Weekly Prayer Intentions – 19 October 2020

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, forever and ever.

Amen.

Please join me in lifting up these intentions:

For the graces of diligence and consolation.

For a special intention.

For relief from the pandemic.

That the Holy Spirit, through those I follow and those who follow me, may lead us all to Holiness.

That all the souls in Purgatory may be granted kind admittance into the eternal light of God’s Grace.

St Luke, Pray for us.

Please leave your prayer intentions or Saint intercessions in the comments, for myself and passers by to pray for this week.

Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen.

CLXXVI – Socionomics

I have mentioned occasionally that I am an accountant by trade so it’s actually surprising to me that I haven’t touched on financial topics more frequently. Like most people, I have thrown some monopoly money into the markets on occasion just to see what sticks. I’ve never really viewed it as anything other than gambling, since I have no detailed knowledge of the investments themselves and I have no reason to believe the markets will behave a certain way other than what I describe as my horse sense about the state of things.

Nevertheless, my inexperience and incompetence in the field doesn’t prevent me from speculating about why markets move the way they do. There are three axioms that serve as a starting point. 1) The timeless “Buy low, sell high”. 2) Markets are efficient. 3) Markets have all information built into the price.

Probably the biggest mover is people’s attitudes about a stock. For example: If I believe a certain stock is priced low and will go higher in a time period I’m comfortable with, I will buy that stock. If everyone believes the same thing and they buy that stock, demand increases and so the price necessarily increases, and the price has gone from low to high. If I sell the stock after everyone has bought into it, I will have made some amount of money only because of the belief that it’s price will increase.

This same behavior plays out but you can substitute any predicate you want. If [some stimulus] and everyone buys [some stock] then the price will increase. You see this with some fad stocks, like Tesla or Apple: these are popular companies and so also popular stocks and their stock price is through the roof. Axiom #3 was most recently presented to me in a finance class and so presumed financial information. But there is Sociological information built into markets as well, including this fad phenomenon.

I am tempted to subdivide Axiom #3 into two parts: 3a) Markets have all information about the company built into the price; 3b) Markets have all the information about the investors built into the price. Neither diminishes the original axiom but clarifies what kind of information you might have. 3b in particular doesn’t get a lot of play.

This leads to situations where companies which produce actual products can have a lower overall market value than companies which are socially popular but don’t produce anything (compare Ford and Twitter, for example).


I look at market news and see headlines speculating about why the market behaves the way it does. “Stock futures rise ahead of xyz” or “Markets open lower on concerns about pdq”. I usually have two questions I ask myself when I see these headlines: Why today? and What changed? A headline I saw this morning says “Stock futures drop on rising COVID-19, Economic risks” Why are these risks affecting the markets today? What changed about these risks today versus yesterday?

There’s no real answer to these questions. And those headlines usually are written by institutional investors who may be playing a sleight-of-hand game, directing our attention to one explanation when it may, in fact, be another. But no one can know how much the stock market moved because of a specific piece of news. How much lower are futures due to Covid risks alone? It’s impossible to quantify.

The bottom line is that it’s a horse-sense gambling game. More information doesn’t necessarily mean better outcomes, but I believe understanding how people react to information does. Economics, therefore is as much a sociological field as it is a financial one.

CLXXV – Pews Full of Prodigal Sons

The parable of the Prodigal Son is one of my favorites. When I first converted, contemplating it helped me move past any guilt or regret I had and reminded me that any Catholic Church is a place where I will always be welcomed home.

An illusion that I think is common is to think that there is anyone out there who is not a prodigal son. It is very easy to get caught in what I have seen described as a Holiness spiral, comparing oneself and ones faith life to the manifest holiness of another or the superficial holiness of another, and feeling inadequate. There certainly are some people out there who appear to have a gift. I am not among them, and my faith life has been, is, and will likely always be a struggle.

I made this myself with very little effort and it shows.

An image that came to mind one day was the idea of a Church whose pews were filled with prodigal sons. It struck me as kind of a funny image, like how satire takes things to a hyperbolic extreme. Rows upon rows of prodigal sons, returned home to a forgiving Father.

It kind of takes the wind out of any idea that someone else is ‘holier than thou’ or especially pious. It gives me the impression of a rag-tag bunch of sinners trying their best to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Picking up tools we have forgotten how to use, following rules whose purpose we have forgotten, and going to work for the Father on land we don’t remember how we acquired. “Am I saying this right?” one prodigal son says to another. “That’s how I say it, so I think so.” he replies.

AMDG

Weekly Prayer Intentions – 12 October 2020

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, forever and ever.

Amen.

Please join me in lifting up these intentions:

For diligence in a special intention.

For N. in his travels, J. in her pregnancy, and F. in his wedding planning.

That the grace of God can shine through our sufferings, big and small.

That the Holy Spirit, through those I follow and those who follow me, may lead us all to Holiness.

That all the souls in Purgatory may be granted kind admittance into the eternal light of God’s Grace.

St Luke, Pray for us.

Please leave your prayer intentions or Saint intercessions in the comments, for myself and passers by to pray for this week.

Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen.

CLXXIV – The Parish

I am actively involved in my parish Young Adult Ministry. My parish has a huge population associated with it so it can afford a paid staff member to coordinate this ministry, and I and others help that person in planning and organizing events, offering ideas and suggestions, and occasionally receiving mentorship pertaining to leadership and spiritual growth. During this time of dispensation, and because I have had to dial back my involvement due to my educational pursuits, I have tried to remain engaged in Ministry affairs because it helps me to have something to keep my mind engaged outside of work, and (more importantly) it presents an opportunity for me to give back to the Holy Mother Church in some limited capacity. The great, terrible challenge with this ministry is that gathering millennials is like herding cats.

It makes me think about what our relationship as individuals is to our Parish.


The Parish is like a franchise in that you probably have one that’s convenient to you but you probably also have one that you prefer because of some-or-other amenity. We seek it out when we need it and then leave when we are done.

The Parish is like a community center in that it provides a space for people to gather and often doesn’t require much if anything from people to gather there. Proximity to the Parish can make people feel good about engagement in their parish life but that engagement may or may not be aligned with the goals of the Church.

The Parish is like a school in that people go there to learn and even agree it is important to attend to the Parish but will not linger long after the closing bell rings.


The Parish should be like a towering, beautiful cathedral which one can tell is a place where God lives and which we are permitted to visit.

The Parish should be like a training grounds where people go to learn and enhance their craft and then take that craft with them into the world.

The Parish should be like a home where one feels a sense of pride in taking care of it, supporting it, and inviting people into it; where one loves the other people one finds there as family.


The reality of Parish life is far from what I am suggesting it should be, and my thoughts of what it should be are probably far removed from the original conception of a church back in the earliest days of Christendom.

The Young Adult Ministry of which I am part has this challenge of a tremendous host of people interested in consuming what it offers, and not especially interested in assisting to offer it. Much like that mother-hen in the childrens story about making bread. I can sense two very distinct pulls working on this ministry. In one direction, the pull to seek out these individuals and meet them where they are, and to be greeted as one of them. In another direction, to raise the bar and call individuals to a higher standard to try and grow them. In the first, we will have a great many people attending to our events who will have very little idea what it means to be Catholic; in the second, we will have very few people but they will be very well formed. Is it better to have quantity or quality?


This is an interesting problem to have, because probably never before in history has this particular ministry been considered an essential function of a Parish or a significant arm of Holy Mother Church. There are plenty of Parishes who do not have such a function and get along just fine, and it is hard for me to say if those Parishes are better or worse for it. They are certainly simpler for it. Given that my Parish does have it, and I happen to be involved, I am actively contemplating what is the best utilization of our time and effort.

The number one concern should be connecting individuals to the Sacraments, I think. Anything else is aimed at community building or evangelization or catechesis. All important things in their own right, but very difficult to achieve given the nature of our target audience and the current inhibiting factors imposed on us.

AMDG

CLXXIII – Conflicting Authority

I made a claim in a recent article that Authority exists within context. I think this helps to clarify a point I have been unable to move past: When two people disagree about an authority, who is right?

The solution I have come to is that this is the wrong question. To wit: An officer in the Army and an officer in the Navy of approximately equal rank both have authority in their respective contexts. The Army officer cannot go to the Navy and expect the same latitude he receives among his own men, though the Navy personnel can and should afford him the respect that comes with being an officer.

Now let’s imagine it’s a Turkish Naval officer and an American Army officer. Lets suppose as well that they are allied and so cooperating. The Turkish Naval officer would not have authority in the Army for the same reason as the American Naval officer. For all intents and purposes they are the same. Now lets suppose two soldiers meet in the mess hall and get to talking about their experiences. Lets suppose the Turkish sailor remarks to his American army counterpart that the Turkish navy is great and makes the most sense. If he could join any force in the world, he would join the Turkish Navy. The American soldiers pride has been struck, naturally, because he has enjoys his experience in the American Army, he retorts in kind: If he could join any force int he world, he would join the American army because it is the best.

Well there you go. Two people with different ideas of the preferred authority have no way of determining which authority is “best”. The Turkish Naval officer and the American Army officer both have authority that their counterparts subordinates will not acknowledge. So arguments from authority when there are rival authorities are especially weak. In the context of an apologia for the Catholic Church, if I argue that the Church has Authority, to someone who does not recognize the authority of the Catholic Church, then I should not be surprised that the argument goes nowhere.


What then would be an effective apologia for the Catholic Church qua authority? I approached this before in a roundabout way by discussing what an ideal authoritative structure might look like. But that remains subjective, as different people have different ideals. Essentially that argument can be reduced to “I believe this authority therefore you should also believe this authority.”

When it comes to Faith, we are talking about matters of truth. But arguing that the Church is true, I have argued previously, returns us to a question about the Authority of the Church. There is a triad that is usually shared as “Beauty, Goodness, Truth” as things which point to God. So the apologia for the Church would be somewhat naturalistic, I would say. Goodness can be argued without addressing directly the claim that the Church has authority. What things are good? Does the Church promote those things? Beauty perhaps as well: What is beauty? What things are beautiful? Does the Church promote those things?

Ultimately people will be persuaded by different arguments unique to themselves, but I have been puzzling over how to talk about the authority of the Catholic church for a long time. I believe the answer I have just arrived at is “don’t”.

AMDG

Weekly Prayer Intentions – 5 October 2020

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, forever and ever.

Amen.

Please join me in lifting up these intentions:

That I might bear my burdens worthily.

For my grandmother on the recent occasion of her birthday; and G. in his job search.

That all may love God’s will as it is done, know God’s will that it may be done, and want God’s will to be done.

That the Holy Spirit, through those I follow and those who follow me, may lead us all to Holiness.

That all the souls in Purgatory may be granted kind admittance into the eternal light of God’s Grace.

St Faustina Kowalska, Pray for us.

Please leave your prayer intentions or Saint intercessions in the comments, for myself and passers by to pray for this week.

Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen.

CLXXII – Command Presence

I’ve been thinking about the mix of personal experience, expertise, and authority that make up what I will refer to in shorthand as “command presence”. Command Presence as I am thinking of it here can come in three flavors: Negative, positive, and neutral. A negative presence means, given no additional information, when you speak people will tend to disagree with, act contrarily to, or denigrate what you say. A positive presence means people will tend to agree with, act in conformity with, or approbate what you say. A neutral presence means people will neither agree nor disagree.

I’ve been thinking about this because I have found that I tend to desire a positive command presence. I don’t think I am alone in this but I am certainly only aware of my own inclinations. It’s natural for people to want a positive command presence. People like to be listened to and like others to defer to them. It fuels pride, to a certain extent. And why shouldn’t it? If I have spent the last twenty years working with widgets, when I speak about widgets I would hope people listen.

Hoping people listen is an expectation. When I, a career widget worker, speak about widgets, my expectation is to demonstrate a positive command presence. If a crowd of people responds as if I had a negative command presence, I would naturally be very frustrated. Even worse, if I speak about widgets and someone else also speaks about widgets, but speaks contrariwise to what I say, both of us will expect deference from the other and both of us will be frustrated by the unwillingness of the other to do so. What we’re talking about is personal authority and, to a certain extent, respect.

If we take the position that everyone wants deference, we could restate that by saying that everyone wants respect. Respect is a milder form of deference, but nonetheless it is an element of being human. Respect is not the same as a positive command presence. I can disagree with someone and still show them respect, and vice versa.

Personal authority only exists within command structures, and it is fallacious to think it extends beyond that. If a three-star General retires and goes to a restaurant with his wife, he will not expect that everyone present salute him. Authority exists within context. Authority is different from command presence in that it adds in the ability to make someone else do some thing.

Let me pause to avoid confusion with the terms to which I am adding my own definition:

  • Command Presence – an individuals expectation of how they should be perceived
  • Respect – polite deference
  • Authority – An individuals ability, within a specific context, to effectuate some end either individually or through subordinates.

If I confuse command presence with authority, as I’ve defined them here, I might say “I am an authority on the subject of widgets, which gives me the ability to make you believe me.” The reality is that I expect you to believe me, and if we were at the Widget HQ, you would probably have to do what I say.


A fact about me is that I am an anxious person. As I understand it, my disposition is better than others but not so good as those who do not describe themselves as anxious people. One aspect of how this manifests in my life is what I describe as social anxiety. As my family can attest, for most of my life the idea of crowds has induced an anxiety reaction in me, so from what I can tell this is an innate aspect of my personality. Part of the reason crowds concern me is that I tend to cultivate in myself a negative command presence, which is to say, the expectation that what I say or do will be disagreed with, contravened, or denigrated. With age and wisdom I have been able to learn to act against this preconceived perception. After I graduated I worked as an Auditor, and going up to strangers at their own work place and asking them for their own work product was an instructive experience for me.

It helped me overcome an element of that negative command presence. Auditors are not a beloved people. I learned in my time in that role first that as an Auditor, I had authority in that context to ask for something; second that most people are generally willing to give polite deference even to people they may be unhappy to see. Authority need not be exercised apologetically: As mentioned in the comments of an earlier article, leadership involves issuing commands as commands and without reservation or explanation. What this tells me is that a neutral command presence is the best kind of command presence. Entering a situation with no expectation as to how other people perceive you, while extending to them polite deference and expecting polite deference in return, is a recipe for social success.


Everyone has some idea of how they would like to be perceived. Humility is the practice of acting against the desire to be perceived positively, and confidence is the practice of acting against the expectation of being perceived negatively. The end result is this neutral state.

The advantage of a neutral command presence is this idea from the Orthosphere, of “Spit no fire, eat no dirt”. If you don’t say anything you’ll regret, you won’t have to apologize for it later. Said another way, if you don’t have expectations then you’re never disappointed.

This most frequently comes up in discussions about religion. Naturally, religious conversations can get heated. No one acknowledges anyone else’s authority because the context is not academic; Everyone expects themselves to be deferred to and the others to defer, and no one does. If I enter these discussions with a new mindset, one of polite deference absent any expectation of deference for myself, not only will I spare myself some heartache but perhaps will have a more productive conversation, as the arms race of authority won’t begin right away. Or, if it does begins, I can be sure it won’t be me who has to eat dirt for it.

AMDG

CLXXI – That Colossal Wreck

I am a traveler in an antique land
Amidst a crowded square, I’m found
In the midst, an outstretch’d hand
from a towering statue, crown’d

He looks, with cold regard
On the people bustling below
On the base, inscription carved
says “Behold, victorious o’er our foe!

He who gave the iron law!
Look on my works ye mighty, and despair!”
None could name the man I saw
And no engraved name was there

The people bustle by this king of kings
another in a litany of forgotten things.

Weekly Prayer Intentions – 28 September 2020

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, forever and ever.

Amen.

Please join me in lifting up these intentions:

That I might work with diligence.

That B. might come to know the Lord’s peace.

For Ministry leaders in our diocese.

That the Holy Spirit, through those I follow and those who follow me, may lead us all to Holiness.

That all the souls in Purgatory may be granted kind admittance into the eternal light of God’s Grace.

St Matthew, Pray for us.

Please leave your prayer intentions or Saint intercessions in the comments, for myself and passers by to pray for this week.

Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen.