Monday, November 20, 2017

Solanus Casey Beatification Metaphor

The Catholic Super Bowl at Detroit's Ford Field Stadium -  Est. 67,000.
Pam and I attended the Beatification Mass for Fr. Solanus Casey (November 18, 2017, 4PM-6PM) at Ford Field Stadium, Detroit. The miracle that prompted the gathering can be read about here: http://www.themichigancatholic.org/2017/11/50116/

We were invited by the Solanus Casey Center for whom we produced the children's documentary on Fr. Solanus. You can watch the documentary here: http://www.swcfilms.com/EXTRAORDINARY/index.html

It was an extraordinary event, to which we ferried in our van 11 older men and women from one of the parishes we attend. We eventually were allowed to drive up next to the ADA handicapped entrance to drop our passengers off (Gate G) and pick them up. The traffic required much patience, but we all got to our seats by 3 PM for the 4 PM Mass. It started right on time, with a glorious orchestra and choir. Being a critic of audio and visual presentations, and music I was impressed with the clarify of the sound and Jumbotron images. WithOUT my hearing aid I heard and saw everything clearly. (a minor miracle)

This morning I was moved to consider the visual metaphor we experienced. Inside the Ford Field stadium (a $500 million dollar project in 2002) there was order, security, warmth, worship, structure, beautiful music and light. That visual represents the Catholic Church bringing Jesus, hope, goodness, beauty and truth to the masses. Although the Free Press picture accompanying this post, shows only the field being illuminated, we could easily see everywhere, clear to the rafters. By my estimates 67,000 (97% full) filled the seats orderly, although it took a long time for everyone to get in their seats due to security and the cold rain...did I also mention that parking was a challenge. We sat with friends, John and Renee Mischel from Elk Rapids, MI...their daughter Grace was the host of our documentary EXTRAORDINARY. They were dropped off by relatives at Cobo Hall (miles away) where they took the Detroit People Mover to Grand Circus Park and then walked the 5 blocks to the stadium in the cold, wet rain. Miserable weather, and at 4 PM it was dark. So, what was outside the stadium (cold, rain, dark, near chaos of cars and people) represents the world in which the church is miraculously sustained and protected by the Holy Spirit.

Vatican Cardinal Amato incenses the altar and Fr. Solanus' image
The metaphoric contrast was striking on two levels. One level of dark, rainy chaos can be seen in the recent political climate (pun intended), but not because of politics, but because so many people hate the things God loves, and love the things God hates. Their persistent rebellion spits in the eye of Natural Law (God's Law) and bad stuff happens. Morally the church defends what is good, true and beautiful. But the recent political chaos has revealed that there are tens of thousands in our culture that defend what is bad, false and ugly--the cold, dark rain that greeted us as we left the security of the stadium and what the Catholic Church offers.

The second level is the confused chaos created by lack of Christian unity in the world. Jesus Christ prayed in John 17 for his followers to be one, SO THAT THE WORLD WOULD KNOW THAT GOD HAD SENT HIM. Implied in that phrase is the idea that if Christians weren't at each other's theological throats they might actually become salt and light to culture. Dang! What a concept. But because so many Christians have decided to self-interpret the Bible and ignore several critical passages (because it would shatter their invented theology), the generic Christian church is the laughing stock of the world. (e.g. Sola Scripture, faith alone, and the Eucharist (communion-as-symbol) are nowhere in the Bible, but the opposite teachings, in plain text, are.) THEREFORE, the salt is diluted and light is obscured, and we end up with a culture that celebrates racism, bigotry, killing babies, sexual freedom, pride, and twisting biological science. If the Protestors would put away their 20,000 variety of home made signs, battery powered megaphones, and stop beating the bottom of pails with sticks, claiming independent to interpret God's word to suit themselves, perhaps the world (at large) would recognize Jesus as the Light, Structure, Truth, Beauty, and Music of the world and peace might have a chance.

But until them...moral, physical and political chaos. Maranatha, Lord Jesus.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Sell the Church's Treasures and Give to the Poor?

The artistic treasurers of the church are formidable metaphors and similies of God and how much we value Him. They are visible and physical expression of God's grandeur and give visible representation of our worship to an invisible God. They illustrate the sacrifice that man is willing to go to for the sake of worshiping God.

The use of gold, jewels, and rich linens, and objet d'art all have a Biblical basis. Such ornateness was ordered by God to be created for His worship in the construction of the Israelite Temple. Through Moses, God asked for voluntary sacrifices of gold, silver, brass, blue, purple
scarlet and fine linen, onyx stones and jewels. All these materials were given to two artisans, Bezaleel and Aholiab, who the Bible says were given special gifts of God's spirit to create the physical and very rich beauty of the Sanctuary and Tabernacle. There are five long chapters dedicated to the detail of all they created for God's worship. (Exodus 35-39).

Aside from God's command to create and use expensive articles in his worship, there are practical reasons not to sell off and give the money to the poor.

1. The objects inspire us to think of God's grandeur, and the gifts he gives to men to create such beauty. Thus, the objects represent the divine nature that God has put in us, if we are willing to let that nature shine out in our lives and work.

2. To sell the objects, into private and secular collections would remove them from public view and destroy them. This would negate No. 1, but more seriously, be a sacrilege as the objects for the most part have been consecrated to God's worship. Recall the importance of consecration of objects of worship. When someone even touched the Ark of the Covenant unworthy, they were struck dead, instantly.

3. Giving the money to the poor would not cause the poor to be less poor in the long run. The poor are not poor simply because they have no money. Giving them money when they do not labor for it, does not change their ability not to be poor in the future. Money is finite and temporary.

4. People who come upon sudden influxes of cash, often fall into sin. Proverbs tells us that it is better to be poor and righteous than rich and fall away into evil. A text book example is the example of the people who win a lottery and fall into desperate times when the money is not conserved.

5. The creation of the art, it's maintenance, and the tourist attraction they create, provides employment for a great many people that would otherwise (without the work) be poor. This is not just true of the direct care of the objects but all the businesses and people they employed in the travel industry and the local economy.


A great example, although extreme, is the Gaudi Cathedral, otherwise known as Sagrada Familia, a basilica in Barcelona, Spain. The Cathedral's construction began in 1882, and is still being completed. The Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi, designed a building that could not be completed until construction materials and technology were invented to build it.

The design and decor of the church defines imagination, especially in terms of practical need (on one hand), but is an elegant expression (although extreme baroque) of art on the other. 

The criticism heaped on this edifice is often this: "Rather than spend the millions of dollars on the edifice over the 130 years of its construction, think of the money that could have been given to the poor. What a vulgar waste." 

But this attitude ignores the fact that the action of building the structure kept and is keeping thousands of workers and their families out of poverty with wages. Further, the work gives to the whole community around it the dignity of work and creation regardless of the wages. 

Additionally, the presence of this structure today draws thousands of visitors on pilgrimages, which has created a huge influx of revenue into the area around it, and continues to employ many...giving them noble work and dignity. 

Also, the Church collects money in tithes for the poor and helps those that cannot work.


This structure and the works of art within it have lessened the poor, and not increased poverty in the region.

6. Finally, most of the Church's real treasurers are relics of undetermined wealth. These treasures have no value on the open market place. Yet, if sold, they would create a form of simony and avarice as the "faithful" scramble for the object's possession, like pagans fawning over idols. In the hands of the Church the relics become instead opportunities to worship and pray to God in the presence of a saint.

Monday, July 31, 2017

What is Reality

I've been in discussion with a friend on the essence of reality. Here's my contribution. 


There are many different concepts, embraced by astute men and women, of what “reality” is.

We might all agree that a granite rock is real, as are bananas and sharks. We may eat one while the latter may eat us, but they’re both real. We say they are real, and part of reality, because they are capable of being sensed by our five physical senses: sight, sound, taste, smell and touch. 

But there is another aspect of reality that we cannot see, hear, taste, smell or touch…and yet we sense it and we have a sense organ for this invisible thing. I speak of gravity, and we have a vestibular system in our inner ear that acts as a balance organ. It’s connected to your brain and works in conjunction with your eyes to sense which way is up and where things are located in space, which we also cannot see, hear, taste, smell or touch. We cannot see gravity, but we sense it, we cannot sense space, but we exist in it. So, both gravity and space are part also of reality.

There are other aspects of reality, however, that we encounter every day, too, that defy our five senses, and even our sixth sense of balance, but are very much part of human reality. One of those often mentioned is “love.” Another is “hate”. And there is “fear” and “hope.” We sense, in a physical way, the evidence of love and hate by the actions of others. A hand, per se, is not love or hate, but when the hand embraces or hits, we attribute the reality of love or hate to the hand and the person it’s attached to. In our mind, the anticipation of the embrace or hit is describe by “fear” and “hope.” And all of those emotions are part of our reality as humans. And because they are so hard at times to understand we may call them mystical, because they come from and go to places that cannot be, per se, physically identified.

Then there are concepts from our imagination that may or may not be part of what is physically real, but they are concepts that seem real to some people. Here we may speak of   things like “black holes” or “fairies.” Astronomers and astrophysicists believe black holes are part of our physical reality, while poets and storytellers may believe “fairies” are real, even though no one as seen either one outside of a person’s imagination or though the inference of scientific measurements. Whether they are physically real is one thing, although we can still make them part of our reality by drawing or animating them. 

John Lennon once said, “I believe in everything until it is disproved. So, I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?” Lennon makes a good case that “concepts” and “nonphysical” ideas are real and are part of reality, simply because they’re conceivable. 

As a counter argument to that, but it makes the same point, Albert Einstein, who may have believed in blackholes, said “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” Now, Einstein may have been trying to be funny and crack a joke. But what’s important is that persistence is much a part of our reality as is our imagination, insight, and those moments of epiphany that explain the interaction and juxtaposition of all these things that fill up what is real to us. 

And one last example. We may ask is a number “real?” Well, when we write it on a piece of paper, and we can see it, and manipulate it with other numbers we might say it is. But even in our mind as a concept, the number is still part of us, and it may motivate us to take one physical action or another. Mathematicians classify numbers as real, rational, integers, whole, natural and irrational numbers. To them, all of these rational, real, and irrational numbers are very real. And their existence has allowed us to explore space, and given physical means to actuaries who calculate the cost of your insurance policies. 

We could go on, but perhaps the point is now made—that reality consists of material things and immaterial concepts. Materialists may not feel emotionally safe by admitting this, but there are many immaterial things that affect and effect our material lives. But this short explanation may suffice that our five physical senses are very much effected by the immaterial. 

Therefore, REALITY IS THE SUM OR WHOLE of all these many material and immaterial things and concepts. All these things are part of the one essence that we call reality. We might say that the sum of all this is one thing. There is one reality, which is the sum of these many diverse parts. 

But how is it possible that all of these diverse things and concepts form a whole, a oneness, that work together and keep our feet on the ground, and for the most part allow humans to interact safety with each other and the universe. What keeps reality from falling apart, imploding, exploding or disintegrating? We might express the answer to that question by saying there are “natural laws” that superintend over reality that keep it together, that make it constantly whole and protect its oneness. 

But how do natural laws work and keep all this together as ONE reality? Where did the laws and rules come from?  Many people answer that question by turning to mysticism, otherwise known as religion. I’m not sure what atheists call it, but theists and Jews and Christians (and may be Muslims) call the source and the power that keeps all this together by the common concept God. Such a God Force must be beyond the material and immaterial things that he controls. The philosophers among us would say that such a “force of nature” (or God) is so far beyond all that we call reality, that REALITY is simply part of God’s imagination. Or, in popular terms, we are part of God’s Matrix.  Somehow, mystically or mysteriously, a Supreme Being holds all of these diverse things together in a working whole. The sum of all reality is one. And while reality may be just the figment of the One’s imagination, it still is.

In Exodus 3 (of the Jewish and Christian Bible) when Moses asks God’s name, God answers, "I Am who I Am.” This is perhaps the most famous passage in the Bible. Linguistic scholars say it is a phrase that defies tense, or time. It is indeed mysterious, as was the story that transpired after Moses and God has this conversation in front of a bush that burned but was not consumed in the flames. The burning bush was part of Moses’ reality, as was the disembodied voice or thoughts that allowed Moses to record the conversation. And surely the 10 plagues that God cast over Egypt in an effort to free the Israelites, should have confirmed in the reality of Pharaoh, Moses and all the people of that time and place, that I AM WHO I AM has power over all reality….and thus demands a relationship of us with Him, as mysterious as that may be. 

It is in this way that reality is one, that we are part of it, and we have a relationship with the Supreme Being that controls it. 

Get over it.

END OF LINE

stan



Saturday, July 22, 2017

Make a Most Pressing Appeal

We want things, so we pray for them. I'm not referring to "cool" material gifts like fast boats and hot cars. I mean we want spiritual stuff. Good stuff. It may be a child's salvation, or for culture to turn from its immoral ways. I'm learning about this lately. 

1. JOHN PATON - BREAKING THE BACK OF HEATHENISM

Here was a Scottish Presbyterian Missionary that followed my great grand uncle, John Williams to the New Hebrides Islands, a archipelago of 30 islands 1,000 miles N.E. from Australia. Today New Hebrides is called the nation of Vanuatu.  Williams was martyred there in 1839 and eaten by the island cannibals. Paton managed to live among the cannibals (but just barely) for thirty years and lived to famously write about it. 

The back of the heathenism on the island of Aniwa, where Paton spent most of his days, was broken when Paton dug a 35-foot deep well to supply the island with a continuous flow of fresh water, something Aniwa did not have since rain only fell 4 months of the year. He describes "sinking the well" in his famed autobiography. He labored for weeks with an American Axe and shovel to dig out the coral. The islanders mocked him since to them rain only came down from the clouds and never up from the ground. Paton exhausted himself several times over the weeks, and once almost buried himself alive when the walls caved in. The cannibals, watched from the rim and only helped him when his life was in danger. They feared he would die and the "man-of-war" ships would come, find Paton dead, blame the natives, and destroy them for the death of the missionary. Paton labored, hard and alone for weeks. And as he dug out the coral he prayed, relentlessly...that the water, he knew he would eventually find about 35 feet down, would be fresh and not brackish or salty. But he writes that he did not know if God would
Post Card: Paton Digs a Well
answer that his prayer, and provide them with fresh water. But it was a good work he was doing for the sake of the islanders, and himself, and he felt God compelling him to dig. BUT HE DID NOT KNOW...AND SO HE PRAYED INSISTENTLY AND CONTINUOUSLY as he dug.  And when he did find water, it was fresh, with only the tiniest hint of brackishness. It was drinkable, and clear. To the islanders it was a  miracle and they universally declared that Missi's Jehovah God was more powerful than all their gods, and within a week the village chiefs had brought to Paton all of the island's wood, stone, and coral idols, which Paton destroyed with their enthusiastic help.

What's instructive about this "sinking of the well" and the "breaking the back of heathenism" was Paton's (1) hard and dangerous labor over decades on the islands, continually at risk of being murdered and eaten, or dying of malaria related diseases; and (2) his persistent prayer for the heathen's conversion. Both continued for 30 years of his life (the labor and the prayer) but were illustrated in the relatively short time he was "sinking the well."

2. THE RULE OF BENEDICT  

At the time I was reading about the sinking of the well, the Office of Readings that day was from the Rule of St. Benedict.
Whenever you begin any good work you should first of all make a most pressing appeal to Christ our Lord to bring it to perfection.
"making a most pressing appeal" has the sense of PERSISTENCE in good work and good prayer. 

This recalls to mind the old argument about "faith" vs "good works." Protestants (especially Evangelicals) make a stink about how our salvation is based on "faith" and never "works."  This is not Biblical, however, as most of the references in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament make it clear that we will be judged based on our works, and that faith without works is dead (James 2).  
But what comes to mind when thinking about making a most pressing appeal, is how faith in prayer, without hard physical labor makes God out to be some magical genie in the bottle. God put us in a PHYSICAL REALM. We are not just spiritual beings. Even before sin entered the world God told Adam to "tend and keep" the garden. Work was involved.

Indeed we are made in God's image and likeness. He worked to make the world. We have to work to keep it. Jesus worked through his passion and worked on the cross to save us. We have to work to keep our salvation. The apostles worked to evangelize the world, and most of them worked through their martyrdom. St. Paul worked and labored on his missionary journeys. The Great commission could be easily worded like this:
Go and work to make disciples of all the nations, work to baptize them...work to teach them to work hard to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matt. 28:19-20)
3. PERSIST in PRAYER and PHYSICAL PURSUIT

Today's Office of Readings recounts the assumption of Elijah from 2 Kings 2:1-15. 
[A side note here. Non-Catholics whine about the Catholic belief that Mary (Jesus's mother) was assumed into heaven. We celebrate the Assumption of Mary. Yet, we have two such assumptions in the Old Testament: Elijah, and Enoch. So, Mary's Assumption didn't "break new ground," so to speak if you forgive the mixed metaphor.] 
Anyway, back to Elijah's Assumption. The focus here should be on Elijah's apprentice, Elisha. Elisha refuses to leave Elijah's side, knowing that his master is shortly going to be assumed into the sky. And evidently the whole countryside knew this was going to happen. The 2 Kings 2 passage repeatedly mentions the "guild of prophets" who knew this was going to happen. They say Elisha, "Do you know your master is going to be taken from you today?" And Elisha says, "Yes I know it. Now, be silent." 
As Elijah goes to Bethel he tells Elisha to stay behind. But Elisha PERSISTS in a good work and refuses. As Elijah goes to Jericho he tells Elisha to stay behind. But Elisha PERSISTS and stays with his master.

As Elijah goes to Jordan, he tells Elisha for the third time to stay behind. But not only does Elisha PERSIST but 50 of the prophets guild follow as well. 
[I want to know more about the prophets guild. Were they prophets in training? They must have been doing something right. They were hanging around with Elijah and Elisha and the KNEW that Elijah was going to be assumed momentarily. There's a story...how did they know?] 
So the group comes to the Jordan River, which is NOT a creek you cannot wade across. Elijah takes off his mantle, rolls it up, and strikes the water which divides and both cross over on dry ground. 

They get to the other side (metaphor here) and Elijah says to Elisha, "Ask for whatever I may do for you, before I am taken from you." 

NOTICE THE SEQUENCE HERE: Elisha PERSISTS in seeking something from a man who has one foot in heaven. He's "praying" to Elijah, and Elijah, who has the power to do a lot of extraordinary things, says, "Okay, because of your persistence in prayer and the work of keeping up with me, I'll give you want you want."  This is not just mental assent of faith, but it requires  physical, persistent work...through Bethel, Jericho, and now the minor reenactment of crossing the Red Sea WITH A CROWD WATCHING. 
 [In Moses' day it was Pharaoh's troops who did not believe, and now it's the guild of prophets who do believe.] 
Elisha has been "sinking the well" for these days of following Elijah, and now his verbal prayer becomes known to us, "May I receive a double portion of your spirit."  And with some minor qualification, Elijah grants it. A moment later Elijah is taken up in a flaming chariot, and leaves behind his mantle. Elisha tears his own garment,  picks up Elijah's, walks back to the Jordon River, strikes the water with the mantle and says, "Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?" The water divides and he walks over.

And then, what does the crowd that sees all this do?  Unlike Pharaoh's troops that pursued Moses into the Red Sea and drowned, this guild of prophets is wiser...They stayed on their own side of the river and when Elisha returns they "went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him."  

4. MARY MAGDALENE SEEKS CHRIST

The final example of this PHYSICAL PERSISTENCE MARRIED TO FERVENT PRAYER was also in today's Office of Readings, as recounted by Gregory the Great.
When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: The disciples went back home, and it adds: but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.  
We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved. 
At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a great love. As David says: My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says: I was wounded by love; and again: My soul is melted with love.  
Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.  
Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognized when he calls her “woman”; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognize me as I recognize you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognizes who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.

Mary persisted PHYSICALLY in labor of seeking and in PRAYER. She not only made a most pressing appeal in her labor but also in her heart. And she, unlike all of the apostles was rewarded. 

CONCLUSION
Ora et labora
Pray hard and work hard. Make a pressing appeal and prayer, and press your labor beyond the work of others. 

The Netherlands registered Ora Et Labora freighter



Monday, July 10, 2017

Mom Forced Me to Go to Church

I recorded a guest segment with Ray Guarendi for his EWTN TV show "Living Right with Dr. Ray." He wanted to know how come I never gave up on God or the Bible even through my parents forced me to go to church. 

Dr. Stan on the set with Dr. Ray.

The answer is in my memoir, GROWING UP CHRISTIAN: Searching for a Reasonable Faith in the Heartland of America. But Ray and I didn't have time to read the entire book on the air and then let Dr. Ray comment on the salient passages. There WAS time to read the book, but Dr. Ray would take too long psychoanalyzing why I didn't like my mom. (smile) So, I winged it. I'm told the episode will air (probably) January 2018. In the meantime, below, is the answer I prepared and of which we hit the high points during the segment.

Why My Parents Forcing Me to Go to Church Didn't Kill My Faith

My mom was brutal at times.You could rightly say she beat the hell out of me and the fear of God into me. In order to involve my Dad in my frequent punishments, she would borrow one of his old belts, with which to whip me. And yes, I was forced to go to Church, not just on Sunday mornings, but Sunday nights and Wednesday nights, too. In today's world you might correctly assume that such "brutality" and "force" of religion on a kid would turn him away from the faith.

The whippings were not fun, and I do think she over did it. I relate, in Growing Up Christian, the day the whippings stopped---I got big enough to stop her.

But there was a consistency about the beatings and a   moral imperative behind them along with the moral and religious life of my parents that together made a strong positive impression on me. I didn't get to say this during the recording of the show with Dr. Ray, but, as Dr. Ray has said many times,  parents can do a lot of things wrong but if there is moral consistency and a love of God and a love of the child in the mix, the kid will recognize their parents' love and respond correctly. That was true of me...no, actually, that true of my parents.

As the narrative unfolds in Growing Up Christian, there were four things that drove me toward God, even as I ran from my mom's beltings.

1. MY ANCESTORS
I grew up knowing a good deal about my ancestors from stories, photographs and even books about them. My ancestors were missionaries, preachers, teachers and one was even a famous Christian martyr in the New Hebrides (today the islands are known as the Nation of Vanuatu). There, John Williams, was killed and eaten by cannibals on Erromango in 1839. My missionary grandmother, Edith Willobee, during her retirement from India, helped care for me as an infant. My Dad's father, was a horseback circuit riding preacher, Jeremiah Williams. The stories told about these ancestors made a Hollywood impression on me. In fact, if a movie were to be made about them, you'd have to dumb it down to make it believable. Their lives were those of any boy's adventure heroes. In looking back, I believe I was rooted into God's family because of a promise in Exodus 20:5-6:
I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Those that came before me, loved God and kept his commandments. And from their place in heaven, looking down on us, they continue to pray for me.

But another aspect of their existence were the many stories I heard about them and how they responded to God, which is explained further in number 3 below. I don't have the space here to relate them all, but in Growing Up Christian I relive a few of those miracles.

2. BIBLE MEMORIZATION
My parents also forced me to memorize verses from the Bible. Many of them I still know. This forged the mold for my life because these Bible verses offered up scientific hypotheses that my young life could test...and over the years I found they were true. Here's a sampling....I'm typing these for memory by the way. Notice the cause and effect relationship between the requirement and the promise in each.
This book of the law will not depart from your mouth. You shall meditate on it day and night, and do according to all that is written therein. Then your way will become prosperous and you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8) 
Trust in the Lord will all your might, and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him (God) and He will direct your paths with success. (Proverbs 3:5-6) 
All things work together for good to those who love God, to them who are called according to his purpose [which means you are obeying His commands]. (Romans 8:28) 
Whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it---not forgetting what  they have heard, but doing it, they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:25)
Now without No's 3 and 4 below, these No's 1 and 2 might be meaningless and could easily be ridiculed. But in spite of mom's mean personality, there was something very righteous about her. And these versers helped me to see that in her and realize how God works with the imperfections in all of us.

3. CAUSE AND EFFECT
On a daily basis I was confronted by the the practical consequences of No. 1 and No. 2. If you obeyed God, good things happened. If you disobeyed God, bad things happened. These consequences were not forced on me or the world by parents or other religious practitioners, but rather they were the natural consequences of Nature...or Natural Law. They just happened, like gravity happens, and there was no way to stop them.

As moral agents we can make any decision and take any action we want, but Nature takes care of the consequences, over which we have no control.  This Natural Cause and Effect of life surrounded me was made real in a number of ways, most notably by No. 4. (But I'm getting ahead of myself.) Here is how my parents made the natural cause and effect of Christianity real to me:

1. They walked the talk.They did talk a lot about the Bible, Jesus, God, and the moral life they expected me to live by. But they also lived it. There was no lax attitude toward God in their lives. They prayed, read their Bibles, witnesses to others, were active in church matters and supported missionaries and preachers.

2. They never asked me to do anything that was contrary to what the Bible taught. I felt their interpretation was too narrow, at times, but they were consistent in one thing...they feared God. They believed we would live safer., happier lives by living well within God's boundaries and not testing His moral law and getting singed or scorched in the process.

3. They daily pointed out to me people around us who tested God's limits and ended up paying sad consequences. Dad drove me past skid row more than once and I saw the consequence of bad habits and disregard for taking care of God's gift of health. Mom would clip newspaper and magazine stories for me to read about people who disobeyed moral authorities and ended up in jail, or in an accident (for foolish behavior), or the families that fell apart because they mocked God's laws. I heard relentless and miraculous stories of my grandparent's exploits on the preaching circuit and mission field. My aunt, who lived with us, was a Detroit policewoman. She worked the domestic beat, and we would hear stories every week about crime, drugs, and fights where God's laws were broken and lives were destroyed.

4. When I disobeyed one of God's rules (as narrowly interpreted by my parents) there would always be punishment. Yes, they would forgive me, but the punishment was always there. I saw this in the Bible, as well. God forgave you, but there was always the temporal reward or punishment. When King David murdered Uriah and took Bathsheba in adultery, the prophet Nathan confronted David, and David repented and God forgave him. But according to Exodus 20: 5-6, there was also a punishment....the death of his son, and the rebellion of later sons. And when King David took a census of Judah and Israel against God's will, David was quick to ask God for forgiveness. But shortly thereafter there was a severe consequence, and 70,000 of his people died.

Mom was strict and mean, but she was focused on obeying God. As Dr. Ray has said, better your parents discipline you than a judge or a cop, or worse still....your wife. She never punished me out of revenge or to bolster her ego. It was to put the fear of God in me, even if that fear was of her. She knew she stood in for God during my up-bringing. There would be a day and time when I out grew her influence. But until then, she knew she was acting in God's stead.

The sum of this life was that God was in everything we did as a family. We were the domestic church. I was trained in the things of God every moment of everyday. Yes, I was forced to go to Church, but that is not where I got most of my instruction about God. It was at home and the stories of what and how I learned, are many...thus my memoir.

4. BOLD PRAYER
In spite of my mother's overbearing personality and demand for obedience, she had a relationship with God that could not be denied. When she prayed she got results. In my experience the results were miraculous and often the prayers involved my punishment or my reward.

In Growing Up Christian I relate a number of these experiences, but here I'll relate just two, and ever so briefly. (They are more entertaining in the book).

Every night of my life at home, even as an adult when my young family would visit my parents, we would all gather in the living room of our house to read the Bible and pray. One person would read a passage of Scripture. We'd talk about it, take prayer requests, and then EVERY one would pray, on our knees, extemporaneously one after the other. My parents prayed so long I would put my head down on the seat of the couch I was kneeling at and fall asleep.  Mom would wake me up with a nudge of her elbow and say, "Stanley, it's your turn. Pray."  At the end we'd recite The Lord's Prayer. One night, Mom said she had been impressed to pray for the missionary that had taken her mother's place in India (Mom was a missionary's kid and Dad was a preacher's kid -- M.K. and P.K. in Evangelical jargon). That day, Mom had felt there was some danger and we needed to pray for the village where Miss Bibbee was working. We did, and it was clear that Mom was worried. Three weeks later a letter came from Miss Bibbee. On the day my mom was impressed to pray, a hungry leopard had found its way into the village at night, and was looking for dinner. Two of the native men awoke and chased the leopard out with sticks, but not before a great deal of fear had arisen. Reading that letter and remembering my mom's agitation on that day weeks earlier, left an impression upon me, that although I didn't much like my mom, I better fear God.

Another time, in high school, I had persuaded my Dad, against my mother's strong objections, to help me drive to visit a summertime girlfriend 14 hours away in Missouri. Mom had met the girl and the parents after our 8-week summer camp, and determined that they were not Christian enough for me...or rather for her. So, she was against me going and argued with my Dad over it. But Dad, having given into my Mom most of the time, understood my attraction to this young lady and told mom he was driving me nonetheless. So, on the appointed day Dad and I took off in his new Plymouth. When we left the house Mom was no where in sight. Dad and I got about a mile down the road when suddenly the transmission failed on the car, and we came to a halt by the side of the road. I can point to the spot today where that happened. Hours later, when we got back home after the car was towed to a repair shop, we discovered that Mom had been on her knees asking God to stop us. Clearly, I ever forget that.

CONCLUSION
My Mom forced me to church. She forced me to obey her. She forced me to memorize Scripture...and I, at times, hated her for it all. I did not have a happy childhood. But, what I could never deny was the presence of a God who demanded I obey him for my own good. My mom was determined, as was God through my Mom, that I would live within the bounds of Natural Law and be a man who sought after God, even though imperfectly.

And I think that is the message for parents who want their children to stay in the Church and not leave the faith. For kids not to leave the Church and God, in my experience,  parents need to make sure they are completely sold out to God, and do everything according to what is written in the Bible and the Catechism. Many Catholic parents are saddened today because their kids have not taken Christianity seriously. Well, did the parents take it seriously when the kids were young? Did the parents moment by moment make an understanding in God a practical, natural reality that could not be messed with without negative consequences? In other words, did parents teach kids that the stove burner was hot by letting them experience it, or did they just never turn on the stove? Experience is, after all, the best teacher.

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