Tuesday, May 30, 2023

May 30 MEMORIAL DAY: Masculine Publics and Family Weekends

[first published May 30, 2014]

by Dr. David Pence

May 30th was a day once designated to honor the war dead of the nation. It was an interruption of our normal routines – to remember in a public religious way on a specific date the fact that both our commercial productivity during the week and our familial enjoyment and church worship on the weekend were purchased by the blood of our soldiers. It was not a day dedicated to those who died in natural disasters or nursing home accidents. It was not a familial day to grieve our particular relatives.

It was a day with a specific purpose – for a nation to reflect on the blood sacrifice that forged our communal identity and insured our liberty. This time of spiritual reflection was meant to be an interruption of the daily rhythm of our lives, just as the life cycles of young men were interrupted by their sacrificial response to the unplanned threats against our country through the ages.

This is the nature of civic liturgy. Like religious acts recalling heroic sacrifice, this communal act of remembrance is meant to be formative. The public assembly bestows public gratitude and honor to encourage the living to emulate the dead. The specific deaths we remember on this day were overwhelmingly young and male. The willingness of these young men to participate in the warrior bond of civic protection was not incidental to their maleness. The American socialization strategy since our first colonial militias has been to identify masculine maturation with a willingness to bear arms for the local, state, or national group and risk death in the performance of that duty. This pattern of gender-bound duty is as ancient as circumcision and as current as male-only draft registration.

On this day we impress on young males the deadly seriousness of that honor code. The Taps we hear this day resonate with the heartfelt brotherhood known in sports teams, Boy Scouts, work crews, and local police and fire departments across our land. Patriotism is a kind of masculine ecology: a shared love of men for the habitat that feeds and shelters us. That homeland is sacralized in the burial ceremonies of those fallen in her defense. The patriot, the fatherland, a brotherhood from sea to shining sea, the sons of liberty, the band of brothers—all of these expressions evoke the inter-generational masculine fraternity of duty that forms the sacred sinews of every nation from ancient Israel to Singapore to America. Submerging the masculine public military character of this day into extended family weekends diminishes our understanding of the national brotherhood of duty which safeguards our nation. Losing a vigorous public sense of masculine protective duty has imperiled our cities, feminized our campuses, filled our prisons, and demoralized our public life in work and politics.

This denigration of the "male bond" has rippling consequences, for the male military bond is meant to serve higher bonds than itself. The sacral bonds of marriage and religious worship both depend on the protective military ethos we remember on Memorial Day. The flattening pacifism of our churches and the shrinking de-gendered selfishness of our families are eating away at the masculine character, which protects them both. This spreading defect in public masculine character robs our adolescents looking for boundaries, and our elderly and widows looking for protection. Sexual confusion among adults allows the predators a hundred unprotected alleyways, city streets, suburban strip malls and apartment buildings to ply the sex trade. In a certain way, all our children become orphans and all our women widows, without the comforting tranquility of masculine agreement.

Let us allow our family and work schedules to be interrupted. Let us once again remember May 30, Memorial Day. Let us salute that half-mast flag, and remember the duties and protective sex roles that have bound us since the beginning.

UPDATE: Here is a moving tribute to our fallen soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen.  May they all rest in peace.

In 2009 Dr. Pence gave this Memorial Day speech.

2017 Secretary of Defense Mattis at Arlington - a warrior's testament.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Mary: Mother of the Church -- Come Holy Spirit, Renew the Face of the Earth

Originally posted May 21, 2018
by David Pence

Mary is the new Eve. Her willingness to be the handmaid of the Lord reversed the sin of Eve who sought to "be like God." Satan has always resented the beauty of Mary. He can't get over that the mighty Lucifer (the light bearer, Phosphorous in Greek) must bow to a human queen. Pope Francis has designated the day after Pentecost to remind us that the Body of Christ was first revealed in Mary. Today we celebrate Mary, Mother of the Church. The Church is Marian before she was Apostolic. The masculine apostolic Church cannot be understood apart from Mary, Mother of the Church. Her authority abided in her presence as a living memory of her Son. Remembering Him, witnessing the truth of his Incarnation, she nurtured and showed Mercy. Mary, Mother of the Church, Model of the Church, pray for us.

Here is a reflection on the devotion of Pope Paul VI and Pope Francis to Mary as Mater Ecclesia.   A sermon on Mary, Motherhood and Creation  by Rev. Peter Stravinskas. The Humility of Mary, the Mother of God. by Jonathan Coe.

All of these reflections show why the Pope has given this Marian mark to the day after Pentecost (Whit Monday). Our Lady as the physical perfection of femininity is the model for every soul and for the Living Church! What mighty things the Lord can accomplish in our personal and ecclesial lives if we let ourselves be a sailboat driven by the Holy Spirit instead of a motorboat driven by our own will.


Sunday, May 28, 2023

PENTECOST: The Spirit fills the Apostles who draw the Jews into the Church who draws humanity into the Trinity.

[first published June 8, 2014]

"The Church which, already conceived, came forth from the side of the second Adam in His sleep on the Cross, first showed herself before the eyes of men on the great day of Pentecost."      (Pope Leo XIII, 1897)

David Pence writes:

St. Augustine said the coming of the Holy Spirit – exactly ten days after the 40 days of Christ’s risen presence – signifies that the Spirit fulfills the Law (Ten Commandments) in Christ. The obligatory presence of adult males in Jerusalem for the Jewish Pentecost crowded the city square with men speaking the different languages of the nations, but sharing the unified liturgical memory of Israel.

"For as of old on the fiftieth day after the sacrifice of the lamb, the Law was given to the Hebrew people on Mount Sinai – so after the sacrifice in which the True Lamb of God was slain on the fiftieth day after his resurrection, the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and those who believed." [from a 5th-century sermon of Leo the Great]

The Holy Spirit is the Soul of the Church, the Giver of Life, and the great binder of communions. He animates matter with life, draws the living to the Church, and indelibly configures the baptized to the Body of Christ. He was a co-conspirator with Christ throughout his life on earth, as they plotted to confound Satan in the desert and build the Kingdom of God on earth. The presence of the Spirit was activated on Pentecost, as it is sacramentally for us in Confirmation. That distinct Catholic sacrament of initiation “confirms in the Spirit” the soul of the Christian to the physical liturgical presence of the Bishop as the local head of the Apostolic Church. Like baptism, confirmation orders the soul with a permanent seal of character in ecclesial communion with Christ. After confirmation there is no such thing as a vocation to the single life. Baptism in one sense, and confirmation in a deeper way, calls each of us out of the single life into a new communal identity as a practicing Catholic.

In the days before Pentecost, the Twelve had been corporately restored by the election of Matthias (the opening chapter of the Book of Acts.) On Pentecost the Spirit filled the apostles, and their shouts of praise were heard in the tongues of many nations (second chapter of Acts.) An early bishop, when questioned why he couldn't talk so foreigners could understand, replied that by baptizing men of  many nations and languages, it is the Church now through her converts who speaks in tongues understood by all the nations.

It was Peter – surrounded by his apostolic brethren constituting the restored twelve tribes of Israel – who formally addressed the “Men of Judea” gathered in their holy city. He announced that the Messiah promised to them as Jews had come to deliver them from their enemies, but had been killed by those He came to save. He offered them repentance and incorporation in the new Kingdom under Christ the Lord. The universality of the Church’s Kingdom message to the nations, the fact that the Messiah was not another human prophet but the God of nature become man, and the mystery that God is One in Three Persons: these three truths became the reflections of Pentecost Sunday sermons down through the ages. Like all of us, the 3,000 baptized Jews of that day did not fully appreciate the extent of the miraculous events that engulfed them. The developing realization that this coming of the Spirit was the action of a distinct Person of a triune God gave a name and special time for reflection to the octave Sunday of Pentecost: Trinity Sunday.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

ASCENSION THURSDAY: Thus began “his participation, in his humanity, in God's power and authority.” The Restoration of Patriarchy

[first published on May 29, 2014]

"Yea, angels tremble when they see 
how changed is our humanity; 
that flesh hath purged what flesh had stained, 
and God, the flesh of God, hath reigned."


Doc Pence writes on this feast of the Ascension:

An old nun reflecting on the Ascension said it had always been her least favorite mystery of the rosary. "We wait two thousand years for the Messiah.  He comes. He is killed, but he conquers death and rises victorious from the dead. He is back for just forty days and then He’s gone again—and we call that a joyful mystery?"

But it really is such a glorious feast. We should stop the work week and devote this 40th day after Easter to contemplate this very good news. For Christ finally brings Adam where he was meant to be – in communion with the Father through the Son. "The nature of our Humanity in Christ was raised above all the Hosts of heaven, over all the ranks of angels, beyond the height of all powers, to sit with God the Father," said Leo the Great (d. 461). Christ the alpha male who configures humanity into a single organism shows humans our heavenly place in the divine Plan. We will be the Body of Christ at the right hand of the Father.  

The netherworld of Death has been lit up. The Prince of this world witnessed the greatest prison-break in history, as the King returned and claimed as his own not only Abraham and Moses but Adam and Eve -- the Chosen People and the human race. Christ took back the nether-world -- all that space and time where man enters the land of the dead is now a place not to be imprisoned by the Devil but to encounter the risen Christ. 

One kind of earthly absence allows His Sacramental Presence everywhere else. One Divine Person goes behind a cloud and the host, while the Person of the Spirit becomes more prominent.

There has been a righting of the spiritual universe with the Son entering the Divine Sanctuary providing a Way for humanity's theosis.  The Beloved Son has obeyed.  Humanity has been returned to the Father. Filial Piety has restored us to the Patriarchy. Christ now is returned to the right hand of the Father with these new "creature persons" allowed to participate in their Divine Communion. This restoration of the Beloved Son to the Father after His great battle creates a huge magnetic field penetrating the biosphere where men are meant to form ourselves into the patriarchal fraternity of the apostolic church. This will create a central protected space for the Marian Church where virgin mothers receive the Holy Spirit and live the works of mercy.

Christians need to keep acting even as we exalt in our new elevated status as sanctified humanity.  St. Augustine in his Ascension Day sermon reminded us: "Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but He still suffers all the pain that we the members of His body have to bear. He showed this when He cried out from above,  'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' and when He said, 'I was hungry and you gave me food'."

The angels (who seem to appear whenever a ladder is extended from Heaven for them to ascend or descend) have the final word. As they assured Jacob that his descendants would be blessed and restored to their Promised Land, they designate the Apostolic Church as the site of the Lord's Return:
"Men of Galilee...This Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, as you have seen him going into heaven."
by Benvenuto Tisi (1481-1559)

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Our Lady of Fatima first appeared on May 13th, 1917

(originally published November 12, 2014)


When the Virgin Mary visited the three Portuguese shepherd children, she mentioned the Great War and also Russia.

(A year earlier, the trio had been visited by an angel -- who identified himself as the Guardian of Portugal).



World War I: Jul 1914 -- Nov 1918

Fatima appearances: May -- Oct 1917

Thus, the several appearances of Immaculate Mary occurred on the continent bearing the cross of war; and they were sandwiched between the two upheavals in Russia:

'February Revolution': Mar 1917 (the emperor abdicated; he was executed in the summer of 1918)

'October Revolution': Nov 1917 (the Bolsheviks take power)


Two priests, who have now been canonized, each credited Our Lady of Fatima with saving their lives.

Padre Pio was severely ill in 1959, when he was healed by a visiting statue of the Immaculata. And in 1981 when Pope John Paul was shot on May 13 -- the anniversary of the first Fatima apparition -- he credited the Mother of God for his survival.

(As a young priest, JPII -- Karol Wojtyla -- paid a call on Padre Pio).

The Great War laid down storms of steel never witnessed before... On a single day during the first year of fighting, there were 27,000 French soldiers killed.

(Two years later, the British army would lose 20,000 soldiers in a day.

To put these figures in perspective, the bloodiest single-day battle in all of American history was Antietam in 1862: less than four thousand Union and Confederate soldiers died near that Maryland creek.)

During the final year of the war, a world-wide influenza epidemic broke out. In the United States, it ended up killing more than 600,000 people.

Also struck down by the disease were two of the three Fatima children: Francisco (age 10) and his sister Jacinta (9).

The fall of Soviet Communism is a miraculous event providing the possibility of a renewed Orthodox Russia to join a new Symphony of Christian nations.   Let us be open and pray. Vladimir Putin's Russia is not Vladimir Lenin's Soviet Union.

Monday, May 1, 2023

May Day: St Joseph the Worker and Shop Class as Soulcraft

In 1955 Pope Pius XII declared May 1 to be the feast of St Joseph the Worker. This was in response to the worldwide Communist success in making Mayday into International Workers Day. The annual multi-country multi-city marches had begun as synchronized memorials for the Haymarket Affair in Chicago on May 4 in 1886 in Chicago. Men are meant to pray, work, study, and protect. Jesus matured under a carpenter father. Renewing our religion and our country will include a return of technical schools, a rejuvenation of industrial production, and a status revolution for the men who build our buildings, make and maintain our machines, grow our food and sustain our public infrastructure. Our parishes would also be much fuller manifestations of Christian culture if we complemented our communal lives of prayer and study with centers of working and training in the tactile disciplines. This was one of the great strengths of the early monasteries that Christianized Europe, and boys' schools that turned orphan boys into Christian men. St Joseph the Worker, terror of demons, pray for us.

                       Our discussion of Shopcraft as Soulcraft. [first published June 19, 2015]

“The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He can simply point: the building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on. Boasting is what a boy does, because he has no real effect in the world. But the tradesman must reckon with the infallible judgment of reality, where one’s failures or shortcomings cannot be interpreted away. His well-founded pride is far from the gratuitous “self-esteem” that educators would impart to students, as though by magic.”
                  Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work

"It is the essence of genius to make use of the simplest ideas."
- Charles Peguy


Some excerpts from Francis Fukuyama's review of Shop Class as Soulcraft:
[This] is a beautiful little book about human excellence and the way it is undervalued in contemporary America. 
Matthew B. Crawford, who owns and operates a motorcycle repair shop in Richmond, Va., and serves as a fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, notes that all across the United States, high school shop classes teaching mechanical arts like welding, woodworking or carpentry are closing down, to free up funds for computer labs. There is a legion of experts denigrating manual trades like plumber, carpenter and electrician, warning that the United States labor force needs to be "upskilled" and retrained to face the challenges of a high-tech, global economy. Under this new ideology, everyone must attend college and prepare for life as a "symbolic analyst" or "knowledge worker," ready to add value through mental rather than physical labor. 
There are two things wrong with this notion, according to Crawford. The first is that it radically undervalues blue-collar work that involves the manipulation of things rather than ideas. Expertise with things permits human beings to have agency over their lives — that is, their ability to exert some control over the myriad faucets, outlets and engines that they depend on from day to day. Instead of being able to top up your engine oil when it is low, you wait until an "idiot light" goes on on the dashboard, and you turn your car over to a bureaucratized dealership that hooks it up to a computer and returns it to you without your having the faintest idea of what might have been wrong. 
The second problem with this vision is that the postindustrial world is not in fact populated — as gurus like Richard Florida, who has popularized the idea of the "creative class," would have it — by "bizarre mavericks operating at the bohemian fringe." The truth about most white-collar office work, Crawford argues, is captured better by "Dilbert" and "The Office": dull routine more alienating than the machine production denounced by Marx. Unlike the electrician who knows his work is good when you flip a switch and the lights go on, the average knowledge worker is caught in a morass of evaluations, budget projections and planning meetings. None of this bears the worker’s personal stamp; none of it can be definitively evaluated; and the kind of mastery or excellence available to the forklift driver or mechanic are elusive. Rather than achieving self-mastery by confronting a "hard discipline" like gardening or structural engineering or learning Russian, people are offered the fake autonomy of consumer choice, expressing their inner selves by sitting in front of a Harley-­Davidson catalog and deciding how to trick out their bikes. 
This glorification of manual labor would seem patronizing but for the author’s personal biography. Crawford grew up in a commune in the Bay Area with a theoretical physicist for a father, and worked his way through high school and college as an electrician. Along the way he picked up the ability to rebuild the engines of old Volkswagens, something that stayed with him even as he went on to get a Ph.D. in political philosophy at the University of Chicago...  
Crawford argues that the ideologists of the knowledge economy have posited a false dichotomy between knowing and doing. The fact of the matter is that most forms of real knowledge, including self-knowledge, come from the effort to struggle with and master the brute reality of material objects — loosening a bolt without stripping its threads, or backing a semi rig into a loading dock. All these activities, if done well, require knowledge both about the world as it is and about yourself, and your own limitations. They can’t be learned simply by following rules, as a computer does; they require intuitive knowledge that comes from long experience and repeated encounters with difficulty and failure. In this world, self-­esteem cannot be faked: if you can’t get the valve cover off the engine, the customer won’t pay you. 
Highly educated people with high-­status jobs — investment bankers, professors, lawyers — often believe that they could do anything their less-educated brethren can, if only they put their minds to it, because cognitive ability is the only ability that counts. The truth is that some would not have the physical and cognitive ability to do skilled blue-collar work, and that others could do it only if they invested 20 years of their life in learning a trade. "Shop Class as Soulcraft" makes this quite vivid by explaining in detail what is actually involved in rebuilding a Volkswagen engine: grinding down the gasket joining the intake ports to the cylinder heads, with a file, tracing the custom-fit gasket with an X-Acto knife, removing metal on the manifolds with a pneumatic die grinder so the passageways will mate perfectly. Small signs of galling and discoloration mean excessive heat buildup, caused by a previous owner’s failure to lubricate; the slight bulging of a valve stem points to a root cause of wear that a novice mechanic would completely fail to perceive. 
Crawford asserts that he is not writing a book about public policy. But he has a clear preference for a "progressive republican" order in which the moral ties binding workers to their work or entrepreneurs to their customers are not so readily sacrificed at the altar of efficiency and growth. He argues that there is something wrong with a global economy in which a Chinese worker sews together an Amish quilt with no direct connection with its final user, or understanding of its cultural meaning. Economic ties, like those between a borrower and a lender, were once underpinned by face-to-face contact and moral community; today’s mortgage broker, by contrast, is a depersonalized cog in a financial machine that actively discourages prudence and judgment. 
In the end I must confess that it would have been hard for me not to like this book. While I make my living as a “symbolic knowledge worker,” I have both ridden motorcycles and made furniture — my family’s kitchen table, the beds my children slept on while growing up, as well as reproductions of Federal-style antiques whose originals I could never afford to buy. Few things I’ve created have given me nearly as much pleasure as those tangible objects that were hard to fabricate and useful to other people. I put my power tools away a few years ago, and find now that I can’t even give them away, because people are too preoccupied with updating their iPhones. Shop class, it appears, is already a distant historical memory.

Dr. Pence, you say that today's culture could use a big dose of the spirit of Thomas Edison. What do you admire about him?

Edison studied materials. He experimented with them. He understood their practical properties. The light bulb was not a summation at the end of a mathematical calculation, nor did it come from the so-called scientific method of hypothesis, experiment, observation, and conclusion. Needed was a material that responded to electrical current with much more illumination than heat -- a slow bright burn, if you will. Edison's work-space looked a lot more like a farmer's work bench than a university laboratory. He knew how lots of things worked. He tried things out.


What is science?

In general I think there are many sciences. They are bodies of knowledge about defined subjects based on categories and definitions accepted in each field. I don't believe there is a Science with a capital S. That is an epistemological claim of modernists who have abandoned the disciplines of theology and philosophy. There is a branch of philosophy called epistemology which is about how we know what we know.
Most "scientists" who talk about Science with a capital S as the only way to know reality have never heard of epistemology, and are really quite puerile in discussing the subject.  I think here, especially, of Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins.

Is there an American science or American sciences?

I think historically there is an approach to the physical world and the various sciences which is peculiarly American. Celestial navigation, wood work, surveying, metal work, and the agricultural sciences were worked in with traditional school subjects in certain colonial schools. This was a pretty unique American approach. They didn't start as vocational tracking or class-based disciplines. I wrote my Educational Masters Thesis on the history of shop, agricultural classes and home economics in American education. I argued to reintegrate these tactile disciplines in a renewed, more integrated, approach to teaching the sciences. When we think of that peculiar American genius for different sciences, I see farmyard inventors, kids on computers late at night, and bicycle mechanics before I see German professors on their blackboards.

Come on, Pence, try imagining America's atomic bombs without German physicists scribbling on blackboards!  

Actually, that's one of my favorite examples. We needed certain physicists (not at all like Einstein) who were working with uranium as a material, and we needed General Leslie Groves of the Army Corps of Engineers to actually make them. The making of the bomb was a huge technical enterprise which we often forget. But, you are right; I will concede in this case a good deal of credit to the German blackboard.

One of the big initiatives in science education is STEM -- a program to stimulate more interest in engineering and the sciences among secondary students. As a high-school science teacher, what was your take on that?

It was too focused on pushing kids into more math. It needed more of the Engineering E in its name, and much less of the ideology of science. If it could have stressed the tactile arts -- shop, woodworking, and electronics (including the use of  power tools), it might have discovered a real untapped group of boy scientists and engineers. Instead, the special focus on girls in the sciences was another victory of ideology over reality. The focus of math over manufacturing was a victory of the cerebral and theoretical over the practical and tactile.

Is there any political or educational movement that might address these concerns?

Some community and vocational colleges are trying to get much earlier pathways for their institutions into the  high-schools. Those vocational schools have the trained staff and facilities which have been driven out of our high schools. The vocational colleges actually grew out of local school boards, not state institutions. This is a kind of full circle. A significant group of high-school boys would gain if this movement by vocational college teachers and counselors could reach them to  free them from the mechanical deficiencies and institutional biases of their high-school teachers and the ever more bizarre colleges of education which shaped them. I don’t mean to sound so anti-high school teacher. I am not. But there a group of great teachers in vocational schools down the street from our high schools who know important skills our high school kids need! They are being kept out of daily teaching contact with high school students because of institutional sluggishness and union protectionism.

"Our best ideas come from clerks and stockboys." 
         - Sam Walton


UPDATE: On Ron Schara's outdoors program (show #741 -- go to the 6:30 mark), they had a good four-minute segment about city kids who put their heart and soul into learning the craft of boat-building. 
St Joseph, husband and patriarch, celebrated on March 19 by the Church is his principal feast day.