Thursday, December 30, 2010
Hope you all have a wonderful and blessed feast of the birth of Our Lord. May His coming to us bring us all to the peace of His kingdom, if not in this world, then in the next.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Enjoy (what little is left of) the rest of Advent and have a blessed Christmas everybody!
Saturday, December 18, 2010
If the Jesus whom is depicted in the gospels is at all accurate, then we are faced with three main conclusions about Him, which lead to two choices about ourselves. Either Jesus is a liar, or a lunatic, or He is who He says He is, the Son of God.
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the son of God: or else a madman or something worse.
Then Lewis adds:
You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
A man who claims to one with the Eternal creator of Heaven and Earth, performs miracles in His name, and offers forgiveness of sins on His behalf must be correct. Otherwise He is a lunatic, and we have no business following him, or worse, a pathological liar and egomaniac, and we must oppose him. We cannot follow Him half-heartedly. If Jesus is who He says He is, we are then faced with the choice of whether to accept all that He is, or none of Him, for in relation to Him, we have no basis to make any limitations.
I've heard people make the road-up-the-mountain argument: there are many roads that lead up the mountain to enlightenment, holiness, whatever you'd like to call it, God. But this is specious at best, for the only way to know if a road leads to the top of the mountain is to trace the road from the top downward. We, being at the bottom of the mount, cannot do this on our own. But One has come down from the top of the mountain to us, and so connected was He with the road He traveled that He called Himself the Way. Only through this door can we enter into eternal life.
This week we finalize our preparations for celebrating not only the day He came down to us in flesh, but also to look forward to the day when He comes again in glory. From Evening Prayer, Fourth Sunday of Advent: "He comes, the desire of all human hearts; his dwelling place shall be resplendent with glory, alleluia."
Friday, December 17, 2010
Federal money to Planned Parenthood increases abortions. While technically not paying for abortions, the money covers other expenses, thus making room for PP to kill more babies. And the more money that PP gets, the more babies are aborted. In fact, PP kills 97% of the babies that are carried through their doors.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Relatives always request that I make these at Christmas and New Year's. But. Only. Then.
Peanut butter cups.
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 lb confectioners sugar
18 oz creamy peanut butter
1/2 lb butter (2 sticks)
12 oz. chocolate chips
4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
corn syrup (just a little to thin chocolate out)
optional: candy wax, 1/3-1/2 bar to solidify chocolate
optional: 1/4 cup coffee grounds
Melt 2 sticks butter and mix with graham cracker crumbs, sugar and peanut butter. It will form a moist, shiny dough. If it's drippy or crumbly, add more peanut butter or sugar. Pat into a 10 x 15 pan, about 1/2" thick all around.
Over low flame, melt chocolate and 1/2 stick butter. Optional: melt candy wax over a double boiler and add to chocoloate. Add corn syrup and coffee grounds. Pour over peanut butter base and chill.
Hint: I put the pan in the fridge, then take it out after 5-10 minutes. I score just a little into the chocolate in 1" squares. Then put back in the fridge until chocolate is hardened. It's easier to cut them the whole way this way.
Unfortunately, there are always stray bits that aren't square, especially around the edges. You can't put these on a plate for display, so they must be eaten immediately. And sometimes I don't cut the squares straight, so some of the pieces are just too small to include, and well, make sure you have people lined up or you won't be eating dinner. For a week.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Welcome Agent #98746243837, Gabriella Sophia Victoire [inCT], born on the feast of the Church Triumphalist, All Saints' Day.
Cheers, Comrade PattyinCT!
Friday, October 22, 2010
For those not familiar with the story, Juan Williams, a news analyst for NPR, was fired this week for comments he made in a conversation with Bill O'Reilly on FOX. He described his own apprehension when on an airplane with people dressed in Muslim garb, in order to make his broader point of overcoming one's own prejudices. NPR stated that Williams' comments were not in keeping with their expectations that their news analysts don't divulge their personal opinions on controversial topics and that Williams has long been pushing the envelope, so to speak.
It sounds innocuous enough, but the story quickly unraveled to show that there is a much more cynical back story going on. In my opinion, and I am not alone, as the overwhelming majority of the 8000+ comments on the NPR website can attest, NPR has lost its veneer of credibility as an objective media outlet, a credibility which was already on shaky grounds.
NPR has long been criticized for its left-leaning bias in its reporting and staffing. Myself, I used to listen to NPR daily at work (metal building=bad radio reception) and appreciated its in-depth coverage of a wide variety of issues, but after beginning to listen on occasion to conservative radio, I began to hear admittedly conservative viewpoints that were either never given airtime on NPR shows, or given short shrift with sneering contempt. Growing up in CT, I had been immersed in liberal think all through my education, and this was a turning point in my own political thought and understanding. I started to recognize the bias inherent in NPR, and as I started investigating, recognized it in other mainstream media outlets as well, especially in the networks ABC. CBS, NBC, CNN, etc. I began to see that the veneer of objectivity was just that- a veneer, a thin layer to cover up one material to make it look like something else.
In full disclosure, I don't have cable, and so I don't watch FOX. I have no vested interest in defending FOX, but it's clear to me that the reason FOX was able to gain the audience it has is because the public had been yearning for quite some time for a news outlet that wasn't blatantly left-leaning. (So don't fill the combox with "FOX isn't fair and balanced! They're not objective either, they're conservative!!!" I'm not making the case that they are, just that they obviously fill a void to provide counter-balance to the main-stream-media.)
That being said, Juan Williams was fired because of his relationship with FOX. It's interesting that he was fired the day after NPR announced it received a donation for $1.8 million dollars from George Soros, a multi- billionaire who not only has stated as his hopes the collapse of the U.S. dollar, but also a one-world government, who is also supporting organizations that are targeting FOX in general, and personalities on FOX in particular. It on the face of it smacks of blacklisting, and therefore, the suppression of free thought.
Speaking of free thought, aren't news analysts paid to voice their opinions? If you take NPR's stated reasons for firing Williams at face value, why is Nina Totenberg, whose comments about Justice Thomas, Justice Alito, and Jesse Helms were far more scathing, personal and controversial, still employed by NPR?
No, NPR showed its true colors here. The CEO of NPR made some pretty outrageous comments yesterday about the firing, suggesting that Williams should have kept his opinions between him and his psychiatrist, implying that such thoughts are only appropriate for psychological analysis, and not appropriate for a discussion about race and religion in the public square. And that's where it shows that NPR is not interested in free speech, free thought, or rational discussion, only groupthink that passes the Politically Correct Police. Criticism of muslims is: Simply. Not. Tolerated. That's what Williams' true crime was. Speaking about his gut reaction to riding on an airplane next to people of the same religion as some other people who, in the name of their religion, hijacked airplanes and crashed them into tall buildings.
The politically correct transgression in this case is in parallel to Shirley Sherod's firing from the Department of Agriculture this year. In her case, Sherod, a black lady employed by the Agric. Dept., was shown on video talking about her inital hesitation in helping white farmers. She was quickly fired, and rightly so, for she did, in fact, admit that she didn't help white farmers as much as she could have because they were white, but in the course of that video, she was trying to explain how she overcame her initial hesitation in helping white farmers, to realize that the struggles she ought to help overcome had nothing to do with race. Juan Williams did not act on his apprehensions, he did not discriminate or express hatred, he did not suggest that all or even most are Bad People (TM), but merely that he had a gut reaction to sitting on a plane next to Muslims, given the history of 9/11.
But NPR shows that not transgressing PC boundaries is far more important than expressing honest emotions in a rational debate about race and religion. But given the Soros connection, I wonder if there is something more going on here. Soros, I think, has bought and paid for this institution of the media in his attempts to achieve his goals.
Oh, and since the NPR CEO belittled the tax money that goes to support NPR, then I agree that maybe it's time to pull the funds since she doesn't think it's that big of a deal anyway?
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Blackmail is when someone is coerced into making a payment or doing something under threat of physical punishment. (Okay, so far it seems to fit.) But what is usually understood with blackmail is that the required payment or action is unnatural to the blackmailed party; such action or payment would generally be considered against their will or at least against their best interests. And this is where the analogy falls apart.
As God is perfect in His goodness and only wills that which is good, when we act against the will of God we are choosing an action that is at most, less than the highest good, and quite possibly, disastrous and destructive. We do not follow God merely to placate a sadistic tyrant, like sinners in the hands of an angry God. No, we follow a God who knows us intimately and desires our love.
Look, a car runs well on good gasoline, frequent oil changes, and well-made parts. Adding ethanol to the gas lowers performance; cheap gas dirties the engine; adding sugar to the gas ruins the car. Just so with us. We are created for love and responsibility. When we act not out of love but selfishness, when we shirk our responsibilities, we dirty the engine, so to speak. When we follow both the positive commands, "Thou shalt love with all thy heart, mind, soul, and strength" as well as avoid the objects of the negative commands, "Thou shalt not..." we live in accord with God's design for us. We live better. I dare say, we become happier.
Yes, the world and sin offer satisfaction and gratification, but such satisfaction is fleeting, shallow, short-lived. The happiness we find in Christ's love is the happiness we were created to seek out. God created a desire in our hearts for peace, happiness, fulfillment. Yet all those desires will find their final satisfaction in God. As St. Augustine says,
Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we men, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you – we also carry our mortality about with us, carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud. You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you.
and in Matthew 11: 25-30
|25||At that time Jesus declared, "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes;|
|26||yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.|
|27||All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.|
|28||Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.|
|29||Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.|
|30||For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."|
God is not a henchman. More like it, he is like the ox pulling the cart with our broken body back from battle. He carries the yoke on his shoulder to rescue us. He gives us only a sliver to carry in return.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
[Please note, I'm not trying to stoke up any Novus Ordo vs. Extraordinary Form rivalries here.]
In full disclosure, I've only ever been to one Mass in EF, and honestly, I was clueless at the time. But this article, written decades before Vatican II and the subsequent hijacking of the liturgy, while in purpose, was to justify and explain the use of Latin, sheds a deeper meaning on the celebration of the Mass, regardless the form.
Striking to me is to remember that the priest is not addressing us, even though he faces us. He is addressing God the Father. He is not so much talking as doing; he is offering; he is sacrificing. And no matter how loudly we sing or in which key (please, pick one, people!) our action is to offer along with the priest, our own sacrifices, gifts, prayers, and petitions to God.
Friday, September 17, 2010
I ask prayers to the Holy Spirit in formulating a response. I am keenly aware that answering in the wrong attitude could turn this person away (see this blog site's header). Our conversation has so far been pretty intellectual, covering the Trinity, time/eternity, ecclesiology, sacraments, purgatory, free will and responsibility.
I think that ultimately, though, what this person needs to know, is that as Catholics, while we understand the importance of doctrine to shape our faith life, we don't follow a set of rules as much as we follow a person, er, a Person. And this Person is not unfamiliar with our suffering. He willingly chose suffering as a means to purchase us back from death (Hell). God doesn't send us to Hell, it is we who insist upon it for our rejection of God. Jesus Christ offers us the opportunity at every moment of every day to receive His love, and to be filled with the grace to repent of our sins, to draw close to him in holiness.
But the following of Christ is not that we should perfectly follow the doctrines with paranoid scrupulosity, and I fear that maybe I gave that impression. The following of Christ is that we should live by His example. He chose to endure His suffering, not for suffering's sake, but as an act of love to make us whole. The suffering that we endure ought, then, in turn, be offered up as a sacrifice to God for the sake of the salvation of all mankind, including those who do not know Christ. In this act of offering up our sacrifices, we draw closer to the heart of Jesus Christ. Simply put, we fall more in love.
We can think that it is our responsibility to follow to the letter every bit of the commandments, the directives, the suggested devotions, etc. and to avoid every possible transgression. Well, no we should not take it lightly to sin, but to focus only on avoiding sin can become academic, sterile and barren. Our responsibility is to love, to give, to serve, to witness to the truth. We love Him who is truth. (Right, Pilate?)
Coming back to the original hangups this person has, I can't help but think about that passage from Job when Job puts God on the spot for all of his own sufferings, how God could allow such a thing. And for over two chapters, God expounds upon the basic point: "Where were you, Job, when I created the world? Do you command the waters and the skies and they obey you? Who are you to understand all that I am? Who are you to judge the Almighty?"
And while that's not the tone I'd like to take with this person, essentially that is what is going on, judging God for His ways. But God's ways are perfect, though they are far past our understanding.
When I entered the seminary, the vocation director for my diocese had a long talk with me about submission to God's will. He cited Our Lord's choice of the twelve apostles. No man on earth would choose such a disparate, lowly, uneducated, unruly bunch of men to become leaders. Yet God's ways are so superior to our own, and His wisdom exceeds ours like the heavens are above the earth, that we cannot see before us what He is doing. There comes a point that we must let go and trust Him. We must submit to His will and rather than judge His actions, we ought to then ask, "What part can I do? How may I help, Lord?"
I suppose this person ought to pray for those who may be lost. Pray hard, and give witness by example. Show love through action, and when that loves sparks curiosity, explain the source of our hope. Explain about the love of Jesus Christ.
But before we can ever be sent out on the mission, we must know Him.
John, chapter 10: verses
|10||The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.|
|11||I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.|
|12||He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.|
|13||He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep.|
|14||I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me,|
|15||as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.|
|16||And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.|
|17||For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.|
|18||No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father." |
|27||My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me;|
|28||and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.|
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
In other words, don't sit on your hams and think you're doing alright because you're Basically A Good Person. Don't think it's for us to live "in the real world" and leave the holy business to the professionals, aren't they quaint!
And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, is not worthy of me. -Mt. 10:38
I can't just do my eight and skate on this one.
I bring this up to make an analogy. We market ourselves as a printing company. We sell print, we seek out print customers, we hand out print samples. We don't market ourselves as a self-inking rubber stamp company. When asked about the diversity of products we offer, self-inking rubber stamps are almost never mentioned. This correlates to our sales figures, which show that 99.9% of our gross income comes from print or print-related services, while .1% of our gross income derives from self-inking rubber stamps and the like.
With this background in mind, please take a look at this graph and ask yourself, "Is Planned Parenthood in the business of encouraging good parenthood? Or are they in business to make their money some other way?"
H/T Thomas Peters
Oh, and last week, when I was waiting for a job from a vendor, I had some time to kill and perused the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven. To coincide with the Mother Teresa of Calcutta's 100 birthday and the release of her U.S. postage stamp, they had a wonderful exhibit chronicling her life and the history of the Missionaries of Charity, which she founded. There were many of her personal items, which someday may become second-class relics. To honor her legacy and imitate her habit, every visitor to the exhibit receives a blessed Miraculous Medal and novena prayer book. Guess what's on its way to Express?
Director of Marketing
Online Customer Service
3939 W. Ridge Rd.
Erie, PA 16506
Dear Sir or Madam,
In March of this year, I wrote to you asking that you please take my five-year old son’s name off your mailing list. I was sent a written response saying that corrective action would be taken, though we may still receive mailings for up to six weeks. Six MONTHS later, your catalog peddling soft pornography continues to find its way to my mailbox.
Men and women are unique, special individuals, and the marketing of men and women as sexual objects diminishes the dignity of the human person, leads men and women into disastrous shallow relationships, strips young people of their innocence, and belies a lack of self-respect.
I wish this matter to be closed. Please make sure that we receive no more of your mailings to sully my home.
To defend the dignity of the human person, it is necessary to see one’s worth intrinsically, and not solely as a sexual commodity. Therefore, the practice of chastity and modesty should at all times be among our goals. I’ve attached in this mailing a short reflection on these virtues. I hope that you will find the time to read it and reflect on the work that you and your company do.
I’ve also included your catalog with the mailing label so that my son can be removed from your mailing list.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Aaaaaanyhoooo, I got tagged by Nod in the "Five Favorite Devotions" meme.
My five favorite devotions (in no particular order):
1. Rosary -- especially the sorrowful mysteries
2. Stations of the Cross
3. Novenas to St. Joseph and the Sacred Heart of Jesus
4. "Salve Regina" -- one of our bedtime prayers
5. Reciting the Exultet (I don't think you need a link.)
Now I get to tag five other bloggers to share their favorite devotions. And no, they can't get out of it by yelling, "Starsky and Hutch!"
1. PattyinCT (I think she's cute.) at My Apologies
2. Subvet at Blowing San #1 -- (No, I don't think he's cute.)
3. dadwithnoisykids at Scorpion Stalking Duck
4. Magister Christianus at Bedlam or Parnassus
5. Kristin at 11onmyown
Oh, and in honor of Nod who tagged me, who impresses and intimidates me with his gourmet recipes of all sorts, please feel free to check out the video here of Aretha Franklin showing Martha Stewart how to make "Chicken Italiano." No two women could ever be less alike.
Monday, August 9, 2010
It's a good thing his baby sister has learned to walk for herself.
And apparently, even cardinals sometimes take a while to join in the chorus.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Most of the commentary in disagreement with me was sincere, but predictable. We can't judge others, we're all God's children, it's not fair to deny homosexuals happiness, etc. I was accused not only of being judgmental and insensitive, but also of repeating dusty arguments without putting any thought into it.
The truth is, I have thought about this, a lot. Well, this in particular somewhat, sexual ethics moreso, but the whole ethical dilemma in general a lot.
I have to reject moral relativism because it denies the existence of truth; the push for gay marriage, as well as all the comments I got yesterday, were examples of moral relativism. Moral relativism says that what is right always depends on the circumstances, what is right (or wrong) for one is not necessarily right (or wrong) for others. Consequently, all debate about morality breaks down into shouting matches of "Yeah-huh!" vs. "Nuh-uh!" because there is no basis for measurement. Without any foundation for morals, we all become our own emperors. The problem with this is that some emperors are stronger than others, and some emperors become tyrants while others become slaves. Moral relativism leads to the gas chambers.
As a Catholic, I reject moral relativism because it rejects the existence of truth. We believe in Natural Law, the moral law that governs all people in all places. It is the inborn conscience universal to mankind. Natural Law informs mankind that murder is wrong, that child abuse is wrong, that theft is wrong. Natural Law causes mankind throughout history to revere courage, honesty, valor, devotion, commitment. Natural Law is not only universal, but universally binding. It is wrong to murder. It was wrong to murder 100 years ago. It was wrong to murder 1000 years ago, just as it was wrong for Cain to murder Abel in the beginning of humanity. Individuals may nonetheless murder, but the mere fact that they committed the act of murder does not make it morally licit.
Natural Law recognizes also that there is "a nature" to creation. This holds true to the sexual act as well. Our bodies are created male and female and as such, they are complementary. The sexual act, while pleasurable, is aimed at a specific purpose: the procreation of mankind. In that act, man and woman take part in an action that is unitive and procreative. Man and woman, in an intimate act, find an expression so strong that it has the potential to bring into being a whole new person. The biological explanation of how is empty in its understanding of why. That new person has constant needs: nurture, food, education, support. The most stable and effective environment for meeting those needs are in a family.
Because of this understanding of human sexuality, it is only appropriate to engage in the sexual act in a way that mirrors the open-ness to new life. Hence masturbation, artificial contraception, and homosexual acts are not appropriate in the scheme of the nature of our bodies' dignity. Because of the needs of the offspring brought into being through the sexual act, the institution of marriage has been necessary throughout history to safeguard the environment of children, and to form the building blocks of society as a whole.
Marriage, properly understood, is an institution of a life-long commitment between one man and one woman, who share intimate union, and if their union be fruitful, to protect, nurture and educate their children through adulthood.
Homosexuality is a disordered sexuality, in that it by definition, cannot express itself in a life-giving way. This is not the same as a man and woman marrying past child-bearing years, as their union still gives expression to the complementarity of their being. The homosexual act is by nature not open to life, therefore homosexual unions are not marriage.
And this brings us to the point of yesterday's post. Judge Walker in California declared that gender has nothing to do with the institution of marriage. And he is wrong.
Now, I accept that there are homosexuals. I accept that there are homosexuals living together in a committed relationship even. But it is not marriage. Accuse me of engaging in semantics, but it is not rightly called a marriage. Similarly, a cohabitating heterosexual couple is not rightly called a marriage. Both arrangements have some aspects in common with marriage, but they do not fit the requirements of definition.
So is that all I'm fighting for? A definition? Well in some ways yes, and in some ways no. Yes, I am fighting for a definition, as it is imperative that we live according to truth. If the judge had declared that 2 + 2 = 5, that would not make it so, any more than it was so when an earlier court ruling once declared that black people were property. Declarations that are falsehoods must be rejected, otherwise words, relationships, laws, lose their meaning. If marriage can be redefined, what about love? What about war? Peace? If words can, by fiat, be made to mean the opposite of their meaning, communication quickly loses its meaning.
And also, I'm standing up against more than a definition. Catholic blogger Mark Shea has posted numerous stories to illustrate the point that the modern movement to legalize gay marriage is not merely to allow homosexual couples legal options, which they have already achieved, or to be tolerated in society, which they also have already achieved, but that the end goal is approval. Tolerance is not enough; you must approve.
Now to turn to the Catholic faith, by which I order my life.
Some of the comments that I received were aimed at my religious sensibilities in an attempt to convince me that I was wrong in this matter. They said that God is love, only God can judge, and that if God made homosexuals the way they are, who is the Church to deny them happiness? I'll try to address that here.
God is love. Love is not a feature of God, that He may have at one time and not at another, but is His essence. Not all that He does is love, but all that He is is love. His love is strong so as to give Himself up in bloody agony and torment to buy back his beloved (that's you and me) from the claws of death. His will is for our eternal happiness, which finds its fulfillment in Him. But God does not force His love upon us. Man can, and often does, reject God. For one cannot accept God, yet reject His commandments. Love is an act of the will which seeks the good of the beloved in accord with truth. Love must be based on truth, and truth cannot contradict truth, just as God cannot contradict Himself. So we must live in accord with truth to live in God's love. We must live as God has revealed Himself, in imitation of Christ, in all ways possible.
Now to the question of judgment. Not to pick on the ones who made the comment (because I've heard the statement countless times from countless people), but of course we are to judge, as long as we understand in what way we mean to judge (for judgment already has more than one meaning). Let me pose it this way: Is there anyone reading this who doesn't reject the actions of sinful priests? Is there anyone who doesn't judge them to be wrong? When the priest abuse scandal broke, did anyone reading this say, "Well, it's not for me to judge how others live their lives"? Or another example: If you have children, would you allow your children to engage in sexual acts at the age of 6? or 10? Or would you judge that to be wrong, inappropriate, even -gasp- sinful? Do you judge the actions of politicians? Do you judge the actions of criminals? Of course you would! The point is that every one of us makes all sorts of value judgments all the time. So to choose this particular instance of "gay marriage" and declare that it's not for us to judge is frankly, a copout. Either one doesn't want to think it through to the logical consequences, or what that statement really means is "I judge it to be morally acceptable, and just don't want to say it."
The other meaning of judgment is that of the state of one's soul. That judgment is left to God alone. Neither you nor I can judge another person's soul and declare their damnation. By the grace of God we all aim at eternal life, though the choice is up to us.
As to the last comment, that God made homosexuals gay and to deny them marriage is unfair, let me just say this. It is not known why some people have an attraction to members of the same sex. I do know, however, that opponents of gay marriage are criticized for suggesting that homosexuality is genetic, and conversely, also criticized for suggesting that homosexuality is learned. No one really knows why, though in the end, I don't see that the question of why it is to be the important question. The important question is "What now?"
I believe, as I posted in my comment, that what is important is to encourage all people, homosexual and heterosexual, the importance of chastity. Chastity recognizes the gift of human sexuality (and the sexual act) and that the dignity and worth of a person far exceeds their sexual actions. People need to hear that abuse of their sexuality is an abuse of their dignity. The dignity of each person is to be respected, first and foremost by one's self. Such self-respect demands self-control. (Remember, I'm not letting heterosexual people off the hook here, either.)
I'm not an advocate of "fixing" gay people to make them straight. I'm cynical of such attempts. What I do respect is the effort to support homosexuals in carrying the cross that they bear in having a sexuality that cannot find a life-giving expression. Groups like Courage are an example of such support.
The Church doesn't seek to deny anyone happiness. To the contrary, the Church recognizes that the fullness of happiness lies in union with God. Such union, as we saw before, must realize truth and live in accord with that truth. Gay marriage does not accord with the truth of God's plan for the human family. That may sound painful, but sometimes the truth is painful.
I, like many other people of the current generation, grew up with a deficiency. Our culture has denied the validity of the Ten Commandments for the absolute sovereignty of the One Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Offend Anyone. You can't stand for what you believe in, for it might hurt someone's feelings. Well, if hurting someone's feelings leads them to truth, so be it. I'm not out trying to crush people, in fact, many times I'm still a coward who keeps my head in the sand. But like C.S. Lewis described, sometimes on an arduous journey that one is frightened to undertake, the most important first step is to throw one's bag over the wall. Then, one convinces himself that he is not undertaking the journey, but merely climbing the wall to retrieve one's bag. After that, one has already climbed the wall and might as well keep going.
I'm not trying in this discussion to crush anyone, nor to deny anyone happiness. But sin never leads to happiness. It may lead to pleasure, it may lead to good feelings for a while, but it is far short of the true happiness that we seek in our eternal union with God.
For more reading (as if this post wasn't long enough!) consider these three posts:
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Update: OK, I SWEAR I didn't copy the title of the other CMR post there, honest! I guess Patrick and I both watched too many scenes of Adam West doing the Bat-tusi. Scary, truly scary.
It was late, and of course, I was tired, and sometimes when I'm tired I have a hard time concentrating on prayer. I picked up the hymnal. It was a good one, no Bernadette Farrell or Dolores Dufner. This chapel is at a Franciscan Friary dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the friars there don't put up with any bull.
I was struck by this verse of "Precious Blood", the Italian hymn Viva, Viva Gesu, translated by Frederick William Faber, Cong. Orat. :
3. Oh, Sweetest Blood, that can implore
Pardon of God, and heav'n restore,
The heav'n which sin had lost,
While Abel's blood for vengeance pleads,
What Jesus shed still intercedes
For those who wrong him most.
No pandering, diversity praising, self-congratulations. No "Gather Us In" or "Sing a New Church" in this place.
No, we worship the God who paid the price of our sin. In paying any ransom, the cost must be something dear, something we want not to part with. Ransom has to hurt to be a ransom. But all of the universe is God's creation; by His word it exists, by His will it came to be, and if He willed it so (God forbid!), it would all cease to be. All of creation is external to God, and is not "of Him." Truly, and this is not a limit on God, but a recognition that He is necessary, and we are not, He had nothing with which to pay off a creature's debt except that which is truly His: His own Son, inseparable from and co-equal with Himself.
And in the flesh, Christ had nothing to give of Himself but the very lifeblood in his veins, which He shed willingly: "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again." (John 10:18) As Isaiah foretold of Him, "Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth." (Is 53:7)
All for us! "But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed." (Is 53:5) We sometimes get the erroneous impression that the Church is a social club of good-feeling people, or a wax museum of long-dead saints. But it is a hospital for sinners. People have been scandalized by the visible sins of Christians, many understandably so. Others think their own sins too grave to be brought out into the open. But both conclusions are nonetheless wrong. The only unforgiveable sin is our own choice to reject God's forgiveness; even in mercy, God does not force Himself upon us.
Our sins caused and necessitated the nails in Christ's hands and feet. But like the hymn says, His blood does not cry out for vengeance, as Abel's blood did. Christ's blood cries out for mercy. When we resist His mercy, Christ cries out the louder to plead for our forgiveness.
The sinner who sins out of spite, knowing the gravity of his actions, throwing his defiance into the face of God, is nonetheless loved by God, though he hurts Him most. It is not our place to reject them, (although we reject the sin) but to pray and encourage their repentance and mercy.
"Oh my God, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy."
“I am not a Know Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can anyone who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.’ When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty — to Russia, for example, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Like Msgr. Tony Rosaforte says, tie a rope around your waist before going in to make sure you can find your way out!
If you're in the Baltic, CT area, please help out a fantastic priest in his parish's main fundraiser for the year.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
Have you said that Hail Mary yet?
When you're done, you can watch this, which has been running through my head all day.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Was Stupak given an offer he couldn't refuse?
And yes, I mean it that way. More than one comment came out about the fact that his wife was getting harassing calls at their home. The man who brokered the deal with Bart Stupak is a former lobbyist connected with Planned Parenthood (I'll get the link). This administration is known for its Chicago-thug tactics, its association with ACORN (and we've seen what its employees have no scruples about doing), and its commitment to dividing and conquering any pro-life opposition.
Stupak couldn't have been stupid enough to think that the pro-choice president who overturned the Mexico City policy on his first day in office by Executive Order (thereby allowing taxpayer funds to pay for abortions overseas) would keep his promise to prevent taxpayer funds to pay for abortions domestically. Was this just offered as cover?
Just wondering. And I'd love to hear how I'm a crackpot for asking. But I bet you've wondered, too.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
I'm taking a much-needed break today to go to a Catholic Men's conference in Woooosta, MA with a bunch of other guys from my area. (Thanks, honey!) Fr. Mitch Pacwa and Dale Alquist are among the speakers. It should be a good day.
Keep praying for votes, not just "no" votes, but "HELL, NO!" votes.
This health care bill is not only an attack on the sanctity of life, but also the freedom of all Americans in this country. Have you called your Congressman?
Did I mention to pray?
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Secondly, it was one of those "little gifts" to see her name pop up there, as we celebrated my daughter's first birthday over the weekend with friends and family. At her party, we announced that on Sweetie-Pie Baby Girl's actual birthday a few days earlier, we found out that she is no longer the youngest of our little gaggle, but by God's grace, this year will bring about the debut of the Johnson Five.
And we had already decided that if this is a girl, her name would be Gabriella.
Online Customer Service
3939 W. Ridge Rd.
Erie, PA 16506
Dear Sir or Madam,
I’d like to bring to your attention an issue that disturbs me. I don’t know how you acquired my five-year-old son’s name or address, but I demand that his name be immediately removed from your soft-porn mailing list. Your catalog is designed to sell clothing that degenerates men and women into sexual objects and is not appropriate for the viewing of chaste adults, let alone impressionable children.
My wife and I are attempting to instill in our children a healthy understanding of themselves, and consequently, when it becomes appropriate, their sexuality. We view human sexuality as a beautiful, life-giving gift from God, the designer and creator of all life. In a chaste, loving, committed marriage, the sexual act is both life-giving and life-affirming. The abuse of human sexuality has in all times and places caused misery and disastrous consequences on the human person.
To defend the dignity of the human person, it is necessary to see one’s worth intrinsically, and not solely as a sexual commodity. Therefore, the practice of chastity and modesty should at all times be among our goals. I’ve attached in this mailing a short reflection on these virtues. I hope that you will find the time to read it and reflect on the work that you and your company do.
I’ve also included your catalog with the mailing label so that my son can be removed from your mailing list.
In the peace of Christ,
[I'll let you know if I get a response...]
Monday, February 22, 2010
The Associated Press article "Genetic testing curbs some inherited diseases," published Feb. 18, is fraught with disastrous consequences.
The author does not understand that good ends don't justify evil means. She also clearly cannot distinguish between a morally good action and a morally bad action as she doesn't hold in her excitement for the reduction of deadly diseases precipitated by killing off babies in the womb who have a deadly disease.
Is this the future of health care? Instead of treating sick people and attempting to cure disease, the medical profession will identify the sick and recommend them for elimination?
In the future, will those in the medical profession recommend abortion, not just for babies with fatal illnesses but for anything that categorizes them as genetically inferior?
I already know the answer, for that is not the nightmare of some far-off distant future, but is already a reality now.
And it seems that we've been down this path before.
You can also read my post on this subject (in more detail) at CatholicVoteAction.org or comment at CMR's post as well.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Isaiah 53: 3-7
3 Despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity: and his look was as it were hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: and we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray, every one hath turned aside into his own way: and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth: he shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall not open his mouth.
Shamelessly copied and pasted from The Crescat.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
(Since I'm not free to link everyday to the multi-part series at CMR, click on the sonogram on my sidebar to follow the whole story.)
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
It's my first post there, so go easy on me in the combox? Merci!
Fric (almost 6) is obsessed with heroes. Just the other day, he complained to me that when he and his younger brothers watch DVD episodes of The Justice League, they don't take it seriously: after the show, they just want to run off and play, whereas he wants to watch the episode again as a training video to become a superhero. (No, I'm not kidding, and neither was he.) I completely expect him to become a cop, firefighter, soldier or priest.
The other day, Fric was at the table coloring with Wifey and he made this picture. What appears below is dictation taken by Mom, verbatim.
This is a map about bad guys, and Moses and Jesus fighting off the bad guys.
I said Jesus tells Moses, "I want you to go in our world and fight off the bad guys who are attacking my people and world, and I want you to command the bad guys to turn their minds into good guys." Jesus tells me to do that so that you stop fighting my people and God tells me to tell you so you can turn your minds into good guys so you can stop doing that. Do things that people do when you're attacking them because that is the reason God sent me here to tell you that and I just want you to be turning your minds so you can turn yourself into good guys and become part of the heroes, but the King of the bad guys says, "Give me a good look" but he meant a bad look and he gave him a stare at Moses and said "Attack Moses!"
But Jesus froze down to the ground and killed all the evil men who were trying to kill Moses.
It's all there. Old Testament, New Testament, Kingdom of God, conversion, repentance, betrayal, Just War Theory, grace and rejection, divine intervention.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
The theological points my kids make often cause me to stop and wonder if we're doing a good job as Catholic parents or if we're on our way to really screwing them up. Take, for instance, the recent exchange between Fred and myself. (Fred is three)
My wife just started a cantor job for the Saturday vigil Mass at a parish not far from us. We've never gone there as a family, so the munchkins and I sat together while Mom sang. It's a beautiful, very old church built in the 1800's that fortunately never went through the post V2-era recovations, so the original windows and murals are all still intact. Behind the altar are murals of Christ's birth, crucifixion and resurrection. Pointing to the scene of the resurrection, Fred said, "Dad, the soldiers are dead!" No, says I, they're sleeping. "No, Dad, no! They're dead! Jesus killed them!" Sigh.
Friday, February 5, 2010
H/T Newsbusters via CMR
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Christ is living now! He is teaching now, governing now, sanctifying now--as He did in Judea and Galilee. His Mystical Body or the Church existed throughout the Roman Empire before a single one of the Gospels had been written. It was the New Testament that came out of the Church, not the Church which came out of the New Testament. This Body had the four distinctive marks of life; it had unity, because vivified by one Soul, one Spirit, the gift of Pentecost. As unity in doctrine and authority is the centripetal force which keeps the life of the Church one, catholicity is the centrifugal force which enables her to expand and absorb redeemed humanity without distinction of race or color. The third note of the Church is holiness, which means that it endures on condition that it keep itself healthy, pure, and free from the disease of heresy and schism. This holiness is not in each member but rather in the whole Church. And because the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church, it can be the Divine instrument for the sanctification of souls. The sunlight is not polluted because its rays pass through a dirty window; neither do the sacraments lose their power to sanctify because the human instruments of those sacraments may be stained. Finally, there is the work of apostolicity. In biology, Omne vivum ex vivo or "All life comes from life." So too the Mystical Body of Christ is apostolic, because historically it took its roots in Christ and not from a man separated by centuries from Him. That is why the infant Church met to choose a successor of Judas who had to be a witness of the Resurrection and a companion of the Apostles.
Many think they would have believed in Him if they had lived in His day. But actually there would have been no great advantage. Those who do not see Him as Divine living in His Mystical Body today would not have seen Him as Divine living in His physical Body. If there are scandals in some cells of His Mystical Body, there were scandals too in His physical Body; both put forward a human appearance which in moments of weakness of Crucifixion require moral strength to see Divinity. In the Galilean days, it required faith supported by motives of credibility to believe in the Kingdom He came to establish or His Mystical Body through which He would sanctify men through His Spirit, after His Crucifixion. In these days, it requires faith supported by the same motives of credibility to believe in the Head, or the Invisible Christ, governing, teaching, and sanctifying through His visible head and His Body the Church. In each case a "lifting-up" was required. To redeem men, Our Lord told Nicodemus that He had to be "lifted up" on the Cross; to sanctify men in the Spirit, He had to be "lifted up" to heaven in the Ascension.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Plus I think this is a cleaner look. And like President Obama, I don't want to hear any attitude about it. The deliberation for the template change was on C-Span, after all. You must have missed it.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Thanks to Leticia for posting it.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
"The danger to America is not Barack Obama but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the presidency. It will be easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president. The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails us. Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The republic can survive a Barack Obama, who is, after all, merely a fool. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools such as those who made him their president."Here here!
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Non nobis, non nobis, Domine
Sed nomini tuo da gloriam.
Not to us, not to us, o Lord,
But to your name give glory.
My favorite version of the Non Nobis is recorded on John Flynn's song titled "Holy Is Our King," on the album Kissing the Heart of God, which can be purchased here.
The job of the President is to serve the American people in ways consistent with the Constitution.
And dismantling the American economy against the will of the people via overreaching legislation propped up with outright bribes and unfair deals is not consistent with the Constitution.
And they wonder why the Tea Parties have become so popular these days.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Hundreds of area residents joined hundreds of thousands of Americans from across the country to join the largest, longest-running grassroots march on Washington to stand in defiance of the Roe v. Wade decision which enabled approximately 50 million state-sanctioned deaths since 1973.
This is an especially shocking journalistic oversight considering: 1. Current health care legislation dominating news this year has been effectively derailed in part by objections over abortion and other right-to-life issues. 2. Recent polls show that the majority of Americans for the first time since 1973 consider themselves "pro-life" and 3. A federal study released in the April 2009 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention confirmed a strong link between breast cancer and both abortion and oral contraceptives.
Is there a reason for the Day's oversight? If staff funding is a problem, I would be happy to give a reporter a ride to next year's March for Life. Until then, wait for the call when my cat goes missing.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Living in Connecticut, I get to listen to a sports station out of Boston that gets rebroadcast from Providence. (Caveat: I'm not a big sports fan, but their commentary is really funny nonetheless and the morning guys also tackle politics on a regular basis. Dennis and Callahan, the hosts of WEEI's morning show, have been huge supporters of Scott Brown, as have most of their callers. The energy that Massachusetts residents have been voicing in support of Brown has been unbelievable, and their excitement this morning is palpable. And well it should be.
Coakley's unacceptable positions aside (like disregarding conscience protections for Catholics and others who reject abortion), as well as her arrogance, (like disdaining shaking hands with constituents out in the cold and joining with Obama in mocking Brown's Government Motors truck) and her sheer stupidity (such as claiming Curt Shilling is a Yankees fan, as if that would help her even if it were true), this election was a referendum on Obamacare. Both Brown and Martha Coakley--I'll refrain from the Marcia jabs for now-- made it clear that the outcome of this election would effect the Senate vote on the Obamacare monolith. Obama, in his emergency visit to Massachusetts last week, also hammered home the point that his agenda on health care hinged on the special election.
And the people don't want it! Poll after poll across the country shows that the citizens of this country do not want either the legislation in its current form nor the manner in which the powers that be in government are ramming it through, citizens-be-damned. The people of Massachusetts saw correctly that this was their chance to immediately affect the end result that so many have wanted, despite the deaf ears of their elected representatives in Washington.
From time to time I lurk over at Change.org because it's the strongest concentration of moonbat leftist anti-Catholic opinion that I can handle. Scott Brown wins in the deep blue state of Mass and their immediate response is silence on the event and to headline an article about how Meghan McCain will reshape the Republican party into a more gay-friendly, Democratic Republican party.
Here's my response to that... Meghan, we have a big tent over here. You're welcome to be under the tent, but don't expect to have a place of honor on the stage.
Conservatives are sick of getting pushed around, both by liberals and weak-kneed Republicans.
Oh, and by the way, how appropriate is this? Today's Old Testament reading was the story of David slaying Goliath:
The Philistine then moved to meet David at close quarters,
while David ran quickly toward the battle line
in the direction of the Philistine.
David put his hand into the bag and took out a stone,
hurled it with the sling,
and struck the Philistine on the forehead.
The stone embedded itself in his brow,
and he fell prostrate on the ground.
Thus David overcame the Philistine with sling and stone;
he struck the Philistine mortally, and did it without a sword.
Then David ran and stood over him;
with the Philistine’s own sword which he drew from its sheath
he dispatched him and cut off his head.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Friday, January 15, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I urge anyone to continue to pray and offer sacrifices for the people of Haiti and to contribute to relief efforts.
My own diocese has local ties to Port-au-Prince. With many Haitian immigrants in our area, the Diocese of Norwich "twinned" itself with the Diocese of Port-au-Prince some years ago in an effort to strengthen cultural ties and lend support to the poor of that country. The Haitian Ministries of the Diocese of Norwich does great work there, as does their Hospice Saint Joseph, which welcomes international medical personnel to offer their services to the people of Haiti. The Haitian Ministries office is now collecting donations with a promise of matching funds up to $10,000, so help them out if you could. The two Connecticut residents who staff the mission house there are thankfully alive; the director was trapped in the rubble of the building for hours and was rescued by her husband, who drove six hours to reach her. The full story is here. The Norwich-based Haitian Health Foundation, which has offices in Jeremie, about 100 miles from Port-au-Prince, will also be helping both now and in the future.
Of course, in the aftermath of the earthquake, much tragic news is expected. One local woman, Roberthe Antoine, has already learned that five of her family members have died and is still awaiting news on the rest.
Please continue your prayerful support.
So now, we wait until our place sells and find another house that doesn't need half as much work. St. Joseph, pray for us.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Wifey and I took the kids shopping the other day to a local discount store. You know, the kind with factory closeouts, store buyouts, crap from China, 5,000 two-cent pencils with "Revere Police Department" printed on them, last year's editions of the Rand-McNally road atlas for $1.00, and other such stuff. This particular retail cornucopia announces its presence with a 50-foot fiberglass cowboy in the parking lot holding an American flag. Let's just say that everyone around here has shopped there at least once and will refer to it while smirking or rolling their eyes. Or both.
Well, we needed some small household stuff and some homeschooling supplies, so we loaded up into the family bus and headed on down the road. Our time through the store was pretty normal: we found more stuff to put in the cart than was on our list. The boys were really helpful, if only because I gave them jobs to do to keep them occupied. I'd be at one end of the aisle and wifey was at the other with the baby and the cart. I'd pick a few items and hand them to the boys who dutifully marched them to Mom and came back for more. They stayed out of trouble, didn't scream or break anything and didn't knock anybody else over. So far, a success. They even got to pick out one small toy each.
When we decided we'd had enough, we gave the order. "OK, kids, go to the register." Wifey and I trailed about ten feet behind as Fric, Frac and Fred raced to the counter. I was pushing the cart, paying attention to what I was doing, so I didn't see what happened next, it all happened so fast. Fred, who is 3, found an entire cardboard rack of emergency whistles hanging there. Of course, he put one to his lips and blew. (You might be thinking that this story is about a busted eardrum or us getting kicked out of the store, but you'd be wrong. In fact, there was no audible noise at all from the whistle.) The cashier immediately left her perch, walked over to the whistles and announced to my wife that we had to buy that whistle. She pointed to the sign. "It says right there if you blow the whistle, you have to buy it." She proceeded to untangle the whistle in question. My wife, immediately replied "Fine, I'll pay for it, but you can throw it away. Why would I want that in my van?" Unfazed, the cashier continued to untangle the whistle. We explained to Fred that because he had to buy the whistle, we had to put his toy back. Fine, I think he forgot about it within five minutes. Wifey and I exchanged some looks and some hushed conversation, then she took the boys outside while I paid.
Here's what I did: I asked the lady if she thought 3 year olds could read. She didn't answer. I then explained to her that if that was their store policy, then the whistles should not be there at the register, unpackaged, unprotected, and at the eye level of a 3 year old. I took the whistle display and moved it to a more, um, appropriate spot. Then I paid and left. (I know, the word wuss comes to mind.)
Here's what I realized after I left the store I should have done: I should have handed the cashier the dollar, plus six cents for the tax, and told her to keep the whistle as well as all the $80.00 worth of items in my carriage.
Here's what I will do: send a note to the manager of the store bemoaning not the dollar lost, but the policy they have to set their customers up. According to sources close to me, they've been pulling that crap for years. Well, gripe done and lesson learned. But that's the last dollar they'll get from me. Next time, I'll go to Job Lot. I think I can pick up a copy of the Dirty Dozen there. I need to do some studying.