Saturday, December 9, 2017

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, December 9

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch

The Lord shall write in the book of the nations:
  “Here is their birthplace.”
They will sing as in joyful processions:
  “All my being springs from you.”
So writes the Psalmist of Jerusalem. At the heart of a nationalist foreign policy for America is dealing honestly with other nations as nations. Israel is a real nation with borders that it won in several wars against enemies trying to eradicate their existence as a nation state. To carve out of of Israel a "second state" called Palestine as a real state with its own military and foreign policy would be to eliminate the physical ability of Israel to defend itself. One honest look at a topographic map shows that fantasy is a death wish. It is true that Israel could wreck havoc on its enemies in a war, but it could not defend itself as a territorial entity. It is one of the great ironies of the surreal world of globalists that the one nation they will defend and lionize is the one that doesn't exist and never has: Palestine. America should not join Israel in their adventure with Muhammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia against Iran, but as a Christian nation ourselves we must defend the miraculous return of God's chosen people to the Holy Land. (See below on President Trump's speech, Russian recognition and the European approach. To help think more clearly about "the two State solution" see this excellent 15-minute  CBN documentary: Who are the Palestinian people?)


ADVENT BEGINS - SEEK GOD FIRST AND ALL THINGS WILL BE ORDEREDThe Pope on putting God first. The Three Comings of Christ from AoA.

PRIESTLY FRATERNITY VS. CARBON MONOXIDE CLERICALISM: A young priest writes: "For the Year for Priests in 2009, Pope Benedict issued a letter that I believe was prophetic but under-appreciated. He wrote that 'the ordained ministry has a radical "communitarian form" and can be exercised only in the communion of priests with their bishop.' "

ETHIOPIA - A BASTION OF ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY: The amazing resilience of Africa's oldest Christian nation. The longstanding churches in Africa are the Egyptian Copts and Ethiopian Orthodox. In this old Orthodox country, however, there is a remarkable Protestant presence as well. The Lutherans went to the least Orthodox of regions, and set up health and educational institutions allowed by the Orthodox king. Today, only Germany has more Lutherans. (The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus now has 8 million members. In 2013 they broke communion fellowship with the ELCA over the North American endorsement of homosexuality.)


TILLERSON, KUSHNER, IRAN, ISRAEL, AND SAUDI ARABIA: Is the US preparing a war cabinet?

SAUDIS, YEMEN, AND IRAN: How MUHAMMED BIN SALMAN (MbS) helped Iran in his war against the Houthis. Analysis of Muhammed bin Salman the reformer.

SAUDI ARABIA STREET LIFE MORE RELAXED: The veteran Saudi women’s rights activist did not know whether to laugh or cry. “Everything is so much more relaxed now,” she said. “You can feel it on the streets.” Then she paused, and added: “Except for the men. They are in prison.” From the Times of London.

IRAN, SYRIA, RUSSIA, AND TURKEYDiscussing their different goals in Syria.

YEMEN: DEATH OF SALEHHe has played every side. In the last week he turned against the Houthis and opened to the Saudis. He was killed days after his betrayal.


TRUMP RECOGNIZES JERUSALEM AS ISRAEL'S CAPITAL: President Trump formally announced US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Read the speech. The first country to recognize (West) Jerusalem as Israel's capital was Russia (eight months ago). The European Union agreed that Jerusalem should be a capital - the capital of Palestine.

THE LOGAN ACT: A clear narrative on how the Obama administration got after the Trump transition team.

IS THERE A MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX? Does it run through the think tanks?



KENYA - A MICROCOSM OF AFRICA, CHRISTIANITY, AND TRIBAL ANIMOSITIES: John Allen reports. The failure of Catholics to propose an armed national civic strategy of protection leaves the people trapped by those loyalty systems willing to use guns - the ancient tribes and Islam.

MEXICO - BEHEADINGS BY CARTELSThis is a Catholic country in need of an armed Catholic civic response to the rule of violent predators. The poor are paying the price for the pacifist public formulations of European and North American prelates comfortable with their wealth and oblivious of their duty as shepherds at war with wolves. The bishops should not wield the sword, but they should readily encourage nationalist Catholics who will fulfill the protective punitive duties of governance. Otherwise in places of violence, only the pagans will govern.

AUSTRALIA - LIVE WITH CHINA OR ALLY WITH US IN NEW INDO-PACIFIC AXIS: Should the East and South Pacific be dominated by China or should China be encircled by an alliance organized by the United States? An Australia government white paper makes a choice.

RESTORING THE SACRED AND THE NATIONS IN THE WESTBy David Goldman. Illuminating writing about both Catalonia and Germany. It is long, but worth reading. Goldman understands the need for the sacred.  His definition is divorced from the reality of the supernatural. Thin gruel indeed! Another Jewish intellectual who cannot bow to the Living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is a great writer but he should bow his head in prayer and learn from Eliade the meaning of the sacred.

Our “America First” President stands squarely in the mainstream of American culture. Donald Trump, I argued on the day of his Inauguration, “is instantly recognisable as the protagonist in a Christian drama: the lone avenger who stands up to the wicked powers of the world and calls them out for combat. Ted Cruz, though an engaged and enthusiastic evangelical Christian, failed to understand the religious impulse of the American electorate. They did not want a politician-pastor to preach to them what they already knew. They wanted a hero, sinner though he be, to give battle to the forces of evil — a Jephtha or a Saul.” No matter how far it strays from conventional religion, American culture remains stamped delibly with the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity. It does not look for saints who live exemplary lives but for sinners in search of redemption.
"Augustine (in City of God XXIV) famously took issue with Cicero’s definition of a res publica as an association founded on common interest, arguing instead that it was founded on a common love. It might be more accurate to say that it is founded on a common sense of the sacred, for the sacred embodies not only love but also awe and fear, specifically the fear that by violating the elements of tradition that define us we will lose ourselves."
ON THE GERMAN NATION: From Goldman essay above:
"All of this was said before and better by the earliest German Romantics in the immediate aftermath of the French Revolution. It was Germany’s bad luck to fight its way to nationhood in response to the Napoleonic conquests, at a time when its intellectuals largely had abandoned religion in favor of philosophy. The modern notion of self-invention erupts into history through the Cult of Reason. Its prophets were Rousseau and Kant, who were armed by the French Revolution. In Germany, the first salvo against the Cult of Reason came from J. G. Fichte, who argued that Kant’s transcendental reason could only exist in human consciousness, and that this consciousness must arise from nationality. Fichte’s young student Novalis inquired rather how national consciousness might be formed in the first place. Consciousness, he argued long before Heidegger, is time-consciousness, and our sense of ourselves in the present moment was an ecstatic unity of memory and anticipation. But upon what memory might the Germans draw? In his 1799 essay “Christianity or Europe,” Novalis proposed a return to the Christianity of the early Middle Ages, but a Christianity that would ennoble the tales (Märchen) of the past. The disenchanted world which Schiller bemoaned in his poem “The Gods of Greece” would thus become reenchanted (wiederverzaubert) through the fairytale world that underlay medieval Christianity.

That in summary was the Romantic programme, and a very bad idea it turned out to be. Where Schiller and Hölderlin hoped to re-enchant the world with Hellenism, the Romantics succeeded only in dredging up the raw material for a revived paganism. Heinrich Heine warned in 1834 that “if ever the Cross — the taming talisman — were to fracture, then the wildness of the old warriors will clatter to the surface, their mad berserkers’ rage . . . and the old stone gods will raise themselves up out of the forgotten dust and rub the dust of a millennium from their eyes, and Thor with his giant hammer will at last rise up and smash the Gothic domes.” In the hands of Richard Wagner, the Nibelungenlied became an anti-Christian manifesto. In the 19th century Germany brought forth a peerless high culture in literature, music and the sciences, but its national sense of the sacred lost its way in the land of Märchen and was bewitched by the pagan past.

Germans continued to look to their high culture as a wellspring of identity until the end of the First World War. Most of its leading intellectuals, including a dozen Nobel laureates, signed the Manifesto of the Ninety-Three of 1914, alleging that the war was an attack on German culture. Thomas Mann famously contrasted German Kultur with the mere commercial civilisation of France and Britain. Max Weber supported the war wholeheartedly and, after the defeat, looked forward to Germany’s victory in a future war. The identification of war aims with Kulturdiscredited high culture among the defeated German people. That is why Nazi playwright Hans Johst has a character say that when he hears the word “culture,” he releases the safety catch on his pistol."

Friday, December 8, 2017

Dec 8th -- IMMACULATE CONCEPTION: She who is the greatest instrument of the Holy Spirit

[first published December 8, 2013]

In a pure act of mercy and grace God called Mary into existence free of original sin  to be the new Eve. This truth was long held by Christians, but formally acknowledged by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

Amidst these years of too many corrupted churchmen, it is no coincidence that the two infallibly declared papal dogmas of the last two centuries  define the spotless beginning and the incorruptible end of Mary’s life when she shattered the ultimate glass ceiling. These truths remind us that at her core the Apostolic Church is Marian, and she hath not sinned. It is a singular gift to the Catholic imagination that we have a feminine beauty to inspire our poems, our songs, and our prayers. Her ever-pure life cleanses the mind that contemplates her. Our understanding of Mary is a school in which we learn to understand our own human nature. For those of us who love her, humans are never by nature either neutered or depraved.

"Mary Immaculate, star of the morning,
  Chosen before the creation began,
Chosen to bring in the light of thy dawning,
  Woe to the serpent and rescue to man.

Here, in this world of both shadow and sadness
  Veiling thy splendour, thy course hast thou run:
Now thou art throned in all glory and gladness,
  Crowned by the hand of thy Saviour and Son.

Sinners, we worship thy sinless perfection;
  Fallen and weak, for thy pity we plead:
Grant us the shield of thy sov’reign protection,
  Measure thine aid by the depth of our need.

Bend from thy throne at the voice of our crying,
  Bend to this earth which thy footsteps have trod:
Stretch out thine arms to us, living and dying,
  Mary Immaculate, Mother of God."


On this feast of the Immaculate Conception, here is part of a prayer by Saint Maximilian Kolbe:
O Immaculata, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you…
For wherever you enter you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
V. Allow me to praise you, O Sacred Virgin. 
R. Give me strength against your enemies.

Father Kolbe organized his spiritual Militia in fealty to her who "cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array" (Song 6:9).

Ponder this prayer that Pope Francis wrote to the Immaculata:

"O Mary, our mother,
today the People of God feast in hailing you as Immaculate,
preserved forever from the contagion of sin.
Receive the homage I offer you in the name of the Church
that is in Rome and across the whole world.

To know that you, who are our Mother, are totally free from sin
gives us great comfort.
To know that, over you, evil has no power, renews our hope and strength
in the daily struggle that we must undertake
against the threats of the evil one.

But in this fight we're not alone, we are not orphans, because Jesus,
before dying on the cross,
gave you to us as our Mother.
We, then, while being sinners, are your children,
sons and daughters of the Immaculate one,
called to that holiness which shines in you from the beginning by God's grace.

Enlivened by this hope,
we today seek your motherly protection for us,
for our families, for this city, for the entire world.
May the power of God's love, which preserved you from original sin,
through your intercession, free all humanity from every spiritual and material slavery,
and make victorious, in our hearts and in events, the design of the salvation of God.

Make it so for us, your children, that grace might prevail over pride
and that we might become merciful
as our heavenly Father is merciful.
In this time that leads us to the feast of the Birthday of Jesus,
teach us to go against the current:
to strip ourselves, to lower ourselves, to give of ourselves;
to listen, to be quiet, to focus away from ourselves,
so to make space for the beauty of God, the source of true joy.

O our Immaculate Mother, pray for us!"

UPDATE -- It is on this day in 2015 that the Holy Father is instituting a Year of Mercy:
"I have decided to call an extraordinary Jubilee that is to have the mercy of God at its center. It shall be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live this Year in the light of the Lord’s words: 'Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (cf. Lk 6:36).' "

Sunday, December 3, 2017

ADVENT and the three comings of Christ

(first published December 1, 2013; edited 2017)

by Dr. David Pence

The Church year begins today as we enter into the Advent season to prepare for the Coming of Christ in History, in Mystery, and in Majesty.

First we recall the long period of history before He came to Mary at the Annunciation and was born in Bethlehem the first Christmas night. We reflect on the setting aside of Israel and the setting aside of Mary – the perfect temple who is a template for our souls. But the significance of Christ's entrance into history cannot be confined to the short time humans have been on earth. His coming is the cosmic culmination of matter itself.  The Incarnation of Christ is the epicenter of natural history, in that physical matter now has a new interpersonal center of gravity in Christ and His Queen Mother. The great mass of the physical universe dissipates into space while the tiny earth is set aside for life. The garden is set aside for man, the Israelites for Mary, and Mary for Christ.  His life and death will form the center of human history as he makes holy the forms of interpersonal communion that will be the foundation stones of a Living Temple. He establishes his holy priesthood. His sacred brethren will man the Ark of the Church and lead the hunt to separate the Evil One from the communion of the living.  Christ has come in history.

The separative and unification acts which characterized His coming in history are continued in the liturgy. The Holy Spirit draws mankind into the Trinity by incorporation in the Body of the Son. The Apostolic Church fishes for men dispersed at sea and reconstitutes mankind through Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. This present-day coming of Jesus is fully experienced only in the sacramental life of the Church. His Real Presence is still with us here on earth. We are not just with Him but becoming Him through the Eucharist. Being in the state of grace secures us to an ark of angels and saints amidst the floodwaters about us. The unspeakable intensity of this Eucharistic incorporation has always made Catholics less likely to discuss our day-to-day "personal relationship with Christ".  Theosis  or becoming a member of the Mystical Body of Christ through sanctifying grace seem better ways to express this sacramental reality.  Christ comes today in mystery. 

Christ has established His Kingdom on earth and is reorganizing all social relations around the Eucharistic priesthood, the sacrament of marriage, and the covenants of the nations. He is moving history to its culmination when He will return amidst his angels and the Church to fully restore His kingship by uniting the submitting nations and dispersing the Evil One from the earth. We are not waiting for our individual souls to go to heaven. We are working to draw humanity into the Body of Christ. That is truly the Opus Dei which Christians share. Led by the Holy Spirit, we conspire to make humanity fit to be the Body of our returning Head. This is the one true world wide conspiracy. We have put on the Heart of Christ and are building the Kingdom on earth to be consummated in the fitting time of the Lord. Our mission is to be sure at that time of the final separation and expulsion, the Devil gets as few of our people as possible.   Christ is coming in majesty. 

So let us begin our Advent – the little Lent in which we set aside some part of ourselves to better attend these three comings.


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, December 2

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch

                               A POST COLD WAR NATIONALIST FOREIGN POLICY:                                                         BANDWAGON REGIONAL POWERS; DON'T ENCIRCLE THEM WITH NEIGHBORS
The elitist rebellion against the legitimacy of the Trump presidency has poisoned our ability
 to focus our national attention on America at the brink of war with nations in Asia and the Mideast. If love is blind, hatred is both blind and drunk. President Trump's policy of an emerging nationalism against the atheist globalism of a decaying western elite is very much a work in progress. He needs Democrats and Republicans acting as American statesmen as well as religious men with a sense of world history to help him see anew the post Cold War landscape. There is a lot to sort out and a lot of well entrenched hatreds that must not be allowed to substitute for strategy in foreign policy.
The two nations in the Mideast who most need their borders and governments to be secure from foreign attack are Shiite Iran and Jewish Israel. Unlike the Palestinian fantasy, they are both real nations who won their boundaries the old fashioned way-they fought for them. It was the singular achievement of the Obama-Kerry Diplomacy initiative to pull back from US foreign policy of incoherent support for Saudi Arabia: the spiritual home of  anti Shiite salafists. Their attempt to reintegrate Iran as a sovereign nation in the diplomacy of the region was a realistic necessary move in sorting out the real religious sources of 9/11 and worldwide salafist terrorism. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry carried out a policy that none of their presidential opponents could have imagined-not Hillary Clinton, not John McCain and not George Bush. Foreign governments came to the halls of Congress to undermine them. None dared whisper collusion. The Democratic leadership is so busy hating Donald Trump that they are not mounting a defense of the singular greatest act of Democratic Party diplomacy since the end of the Cold War. Just when our country needs the eloquent public policy criticism of Minnesota's Eugene McCarthy, we look to that venerable Senate seat and find a coarse pornographic comedian doing his thing.  Articulate non hating anti war Democrats are needed to prevent our country from being drawn into war by a 32 year old Saudi Prince. President Trump has a blind spot toward one of the great nations of history. This is fed by his military advisors and the Prime Minister of Israel. He and his advisors need their fellow countrymen to remind them that a nationalist foreign policy includes respect for the civilizational bulwark that is Persian Iran.
In Asia the antidote to war with North Korea will pass through China and South Korea. We must accept that region is going to dominated by China.  This of course is anathema to "China hawks" one of whom is Steve Bannon. The US cannot expect China to play its stabilizing regional role with North Korea if our overall strategic policy is to organize an alliance of India, Australia, and Japan to contain China. Our foreign policy is still trapped by the three great encirclements of the post Cold War era. We have organized alliances against Russia, against China and against Iran. We actually need all three of those major regional powers to build world peace--one region at a time. But we will have to accept that they too are nations with their own spheres of influence and relations. We must bandwagon with the regional powers not organize the little guys in a balance of power encirclement. This is the difference between a big man  policy made by executives Donald Trump and  Rex Tillerson and a recipe for perpetual war stirred up by the likes of little Marco Rubio and wee Willie Kristol.             


POPE SAYS GENDER IDEOLOGY IS IDEOLOGICAL COLONIZATION: Preaching on the Maccabean defense of the sacred against colonizers, Pope Francis treats gender ideology and abortion as a foreign oppression imposed on the traditional communities of the globe. The Jews were mistreated in the same way two centuries before Christ by the desacralizing oppression of the Greeks. This is the brilliant reformulation by which the Pope opposes the sexual revolution. The conservative Catholic press should take his lead and treat the sexual left as white rich kids oppressing the Southern poor. The Maccabeean tale of fathers and sons defending the sacred is a model for our times. This is a very different strategy than building battle ramparts against contraception and abortion. The sexual left in the Catholic universities, chanceries and religious orders will not oppose the Pope's analysis. They will bury his arguments with deliberate neglect. Sooner or later he will say a sentence they can clip out and hoist as a flag to wave for the whole world to see he is "their pope."

BISHOP BARRON - MUST THE NEW EVANGELIZATION BE NEUTER? In a new book interview with Bishop Barron and John Allen, Bishop Barron says the sexual culture war is like the WWI British attack at Gallipoli. It is a battle already lost which has consumed too many resources with no gain.  Thus we should mobilize our troops and attack  on different fronts. From the review:
In a similar way, Barron claims that the Church has been fruitlessly pouring resources into promoting the Church’s teaching on sexuality in the past generation. The campaign, no matter how well-intentioned, has not yielded the hoped-for results and it is time to deploy our resources elsewhere. This diversion of resources does not amount to abandoning the Church’s demanding sexual ethic, he said. Rather, it involves employing a new strategy in evangelization and trying to find more favorable terrain on which to engage in the evangelical enterprise. It is better to divert our resources into more winnable battles. After all, says Barron, who in the world would put down the Gospel of Saint Matthew after having read it and conclude that the first thing that he needs to do is get his sexual life in order?
At AOA we have argued for a deeper engagement with the sexual anarchy of the modern West with the Catholic Symphony of Fatherhood, Brotherhood Marriage and the Virgin Mother. Bishop Barron was formed in one of the most homosexually besot diocese in America--Chicago. In the face of such deep perversion and confusion, many orthodox good-hearted men became neutered proponents of orthodoxy. That really will not do. A culture of life is a culture of protection and the Christian strategy of protection has a;ways ben based on sex roles.  Gallipoli could have been won says Churchill if larger resources would have been applied. The way Churchill describes Gallipoli it was a failure of nerve by his superiors to commit the full resources needed to win on the new front.  The culture war has never seen the full Catholic arsenal of patriarchy(the rule of the Father), the male priesthood as a fraternity of fathers, male-female monogamy as a sign of sacral unity (not modernist equality)  and virginity and motherhood as the highest expressions of feminine maturity. Bishop Barron is a true son of cowardly Chicago clerics. His failure to find a way to capture Gallipoli is like the spies who came back to Moses and said we are grasshoppers and our foes are giants. We cannot take the city. For their lack of trust in God, the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years.

PROVIDENCE AND THANKSGIVING: John Horvat II is a clear thinker and eloquent pen arguing for a return to order needed in this era of chaos. He never omits the author of all order in his reflections and prescriptions.


FIRST THEY KILLED THE SHIITES, THEN THEY KILL THE SUFIS: THE ONGOING TAKFIR: This is a religious war. The Salafist Sunni jihadists are state-based in the Wahabbi clerics of Saudi Arabia. They have control of Mecca and Medina. When 235 Sufi Muslims were killed in the Sinai, was Iran a suspect? Of course not! The Cromwellian Muslims who wish to return to the ancestors and purify Islam are trying first to eliminate the homegrown apostates (Accusing a fellow Muslim of not really being a Muslim is called takfir). The group to be condemned and slaughtered is first and foremost Shiites, especially Shiites who form states to protect themselves. This is why the new Saudi strategy aimed at Shiites in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen was willing to make an alliance with Jews (Israel) and Christians (America) to purify the region. We must think clearly. We must think religiously or we will continue to be played by those who swim in deeper waters.

KILLING SHIITES IN YEMEN: It is not enough to call this a humanitarian disaster - though it certainly is. To face what is happening in Yemen, we will have to pull out of the war against Iran. We will have to unhook our arsenal and support from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

DEOBANDIS MEET IN VIRGINIA: The Deobandi of South Asia are a faction in Sunni Islam like the Wahabbis of the Mideast, They are the Salafist brand of Islam in Pakistan as the Wahabbis are in Saudi Arabia. A report on a meeting.

TILLERSON, KUSHNER, AND THE SAUDIS: Interesting speculations.

THE TARGET OF SAUDIS AND ISRAELIS IN LEBANON IS HEZBOLLAH BUT THE VICTIMS WILL BE CHRISTIANS: and the traditional Lebanese solution of a multi confessional state.


JONATHAN HAIDT ON OUTRAGE: Powerline's Scott Johnson recommends a video of Haidt talk.


CHINA AND RELIGION: Worship God but don't threaten national security. China needs a spiritual core but it can never allow another Taiping Rebellion. Religion in China must present itself in the name of a proper communal duty, not individual autonomy. Getting this right will be measured in thousands of lives - millions of souls.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Nov 30: Saint Andrew and the 2,000 Byzantine monks on the Holy Mountain

[first published November 30, 2016]

MOUNT ATHOS in northeastern Greece is one of the powerhouses of prayer that keeps our tired old world going -- because sturdy men of faith submit their hearts to God.

On this feast day of the Holy Apostle Andrew, it is right that we deepen our understanding of our Christian brothers in Greece and Russia. East and West, the bonds of a praying brotherhood define the monastic and Apostolic Church. But in the heart of this all-male environment where even the animals must be male, there is a special presence and she is decidedly feminine.

"There are 20 monasteries on Mount Athos of which 17 are Greek, one Russian, one Serbian, and one Bulgarian. There are also twelve Skites (similar to monasteries but much smaller), a large number of Kellia (large farm houses), Kalyves (smaller houses), Kathismata (small houses for a single monk) and Hesychasteria (hermitages or caves in desolate cliff faces, for the most austere hermits)."



From the parish bulletin of a Russian Orthodox church in Minneapolis:
Last October, Fr. Andrew and I visited Mt. Athos, affectionately known as the Garden of the Theotokos. As we experienced this beautiful place where God’s glory seems to radiate from everything, we were made aware of her presence. When we spoke to the monks in that holy place, they would refer to her and say things like: "Whatever the holy Mother wants." They live in humble submissiveness to her and understand the value of her intercessory prayers and guidance. We met an older monk on one of the remote walking paths by his hut (it was very old and abandoned-looking), who explained to us that he had lived 30 years alone with the Mother of God in "her garden." 

Sit back and enjoy one of the finest segments that has ever appeared on "60 Minutes."


UPDATE: Here is a short video of one of President Putin's visits to Mount Athos. He was joined by the Patriarch of Moscow.

Let us praise Andrew, the herald of God, / the namesake of courage, / the first-called of the Savior’s disciples / and the brother of Peter. / 
As he once called to his brother, he now cries out to us: / "Come, for we have found the One whom the world desires!"

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Literary lions and their cheap-grace "mercy"

In 1962 -- five years after the disappearance of a high-school cheerleader in New Jersey -- William Buckley began corresponding with the inmate who had been convicted of her murder in the first degree. Through the influence of the famous conservative writer, Edgar Smith (who had always insisted on his innocence) was released from prison in late 1971.

Several years later Smith abducted a 33-year-old woman at knife-point; she escaped, and he was captured. He soon admitted that he had, indeed, killed the New Jersey teenager.

William Buckley hosting prison parolee Smith on his "Firing Line" show

Norman Mailer began his own correspondence with a prison inmate in 1977: Jack Henry Abbott. His crimes included forgery, escaping from prison, bank robbery, and killing a fellow inmate. But Mailer pushed and cajoled for Abbott to be paroled early, and he was soon walking the streets of New York as the toast of the literati. (Jack Henry Abbott -- just like Edgar Smith -- had written a book or two).

A couple months later Abbott got in an argument with a 22-year-old waiter/actor, and stabbed him to death.

Norman Mailer making his way to a parole hearing for Mr. Abbott,
accompanied by actors Susan Sarandon and Christopher Walken

One hopes that Messrs Buckley and Mailer were jolted into genuine contrition for the victims; and that each man sat down at his writing desk, and sent off a short note to the families -- along with a large check.

UPDATE: The words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who died before turning forty (he was executed at Flossenburg concentration camp in April 1945):

"Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again... 
"Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: 'ye were bought at a price,' and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”