....they are growing fast.

Here are some shots since the day the USPS called us for pickup.....


'tweet tweet tweet' coming from a sealed box with holes : )

right in the stroller

just a few short strolls....or twenty

too light to push the piano keys

Book on Common Predators

Fashionable Derby hat?


Our fuzzy desk accessory...


...Thank goodness they will live outdoors.

What are you tethered to?

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The freedom of religious doctrine

G. K. Chesterton would have loved Mumford & Sons. If I could only provide one reason for believing that, I’d go with these lyrics from the song “I Will Wait”: “so tame my flesh and fix my eyes/a tethered mind, freed from the lies.” If you’re not familiar with Chesterton or Mumford & Sons, I highly recommend that you look into them.
Chesterton loved the idea of being tethered to truth; I think this love was one of the reasons that he happily embraced the Christian faith, which he called “a truth-telling thing” in his book, Orthodoxy.
He would go on to enter the Catholic Church, which he called “the trysting-place of all the truths in the world” in his essay, “Why I Am a Catholic.” I, like Chesterton, love the idea of being bound to truth by a tether.
It’s not very popular, in my experience, to advocate for tethering oneself in certain areas of belief, especially not on many a modern college campus. To do so is to refuse the alternatives, to declare something absolutely true is to declare the alternatives absolutely false.
I’ve listened to secular friends tell me about “what’s true for them,” and while I think there’s value in hearing out other perspectives, I can’t help but think that this idea of “personal truth” or “individual truth” is silly, as it’s usually inconsistent.
Sure, some questioning of our perception of reality is a long tradition in Western philosophy, but I don’t think that epistemology is what’s really on the table here. It’s usually more a matter of what beliefs are convenient to tether oneself to.
Few people would have a problem with me expressing a firm belief in the existence of trees on the Main Hall green; but if I were to express the same certainty about the moral implications of certain actions, I can imagine getting a very different reaction.
It’s my observation, in a general sense, that many a modern, mostly-secular college student isn’t a big fan of what would be called “doctrine.” The word usually carries traces of religion, often Christianity.
Institutional Christianity, on the whole, still advocates against certain actions that many college students, myself included, are inclined toward, and the Catholic Church is especially tenacious with its teachings on certain issues.
It’s frustrating to be advised against doing something that one finds desirable, and a popular sentiment holds that we should dismiss “doctrine” as old-fashioned and give thanks for our collective “freedom” from that sort of thing.
The trouble with this is that nobody really escapes having doctrine, which we’ll define now as “principles according to which one believes and lives.” Do your beliefs and life line up with certain principles?
If so (and I suspect that they do), you have doctrine. A man or woman might try to say, “I reject doctrine and make my own choices,” but when you look at “his own choices,” you’ll notice that they probably look an awful lot like doctrine.
For example, someone might say, “I don’t care about the old standards; I’m going to have sex with whomever I want to.” If living chastely is following a rule, though, isn’t living promiscuously just following a different rule?
It’s true that a person could be inconstant about his or her principles: He or she might live chastely one month and unchastely the next. However, changing between principles over time doesn’t change the fact that, at any given time, he or she has a certain principle for sexual living.
My point, getting back to Mumford & Sons, is that every person is tethered to doctrine of some sort or another. Honestly, there’s no way to do anything without being incidentally tethered to some kind of doctrine. Even the famously random game Calvinball, from the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes”, follows the doctrine of never playing the same way twice.
A person can say that he or she wants “freedom from doctrine,” but what he or she really (unintentionally) means is that he or she wants a greater variety of doctrines to which he or she might tether himself or herself.
As of recently, I’m Catholic, so the principles which I believe and by which live are pretty clearly laid out. I became Catholic because I came to believe that the teachings of the Catholic Church are true, and I decided to tether myself to them.
To conclude, I’d like to pose a question to you, dear readers: To what doctrines do you tether yourselves, and why?
Writer’s note: Each week, this feature will focus on a topic from the perspective of someone in a particular spiritual belief tradition, whether definitely theistic (belief in God/gods/et cetera), maybe theistic (possible but unnecessary belief in God or gods), or decidedly secular. If you’re interested in contributing, contact Christian Stillings or The Lawrentian

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Thank God for Pope Francis

If my assessment of Pope Francis is correct, then I believe that the Conclave of Cardinals could not have been other than divinely inspired.
As I reflect upon the election of the new Pope, I cannot help but believe that it was in every respect, divinely inspired. Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the perfect man for the contemporary Papacy. His concern for the poor and marginalized, his manifest love of people, and his authentic life of poverty and simplicity have already begun to restore credibility to a Church injured by scandal. Through his loving and faith-filled presence, people can see the Holy Spirit alive in the Church and they express their excitement about him openly. Virtually every homily and statement he makes includes a reference to the unconditional mercy and love of God—so central to his own spiritual life. I think the Church’s image and reality will begin to shine through this open, friendly, transparent, humble, loving presence who does not shy away from the press or the outside world.
Pope Francis brings a host of other gifts and talents along with his authentic spiritual presence. He is a true intellectual who has completed graduate work in chemistry, and has a high regard and capability for scientific inquiry. He has also done graduate studies in philosophy and doctoral studies in theology (in Germany) and is fluent in six languages (Spanish, Latin, Italian, German, French, and English). He is capable of engaging in and dialoguing with the scientific and academic worlds, and will be an outstanding leader in the intellectual evangelization efforts initiated by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. This will be very important to the Church in Europe and North America which have become increasingly beleaguered by unbelief—particularly among their younger members.
Pope Francis has published ten books on spiritual conversion, political and economic philosophy in the age of globalization, and philosophy of education. This gives him a remarkably deep preparation to lead the Church in both the northern and southern hemispheres. He will be an outstanding guide in helping to resolve problems of global economic inequalities, social injustice, and violations of fundamental human rights.
He also has a firm foundation in the fundamental principles governing the culture of life and the sanctity of marriage. He has articulated well his position against abortion, contraception, and same sex parenting, all of which he believes disorient and undermine the human heart as well as world culture. For Pope Francis, culture is a dynamic spirit within society that ought to be calling us to our highest selves (self-sacrificial love reflecting the transcendent dignity and mystery in which we are created) and away from our lower selves that mire us in narcissism. I think our new Pope will present a significant challenge to the current direction of world culture, and will be a light of Christ’s truth to the world.
Pope Francis has more than an abundance of administrative experience. He became Provincial Superior of the Jesuits in Argentina only five years after his ordination, and was Superior of the major seminary for many years after that. He has been Archbishop of Argentina for fifteen years, and has held many different leadership positions within the College of Cardinals and the international community of Bishops. He not only has vast administrative experience; but is also capable of using it wisely and strongly. He is not afraid to challenge or confront Church or secular leaders when he believes that improvements need to be made. It has been widely commented that the Roman Curia is in serious need of reorganization, and that some of the fiefdoms and bureaucratic centers need both realignment and “fresh minds.” Pope Francis seems to have the unique combination of deep respect and love for his colleagues as well as the “no nonsense approach to leadership” that will be indispensable for one of the most important tasks of his Papacy.
All this—and an Argentinian Jesuit besides!! I do not think we can underestimate the importance of having a Pope from Latin America (where 50 percent of the world’s Catholics reside) and who is also from the Southern Hemisphere which represents a part of the world in which the Catholic Church is growing at a very rapid rate. Furthermore, I see Pope Francis’ Jesuit background as a great strength. He brings to the papacy a deeply appropriated Ignatian contemplative spirit, a deep love of the Church (inspired by St. Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises), a life authentically committed to the preferential option for the poor, and a love of intellectual repartee (which he has no doubt contended with at the Jesuit dinner table for decades). I think this makes him deeply spiritual, flexible, pastorally engaging, intellectual, and in some senses, fearless.
If my assessment of Pope Francis is correct, then I believe that the Conclave of Cardinals could not have been other than divinely inspired. The gifts that this extraordinary man brings to the Church will be indispensable to its future—both within and outside of it. Both Catholics and non-Catholics would be well-advised to pray for his long life and his continued inspiration by the Holy Spirit.

The Resurrection

MARCH 30, 2013

Our Lord entered Jerusalem to battle more than a human enemy

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By Father George Rutler

There is a moral difference between sight and perception, just as there is between height and stature. Someone with 20/20 vision may be blind to reality, and a very tall man may be a moral midget. There is also a difference between clock time, which measures days, and moral time which measures destiny. When Christ said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23), He was not looking at an hour glass but at the Cross. That is why he prayed, “Yet what should I say? ‘Father save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour” (John 12:27).

Time can drag when there is nothing to do, but it speeds by when there is a goal to be met. In His human nature, Christ was “troubled” because he could anticipate the physical pain ahead, and He knew that it would peak chronologically at High Noon on Friday, but his moral victory was already secured in another kind of time: “Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out” (John 12:31). Satan, of whom He speaks, had tried to block this hour because he thinks only in terms of daily existence rather than eternal life.

From this perspective, our Lord meant more than physical distance when he spoke of going “up” to Jerusalem. The Sea of Galilee is about 700 feet below sea level, the lowest fresh-water lake in the world. Jerusalem is 2500 feet above sea level, and the “hill” of Calvary added a few more feet to that, and the Cross was high on top of that hill. But He would be lifted beyond measure: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (John 12:32).

The paradox of Christ's Passion is that he had to go down in order to go up: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (John 12:24). He spoke shockingly of losing our life if we love it and preserving it for eternal life if we hate it (cf. John 12:25). By hatred He meant neglect of the moral measure of what we are. To try to preserve existence and attain great heights without risking our lives and being humbled for the sake of love, is simply to shrivel up. In a spiritual journal that George Washington faithfully kept, he prayed for protection against “an unwillingness to depart this life” which would cast him “into a spiritual slumber.” 

Our Lord entered Jerusalem to battle more than a human enemy, and on an immeasurable scale he won the greatest of all victories when the Hour came.

Father Rutler is Pastor of the Church of Our Saviour in New York City. Illustration by Roman Koltuniuk.


 Read a great comment below:
"I’m unaware of any Eastern Orthodox sources which expect or encourage Orthodox Christians who struggle with SSA (same sex attraction) to undergo counseling for the purpose of re-orientation. The Orthodox faith does not teach us that God created us to be heterosexual, he created us to be chaste. For some this means a life without sexual relations, and for some this means a life of sexual relations with exactly one person through the sacrament of marriage. Thus, if one is not one of the latter, then one is of the former and it doesn’t especially matter if your struggle to live a chaste life means battling SSA or battling heterosexual lusts, the struggle is precisely the same.
But then, I don’t know of sources in the EOC which are saying that “being gay” is a sin, only that engaging in sexual acts outside of sacramental marriage is a sin. So, I think that one can acknowledge the struggle, accept that without God’s radical grace it is unlikely to ever go away, but still understand that — just like everyone else — you have an obligation to live a chaste life.
So, I think I would compare SSA more to alcoholism than to blindness. Blindness may in fact be a consequence of The Fall, but there’s no culpability in being blind (John 9). Alcoholism is also a disease, also a consequence of The Fall, but it is a disease which comes with culpability. If I know I am an alcoholic, I _cannot_ drink. Even if I go 20 years sober, I am _still_ an alcoholic. There is no known cure, there is only “living sober”. The point isn’t to somehow stop having the “condition”, only to not fall into the act of will which triggers the consequences.
But even better, I’d compare it to being straight. Straight men can fall into lust just as easily as someone struggling with SSA — and there is no difference between the two. There’s no real need to compare SSA to anything or to make it out to be “something special”. At the end of the day, it isn’t anything “special”. We all have our struggles. In some ways, a big obvious struggle is a blessing. Many of my sins are not quite so easy for me to see and may go unrepented and unresisted for decades.
I think Fr. Hopko’s writing and speaking on the subject are about as correct as can be. It isn’t about “being straight” it is about being chaste.
If you haven’t heard this lecture, please check it out, it is fantastic. confess that I find phrases like this troubling: “For me loving my neighbor means accepting them for where they are at.” But, I admit that the reason for this is that our wider culture uses phrases like this to mean “don’t judge” not in the Biblical sense of not condemning people, but in the sense of pretending that right and wrong are a purely personal matter. I think I am beginning to see that you don’t mean it that way, but I would (gently) encourage you to avoid language that the secular culture uses around this topic — especially language popular with the LGBT community which wants to insist that Christianity is teaching “hate” simply because we insist that sex is a moral issue just like every other aspect of human life."

Marriage is about Nature and Biology

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By George WeigelThe Marriage Debate III: the nature of things
Jan. 30, 2013 - Cardinal Francis George of Chicago is, arguably, the most intellectually accomplished bishop in the history of the American episcopate. Earlier this year, when the Illinois Legislature began to consider changing state law to “accommodate those of the same sex who wish to ‘marry’ one another” (as the cardinal put it), Professor Dr. George gave the readers of his column in the Chicago archdiocesan newspaper a lesson in metaphysics—and, I suspect, a high-voltage intellectual jolt:
“Sexual relations between a man and a woman are naturally and necessarily different from sexual relations between same-sex partners. This truth is part of the common sense of the human race. It was true before the existence of either Church or State, and it will continue to be true when there is no state of Illinois and no United States of America. A proposal to change this truth about marriage in civil law is less a threat to religion than it is an affront to human reason and the common good of society. It means we are all to pretend to accept something we know is physically impossible. The Legislature might just as well repeal the law of gravity.”
The crucial term here is “naturally.” And if people were shocked by the cardinal’s suggestion that a same-sex “marriage” law would be as fatuous as a statute repealing the law of gravity, it’s because our philosophically-challenged culture has lost any grip on what “nature” means, beyond that physical world we venerate through such civic rituals as recycling.
There is little sense of the givenness of things, in the 21st-century postmodern West. And where there is no culturally-affirmed conviction that some realities simply are, there will be a parallel intuition that everything is fungible, plastic, malleable: anything can be changed by an act of will. The legal ne plus ultra of this cultural phenomenon came in 2007, when the Spanish government allowed Juan to become Juanita on his/her national identity card by simply declaring (absent any surgical alteration) that he was now she. Cardinal George was suggesting, correctly in my view, that same-sex “marriage” is the same, essentially incoherent denial of givenness manifest in Spain’s Law 3/2007.
In his Christmas address to the Roman Curia last December, Pope Benedict XVI raised similar issues.  We deplore the “manipulation of nature” today “where our environment is concerned,” the pope noted; but when it comes to human affairs, human “nature” has become a matter of our “choice.” Which means that we no longer experience ourselves as unique composites of matter and spirit. The “matter” of our humanness is mere ephemera; we are merely, as Benedict put it, “spirit and will.”
Who are the big losers, the pope asked, when societies and cultures lose their grip on the reality that “man and women are complementary versions of what it means to be human”? The family is certainly a loser: for if there is no “duality of man and women” that is accepted as the Way Things Are, than “neither is the family any longer a reality” established by anything other than our willfulness.
The biggest losers, though, are children, the pope argued. If children are simply a lifestyle choice in a “family” that is nothing other than a willed arrangement for mutual convenience, children lose their rightful place and their rightful dignity. Citing the chief rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, Benedict argued that children are, in this bizarre new world, no longer the subject of rights. Rather, “the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain.” The freedom to be creative, which finds its most awesome expression in procreation, has been reduced to the freedom to create myself, however I imagine myself to be.
The marriage debate is thus about more than the legal definition of marriage, although that is serious enough. It’s a debate about whether there are any givens in the human condition, or whether willfulness and self-assertion trump reality at every point. If they do, what happens to democracies built on self-evident truths?
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Weigel’s column is distributed by theDenver Catholic Register, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Phone: 303-715-3215.