Wednesday, December 13, 2017

When You Find Yourself On Third Base Thinking You Hit A Triple

At my men's group on Tuesday one of the guys made us aware of something he heard in a sermon , something that has stayed with me all week. He was visiting a church in a suburb of Annapolis with his family where the pastor addressed the congregation of comfortable, white, upper middle class Presbyterians: "You guys are on third base here thinking you hit a triple."

I'm not a big sports guy, but I know the gist of what he was getting at, because I have thought it myself: we can't always take full credit for where we are in life when we neglect to see what and who have gotten us there.

I can only look at my own situation for reference. One example of something I take for granted on a daily basis is the fact that my parents have been married, happily, for almost forty years. I grew up in an intact home that was loving and supportive. My father was active, involved, and emotionally available. I forget that today this is the exception and not the norm. My baggage from childhood was minimal, and as a result I have not had to overcome the kind of emotional and physical trauma that children of divorce have just to get back to zero. To my parent's credit, they gutted out difficult times in their marriage because, as they said, "divorce was never an option." I have benefitted from that childhood stability in a way I don't think I can even quantify. Seeing what a good and healthy marriage was growing up, I didn't bring a ton of crap into my own marriage.

Another point is that financially, we were never in need. My parents were both teachers and my dad was a saver. We always worked growing up, sure, but my dad would get up with us on Sunday mornings when the newspapers were heaviest and drive us around to deliver them. We borrowed their car, and we always had a safety net if we needed it. He had saved for our college education and so I had no debt when I graduated. As a result I was able to volunteer and travel for a year and discern the possibility of religious life without having to worry about paying back loans. My dad taught me about earning, saving, and investing, among many other life skills that people growing up without a father miss out on.

The list could go on--good health, social standing, career opportunities. Etc.

Now, this can go a couple ways. The one is that I could feel a sense of guilt because of this degree of privilege and try to assuage it in various ways that are largely based in identity politics based on race, class, or gender. The other is to deny any privilege at all and instead focus on accomplishments and work/personal merit irrespective of where I came from.

I don't think guilt is super helpful--it tends to immobilize rather than move forward. Nor do I think a kind of naive dismissal of such privilege is either, since it turns a blind eye to the advantages that moved us along. I think what is good is simply to acknowledge that people have paved the way for many of us--we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. That includes our parents, our grandparents, our ancestors, our forefathers, our communities, those who have fought to preserve our freedom, those who have left homelands to come to new shores, those who have been jailed and beaten for opposing unjust laws, those who have refused to sacrifice to idols and paid with their lives and set an example for us to follow in faith.  We all have to play with the hands we are dealt, and not all are dealt the same hand.

There are two examples I like to turn to in scripture to reconcile the approach to wealth and opportunity.

The first is the story of the rich young ruler, in Mark 10:17-27--a sincere but self-assured young man of privilege who excels in adherence to the law but finds himself tied to his possessions and unable to carry out what Jesus asks of him; that is, to "sell all you have and give to the poor and follow me" (Mk 10:21).

The second is Joseph of Arimathea, also a "rich man" and a disciple of Jesus (Mt 27:57). He assumed the cost and responsibility of Jesus' burial. He asked Pilate to be given the body of Jesus, and he wraps him in a clean linen cloth and lays the body in his own new tomb, which had hewn in the rock (v 59-60). He did not hold tight to his resources but used what he had for the sake of the Lord. As a result he did a great service to him, and did not go away sad the way the rich young ruler did.

It's low hanging fruit to rail against the rich and automatically canonize the poor, but both have a place in God's economy, for as St. John Chrysostom said, “The rich exist for the sake of the poor, and the poor exist for the salvation of the rich.” Like Joseph of Arimathea, let's not get paralyzed by guilt or disdainful of such privileges, but use what has been passed down to us, those material and life benefits, for the sake of the Lord and our brothers and sisters rather than hoard it to ourselves in a sad and lonely manner. We can't take it with us to the afterlife...but it can sure by put to good use here.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Practicing Christian Hospitality Takes Practice

My mom has the gift of hospitality. Naturally friendly and extroverted, she has a warm disposition and a knack for making people feel welcome--family, friends, and strangers.

I haven't inherited the gift they way one might inherit certain genes. I'm more like the kid that needs to struggle to get B's in school, relying on work, grit, and repetition when it comes to hospitality. Nevertheless, welcoming people has become a very important part of our family's spiritual DNA, and so we make conscious choices to practice this hospitality every opportunity we get.

I've written about our friends Dan and Missy and how they exemplify this kind of virtue. We have learned just by being around them and being on the receiving end of what "open hands, open hearts, and open doors" looks like.

In the spiritual economy, the corporal works of mercy are like the one, five, and ten dollar bills that seem insignificant but over time accumulate and build wealth. It takes time, effort, and resources to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked,  shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit those in prison, and bury the dead. It is the meat and potatoes, the nuts and bolts, of authentic Christian life. For Christ says, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me" (Mt 25:35) and this is how we will be judged.

We practice the works of mercy because we often do it imperfectly; seeking recognition, losing our tempers, cursing the poor under our breath, complaining or making excuses. As our old pastor used to say, practice doesn't make perfect; practice makes permanent. And living a permanent, embedded life of Christian virtue doesn't just happen--it takes a lot of starts and stops sometimes before it becomes habit, and, hopefully, second nature.

But why hospitality specifically, and what does it look like in practice? We try to take a Benedictine approach, not explicitly, but just loosely based on the 53rd chapter of the Rule that says:

"All guests who present themselves are to be received as Christ."

God blessed us with a house, and in thanksgiving we desire to use it for His glory. Our home is our kind of "domestic monastery" where we serve as porters and cooks, guest masters and sacristans. It's where we can welcome strangers and feed hungry people, fill their spirits with water, wine, and iced tea; offer a bed for the weary and those in transition and traveling.

It's also where we can practice the spiritual work of mercy of Comforting the Afflicted and Counseling the Doubtful at our kitchen table, when a friend who was struggling in life and her faith rang us up late at night for help and came over. Deb also had an idea of how to Instruct the Ignorant and Pray for the Living and the Dead by having all our nieces and nephews over for a night of food and games, giving each of them a rosary and Miraculous Medal on the way home. We hosted young out of town couples unable to afford lodging while getting medical treatments for their babies at area hospitals and were blessed by their presence in our home.

Hospitality is a powerful witness, because it shows in deeds genuine love and concern for a brother or sister, mimicking the servant Christ who washed his disciples feet (Jn 13:1-7). It doesn't seek repayment but offers rest; it is slow to speak, yet eager and willing to listen; it subverts temptations we have towards self-seeking, and puts Christ in the stranger/friend/guest at the seat of honor. It is apologetic, since it is not without rhyme or reason why we love and serve, but gives witness instead only because He first loved us and showed us what love is and looks like (1 Jn 4:19). We are only passing on what we have received.

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it." (Heb 13:2). If you want to show the love of Christ to someone, don't underestimate the practice of Christian hospitality. Open your home to the stranger and those who can't repay you; offer your tea and table to those who need an ear to listen; cook for more than you have, and always keep a place setting reserved for unexpected guests. Remember, practice makes permanent. By this practice, you are able to offer room at the inn for the Christ child, who comes by night in disguise.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Gift Of Work

My wife and I have a joke that she "bought low, and sold high" when we met. "You had a history of mental illness, no car, no job, no definite prospects, and you were living in a school bus," she said, "but I prayed for someone who was resourceful. Plus, I knew you were the one."

It was an experimental point in my life in Fall of 2008--trying new things, doing things I've always wanted to do, and stepping out. Part of that was trying on 'semi-retirement' at age 28, which practically consisted of quitting my job as a caseworker (without another lined up), living off my savings, and working on writing a book. I had the opportunity to do so, which I know not everyone has. I moved (from the school bus, as it wasn't, ahem, working out so well) into a spare bedroom in an apartment with a friend from grad school. I payed $150/month, had minimal expenses, and at first I enjoyed the unstructured and expansive days of leisure--walking to the donut shot for a coffee and a Boston creme, writing when I felt like it, going for walks, volunteer tutoring, and taking naps.

The fact is, though, I wasn't especially happy with this kind of idyllic setup. It wore off quick. The more time I seemed to have, the less I wrote. I wasn't spending much, but I wasn't pulling in anything either. The unstructured nature of most of my days was a little unnerving. Granted, I was unemployed for a few months by choice, but it wasn't all it was cracked up to be. By the time Debbie and I met in February of 2009, I wanted to work again, and got a job shortly thereafter.

I have always worked. I delivered newspapers, getting up at 4 in the morning before school, from age 12-18. In high school and college I waited tables and washed dishes. Summers I worked in greenhouses, propane factories, canoe rentals, architectural blueprint editing, filing, swimming pool maintenance, bar-backing--anything to stay busy and make some money.

Work is edifying. For men, it is tied up in our identity--work is what we do, what we are called to do,  and it ties in with where we draw our dignity and sense of self from. Men are nearly twice as likely to have mental health problems due to being unemployed than womenYoung, single, idle men in developing countries are prime candidates for radical extremist groups to recruit. As Pope St. John Paul II wrote in Laborem Exercens,

“From the beginning therefore he [man] is called to work. Work is one of the characteristics that distinguish man from the rest of creatures, whose activity for sustaining their lives cannot be called work. Only man is capable of work, and only man works, at the same time by work occupying his existence on earth. Thus work bears a particular mark of man and of humanity, the mark of a person operating within a community of persons. And this mark decides its interior characteristics; in a sense it constitutes its very nature.” 

Physical work is especially good for me as well, both for my body and my mind. Yesterday I spent a full eight hour day sawing, hammering, and building a chicken coop and run for some chickens we got. At the end of the day I was wiped, and my back was aching from all the bending and lifting. But I felt good, and accomplished. I had created something, done something, and I had the soreness and calluses to prove it.  I felt like I earned my sleep. I tend to calculate my 'opportunity cost' with things--is such-and-such worth my time? Is it too much hassle? I was feeling this way with the chickens--it was tempting to just pay a couple hundred bucks for a pre-made coop. But I knew I had the necessary skills and tools, as well as scrap lumber I'd been wanting to get rid of. It was slightly daunting at first, as it was all new territory for me, but it got done and I'll be honest: I was pretty satisfied. If I would have balked at the hard work involved and shelled out the money for one that was already made, I wouldn't have had that satisfaction.

All work has dignity--whether you clean office suites or run a Fortune 500 company. Whatever you do, do it well. Work is good for us, good for our spirits, and unemployment for many people (but especially men) can be demoralizing and jeopardize mental well-being. I have a new appreciation for work after not working in my late twenties for a couple months. I see the opportunity to work more as a gift than an burden (though it can be that as well), and am grateful for it. Gratefulness breeds happiness, and happy people are grateful people. Whatever the work, whatever responsibility you are entrusted with, use it to glorify God, and to earn your keep.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Somewhere Between Sedevacantism and "Old" Catholicism Lies...the Truth

One of the most interesting topics for me in grad school was learning about the various heresies that ran their course throughout the history of Christendom. We didn't delve deep, but being introduced to the false teachings of Arianism, Gnosticism, Donatism, Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism--movements that gained considerable traction among their followers and who often sought a purer or more authentic expression of theology and belief--I was almost sympathetic to their plight. Almost.

It reminds me of 9th grade Geometry and learning about vectors--a quantity that has both magnitude and direction. A vector starts out diverging from a point and is maybe a few millimeters away from its starting point. But the father it goes and with the greater the magnitude, by the time you end, you are a long way from home.

Whereas much of the early heresies sprung from false teachings about the nature of Christ, or the efficacy of the Sacraments, or sin, grace, and salvation, the steam that seems to propel the dominant schismatic branches today revolve around that of authority and legitimacy; specifically, the authority and legitimacy of the pope.

(*Note: I'm JV when it comes to Theology. I'm not especially smart, and struggled my way through grad school. I have no desire or time to get into the weeds on the particularities of these issues. I'm just laying them out in a rudimentary fashion to lay basic groundwork.)

On the traditionalist side, you have Sedevacantists--those who hold that the popes of the modern era since Pope Pius XII died in 1958 were not validly elected, and that the chair of Peter has been effectively vacant since then.

On the uber-liberal side, you have (as one example) the so-called "Old Catholicism" that denies the infallibility of the pope and split from the Catholic Church as a schismatic sect in the late 19th century. They highlight that they hold valid apostolic succession, but they are not in communion with Rome.

Both consider themselves true Catholics, not schismatics. Both consider their ordinations true and valid. Both think the Catholic Church left them, not the other way around.

I'm not as familiar or versed in sedevacantism, but we do have an Old Catholic church near us. It tries to pass itself off as Catholic in form and if you didn't know any better on the surface walking in you might think it was (aside from their ordinations of women and blessing of homosexuality). For some people who want the kind of comfort of a religious faith without all the trappings of authority and obedience, I suppose it holds an allure. But I find it deceptive and offensive. They have all the trappings of Catholicism without the only thing that matters--the Truth.

Though I have never been seriously tempted to leave the Catholic faith for other pastures (Orthodoxy, Protestantism, "independent" churches), it is a very fine line to walk sometimes when it comes to submission, humility, obedience, authority, and assent. I have some assurance in the fact that I can't just walk down to my local Donatist church (or Arian, Gnostic, etc), since they died out long ago. But where old heresies die out, new ones move in to take their place.

I also trust that the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church and keeping her from error, til the end of time. That's a big wager. Truth is a funny thing. It endures when the dross burns away. It also stands by itself. There are truths and there is Truth. The spirit of the age asks, like Pilate, "What is Truth?" But as Catholics we know.

Faith is a gift of grace, and it takes trust too, to not set yourself up as your own magisterium. As the Catechism states on the true Magisterium, the teaching body of the Church, “It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error…. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals.” (CCC, 890)

I think it's unfortunate and tragic when we are not unified. I pray constantly for the Holy Spirit not to lead me astray, and try to set guardrails to ensure that: studying the Catechism; having orthodox mentors and spiritual directors; regular prayer, Adoration, and Confession, and maintaining balance between extremes. And throwing myself on the mercy of God and learning to listen to the quiet whispers of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Sins of Neglect

I'm not a monk or an oblate by vocation, and I don't live by a formal Rule. But the writings of St. Benedict are in my blood, so oriented to common sense and moderation is he that I can't help but remember sections here and there in my daily life.

I was reminded of the 43rd Chapter of the Rule ("On Those Who Come Late To The Work of God or to Table"), this morning:

"At the hour for the Divine Office, as soon as the signal is heard, let them abandon whatever they may have in hand and hasten with the greatest speed, yet with seriousness, so that there is no excuse for levity. Let nothing, therefore, be put before the Work of God." (Rule, Chap 43)

I had gotten up at 5am, like I do most mornings. My intention was to go to daily Mass, and I had plenty of time to do so. But I got an idea for something to write, and so I sat down to bang it out before I left out of the house. I knew in the back of my mind that wasn't totally realistic, and I was proved right: 5:30 rolled around, then 5:45, then 6 o'clock, and by the time I looked up it was too late---I wouldn't make it to Mass on time.

What I should have done was obvious--shut down the computer mid-sentence at 6 o'clock and gotten ready--but I didn't. It was a strange and subtle temptation, one that said in as many words "What you're doing is too important to leave. You can always go tomorrow or something." At the root was pride, and a neglect of priorities. Something was put before the Work of God, and it had no merit when it stood in the shadow of the altar.

It's hard--but absolutely necessary--to obey the word of God as soon as you hear it. Just as sexual temptation needs to be dealt with swiftly and mercilessly, uprooted as soon as it sprouts in the heart before it has a chance to send down roots, so to with whatever particular circumstance we find ourselves in yoked in obedience.

What did the Devil ultimately accomplish this morning? He kept me from the Eucharist and from worship, from discipline and nourishment, from forgiveness of sin and replacing it with sin itself.

Now, you might be saying, "it's not a sin to not go to daily Mass" and you would be right. But in this particular circumstance, I knew that I was not obeying the Holy Spirit, I knew I was being prideful, and I knew that God was making it possible by circumstance to go and I was ignoring the invitation in favor of something frivolous. That's saying no to God, and that is sin! I am not scrupulous, but it was clear, at this subtle level, that I had committed sin, and felt shame. Not in a neurotic kind of way...just in a way that recognized that I was not doing what was right, what God was calling me to, in that moment.

I'm not advanced in the spiritual life, but the subtleties are starting to show a little more now that the brusqueness of mortal and serious sin has been confessed and forgiven, and I'm attuning to those other imperfections and offenses that are not as glaringly obvious. The things we regard as little and harmless are in fact the opposite in God's eyes. As St Teresa of Avila said,

“Always be fearful if you do not feel sorry for the faults you commit, for even venial sin ought to fill you with sorrow to the very depths of your soul…. For the love of God, take care not to commit any deliberate venial sin, even the smallest…. And can anything be small if it offends God?” (Conceptions of the Love of God 2 – Way of Perfection 41)

A prayer I love is David's heartfelt request: "Search me, God, and know my heart. Test me, and know my anxious ways" (Ps 139:23), as well as the words of James, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you" (James 1:5).

Little things are big things to God, and big things to us are little things to Him. Make a habit of not brushing off those subtle convictions, when you know what you did was not right and not in obedience. That's why we have a conscience! Don't be afraid to go to Confession to confess venial sins, not in a spirit of neurosis or scrupulosity, but trusting in the mercy of God to bind up your wounds and heal your imperfections. Don't hesitate, for "if today you hear His voice, harden not your heart!" (Ps 95:1-2)

"For who knows a person's thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God." 
(1 Cor 2:11)

The Neighborhood

In college I took a Sociology class as an elective titled "Race Relations." It was one of the most popular classes at Penn State with one of the most popular (and liberal) professors, Sam Richards. It was your quintessential revelatory experience for a college sophomore, and that Christmas I gave my dad one of the textbooks (Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria by Beverly Tatum) as a gift. It was a question I had asked myself when I would see groups of black students hanging out in the HUB during lunch.

When I got back from my semester abroad in New Zealand my senior year, racial relations on campus were tense, and there were regular protests. I joined the Black Caucus and went to meetings to try to understand what was going on from a perspective outside my own and what black students on campus were experiencing.

I had a friend in the DC area I would visit after college who lived in an apartment complex in Silver Spring. I don't know enough about the area to know if it was accurate but he described it as relatively homogenous "middle-class black neighborhood." Another friend I would visit in Capitol Hill described her neighborhood and parish in similar ways, though demographics were starting to shift in recent years (Msgr Pope writes about his experience here.)

I've been out of college for a while now but the simple question still comes to me as an adult when it comes to this complicated inter-sectionality of race, class, and culture: Just why are all the X kids sitting together at the lunch table?

Rod Dreher has an interesting and honest enough essay over at the American Conservative where he puts this question in a grown-up context, touching on the draw towards self-segregation.

"There’s nothing wrong with wanting neighborhood stability, and with wanting to live among people like yourself. As Harvard political scientist Bob Putnam found a decade ago — much to his own discomfort, as a liberal — the more ethnically diverse a neighborhood is, the less social trust there is among neighbors. This is simply a fact of human nature. Besides, people understandably find a sense of refuge and social solidarity living among those like themselves."

The racial component is one way we self-segregate, but there are others. It's been interesting how my Facebook feed and friends have evolved over the years, but most notably during the last year after the election when things got heated and toxic. I used to have a pretty eclectic grouping of people from all spectrums and backgrounds and political and religious thoughts and perspectives, but that has changed--my friends have thinned out. Some have unfriended me, and I've unfriended some people as well. I don't have as many contentious (and, ultimately, fruitless and frustrating) conversations anymore via social media.

Facebook is kind of like a virtual adult romper-room where grown-ups come to relax and play with each others, having conversations, sharing what they are reading, and posting pictures of their families and vacations. The kids aren't on it anymore (where they have gone too I have no idea), so the demographics have shifted, but on a macro level, and for me personally, on a micro level. And the truth of the matter behind that is--I got tired. I think my liberal friends were getting tired too, and respectively parted ways. My feed is not especially diverse; I hesitate to call it an echo chamber, but it can sound that way sometimes.

Another truth be told: I find myself a little bit more relaxed, a little bit less ill-at-ease, a little bit more...myself. Granted I'm not entertaining as many articles from the HuffPo or reading about my friends' fascination with alchemy or the Dakota pipeline projects as much. But I'm ok with that.

In the back of my mind I wonder--is this to my detriment? Am I becoming bigoted and close-minded? I feel like I've gotten closer to finding my tribe, and I recognize the limitations, but it's...nice. I don't have to pretend, I don't have to feel like I'm walking in a political or social landmine about to detonate something. My friends are supportive, we pray for each other, support each other, donate to each other's Catholic causes, and I can say that I am grateful for them. And after reading Dreher's essay, it feels like maybe it's just natural as well.

Facebook may not very well be the place for a "free exchange of ideas" with people we don't agree with or who have different views. I think we've lost a lot of the ability to respectively converse with people we disagree with, though I would say that is coming more from those on the left than on the right of the spectrum. The contentious "dialoguing" rarely seems to change anyone's mind about anything, it sucks time away from family and real life, and it just leaves you feeling...lousy.

I realize social media is a virtual community well of sorts: not real life, but not 'fake life' either. It can cause depression and loneliness. But it can also be edifying and mutually enriching to faith lives (like my own), and a shared sense of purpose and values among people spread out over a large geographic swath. I've met Facebook friends in "real time" and it's been awesome, and I never would have met them otherwise were it not for the platform.

People have been gathering into tribes and clans and nations for centuries. Is it possible--contrary to the progressive narrative--that this is, in fact, natural and human nature to want to be around "our own kind," however that looks? The racial narrative is a visible but narrow part of that, one of many groupings among lines. As Dreher writes about his experience at an elite boarding school in Louisiana,

"We were among our own. The sense of safety was like balm in Gilead — safety not in the sense that we would never have our ideas and beliefs challenged, but safety in the sense that you could let your guard down and be at ease with yourself, because you were among your own kind."

So, I've come to terms with losing friends, friends drifting away, and others organically coming onto the scene in this virtual social-media neighborhood.  I think my liberal friends who were antagonistic towards it are happier too that they are not constantly seeing my constant posts on religion and faith. I like to be challenged and entertain different perspectives, but it's also nice to just be yourself sometimes and not always feel like you have to self-censor. I recognize the limitations of a sort of homogenous tribalism, but everything is a tradeoff. I don't feel guilty about it anymore that I'm not "dialoguing" as much and truth be told, I'm happier. I worry about the echo-chamber effect sometimes, but I'm not out to change anyone's mind about anything, so maybe the focus and role of social media in my life has just shifted. And I'm ok with that.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What's Old Is New

I was an early adopter to minimalism. When my wife and I met in 2008 I was sleeping Japanese style on a futon mattress-topped tatami mat on the floor in the bedroom of my apartment. When I moved in after we got married at the age of 30, everything I owned fit in a Honda Civic.

I was only a couple years ahead of the minimalist movement, and of course some of it was due to budget, singledom, and mobile circumstance. It wasn't a bad thing either--I had divested myself of a lot of "stuff" when I moved into a schoolbus, and it was a cleansing kind of game to see how little I could live with in the way of possessions.

But now I'm going to make a prediction--restoration is going to trump renovation in the near future. The grandparents dying and the boomers downsizing and trying to foist off things onto their millennial children who "don't want their stuff" is creating a pennies-on-the-dollar flood of furnishings on Craigslist and thrift shops. The craftsmanship is unparalleled but the style passe. Young people prefer particleboard to hardwood, white to walnut, sleek to plush, so the demand is not there.

I'm not so young anymore. Yes, my parents were like many boomers who cut their square footage in half and had been holding things to grace us with that we didn't particularly want. Thankfully the timing worked well that were moving into a bigger space as my parents were moving into a smaller one. My wife's great aunt gave us a massive Japanese china set. We needed a China cabinet for it, and I found a beautiful one at a thrift store for next to nothing. I'd say 80% of our house is furnished with stuff that was free on Craigslist or given to us by my parents when they downsized, and it all seems to go as well, but the motif is more traditional. Our house was built in the 50's. It's cozy, a little messy, and feels nice and lived in. There are toys everywhere, toys people give us, presents at Christmas and birthdays, hardly anything we bought, it's a kind of organized chaos. As the proverb goes, "Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests." (Prov 14:4)

Everything that goes around comes around--what's out today is en vogue next year. My prediction? Mid-century is going to make a comeback. IKEA will still have it's place among college students and transients. But somewhere, at some point, people are going to wake up in their white room white couch white bed clean dustless childless quiet modern home and experience a curious longing for the forgotten comfort of grandmother's delicate tea sets, grandfather's tan armchairs, the soft yellow glow of incandescent lightbulbs, and yes, maybe even the extravagant opportune of a mahogany China cabinet. But it won't be there anymore except in the most high end of antique shops.

In many ways I fear the Faith I am caring for, trying so carefully to preserve, maintaining its integrity and instilling the rituals and remembrances in our family life as my children are young, will be rejected when they come of age. "Sorry dad," they will say, "we don't want your stuff." An old missal, a rosary polished from years of fingering--they'll become like cherry armoires and cast iron cookware: of no perceived use to them.

Everybody has their preferred style, but there is something to be said for a quality handmade chair, an old stone church, a set of steel hand tools because it carries with it a memory, a legacy, and a history. Non-denominationalism is the IKEA of worship and architecture today. It is modern, sleek, relevant, and sterile. It's roots do not run deep, it's foundation is like that of a vinyl-clad townhouse.

In the secular arena, modern progressives destroy everything they touch. They tear down with no real cohesive or thought-out plan of how to rebuild. They tear down the family and religion, statues and monuments, traditional sexual mores. They are impatient, and content to slap up temporary shanties until they can figure out what next thing comes next. Social change can't happen fast enough. Out with the old, in with the new, until new becomes old and then off to the dump again.

But things get destroyed in the process. Timeless things, priceless things--immortal souls, traditional families, rituals and connections to our past and our ancestors and predecessors.

My prediction goes beyond furniture and housewares, beyond trends and tastes and kitchen renovations. When we hit the modern bottom, when the demons start to tip the scales and become too powerful, when the non-denominational particleboard gets wet and warped, when the trans-everything nonsense hits fever pitch...a few will start to pine for an ancient faith. They will go online to order and meetup; they will seek and they will not find (Jn 7:34) except in those pockets in which it has been preserved as the pearl of great price that it is, a soft glow of candles in stained glass windows in the darkness, shards of light reflecting off a gold monstrance in the sanctuary, the quiet ancient chant of plainsong beckoning behind thick solid wood doors. It will be exotic and intimidating, ethereal and forbidden, austere and arduous, foreign and yet completely familiar. The Faith of our fathers, the Faith handed down, the Faith communion that takes place in real will be both old, and new.