Have We Brought Back the Freak Show?


I have some questions for Christian and/ or socially conservative friends on social media. It's not my intent to rebuke anyone, but to raise an issue for reflection. This is probably too heavy a topic for the middle of Easter Week, but it's on my mind because as we try to get a handle on how to oppose the "transing" of America's youth, all my social media feeds have become visually very disturbing, as everyone seems to feel the need to document the deranged people caught up in this movement. It strikes me that every time I have seen a deeply disturbing picture or video of an obviously disturbed individual in the past several years -- the kind of image for which I try to practice old-fashioned custody of the eyes out of protection of my own heart and the other person's dignity-- it has been in the feed not of my progressive friends flaunting sexual transgression and imposing their libertine ways on me (I say that tongue in cheek) but in the feed of "pro-family" or Christian authors tut-tutting the latest outrage. Yes, I am telling you my lefty friends' posts are in a certain respect more wholesome and PG-rated than many of my Christian and pro-family friends.

Here are my questions, in no particular order.
1) I understand the need to educate people about threats or potential threats to civil society and family life. Does every troubled person doing something weird rise to the level of cultural threat? Is it possible that some practices are so isolated and bizarre that they will never catch on as a trend, and it would be better to pass over them in silence than to publicize them? 2) What was wrong with the old-fashioned circus freak shows? Anything? Aren't many of the photos and videos that accompany weird practices of merely prurient interest? What good is served by thrusting those photos in the faces of those who see your posts? 3) Is it possible that that certain notorious transgressive accounts have been exposed enough and don't require further documentation -- we now get what these people are about? Is there a point at which we cross the line from reporting to marketing for the transgressive? 4) When we invite people to gawk at disturbing behavior, often behavior we know or reasonably assume is associated with serious mental illness, isn't that use of a person, betraying his or her human dignity? 5) Similarly, if we illustrate our stories and posts about trends we think are harmful with (possibly) prurient pictures, aren't we guilty of using people?

6) When we easily pass along images that are deliberately intended to shock and disturb, do we have any responsibility to shield our audience in some way so they have an option not to see them? (Twitter, for example, allows you to tag your own photo as possibly disturbing). (Tangentially related: not so long ago a certain sector of Christian twitter got into a discussion about the prudence of the use of foul language if you're an influential evangelical or Catholic writer. Interestingly, some of the folks most adamant that the F-bomb does not befit a professing Christian's social media page are pretty blithe in passing along images that cannot be unseen and I would argue probably shouldn't be seen. Isn't it possible sick images are more powerful and therefore more potentially soul-damaging than an F-bomb?

Happy Easter, Year of our Lord 2023


Image: icon of the Resurrection

When the kids were little, I never bought sugary cereals exceot during the octaves of Christmas and Easter. Accordingly, as soon as we got home from midnight Mass or Easter Vigil, the kids would tear into a bowl of Super Sugar Bombs.

In college, our sons have become evangelists of this tradition. First they welcome friends into the Church at Easter Vigil (more than 30 were received last night!), and then everyone celebrates with a sugar cereal party. They sent me a wonderful photo of more than 25 kids eating a selection of diabetes-inducing cereals.

Maybe nothing else I did or said will last, but that will.

Happy Easter! Nothing sweeter than the joy of having a Savior.  


Holy Saturday Tomatoes?


It's probably too early --not sure we really won't have any more below-40 temps -- but when I went to get geraniums for the porch (this is my Easter Saturday tradition -- after 3 pm, the spring flowers appear on the porch-- the tomatoes tempted me and the string of very warm days beguiled me.  There will either be very early tomatoes or this will be a false start and I'll have to re-plant in a few weeks. 

The tomatoes, as we have established, don't lie. 

Tomatoes in ground date: April 8, 2023

Good Friday 2023


Image: "What is Truth? Christ and Pilate," Nikolai Nikolaevich Ge

Holy Thursday 2023


Image credit: Ilya Repin, The Last Supper, 1903 

This bit of doggerel on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist apparently comes from the unlikely source of Elizabeth I?  My mom sent it to me attributed to John Donne, but when I went googling, it's in the Anglican book of prayer as Elizabeth's. 

Twas Christ, The Word, that spake it.
He took the bread and brake it.
And what The Word did make it,
That I believe and take it!

A beautiful homily for today from the patriarch of Jerusalem. 

The night of the Supper was also the night of Judas, who came out of the Upper Room to go and sell Jesus. The night of Christ’s memory entrusted to His apostles was also the night of Peter’s denial. The night of the Eucharist was also the night of the flight of the apostles, who abandoned the Master. The night of the new commandment was also the night of the sad sleep of the friends.

Yet we, here and now, do not want to dwell on the dark side of that night and of every night, personal, political, social and even ecclesial. That side we know well, all too well, to the point of perhaps having grown used to it. Our life, with its passages and crises, our Holy Land, with its violence and injustices, the Church herself, with her labors and contradictions, familiarize us every day with the heavy atmosphere of that night, during which the Lord was betrayed.

I would instead like to contemplate, with you and for you, always amazed and grateful, the way Christ went through that night, the way He responded to the disintegration and disbandment of His own, His reaction to fear and discouragement.


Judas, One of the Twelve


"And the enemies of a man shall be those of his own household." 

There's more on my heart than I find I can write about this Lent. These are decadent times, and we seem for the past decade or more to have passed into a period of clarification where the hearts of men are laid bare. Ultimately this is salutary: it's good to know the truth of things. But how painful it is to find that people you thought were in your band of brothers have defected to a different road, with entirely different premises about reality.   

I'm not speaking of any personal affront. No one has done anything awful to me. But the number of companions on the journey keeps dwindling in ways I both humanly understand and have compassion for, and yet cannot help but receive as blows. I have a friend who's begun posting pictures of herself in an adulterous relationship, and they hurt my heart so deeply. It's not a matter, as she thinks, of "judging" her (her marriage has been hard for a long time and I totally understand the human desire to just grasp at a little tenderness and happiness. Women do get weary). 

It's that my own longings in these days where innocence is constantly being crushed have gone the other direction. The more the adults of our time live for today and force their children to bear all the heavy burdens of life, the more I long for a restoration of innocence and purity and know that only a Savior can grant it.  I am thinking of Christ's lament over Jerusalem, His longing to spread his wings over us like a mother hen but we would not. 

Fr. Scalia with a good reflection on Judas and all these things.  


Happy Valentine's Day!