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Thursday, January 10, 2019

American Solidarity Party - Trying to build a better USA

Recently I explained why I joined a third party political movement here in the United States.  I was attracted by the attempt to be a bridge between what has become (to me) a rancid and ugly two party system in the United States.  I was repelled by the duopoly that has done its best to push people like me out of the public square.  Neither the left nor the right has my interests at heart, so I had to find a political home where a Faithful Catholic and a Proud American could vote her conscience with, well, a clear conscience.

One of the aspects of the ASP Party Platform that caught my eye can be found at: https://solidarity-party.org/platform/#economic-participation.

The main economic platform of the party is:
  • Economic policies that expand opportunities for the poor, and rebuilding and supporting a vibrant middle class, the erosion of which is a fundamental threat to our democracy.
  • The right of workers to be compensated for the wealth they create and to participate in economic decision-making.
  • A fair and progressive tax system that ends subsidies and exemptions which disproportionately benefit the wealthy and favor speculation over work.
  • Labor and consumer protection laws to offset disproportionate market power.
  • The widest range of opportunities to own productive property, including family-owned businesses and worker-owned cooperatives.
  • The free market approach over the command market approach, recognizing the benefits of free and fair markets for the voluntary exchange of goods and services.
  • A review of existing regulations and taxes, to assess their impact on small businesses.
  • Strong antitrust enforcement to preserve a free market and the elimination of regulations designed to unfairly inhibit competition by smaller firms.
  • The repeal of subsidies that encourage urban sprawl and discourage local farming and production.
    Laws that discourage corporate farm ownership and help sustain family farms and rural communities.
  • Exploring state and local land value taxes as an alternative to traditional property taxes.
  • Reform of intellectual property laws that allow corporations to control seed life, and thus control a disproportionate amount of our food sources.
  • Investigating possible alternatives to stigmatized welfare programs and regressive entitlements such as the use of Universal Basic Income to supplement wages and share the benefits of nature and technology.

I grew up in the United States, and so I have been influenced by what would have once been considered basic American principles:  Everyone has the opportunity to be better off, financially, than the previous generation.  It requires hard word, sacrifice and a willingness to (as my Italian born grandmother put it) 'put your fortune in your head so no one can steal it".  Certainly, there are no shortages of stories of self-made billionaires over the past 270 something-years.  From Sarah Breedlove to J.D. Rockefeller, we have many examples of people who started with next to nothing and became extremely wealthy.  

In recent times we can point to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates as people who not only changed the world but made an amazing amount of money doing it.

The American Dream - anyone willing to push hard and sacrifice can be King or Queen of the World.

There are smaller dreams, of course, that were particular to America, which were handed on to me by my family.  Being able to own a plot of land or a home, get a good education, practice one's religion without interference from the government--all this was infused into me as I grew up.

So, what happened?

I have come to see how the manipulation of the market, badly written laws, greed run wild and a design to eradicate the dignity of the human person has corrupted the American Dream.  This is not something that happened overnight; rather, it has been done bit by bit over the years. 

Let me explain:

The idea of someone working two or three jobs is nothing new.  At the turn of the last century that was common for the newcomer to our country.   They lived in tenements.  They died of diseases that flourished in the conditions of those tenements.  They struggled in poverty and violence.  Often it was the various aide societies of the Faith Communities that helped people 'keep body and soul together'.  Life was hard and anyone who wants to romanticize that era does so at the risk of sounding really ignorant.

However, as pointed out by author Reihan Salam,  the actual gap between those who were in poverty and the working middle class was not nearly as wide then as it is now.  While conditions were horrific in some areas of the United States for the struggling newcomer, the possibility of getting OUT of that situation was a REAL possibility.  The streets were not paved with gold, but it was possible to work really hard and realize a dream.

We also have to remember that the same time in history gave rise to changes in government because of the horrible conditions in places like New York and San Francisco.  Labor movements began because the workers were horrifically exploited.  My mother, at 97, can remember the violence of the dock strikes and how horrified they all were about the communist influence upon the labor movement - and yet she also will tell you that as the wages for workers began to rise as a result of union organizing. The wages SHE received working in areas that are NOT represented by unions rose as well.  She recognizes the debt she owed to the unions demanding that workers get paid enough to pay the rent and feed their kids.

As with all economic policies, those put forward by the American Solidarity Party are written in general terms.  The real proof in the pudding comes from how we, as Americans, will pressure our elected officials to make it possible for all people to have a reasonable life.  No, not all of us will own homes or live in gated communities.  Not all of us will have the latest gadgets or own Coach purses.  That is not the goal.  The goal is to be able to say to each generation that working hard and sacrificing can mean something - it can result in something that allows them to live without holding their breath in fear all the time.

I think it is possible to do this and so do the members of the American Solidarity Party.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Once Again - It is NOT all about ME

Man, you would think I would get tired of finding out that another person's problems relating to the world has nothing to do with me.   Truth be told, however, that discovery continues to bolster me because my default position is always, "What did I do to make them mad?' followed closely by "How can I make them love me again?".    While some may not see the character defect of pride and self-will in this, I do and so I am always glad to (first) recognize that I do not do this as often as I used to and (second) to quickly recognize when my interpretation of another person's behavior has been incorrect.   I love it when I find out I am not alone and that it is NOT all about me.

When a person struggles with selfishness it can take all kinds of forms.  The assumption that someone is acting like a goofball because they don't like me or because they want to hurt me is simply one of those puzzling aspects of selfishness.  To immediately process another person's bad behavior as either being caused by or targeting ME is being selfish.  Like that old joke (but enough about me, what else do you want to know about me) a selfish and self-centered person just automatically sees the world as one giant game board with themselves as the central piece.  Everything revolves around me, right?

The stages of my development into being a grown up can be looked at as steps towards walking away from this type of thinking until that thinking began to actually change.  Stress brings it back - usually acute stress - but most of the time, now, I can watch quietly as someone I know or love makes bad social choices and not just leap to the 'what did I do to upset them' default.  Learning to say "Not my circus, not my monkeys" over an over has helped.

It seems to me the danger is to not ignore my mistakes: if I do something wrong and cause another person to act out in a way that causes me and others hurt or harm, then I better be willing to step up and take responsibility.

The biggest mistake I make today is venting to someone inappropriate - not necessarily that they cannot be trusted; rather, someone who because of their own issues tries to correct a situation and shares what I vented to them in a moment of frustration with the wrong person.

SO....when someone asks me what my New Year's Resolution for 2019 is I am going to honestly say this:  I resolve to be more circumspect in my personal venting.  I am going to be very cognoscente of who needs to hear my frustration and who doesn't and I am going to take advantage of those people in my life who can be trusted to listen without sharing it with anyone else.

Did you note I did not write "listen without judgment"?

Well, guess what...I hope for feedback from these trusted individuals.  I want them to tell me when they are afraid I am off the beam or when they think I handled a situation right.   I need the help.  I trust them for a reason.

Besides, being judgmental towards me is fine.  I like it best when you judge that I am fabulous but I understand that it could go either way.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

Monday, December 3, 2018

DASHING THROUGH THE (SNOW) STUFF

The Catholic Church teaches:

843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as "a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life."

I share this because I am, once again, saddened by the attacks on Christmas.  The idea that it is the choosing December 25th as the day to celebrate the singular most important event in world history that negates the legitimacy of that event doesn't make sense to me.  The fact that The Church may have chosen as a the day to celebrate Jesus' birth a pagan feast day should not mean that Christmas is somehow illegitimate.

However, I understand that most people do not know the teachings of The Church.  Many of the members of the Body of Christ are unaware that seeing the practices (even the ugly ones) of a pagan religion as a 'preparation' for Truth is a manifestation of God's Infinite Mercy.  Besides, it is so much easier to simply dismiss, attack or ridicule.  Sad, but true.

Bunches and bunches of scholars have researched, written and exclaimed about the celebration of Christmas.  I am not going to join the chorus.  Instead, I am going to offer my understanding of the theology we are missing when we make the issue about the externals.

Christians do not believe in a theorem or a feeling.  Christians believe in a Person, an actual historical person named Jesus.  In Jesus we recognize two natures:  Divine and Human.  For us, He is fully Human, like us in all things except sin.  He is fully Divine and was there at the beginning and will be here always.  He is God, equal to The Father, begotten and not made.

Why is this important?

Jesus was God in the womb of the Virgin Mary from the moment of His conception.  He was not born Human and then somehow became God.  He is both at once.  Through Him all things are possible - all things - which includes a virgin girl in Palestine being saved from the stain of Original Sin at HER conception by HIS sacrifice outside of time and space.  Through Him all things are possible - all things - which includes Him being fully Human and Fully Divine from the moment of His conception so that His cousin, also in the womb, would recognize Him as the Lamb of God and leap for joy, causing that child's mother, Elizabeth, to recognize the monumental moment (Who am I that the Mother of My Lord should come to me?).

Jesus opens the gates of Heaven for us so that we might claim our rightful place there, in full communion with God, for all eternity.  We are, therefore, called to that communion from the moment of OUR conception which is why, even though we are wounded by the sin of Adam, we have a destiny and a purpose that far surpasses any earthly reward.  It doesn't matter that I didn't get to be a famous actress because while that might have been a possible vocation it is not my purpose.  My purpose is to be of maximum service to God and to His children, even the ones who have rejected His existence.

The Church teaches that this kind of thought is deep down in every one of us regardless of our station, our intelligence or our life experience.  Every single person is always searching for God.  When we find Him, that God-size hole in our psyche is filled and we find our
 purpose.  Once we find our purpose, we can discover how we can best serve Him.

The Church teaches that all religions have at their core this idea that something greater than themselves exists.  It is why the missionaries can see in the practices of the native peoples a semblance of the truth, whether it be ancestor worship (communion of saints) or the Sacrifice of Jesus on the cross (human sacrifice).  And while some practices might have horrified them, they did not lose sight of the fact that the people to whom they were ministering were trying in their own, limited way to reach a communion with God.

So we know, historically, that Natalis Invicti is a solar feast that has a strong claim on why Christians celebrate the birth of The Son on December 25th.  As well explained in the blog TraditionalCatholicPriest.com:

It would be impossible here even to outline the history of solar symbolism and language as applied to God, the Messiah, and Christ in Jewish or Chrisian canonical, patristic, or devotional works. Hymns and Christmas offices abound in instances; the texts are well arranged by Cumont (op. cit., addit. Note C, p. 355).

The debate will always rage, I suppose, because no one ever wants to admit there may be a 'both/and' way of looking at history.  Right now, European Christianity is on the outs with people so if it smacks of 'appropriation' that is what it is going to named.    I understand that many atrocities were committed (and are still committed, quite frankly) under the cover of authority of Holy Mother Church by sinful men and women.

What I ask my readers to consider is this: is it just as insulting to assume that a member of an indigenous culture cannot convert to Truth?

To consider this, let's look at the last written words of Nicholas Black Elk, Ogala Holy Man and Catholic Catechist whose cause for canonization is being put forward at this time:

BLACK ELK’S LAST TESTAMENT

Holy Rosary Mission
Pine Ridge, S. Dakota
January 26, 1934

I shake hands with my white friends. Listen! I will speak words of truth. I told about the people’s ways of long ago and some of this a white man put in a book but he did not tell about current ways. Therefore I will speak again, a final speech.

Now I am an old man. I called my priest to pray for me and so he gave me Extreme Unction and Holy Eucharist. Therefore I will tell you the truth. Listen my friends!

For the last thirty years I have lived very differently from what the white man told about me. I am a believer. The Catholic priest Short Father baptized me thirty years ago. From then on they have called me Nick Black Elk. Very many of the Indians know me. Now I have converted and live in the true faith of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, I say in my own Sioux Indian language, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,” as Christ taught us and instructed us to say. I say the Apostle’s Creed and I believe it all.

I believe in the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church. I have now received six of these: Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, Holy Eucharist, Holy Matrimony, and Extreme Unction.

For very many years I went with several priests to fight for Christ among my people. For about twenty years I helped the priests and I was a catechist in several communities. So I think I know more about the Catholic religion than many white men.

For eight years I participated in the retreat for catechists and from this I learned a great deal about the faith. I am able to explain my faith. From my faith I know Who I believe in so my work is not in vain.

All of my family is baptized. All my children and grandchildren belong to the Catholic Church and I am glad of that and I wish very much that they will always follow the holy road.

I know what St. Peter has to say to those men who forsake the holy commandments. My white friends should read carefully 2 Peter 2:20-22.

I send my people on the straight road that Christ’s church has taught us about. While I live I will never fall from faith in Christ.

Thirty years ago I knew little about the one we call God. At that time I was a very good dancer. In England I danced before our Grandmother, Queen Victoria. At that time I gave medicines to the sick. Perhaps I was proud, I considered myself brave and I considered myself to be a good Indian, but now I think I am better.

St. Paul also became better after his conversion. I know that the Catholic religion is good, better than the Sun dance or the Ghost dance. Long ago the Indians performed such dances only for glory. They cut themselves and caused the blood to flow. But for the sake of sin Christ was nailed on the cross to take our sins away. The Indian religion of long ago did not benefit mankind. The medicine men sought only glory and presents from their curing. Christ commanded us to be humble and He taught us to stop sin. The Indian medicine men did not stop sin. Now I despise sin. And I want to go straight in the righteous way that the Catholics teach us so my soul will reach heaven. This is the way I wish it to be. With a good heart I shake hands with all of you.

(signed) Nick Black Elk

(http://catholicism.org/ad-rem-no-158.html)


I share this with you because you need to know, as a Catholic I do not care if Jesus was born in March or December.  I do not care that an ancient pagan religion once celebrated the Sun being born again on December 25th.

I care only that Jesus, the Son and Eternal Light came into the world.  On December 25th, I celebrate THAT reality...and I do so by attending the Mass of Christ (Christmas).


May God bless you this Advent Season.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Guess Who is NOT going to the Concert?

In 1974/75 I was a freshman at UC Berkeley and became friends with a gal named Marcia.  We were 'wild child wannabes' though I will admit she was far more sophisticated in that area than me.  We had many adventures together, all around our love for The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart and Faces and Rock and Roll in general.

The most fun we had was when we spent three days sleeping in the parking lot of the Cow Palace in San Francisco.  We did it so we could be up front for the Stones.  It was cold.  It was rainy.  It was a blast.  My Uncle Karl and Auntie Della brought us Kentucky Fried Chicken.  My Dad and Mom brought us a big ol' tarp to use to huddle under to keep out of the rain and my father stood there with a big grin on his face when all the kids in the area stood up and applauded him for doing that - and setting it up for us.

Poor Dad...he had no freaking idea what was happening but hey, he was going to bring his daughter a tent so she wouldn't get too wet.

I had a blast at that concert.  I have attended almost every Rolling Stone concert in the Bay Area since then, missing the last one because I just did not have the money for a ticket.  I loved every one of them.  I attended them stoned and I attended them sober.  The Rolling Stones are my band.  I do not sit down or sit still during their concerts.

Imagine my excitement, therefore, when their upcoming stadium tour was announced!  YIPPPEEE!  A chance to go see my favorite band during what HAS to be their last hurrah, right?  I mean, even Keith can't last that much longer.

Then I saw the date they are due to perform at Levi Stadium and I realized I can't go because I have two other commitments that weekend.  Darn.  Disappointment.

And Laughter.

My life has changed dramatically since 1974 and I have chronicled a lot of that in this blog.  My readers are aware that I am a recovering Alcoholic who, as a result of the healing found in a 12 step program, returned to full communion with the Catholic Faith.  I am now a life professed Lay Dominican, a Catechist, a lover of football and rock and roll and the steward of Scottish Terriers and silly cats.  I never did remarry, never had children of my own but today I get to be in service to over 800 children at my parish where I work as the Coordinator of the school of religion.  I am far from perfect (a nephew still won't speak to me) but I love my life today.  It is second to none.

But it is definitely different....and I mean REALLY different...from what it was in 1974. It is a reflection of a change that happened in 1992,  the year I surrendered to God and to the 12 step program that saved my life.   The way I live today resembles that which it was meant to be from the moment of my Baptism.  I begin and end with prayer.  I live a Sacramental and Liturgical life.  I have not withdrawn from the world; rather, I now look at all the world has to offer through the eyes of faith, through a new pair of glasses.  While not perfect I am not afraid to aim for perfection.  I am not afraid to do it because I understand that failing to reach it doesn't make me the failure but failing to try can and I do not want to spend eternity in failure.

I understand more perfectly that the life I am called to lead as a Catholic is not for everyone, but it is open to all.  I want people to understand it but I am okay if they exercise their gift of free will and chose not to, either by going down an easier path or rejecting the existence of that path all together.  If they are angry at me for being a Catholic or for believing in God I can love them anyway and keep them in prayer.  I can resist their attempts at injustice towards me and my kind, but I can resist it in the was Pope St. John Paul II resisted the Nazis and the Communists - with Love.

Today I am a different woman than the little girl trying to be sophisticated and worldly because I have found a different world in which to be sophisticated.  It is not a world of glitter, it is a world of light.  It is not a world of alcohol and drugs, it is a world of Body and Blood.  It is not a world of wanton sex but a world of right relationship.  It is not a world of lonely dependence upon another human being for my self worth but a world of full dependence upon a Power greater than myself,  the Omnipotent and Omnipresent Power of God.

So when I saw the date for the Stones performance in my 'home town' I was disappointed - for a minute. You see, that is the day we scheduled for the Spanish Mass for First Holy Communion.  I get to help usher in 35 little ones as they receive Our Lord in the Eucharist for the very first time in their lives.  And that night?  That night I get to drive to Reno because the next day I participate as a speaker at a convention of like minded and similarly afflicted types, trying to stay sober one day at a time.

Yes, my life is very, very different today.  Of course I would love to see the Stones.  But God has work for me to do that weekend.

And He comes first.


Monday, November 26, 2018

Advent Begins December 2 - why bother?

I read the saddest post on FaceBook today.

A medical doctor advised a patient to (essentially) only love those who return the love.  This doctor told his patient that "no matter how good and kind (one is) to people, if actions are not reciprocated you are being used whether it is family or friends."

This probably does not seem like a sad post to most of the world, but to me it sums up what has gone terribly wrong with our society today.  We look for what we are getting - and if we give, it is with an eye towards whether or not it was worth giving in the first place.  If the person, or people, we love do not love us back we are being used.  We are being hoodwinked. We are nothing to admire, no one to emulate.  Why would you want to be someone who just loves without return?

In this month's Magnificat Magazine, one of my Dominican brethren quotes Pope Benedict the XVI who wrote, in 1964 (before he became Pope) the following:

"Being a Christian means having love.  That is unbelievably difficult and, at the same time, incredibly simple.  Yet however difficult it may be in many respects, discovering this is still a profoundly liberating experience".

Why would this be liberating?  Father Garrigou-Lagrange, OP asserts that is it because most of us think love is earned by our behavior.  Because we cannot comprehend the infinite sea of God's Love, we think we have to behave a certain way or do certain things or even, heaven forbid, LOOK a certain way in order to be lovable.

I think the attitude of the doctor demonstrates this belief and adds a layer to it.  Love, to be love, in his mind must be reciprocated. If it is not, it is wasted and it can cause the lover harm.  

Yet, that is not the love of which the Christian speaks.  It is not the love to which the Christian aspires and it is not the love that the Christian tries to imitate.  

We are called, by Jesus, to be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect (St.Matthew 5:48).  Holy Scripture gives example after example of this unselfish love, a love that is freely given and not withdrawn when the behavior of the beloved is less than stellar. 

For Catholics, this is not as daunting as it may sound to the rest of the world.  Through the Church, we have a Sacramental and Liturgical life that is designed to give us the grace we need to keep loving even when we are ignored or, worse, when our outstretched hand is slapped away.  We are not to turn our back, we are to open our arms and love more.  We are to imitate the promises of Christ, the greatest of which is fulfilled on the Cross.  

I think we have lost this basic understanding of Christianity.  I think, because that has been lost, we have had it replaced with the idea of 'healthy love' - a love that is given on the condition that we get a return on our investment.  We have, I believe, becomes so caught up in the 'me me me' of the world that an outward focus has become something to denigrate unless it produces tangible, measurable results.  We can give food to the homeless because we can see them eat it.  To love the sister who is an alcoholic, who gets drunk and calls at all hours of the night to talk about the stuff that happened when you were 12 years old and how mom always loved you best - that is 'dangerous'.  

If I only loved people who loved me back, there would be a lot of people not on my prayer list.  I forgive when necessary.  I apologize when necessary.  I love no matter what - even if I have to do it through tears of hurt and shame.  When I feel that need to be loved in return, what I know is I am failing in my spiritual development and it warrants a trip - first to the Adoration Chapel and then to the Confessional and then...to receive the Eucharist.

I take that call from the drunk who decides, at 2am, to call me and tell me how much she hates me because I think I am perfect.  I wait until she is done telling me off and I tell her this:  I am sorry I hurt you. I love you.  Thank you for telling me how I can improve.  Now, how about you go to sleep and let's see about meeting up at a meeting tomorrow?

The Catholic Church has a history rich with saints who spent their physical strength in giving to the poor.  No matter how tired, not matter their own suffering they walked, the taught, they listened and they helped. Oftentimes they did so despite the jeers of those around them.  Their doctors told them they were killing themselves.  They knew they were giving of themselves...and they did so because of Love.

That is my ideal.  I want to be that unselfish. I fail, usually in a spectacular fashion, but it is something I still keep trying to do, to be, to imitate.

This Advent Season, let's try to show the world what it means to be a Christian - that it is about Love...a Love that is unconditional and offered to all.  Let's remember - we are loved because of who God is, not because of who WE are - God is good, infinite and eternal.

Let's practice our Faith....and let's prove the doctor wrong.