Expressions from our Youngest

Expressions from our Youngest
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Friday, November 26, 2010

Words of Wisdom from a Cardinal

Encountering God
when on holiday
by Joseph Ratzinger

In the modern era, our relationship to work and to the mundane tasks of making a living have been essentially modified.

In ancient times, the full liberation from earthly concerns in order to devote oneself to 'leisure in the pursuit of truth' was presented as the ideal condition in life, and occupying oneself with earthly matters appeared as a weight and a deviation from the essential.

In contrast, man today thinks of service to the world with a kind of religious fervor. He does not care at all to escape from the world, and he eschews idleness even more. What he considers to be positive about human possibilities is that man can change the face of the earth in order to realize its full potential and improve its livability.

But what makes the earth more habitable? The moment all the conveniences resulting from technology reach the peak of their development, then there is nostalgia for the simplicity of old. The world which man has built up with his own hands and which now surrounds him everywhere becomes a prison in which he starts to cry for freedom and invokes whatever is Totally Other!

We realize, of course, that free time does not necessarily mean peace and quiet; and that peace and quiet have to be 'learned anew' all the time, if work is to have any sense.

We also realize that whoever wants to 'take the world' completely for himself ends up destroying the world itself and his own vital life space. This is no longer considered a Cassandra-like prophecy by incurable romantics who are enemies of technology, but it has begun to be seen as a realistic evaluation by which technology itself judges itself.

When the apostles came back from the first mission to which Jesus had sent them, they were all in the grip of what they had experienced and achieved. They could not tire of endlessly recounting their own successes, and in fact, they kindled such enthusiasm around them that they ended up having no time even to eat, for all the people who came and went without interruption.

Perhaps they expected to be praised for their zeal, but instead, Jesus invites them to come with him to a lonely place where they can be alone and where they can rest.

I think it is good to see, once and for all, in an episode like this, the humanity of Jesus, who was not always offering words of extraordinary significance, nor trying to deal uninterruptedly with everything and everyone that demanded something of him.

In fact I like to imagine what Jesus's expression must have been when he invited his apostles to take a break. Jesus makes them come down to earth by telling them "All right now, unwind, relax!" One can sense the discreet sense of humor and the friendly irony with which he gets them to put their feet on the ground!

And it is this humanity of Jesus that makes visible what is divine in him, which makes him manifest to us as God. Frenzy of any kind - even if it is 'religious' zeal and frenzy - is totally alien to the man of the New Testament.

Think about it: Every time that we believe we are absolutely indispensable, every time we think that the world and the Church depend on our tireless activity, we over-value ourselves.

It is therefore an act of correct humidity and of creature honesty to know when to stop, to recognize our limitations, to take some free time to breathe freely and rest, because these, too, are needed by the creature called man.

It is not that I wish to sing the praises of laziness, but I do wish to suggest a certain change in the table of virtues as it has evolved in the Western world, for which only action counts as a legitimate and conceivable activity - whereas meditation, wonder, self-communion and silence are seen to be indefensible and worthless, or at the very least, 'activities' that need to be justified.

During some archaeological excavations for the remains of Roman settlements in north Africa, they discovered in the ancient market square of Fimgad, in Algeria, an inscription from the second or third century which read: "To hunt, to bathe, to play, to laugh - that is living!"

I think of that inscription every year when I see the river of vacationing people headed for the south of Europe in pursuit of 'living'. When, in the far future, archaeologists will find the advertisements for travel and vacation from our day, they will discover we had an analogous representation of 'living'.

Obviously, most people consider that spending the whole year working in an office, a factory or other kind of workplace is a form of 'not living'. And so we all look forward to the holidays when we feel we are finally free to 'live' as we wish. To swim, to play, to laugh, to joke - that's the life!

This expectation of relaxation, of freedom, of escaping the constrictions of everyday routine is quintessentially human. And indeed, in the face of the demanding productive rhythm of the world of technology, such breaks for rest are simply necessary.

But even granting all that, we must admit that even in a condition of maximum freedom, of maximum availability of free time, our problems do not disappear. Man realizes suddenly that he has lost his capacity to 'live' - that swimming and playing, laughing and joking, are fun, but that's not really 'living'.

And so the question of how to use free time and vacations has begun to be an object of serious and specific scientific investigation. I am reminded that Thomas Aquinas wrote an entire treatise on the means to fight sadness. And it is a testimony to his sense of reality that he too lists swimming, sleeping and amusements as among such measures!

But he also points out that among the ways to fight sadness one must include being together with friends, which relieves the isolation that is often at the root of our discontents. Free time should above all be a time when one can be available and accessible for relating to others.

Finally, for Thomas, the antidotes to sadness must include looking for Truth, and that means looking for God - through contemplation of the truth, from which man draws authentic living.

If we exclude this from our plans for our holidays, then even our free time can only be false and deceiving. And we ourselves, all looking forward to recovering some of the 'living' we miss out during the rest of the year, will not fare any better.

Seeking God is the most stimulating walk in the mountains and the most enlivening swim one can imagine. To swim, to play, to sleep - of course, they are re all ingredients of a vacation.

But like Thomas Aquinas, when we plan our holidays, we should also consider the possibility of an encounter with God, to which we are invited by all our beautiful churches and all the natural beauties of God's creation. [A textbook description of all the Papal vacations we have been privileged to 'share' with him!]

Thanksgiving: The Real Story (from Rush Limbaugh's book)

The story of the Pilgrims begins in the early part of the seventeen century. The Church of England under King James I was persecuting anyone and everyone who did not recognize its absolute civil and spiritual authority. Those who challenged ecclesiastical authority and those who believed strongly in freedom of worship were hunted down, imprisoned, and sometimes executed for their beliefs.

A group of separatists first fled to Holland and established a community. After eleven years, about forty of them agreed to make a perilous journey to the New World, where they would certainly face hardships, but could live and worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences.

On August, 1620, the Mayflower set sail. It carried a total of 102 passengers, including forty Pilgrims led by William Bradford. On the journey, Bradford set up an agreement, a contract, that established just and equal laws for all members of their new community, irrespective of their religious beliefs. Where did the revolutionary ideas expressed in the Mayflower Compact come from? From the Bible. The Pilgrims were a people completely steeped in the lessons of the Old and New Testaments. They looked to the ancient Israelites for their example. And, because of the biblical precedents set forth in Scripture, they never doubted that their experiment would work.

But this was not pleasure cruise, friends. The journey to the New World was a long and arduous one. And when the Pilgrims landed in New England in November, they found, according to Bradford’s detailed journal, a cold, barren, desolate wilderness. There were no friends to greet them, he wrote. There were no houses to shelter them. There were no inns where they could refresh themselves.

And the sacrifice they had made for freedom was just beginning. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims – including Bradford’s wife – died of either starvation, sickness, or exposure. When spring finally came, Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod, and skin beavers for coats. Life improved for the Pilgrims, but they did not yet prosper? This is important to understand because this is where modern American history lessons often end. Thanksgiving is actually explained in some textbooks as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives, rather than as a devout expressions of gratitude grounded in the tradition of both the Old and New Testaments.

Here is the part that has been omitted: The original contract the Pilgrims had entered into with their merchant-sponsors in London called for everything they produced to into a common store, and each member of the community was entitled to one common share. All of the land they cleared and the houses they build belonged to the community as well.

Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, recognized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as that first harsh winter, which had taken so many lives. He decided to take bold action. Bradford assigned a plot to land o each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of the marketplace.

That’s right, long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. Any what happened? It didn’t work! Surprise, surprise, huh? What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation!

But while most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism for well over a hundred years – trying to refine it, perfect it, and re-invent it – the Pilgrims decided early on to scrap it permanently. What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should be in every schoolchild’s history lesson. If it were, we might prevent much needless suffering in the future.

“The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years… that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God,” Bradford wrote. “For this community was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children with out any recompense… that was thought injustice.”

Do you hear what he was saying, ladies and gentlemen? The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. So what did Bradford’s community try next? They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise by invoking the undergirding capitalistic principle of private property. Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work and permitted to market its own crops and products. And what was the result?

“This had very good success, wrote Bradford, “for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.” Is it possible that supply-side economics could have existed before the 1980’s? Yes. Read the story of Joseph and Pharaoh in Genesis 41. Following Joseph’s suggestion (Gen. 41:34), Pharaoh reduced the tax on Egyptians to 20 percent during the “seven years of plenty” and the “Earth brought forth in heaps.” (Gen. 41:47).
In no time, the Pilgrims found they had more food than they could eat themselves. SO they set-up trading posts and exchanged good with the Indians. The profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London. And the success and prosperity of the Plymouth settlement attracted more Europeans and began what cam to be known as the “Great Puritan Migration.”

But guess what? There’s even more that it being deliberately withheld from our modern textbooks. For example, on of those attracted to the New World by the success of Plymouth was Thomas Hooker, who established this own community in Connecticut – the first full-fledged constitutional community and perhaps the most free society the world had ever known. Hooker’s community was governed by the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, which established strict limits on the powers of government. So revolutionary and successful was this idea that Massachusetts was inspired to adopt it Body of Liberties, which included ninety-eight separate protections of individual right, including: “no taxation without representation,” “due process of law,” “trial by a jury of peers,” and prohibitions against “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Does all that sound familiar? It should. These are ideas and concepts that led directly to the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Nevertheless, the Pilgrims and Puritans of early New England are often vilified today as witch-burners and portrayed as simpletons. To the contrary, it was their commitment to pluralism and free worship that led to these ideals being incorporated into American life. Our history books purposely conceal the fact that these notions were developed by communities of devout Christians who studied the Bible and found it prescribes limited, representative government and free enterprise as the best political and economic systems.

There’s only one word for this folks: censorship. There was a time when every schoolchild learned these basic lessons of American culture. Now these truths are being systematically expunged from the history books in favor of liberal social-studies claptrap.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fall 2010/2011 School Year

The school year of 2010/2011 is off to a good start for our family. My two oldest have chosen their majors of Engineering and Psychology, my daughter has adjusted extremely well to her new Catholic high school after being homeschooled through 8th grade, and my two youngest are doing well with homeschooling and our little co-op.

We did run into some snags with my daughters Religious Education class as some of the students in this class did not pay attention at first. I had to stop teaching this class and my daughter attends sporatically through out the year. I've been able to cover more at home with her than in this class. I was very worried about it initially but the problem seems to be solved now.

My oldest daughter is on the swim team at her highschool and my youngest daughter is still taking ballet. I hope to someday take private lessons with her. It is too expensive right now, but it is a nice dream and goal. Thanksgiving is coming up fast, and I will be able to see my mom if all goes well. I am so happy that the Lord is leading our family.

It is such a joy to see my four year old learning to love his work and learning how to write now.  In the co-op class I teach the children love the Creation Work and Baptismal Work I show them.  Both of these works can easily be made by mom.  They are posted on my website at under the Teacher's Aids section. 

The Baptism work just involves purchasing a paten and chalice.  We set up a prayer table with unconsecrated hosts.  I purchased these items from Autom, a Catholic supplier of items.  I also have a Crucifix and statue of Mary.  I show my four year old a picture of the last supper.  Both works have songs associated with them using some sign language. 

Recently, my 4 year old has been putting on his halloween costume and pretending to be batman.  My boys all had this drive in them to do good things for people and save the world through their various heros and characters while they were young.  My girls did too but did not have the same strong drive towards this activity as my sons have shown.  My daughters have shown this desire in a more gentle and subtle way.  God's plan for man and woman is evident even in the very young!

My oldest daughter is adjusting nicely to her new school.  I have met some wonderful parents and daughters.  She has made many wonderful friends there.  The teachers and staff are very hospitable and serious about their work.  There are a couple that may be difficult to learn from but this is part of growing up.  There is an Opus Dei prayer meeting for parents at the school once a month that I am eager to go to as soon as I get the chance. 

My youngest daughter is doing well in homeschooling.  I am able to keep up with grading her work much better ever since I stopped teaching the RE class.  I also have some additional moments to post to my blog.  You can see that I don't get around to it often. 

The material chosen for History and Science in our co-op classes is perfect for her.  I am assisting in her History class and it really is a joy to teach.  I like to do some extra research at times to present it to the class because there are some minor discrepancies in the text.  They are going to play jeopardy in their next class which should be fun.  My daughter has to study for it.  Say some prayers that I can quiz my daughter later because I have a full schedule today.   I have to bring my son to the orthodontist today and then drive him back to University of Maryland.

My two oldest sons are doing well at University of Maryland.  I had the joy of seeing them at some of the home football games with their friends.  We are so blessed that they come and hang out at our tailgate for a little while.  They have chosen their majors as stated above.  My oldest knew right away that he wanted Engineering.  My other son just recently chose Psychology.  They are very different fields, and it is interesting how each of them have shown their passion.  My oldest may minor in Philosopy along with Engineering.  What awesome friends they both have at school.  All polite and fun to be around!  I have great hope for all of my children!