Golden Calves of the 21st Century

“They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them, making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it, sacrificing to it and crying out, “This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”    

Exodus 32:8

Everyone has a golden calf, or two, or three, which we worship. For some of us, the luminous calf is social media. For others, it can be fashion or exercise and diet programs, television series, music, food, make-up, video games, premium coffee, boyfriends, girlfriends, sleep, sex, status, money, money, and money; the list goes on. Now when I say “worship” I don’t mean that you put these things on an altar, bow down to it, and proclaim “Almighty and ever-living Starbucks frappuccino, you are the one who makes the stars and the moon blahblahblah…” (Okay, now if you do actually do that, you have a problem and should seek help immediately)

What I mean is that there are certain things we put above God and scripture. We put our favorite television programs above time spent pouring over His word. We would prefer to shop and drool over female fashion pins on Pinterest or get our nails done every other week, rather than sit in His presence, at His most holy feet. We would rather have sex with our significant others or spouses in order to avoid having an intimate talk about the Gospel or pray a rosary for peace and chastity. We love listening to the newest hit on iTunes, blasting it loudly in our speakers, but cannot stand to be in the stillness and silence of the Word made flesh. (John 1:1, 14)

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“He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.”    

John 1:10-11

 

Our Lord is largely unknown and widely unaccepted because we choose to be like the people I highlighted for you in Exodus. We choose to bring forth our distractions, objects, ideas, and people to the almighty alter of today’s secular world and in that, we have failed to know Him, our Creator. The Church in her wisdom has given us an annual opportunity to change this: Lent. You have forty days to give up everything that pulls you away from His desire for you. Lent is a time of great struggle but an even greater reward lies ahead! Through the struggle of sacrifice, God is at our side at all times. (Psalm 136) Lent is about forgiveness and repentance, and that means more than asking for God’s forgiveness, but also asking yourself for forgiveness. In doing so you reclaim your right in acknowledging your faults, but more importantly you proclaim His mercy. Take the time to examine your conscious and take stock of what it is you’ve been doing for the past year which causes you damage. If you are doing something that causes you to drift and fall into the hands of secularism, stop doing it! (Matthew 5:30) Lent is your opportunity and now is the time to take it.

We have less than a week before Ash Wednesday and our world is bleeding with sin and profound moral damage. This is your time to bring yourself closer to Christ, and to help heal the world of its false gods. As Christians, we must arm ourselves with “the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thess 5:8), which means we enter the battle spiritually armed. We are in the midst of the greatest spiritual warfare we have ever known, and it is up to us to show the world how to love. This means removing our golden calves and bolstering our obedience to the Lord. He will not fail us nor forsake us (Deut 31:8) as all of the worlds false gods will. Make strong roots this Lenten season and make a promise to uproot your golden calves.

“Taking the calf they had made, he [Moses] fused it in the fire and then ground it down into powder, which he scattered on the water and made the Israelites drink.”    

Exodus 32:20

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Legolas is a Sissy

by Christian Ohnimus                                                                         Wednesday, February 26

I’m not exactly what you would call a fan of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. While the movie is a technological marvel, bringing to life the scenes of my favorite children’s story in unprecedented CGI glory, I found it wanting. In fact, I was nearly as disappointed with the second Hobbit film as I was with The Last Airbender in 2010, a movie so terrible that even the stones cry out against it.

Shamalan

The second Hobbit movie departs drastically from the book upon which it is based. Such liberties could be justified except that they made the story worse, not better. As a result, the movie fails even to stand on its own even when not compared to Tolkien’s original fairy tale. Despite big names, big money, and big special effects the movie was just . . . bad. I won’t bother analyzing every scene but for a more in-depth look at the sheer stupidity plaguing this movie, John C. Wright offers a more thorough and comedic review (though still far from comprehensive, trust me).

Perhaps The Hobbit’s greatest failure was its disregard for the characters whom the movie was supposedly about. Instead, this movie was not about the characters involved but about cool action scenes and pretty CGI light shows. The characters were filler. This was made very clear by the fact that the characters did not behave like unique individuals with personal motivations, weaknesses, histories, or personalities. Instead their actions were erratic, nonsensical and sometimes even blatantly undermining of their own goals. These actions were meant to advance the plot. Instead of using the challenges presented in the story to develop the characters, the characters were used to develop outlandishly over the top action scenes.

“The Hobbit” has a name but we forgot it . . . and we forgot to put him on our poster.

Almost any character from the book (and many not from the book) can be used as an example. The elf king Thranduil kills a cooperative hostage after promising him freedom. Gandalf the wise mentor enters Dol Guldur, alone, despite knowing beforehand that its a trap. Thorin gives up on his quest moments after sunset despite having spent his entire life trying to reach this point. The dragon Smaug , despite being able to massacre an entire dwarf army with tremendous ease, fails to harm even a single dwarf in a lengthy chase through the mountain; then, after he has been sufficiently harassed he learns an important lesson about sharing and decides to spare the burglar and his entourage.

And then there’s Legolas. I couldn’t help but feel especially disappointed in his character because, unlike the dwarves, Bilbo, or even Gandalf himself, Legolas is depicted as a superhero who fails at nothing. The dwarves get the crap beaten out of them, Bilbo is scared as heck and Gandalf gets overpowered by the Necromancer. Legolas, however, is of such impossible skill and precision as to put his future Lord of the Rings self to shame. Maybe the immortal elf just lost his edge in his old age.

Legolas sees a lot of action, sniping orcs with machine gun speeds while simultaneously doing gymnastics on dwarves’ heads as they careen down white rapids. I am not embellishing. In fact, if you’ve seen the movie then you know that, if anything, I understate the scene in question. There is no doubt about it, Legolas is a badass.

Which only serves to make his actions later on all the more baffling. In Laketown, Legolas and Kate from Lost save Kili, Fili, and Bofur from assassin orcs after they had been left behind by Thorin (don’t ask). After an intense close combat scene between Legolas and Bolg, the orc lieutenant, Bolg flees. The only escape route is a long, exposed boardwalk over the lake to the shore. Legolas, the legendary elvish archer, measures the shot and, with the precision of a sniper, shoots him down with ease. Just kidding, he does nothing. After previously establishing that Legolas is Hawkeye except awesome, we now learn that apparently the reason Legolas never misses is because he never takes a shot he thinks he might not make. The sad truth is that Jackson’s Legolas is a sissy. He doesn’t even try to shoot his new orc nemesis despite already establishing himself earlier in the film as an archery god. He would rather give up than try and fail. Which is unfortunate because characters who don’t fail are boring – but characters who possess superpowers and don’t use them because the prospect of failure makes them pee their pants are downright pathetic.

I may be an add-in involved in a ham-fisted love triangle concocted by numbskull writers but at least I would have taken the shot.

Of course, no review of The Desolation of Smaug would be complete without mentioning my wife’s favorite scene in which Thorin body surfs a molten river of gold in a wheelbarrow. He is not incinerated by flash burns from the molten metal, his cart does not sink, melt or even get uncomfortably warm and he doesn’t even seem to break a sweat. I take no issue with suspension of belief but some things are too much to bear. The Desolation of Smaug offers slop dressed with expensive eye candy when I would have settled for meat and potatoes. Now excuse me while I go re-watch The Hobbit, and I mean the good one.

Apparently dwarves are impervious to fire but somehow they forgot that so are dragons.

Christian Ohnimus is a husband and registered nurse in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He holds a Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Franciscan University. He hopes to raise a holy family with the help of his better and more beautiful other half.

Stand Your Ground, Do Not Hit Back

I recently watched Gandhi for the first time. It was a very powerful movie, with a lot of information on a man I didn’t know much about. I recommend watching it. Perhaps it was watching the movie in close relation to Sunday’s gospel, but it seemed to me to be the only thing I’ve been thinking about is what it means to turn the other cheek.

After all it is one of the hardest teachings that Jesus taught, especially if you are in a tight spot. Our survival instincts kick in, that fight or flight response, and we have a hard time deliberately disobeying them. Even if we know it’s right, even if we have faith, when we are hurt or we see atrocities committed on others we feel we must take action, take revenge, take justice. The hardest thing is to do nothing, to stand there and take it, and even then it isn’t enough for Our Lord, for He says we must love them while they are doing it. It is an impossible teaching if we don’t have God’s grace.

In the movie, a scene takes place where the British soldiers open fire on thousands of people. Unarmed civilians, with women and children, gunned down mercilessly. When faced with such an evil act, would you be able to forgive, to love? Fifty million babies have been slaughtered in this country through the euphemism of ‘reproductive rights’. Can you love the doctors who perform the slaughter? Slaveholders beat, tortured, raped, and murdered their fellow man without repercussion. Can you pray for their souls? Your sibling went too far and hurt your feelings. Could you forgive them?

This doesn’t sound easy. Jesus said that His yoke was easy, and His burden light. Yet looking at your persecutor, smiling, and loving him whole-heartedly, sounds like too heavy a burden. I know that Christ doesn’t lie, so my only thought is that the only reason the yoke is easy is because the Spirit is there to help. To look into eyes full of hate and still see God, I pray for such grace.

hand of God

Joshua Fahey is a Chestertonian who agrees with Chesterton (surprise) that Christianity was found too difficult and not tried

Gospel Reflection

By Karen Mannino                                                                                  Monday Feb. 24th 2014

When I was in high school, I wanted a catholic nerd t-shirt.

2076

Before memes were a thing and we wore smart ass information on our shirts. I thought this one was cool. But I didn’t want to stand still long enough for someone to read it.

I didn’t really like a lot of the slogans that were common. But there was this particular one, I wonder if they still sell it…. apparently it’s still on a mug at Catholictothemax. It said, Be Holy or Die Trying.

The only nerdy catholic t-shirt I ever actually owned had a picture of Benedict XVI and said “I ❤ My German Shepherd.” It was a good shirt too.

But the Be Holy shirt was the one I wanted because it proclaimed the greatest challenge of Christianity. And I felt that it was worth owning in the most obnoxious way I possible. I think Protestants probably freak out a bit when they read a slogan like that, but take my word for it, this is a difference of focus and expression, not a difference of doctrine. Christ transforms us from the inside out and that constant striving to cooperate to live and love like Him is all grace. Ultimately the slogan is very biblical. We heard it at Mass this Sunday in the first reading from Leviticus. “Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.”

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Latin, yes. Monstrance, no. Not on a t-shirt, guys. Come on.

After this rather hard core challenge, the reading goes on to describe holiness. The core of this particular description of holiness is not, as I imagined as a kid, a lofty purity of spirit, or dedication to works of mercy, or perseverance in prayer. The reading ends with the commandment that Jesus places second in all the law: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The description of holiness involves very practical, everyday, mind-your-own- business sort of advice for living with people who mess up, including yourself.

The Gospel (MT 5:38-48) then expanded on it with the other most challenging command in Christianity. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” The law is now fulfilled. Completed. Taken from every day good manners and practical advise for living well, and raised up to the level of heroic virtue; the extra mile that defies common sense. For this kind of holiness, one needs steady injections of God’s sanctifying grace. To live a holy life is to live in humility and love, knowing who you are as a child of God,

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I didn’t know this existed. Did anyone wear this, or see it worn? Maybe it was after my time.

flawed and weak, but loved and intrinsically valuable. And knowing that every person around you, whether they agree with your or not, even if they fight tooth and nail against the beliefs you hold dearest, is also a child of God with intrinsic value. There is only one proper relationship to the people you meet every day, and that is love.
I think culturally we have a very sterile and misguided idea of what holiness is. When I was a child, I thought of rather saccharine images from children’s Saint books of perfectly behaved children and praying nuns. As a teenager, it was a kind of hard core attitude that involved defiant protests against injustice, and hard hitting arguments against heresy; the sort of thing you die for, hopefully after wittily destroying the opposition’s arguments and converting everyone watching. Typical of growing understanding. Holiness as impossible without prayer and the practice of virtue, certainly worth dying for, but mostly holiness, like every good thing, has its foundation in God, who is Love.

Karen Mannino should write a real bio once in a while. Fine. Karen was born and raised in the great Inland Northwest. She got her BA in Studio Art at Aquinas College in the flat Midwest. She works at a toy store, sells her hand made ceramic mugs on Etsy, and loves sea monsters (except jelly fish which are cheaters because they look harmless and pink and not like proper monsters at all, and then they kill you).

The Mystery of Friendship

This is not one of the post I intended to follow my one with, but it is related and relevant to my life at the moment.

I am in the early stages of writing my philosophy master’s thesis. I few weeks ago I got my prospectus approved on the topic of “Virtue Ethics and Harry Potter.” I am in the arduous process of rereading the books, pen in hand (or, more often, behind ear). Among the many virtues presenting themselves in the book perhaps the dominant one is friendship.

I was going to say “second only to love” but that would, in the end, undermine the entire aim of this post. For, while friendship is not uncommonly referred to while using ‘love’ it is almost always relegated to a corner: ‘friends and family,’ a boy friend belongs to an entirely different category than a boyfriend.

The mystery of friendship is simply this: a friendship is with another person. The lesser ‘friendships’ Aristotle talks about — utility and pleasure — can be had from non-persons (I am utilizing this laptop for the pleasure of listening to Mumford & Sons), while what he consider true friendship, a mutual pursuit of the good, demands another person.

This other person has no more or less value than any person in any other category (including, frankly, nemesis). To truly realize this is something, as of yet, I can only do in tiny spurts, but it is staggering to think about. How often have I, for any number of reasons, prioritized something useful (or, more often, useless) or fun over the person, the humanity, of a friend?

It was in the end of book 7 that this again made itself present (what is the statute of limitations on spoilers?). Much is made of the relationship of trust to friendship, but what is more powerful, though more subtle, is that friendship is willing to give up anything, even life itself.

I cannot hope to fully put into words this realization, this encounter. The reality of friends, the reality of persons, is such that this clutter of our lives (it is a vast and unquenchable clutter for most Americans) can only ever be a mask, hiding the other from us, letting us retreat back from the experience of something that echoes the value in ourselves. The person outvalues everything we are surrounding ourselves with, the jobs, the art, the food, the diversions, and perhaps, someday, we will be blessed enough to see that.

Justin Burgard is really bad at remembering to include his mini-bio. Those responsible for the lack of mini-bio have been sacked. 

Why homeschoolers are sheltered

by Kaitlyn Ohnimus                                                                         Wednesday, February 19
Glasses Baby

“Those kids are so sheltered.” “At least I wasn’t sheltered.” “I would never shelter my kids.”

Wait!!! When did being sheltered become such a bad thing? When did it become socially unacceptable to shelter our children? When did we start being grateful that we came from a back ground without shelter?

Yes, I know that our conditioned and emotional response to those statements conjures images such as a teenage boy so socially awkward he isn’t sure if he should enter the store via the enter or the exit because his parents never let him go in a store. Naturally he has large baggy jeans and huge glasses that hide half his face. We imagine a pregnant woman with wild fuzzy hair wearing a jean jumper trailed by eleven frumpy kids hiding behind her skirt sporting wide buggy eyes staring at the dangerous world they know they should never engage or encounter because “it’s bad.” To be honest I have never seen this in real life but for some reason that’s what comes to mind when we hear the term sheltered.

Let’s examine the meaning of shelter. First it is considered one of the three basic human physical needs to which every person because of their inherent human dignity has a right, a right that any just society is morally obligated to defend and provide. The other two needs are food and clothing. The specific obligation to provide these needs to children rests with the parents. When a parent fails to fulfill this obligation we call it neglect and abuse while dialing child protective services. To the same extent we acknowledge that children have other needs that parents must meet. Children require to be fed, clothed and yes even sheltered spiritually and emotionally. Children are fed and clothed spiritually and emotionally when they are given wisdom, education, logic, faith and training in skills.

Kid Veggies

 

Despite what Hollywood and the Disney channel portray, parents are wiser than their children, even their teenage children. This is why parents feed their children meat and vegetables when their children want candy and sweets. We know that children do not have the knowledge and often the maturity to choose the best option so we rely on parents to choose it for them. Likewise children often want to play out in the cold longer than is good for them forcing parents to call them in to come get warm before their toes fall off. What kind of a mother between the months of October and May doesn’t ask if her child has hat, mittens, and coat in the car before she lets them drive away. As much as 17 year old Billy rolls his eyes, when the car breaks down he’s grateful he listened to mom. Besides directing what it is the children eat or when they come in from the cold, parents provide these goods. It is their worry and their work that buys the food, pays the heating bill and supplies the mortgage. Children simply cannot manage these tasks so they rely on their parents to provide good food, appropriate clothing and a warm home.

In much the same way, it is a parent’s obligation and responsibility to provide emotional and spiritual shelter for their children. Like dietary choices parents have the life experience and the knowledge to know what is toxic and what will hurt their children. They understand what is too much of a good thing like sweets or TV and when more of something else in needed like vegetables or prayer and family time. They must ensure that their children are not exposed to evils they are too immature or young or naive to handle. Here I think more of a plant in a greenhouse. When the plant is too young and weak it needs to be in a warm, secure and controlled environment (aka sheltered) till it is strong and firm. Once it has been given this chance to grow strong it will be able to stand firm during winter months outdoors and bloom again each spring, but if such a plant is placed outdoors too early it will be destroyed immediately. Just like that plant my parents sheltered me. They used their wisdom to see that much of the media, that certain friends, that certain activities or groups were toxic and would hurt me. They raised me in a safe home where I knew I was loved, where I was allowed to believe in truth and beauty, and where I need not be afraid. They filled me with faith in God and made it the air of our home. So many young people are torn down, hurt, rejected, mocked and scorned in their places of formation and it wounds them deeply. I know this from listening to and sharing with these people.

As my maturity and wisdom would grow, my parents allowed me more freedom to make decisions often even letting me make decisions they knew were not the best so that I would learn from them. They often let me fall, but guess who picked me up. Because of this, I have learned trust. I don’t fear that I will be abandoned. I never felt that I was unable to question or challenge, but because of my trust in them I came to them with those questions and challenges. Now I look at the world and I see a place of good and evil. I know there are things in this world that I never wish to experience and because of the lessons I learned I choose to avoid them. Now that I have the maturity to face hurt and rejection it does not destroy me because I know I am loved and I trust those who love me. I have faith in the Lord and wisdom to trust His Church. I, like a little sapling, was sheltered while I was too weak to face the stormy blast on my own. Now I am able I stand like a tree in the middle of a field and sway but do not break as the storm winds blow.

The truth of the matter is that rather than the awkward picture we conjure, sheltered children are becoming well adjusted and psychologically healthy young adults. We are fast becoming leaders in our communities because we are not broken, because our foundation is strong.

My answer: “What’s so wrong with being sheltered?”

Kids Gardening

Katie Ohnimus is grateful to have studied at home for twelve wonderful years with the best teacher in the world. She graduated in nursing from Franciscan University and currently works as a cardiac renal nurse. She lives in Grand Rapids with her dear husband Christian.

St. Valentine was single.

By Karen Mannino                                                                               Monday, Feb 17th, 2014

Valentine’s day weekend has just ended, though it is extended by president’s day. It seems unfair not to nod at the holiday, despite the contrast between the commercial reality, and the identity of St. Valentine. I am enough of a sappy romantic to think that there is nothing wrong with setting aside a day to celebrate romantic love. So I would like to offer reasons I love couples, as a single girl.

I have to admit that I usually have a hard time liking dating couples. I have been a third wheel often enough to be annoyed by their tendency to disregard every other living being on the planet. But they are not all bad. There was one couple that I knew in my cynical teen age years that gave me hope for dating humanity. They were both more fun when the other one was around. The girl became softer, less  of a perfectionist and driven. The boy was more talkative and witty. They were at rest in each other’s company. And that restfulness made them open to seeking and appreciating other people. I have often found this true of friends. CS Lewis lamented that since Charles Williams died, he had also lost the part of JRR Tolkien that only came out when Williams was around.

In fairness I have also been a third wheel and enjoyed it immensely. The trick is knowing when to quietly find something else to do. I like having dinner with a dating couple, and then disappearing to wash the dishes. I get the pleasure of watching the two of them bring out the best in each other. Then, as I slowly fade out of their consciousness, I find some way to thank them, giving them a little alone time where they don’t have to pay me any attention. I know they wouldn’t purposely ignore me, but it is perfectly fair to give them a little alone time.

Recently I had the unparalleled pleasure of attending mass with a group of dear friends. This doesn’t happen for me very often, as most of my catholic friends live far away. When we all joined hands for the Lords Prayer, I found my fingers pressed against my friend’s wedding ring. For some reason, that little reminder of his vocation and commitment to his wife (who is also a dear friend) filled me with contented joy.

I must admit that my delight in my friends’ marriages is completely selfish. If Paul wasn’t married, there is no way I would feel comfortable sleeping on his couch while I’m in town. But since he is married to Kristina, I can crash in his living room for several days. This allows the three of us the otherwise impractical luxury of talking until the small hours of the morning, which is the whole point of me coming to visit in the first place.

As a twenty-something, single, introvert, I am at a strange cross roads where I enjoy some of the spontaneity and “yolo” attitude of a young adult, but I also love the simple joys of a stable home and family. I have never been much of a partier. Marriage has very conveniently settled and regulated the social habits of some of my friends. This is very convenient because it means that they don’t feel like we have to go do something crazy in order to have fun. I suppose this quieting of my social life owes something to babies.

I generally feel about babies as I do about handsome male celebrities: They are very nice to look at, but I wouldn’t want to spend more than a few minutes actually interacting with them. It would just get awkward. But a very strange thing happened when I found out that my friends were expecting. I was suddenly irrevocably connected to this unknown child. I don’t know how that really worked, but I’m sure I will feel that way about all the children of people I’m close to, whether they are related to me by blood or not. I will never have children of my own, but I feel like I can somehow share in that highly amusing adventure which is family life with children. I am grateful for the generosity of my parenting friends for allowing me to love their children. As the child is an overflowing of their love for each other, my love for their children is an overflowing of my love for them. It is quite unexpected in me, but then, God’s grace usually is.

I used to think it mattered if I knew both parties in a marriage well. I got to meet my childhood best friends’ fiance (bff) only briefly before they were married. The last time they were in town, I saw him watching her with love in his eye. He was admiring the beauty and charm that I have known since we were small children. He comfortably slid in to help her where we both knew she would need a little help, and he knew how to do it far better then I ever have. He and I may never be great friends, but I know that we have love of her in common, and that will at least make us allies.
Reading over these little anecdotes again, I realize that many of these same stories might easily be poisoned by bitterness or jealousy. Being free of such feelings is a highly valuable grace, especially for a single person. I don’t know if there is anything I can say to dispel that feeling for someone who isn’t happy to be single. God is in charge of handing out that grace. There are a lot of dumb pity parties happening all over the web for single people who feel it is their right to hate people who are dating or married. That is a symptom of a sickness our society has where we think that the only kind of love worth having is romantic. The fact is, the act of love, not the state of being loved by another human being, is what makes life worth living. Love is not jealous, and rejoices in goodness. Love your friends. You need it. I find that it is easiest to avoid being jealous of my friends when I leave myself out of it. When my focus is Jesus, and the gift he has given me in married people, and the beautiful work he is doing in my friends’ lives, I can have nothing but wonder and gratitude.

Karen Mannino is being called away to eat yummy ice cream and watch Cool Runnings while cuddling with her seven year old brother, so you will forgive her for not telling you anything interesting in her mini bio.