Monday, October 6, 2014

The Daughters of St. Paul have a new digital magazine (I think the first issue was in August). They contacted me to write an article for the latest issue. Check out the whole magazine here .

Oremus pro invicem!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pre-Capiitalist Man & Post-Capitalist Man

Most of us have lived in a capitalist society for our entire lives, as did most of our parents. To envision life in a pre-capitalist society is foreign to our senses and experience. To wish for a post-capitalist society is beyond our comprehension.
Because it is all we know, we are apprehensive of something different. We believe our economic system today gives us some sort of freedom. We can have all kinds of things, the latest things. There is also something unique but somewhat of a fantasy in our present economic system: we are all hoping in one way or another to win the lottery, whether it be the actual lottery, or a breakout business idea: our ship (wealth) will come in. Unfortunately it won’t happen for most of us.
We need to take a step back, to look at our present economy from an objective point of view. We may see that it is so much nonsense. Is not our debt and our mortgages forms of slavery? Don’t all our things place hooks into our very heart, tearing it down when it should be looking up? Our corporate employers expect loyalty, but give none in return; their only loyalty is to shareholders. They have forgotten that the business of business should be ordered to the interests of the workers.
The very small businessman is so engulfed by red tape and regulations that his only choices are to either give up or give in; the latter being to become big to take advantage of economy of scale in place of quality and craftsmanship; that is, to place the attainment of wealth above all else.
We are both physical and spiritual beings, but capitalism for both the consumer and the worker takes away their spiritual in pursuit of the physical.
Amintore Fanfani, in his classic work, Catholicism, Protestantism and Capitalism tells us something of the pre-capitalist man. The pre-capitalist man would never sell something below cost to increase sales in order to capture a market for the purpose of achieving wealth. In turn, he wouldn’t sell things for more than cost (labor, including his own, plus materials and overhead) to make a ‘profit”. The pre-capitalist man works and sells to satisfy his and his family’s needs, not to acquire wealth. The pre-capitalist would not sell on Sunday to acquire wealth. The pre-capitalist understood he was more than just a physical being.
The state is no longer in the service of man but in the service of commerce. Even on social issues we find the state coming down on the side of more profits for big business. Everything comes down to demographics. Take the recent push for acceptance of homosexual marriage for example. True, some may really believe that this is a human rights issue, but imagine you can follow the money. Homosexuals tend to have more disposable income than many other groups. This is a market to be appeased for the sake of profit.
The major political parties in the United States have no desire to change the economic system status quo. They have been bought and paid for.
Education in this country is about power and money in many ways. The move for more central control is about educating man to fit into and to accept our economic system without question and to train useful workers for corporations. Independent thinkers are lucky indeed if they can avoid the brainwashing of our secondary and college education system whose purpose is to assimilate everyone to the norm as defined by the oligarchs. Socialism is not the solution to capitalism.
 Socialism is the logical conclusion of capitalism. The state gets so big in service of commerce that it can no longer support itself without taking over all commerce.
Both capitalism and socialism treat man as a physical tool to be used until no longer needed. Both eventually strip his spirit.
It is late in the game for this country. Financial and moral collapse are on the horizon.
There have been third ways proposed. They are unpopular because they take away the “lottery” most of us will never win. The third ways may take away unbridled wealth and consumerism (and consumer debt), but they have the opportunity to restore our freedom and our spirit.
If all workers owned property, and the workers were the owners of the means of production instead of being the tools of production, both our physical needs and spiritual needs would be restored in freedom. Proper order in economy would be restored: that is economy directed towards the betterment of man and families, not toward the betterment of a few privileged.
How many times have we been told that the US is the richest nation on earth? No question we are: the United States, with 4.5% of the world’s population and 6% of the world’s land area owns 27% of the world’s wealth. To illustrate our wealth: we own 140,000,000 cars, 219,000,000 TVs, countless refrigerators, computers, etc. Clearly this shows a distribution of consumer goods but demonstrates nothing on equitable distribution of wealth within the United States.
What we should ask is: what is the distribution in the US of productive goods? That is, what is the distribution of ownership in land, in buildings and equipment, in farms, factories, mines, in commercial enterprises, and in machinery?
The more equitable distribution of productive goods is what a distributist system is all about.
For many years the top 1% and the top 10% have been growing while the middle class is shrinking; the productive goods are held by a smaller and smaller percentage of the population.
We have also heard about “the makers and the takers”, but this notion is deceptive. While government entitlements continue to increase for the growing lower classes, we can’t forget that the system is also weighted to favor commerce and not the individual. There is no question that the privileged are takers also-they get their lower tax rates for investment income and laws which favor their corporations, which in turn increase their compensation and profits. Those in power retain their power with free handouts to both the rich and the poor. Because of the bias towards the owners of productive goods, more and more of those in the middle are slipping financially.
The system is unfair. Government handouts insult the dignity of man, at both ends of the spectrum. This is the problem which needs to be fixed. Unfortunately our politically parties are tied to their seats of power: entitlements to the rich and entitlements to (increasingly) everyone else.
Distributism offers a solution to endless entitlements. Productive goods are put into the hands of the greatest possible number of individuals. Guilds will regulate competition and standards governing trades and types of businesses-not the government. The principle of subsidiarity would govern the role of the state in society.
Others can articulate better than I on what Distributism is and how it can work. See for example the writings of Thomas Storck, John Médaille, and Richard Aleman to name a few. For foundational documents, read the social encyclicals of the Catholic popes, especially Popes Leo XII (Rerum Novarum), Pius XI (Quadragesimo Anno), and John Paul II (Centesimus Annus), and the writings of G.K. Chesterton and Hillare Belloc.
There is no heaven on earth. No system is perfect. If we are truly striving for an economic system that is fair to the most people, which meets both their physical and spiritual needs, and which is sustainable for generation after generation, we must look towards a third way.
Oremus pro invicem!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


I am a little late posting on this. Here's the latest installment in the series:
Likewise, as fathers, we cannot simply abandon our children when they make false choices as they sometimes will. We must continue to engage without abandoning the truth and be ready to forgive. Sometimes our only engagement will have to be fasting and prayer.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Delight in Goodness

The next in the series:

One central theme in the CS Lewis classic The Great Divorce is that if our souls are not compatible with Heaven-we won’t enjoy Heaven, and thus, we will chose Hell. Our time on earth is the opportunity to mold our souls to be compatible with Heaven: we must do this by delighting in goodness and rejecting evil in all its forms.

Oremus pro invicem!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Constancy in Love

The latest installment in my series The Ways of God for Fathers .... an excerpt:
In every family there are there are three primary relationships for the father. In descending order of importance: the first is the father with God; the second is the father with the mother; the third is the father with his children.
Constancy in love: Dad must pray every day-on his own and with his family. Dad must love God and show this love in his actions and priorities. The children must know Dad’s first love and relationship is with God. Now this doesn’t mean he neglects his vocation as husband and father to spend 5 hours a day praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Our vocation is as father. We may be called to be contemplative in the world-but in the world, not in a monastery. We aren’t called to live as monks.
Read the rest here.

Oremus pro invicem!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A change of pace

This article and picture was published last year in (Not available online). Hope you enjoy it!

We had just moved from a lifetime of city/suburban living to our first modest, 2-acre homestead. Of course the first new addition was a dog. He was no pup. Approximately 3-4 years old, my friend called him “a very Christian choice” because my boys had picked out a dog with a crippled front leg. The shelter told us they thought he had been hit by a car, but when we took him to the vet, the vet thought there was some birdshot in his joint. Crippled or not, this dog was faster on 3 legs than most are on 4. Challenger (for that was the name the shelter had given him) was part hound and part Lab.
Our second purchase was 50 day-old chicks from a hatchery. They arrived at the post office one morning, and we went to pick them up with great excitement. We wanted eggs and some chickens to eat. This was early September in South Carolina when the days are still in the 80’s (if not 90’s), but the nights are starting to cool down. We didn’t have a brooder. So for the first week or two we brought them into the house every evening and kept them in our upstairs bathroom where the temperature stays quite warm as it is really part of the attic. We didn’t quite maintain the 90ºF temperature a brooder would, but we only lost two chicks. We very glad when those weeks were over as the aroma upstairs was not quite what we were used to. During those two weeks, we renovated the existing chicken coop on the property.
The previous owners had kept goats in a large pen which bordered the coop. We didn’t have goats, so kept Challenger in the “goat pen”. Normally I rise early and take Challenger out for a morning run. However, on one particular morning I left home at 5:30 AM for some meetings in the city. I returned home a few hours later to a mourning family.
Apparently everyone overslept. When the boys went out to feed the chickens and run Challenger, they came upon a terrible scene. Challenger was in the chicken coop. He had slaughtered 31 little chickens before the boys stopped him. He had dug a small hole under the fence and squeezed in. We are still not sure how he fit through that small opening.
My family placed all the chicken carcasses in one garbage bag but had not buried them. They were waiting for me. They were shaken by this sudden exhibition of 'survival of the fittest'. While digging a grave for the chicks my 4-year old son asked if I was going to shoot Challenger (not withstanding the fact I didn’t even own a gun at the time!). I replied, “Not yet.”, but wondered if the birdshot in his leg was from a previous chicken coop raid.
With 19 or so chickens left, I spent the next few hours heavily fortifying their coop with bricks, mortar, barbed wire, impaling stakes, and other protective measures. However, after more rational consideration, I revised the fortifications to a simple, but highly effective protection against our own dogs and other visiting predators. It has kept Challenger and other predators away from our chickens for 8 years. I am here to tell you about it today.
To start, our basic coop as we originally built it consisted of a 24’ x 40’ pen. The laying house is at one end of the pen. The pen is fenced with standard chicken wire 5 feet in height. The chicken wire was originally sunk about 6 inches into the ground, but chickens and environment will eventually bring the trenched wire up to ground level. Pressure treated posts are set about 4 feet apart. Overhead is secured with dog wire in some areas and 2 inch chicken wire in others. As we’ve seen, this wasn’t good enough to keep dogs out.
We decided to lay a digging barrier. We laid four foot chicken wire on the ground around the perimeter of the pen to create a barrier to digging predators. In some places we actually laid down some chain link fencing we had lying around, but chicken wire will do. Dogs and other predators can’t dig through the fencing laid on the ground and won’t try to dig under it as it is too great a distance. Initially we used metal U-shaped stakes designed for landscape plastic to keep the fencing in the ground, but over time, grass growing up holds the fencing down. We don’t want it overgrown, so we do let the chickens out to eat the grass from time to time.
Thomas showing the digging barrier several years after installation.
Several years after we put in this system I found I wasn’t the first to come up with this idea. US Patent No. 6,289,639 entitled “Ground Barrier to Stymie Digging Animals” states:
Animals can be prevented from digging in an area by positioning a plastic mesh barrier on the surface of the earth where it is desired to prevent the digging. The mesh can be anchored so that it will remain reliably positioned and will become nearly invisible as vegetation grows through the openings of the mesh.
According to Bonnie Kaye Davis Robertson (inventor of this invention), plastic mesh is actually better than wire mesh. The invention described is not particular to protecting livestock, but if it as effective as the inventor claims, it seems it would be a cheaper solution than chicken wire. However, the chicken wire won’t break down in the sun as a plastic mesh will.

Over the years we’ve had an increasing number of predators try to visit our flock: wild dogs, fox, coyote, raccoon, but none have breached the simple protection we installed. Our chicken coop with the digging barrier has remained secure with only a modest investment.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Ways of God-Constancy

Next installment of my series on CatholiclLane . Here's an short excerpt:

Thomas Aquinas writes:
In God there is a primary perfection, which is that He never changes His nature. … Let us strive therefore to acquire a stability of spirit…

Ah, how suddenly we pass from good to bad, from hope to groundless fear, and from fear to hope, from joy to unreasonable grief, and from sadness to vain joy, from silence to loquaciousness, from gravity to trifling, from charity to rancor or to envy, from fervor to tepidity, from humility to vainglory or to pride, from gentleness to anger, and from joy and spiritual love to carnal love and pleasure.

In this way we never remain one single instant in the same condition, unless, alas we are constant in inconstancy…..

Not a pretty picture, but pretty true for a lot of us. So let’s examine our constancy as it applies to our vocation as father. (Let us not forget that a whole book could be written with the same outline for our vocation as husband.)

Where do we especially need a stability of spirit as fathers? Well, two areas seem to leap out at us immediately: discipline and love.

Read the rest here

Oremus pro invicem!