Okay, with Christmas and the press of business and social galavanting, let me revise…I will get on schedule after the first of the year. Oh, the pieces on Bishop Finn, Pelianito, The End of Prophecy are all still coming. I have a little story to tell today that, I think, is relevant to these times. Mainly, I am excited because my son is coming out next week with my granddaughter and we will spend a few days in a cabin in the mountains. I am eager to introduce him to all my friends here in Colorado. It also gives me a great excuse to publish the accompanying photo of him.
It was done by his police department as part of some public service thing they are doing. Alas, Chaz always tells people he is a younger, handsomer, more studly version of me. While I argue about it sometimes, this picture definitely doesn’t help my case. Actually, I concede all the former to him, but argued for a time that I was more charming…but that has gotten to be pretty much of a wash, too. It’s heck to be coming on the downward slope of your capabilities while trying to stay competitive with one who is easily traversing the upward slope of his. On the bright side, there is no one I would rather see surpass me in all competitive areas than this son of mine.
I have been disheartened at the reaction of almost every Catholic commentator to the release of the “Senate” report on torture. I somehow missed the rule that if you are going to be a Catholic commentator you are required to be a naieve, credulous dupe. For crying out loud, even the Democrats and the establishment media know that this is not an actual Senate report, but a partisan smear job mounted exclusively by Democrats in the Senate as a parting shot at the old Bush administration. No Republicans participated in its preparation after it was made clear they would interview no one nor examine anything that contradicted their preferred narrative. This is a report that is related to torture in the same way Rolling Stone Magazine’s UVA story hoax is related to rape. It is a fraud designed to advance an agenda.
It brought home to me, though, how complete is the degeneration of public Christian commentators into reflexive, relentless pacifism. Christianity has always had a pacifist streak – it is why Islam had already taken all of Spain and Portugal and huge chunks of Christian Europe in their first effort to wipe Christianity from the face of the earth before Christians got around to mounting the Crusades to defend the faith – and the faithful. But the retreat into reflexive pacifism under all circumstances is not serious – either philosophically or theologically. It is merely smug moral posturing.
One can disagree on how the martial Christian spirit should be calibrated, but I tell you bluntly, there are two poles in this debate which will face a harsh accounting before God. Those whose patriotism expresses itself as, “kill them all and let God sort ’em out,” will not fare well. But those who think they can evade responsibility for refusing to physically defend those under assault when they could have by piously telling the Lord that they have no blood on their hands will find they are equally rejected. I will have a piece on this soon, but I encourage you to start thinking on this matter seriously and with gravity – and pray on it. The decisions involved in it are not going to be theoretical for anyone much longer. You better have a better answer in store than just to strike out in revenge or to sit watching your neighbor butchered while you refuse to get your hands dirty. Neither of those options is the next right step.
Now my little story. Back in 2000, or maybe 2001, all of a sudden our apartment was suddenly infested with fleas. It was nightmarish. They were everywhere, jumping and dancing and carrying on. I figured they had come from the cat.
Most of my son’s friends liked to come to our apartment to play video games and hang around. I would play Tiger Woods Golf and Madden Football with them fairly frequently. We often had tournaments – and the boys would regularly borrow books from my extensive stocks, often asking for recommendations. But it was so bad, no one could bear to be there. One of my son’s buddies, Doug, (who once came on vacation with us), said, “Dude, you gotta do something!”
Problem was, I was doing everything I could. I thought I was going to go bankrupt with all the flea powder and baths I was getting. I used the baths on the cat while getting enough powder for both the cat and to blanket the carpet. I don’t know, I must have got a lot of defective batches – for it acted like it was some sort of OrthoGro for fleas. The problem just got worse. I got three flea collars to put on the cat – all together. The fleas congregated there, dancing and carrying on. It was like a flea night club. I was convinced if I looked at it through a microscope it would resemble the original Star Wars bar scene. It had gotten to the point that, wherever we walked, a cloud of fleas would be jumping before us from the carpet. I was at my wits’ end.
We were right on the verge of the beginning of my annual Novena to the Immaculate Conception. I have been a bit bemused to discover that, for many visionaries, heavenly visitors come to them on a regular schedule. I am not sure whether to be flattered or insulted, but mine just drop by whenever the mood strikes them. I would ask, but I have not indulged any mere idle curiosity with them since I was in my teens. They will tell me what I need to know. But there are two days of the year when they fairly regularly visit – during the Immaculate Conception (more often on the Eve than the Feast Day) and on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes. There were five consecutive Easters they visited me, but otherwise, it is more like the cousin two doors down who comes when the spirit moves him. I figured this was so inexplicable that maybe the Lord intended something for me in it.
I get annoyed, sometimes even angry, when people spurn God’s ordinary means of healing, insisting they will only accept His supernatural means. I know they think it an act of faith. I think it an act of arrogant presumption. God made all things, natural and supernatural, thus all healing comes from Him. But I think we are called to take full advantage of the natural means He provided us – while praying – and without spurning either one or the other of His means. So what I did was to get rid of all flea powders, baths, and collars from the house. I told my son what I was going to do and then I prayed, “Lord, you know I accept whatever you send me. For the course of this Novena, I am going to get rid of all ordinary means of dealing with this problem. If you have something you intend for me in this, please show me. If not, I will resume the normal means after the Novena, trusting that you will help me and show me in Your time.”
By the third day of the Novena, the fleas were gone. I don’t just mean dead; I mean gone. I vacuumed the carpet. Previously, during this period, when vacuuming, I would get more than a cupful of dead fleas. This time, there were none. Gone completely. Young Charlie’s friend, Doug, was over a few days later and asked in astonishment what we had done. He figured we would have to evacuate for a month to fumigate that infestation away. Charlie gave a sly grin and said, “Dad has a special treatment he used.” Still amazed, Doug said I should bottle and sell it – I’d make a fortune. Charlie grinned and said it was a one-time treatment.
On the Feast Day, sure enough, the Lord, Himself, appeared to me. That always bears extra significance. Solemnly, He said, “He is not lord of the flies; he is merely lord of the fleas – and he flees before me.” I should have been completely awestruck, but it was a REALLY bad pun, so I cracked a smile. Normally, when He says something that tickles me, He gives me a sly smile in recognition of it. Not this time. His face reflected His utter contempt for the satan. And then He was gone.
We never had fleas again. And that cat never had a flea collar or any such treatment again. He was impervious to them. We were in a field once – and my son and I marveled to see fleas jumping on him and falling right back off. I have had one other cat since then. Fleas would not go near it, either. It seems strange, kind of ridiculous even. But I found, over time, on three occasions it had profound significance for me – revealed something I would not have otherwise understood. I better understood the solemnity of the pronouncement.
Now, as the world looks each day more and more like a brick house that has been saturated with some substance that eats the mortar holding it together, I think of that in yet another light. People fear what must come. We count on the things we have made to rescue us. It’s over…the things that once were useful have lost their potency. The only thing that will do is complete surrender. And then all will be well. There is no cause to fear satan. He is not lord of the flies, only lord of the fleas – and he flees before the Lord.
I hope it won’t increase my time in purgatory, but I still think it was an atrocious pun.