The Gospel Truth

A Hungry Heart in a Chinese Restaurant | February 2, 2012

I try to use my treadmill twice a week.

I doubt is if there is a better metaphor for American life now than that instrument of self-torture.

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A metaphor for human life

The economic and political situations, not to mention the many threats from terrorism at home and abroad are so unsettling that relaxation is hardly possible.

So many of us are stuck in an endless cycle of work, eat, shop, kids, carpool and maybe sleep that there is little time to contemplate what does it all mean.

Millions of people are like the the wanderer who seeks out the Buddhist monk on a mountain top in the Himalays, trying to find the meaning of life.

Even the denizens of the shanties and haunts of the poorest neighborhood, some people wonder what their lives must mean if anything.

This is probably the eternal question—why was I born?

As a first grader at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, the third question of the Baltimore Catechism purported to answer that question.

Baltimore Catechism No. 1

Can answer the most important question

This natural examination of one’s life, according to Socrates makes life worth living.

Scholars spend an entire lifetime attempting trying to understand the near unfathomable mysteries of life  wih little recognition from the general public.

Even Hollywood has to get into the act.

Cinema directors and producers produce big budget films with the philosophical input of a sophomore in college that usually experience a broad appeal at the box office.

The most important of these have been Month Python’s The Meaning of Life and Terrance Malick’s The Tree of Life.

The Meaning of Life is a 1983 comedy film by the Monty Python team.

Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life [DVD]

A restless cycle of birth, eating, loving and dying

The feature film properly opens with the human faces of the six Pythons placed on the bodies of fish who are swimming aimlessly in a tank at a restaurant.

Upon seeing that one of their fellow fish is being served to a customer they begin to engage in a brief philosophical conversation on the meaning of life.

As the movie painfully trudges along through the Seven Stages of Life, including sex, war and old age, it takes a satirical look at the Catholic Church’s view on masturbation and contraception.

It is replete with such catchy songs, as Every sperm is sacred!

Their MOL is no threat to William Shakespeare.

Quite simply people are born, fight wars, get married, have sex, get fat and old and die.

There is little of a coherent philosophy underscoring that the fact that its producers were in it strictly for the laughs than any pretense at making any meaningful explanation for human life and history.

Terrance Malick, known for his serious cinematic exploits, took a much more ambitious route with his TOL.

The Tree of Life is a 2011 American drama film with experimental elements written and directed by Terrence Malick and starring Sean PennBrad Pitt, and Jessica Chastain.

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Sophmoric theology

Malick’s film chronicles the origins and meaning of life by way of a middle-aged man’s childhood memories of his family living in 1950s Texas, interspersed with imagery of the origins of the universe and the inception of life on Earth.

A mysterious, wavering light that resembles a flame flickers in the darkness. Mrs. O’Brien (Jessica Chastain) recalls a lesson taught to her that people must choose to either follow the path of grace or the path of nature.

In the mid 1960s, she receives a telegram informing her of her son’s death at age nineteen.

Mr. O’Brien (Brad Pitt) is notified by telephone.

Five billion years in the future, life on the planet Earth is destroyed, incinerated by the Sun as it expands into a red giant and then left alone as a desolate, lifeless frozen planet still orbiting the Sun, which by that time has turned into a feeble white dwarf.

The film relies heavily on flashbacks.

In the present, adult Jack leaves work.

Riding the elevator down he experiences a vision of walking on rocky terrain.

He tentatively walks through a wooden door frame which is erected on the rocks.

On a sandbar, Jack is reunited with his family and all the people who populate his memory.

His father is happy to see him.

His mother is overjoyed when Jack’s memory resurrects his dead brother.

She thanks Jack, kissing his arm twice.

Jack’s vision ends and he leaves his building smiling.

The mysterious, wavering light continues to flicker in the darkness.

I think Malick is like so many armchair theologians, who are clueless as to what the meaning of life really is.

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Malick got some things right

It was Bishop Fulton J. Sheen who pointed out that the human heart–the anatomical one , not what you see in ads for Valentine’s Day, is missing a piece at the top.

It is that missing piece that all human beings seek.

Unfortunately most look in all the wrong places.

They look in accumulating more wealth, finer clothing, faster cars, larger homes, more elegant trips to Europe.

They look for better or at least more frequent sex with a faceless line of thinner, fleshier, taller, shorter partners whose names seem to fade to black as soon as the moment of passion has started to wane.

At the end none of these fleeting moments of satisfaction, ever seem to be enough.

Some will say that life is like eating at a Chinese restaurant every night.

Their souls are hungry for more just three hours later.

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Hungry three hours later

Why is that?

There can never be a heaven on earth.

Our pleasures were made, not to satisfy but to entice for the real pleasures that will undoubtedly come in the next world.

All here is but a dim reflection of what the Lord has prepared for us.

The momentary high of good feeling from a jog in the park or a delicious meal fades as the realities of life replace the physical sense of exhilaration.

No matter how great the sensation, reality always sets in as life moves on.

This explains why millions have dropped out of society with drug, alcohol and even sexual addictions.

They keep looking for their next artificially-induced high.

At my age I have decided to smell the roses—I don’t really like the smell of coffee.

I have been trying to find those fleeting moments of wonder in a child’s smile, a pretty girl walking past me, a good book or film.

I have a massage twice a week no and for that time I can just let my soul and mind drift all over my interior universe.

I have learned to let my physical high transcend my body so that my soul soars even higher than my bodily sensations.

Then there is the flowglow as I call it that can last a few more days until the reality of everyday living intrudes.

This is not a New Age kind of high.

It is deeply rooted in my Catholic as I have tried to link it with John Paul II’s revolutionary Theology of the Body.

My massage gives me what can best be described as a foretaste of Heaven.

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Can transcend the body 

St. Augustine knew all about special highs.

He knew from painful experience that our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

Only then can we satisfy the insatiable emptiness of of our hungry hearts..


  1. Baltimore Catechism: God made us to know, love, and
    serve him in this world and be happy with him in heaven.

    We can know him through the scriptures and if we know him it should be obvious that he loves us so
    we should respond in love. If we love a person we
    try to please him.

    It’s the serving him that is difficult – we serve by obeying the ten commandments and encouraging
    others to do so. Of course, we should also follow
    what Jesus taught us when he was on earth.
    Love your neighbor as yourself for the love of God.

    To do the above is not always easy and it is time con-
    suming to say the least. To put it simply, today we should be working to oppose the secular humanism
    that has invaded our Christian Culture.


    Comment by M. F. — February 3, 2012 @ 3:34 pm


    You look absolutely thrilled on your treadmill. Sort of like the “time to make the donuts” man in the Dunkin Donuts ads.

    I have a personal theory/answer for my “why original sin” question that has always bothered me. Like what did I do to deserve this situation.

    Here is my comment. Prior to disobeying God’s instructions while in Eden, Adam and Eve’s mouth spoke thru their hearts – very pure, very simple, full of feeling.
    But after their disobedience, God placed the mind between their hearts and their words. Suddenly it was simple, thoughts became complicated with “what ifs” etc.

    It was a simple change for God to do. But one that lasts.


    Are you sure that God id that? Could it not have been a result in the change of man’s staus and the
    absence of his “purity if heart. I have read 200 pages of JP II’s TOB and he addresses that very point. The questions came right after they realized that they were looking at each other in a different, more confusing manner. Their loss innocence made them question everything. BB
    PS I am going to use your comment without any name attribution.

    Comment by bbprof — February 3, 2012 @ 5:33 pm

  3. Experience Life: Firing a shot in Fear or anger,.for starters.
    USAR Ret.Inf.

    The Baltimore Catechism ;
    The basic meaning what our Faith means. Too bad these basic facts are denied by many clergymen as being “too harsh” for our young men and women” otherwise the few would not attent the “Teen Mass” as announced recently at a “Teen Mas”. The Catechism is obsolete and not needed.
    Our Bishops ask where have our Catholics gone? and Why?

    Comment by Jim — February 3, 2012 @ 6:05 pm

  4. Some of the above comment from an old friend got deleted. Here’s his completed thought.

    It was simple change for God but lasts a lifetime. This adjustment to our perception of life’s relationships could be “Original Sin”.

    I also came to feel that the “state of grace” that the nun’s used to hammer us about is when we are free from the anchor of the “what ifs” and accept life as it is.

    Someone once said that 20% of life is what happens to us and how we react to it is the other 80%. I know I can’t always make things better but I am sure I can always make things worse.” (I AGREE 100%)

    Most times that realization leaves me in a fairly relaxed state of mind or perhaps state of grace. I know when I am there and when I am not. (AN INTERESTING THOUGHT)

    I sense that your “purity of heart” could come from the unspoken reference to what the disobedience was. I think the apple was a metaphor. They disobeyed period. (THE WHOLE STORY IS A METAPHOR OR AN ALLEGORY—THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT IS NOTHING SEXUAL–IN FACT THE “DISOBEDIENCE” RUINED THE SEXUAL PART AND LED TO LUSTFUL—SELFISH FEELINGS AND THE OBJECTIFICATION OF PERSONS___THAT FITS IN WITH YOUR COMMENT ABOVE)

    Nothing impure about it, just disobedience to their creator.

    If you believe in an all powerful supreme being. God could have done it. He made Adam and then realized his loneliness and made Eve. Anything is possible.


    Comment by bbprof — February 4, 2012 @ 3:18 pm

  5. I liked your commentary. I like the Baltimore Catechism answer. The whole world should know that. It would stop suicide and many more despairing thoughts. I love God.

    Comment by Mary B — February 5, 2012 @ 3:40 am

  6. Dear Bill, the fleeting moments of satisfaction never seem enough yes and they always go back for more.
    It’s a “human/natural act for pro-creation given by God.
    The vow of celibacy places those unable to live up to this dicipline under enormous strain, and no doubt the reason why there are so many children in the world forced to live a life of subtefuge due to their fathers being clergyman.
    I’m also sure this is why no man speaks out in defence of those who seek rescripts of their vows.

    Comment by L. Newington — February 6, 2012 @ 8:14 am

    • Lynn:

      Again, I appreciate your comment but I am not certain I understand what you are saying. I think many priests that I know are happy with the rules of celibacy as they are. In fact many are relieved because the problems in marriage and child-rearing seem to have escalated exponetially the last few decades. I doubt their sex drives are any more intensified than they were 50-100 years ago. Of course many of these would be the first to admit that their sacrifice was not for everyone. I sometimes think our leaders forget that fact when they focus of sex and marriage. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body seems heavily ladened in that respect, though I haven;t actually read that far. If my persusal is correct, i think that would be a serious flaw in his thinking but that’s another story for another day.

      The part i didn’t understand is about these children whose fathers are–what celibate Catholic priests and they have to hide that fact. Are there a lot of them? I thought you were going to mention the clergy scandal, which rocked the Church here in this country. And that had nothing to do with celibacy from women at least. It does remind me of a story about our late pastor, whom I accosted in Church one morning with a file folder. He stopped me feet away and said he got nervous when someone approached with a folder. He asked what I had and I said—I don’t know what possessed me—but I said, “It’s a paternity suit,” He smiled and said: “That would be an improvement!.” This was in 1986. I became his big fan right then and there. . So if you could clarify a bit, i would appreciate it. BB

      Comment by bbprof — February 6, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

  7. As you can imagine Bill, it’s not something placed on a billboard but non the less true, many Catholics aware, but choosing to look the other away.
    I could go into individual instances but that would be difficult as many women forced into signing confidentiality clauses, {in leu of financial support}, but I can give an over view relevant to Australia and on public record if that will satisfy you.
    The Melbourne Archdioces had in place a facility for women “in sitations created by clergy” still being utilized until the 1980’s. A young Sr of Charity, was leaned on by the Archbishop of the day placing the convenience under her duristriction, the women then shuttled off to her, and relieving church officials of “their problem”.
    Of course, the Archbishop had a roll in the arranging for the newborns to be placed with selected childless catholics couples, with no records of their birth mother and clergy fathers.
    Others placed in foundling homes run by religious orders.
    The present bishop of Ballarat knows full well of it’s existance and had dealings with it himself whilst removing the father, by sending him to another state.
    Of course there are others, but these can be confirmed being on public record and the above mentioned bishop still living, as is too no doubt, some of the relinquinshing fathers considering the timeline.
    I haven’t touched on the disoriented mothers of more recent times, coerced in giving up their newborns to preserve the priesthood and prevent scandal.
    I am aware of rescripts of vows requested, as previously mentioned, and denied the example here: “The evident danger of scandal should this request have been granted, made it necessary to conclude the matter in the negative”, Dated October 24 2007, issued AFTER his death.
    This particular father, has his name on his childs Birth Certificate entered as his own, and on his subsequent Death Certificate dated October 5th 2007.
    The request I might add, was never recinded, ultimately becoming his dying wish.
    You must be well insulated over where you are Bill, it’s a worldwide issue.
    More recently, Bishop Gambino Zavala with his teenage children for example.

    Comment by L. Newington — February 7, 2012 @ 1:35 am

    • Lynn:

      Oh the chords of priestly moral fervor seem so weak. But at least it is an improvement or more natural. BB

      Comment by bbprof — February 7, 2012 @ 2:47 pm

  8. Yes Bill, but at what price.
    It’s a wise child who knows their father.

    Comment by L. Newington — February 7, 2012 @ 6:26 pm

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About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at







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