Friday, May 20, 2005


I’m always looking for the correct balance to things, as if the secret to life is finding the right combination of reading, prayer, study, work, drink, poetry, non-fiction, etc. I rarely error too much on any given side of things, though I’m not positive I would know it. The grand mistake of my teens and twenties was to mistake survival as the only good. The paradigm was my first responsibility was to survive, and survival was predicated on some minimum daily requirement of pleasure. (I was far too influenced by Sol Gordon’s statement that “If we want to grow up, and not old, we should be able to intensely enjoy at least the number of things equal to our age.”) But now of course it must first be to serve God, on whom the responsibility of my survival lies.

As someone with a practical bent, I’ve always looked at life in utilitarian terms: something to be endured and survived. As an eight-year old I was asking how to make it to Heaven as if it there were a ten-point plan instead of a matter of purblind trust in Christ. “Safety first” has to be the great enemy of Christianity. When told about dying poor in Africa it seemed nonsensical to own anything that didn’t sustain life; how could one own a television when it might be sold for $50 and feed a family in Africa for a month? That might sound radical but it’s actually completely utilitarian and practical: it is common sense that if you have a television and someone in Africa doesn't have food, you trade your television so that they could have food. The ideal in this case is the practical, and there’s the rub. This leads, of course, to great tension.

• • • • •

Sometimes it seems all too easy to use Jesus's defense of the woman pouring the perfume over His feet (er.. something like that, I seriously need to read Scripture more often) as a justification for every self-indulgent expense. "We're Catholics. We recognize the importance of beauty. It gives glory to God; it lifts up our hearts and minds." Thus money goes to replace the ugly, depressing, perfectly functional couch instead of into the poorbox. Stuff like that.

And is it wrong to get a new couch because the old one is ugly? I'm pretty sure it's not, per se, but like so many matters for "prudential judgment," it seems like it's easy to decide that there's never anything wrong with deciding either way. Maybe this just shows that I need more prudence.

Can things be actual sins if they're never on a sin list somewhere? You know, like, no examination of conscience aid for Confession is going to say "getting a new couch just because you're sick of the old one, when you could put that $400 in the St. Vincent DePaul box -- venial." I admit that when I am not gripped with fear of a scrupulous nature, I never consider myself guilty of a sin for making a less-good decision like that. Yet I often feel cruddy about indulging just because I can.
Oh, I meant to say, I know you can sin in matters of prudential judgment, but when your conscience like mine is not very sure of anything aside from the most black-and-white application of rules, it almost ironically becomes easy to look at prudential decisions as a matter of preference and not of prudence -- not quite like true moral decisions. Or something. Uh, does this have anything to do with the original post anymore? Not sure.
I'm always shocked to get a comment on this blog! But when I do get one I think, man, I should've at least read my post before posting it! *grin*.

I guess the real dilemma here is where does individual conscience begin and Church guidance end? (or vice-versa?) In other words, the whole beauty of being a Catholic is not having to be terrified we got things right, because the Church is supposed to help us in that regard. But I have a scrupulous streak that sometimes thinks the Church is being too easy on me. Or maybe that's God telling me that. See what I mean?

I do recall being absolutely terrified of Hell as a young kid and I don't know that I've ever gotten over that. Don't know whether that's good or bad. Guess I'm no help at all!
You're shocked to get blog comments, meanwhile I'm having a blog commenting hangover the next day not wanting to go see what I blathered about and whether anyone put his or her foot down on my excess. There's something about bloghopping in procrastination of bedtime that brings out the worst blabbermouth in me... (my husband catches up on work in his home office late at night, so it's especially easy to do this)

Obligatory on-topic-ish content: Sometimes it's just easier to have someone tell you what to do. I stick to the meatless Friday almost every time, even when I have the option to substitute a penance, not so much for the higher reasons that might recommend it as that it's just easier to do that than to try to figure out something roughly "equivalent" in penitential character.
Yikes, now I'm wondering if my substitution is equivalent. *grin*.

Btw, Jimmy Akin had a long piece arguing, if somewhat Jesuitically, that the bishops didn't mean to lay upon us (i.e. force) a substitute something for the old obligation. I think the bishop wording was something like we should do it if we want to grow closer to God. Which begs the point - who among us doesn't? It's sort of like if my wife said "if you loved me you'll do this".
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