitely, eternally opposed to Christ, as evidenced by the parable of the workers and the vineyard, the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, and the elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son.

    As for efficiency (I know I'm preaching to the choir), compassion and sharing have never been "efficient." Hitler was efficient.
    Christ was never much interested in efficiency; he was interested in openness of heart.

  4. I agree the fear of a free ride is utterly opposed to the Christian spiritual view, but can it be easily applied to economics and defense? I've often thought that the Church's acceptance of just war theory is tacit acceptance of "render that to Ceasar that which is Caesar's and to God that which is God's". I struggle with the dichotomy between the city of God and the city of man, and the tension between the already and not yet. Perhaps God means for some of us to be liberals and others conservatives, rather than all one or the other (not sure which He means me to be!).

  5. Oh I absolutely believe it can and must be applied to economics and defense. Christ is either the Way, the Truth and the Life across the board or he is not the Way, the Truth and the Life at all.

    I think every follower of Christ and every thinking, sensitive human being must long with all his or heart for an end to war. The Catechism reflects this:

    Catechism 2307 "The fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life. Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war."

    2308 All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.

    However, "as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed." [emphasis mine]

    2309 The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy.

    If ever there were a situation where such "rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy" were met and a "just war" were permissible, it would have been for Christ to rally his troops and rout the Roman soldiers.

    But we don't have Christ--the Savior of the world--triumphantly raising the flag of Christianity on a pile of slain enemy soldiers. We have Christ nailed to a cross.

    Kind of hard to get around. And blows all labels of conservative and liberal-all labels, period--to smithereens...


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