Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Happy Anniversary to the world's most tolerant wife!

Who were those goofy kids?
It's been a wild and crazy 20 years, but I couldn't imagine it with anyone else.  Thanks for everything doll, I couldn't have made it this far with anyone else.  God knew what he was doing when he sent you my way.  Here's to 20 more years to come, may they be calmer, and may we start reaping some of the peace and quiet we've missed out on the fist time around.  God bless.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Enjoyment for the modern work load

Now that I will be busy with a new job, helping with homeschool, helping with my Mom, and keeping life up as usual, I won't have much excess time for much in the way of casual entertainment.  So my sons found this little help, consolidating the whole of The Lord of the Rings into a nice, neat usable package for those without enough extra time on their hands.

On Protestant Clergy Convert blogging with a new job

Elijah in the wilderness
Tomorrow, I begin my first step toward digging out of the hole we've been in for the last several years.  I needn't say these last few have pushed us to the limit.  One thing after another, financial hits, hardships, death in the family, illnesses and health problems have all flown around our family like crows for almost three years (a little Theoden reference there).  That, of course, following the previous four where things were anything but calm.  Since we came into the Church, it's been frying pan to fire back into frying pan.  We knew it would be challenging, we knew it would be difficult.

What we didn't know is that the economy was poised to collapse around us.  We also hadn't reckoned with the fact that our society has changed in its views about religion to the extent that it has.  I guess being in vocational ministry, especially of the full time sort, can isolate you from the real trends in the real world.  We also didn't realize that, like it or not, the Great Clergy Convert Movement begun in the 80s with Scott Hahn has, unfortunately, slowed to a trickle.  Part of it may well be the other factors I just mentioned.  After all this is not Scott Hahn's generation.  Hahn, Grodi, Thigpin, others of the 'Celebrity Convert' movement came into the Church during booming economic times, under the passionate and charismatic leadership of Pope John Paul II, who put a major premium on reaching out to 'our separated brethren' as of prime importance in the New Evangelization.  And it was still a somewhat 'religious friendly' culture.

I know, by the 80s America was hardly a Baptist tent meeting.  We were moving ever faster away from our cultural Christian roots.  Religion was becoming increasingly suspect.  Generations of kids never having graced the doors of the Church were becoming the norm rather than the exception.  But there was still not the automatic suspicion and contempt that our post-9/11 world would bring to the minds of the unchurched.  There was still a generic nod, and even handshake, toward traditional religion.  Not all portrayals of the religious were Piper Laurie, some were still positive.  If the individuals were negatively portrayed, there was still some generic 'religion somewhere in some way is still OK" attitude within our culture.  As an agnostic, I conceded the point back in the day.

But in these years, it's none of that.  Pope Benedict had his own priorities, and with the exception of reaching out to the Anglican Communion and the Orthodox traditions, there didn't seem to be as much focus on the rest of our "Separated Brethren".  Perhaps it was beginning the process of actually figuring out how to bring the divergent traditions back into the Church, but that simply meant removing the focus from some abstract, generic 'them' and focusing on one tradition at a time.  Hostility toward religion is at an all time high, and many younger people (like young people who are HR managers who do the hiring), look at religion somewhere between collecting Spock Ears and belonging to the KKK.

Naturally the economic collapse didn't help.  With ten people applying for every job, you could levitate into an HR manager's office, only to be told the last guy could levitate and juggle.  Having 'religious guy in religious stuff' on your resume was almost like an iron weight around a marathon runner's neck.  And there was the Church itself.  There simply were no positions, and no real desire at this point to do anything about it.  Because of the economy, Church jobs that may have once seemed paltry for their compensation were now like gold.  Folks just wouldn't give them up. And the Church, at least in these parts, no longer felt the need to create an 'office of ecumenical relations for this clergy convert who can't find a job.'  The great enthusiasm about clergy converts had clearly dwindled.  After meeting with dozens throughout the diocese, it was typically 'we'll pray that things work out somehow...though we have no clue how they will.'

So no, this was not the Scott Hahn generation of converts.  Which could be why the overall numbers appear to have dwindled, and even lay ministries supposedly dedicated to helping clergy converts seem to be filling their testimonials with people coming into the Church who actually aren't, you know, clergy converts   There is no Mother Angelica ready to swoop down and help form lay apostolates around a convert on the sole criteria that he is a convert.   Come into the Catholic Church from Protestant ministry in the 00s or later, and you're pretty much on your own.

None of this is to say that we've had no help.  On the contrary, the Church, in the sense of the people in the parishes,  has been beyond overwhelming in generosity.  Had they given us all they've given us when we had money to live, we could have afforded that month long round the world cruise we've always dreamt of.  Of course the money, the gifts, the help and services have gone to keeping us alive all these years as I jumped from this temp job to that wild card chance.  And in these last few years  the help kept us just under the surface, but not descending into the depths of Davey Jones' Locker.

Now, as I begin my new job, I'm reminded of just how long it's been.  The last time we had any sense of stability in our family, my oldest son - a Junior in high school - was in the third grade.  Our 7th grader had not started school.  That's a long time of jumping through hoops, and if anything, I regret that such a large portion of our life with our children was spent not knowing one day to the next what would happen.

I can't help but admit I wish something would have come by way of the Church, to keep the ministry going, to keep the sense of calling to vocational ministry to the Gospel alive.  But, as of now, it apparently was not to be.  I also have to admit that while this job helps, it gets us to the next place, sort of like that die roll that gets you past Boardwalk with a hotel.  We made it.  We got to GO and get to collect our $200.  But we still have  a long way to go.  We need my wife to find something that will bring in money and fit with our homeschooling.  We need my Mom's health to rebound.  And once the dust settles, we still need to find ways to settle into the Church's ministry.  Scheduling has been the biggest bane in that, and my job, alas, will  not help as the initial schedule will be alternately through late evenings.  No big problem, but makes taking part on a regular basis difficult.

So prayers will still be appreciated.  We have a long way to go, though we've come along way in the process.  To the families at St. Mary and St. John Neumann we owe much.   To some of my readers and the prayers, kindness and generous offers, we also owe much.  I am indebted to Mark Shea and some of his readers for having come through for us when we were literally at the end of ropes.  It's for that I continue to visit Mark's blog, hoping that things go back to the way they used to be.  And, of course, I thank God  maybe not enough, because the air I breath and the health I and my family have, the food we have and the roof over our heads, ultimately come from Him.

I'll blog when I can, and hopefully get back to my goal of 2/day in the not-too-distant.  Pray again, thanks again, and TTFN.

Why the Catholic Church looks so bad to the world

Is demonstrated in this story.  The story, carried by Reuters, showcases Catholics who are outraged that Cardinal Mahony, who in some ways has come to exemplify everything bad about the abuse scandal in the Church, will be part of the conclave to elect the next Pope.  I know, it's easy to be critical, judgmental, self-righteous.  We don't need to wish him ill, pain, suffering, or the fires of hell.  And yet, there is such a thing as justice.  There is such a thing as the wrong shall fail, the right prevail.  One of the basic reasons as Christians we rejoice is because God is a just God as well as a merciful God.  Sin must be accounted for, it must be dealt with.  There is a book of life, which suggests strongly a book that is not the book of life, or being absent from the book of life means something.  And yet God is also a merciful God, and sends His Son to die on our behalf, so that those who believe on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

Take away the justice, the idea that wrong needs reckoned with, that there is punishment or basic accounting for wrong deeds, and the idea we are saved takes a hit.  Ask anyone in a mainline Protestant denomination that has long abandoned such archaic notions as hell or punishment for sins.  Like it or not, when that happens the Faith itself lacks punch.  After all, God so loved the world He gave His only Son for what?  To save us from what?  So that we might have what apparently we would have anyway?

And if there are eternal results of our sins, there are also temporal consequences as well.  I don't know the details about Cardinal Mahony.  Almost everything that's been published suggests he was part of the grand cover up and obstruction of justice that has been the major hit to the Catholic Church.  As I've said before, no fair minded person would slam the Church because priests raped or abused young people.  That happens when you deal with humans, some do horrible things.  But it's the systemic cover up, the wide and sweeping use and abuse of Church positions of authority that have given the Church the major black eye.  That cover up, that wide ranging attempt to sweep things under the carpet, feeds into the stereotype that the Church is, and always has been, a lumbering bureaucracy of corruption and decadence, where warped individuals abuse and use the power of the ecclesiastical hierarchy to crush the masses while being drunk on the wine of influence and domination.

It also plays into the notion that the Catholic Church is a modern Pharisaical movement that believes man was made for the Canon Law, not Canon Law for man.  It suggests that while kids having the hell raped out of them by priests while bishops and other officials use the power of their office to crush all inquirers is a bad thing, the really important thing is Canon Law 12391298.HSEIF12038940123 that says technically we still should keep the guilty on because otherwise, etc.,etc.,etc.

IMHO, it would be best if Mahony stepped out.  For sheer public relations and to make a point that the Scandal was more than a big mess of an inconvenience to business as usual.  If he doesn't, it would be a feather in the cap of the Church to lovingly set him aside, explain that there is no malice in the decision, and it prays for all involved, or something.  But the idea that he could be within the decision making process of the next Pope poll-vaults beyond the reality that all Cardinals are sinners.  It pushes the idea that all sin is an affront to God the wrong direction.   We don't say that to get people off the hook.  We say that to be humble ourselves, and realize that who are we to judge?  But we don't say it to take away our ability to call evil or even wrong what it is.  Nor do we use it to say a person who may well have been responsible for one of the most scandalous affronts to the Christian faith in generations is no worse off than the person who stole a towel from a hotel.  Keeping things in perspective, standing on justice as well as mercy, and acting as if there are things worth being saved from, will go a long way toward repairing the reputation of the Church in the minds of fair minded people, as well as reminding us all that there are in fact consequences of our actions, hence the praise we give to God for saving us through Christ Jesus.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

We shouldn't teach morality in schools

That was the big conclusion in a debate we had in a secondary education class back at OSU.  It would have been around 1988, and Dr. Jerry, our professor, threw the question out for discussion. With only a few dissenters,  it was concluded that schools were no place to legislate morality.  That kept with the 70s brand of liberalism that screamed we should never legislate morality.  Looking back, I get the sneaky feeling that what they meant was 'you can't use our schools to teach this rubbish about not living a life of unbridled hedonism an narcissism.'

Fast forward.  A girl shows up to school with a T-Shirt that promotes *gasp* abstinence and is told the shirt is entirely inappropriate.  I thought maybe there was something about 'don't have sex, have Jesus instead.'   Nope.  Just one suggesting that from backseat accidents come little kids.  I guess my college class was right, you just shouldn't teach morality...if you're a student. The school, apparently, can mandate moral absolutes until the cows come home, especially if they promote the same hedonism and debauchery we so yearned for back in the day.

A reading list for atheists

OK, nobody was speaking of John C. Wright, but by goodness they ought to be.  Here he is, giving a list of reading materials he would and wouldn't recommend to the aspiring atheist.  It's a fair list.  Though I was shocked he didn't include Sam Harris or Christopher Hitchens due to never having read them.  I admit I've not read Harris's later works, though his breakout book The End of Faith was riddled with all manner  of errors and false assumptions, and seemed to set the standard for the movement known as modern atheism (who needs facts when you know religion is dumb?).  I know he corrected some of the errors in later years, such as crime rates associated with secular/religious societies, and did back down on his basic call to eradicate religions he doesn't like from the planet.  But still.

Hitchens, also, was a factual train wreck,  and many things he spoke about as firmly rooted in fact were the stuff that would get you a D- in most college courses. His many errors in god is Not Great were examples of his fast and loose approach to facts.  I enjoyed reading reviews of the book as various individuals with expertise in different fields all disassembled the book and its inaccuracies,  while also deferring to experts in other fields as if to say 'he's probably only wrong with the facts I know, not those over there.' Hitchens was the living example of how a British accent and a caustic wit will get you bonus points in modern American debate, God rest his soul.

As for the others on the list, the only one I'm aware of I might question is the late, great Carl Sagan.  Yes, a popular evangelist for the pre-Harris styled atheism, Sagan still demonstrated some pretty weak knowledge of religion in general and biblical studies in particular   I will always remember seeing a lecture he gave ages ago in which he said if you believed the Bible, you must believe the world is flat with four corners, referencing images from the Book of Revelation.  Even fundamentalists could shoot that one out of the sky.  Brilliant man, but like Stephen Hawking, only within his particular realm of expertise.  Otherwise, a reading list worth looking at, for the atheist or the thinking believer.

Jimmy Akin on the Transfiguration

Some interesting stuff, as always, over at Jimmy Akin's blog.  Here he unpacks ten things worth knowing about that unique event mentioned in the Gospels: the transfiguration of Jesus.

Super-cool point I had never considered: Luke 9:27, often used by skeptics to point out flawed predictions on Jesus' part (while ignoring the fact that the early Church would have understood the problems when the Gospels were written), is put into context of the Transfiguration.  It isn't that some will not taste death before the Kingdom of God is revealed, as in the end of times.  It's pointing to the Transfiguration, and what the apostles who witness it will see.  Great point!  I don't think I'll read Luke 9:27 again the same way.  Go read it now, well worth the read.

How not to be a Catholic stereotype

We judge.  We condemn.
It's important to remember, as Catholics, that much of the world sees a rather diabolical portrait of our Church as demonstrated by the above picture.  It's from the 1982 made for TV movie Ivanhoe, staring the legendary James Mason and 80s TV heartthrob Anthony Andrews.  It's good.  It doesn't discredit Scott's actual work, and keeps to the basic themes and characters.  This being the early 80s, the idea of prejudice and bigotry are put front and center, and you don't really have to imagine who the bad guys are.  Of course the wily Prince John, forever consigned to movie villainy, is the main antagonist, as is the brutal and sadistic Reginald Front de Boeff.  But when it comes to pure evil, I mean the sort of evil that surpasses Darth Vader evil, you don't go any farther than the movie's portrayal of Lucas Beaumanoir, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar who is pictured here.

He's mean.  He's cruel.  He's a zealot.  He's a witch hunter who doesn't seems to believe a rip of it, but revels in the power to torture and maim and kill.  He appears to take unholy delight in watching Isaac squirm under his feet, as he first tells him that Rebecca, Isaac's daughter, has been burned at the stake, then tells him she is to be burned unless a champion can be found (I'll leave the gentle reader to figure out just who the champion will be).  In short, he's what most people outside of the Catholic Church (and a few within the Church) envision when they reflect on what Catholicism is all about.

When I was a pastor, I used to tell my congregations to avoid living up to negative stereotypes.  I realize there really isn't anything you can do about stereotypes.  People will develop them and apply them, usually to groups they don't like.  Still, you can try to avoid living up to them.  Therefore, when it comes to reflecting on what the world thinks about Catholicism, consider this: don't rush to condemn.  I don't mean we shouldn't look at things, or call a spade a spade.  It doesn't mean we can't call good what it is, or evil what it is.  It doesn't mean we shouldn't pray for justice.  It does mean we should exercise restraint. We should avoid the appearance of little inquisitor wannabes. Even if we know in our guts someone is guilty; even if we know, for instance, that three police officers causing the death of a young man with Down Syndrome is an appalling and inexcusable breach of professional responsibility at best, we should still wait and see what the facts of the case actually are.

And no, we can't just appeal to the media's accounts of what happened.  That would be the media that has gone a long way in convincing the world that anyone who thinks about the Catholic Church should envision this image:

As Catholics we should pray for the victim and the victim's family and loved ones.  We should pray that justice is done, and that God grant peace to the families of those who were party to this man's death.  We should expect proper payment to be made, jail time if it is deemed appropriate,  termination from the job, whatever.  Or, if the facts should emerge, innocence.  But what we shouldn't do is jump on the bandwagon and sound as if we have the word of the inerrant media, and it's time to poll-vault over all the due process and evidence garbage and get straight to the execution.  Good for aiding anti-Catholic stereotypes, bad for actually being about the presence of Christ in the world.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

World War II gets all the press

So we often forget just how devastatingly horrific was the First World War.  In terms of battlefield deaths, the numbers rival the Second World War.  Civilian casualties in WWII mounted, however, as genocides and bombing raids multiplied the numbers a thousandfold.  The era of Total War reached its crescendo in the 40s, capped off over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  But even that didn't account for all the numbers.  The civilians killed in death camps, and in the mass destruction of fully mechanized and industrialized warfare also accounted for the numbers.  Plus in the USSR, it's impossible to know just how many of the 20 million died solely as a result of the Nazi presence, and how many as a result of the Soviet Union's own policies and strategies.  Add to that the similarly eerie question about the millions killed in China (how many because of China vs. how many by Japan), and the numbers finally reach that level that still seems mind-boggling.

But on the battlefield, in the trenches, the casualties of WWI still rival those of its second act.  Millions died when seldom before had such figures been seen.  Only in China, during revolutions of the past, or during periods of conquest such as under the Mongol Horde, and that over the course of centuries, did the casualty rates reach into the millions.

But this was industrialized, technologically advanced, modern post-enlightenment Europe.  This was the apex of the hopes and dreams of a humanity that had tossed out the old superstitions, the antiquated ideals and beliefs, and the pre-modern agrarian ways of non-civilized humans.  This was Europe.  The point man of history.  It was supposed to look like this:

Not this:

The sudden wake-up call, that began to creep in as the Titanic slipped beneath the water of the Atlantic, should have brought about major changes.  But, alas, humans tend to follow the motto 'why learn from history when you can repeat it instead?' Lessons were learned alright,  mostly by the Germans and to some extent the Japanese.  The idea of the Blitzkrieg was, itself, the result of Hitler having learned how not to fight a war.  It's worth noting the hardheadedness of people: that the Germans would capture most of Europe before the rest of the world admitted the old stuff wasn't working.

But that's the way it goes.  As we plow forth, pushing boundaries regarding technology and digital communications, genetics and just how long can a parent wait to abort a child after it's born, it's worth noting the arrogance of Europe exactly 100 years ago.  Titanic had already fired a warning shot, one that was ultimately ignored.  We know many of the bold new inventions are bringing with them as many banes as blessings.  Will we learn in time?  Europe was already beginning its downward spiral when Archduke Ferdinand and his wife were murdered, or so many historians argue (and I agree).  We know America is following the same trend.  What will historians write about our time in a 100 years?  Will they look back as we do today and ask, "Why, oh why, did they not learn and see what was obviously coming around the corner?"? Makes me wonder.  Don't think I don't.

Met the Poet Laureate of the United States

Yep, my wife and I splurged and treated ourselves to an actual date for our 20th anniversary   She has wanted to stay at a bed and breakfast our whole life, so I decided to go all out and stay at one down the street, the Winter Street Inn (which I heartily recommend).  Owing to my Mom's health problems, we didn't want to be far.  My older boys could hold down the fort, but we wanted to make sure we were in hearing range just in case.

My initial plan was to stay at the B&B, and just wander around the downtown area at night.  That was when it was supposed to be in the 40s.  As it turned out, the temps were far colder, so we made a quick dash down the street a couple blocks, had dinner, then came back.  We spent the evening playing pool and just relaxing.  It's the first time we've been out on our own for almost two years, at least that didn't have something to do with a project or errand to run.

Anyhoo, we woke up and came to the main house (we stayed above 'the carriage house') for breakfast.  While there, we were joined by none other than the new Natasha Trethewey, Poet Laureate of the United States.  Of course I had to ask what she did in Washington, and that's when she told us she was the new PL.  Wow.  Suddenly I worried if I was using the right fork.

A very pleasant and enjoyable young lady, we talked about a wide range of subjects.  She was a good conversationalist, and I tried to respect what she seemed willing to talk about or not talk about.  Mostly she asked about us.  It was nice saying I am actually employed now.  Dee could fall back on homeschooling (which Ms. Trethewey seemed very interested in).  She was in town to deliver some talks at local Ohio Wesleyan University.  Hopefully she'll have a nice, timely, and safe trip back to D.C. tomorrow despite the weather.

So altogether, a nice, relaxing and eventful night and morning.  I know, we shouldn't have spent anything with our finances being what they are.  But it's been years since we could even afford a greeting card for our anniversary, and I wasn't about to let our 20th go by without something for what has to be the most understanding, patient, and tolerant wife in modern history.

A dinning room fit for a Poet Laureate

At night, when we were the only ones there, it was actually spooky

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Another prayer request

Not to be greedy or anything, but in addition to my wife's employment situation, and praying that this comes through in a way that won't hinder our bold leap into homeschooling (which seems to have done the boys a world of good already), a prayer for my Mom.  A few months or so ago, she began experiencing terrible pains in her shoulder.  Everything else was OK, just that.  We thought maybe it had something to do with her flu shot, but the doctor ruled that out (that would be the doctor who gave her the flu shot).  They believe it could be arthritis  but aren't sure. Then, about three weeks ago, she began having similarly debilitating pains in her hip and upper leg, and now it has spread to both sides.  Doctor still isn't sure what.  He's recommending a chiropractor, and muscle relaxers, hoping it's just muscles or perhaps more arthritis.  In the meantime, giving her more pain medications but they don't seem to do much.  She can hardly move at this point.  Whereas she was up and about only a month ago, now she needs a walker just to get around, and then is still wracked with pain whenever she moves.  Prayers that this passes soon, or that they figure out what's wrong and it's nothing serious for her sake would be appreciated, as well as the other for my wife.  We're getting there, one prayer at a time.  Thanks again for the thoughts and prayers and help in the meantime.  Blessings.

It's official!

I have a job.  I just spoke to my manager about my start date on Monday.  It's a real one.  One that doesn't involve finish dates or temp services.  One that has actually used such terms as 401K, benefits, and - get this - retirement.  It's like they expect me to stay around!  It will be within the financial and investments industry.  I've actually picked up some training and schooling in that, though never planned to.  I start Monday.  Now the big prayer will be for something for my wife in the evenings, or part time, or something to hedge it around.  The money I will be making is far better than most jobs I've applied for, but still short of where we were years ago.  For her to get something par time will bring in some extra funds and allow her to keep with the homeschooling.  So prayers for that.  Thanks for all the prayers that have been offered up, we appreciate it more than anyone will ever know.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Immigrants and economics

Speaking of listening to different sides of the debate.  I have almost no dogs, not even a cat, in the whole immigration debate.  Who am I fooling?  Right now my wife and I are looking for employment, and it wouldn't help to have almost any job held by illegal immigrants.  We'd lose our home if we took such jobs.  Because of that, I've offered few opinions, and have spent little time actually following the back and forth.  I do know the debate is not the usual one framed by the media: beautiful people who care versus racists who don't like non-whites.

I'm sure some want amnesty for the best of reasons.  I'm sure some want it for more underhanded ulterior motives.  But I'm also sure those who are opposed to just opening the doors or letting bygones be bygones may have reasons that are not racist at all.  For instance, it turns out that some on the GOP side may actually oppose some of the reforms, not because of evil racist ways, but because they are opposed to the economic policy assumptions of many Latino immigrants.  Read it here.  I'm not saying I agree or disagree, but I am saying that there can be other arguments than 'the way of holiness vs. the way of evil.'  It's also worth noting that the argument is made that Obama's health care bill, which includes the dreaded HHS mandate, is supported heavily by these same immigrants   Whether that would matter or not, I don't know.  That might fall under that trend I've mentioned in the past of the modern Catholic tendency of arguing for the trees rather than the forest.

The other sign of gun control

Of course it comes from FOX News.  Since Sandy Hook, the victims of that and other mass shootings would appear to be in one voice for one purpose: more gun control.  And yet, common sense says it's probably not true.  Just like the fabled 9/11 Widows.  They were a group of about five women who were widows of 9/11 victims, as the name suggests.  They got plenty of media attention for their harsh criticisms of then President Bush.  They were frequently interviewed, received almost star status, and were the voices of the 9/11 attacks for some time.  Eventually it became clear that they were using their status to promote issues and agendas that had little to nothing to do with 9/11.  They were also using their status to launch against Bush and the GOP in general. As it became obvious, they eventually faded into the sunset, I suppose because even the media could realize what was happening, and didn't want to get into whatever trouble the media doesn't want to get into.  

Fast forward to today.  We hear story after story, and impassioned plea after impassioned plea from survivors of Sandy Hook, or parents of victims from there or other mass shootings,  calling for more gun regulations, more gun control, tighter laws, what have you.  I, for one, can see many flaws in the arguments for such things, even though my heart breaks for those who suffered such unimaginable loss.  I don't think anyone on any side of the issue begrudges them their anger or demands for action.  Which is why it wasn't hard to believe that MSNBC and other media outlets had deliberately fabricated a story about cold hearted gun clingers shouting down the father of a slain child from Newtown. 

Nonetheless, sympathy is also for all people who have suffered due to such shootings and other horrors.   I sympathized with the seldom heard (except on FOX) families of 9/11 victims who supported George Bush.  I sympathized with soldiers (again on FOX) who stood in stalwart defense of our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan   And I sympathize with Suzanna Hupp, who lost both parents to a mass shooting in Texas in the early 1990s.  Unlike many interviewed or referenced elsewhere, she stands against current gun control proposals.  Why?  Well, watch the clip here.  I'll let her do the talking. 

That doesn't mean all of a sudden she is right, any more than soldiers or 9/11 victims who supported the Iraq conflict or George Bush were right.  It means we should give both sides a respectful hearing.  I'm posting this, rather than those who support more gun control, because I"m sure they have had plenty of airtime.  God bless them.  I hope their voices are heard and respected.  But I also think the same respect should be given those who stand opposed to our own ideas, if the thought is we should listen to those who have suffered such pain.  If not, then it does make me wonder about just how important respecting people who have suffered such pain really is, you know what I mean? 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Hyphenated Catholics

In my Protestant ministry days, I remember reading a book 'Emerging Voices in Global Christian Theology.'  The book dealt with the growing input in Christianity (Evangelical style) from other non-Western cultures.  Not just the famous liberation theology of which everyone has heard.  But different takes on Christian doctrines and practices from different parts of Asia, Africa, South America, you name it.  The big message was, beware the hyphenated Christian, as a professor I had once said.  Beware assuming the way I do Christianity is just what Jesus was thinking when he handed the keys to Peter.  Resist the temptation to believe that everyone else is somehow adding an extra-doctrinal spin on what the True Gospel is all about (that is, how I do Christianity).

I'm thinking of that as I follow the unfolding comments over at Mark Shea's Catholic and Enjoying It.  Mark posted a rather scathing assault on Trad Catholics.  At one he says most are 'repellent specimens'.  Harsh language.  Far harsher than most Protestants I know would have used against other Christians.  In fact, most Evangelicals I knew wouldn't have referred to Catholics that way!  I know he qualifies this by stating that he knows plenty of Traditional Catholics who are good and decent people, but see below

In the comments, strange and bizarre discussions break out.  For my part, I keep asking just what a Traditional Catholic is.  Apparently, I'm told, it's nothing that is in keeping with Mark's terminology.  Rad Trads, a term coined by Sandra Miesel, suggests those who fully reject Vatican II, though not all do.  I'm also informed that not all Traditionalists are these 'Rad Trads.'  And yet Mark does not use the term 'Rad Trad', he uses Trad Catholics.  Does that mean Traditionalist?  Does it mean Radical Traditionalist?  

Here's the thing.  It's dangerous to hyphenate Christianity because it usually leads to the belief that it's a good thing God didn't make me like those people over there.  Especially if you aren't taking on the label of a particular approach to Catholicism yourself.  If you think Group A Catholics are generally bad news, do you consider yourself part of Group B?  Can we analyze the meaner parts of Group B and suggest you are suspect?   First problem.  In the end, most of us probably don't hang our credentials on some arbitrarily defined group.  Most of us are Midwestern Accent types.

What do I mean by that?  The first time I ever traveled abroad I was shocked to find others from other parts of the country who immediately recognized that I was from the Midwest.  How did they know?  Easy, they said.  They could tell by my Midwestern accent.  But I didn't have an accent!  I just spoke the normal way!  Everyone else in America had an accent, not me.  Southerner, New Yorkers, New Englanders, Amity Islanders, Texans of course - they had the accents, not me.  

Well, turns out to others, we have the accent.  Us Ohioans have an accent that's a dead giveaway   Funny that.  Same thing with Christianity.  Yes, there were groups.  I belonged to an Evangelical tradition.  Evangelical in this point defined the second of about three ways it could be defined.  Most, of course, didn't see themselves as part of a mere approach, certainly not part of whatever bad elements others saw when they think 'Christian Evangelical'.  Some didn't even think the term should apply!  Most didn't see themselves as Fundamentalists, or Fundamentalists Extremists (which might include, among other things, the belief that only the King James Bible was the true Word of God).  Most weren't mainline either, meaning Presbyterians, Anglicans and the like.  Liberal or conservative was a bit sketchy, and it depended on what you meant.  Most were probably conservative, but not all.  And not all voted Republican.  As a general rule, since most post-Reformation Protestantism is a factor of American society, most in my churches considered their own American brand as the default Christianity against which others were measured, even if they could never clearly define just what approach they were part of.

Nonetheless, I was always careful to remind folks that we should be careful about applying our own yardstick to other expressions of Christianity.  Didn't mean we couldn't note the differences.  And to be brutally honest, it didn't mean we couldn't point out obvious problems.  Sometimes it wasn't hard to find racism in more fundamentalist oriented traditions, especially in the South.  It may not be flagrant, but it was there.  Harsh and sometimes judgmental terminology would sometimes be used in dealing with such issues as homosexuality.  Those were facts. Not always, but it happened.

But here's the ugly secret.  When you're a pastor, like it or not, you get to see some of the meaner sides of church living.  You may not like it, but you see and find out quite a lot.  I'll never say all the things I saw or heard, simply because it was in pastoral confidence  and even anonymous quotes feel like betraying some of the more sensitive confessions I heard.  But let me say this: ours was not the tradition of angels.  The people, if not as outward in their defining characteristics, were still as flawed, as imperfect, as sinful as any fundamentalist waving a KJV, and pining for separate water fountains for African Americans. 

Therefore, remembering that was a good way to remember that other cultures or approaches are probably not any worse than any we identify with.  Our approach to the faith is not the one against which others are measured, the one that leads to better types of people.  I have no problem believing there are approaches to the Catholic faith that have their issues.  I'm sure that approach vaguely known as Rad Trad has its problems.  And I'm damn sure that the approach that is embraced by those who used the term Rad Trad has its problems.  If the approach isn't what causes it, then those within the approach are probably just as problematic when the dust settles.  Therefore, caution should be used. 

Again, this doesn't mean we can't disagree, or point out why Catholics who chafe at Vatican II are wrong headed.  That's fair in love and Church.  But we must be careful.  If we are going to group people together, we should claim a group ourselves and be prepared to be judged accordingly.  In the end, it's best to single out a quote or a person, rather than use a quote by a single person to single out a group.  If someone says they don't want a witch doctor for a Pope, suggesting strong racial undertones, then deal with the quote and the person who made it.  Feel like it's too common among Catholics of a particular group?  That's fair, but be prepared to hear where other approaches might fall short, including our own, which no doubt is the real Catholicism that doesn't have an accent. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

To the Catholic Blogosphere

I've come to conclude that as Catholics, whether we consider ourselves apologists, Catholics with blogs, Catholics with blogs about Catholic things, Catholics with blogs about stamp collecting, we should set the bar higher.  We shouldn't take all the worst that is common across the internet, and especially blogs, and magnify it.

Doesn't mean we can't be colorful, passionate, direct, blunt, or whatever.  Of course we should call evil what it is, speak to the truth, correct error.  Naturally if we see problems we can speak to them. We should. And if we have a whimsical or sardonic way of doing so, fine.  Everyone has their style.  Nor does it mean we can't point to obvious tendencies or trends within a particular segment of society if we have reason or facts or data to back us up.

But we should be careful when it comes to making broad and sweeping statements.  It's easy to do.  And we can't always just say 'I don't mean everyone' or 'I know some who aren't that way.'  I'm sure.  But that's an old dodge that bigots always use.  Most Archie Bunkers never said they're all that way:

If we want to deal with problems, by all means.  But be careful singling people out, and then trying to brush an entire group because of them.  And certainly be careful the time honored approach of broadly condemning groups we don't like, thinking that a mere 'I didn't say they're all like that' statement changes everything.  If you don't think they're all like that, then take a different approach than suggesting they're really all like that.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A fading winter's night

As a kid, I used to love winter.  Why not?  It meant that great non-committal end of the twelfth month winter holiday celebration was just around the corner.  It meant vacation!  Of course we only had about a week vacation then.  We had half day the day before Christmas Eve.  Then we came back the day after New Year's.  Still, a vacation is a vacation.   It never dawned on me that the first day back was a drag because there would be no more vacations until Summer Break.  Back then we had no Spring Break. We had Good Friday and the day after Easter and that was it.

But winter meant snow.  It mean snowball fights, building snow forts, building snowmen.  It was hot chocolate and cuddling up in a blanket watching Super Host's Mad Theater on Saturday afternoons.  If we were lucky, and the snow came near that rascally holiday whose name can no longer be mentioned, it brought a special magic with it.

And yet, for some reason, winter has decreased as autumn, and yes spring, have increased.  Call me Christian, but once I began to invest myself in my Christian faith, I came to love Easter   The first time I attended a sunrise service (common in Protestant denominations that don't have Easter Vigils), I was hooked.  From that day, back in 1992, I began to enjoy spring more than ever.  When I was young, spring meant blustery days and rain and mud and staying indoors.  It mean winter - and that Holiday - were done for the year, and with a December birthday, the next round of loot would be months and another school year away.  It meant that time I had to get through until Summer Vacation and Alice Cooper songs.

But now, for some reason, I tend to see the lilies more.  I see the sparrows and the flowers and the coming to life.  Perhaps it's because I connect the rebirth of Spring with the triumph over death and the new birth of the Faith.  Maybe it's because life and becoming new is more natural, with children changing and growing each year, and the growing realization that I'm closer to the end than the beginning.

Fall is still there, as I've said time and time and time again.  I still love it for the reasons I always have, though less for nostalgia anymore than the fun times with the boys.  I sometimes wonder if it, too, will fade when they have grown and moved on with their lives.  And when that happens, will Spring finally take its rightful place as the seasonal high point of my year?  

Who knows.  Just a thought as I saw the above picture I took some weeks ago finally come through.  It was during the weeks of snow we were pelted with, and I took advantage to pull off the road and click a picture. You can almost feel the hushed silence.  Everything quiet.  Everything dead.  But spring is around the corner. Lent is already here.  We've been reminded of the dead, now we prepare for the living.  I'd like to think that's the real heart of my growing love for this once overlooked season that is fast becoming the time of year I yearn for more than any.

But who knows.  Maybe it's that now I have to drive in the snow, and I just want the hassle to go away.  You never know.

The Devil and Thomas Dale

I'm a fan of the film The Devil and Daniel Webster, based on the short story by Stephen Vincent Benet. In addition to the great Walter Huston's delightfully dapper turn as old Scratch himself, it oozes with a realistic expression of old Americanism and American exceptionalism.  On one hand, there is more apple pie patriotism than in a glass case at Der Dutchman.  On the other hand, it's not afraid - through old Scratch's counter punches - to point out the meaner side of America's history.  Probably a better take on what Americans have traditionally thought of their country than the counterculture myth of the 60s and beyond.

Anyway, I received a link to an interesting post that helps unpack the famous jury of the damned.  The names are tossed out rather quickly, and unless you are a student of that period in American history, you'll probably get lost past Arnold.  So here it is, the place to go to find out about just who those infernal jurors are, starting with Mr. Thomas Dale.

In praise of genocide

I didn't believe it. Thomas McDonald linked to a string of quotes by the Amazing Randi, the famous skeptic guru of the 70s who is sort of a favorite star for many modern atheists.  Well, the quotes were so bone chilling, so much like a Nazi apologetic for genocide, I thought they may have been taken out of context.  No insult of Mr. McDonald intended.  There are just some things your mind can't fathom.  Until you read the actual link here.  Note the comments   Few are actually bothered by the whole 'it's time for the damn retard babies to be wiped out to make room for the mental master race' scree.  In fact, at least one seems to be cheering him on - though the sarcasm meter is awaiting confirmation of the comment's sincerity.

If this were some isolated post by a tired and angry man who hopes for nothing but oblivion as the reaper approaches, I would just shed a tear and say a prayer.  But this, along with the growing progressive dream of eliminating that pesky Constitution and its stupid rights not to be liberal, remind me that yes, Virginia, there will be more Holocausts.  I don't know exactly what they will look like.  But I'm almost 100% sure why they will happen.

In the olden days, this would mean something

Today, it's a joke or dismissed nonchalantly as a cosmic coincidence.   So, which is it?  Joke?  Cosmic coincidence?  Or does it mean something?  I often think the way we read such things speaks more for our time and place in history than necessarily a clear and objective standard for how everyone should obviously read such things.  Especially as my faith in the intellectual superiority - or any superiority - of the modern Westerner continues to decline every day.

"Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!
Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet's heart,
Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?
How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise?
Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering
To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies,
Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing?
Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car?
And driven the Hamadryad from the wood
To seek a shelter in some happier star?
Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,
The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?"

- Edgar Allan Poe, "Sonnet to Science"

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Hobbit in poetry form

My 14 year old pointed out that in a way similar to Carroll, you could lift out the poems and songs from The Hobbit, and it would tell the whole story.  So, let's try.  Below are all the songs and poems, as well as the riddles told between Bilbo and Gollum: 

Chip the glasses and crack the plates!
    Blunt the knives and bend the forks!
That's what Bilbo Baggins hates--
    Smash the bottles and burn the corks!

Cut the cloth and tread on the fat!
    Pour the milk on the pantry floor!
Leave the bones on the bedroom mat!
    Splash the wine on every door!

Dump the crocks in a boiling bowl;
    Pound them up with a thumping pole;
And when you've finished, if any are whole,
    Send them down the hall to roll!

That's what Bilbo Baggins hates!
So, carefully! carefully with the plates!

(The song of the dwarves while they were cleaning up after dinner at the unexpected party.)

Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To seek the pale enchanted gold.

The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the fells.

For ancient king and elvish lord
There many a gleaming golden hoard
They shaped and wrought, and light they caught
To hide in gems on hilt of sword.

On silver necklaces they strung
The flowering stars, on crowns they hung
The dragon fire, in twisted wire
They meshed the light of moon and sun.

Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away, ere break of day,
To claim our long-forgotten gold.

Goblets they carved there for themselves
And harps of gold; where no man delves
There lay they long, and many a song
Was sung unheard by men or elves.

The pines were roaring on the height,
The winds were moaning in the night,
The fire was red, it flaming spread;
The trees like torches blazed with light.

The bells were ringing in the dale
And men looked up with faces pale;
The dragon's ire more fierce than fire
Laid low their towers and houses frail.

The mountain smoked beneath the moon;
The dwarves, they heard the tramp of doom.
They fled their hall to dying fall
Beneath his feet, beneath the moon.

Far over the misty mountains grim
To dungeons deep and caverns dim
We must away, ere break of day,
To win our harps and gold from him!

(Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away, ere break of day,
To find our long-forgotten gold.)
(Thorin's part after they went to bed.)

(The dwarves song after dinner, done well in both version of the Hobbit: Jackson and Rankin/Bass.)

O! What are you doing,
And where are you going?
Your ponies need shoeing!
The river is flowing!
    O! tra-la-la-lally
        here down in the valley!

O!  What are you seeking,
And where are you making?
The faggots are reeking,
The bannocks are baking!
    O! tril-lil-lil-lolly
        the valley is jolly,
            ha! ha!

O! Where are you going
With beards all a-wagging?
No knowing, no knowing
What brings Mister Baggins,
    And Balin and Dwalin
        down into the valley
            in June
            ha! ha!

O! Will you be staying,
Or will you be flying?
Your ponies are straying!
The daylight is dying!

To fly would be folly,
To stay would be jolly
    And listen and hark
    Till the end of the dark
        to our tune
        ha! ha!

(Elf song as the party approached Rivendell.)

Clap! Snap! the black crack!
Grip, grab! Pinch, nab!
And down down to Goblin-town
    You go, my lad!

Clash, crash! Crush, smash!
Hammer and tongs!  Knocker and gongs!
Pound, pound, far underground!
    Ho, ho! my lad!

Swish, smack! Whip crack!
Batter and beat! Yammer and bleat!
Work, work! Nor dare to shirk,
While Goblins quaff, and Goblins laugh,
Round and round far underground
    Below, my lad!

(Goblin song when they were captured.)

What has roots as nobody sees,
Is taller than trees,
Up, up it goes,
And yet never grows?
One of Gollum's riddles for Bilbo. The answer is "mountain".

Thirty white horses on a red hill,
First they champ,
Then they stamp,
Then they stand still.
One of Bilbo's riddles for Gollum. The answer is "teeth".

Voiceless it cries,
Wingless flutters,
toothless bites,
Mouthless mutters.
One of Gollum's riddles for Bilbo. The answer is "wind".

An eye in a blue face
Saw an eye in a green face.
"That eye is like to this eye"
Said the first eye,
"but in low place
Not in high place."
One of Bilbo's riddles for Gollum. The answer is "sun on the daisies".

It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,
Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt.
It lies behind stars and under hills,
And empty holes it fills.
It comes first and follows after,
Ends life, kills laughter.
One of Gollum's riddles for Bilbo. The answer is "dark".

A box without hinges, key, or lid,
yet golden treasure inside is hid.
One of Bilbo's riddles for Gollum. The answer is "egg".
Alive without breath,
As cold as death;
Never thirsty, ever drinking,
All in mail never clinking.
One of Gollum's riddles for Bilbo. The answer is "fish".

No-legs lay on one-leg,
Two-legs sat near on three-legs,
Four-legs got some.
One of Bilbo's riddles for Gollum. The answer is "fish on a little table, man at table sitting on a stool, the cat has the bones".
This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.
One of Gollum's riddles for Bilbo. The answer is "time".

(The Riddles between Gollum and Bilbo and the answers)

Fifteen birds in five firtrees,
their feathers were fanned in a fiery breeze!
But, funny little birds, they had no wings!
O what shall we do with the funny little things?
Roast 'em alive, or stew them in a pot;
fry them, boil them and eat them hot?

Burn, burn tree and fern!
Shrivel and scorch! A fizzling torch
To light the night for our delight,
        Ya hey!

Bake and toast 'em, fry and roast 'em!
till beards blaze, and eyes glaze;
till hair smells and skins crack,
fat melts, and bones black
        in cinders lie
        beneath the sky!
        So dwarves shall die,
and light the night for our delight,
        Ya hey!
        Ya hoy!

(The second Goblin song, after dwarves and Bilbo are chased into trees after escaping from the Mountains.)

The wind was on the withered heath,
but in the forest stirred no leaf:
there shadows lay by night and day,
and dark things silent crept beneath.

The wind came down from mountains cold,
and like a tide it roared and rolled;
the branches groaned, the forest moaned,
and leaves were laid upon the mould.

The wind went on from West to East;
all movement in the forest ceased,
but shrill and harsh across the marsh
its whistling voices were released.

The grasses hissed, their tassels bent,
the reeds were rattling--on it went
o'er shaken pool under heavens cool
where racing clouds were torn and rent.

It passed the lonely Mountain bare
and swept above the dragon's lair:
there black and dark lay boulders stark
and flying smoke was in the air.

It left the world and took its flight
over the wide seas of the night.
The moon set sail upon the gale,
and stars were fanned to leaping light.

(The dwarves' song in Beorn's house.)

Old fat spider spinning in a tree!
Old fat spider can't see me!
        Attercop!  Attercop!
            Won't you stop,
Stop your spinning and look for me!

Old Tomnoddy, all big body,
Old Tomnoddy can't spy me!
        Attercop!  Attercop!
            Down you drop!
You'll never catch me up your tree!

Lazy Lob and crazy Cob
are weaving webs to wind me.
I am far more sweet than other meat,
but still they cannot find me!

Here am I, naughty little fly;
you are fat and lazy.
You cannot trap me, though you try,
in your cobwebs crazy.

(Bilbo taunts the spiders who have captured the dwarves.)

roll-roll-rolling down the hole!
Heave ho! Splash plump!
Down they go, down they bump!

Down the swift dark stream you go
Back to lands you once did know!
Leave the halls and caverns deep,
Leave the northern mountains steep,
Where the forest wide and dim
Stoops in shadow grey and grim!
Float beyond the world of trees
Out into the whispering breeze,
Past the rushes, past the reeds,
Past the marsh's waving weeds,
Through the mist that riseth white
Up from mere and pool at night!
Follow, follow stars that leap
Up the heavens cold and steep;
Turn when dawn comes over land,
Over rapid, over sand,
South away! and South away!
Seek the sunlight and the day,
Back to pasture, back to mead,
Where the kine and oxen feed!
Back to gardens on the hills
Where the berry swells and fills
Under sunlight, under day!
South away! and South away!
Down the swift dark stream you go
Back to lands you once did know!

(Wood-elves' song when sending barrels downstream from their underground kingdom.)

The King beneath the mountains,
    The King of carven stone,
The lord of silver fountains
    Shall come into his own!

His crown shall be upholden,
    His harp shall be restrung,
His halls shall echo golden
    To songs of yore re-sung.

The woods shall wave on mountains
    And grass beneath the sun;
His wealth shall flow in fountains
    And the rivers golden run.

The streams shall run in gladness,
    The lakes shall shine and burn,
All sorrow fail and sadness
    At the Mountain-king's return!

(Song sang by the men of Lake-town when the dwarves arrive.)

Under the Mountain dark and tall
The King has come unto his hall!
His foe is dead, the Worm of Dread,
And ever so his foes shall fall.

The sword is sharp, the spear is long,
The arrow swift, the Gate is strong;
The heart is bold that looks on gold;
The dwarves no more shall suffer wrong.

The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the fells.

On silver necklaces they strung
The light of stars, on crowns they hung
The dragon-fire, from twisted wire
The melody of harps they wrung.

The mountain throne once more is freed!
O! wandering fold, the summons heed!
Come haste! Come haste! across the waste!
The king of friend and kin has need.

Now call we over mountains cold,
'Come back unto the caverns old'!
Here at the Gates the king awaits,
His hands are rich with gems and gold.

The king is come unto his hall
Under the Mountain dark and tall.
The Worm of Dread is slain and dead,
And ever so our foes shall fall!

(The dwarves singing to Thorin after Smaug is killed and the armies begin gathering.)

The dragon is withered,
His bones are now crumbled;
His armour is shivered,
His splendour is humbled!
Though sword shall be rusted,
And throne and crown perish
With strength that men trusted
And wealth that they cherish,
Here grass is still growing,
And leaves are yet swinging,
The white water flowing,
And elves are yet singing
    Come! Tra-la-la-lally!
    Come back to the valley!

The stars are far brighter
Than gems without measure,
The moon is far whiter
Than silver in treasure:
The fire is more shining
On hearth in the gloaming
Than gold won by mining,
So why go a-roaming?
    O! Tra-la-la-lally
    Come back to the Valley.

O! Where are you going,
So late in returning?
The river is flowing,
The stars are all burning!
O! Whither so laden,
So sad and so dreary?
Here elf and elf-maiden
Now welcome the weary
    With Tra-la-la-lally
    Come back to the Valley,

(The elves' song toward the end of the book when they got back to Rivendell.)

Sing all ye joyful, now sing all together!
The wind's in the tree-top, the wind's in the heather;
The stars are in blossom, the moon is in flower,
And bright are the windows of Night in her tower.

Dance all ye joyful, now dance all together!
Soft is the grass, and let foot be like feather!
The river is silver, the shadows are fleeting;
Merry is May-time, and merry our meeting.

Sing we now softly, and dreams let us weave him!
Wind him in slumber and there let us leave him!
The wanderer sleepeth.  Now soft be his pillow!
Lullaby!  Lullaby!  Alder and Willow!
Sigh no more Pine, till the wind of the morn!
    Fall Moon!  Dark be the land!
    Hush!  Hush!  Oak, Ash, and Thorn!
Hushed be all water, till dawn is at hand!

(The elves' next song at Rivendell.)

Roads go ever ever on,
    Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
    By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
    And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
    And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on
    Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
    Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
    And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
    And trees and hills they long have known.

(Bilbo's famous poem when he returned to the Shire.)

So, is he right?  I think he's onto something.