Mar 3, 2007

A New Book by Colleen Drippe'

A few days ago I drove west and had a delightful lunch with Colleen Drippe', the editor of Hereditas Magazine and the author of a new children's book that reminds me of one of the Hardy Boys series. In addition to authoring a previous set of children's books, Colleen writes science-fiction (see two of her stories in the new INFINITE SPACE, INFINITE GOD sci-fi anthology mentioned in a previous post). She is also the author of GODCOUNTRY, an imaginative Catholic sci-fi novel that I'm currently reading. Colleen has over 200 published works to her credit, including quite a few articles on home-schooling. I asked Colleen several questions about her new book, and her answers appear below.

What was your purpose in writing MYSTERY AT MINER’S CREEK?

You asked a big question there. I have written a mystery/suspense novel for young readers, but the book is more than that. I have provided an alternative, however small, to the corpus of corrupting and enervating writing so often presented to modern children. This is a Catholic book. While it is recreational reading, MYSTERY AT MINER’S CREEK is also a teaching book – not explicitly (or boringly) but in its very story line and in its assumptions. And this book is part of my campaign (shared by an increasing number of other Catholic writers) to retake the field of fiction writing for the Faith.

How are you qualified to write this book?

As the mother of four grown children (taught at home for most of their school years) I write what I know. In recent years, I have also been a teacher in a Catholic school and have come to know a good many well-brought up Catholic children. I write what I see, remember, imagine, and would like to see.

Is MYSTERY AT MINER’S CREEK for a particular age level? For boys? For girls?

I have aimed this book at the fifth grade through maybe ninth or higher. The main characters are boys – but after all, girls like a good adventure story too. They’ve got brothers, haven’t they? I think this will appeal to homeschoolers but also to those in school. My earlier books did.

What is the framework of the story? The storyline?

This is the story of Mr. and Mrs. Steiner and their seven children who take possession of a run down desert ranch where, Mr. Steiner tells them, his children can grow up straight and strong. He is a magazine illustrator and can live where he pleases – and this is where he pleases.

From the beginning, there is both mystery and adventure. Much work must be done on the antiquated adobe house and at first there are no amenities. A further complication arises in the presence of the children’s city cousin, Ryan. Ryan’s parents are away on a business trip and he is to live with the family for several months. Conflict arises immediately.

Strange happenings follow – signs of a prowler, a stray dog and an elusive Mexican boy who warns them not to stay, odd accusations from the local sheriff, footprints, trails – but I don’t want to spoil things for the reader.

Enough to say, the mystery unravels, the threads are tied properly, and the main character, Peter Steiner, learns more than he bargained for. So does Ryan.

What lessons will students learn from reading MYSTERY AT MINER’S CREEK?

This is a story of family life. It is a realistic story. Most of us have relatives who do not live as we do, whose children are different from ours. And we are all tempted to judge others from time to time. This is a story about a rash judgment (more than one). It is also the story of competent parents who trust and guide their children – including the nephew who does not fit in. It is not a story of helpless grownups and wise children. The lessons here are both old and true. I am showing how family life works when you do it right.

Do you have any other books planned in this series?

Yes, I am working on the next Steiner family mystery now. It is called THE DESERT FATHER MYSTERY. Ryan is back and the boys have been given the opportunity to help a real archaeologist on a dig. But of course things do not go smoothly –

Where can MYSTERY AT MINER’S CREEK be purchased?

This book, along with another book of mine (for younger children) called CHRISTMAS AT THE LITTLE BLUE HOUSE, is available from Little Flowers Family publishers.
Or you may write for a catalog of other books at:
Little Flowers Family Apostolates
RR1 McDonalds Corners
Ontario KOG1M0

Colleen Drippe' is a very imaginative and busy lady and you may want to check out her web sites here and here.

Mar 1, 2007

Temptations before Death

Mrs. M has died. About two weeks before she passed away, we talked at length in the nursing home. She had decided all her sexual sins of the past were normal, that God would understand and was not offended, and that her actions of many years ago were really not sins, etc. I knew Mrs. M's health was rapidly deteriorating and her erroneous conjectures caused me great concern.

In the past year, Mrs. M had three temptations of the faith that she shared with me. Each temptation came from reading books against the faith given to her by other residents of the home. The first resulted in her dalliance with a belief in reincarnation. The second was when she announced that she was sure that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had twins--a boy and a girl! The third was her attempt to excuse past sexual sins.

The error of reincarnation was met by finding applicable verses from the Bible and obtaining other Christian teaching found on the internet. The 'twins of Jesus' error was met by giving Mrs. M a well documented book on Mary Magdalene. The third error in which Mrs. M excused her own sins was probably the easiest to meet.

God allowed Mrs. M to be humiliated in many ways throughout her life. This humility allowed her to listen and understand that making excuses for a sin is worse than the sin. Why? Because pride tempts a sinner to not humble himself and ask for forgiveness. Jesus came to save sinners, and we must admit we are sinners before Jesus, our Saviour. When she heard my comments, Mrs. M shook her head yes. That is my last memory of the black lady who was such a strong pro-lifer. May God have mercy on the soul of Mrs. M.

Feb 26, 2007

Are Your Taxes Just?

My brother sent me a link to the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. Normally I am not enthralled by economics and public policy, but this article discusses Switzerland "which has become the target of angry protests by European Union officials and sundry European politicians." Why? Because Switzerland has lower tax rates than other European states.

The most interesting part of the article, to me, discusses the morality and justice of taxes. The author, Samuel Gregg, went back to 16th century Spain to find a
rigorous discussion of the morality of tax-rates. This was sparked by rising taxation, currency debasements, and official state bankruptcies initiated by King Philip II as he struggled to suppress rebellion in the Netherlands and ward off threats to Spain’s world-wide empire.
The article continues:
Reacting to Spain’s subsequent impoverishment, Spanish theologians such as Pedro de Navarra insisted that it was not enough for governments to legislate a tax for it to be considered just. Tax-laws, they argued, must meet other criteria of justice. Was there a genuine need for a new tax? Were the proposed taxes proportionate and equitable? Were they moderate or excessive? The same scholars claimed that imposing taxes to support wasteful government expenditures was immoral, even tyrannical. In some cases, they added, people could rightly refuse to pay, especially when taxes were taking nations to the edge of financial ruin.
I remember some years ago a discussion on whether it was right for a Italian citizen not to pay his full taxes if the average taxpayer in the nation paid only 40, 50, or 60 percent of their total taxes. One Church moralist concluded that if the truthful taxpayer paid 100 percent when most other citizens paid only 50 percent on the average, then the noble taxpayer was being unfairly assessed his share of the tax burden. I don't remember how the debate ended, but the argument seemed logical to me.

Some will note that two wrongs don't make a right, even when it means honest people pay an inordinate share of taxes because of others' lies about their actual incomes. However, I believe the burden should be on the state to justly assess and then rightfully enforce the collection of taxes, rather than allowing some people to avoid paying what is due.

Or much better, the state should first reduce the tax rates before beginning real enforcement. Recovering the annual tax gap of over 300 billion dollars in the U.S. would mean that everyone would be assessed a fair share and most if not all of the budget deficit would disappear. [Of course, that would never happen because Congress is notorious for always looking at new ways to spend more money!]

Some years ago I served on a jury that decided on the merits of a civil lawsuit. The jury determined the plaintiff had exaggerated his claims. Moreover, evidence showed that he made significantly more money than he reported on his income tax form--leaving jurors wondering how much they could trust him (that and a few other things he said!) The jury finally recommended a settlement equivalent to what the insurance company had previously offered the plaintiff. In this case, the man's lies did not create an advantage for him and a disadvantage to the insurance company (and to insurance holders who would have had to pay higher rates). But the man cheated on his tax return, meaning the rest of us paid an unfair share of the total tax burden.

Since that time a burgeoning underground economy has arisen in which workers do not pay income taxes, mostly because they are paid in cash and do not report their income which is estimated at 1 trillion dollars a year. A recent and thorough analysis of the size and characteristics of the underground economy is found in a New Jersey news article published here. The article recognizes that the underground economy is firmly rooted in illegal immigration, yet presents a sympathetic view of the immigrants themselves. My own sympathy is with taxpayers who pay their 100 percent when others cheat and pay nothing. The increasing rate of non-compliance is very bad news for the future of our country, especially when combined with immoral assessment of taxes--as was discussed by the Spanish moralists of the 16th century.

Feb 25, 2007

St. Mark's Church -- Independence, MO

[This is the second post in a series to describe Masses celebrated in Catholic churches in Kansas City (both dioceses). The purpose is to assess the state of the Church in a variety of parishes with respect to the liturgy as it will be revised in the early 21st century. I will hold most of my comments until a later post.]

The facilities of St. Mark's Catholic Church are new and the semi-circular church is attached to a long hallway with very nice and spacious meeting rooms. In the front of the church, a large crucifix is mounted on the stone wall behind a white covered table. The tabernacle is located to the right against another wall, and the microphones for the musicians are located to the left side of the Church. The ceiling is a mixture of high cross beams at various angles, and perhaps distracted me from noticing whether there were any religious statues or pictures. Along the rear wall were small stations of the cross.

I estimated the church to be about 60 percent full at the 8:00 a.m. Sunday Mass, with about 350 people in attendance. The parish consists of 2,200 families and is served by a single priest who celebrates four weekend Masses. The attendees were virtually all white at the Mass I attended, with over half the people over 50 years old. Less than 20 children (14 and under) were present, and no babies in arms (< 18 months) were seen. A single large family with five children was observed in a front pew, but was the exception because other families had only one or two children. Most women wore pants and two women were observed to wear head coverings. Among those who were less than 50, blue jeans were common.

The 8:00 a.m. Sunday Mass began with an elderly woman in a medium pink pant suit leading the singing of a song with multiple refrains of "Mercy" to piano accompaniment. Her fine voice was also to lead other parts of the sung liturgy. An elderly man read the Scriptures during Mass.

The older priest (I was later told he was a visitor) was assisted by two altar boys dressed in white cassocks, who sat to the right side of the white covered table but seemed to have few responsibilities. When the Mass began, the priest in his own words continued the call for mercy, but without saying the words "sin" or "God." The typical opening prayers appeared to be truncated, followed quickly by the prayer, "Lord, have mercy."

The devil's three temptations of Christ was the Gospel reading. The priest's homily began with a small joke, then quickly referred to temptation, sin, grace, and especially the need for repentance. The penances required by the old Church were mentioned, and were said not to get to the real meaning of Lent. The priest emphasized that it was REpentance that was needed. Except for necessary Catholic practices of becoming more generous and kind ("Ask your spouse what changes are needed!"), specific Catholic truths were not taught in the homily.

At the consecration of the wine into the Blood of Jesus, the priest used the words "for all," as the new revision to "for many" has yet to be implemented (to correspond with all extant translations of the Gospel). A very large circular white host was consecrated by the priest. A number of gold bowl-shaped vessels and chalices were on the table during the consecration, and were used by the lay distributors of communion.

People moved to shake hands with each other after the consecration, followed by nine people advancing to near the white covered table. These were the distributors of communion--six older women in pantsuits and three elderly men. After receiving communion from the priest, each lay distributor went to a planned station to distribute communion in the hand to the parishioners. Then a quiet time of about three minutes was provided to sit and meditate.

Following the meditation period, the pastor arrived in a black suit to make a significant number of announcements from the podium, including a request for new nominations to the parish council and to recruit more lectors and communion servers. New members of the parish council were asked to be "open-minded" and "listening" persons. The pastor was very personable and told a number of jokes during his announcements, including a story of having BBQ on the prior Friday during Lent (which made a fair number of parishioners gasp). The pastor continued and said he had been taught by another priest to bless the meat and convert it to fish. He ended by saying his meal was the best "fish" he had ever eaten (but the priest did not clarify whether this was a joke or not).

After Mass, almost all the people quickly left the church after Mass, but a few stayed to talk with each other, even though the outside hallway is very spacious. Two people appeared to stay to pray. The 8-page bulletin reveals that St. Mark's Catholic Church received contributions of $128K during the month of January 2007, with expenditures of $133K. These large collections indicate the older people in the parish are very generous. But when these people die, it appears collections will decline precipitously because there are so few children and young people who attend Sunday Mass.

The Principal is WRONG!

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- A Catholic school principal has organized sensitivity training for students who shouted, ''We love Jesus,'' at a basketball game against a school with Jewish students.... See the rest of the story here.

When someone shouts "We love Jesus" to anyone but other Catholics, then confront them with their disordered minds and brainwash them into being silent by "sensitivity training." Religious free speech in the U.S.? It no longer exists.