Saturday, August 4, 2012


Let’s think about a situation: your employer invites you to a special, award-ceremony banquet in which your elite company, a leader in the business world, is going to award some here-anonymous soldier for heroism on the battle-field and an act of valor beyond the call of duty in which he died saving his comrades. It is to take place at a five-star ball-room of a five-star hotel. True glitz.  Chandeliers. Bellboys. French-looking guys dressed in tuxedos performing as maître d's. In other words, this is upper crust stuff for upper crust people, for an upper crust (and altogether worthy and honorable) event.

You show up in sneakers, sweat-pants, and an Aeropostale t-shirt.

Let’s think about another situation: it’s your wedding anniversary. You’ve now been married to the woman you love and to whom you have given yourself for one, three, nine, twenty or however many years it has been. This is the person to whom you should show your devotion, kindle your love, and to whom you should show your deepest admiration and love. She has been a blessing beyond blessings in your life and you know it. She is the most precious gift you have ever received from God’s goodness. You should show her your appreciation of her constant, and tender love for you.

So, to do this, you take her to McDonald’s and get her a Big Mac in the drive thru.

There is just one more scenario we need to consider in comparison with the previous two: It’s Sunday. You go to Mass, the reliving of the Passion, death, and Resurrection of the God who loved us into existence, loved us through our sins, and loved us, literally, to death—His death—on the cross, with all the sufferings man has experienced magnified in His humanity. At this Mass, you receive God into your soul, the God you made in love out of nothing, and, by His love, keeps you at each moment of your life from returning back into nothingness. This God humbles Himself to look like bread and wine, even though He knows this will cause a lack of reverence and devotion due to lack of belief in the amazingness of it. But He loves us enough to do it anyway, to be with us always. This God loves you infinitely more than all the love of anyone who has ever love you put together.

So you show up and rock out to a “folk Mass” and “Christian” rock music.

Do you see the similarity in these three situations? You might notice a similarity between the first two; but why bring in the third? you ask. How does Christian rock music at Mass compare with the inappropriateness of the other two scenarios? Simple. It’s ignoring what is due and replacing it with something that caters to one’s own personal taste, comfort, and most significantly, “feelings.” It, like the other two cases, is a situation of feeling over obligation.

In the first case, the fallen soldier deserves our respect for the ultimate sacrifice he made in service to the people of his country, to you, in the sweatpants and t-shirt. So an occasion in his honor demands that one go out of his way to show proper respect in his deportment and dress at the occasion. Showing up in the disrespectful sneaker/sweatpants is disrespect of the dead and borders on blasphemy against a human person, if such a thing existed.

In the second case, as your lovely wife (and she should be lovely to you, the more you know her), she deserves your signs of love and devotion. She has given herself to you to be loved in a genuine and other-centered manner, and in so doing gave you all of her love in that same genuine and other-centered way. She loves you in a such a way that her love for you never considers herself, because you are the center of her love. You know this and you should love her the same way. Showing this love is done by giving her the best gift you can give her when the occasion calls for it; something that befits the depth and level of your love and reflects it in the energy expended to acquire this gift. Thus, McDonald’s drive thru brings your sign of love and devotion to the level of a four bucks and a greasy hamburger.

Finally, with Christian rock music everywhere, but especially at Mass, there is a similar, yet more grave, disregard for the respect, honor, and love due. Rock music caters to our passions and our emotions. It caters to them like any catering company caters to its customers: it feeds and gluts them. Rock music in general is a music that is particularly self-centered. It easily becomes the focus of our activity. At Mass, our focus should be God. We should be elevating ourselves the best we can towards Him. With rock music at Mass, we not only impede our souls being elevated to God, but actually pull our souls earth-ward and try to pull God down to our level. That is akin to blasphemy. Why is Gregorian chant the official music of the Church? Because it is centered on God, not only lyrically, but, also musically.  Though Christian rock music may be centered on God lyrically, it overwhelmingly centers itself musically on our human passions. This type of music does not elevate the mind to God, but creates a focus on the physical passions.

A good test to determine whether or not a worship song or music type is appropriate for worship, is to remove the lyrics and listen only to the music. Is the music, once the lyrics are removed, conducive to worship and glorifying God? Does the music, on its own, raise the mind to God? If not, it is not worship music, and should not be used to praise God. If the lyrics were to be removed from all the Christian rock songs that are currently the rave, would the music of these songs raise the minds of their listeners closer to God? I don’t think so. I think they would rock out to the music, just as they would to Bon Jovi, Linkin Park, or One Republic. Acceptable form of giving praise to God? I think not.

What right has man to pull God down to this earthly, merely human level? In all the ways of naming man’s relationship to God, there is no name that suggests that this could be acceptable: Creator/creature, Savior/saved, Redeemer/redeemed, and the list goes on. All these names suggest a relationship of total dependence and necessary gratitude on the part of man with God, a relationship that must recognize its place below God not as a place for God to be pulled down to as if He were our equal, but rather as a good to be fulfilled by trying to reach up to God. We must try to be like God, not make God be like us. If that means going out of ourselves to sing music to Him that does not immediately gratify our emotions and passions and senses, then so be it. The music we make for God should be the best music we can make. In order to make this kind of music, we must come out of ourselves and what feels good to us and think only of what could give all the glory to God. Let’s not consider ourselves anymore when we worship God; let’s rather consider God.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


A man locks the door to his home, turns to leave, but is nearly pulled off his feet by catching his jacket-pocket on the door knob.  A young lady casually walking through the buffet line inexplicably loses her balance and in a valiant effort to maintain her footing, spills her drink on the floor, and, more tragically, on herself.  A little boy, seated at his family’s kitchen table, leans down to retrieve from the floor the fork that he dropped there, and before he knows it, is in a heap on the floor, no closer to the table-top then his fork was before he expended the effort.  A little girl, exercising the purpose of a jump rope, gets her ankle caught in the cord and, after a series of unfortunate events moving in a generally downward direction, concludes those events with a skinned left knee and a bruised right elbow.

  Such occurrences as these, commonly known as “accidents,” display the principles of “Murphy’s Law.”  Such accidents regularly occur and this is not uncommon—so long as they do not happen with regularity to any single person.  If all the above mentioned accidents, and others like them, were frequently to strike misfortune in the life of a single individual in the course of a less-than-a-day, we would lovingly refer to that person by the endearing title of “klutz.” By lovingly I mean, in the common definition of klutz, which most people consider when they hear the word. For instance, something along the lines of, “Klutz: an offensive term that deliberately insults someone’s physical or social coordination and skills,” or “Klutz: an offensive term deliberately insulting someone’s intelligence.”  The klutz is the person who, in the ordinary course of his or her daily routine, regularly but with no fault or intention, is waylaid by mishaps, often causing the poor person embarrassment and an undue lowering of esteem in the eyes of others. 

The question to be asked, however, is whether someone with the qualifications of a klutz is indeed “struck with misfortune” or is really at some social and personal disadvantage to a degree greater than his or her seemingly more adroit fellow men?  Is to be a klutz actually a setback in one’s life?  Or could being a klutz rather be representative of something much greater, something much higher, than seemingly inept actions?
Klutziness characterizes in an analogous manner two crucial virtues of Christian living: perseverance and trust.  These two virtues sum up quite well what it means to be a Christian, for the authentic Christian strives to fulfill in his life the pious maxim, “Work as though it all depends on me; trust as though it all depends on God.”  The klutz—the true, unaffected klutz—illustrates in a natural way what it is like for a person striving to live a genuinely Christian life.  On the one hand there is the klutz who tries hard to live life smoothly, but despite his constant efforts mishaps abound.  Then, in spite of the proliferation of misadventures, the klutz’s constant efforts continue.  On the other hand there is the striving Christian who lives day to day trying to persevere in grace and to grow in virtue, trusting that God will help him achieve his end and also trusting that, if and when he should fall, God will catch him, help him up, and get him started again.  As the klutz relentlessly expends his efforts to get through a day without an accident but whole-heartedly carries on even should calamity confront him, so the authentic Christian puts all his effort into living his life well, knowing that when he does he is really allowing God to be in control and, since “all things are possible for God,” should he fall he raises himself above his failure and continues on.  In the same way that a klutz lacks the average amount of self-trust, since he cannot trust himself always to competently complete his actions, so too the true Christian, in attempting to live his life well, should try to remove from himself his prideful self-trust and rely on the mercy and grace of God.  

One “vice,” prevalent in our society today and which contrary to this idea of Christian living, is one that I would term “lack of personal integrity” or “personal dishonesty.”  Where the klutz might often draw attention to himself (one might say, innocently) by the accidents surrounding him, the personally dishonest person draws similar attention to himself intentionally by pretending to be someone he is not.  He paints a false image of himself.  He is not satisfied with being the person God made him to be and so makes himself into something his is not, to get attention by being something he is not.  This person lacks the special virtues of the klutz, especially the virtue of trust.  The person lacking personal integrity does not trust God enough to believe that God made him a unique, special, and irreplaceable human being, rather believing that emulating and imitating someone or something else will make him better than himself.  This ubiquitous issue presents itself in the full range from kids idolizing, imitating, and just plain “trying to be like” celebrities to adults living double lives or having split personalities, acting one way at work, another with their fiancés or families, another with their drinking buddies and chums, and another with no one but themselves.  The genuine Christian, trying to achieve constant virtue tries to be constant and consistent with himself, for such is the virtuous man.  Virtue is unchanging and does not allow multiple faces or personae.  It only shows one face: the face of virtue, the face of personal integrity, the face of truth.  The Christian man should be striving to reach the point when every joke he tells or laughs at with his drinking buddies he can repeat without shame to his wife or girlfriend, when he treats his workmates with the same charity he would his family, and when the manner in which he lives his life when he’s alone and the manner he in which lives his life when others see him are perfect reflections of each other.  What is needed to combat the epidemic of personal dishonesty is personal integrity.  Without integrity a person cannot be true to himself, and only when a person is true to himself will he ever have the ability to be true to anyone else.

The “klutz” is true to himself, for he has no pretensions about who he is.  He understands that he is a failing and falling human being and that he needs to trust in God and persevere on every step of the way in the fight for holiness and perfection.  He realizes this is the case, whether he is with others or alone, with his chums or his wife.  No matter the situation, in every case he needs God. 
So—spiritually speaking—let’s fall down the steps and trip on our shoe-laces with the klutzes of the Christian life.  As crazy as it sounds, let’s take a lesson from the klutz—somehow he knows what he’s doing.