Greetings, and Welcome to The Small Shoppe

After the example of my Chestertonian mentor, Dr. R. Kenton Craven, I here offer my ponderings and musings for your edification and/or education.

You are welcome to read what is written here, and encouraged to do so. Appropriate comments may well be posted.

Michael Francis James Lee
The Not-so-Small Shoppe-Keeper

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Justice and Mercy on The Southern Border...and elsewhere

"The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 19:34

"Love the sojourner therefore; for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt."


With regard to the subject of Illegal Immigration, and with particular regard to the present crisis on our southern border, I offer the following:

 I will never refer to the children (illegally crossing over) as "illegal children," nor as "illegals."

 In conscience, I can call them "illegal immigrants," or "illegal immigrant children," but I cannot use terminology that imputes an illegal "state of being" to a child or other person. Conservatives are often, rightly, reminding us that "words have meaning," and this case is no different.

I am neither a tea partier, nor a committed republican.  As a student of the writings of G.K. Chesterton, I have serious difficulties with both conservatism and liberalism -- actually with all isms, other than Catholicism.

Chesterton, accurately I believe, charged that it is the job of liberals to continue making mistakes, while the job of conservatives is to steadfastly prevent previous mistakes from being corrected.  One can see this in play throughout our history, especially over the past 4 or 5 presidential administrations.  

I am a Catholic before and above whatever other allegiances I have.  Thus, should it come to a "choice" between my allegiance to the Catholic Church, and my allegiance to a particular political ideology, the Church will always prevail within me.

These full disclosures having been made, here are my thoughts regarding the border crisis.

Our immigration laws are a mess -- and several of them actually conflict with each other.  If we try to absolutely enforce all of them, we would have border patrols snatching illegal immigrants from other border patrols, in order to take the apprehended individuals in opposite directions.  That would make a good scene for a Monty Python movie, but it's not so funny in real life.

Even if we assume, for the sake of discussion, that our immigration laws are fine, uniform, non-conflicting, and totally just (an assumption I am not prepared to make; lacking a complete study and understanding of each of these laws), for the Christian --and most especially the Catholic citizen -- there is always the pairing of Justice and Mercy to be considered.  We can never do the one without the other, without erring.  To give mercy without justice is a disservice to everyone, and the same is true when we apply justice without mercy.

So, the matter is clear as to "what" is required: Justice AND Mercy ~ Mercy AND Justice.  We have this model from God Himself - that is how He deals with us; and remember, EACH of us has sinned, and is deserving of death.

Now, the tricky matter is not the what, rather the how.

Imperfect person, and sinner that I am, I see it this way -- in light of the Teaching of the Church, as I understand it:

1. We have a right to either open or close our borders -- and we must live with the benefits and consequences of either decision.

2. We have a right to regulate who, and how many, enter our country -- and we must live with the benefits and consequences of such regulation.

3. We have a right to enforce just laws - and an obligation to do so in a way that yet respects the inherent dignity of each person.

4. Our enforcement, to be both just AND merciful, must take into account the human condition and situation of those upon/against whom our enforcement is directed. For example: Would we apprehend an armed attacker in the same exact manner as we would a 7 year old, unaccompanied child -- or an 85 year old woman struggling to stand with a walker? Clearly, we would adjust the "pressure" of our actions.

Taking these points into account, and again operating under the assumption that our laws are coherent, consistent, and just, here is what I would DO with regard to the current flow of illegal immigrants over the southern border.

Unaccompanied Children would be given an immediate "urgent needs assessment."  Are they old enough to be "sent back" with any realistic hope of getting home alive?  Are they hungry? Are they clean?  Are they in need of rest?  Are they in need of medical attention (remember the Good Samaritan)? Are they in need of someone to sit down and respond to them as a human being who cares whether they live or die (c.f. Lev 19:34, Deut 10:19)?  

I would suggest such needs be addressed prior to carrying out an orderly, and compassionate procedure to reunite them with their families in their home countries (provided that they are not legitimate "refugees" according to our legal definitions).

These needs do not necessarily have to be addressed entirely at government/taxpayer expense.  Catholic Relief Services would assist, as would similar organizations connected to other religious entities.  Maybe by so doing, Mr. Obama would come to an appreciation of the role of the Church in society.

Adults who cross illegally, should also be given an emergency assessment designed to be sure that they can physically tolerate being sent back -- then, when these immediate/urgent needs are addressed (think religious service agencies again), they should be sent back -- again, unless they qualify as refugees under U.S. law.

Incomplete and imperfect as these are, they are my thoughts -- subject to further study,discernment, and correction in light of our Catholic Faith.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Shem and Japheth, Rather than Ham

  Noah was the first tiller of the soil. He planted a vineyard;  and he drank of the wine, and became drunk, and lay uncovered in his tent.  And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it upon both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.
~Gen 9:20-23


I admit to having "an issue" with negative pope-talk. Before I begin, I'll offer something close to full disclosure (not exactly full, because I'm going to keep it to the point) - I have nothing negative to say about any of the men who have held the Petrine office in my lifetime; and that begins with Pius Xll. And, to be glaringly clear; I love both the Pope Emeritus and the Pope. 


My "issue" with negative pope-talk really flows from my Franciscan style of Spirituality. The pope is my papa; my dad, my pops, my father. In all of my life, even with regard to those things I may not have particularly liked, I have never - outside of a few conversations with him - felt the need to publicly criticize my dad, nor his actions. 


What does such criticism really serve? Whom does it really serve? What (virtuous) good does it advance? I prefer to approach the "papal negatives" from a contemplative stance -- I'll pray, fast, sacrifice, and do penance for the Holy Father. If I feel it absolutely necessary, in fraternal charity, then -- I'll write to him; as did several saints with regard to popes of the past. I won't take to my facebook page, nor my blog (shameless plug for: thesmallshoppe.blogspot.com) to point out my judgment on the particular actions or decisions of the Holy Father. 


Another thing that gives me pause about "negative pope talk" is the very real possibility that my judgement is flawed. Are there things about the decisions and actions of the Holy Father of which I am unaware, or perhaps misinformed? I'm pretty sure that there often are such things. So, as I've said, until an occupant of the Chair of Peter attempts to teach error as Truth, or to strike down Truth as error, I will not be pointing out my judgments on his daily actions and decisions; not even those pertaining to liturgy. 


For the record, I am one of those "Extraordinary Form" people, who, according to "popular wisdom," are supposed to love Benedict, and hate Francis. I'm just a Catholic who strives to practice filial obedience and charity with regard to those set over me in my family; the Church.

Monday, May 5, 2014

There Are Times When What the Shepherds Really Need, is to Know the Sheep will Follow Them...

Having sought, and gratefully received, permission from my friend and brother in the Faith, Thomas Pringle of Lutz, Florida, I am here sharing a question he posed earlier today via social media:

Why do some Catholics, including some clergy, insist on neglecting their responsibility to teach the moral truths of the Church on human sexuality? If we don't lift our voices now, and defend what we know to be the Truth, we will lose our opportunity in the future. It's time to take a stand on these issues, (and) not back down from the fight.

And, here is my "answer," which I offered as a comment upon his post:

This is ONE reason we need to pray constantly for our clergy! The strength and courage they NEED to overcome the socio-political inertia only comes from Grace. In the Divine Economy, this grace is gained for them through the prayers, penances, fasting, sacrifices, and pain offerings of the faithful; especially the laity in their daily lives in the world. As we make these offerings, we must also clearly communicate to our shepherds that we are ready and willing to stand with them in this fight; and to follow them when they bravely step out in moral leadership.

In my life of some 60+ years, I have learned that there are times when those who would lead us simply need the reassurance that we will actually follow.

"Should" it be thus?  Oh, I suppose one could argue that it shouldn't.  Then again, as soon as one remembers that we deal with fragile human beings like ourselves, then it seems rather likely that whether or not it "should" be thus; it simply is.

The challenge I offer is therefore twofold: Take up arms as faithful laity in this spiritual warfare. And let your deacons, priests, and bishops know that you are doing so -- and that you will support them when they take what may be unpopular stands.

As we rightly expect our shepherds to assume the role proper to their God-given offices, we must rightly assume ours as well.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ss. John XXlll & John Paul ll ~ The Coming Schism: Remember to Look Both Ways....

As we near the canonizations of Blesseds John XXlll & John Paul ll, I have heard and read many remarks as to a coming "schism" in the Church.  Many of those saying such things speculate that the schism will "come from the right."  

While I don't normally use "right" and "left" in reference to the Church, I'll indulge here, just this once: 

I think the schism will be well populated by people from both the right and the left. Many of these, from both extremes, are already in operative schism

The priest (name withheld) right here in my diocese, who still uses the previous translation of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite on weekdays, is no less in "schism," than the people I know who won't use the Luminous Mysteries because they claim that these came from "modernism." 

A pox on both their houses.  

The Catholic Church will remain as the splinters fall from the edges.  

As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVl prophesied, we will become a smaller and more faithful Church.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wisdom From a 3rd Grader!

"gather the children in this wild country
and teach them what they should know for salvation."
Our Lady of Good Help, to Adele Brise, 1859
This took place last night (03.11.2014) in my Elementary Grade Catechism Class at St. Joseph Oratory in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  

I have 39 students in class.

We were discussing the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, from Lesson 10 of the New Baltimore Catechism #1 (St. Joseph Edition).

As we discussed grace, we reviewed briefly how the life of grace can be darkened or destroyed in us by sin.  There was a question from one young man, "How do I know if I have a mortal sin."  So, we reviewed the 3 conditions which make a sin mortal: The matter must be gravely wrong, the sinner must know it is gravely wrong, and the sinner must give full consent of the will in committing the sin.

Then, as some still seemed unsure of what sins might be so grave as to be mortal, I asked for some examples of things that would, objectively, be gravely wrong.  We came up with most of the things you'd expect; murder, abortion, intentional physical injury of another (or of yourself), suicide, etc.

One answer, however, rather amazed me.

A young man, whom I will only identify by his first name, "Gus," said this:

"Like if you use a gun or something and force someone to give up the Catholic Faith, or do something so they have to give up being a Catholic or they'll die."

Yes!  To induce someone to abandon the Catholic Faith is a seriously grave matter! Objectively speaking, it is a mortal sin.

I was remarking to the class that I've never heard that answer from anyone in a Catechism Class before, nor even from adults in the many adult faith formation classes I've taught.  Then, I stopped myself and asked Gus, "What grade are you in?"  He smiled and said "Third."

I told him, "God has given you wisdom to say what you've said, and your angel has helped you to say it!"

Matthew 21:14-16 ~

"And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, 'Hosanna to the Son of David!' they were indignant; and they said to him, 'Do you hear what these are saying?' And Jesus said to them, 'Yes; have you never read,
‘Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings
thou hast brought perfect praise’?”


Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Devil in the Common Core Details

"For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacence of fools destroys them;
But he who listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of evil."  Proverbs 1:32-33 (RSV-2CE)

As I prepare this post, the war over the so-called Common Core Curriculum is raging in the various states and school districts (public and parochial) throughout the country.

The protagonists tout the curriculum as being "more vigorous," (which seems code for "more controlled"), less "general," (also code for "more controlled"), and as an instrument to "prepare students for college and careers" (supposedly a novel idea; no curriculum has done this previously?).

The antagonists, unfortunately, are all over the map with their reasons for opposing the curriculum.  They typically point out an objectionable included book here, a politically left-leaning lesson plan and/or assignment there, and other such pieces of the pie which they find -- for one reason or another -- unpalatable.  However, what most do not do is to point out the proverbial devil in the details of the Common Core Curriculum.

The Common Core Curriculum is firmly based in the educational philosophy of John Dewey; empiricism.  In this educational philosophy, the thing of most importance is one's personal experience -- even at the expense of classical and long-tested lessons.

To illustrate, if Hamlet were to be read in a Common Core lesson, the things to be learned would not center on the long accepted moral lessons of this great work of Shakespeare.  
The emphasis would be on the individual student's experience of reading Hamlet.  An assignment might be to imagine you are Fortinbras -- and write a brief essay describing your experience of death in Hamlet.

Obviously, with several or more students, there would be several or more essays describing several or more experiences.  Under Common Core each experience will be affirmed as valid (or true) for that student.  An inescapable conclusion is "my experience is true for me."

The devil in the details of Common Core is that empiricism is the identical twin of moral relativism; "your truth is true for you, and my truth is true for me."  My personal experience, and your personal experience become the dictators of our personal morality, personal ethics, personal values, and personal norms.  There cannot really be any societal norms, nor any cultural mores.  Indeed, there can be no objective truth; personal experience trumps all.

The classics are not studied for their own merits in the Common Core.  The long held moral lessons enshrined in the classics are either ignored or severely downplayed.  After all, it would be wrong to force these preconceived ideas on children -- they must be taught to think critically -- or at least to do so according the definition of the Common Core Curriculum.

Complacence in the face of empiricism will destroy us.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Hidden Dangers of the "Pieta Prayerbook" ~ It's not as "Innocent" as it looks....

I know that some of my Facebook Friends and some of my In Real Life Friends will find this difficult to read.  Please know that I am a former devotee of the "Pieta Prayerbook" as well.  Since my return to the Catholic Church in 2007, I have been extremely vigilant against anything that may sew the seeds of disobedience or rebellion.  Most such things are subtle; that is how Satan often works.  He leads us astray with things that seem good, innocent, even holy.  Sometimes, these things look so good and so holy that we "cut them some slack" if they're just a "little bit disloyal" to the Church.

The Pieta Prayerbook exists in direct violation of a decision rendered in 1954 with the approval of His Holiness Pope Pius Xll, that the so-called 15 promises made to St. Bridget are not of supernatural origin, and are not to be published nor disseminated.  

As if this were not reason enough for faithful Catholics to avoid this book, it also contains unapproved private revelations presented as facts.

So "What's the big deal?"  The acceptance and use of this book breeds disloyalty, disobedience, and rebellion.  It introduces confusion among the faithful.  It is the responsibility of the Teaching Authority of the Church to rule on matters of faith and morals; and this is for an important reason: Satan is out to destroy the Church - cf: Revelation 12: 17.  He will do this by trying to separate the sheep from the shepherd.  To separate us, he will teach us to trust our own judgment over that of our shepherd.  He will teach us first to disregard, then to disobey, then to rebel.

Please read the following carefully.  I offer this out of serious concern for the souls of many of my Catholic friends who are innocently being led astray by the use of this so-called prayerbook.  Feel free to contact me directly with any questions.

               ACTA APOSTOLICAE SEDISSUPREMA SACRA CONGREGATIO S. OFFICIIMONITUM
In aliquibus locis divulgatum est opusculum quoddam, cui titulus "SECRETUM FELICITATIS - Quindecim orationes a Domino S. Birgittae in ecclesia S. Pauli, Romae, revelatae", Niceae ad Varum (et alibi), variis linguis editum.
Cum vero in eodem libello asseratur S. Birgittae quasdam promissiones a Deo fuisse factas, de quarum origine supernaturali nullo modo constat, caveant Ordinarii locorum ne licentiam concedant edendi vel denuo impremendi opuscula vel scripta quae praedictas promissiones continent.
Datum Romae, ex Aedibus S. Officii, die 28 Ianuarii 1954.Marius Crovini, Supremae S. Congr. S. Officii Notarius

(Translation into English)

                                     Acts of the Holy See  Congregation of the Holy Office  Warning
In some places, a certain little work has been disseminated called the "Secret of Happiness: 15 Prayers Revealed by the Lord to St. Bridget in the Church of St. Paul at Rome", published at Nice and various other places in several languages. Since it is asserted in this pamphlet that God made to St. Bridget certain promises, whose supernatural origin in no way stands up, let local ordinaries take care not to grant permission for publishing or reprinting pamphlets or other writings which contain these aforementioned promises.

Given at Rome, from the offices of the Holy Office, 28 , January 1954 Marius Crovini, Notary of the Supreme Holy, Congregation of the Holy Office 

Some recent publications of the promises (cf: the “Pieta Prayerbook”) have made various claims about past popes approving their publication, however, such claims are quite false. No authentic records of such approvals of the promises themselves exist. It should be noteworthy that it is for this very reason that the “Pieta Prayerbook” does not now, and cannot, carry either the Imprimatur nor the Nihil Obstat.

THERE IS A GOOD, PROPER AND APPROVED BOOK! The book titled “The Magnificent Prayers” is published by TAN publishers. The inside front pages provide an explanation as to why TAN published THIS book, and why they do NOT carry the “Pieta Prayerbook.” Click the link below to learn about and/or order the Magnificent Prayers: