Tuesday, February 28, 2006

And now, Something for us Catholics

This post has to do with the upcoming Lenten season, so those of you of a less religious bent might want to skip this one. This will be my first Lent back as a regular churchgoer and I honestly can't wait. I've been trying to figure out the modern meaning of Lent, since it's usually a time that people give up something bad for them, but not necessarily something they need to be comfortable. You know, things like alcohol or cigarettes or dessert. Usually people give something up, but they give it up for a selfish reason, like to lose weight or kick a habit or something to better their own person. Lent is a time of denial, yes, but it's not so much for personal improvement as it is for personal spiritual purification. We're getting ready as Catholics to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we want to be as ready as we can to receive his spirit within ourselves and our world. This is why we give things up. This is why we give up things we enjoy, things that bring us some kind of extra comfort beyond our regular level of comfort. By denying ourselves something, we understand a little more about Christ's suffering and the suffering of the world around us.

So, what does this lead up to, dear readers? Easy. For you Catholics out there, here's my challenge. If you give up some kind of food for Lent, don't do it because you want to lose a few pounds. Do it to remember that not everyone goes to sleep at night with three meals a day plus round-the-clock snack availability. And don't just give up the easy stuff like candy or soda. Make it sting a little. For example, I'm giving up red meat and pork for Lent in addition to all the usual not-good-for-me things. I'm giving up the snacks in between meals because not everyone gets that kind of lucky break to overeat. The light growling in my stomach pales in comparison to someone starving, yes, but it is a reminder that many people have it much worse.

Something else that might also be a good thing to do is remember to go to confession. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is also a foundation for a proper Lent. We don't just purify ourselves by denying the pleasures of this world, but we also purify our souls by absolution of sins. Why do we do this? It's pretty simple. When you die, you stand before God in judgment. If we go with unrepented sins on our souls, without any kind of final absolution, entering into Heaven is going to be a bit difficult. Likewise, we're celebrating the glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We may not be standing before Him in judgment, but we can only experience His suffering, death, and final glory of
returning to life if we are prepared. Confessing our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation is that preparation.

I can tell you a few things about the sacrament, too, if you're willing to read further. One, it doesn't matter how long ago your last confession was. If you go back now, you're a step closer to salvation. There have been people who haven't gone to confession for over 50 years. They stopped going for a myriad of reasons which usually boil down to "There's no way God can forgive me for that." Well, He can. God is infinite in His mercy, so your sins can be forgiven. You may not escape legal action if you've done something criminal (No, Mom, I haven't! You and Dad raised me better than that!) but your soul is cleaned for when you stand in Final Judgment. Priests have heard everything, too. Remember, these are men who have ministered to the sick and those without hope. Whatever you've done that you think is beyond forgiveness, well, your priest has probably heard far worse. He is also bound to the Seal of Confession. What you say never gets repeated by the priest. Go with humility and a desire to change your ways, and you will leave that confessional feeling better. You'll be reconciled with God, the Church, and your fellow Catholics. You'll be in that state of grace that will allow you to return to Mass without fear and allow you to share in the Holy Eucharist. Your Penances can be simple, maybe a few Hail Marys or a simple Act of Contrition. It might be as complex as going to those whom you have hurt and asking forgiveness. In extreme cases, maybe even turning yourself in to the police is an option, I've never been sure on that. I can witness to the sacrament's effectiveness, too. I hadn't been to Confession since I was in basic training in the Air Force. When I went back after all those years and was given absolution, I actually felt the weight lift off of me. I can honestly say that all of those burdens I had placed on myself with each year were removed. Sure, it's difficult to get to Confession now that there are fewer priests in each diocese, but it's worth it, trust me. Make an effort to wake up early one morning and go. Most dioceses will have an online list of their churches, and those will usually have a schedule that includes Reconciliation. Go, and go without fear. If anyone laughs at you, well, you'll definitely be one step ahead of them.

Okay, that was a bit more than I expected to write, but when you get motivated it's tough to stop. I'll be back again soon with something else to write about.

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

More SIUC fun

Going through the State Journal-Register archives for this week, I found a little gem that had been passed on to me earlier by SIUC professor Jonathan Bean. Apparently the head of the SIU Public Policy Institute, Mike Lawrence, has quit writing a column about state government policies. That's a shame, really, since he manages a group whose job it is to analyze and interpret the lawmaking process for academic and public consumption. The way that Bernard Schoenburg writes the article, it doesn't look like he stopped writing it due to political pressures. Mr. Lawrence's quote at the end leads me to wonder if that's truly the case. That's a real shame if that's the case, since Glenn Poshard seemed to be a pretty decent guy by all accounts.

More Federal fun

I'm still trying to figure out how anyone could let an Arab company run US ports. After 9/11, I'm leery of companies even from friendly Arab countries doing any security or commodity-moving business here. I'm seriously disappointed in the Bush administration on this account, as there should have been a lot more scrutiny of what was happening in the business world that could lead to such a problem. Combine this with an immigration policy that is obfuscatory at best and arcane at worst, and you have another reason to be disappointed overall. I don't want people to think I've joined the anti-Bush crowd. I haven't, and I won't. I will, however, use this blog to state when and where I think he and his advisors need to step back and analyze the issue once or twice more.

More Iraq fun

While I'm at it, the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Iraq is a sign that maybe just maybe we need to re-think our current tactics (that is, what we do in the short-term, not an overarching goal) in getting Sunnis and Shiites to make nice. I know we are supposed to be the good guys even to when it's our disadvantage, but frankly, we might need to let our darker nature out a little and let this current fight wear itself out while we casually ignore it and rebuild what we can. The Kurds seem to be doing pretty well, and we should reinforce the northern part of Iraq as best we can. No, the government of Turkey probably won't like it, but frankly, we're rebuilding a country here, and much like remodeling a house in a built-up neighborhood someone will complain about the noise. Setting these factions at the table and saying "Look, we got rid of Saddam Hussein for you when you either wouldn't or couldn't do it yourself. Now, work together or else you'll wind up in a situation wosrse off than when Saddam was running the place" might help. It might not, and they'll tell us in no uncertain terms to get out. Well, they have their own democracy now. At least they do if they can keep it. They'll keep trying the dictator trick until they've killed enough people. And as much as I don't really enjoy the violence and chaos that is occurring there, maybe it's time for the Sunnis to understand first-hand what the rest of Iraq suffered because of their boy from Tikrit. It's not good medicine by any stretch, nor am I condoning any violence done to Sunnis. I don't want anyone to take that from what I wrote. My guess, though, is that this fighting will continue as everyone finally gets retaliation and counter-retaliation out of their system. I hope this will make people realize that Iraq is as much their country to maintain as it is to destroy and that everyone has to pitch in. I hope that God will have mercy on these people and that the fighting will end so the country can get back to joining us in the family of nations. If you want a good view of what's going on in Iraq at the moment, check out Iraq the Model for day-to-day policy and first-hand news from Iraqi civilians.

On the personal front, I do apolgize for not getting this out in a timely fashion as I used to. This blog was something I used to do during my breaks and lunch at work. As of now, I don't have that kind of time, so I have to post in fits and starts. I also don't have the time to roam through the news sites like I used to, and I do miss that. But, business demands at work have changed, and so I've had to change my fun to match up with work. Quite frankly, I hate he extra workload, as it digs into my fun. I think you need to have a little fun at work, just not so much fun you become unproductive. But, this blog doesn't pay my bills, so it goes by the wayside until work is done and social time with roommates and friends is over for the day. I'll still be posting as regularly as I can, though.

I was going to write in this post about Lent, but eh, that'll be another post. Take it easy.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Quick post, no facts, just opinion

Work is ramping up beyond the usual levels of silliness and writer's block is creeping up on me, so I'm just going to make this quick. I hate being a week behind on this stuff. Bear with me

Islam vs. editorial cartoonists: If those cartoons had been about Pope Benedict XVI, they'd have been all over the US media. Why? Catholics don't riot these days over cartoons. We pray and go on tv to yell at some smarmy agnostic (because doubting the existence of God is always in style, don't you know) Manhattanite in a nice suit or "fashionable" casuals, then it blows over. Mind you, if the New York Times tried to find a Muslim who was neither an aggrieved warrior of God nor a shell-shocked and hollow stare-afflicted victim of a corrupt and imperialist US or Israeli policy, they couldn't.

Dick Cheney's hunting accident: I pity the guy. GOP politicians and gun safety should go hand-in-hand. This accident, though, will keep left-leaning "humorists" in material for months. He did own up to it, though. I hope his hunting buddy gets better soon.

The Chicago Archdoicese: Cardinal George did the right thing in accepting responsibility for the actions of the priest at St. Agatha parish. I hope these allegations prove false not just for the priest's sake, but the sake of everyone involved. Sexual abuse by clergy and teachers adds an even deeper level of fear and pain to what is already a bad situation. The fans of the cardinal need to make sure their fervor doesn't blind them to any wrongdoing, and those who have undergone such horrific abuses must not judge before the whole story is heard.

I have to wonder where Governor Blagojevich is going to get all of this new money for his proposed budget. 1.4 billion dollars of increased spending from last year, with 200 million of it in new initiatives is not going to invest in itself. The state pension fund is being raided over and over again with no sign of repayment, either. Ol' Blaggie has either got to raise income and property taxes (which will be the death knell for his career as governor) or cut programs, roll back spending on other programs, and reduce spending on contracts (which will be the death knell for his donations for any political office). Either way, the gov needs to make some tough decisions. I say he needs to cut programs and repay pension debts, and if he won't then his successor will if his successor knows how to run a state.

That's all I have for now, folks. Catch you when I catch you.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

It's like a teaser for the nightly news, but for a blog post!

Coming up within the next 24 hours or so:

The Islamic world erupts over cartoons defaming the prophet Muhammad. Are there further possible reasons than just religious defense?

What's going on with recent sexual abuse controversy in the Chicago Archdiocese?

A quick roundup of professors under fire for non-leftist speech in Illinois. Is anything happening there?

What's Governor Blagojevich up to? For that matter, what are the various GOP candidates up to in the race to the primaries?

Maybe even a bit about Congress, the latest federal budget (it's huge and bloated like water is wet!) and a reaction to the President's speech at Coretta Scott King's funeral. Check back soon!