Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The. Mind. Boggles.

[Her kid was a brat, so] Ms. Leavey began to practise consensual living, a set of principles designed to help family members understand each other’s feelings and meet one another’s needs.

In the consensual living model, father doesn’t know best. Neither does mom. Instead, parents and children are equal partners in family life, according to the principles laid out at consensual-living.com.
Hmmm. So very different from my theory which was that I needed to be comfortable in my own home. That meant everyone had to help with chores and not annoy others by being a brat. Of course, that also meant Tom and I had to pony up with such unpleasant things as consistent parental guidance. Etc.

Via the hilarious Rachel Lucas, who will not be everyone's cup of tea, but usually is very much to my liking as she is here.

"I'm so excited words fail me..."

So speaks a commenter at The Anchoress's place who will be entering the Church at Easter.
I started my journey to the church about 16 months ago. I had given up on secular life. I knew there was a God, but I just couldn’t find him no matter where I looked. I come in from the desert of 50 years of secular life. I feel I was I knew a lady real well that shined. You know what I mean? She just shone with the spirit. Everything about her life was in order. Eventually I learned the foundation; she was a devoted Catholic. Her daughter was in Catholic school, she sang at the Houston Co-Cathedral choir every Sunday.

That planted the seed. Why not try the Catholic church? Maybe God was there. ...
See how your life can be a beacon to those who are seeking? Without you even realizing it?

God is so good. Go read it all and I cannot help but echo the response a little later on in the comments...
As you receive the Sacraments for the first time, know that those looking on at the Easter Vigil will be smiling with the greatest joy for you in their hearts, just as the angels and saints in heaven are likewise cheering.
Amen.

Thanks to Maureen for the heads up on that!

From Angels to Exorcism

I just finished an excellent book -- Angels and Their Mission: According to the Fathers of the Church by the late Cardinal Jean Danielou which I will review soon. Next up is The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist.

I thought it ironic when it showed up soon after I cracked open the angels book. However, now I realize that the second book is going to be looking at the dark angels from a little closer up. I bring it up because I was interested to read The Curt Jester's great review of The Rite. Go read it.

And while we're talking about exorcism...
It must be the hot new topic. Michelle Johnson from EWTN tells me:
I thought you might be interested to know that EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo is going to interview Father Thomas Euteneuer about his new book on exorcism during “The World Over” this Friday, April 3, at 8 p.m. ET. Father Euteneuer is president of Human Life International and an exorcist. His new book is called “Exorcism and the Church Militant.” Father Euteneueur has been in the news lately saying that Pope Benedict feels there is a greater need for exorcism today and that he desires more priests to be trained as exorcists. Should be an interesting interview!
I am not necessarily interested in exorcism per say and on top of that I don't have cable ... however, if you are interested and do have cable, it could be a good show!

Matt Harding - Dance Around the World ... and What He Learned From It

The Dance




What He Learned From It
Listen or read it on NPR's This I Believe.

Another Video of The Dance
(I know I saw the Bean from Millenium Park in Chicago in there)



This video found at Deacon Greg's (yeah, it's a viral kind of thing we've got going on today).

The Psalms Are Songs of Faith - Part 4

Continuing sharing this emphasis on psalms (which began here). Why are the psalms the central prayers of the Church? This is a nice summary reminding us of all that the psalms are for us.
The Psalms Are the Central Prayers of the Church

The psalms hold a privileged position in the history of prayer. They serve to show us how to pray. As part of sacred Scripture the psalms are God's revealed prayers sun by faith-drenched poets and saints. The Church has chosen the psalms as the centerpiece of the Liturgy of the Hours and having an honored place in every Mass as seen in the "responsorial psalms." For over fifteen centuries monks and nuns in monasteries have made the psalms the central prayers of their lives. In the psalms, God has revealed prayer.

Psalms show us that in singing our prayer we are totally involved in it and yet lifted our of ourselves. They help us see that poetry and symbols in prayer lead to the throne of God. Finally, they remind us that all prayer reflects real life both on earth and in the heavenly realms. The psalms are rooted in the shouts, tears, smiles, and noises of a real world. Psalms are a theological commentary on the life of the people who sang them.
Fr. McBride's Guide to the Bible by Alfred McBride, P. Praem
Next: Reflection

Monday, March 30, 2009

From a Spider's Web to the Resurrection


Yes, I admit it now. Winter is over. Ice hands, palms up in a final supplication, melt away.

Just as Lent will end and the Resurrection will be proclaimed. The natural year and the Church year cycle together. If the natural year is a circle, the liturgical year is a spiral: it is Lent again, yes, but conversion is ever ascending toward the light. Or maybe it is ever-descending into the depths of the darkness that is God.
The photography isn't the only thing to admire at Paula's House of Toast. Go read her meditation that goes from a spider's web to the resurrection.

Much thanks to Paula for giving permission for me to share her photos with you. You will be seeing them show up here on a regular basis, I'm sure.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Weekend Joke

DR. BOLI’S ALLEGORICAL BESTIARY

No. 16.—The Chihuahua.

THE CHIHUAHUA IS a demonic creature of Aztec mythology, somewhat resembling a dog but impossibly tiny. It was the tutelary spirit of Toltec royalty, and adopted from them by the conquering Aztecs, who never stopped to think that it might have done the vanquished more harm than good. It was said that, if an Aztec prince was attacked, the high-pitched yelping of his tutelary Chihuahua would shatter the skull of his opponent. Indeed, the many solid-gold earplugs which Díaz del Castillo records as having been melted down after the Conquest attest to the pervasiveness of this myth among the Mexican upper classes.

Many curious stories about the Chihuahua are told by the superstitious Spanish missionaries. One writes of his failed attempt to exorcise a Chihuahua whose incessant yelping deprived the friars of their slumber for weeks on end; another reports having seen a Chihuahua with his own eyes as it gleefully tore apart the sumptuous tapestries in the governor’s palace. We may spare a smile for the benighted credulity of the monks, but we ought not to suppose that our own age is entirely free from such superstition. The Mexican state of Chihuahua was named for this mythological creature, which local lore insists still inhabits the arid wastelands of the Chihuahua Desert.

Allegorically, the Chihuahua represents Entropy.
Of course, from Dr. Boli!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Win $100 Gift Card for the Cutest First Communion Photo

Now this looks like a good deal! Send in those photos, y'all!
The Catholic Company, the market leader for online Catholic books and gifts, has just announced a First Communion Photo Contest. What a great excuse to pull those photos out of the photo book and show them off again. Bloggers, podcasters, and webmasters can also win a $50 Gift Card for referring the winning entry to the contest, so be sure to spread the word!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

French director Jean-Luc Godard: "a work of extraordinary psychological insight and aesthetic perception."

What movie was he talking about?

The same one about which British film critic Robin Wood wrote, "If I were asked to choose a film that would justify the existence of Hollywood, I think it would be [this one]'"

The same one that Quentin Tarantino, uses to test a new girl friend, " -- and she'd better like it!"

Brace yourselves. Here it comes.

Rio Bravo.

Yep. You know the one. John Wayne, Dean Martin, Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan, Rickie Nelson ... so purely Western, so funny, and just about perfect.

It's 50 years old and hipper now than when it was made. We love it in our family ... glad to know we're in such illustrious company.

Read all about it here.

In Advertising, Those Ads Are Called "Fear of Death"

In science, evidently it's called "fair and balanced."

Give me a break. Although it does sound like something Dean Koontz might write. I do like a good "end of the world" piece of science fiction.
IT IS midnight on 22 September 2012 and the skies above Manhattan are filled with a flickering curtain of colourful light. Few New Yorkers have seen the aurora this far south but their fascination is short-lived. Within a few seconds, electric bulbs dim and flicker, then become unusually bright for a fleeting moment. Then all the lights in the state go out. Within 90 seconds, the entire eastern half of the US is without power.

A year later and millions of Americans are dead and the nation's infrastructure lies in tatters. The World Bank declares America a developing nation. Europe, Scandinavia, China and Japan are also struggling to recover from the same fateful event - a violent storm, 150 million kilometres away on the surface of the sun.

It sounds ridiculous. Surely the sun couldn't create so profound a disaster on Earth. Yet an extraordinary report funded by NASA and issued by the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in January this year claims it could do just that. ...
Now, wait. Is this the same sun that many scientists deny could be causing global warming?

Just wanna make sure I've got my theories straight ...

Via New Advent.

The Psalms are Songs of Faith - Part 3

Continuing sharing this emphasis on psalms (which began here). We don't tend to think of the Israelites as people privileged to see God's presence in nature. I, for one, think of them as turning to false gods when nature becomes involved. However, some of my favorite psalms are the ones that talk about such things as hills dancing or rivers singing ... and I am happy to see that it comes from our elder brothers in faith.
The Psalms Celebrate Events as Mighty Acts of God

It is true that we in the Western world love to reason, but this love need not exclude poetic experience. The psalms in deed revel in such vivid images as: mountains that dance, seas that howl like animals, clouds that ride in the sky as noble horsemen of God, and lightening that writes like a pencil God's presence into the hollows of the earth. When we can admit that these descriptions are real and not just fanciful ways of talking about God, we can accept the message of the psalms.

It was characteristic of the Israelites to find the presence of God in nature and history. It was the unique privilege of the Israelites to see and know that God was really doing something in this world. It has, after all, always been his world, but it takes a long time for many to admit it.

We owe a tribute to Israel for being perceptive enough to know that the events of nature and history are not just simple happenings, but the very acts of God. In the psalms we see that the Israelites had the original insight into God's presence in the movement of history. Put in another way, it was the Israelites who were really the first ones to see the divine purpose in history. As they saw the unfolding of historical events, they came to understand their history as salvation history. They learned to attribute these events to the presence of God.
Fr. McBride's Guide to the Bible by Alfred McBride, P.Praem
Next: The Psalms Are the Central Prayers of the Church

Ad of the Week


From the incomparable Dr. Boli, of course.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Like a Marriage Retreat in a Book: Reviewing For Better, For Worse, For God


... becoming one flesh means more than a physical union. Genesis says that God created man and woman to become one body. The Hebrew word for body or "flesh," refers to the physical body for sure, but it encompasses much more. Body includes the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. We're called to be united with our spouse physically, emotionally, and spiritually while retaining our unique individuality. God's design for this partnership is that it nurtures our lives and in so doing gives life to the world.

Men Are from Mars and Women Are from Venus--John Gray and his publishers picked a great title for his bestselling book on marriage. It has become a popular shorthand way of saying that men and women are profoundly different. They are so different that it often seems they live on different planets.

In addition to the obvious anatomical differences, men and women are "wired" differently in their communication styles, emotional makeup, and sexual responses. You and your spouse differ as individuals. Your temperaments are different. You come into marriage with dissimilar expectations, desires, hopes and approaches to problem solving. And while you don't really live on different planets, you come from different places. You were raised in different families. Your family of origin gave you ideas about marriage, child rearing, sex roles, and family values that are different from your spouse's. Some marriage experts say that incompatibility was never a valid reaon for divorce becuase all couples are incompatible to some extent.

Creating an "us" in the face of these differences is a challenging dimension of the vocation of marriage. to become "one," partners must understand the many ways in which they differ from each other and recognize how their differences can work in their favor in terms of their partnership. They also need to learn to manage these differences without hurting each other.

First, becoming an "us" is a realistic goal. The differences between men and women are great, but the desire to achieve unity is even greater. Men and women deeply desire each other; most men and women want to share their lives with a partner of the opposite sex. ... If God created us this way, we can be assured that he gives us the grace to achieve the union we desire.

Second, the work of becoming an "us" is spiritual work, and it requires spiritual disciplines, as already mentioned. Each vocation has its distinctive challenges, and becoming one with a particular other person for life is the unique challenge of marriage; the spiritual disciplines of marriage are the tools we use to achieve it. The disciplines we practice within marriage may seem mundane, such as counting to ten before returning an angry response, or waiting patiently for a spouse who is slow, but they accomplish something remarkable. They allow us to live in communion with someone who feels, perceives, reacts, responds, and loves differently from us.

Living in communion is holy because the conjugal life both mirrors and provides the world with an experience of belonging and acceptance God desires with us. Like the "communion" we experience in the sacraments of the Eucharist, marriage can provide the opportunity to "be one in Christ," the goal for all baptized believers.
Someone who has attended one of the Beyond Cana marriage enrichment retreats that Tom and I help to present may recognize many, if not all, of the principles above. Members of the presentation team definitely will. After working on these retreats for several years, I can tell you that I was blown away by Mary Jo Pederson's book. She consistently took the concepts that Tom and I have learned and practiced in that retreat and expanded upon them in knowledgeable, practical, spiritual, and even humorous ways.

If I included all the pieces that I read aloud to Tom, only to hear him say, "Wow. That is so true. This author is really good!" then we'd be here all day. This is the book I will be buying for newly weds, friends who wish they could make it to a retreat, and for our girls when they are getting married. It can't replace a retreat but it surely is a good supplement and a great grounding in reality for any married couple. Highest recommendations on this one.

The Psalms Are Songs of Faith - Part 2

Continuing sharing this emphasis on psalms (which began here). This is the part that really struck me, especially considering that I don't like free verse poetry no matter how old it is! However, the logic of rhyming ideas ... now that I like.
Israelite Poetry
The poetry of the Israelites is somewhat different from our ordinary idea of what poetry should be. There is no rhyme nor fixed rhythm in the sense we would normally expect. It's true that the free verse movement has given us a broad idea of what poetry can be. Israelite poetry might be summed up in the saying: never say anything once that you can say twice, and better still three times. The rhythm of the psalms is a rhythm of ideas. The psalms rhyme thoughts. In the following examples see how the second line parallels the idea of the first:
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us.

Psalm 67:1

Thy solemn procession are seen, O God
the processions of my God, my Kind, into the sanctuary.

Psalm 68:24

How long, O Lord? Wilt thou be angry forever?
Will thy jealous wrath burn like fire?

Psalm 79:5
The rhythm of the poetry of the psalms is a rhythm (and rhyming) of ideas. An idea is stated and then repeated with different shades of meaning. It is the balanced drumming of a declaration that arises form the heart of one who has known the miracle of God and now speaks out of the ecstasy of response. Some psalms are the result of the experience of miracle and ecstasy. By miracle we mean the appearance of a mighty act of God, such as the Red Sea victory; by ecstasy we refer to the joyous, human faith-experience of God's work. Other psalms reflect the quiet presence of God experienced by a solitary shepherd, a religious experience when applied to God as the shepherd who protects us from harm even when we are in the valley of the shadow of death.
Fr. McBride's Guide to the Bible by Alfred McBride, P.Praem
Next: Psalms Celebrate Events as Mighty Acts of God.

Mmmm, Mmmm, Turkey Bone Gumbo!

Get it at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

The Solemnity of the Annunciation

Bartolomo Esteban Murillo. Annunciation.
c.1660-65. Oil on canvas. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain. (Source)
On today's feast the Church celebrates the mystery of the Incarnation and, at the same time, the vocation of Our Lady. It was her faithful response to the angel's message, her fiat, that began the work of redemption...

The setting of this feast day, March 25th, corresponds to Christmas. In addition, there is ancient tradition that the creation of the world and the commencement and conclusion of the Redemption all happened to coincide at the vernal equinox.


The Incarnation should have a pronounced and dramatic on our life. This event is the central moment of human history. Without Christ, life has no meaning. Christ the Redeemer "fully reveals man to himself" (Encyclical, Redemptor Hominis). It is only through Christ that we will come to comprehend our inner self and everything that matters most to us: the hidden value of pain and of work well done, the authentic peace and joy which surpass natural feelings and life's uncertainties, the delightful prospect of our supernatural reward in our eternal homeland...

The human testimony of the Son of God teaches us that all earthly realities ought to be loved and offered up to Heaven. Christ has transformed the human condition into a pathway to God. Consequently, the Christian's struggle for perfection takes on a profoundly positive character. This struggle has nothing to do with snuffing out one's humanity so that the divine might shine out instead. Sanctity does not necessitate total separation from worldly affairs. For it is not human nature that opposes God's will, but sin and the effects of original sin which have so badly damaged our souls. Our struggle to become like Christ brings with it a life-long battle against whatsoever degrades our humanity -- egoism, envy, sensuality, a critical spirit ...

In the same way as the humanity of Christ is not effaced by his dignity, so it is that through the Incarnation the human condition preserves its integrity and finds its final end.
The Anchoress also has a very nice post in which she mentions for those who do not know that we are not worshiping Mary. As well as having some very nice reflections. Check it out.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

UPDATED: Petition against Notre Dame's invitation to Obama to be their commencement speaker and to receive an honorary doctorate

The campaign to stop Obama speaking at Notre Dame commencement is gathering pace. Tonight over 45,000 people have signed the petition asking ND to disinvite this most pro abortion President from speaking and receiving an honorary degree.

We invite you to sign the petition here. I would also ask you, if you are a blogger, to link to this site and encourage your readers to sign. At this site you will also be given email and postal addresses for your involvement.

If you are a non-Catholic reading this blog, network this through to our separated brothers and sisters who share with us the horror at the crime of abortion in our land. Please ask them to sign the petition and voice their own views.
Wording via Fr. Dwight Longenecker. Scandal against Church teachings by celebrating someone so inimical to life ... provided by Notre Dame, to their shame.

UPDATE
Seen all over the place: Bishop D'Arcy will not attend Notre Dame commencement ceremony.
On Friday, March 21, Father John Jenkins, CSC, phoned to inform me that President Obama had accepted his invitation to speak to the graduating class at Notre Dame and receive an honorary degree. We spoke shortly before the announcement was made public at the White House press briefing. It was the first time that I had been informed that Notre Dame had issued this invitation.

President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred. While claiming to separate politics from science, he has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life.

This will be the 25th Notre Dame graduation during my time as bishop. After much prayer, I have decided not to attend the graduation. I wish no disrespect to our president, I pray for him and wish him well. I have always revered the Office of the Presidency. But a bishop must teach the Catholic faith “in season and out of season,” and he teaches not only by his words — but by his actions.

My decision is not an attack on anyone, but is in defense of the truth about human life.

I have in mind also the statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops in 2004. “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” Indeed, the measure of any Catholic institution is not only what it stands for, but also what it will not stand for. ...
Read it all here.

2nd Update
Get Religion has an excellent piece about the media's portrayal of those opposing Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama as "strict Catholics." Read it all.
So the “strict” Catholics oppose the invitation to President Obama, as opposed to what other kinds of Catholics? There is an answer to that question that reporters should include in their articles. It would be interesting to see the definition attached to those Catholics. See here for Tmatt’s summary of the four types of Catholics of which reporters should be aware:
  • *Ex-Catholics. Solid for the Democrats. GOP has no chance.

  • Cultural Catholics who may go to church a few times a year. This may be an undecided voter -- check out that classic Atlantic Monthly tribes of American religion piece — depending on what is happening with the economy, foreign policy, etc. Leans to Democrats.

  • Sunday-morning American Catholics. This voter is a regular in the pew and may even play some leadership role in the parish. This is the Catholic voter that is really up for grabs, the true swing voter that the candidates are after.

  • The “sweats the details” Roman Catholic who goes to confession. Is active in the full sacramental life of the parish and almost always backs the Vatican, when it comes to matters of faith and practice. This is where the GOP has made its big gains in recent decades, but it is a very small slice of the American Catholic pie.
3rd Update
Notre Dame student groups protesting the President's speech. Contrary to popular media belief, there actually are Catholic students at Notre Dame who know and practice their faith. I know some of them.

4th Update

In Bruges: Violent, Profane, Funny ... and Yet a Perfect Lenten Movie

Ken: Coming up?

Ray: What's up there?

Ken: The view.

Ray: The view of what? The view of down here? I can see that down here.

Ken: Ray, you are about the worst tourist in the whole world.

Ray: Ken, I grew up in Dublin. I love Dublin. If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me but I didn't, so it doesn't.
In Bruges is one of those quirky art movies that there is no way to describe well. A tale of contrasts, it follows two hit men, Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleason), who have been told to hide themselves by traveling to Bruges. Part of the contrast comes from that fairy tale town with these violent men in it. Ken is delighted by the historical aspects and spends all his time sight seeing. Young, callow Ray is bored stiff and only interested in chasing pretty girls. Eventually we find out why the hit men are hiding out and see that Ray has hidden depths, which Ken feels makes him a person worth a second chance. Eventually we also are introduced to their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), who provides yet another contrast. The contrasts provide plenty of opportunities for humor as well as pathos.

Along the way, Ken and Ray see Hieronymus Bosch's art (see below) and the movie becomes almost a mirror of the painting in some ways. Which is to say that while we think we have a grasp on it, there are also surreal elements that are hard to integrate into the whole.

I liked it but was unable to know how to think about it until we watched some of the DVD extras where the actors talked. They had been very thoughtful about it. One remarked that she liked it because Hollywood treats extreme violence so casually and this movie showed that no matter what these people did they were still human beings who were affected by their actions. Well put. In short this is a thoughtful, interesting movie about sacrifice, redemption, and above all what it means to be human.

Warning: it is R-rated for violence and language. The violence is well telegraphed so that I was able to look away every time. As well, the language is frequently and extremely profane. This is a sign of the times, naturally, but one gives a bit of a sigh for the days when coarse hitmen could be portrayed without saying, "f***" every other word. No one who grew up in the home of my youth would be surprised by that word, but I do feel it shows an extreme lack of creativity. Ah well ...

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, 1500-1505
Click through and look at this close up. I would swear there are some space ships in there.

The Psalms Are Songs of Faith - Part 1

I've been reading a section a day of Fr. McBride's Guide to the Bible. It is just enough to make me both review different books of the Bible and think about it's place in the overall scheme of things. Which I think is the point. I was struck by this emphasis on psalms. It is something that our priest has pointed out in Bible study before but I like how this is said. So I'll be sharing it over the next few days.
The Psalms Are Songs of Faith

Psalms 1-150
Sing to the Lord a new song.
Psalm 96:1

For some reason, we don't ordinarily picture a soldier writing Church poetry. But that is exactly what the warrior King David did. He did not write all of the 150 psalms, but so great was his influence on the composition of psalms, that the book of Psalms has borne his name as the author ever since. The psalms are prayers, but people today sometimes find it hard to really think of them that way. Here are some considerations that might be helpful in understanding the psalms.

He Who Sings Prays Twice
St. Augustine says that he who sings prays twice. It is too bad that most peple regard the psalms as a text to be read silently. The psalms are the "songs" of faith: war chants, victory songs, enthronement anthems, hymns about nature. In the shadow of the temple, fraternities of musicians gathered to compose melodies for the psalms.

There has been a revival in psalm singing, prompted by the work of Father Joseph Gelineau and Father Lucien Deiss, French priest-musicians and many other composers. The popularity of the guitar has an impact on the singing of psalms, not just because David used a stringed instrument, but because it suits the vigorous rhythm of the words and the excitement of the situation.
Fr. McBride's Guide to the Bible by Alfred McBride, P.Praem
Next: Israelite Poetry.

Monday, March 23, 2009

You'll Be a Man, My Son

Just caught up this weekend on last week's Bones. That episode is a fine example of the times that the show rises above being a guilty pleasure. It took on the issue of personal responsibility and looking beyond the pleasure of "the moment." Especially touching was the end where Booth realizes that someone must teach a high school boy about how his current actions translate into the man that he will become. The boy's parents are never shown but Booth takes on the required task of pointing out just what it means to be a man. That is always a pleasure in today's society where men in general tend to be denigrated in the way that Bones does during the conversation that leads Booth to his realization.

As Tom pointed out, the show avoided the temptation to have an unnecessarily convoluted murder plot in order to spend the time necessary on the other message. Refreshing and nicely done.

Which leads us back into Kipling whence came the phrase that titles this post. And some other reflections on being a man.

Back on the Soap Box

It has been a while since I pulled out my soapbox and a conversation with a friend made me this of this post. She commented that ever since a beggar asked her for some of her pizza and she gave him all the cash she had ... she saw God's hand everywhere in her life in terms of people helping each other donating clothing, food, and services where needed simply because they were asked.

Since it is Lent and we are to not only fast and pray but to give alms, this seems timely. For the short, straight forward version, go read Mike Aquilina's excellent piece on the subject. For the longer, more anecdotal version, just keep on readin' ...


As my long-suffering husband well knows, from the fact that when he gave a handful of change to an Australian man sitting outside a London tube station years ago ... the man shouted after our family, "God bless you mate! Thank you!" My husband muttered, under his breath, "Don't thank me, thank her; I had nothing to do with it" as I gave him a thank you hug. This does not even compare to when he is driving and we come upon a corner with a homeless person ... now he has three people in the car all urging him to roll down the window and hand out granola bars.

GIVING TO THE HOMELESS, FACE TO FACE
The first time I ever saw a beggar was in Paris, 18 years ago. She was across the street and Tom said, "Don't look at her." Of course, I did and she began screaming invective and shaking her fist at me. It's a good thing my French wasn't very fluent or I'm sure my ears would have burned. Everywhere we went there were beggars. It was deeply troubling for someone like me who had never seen such a thing before. Tom, whose family lived in London for several years, was more blasé. He taught me to ignore them and that they were making plenty of money off of the population at large. I did make him give to a couple of WWII veterans who were playing music for their coins but at least they had sacrificed something for their country ... they had done something to deserve our charity.

I wasn't Christian then; I wasn't even sure if God existed. Nothing other than popular thought occurred to me in those situations. That was saved for 15 years later in 2001 when we went back to Paris and London with the girls. I had converted by then, we attended Mass weekly, and they went to Catholic school with religion lessons every day. It was fairly common to see the homeless on street corners but we were insulated by the car and traffic flow. These up close encounters with beggars in Europe were different. Tom and I gave the standard "making money off the crowd" explanation but it didn't sit very well, especially with the Christian precepts that had taken hold by then.

Then, one evening, I read this quote.
There are those who say to the poor that they seem to look to be in such good health: "You are so lazy! You could work. You are young. You have strong arms."

You don't know that it is God's pleasure for this poor person to go to you and ask for a handout. You show yourself as speaking against the will of God.

There are some who say: "Oh, how badly he uses it!" May he do whatever he wants with it! The poor will be judged on the use they have made of their alms, and you will be judged on the very alms that you could have given but haven't.
St. John Vianney
You certainly couldn't get much clearer than those words. St. John Vianney covered pretty much every objection I ever thought of for giving to the poor. That was my wake-up call and the end of ignoring beggars. We were supplied with handfuls of coins that were distributed at large as we went through the subway stations. When I got home I stocked the car with granola bars and bottles of water. I passed them out at every street corner we stopped at. I never have any cash on me and they almost always had signs saying "Will work for food" so it seemed a good match.

Then Dallas passed a law against any panhandling on street corners and, for the most part, the homeless disappeared from sight. I had gotten used to being on the lookout for people to give my granola bars to and now the corners seemed very empty.

About that time, I was the leader of a Catholic women's group that met weekly. One evening our discussion became a debate over two strategies of giving to the homeless. One group believed in giving to people as they were encountered. The other countered with stories of scam artists and believed in giving to organizations who would distribute goods and cash in the most beneficial way to the needy. Two things stuck with me after that meeting though. The first was that my friend, Rita, said she was troubled by those who didn't want to give face to face because "they don't know what blessings they may be depriving themselves of." Once again I remembered St. John Vianney's quote.

The second thing occurred to me as I listened to the debate. Jesus never said anything about helping the poor by giving to the local temple or soup kitchen. He said:
"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me."

Then the righteous will answer him and say, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?"

And the king will say to them in reply, "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."
Matthew 25: 35-40

Tom and I do support organized charities and I know they reach farther than I ever could personally. This is not an argument against those organizations. However, I think that we cannot rest with those contributions. I believe that if we have a personal encounter with the needy it is because they have been sent to us for their good and our own. If we turn them away, then we are turning Christ Himself away and what blessings are we sending away with Him?

This was reinforced for me during a retreat I attended a few weeks ago. Somehow the debate over how to give to the homeless came up along those old familiar lines, not just once but twice. Each time I trotted out my St. John Vianney quote. Then my friend, Mauri, said that when she looked at those unfortunates she saw people she knew. For instance, she has a schizophrenic nephew who doesn't want to take his meds so he has been found wandering only in his boxers in a Chicago suburb. A confused old lady at the bank reminded her of her mother and Mauri found a discreet way to help her while preserving her dignity. She reminded me of the worth and dignity of each of these people. She later sent me this story which is the perfect example of looking past the surface to the real person that is there in front of us.
Today at the post office I saw this man going through the garbage -- I think looking for food as he was going through a discarded fast food bag and picked out left over bun from the bag, emptied the bag of the other garbage, and then used the bag to neatly wrap up the left over bun and then placed it in his satchel. You could tell that he still had his pride as he looked well kept, although worn and a bit "dusty". He was not begging in any way. Just walking through the strip center where the post office was.

I wanted to help as I sensed that he was hungry, but he was not asking for help and he did not approach me in anyway. I was so worried to bruise his pride, but could not stand the thought of him only having the leftover bun for food. I got out of my car with $5 and asked him if he was hungry. He said he was fine but hesitantly. I gave him the money and told him that I had many of times when I was hungry but didn't have the cash on me to go through McDonalds or grab a sandwich. I told him to take it for when he might need it. I don't think I hurt his pride. His eyes were so kind.

I only wish I had asked his name ... He looked like he might have been mid 60s. I should have given him more money. I can't get him out of my mind. He could have been someone's grandfather, father, etc.
I am so grateful to Mauri for bringing me to this phase in my awareness of the homeless. Each of them was some mother's baby, a tiny toddler learning to walk, a laughing boy or girl at school. We must remember that when we are looking at these people who can seem so frightening or strange or manipulative. I pray that someday I can look at these people and find my vision is perfect ... I hope that someday I can look at a homeless person and see Jesus Himself. In this quest I think we can not do better than to take the advice of someone who achieved perfect vision and sought out her beloved Jesus in the homeless.
Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
UPDATES
  • 40 Day Giveaway ... a young man who is giving away something every day of Lent.
  • Under the Overpass is an excellent book to read about the homeless. It is about two young men who took Jesus at his word and went to live as homeless in different American cities for a six month period. If you have any questions at all about the homeless I highly recommend this book. It will open your eyes. They have specific advice about giving to the homeless which seems to support my granola bar and water hand out policy. However, I will add that I still do give cash if I am out of those. (reread St. John Vianney's quote for my reasoning in this)
  • How could I have forgotten my encounter with this homeless man?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Laetare Sunday Means Our Priests are Pretty in Pink

The fourth Sunday of Lent is rather unique; like the third Sunday of Advent ("Gaudete Sunday"), the fourth Sunday of Lent is a break in an otherwise penitential season. The vestments for this day will be rose, as they are on Gaudete Sunday in Advent, and flowers may adorn the Altar. This day is called "Laetare Sunday" (also "Rose Sunday" ), and takes its name from the opening words of the Mass, the Introit's "Laetare, Jerusalem"...
It really did lighten my mood this morning to see the rose colored vestments and stop to think about the joy that awaits us at Easter ... and that can be found in the midst of this penitential season.

A bit more info comes from Fr. Dwight Longenecker:
The Rose color was made from the very rare crimson dye taken from a tiny gland in the murex mollusc (a kind of sea snail) found only off the coast of Lebanon. Thus, in the ancient world that particular rose color was a sign of great wealth, and royal status. The High Priest in the temple in Jerusalem used it in his vestments. It came to be used on the two refreshment Sundays in the penitential seasons to perk people up.

But there is more to it than that. The rose vestments in Lent, remind us of the royal and priestly status of Our Lord. The priest in persona Christi presents an icon of Christ the King and great High Priest. The fact that this image is stuck in the midst of the two penitential seasons reminds us that locked into the austerity of this world, robed in the squalor and simplicity of human flesh, there lies hidden the Great High Priest of the New Covenant, Christ the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Harvard AIDS Expert Says Pope is Correct on Condom Distribution Making AIDS Worse

Pope Benedict recently said that condoms will not combat the AIDS epidemic in Africa, and actually could exacerbate it. Naturally, although I am not sure what they expected what with the Pope being Catholic and all, this brought down a firestorm of scorn.

Interestingly, however, this expert agrees with the Pope.
Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, has said that the evidence confirms that the Pope is correct in his assessment that condom distribution exacerbates the problem of AIDS.

"The pope is correct," Green told National Review Online Wednesday, "or put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope's comments." ...
What? He is considering evidence? Shocking!

Read the rest here. Via The Practicing Catholic who features an article that nicely sums up both good and bad response to the Pope's statement.

Update:
A very good article on the subject by Green himself. Thanks Meg for the heads up!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lingering Irish Interest and Dr. Boli

Catching up to Dr. Boli (yes, I kept him on my Lenten blog reading list ... how could I not?), I see that he is, as Chris Bailey assures me, "quite mad" but also quite hilarious.

ASK DR. BOLI.


Dear Dr. Boli: Why is the symbol of Ireland a shamrock? —Sincerely, Col. Seamus O’Mack (retired).

Dear Sir: When, in 1922, the Irish Free State was formed, it was weakened by decades of struggle for independence and a current civil war. Economic conditions were dismal, and what money the weak central government possessed could not be wasted on useless luxuries. In short, Ireland was too poor to afford a real rock, so a false one was hastily substituted. Since then, of course, Ireland, the “Celtic Tiger,” has prospered, and indeed has become renowned for the number and quality of its rocks. But the memory of those difficult days persists, and the shamrock remains as a tribute to the struggles of the founders of the Irish nation.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Catholic Heroes of the Faith - Animated DVD Series

“Catholic Heroes of the Faith” is a new, animated DVD series which presents true stories of people who have made a lasting impression on others by their example of service to Christ and His Church.

These heroes have lived truly great lives—lives marked by moral depth, strength of character, physical courage, and an unswerving commitment to Christ and His Church.

By seeing how they struggled to serve Christ and his Church, and how they succeeded so gloriously, we are all challenged to live lives like theirs. Pope Benedict XVI has said of the saints, that we look to their “shining example to reawaken within us the great longing to be like them; happy to live near God, in his light, in the great family of God's friends. Being a Saint means living close to God, to live in his family. And this is the vocation of us all.”

Geared primarily to children ages 8-12, each episode uses traditional animation to entertain and inspire children and their parents and anyone who wants to know about the great Catholics of the past.

Each DVD also features:

* Activity guide for church, school or home use
* Parent’s and teacher’s guide for church, school or home use

This animated series is an excellent resource for parochial schools, CCD classes and home schooling.

And don’t forget to check out our documentary section! A great resource for Catholic high school religion classes and RCIA programs.
Their first dvd features St. Perpetua. I am a sucker for the stories of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity and this looks good. Also, (and here's the one that piques my interest) Mike Aquilina does the documentary about St. Perpetua. I am not sure it can get much better than that. Check it out.

When Government Overthrows Conscience

The American Center for Law and Justice is collecting signatures on a petition. They explain it this way:

The Conscience Clause was implemented by former President George W. Bush to give physicians and nurses the choice to act according to their conscience — to not participate in abortion procedures if it conflicts with their personal convictions. If President Obama makes this damaging move, if he reverses the Conscience Clause, pro-life doctors and nurses will be forced into performing abortion procedures, despite their individual beliefs.

The announcement was made Friday, March 6, 2009. Since the official announcement was made, the public now has 30 days to file comments with the White House ... so we’ve got 30 days to make our voices heard at the White House.

Make a difference in this nation and stand for the freedom to act according to your conscience. Sign the online “Petition to Protect Pro-Life Doctors” below now. It will be delivered and filed at the White House no later than April 8, 2009.

Here is the link:
From John C. Wright who has some other comments with which I agree as well.

They had me at "The Prisoner" ...


... and then I heard Jim Caviezel is Number 6. Late to the party, since this news has been out for a while, but that's ok.

My only problem will be that we don't have cable so I'll have to wait for the series to get to season two to get my hands on the dvds of season one. An excellent way to cultivate patience. And, don't worry, I can wait ...

(See, this kind of thing is why I have to shake my head when Merton indulges in wholesale bashing of television in The New Seeds of Contemplation. It's a good book but not perfect.)

Monday, March 16, 2009

God's Love Shown Us Through Others

If left to myself I'd probably become a hermit. However, since I met Him, God has been dragging me not only out of my shell but out of the house into many communities. Lately I have been very aware of how blessed I am to have so many brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ to share joys and sorrows with. It is a special bond.

It doesn't hurt that our Catholic women's book club is reading The New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton. It is a series of essays, several of which dwell in particular upon different aspects of community. This bit in particular is a good "sound byte" of what has really hit me lately.
When the Love of God is in me, God is able to love you through me and you are able to love God through me. If my soul were closed to that love, God's love for you and your love for God and God's love for himself in you and in me, would be denied the particular expression which it finds through me and through no other.

Because God's love is in me, it can come to you from a different and special direction that would be closed if He did not live in me, and because His love is in you, it can come to me from a quarter from which it would not otherwise come. And because it is in both of us, God has greater glory. His love is expressed in two more ways in which it would not otherwise be expressed; that is, in two more joys that could not exist without Him.

Earth



An incredible looking trailer. No one raised in our family could ever not appreciate nature in all its myriad forms. Which might explain why my mother's love of nature has culminated in Hannah's love of all life (yes, even in cockroaches as she tells me, though she draws the line at actually stopping them from being killed ... she is also a Texan after all). We don't have cable or I would definitely watch Planet Earth, the show that this is based on.

According to a press release I received:
We are working with Disney on their new Nature Division, and they are releasing their first movie this April (April 20th), called “Earth”, which is based off Discovery’s award-winning series “Planet Earth”. The movie is 90 minutes, narrated by James Earl Jones, and the footage is the best of Planet Earth. I watched it in NY last week and there are “no” hints of evolution or policy debate – it’s not an agenda film. The film is pretty intense, like the series, and is INCREDIBLE. It really demonstrates the beauty and magnificence of God's creation.
I am a big fan of the Earth, though not such a fan of Earth Day as it tends to become a religious observance for avid environmentalists. However as a day to recognize God's glorious creation and His expression of diversity, the likes of which we would be unlikely to imagine much less attempt ourselves, I can support it entirely.

I see no reason why this movie shouldn't live up to this trailer and eagerly await it.

First Communion Dresses and Veils


Lots of style available at The Catholic Company ... they've got every sort from frills to sleek (which is what I'd choose) and in between ... with, of course, veils too.

In Which I Gush Over Lamentation by Ken Scholes ...

... at SFFaudio's podcast and we discuss lending books to friends, giving books to libraries, old versus new space opera and much, much more.

My actual book review of Lamentation will be submitted soon to SFFaudio and then you can simply read it if you prefer.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Happy Pi Day!


Just don't make that a meat pie, since it's Lent.

Many interesting and amusing facts about pi may be found at Mental Floss whence came the above photo. Or you may want to visit the official site for Pi Day.

Personally, I prefer to eat pi rather than read about it. I share that trait with monkey who is celebrating with a sour cream lemon pie.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Look, Hannah! This Blog's for You! (All About St. Gemma)

Hannah's patron saint is St. Gemma, chosen because she was ill quite a lot at that time in her life and so was St. Gemma. As if often the case, our patrons sneak up on us with the most obvious of reasons. We then later discover that the connection goes more than skin deep (as with St. Martha and me).

Hannah was mentioning St. Gemma to me just the other day and I know that she is going to be delighted to peruse St. Gemma Galgani which has much to teach us about "The Gem of Christ."

Glenn, whose blog it is, has done a wonderful job and tells us:
In it I have numerous excerpts from her writings, including her entire autobiography (published with approval from the Postulator General of the Passionists), and many tracts from her diary and letters. Also I have a extensive photo gallery with numerous pictures pertaining to her holy life.
  • The blog is strictly for devotional purposes ...
  • As stated on the website, I endeavor always to be in union with the Pope and the teachings of the Magisterium of the Church.
  • My blog has been reviewed by Catholic Culture (Petersnet) and has earned the Catholic Culture Fidelity award for excellence in Catholic fidelity. Read their review here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

So on the whole daily Mass thing ...

... it is amazing to me how very easily my life has taken on this morning visit to the Church, the half hour Mass, the bit of time to truly focus on God and what is True before plunging into the busy day.

It is equally amazing to me that it is not ... amazing.

It is not that I might not have inspired insights or realizations, because in front of the tabernacle is the place where I am going to have those things if I have them at all and I assuredly still do. What is amazing is that this is something that I feel so comfortable with, so much that this is how it is supposed to be for me. Like slipping on an old glove.

I look back at my scurrying and hedging and excuse making.

What was I worrying about? This is easy. It is right.

I was so silly.

This Just In and Going Straight by the Bedside


Angels and Their Mission by Cardinal Jean Daniélou

All it took was reading the introduction, so readable, so logical (you know that grabs me!) to make this the next theology book for my spare time.

Here's the description ... I am really looking forward to reading this.
From St. Augustine to John Henry Newman, the greatest among the saints and men of God have lived on familiar terms with the angels; and the Church has always accorded them a very large place in her theology.

Recent theologians have dwelt on dry questions about the nature of the angels, but the early Fathers of the Church, with the memory of Jesus fresh in their minds (and of the angels of whom He spoke often) were fascinated with the energetic action of the angels among men and the ways in which the angels have carried out that mission from the instant of Creation through the time of Jesus; and how they will continue their work even unto the end of time.

From the works of these early Fathers of the Church, the late French Cardinal Jean Daniélou has drawn forth threads of knowledge and wisdom which he has here woven into a lucid and bright tapestry that shows us who the ministering angels really are, and how—in every instant and in every way—they are working for your salvation and mine.

Here you’ll find no sentimental cherubs: the Fathers knew that majesty and power cloak actual angels, which is why God gave them the formidable tasks of shepherding not only souls, but entire nations, and the motions of the entire material universe itself.

Open these pages to meet the glorious angels as they were known by the Church’s greatest saints and theologians: Origen and Eusebius, and Sts. Basil, Ambrose, Methodius, Gregory of Nyssa, Clement of Alexandria, and John Chrysostom (among others).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Up

Forgiveness, Angels, and Fasting

Various requests or email conversations have popped up lately which prompt me to offer a variety of links to items of interest:

Forgiveness
The key quote from St. Augustine (my first saint friend) that made me look at forgiveness as something I could actually desire for someone I disliked. I can't ever thank him enough for sharing his thoughts on the subject. Read it here.

Angels
Shylock asks for more about my connection to my guardian angel. Hey, y'all, he asked! So....
Fasting
Patina who will be joining the Church at Easter (welcome Patina!) asks, "But I don't understand fasting for an end to abortion, or fasting for any other reason...any chance you could point me in the right direction?"

The main idea is that of joining our sufferings to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. You can offer up involuntary suffering, such as illness, or purposefully embrace suffering in acts of penance, such as fasting. And believe me ... I suffer.

Here are a couple of good links:
  • Intro to Lent II: Fasting by Mike Aquilina. This is a wonderful overall piece about fasting and I reread it every so often to bolster my own determination.

  • Salvifici Doloris encyclical (on the Christian meaning of human suffering) by Pope John Paul II. Lest you quail at the idea of reading an encyclical, though I have found them to usually be easy to read depending on the subject, here is the key point:
    In the Cross of Christ not only is the Redemption accomplished through suffering, but also human suffering itself has been redeemed...Every man has his own share in the Redemption. Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the Redemption was accomplished...In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ...The sufferings of Christ created the good of the world's redemption. This good in itself is inexhaustible and infinite. No man can add anything to it. But at the same time, in the mystery of the Church as his Body, Christ has in a sense opened his own redemptive suffering to all human suffering (Salvifici Doloris 19; 24).

What's New in My Fridge?

Well, since you asked ... just pop over to Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen to find out.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The story of a renegade deer, a flat tire, a dying beagle, a glowing dime, a mysterious stranger, and a white garage bag brought an atheist to Jesus

Wow.

Do. not. miss. this. story.

Much thanks to Enbrethiliel for bringing it to my notice.

Coming Soon ... Justice, Inc.

One of my favorite narrators sends word of a great sounding new old book he'll be beginning:
This week Uvula Audio premieres Justice, Inc. by Paul Ernst. This is the introductory book in the 1940's pulp serial about Richard Benson the Avenger. Benson was a globe-trotting adventurer who made millions all over the world in risky and dangerous ventures. When he finally decides to settle down and retire, he loses his wife and daughter in a mysterious tragedy aboard an airliner where they disappear mid-flight. Benson goes mad and ends up in an institution. When he is released he has undergone several physical changes from the shock including his hair turning white and his face becoming an equally deathly pallor. From that day forward Benson vows vengeance upon the people who caused his tragic loss. This is a dark heroic story which reminds you of Doc Savage and yet is much more sober in tone. Some people have suggested that if Doc Savage was the basis of Superman, then Benson is very probably the basis of Batman and his vigilante justice. It was always made clear that Doc worked with the police-- although Benson respects the police, it is always made clear that he does not feel they can do the job of justice as well as he can because their hands are tied by the system . . . sound familiar?

Links for the story-- which is already posted for the week-- can be found at here or the podcast can be “caught” using this address:
http://www.uvulaaudio.com/Books/Books.xml

Worth A Thousand Words

Gas Masks
from Old Picture of the Day

Does anyone else notice the resemblance here to the sand people from Star Wars? I wonder if George Lucas had been looking through old photos ...

Which makes it darned near irresistible to watch George Lucas in Love again ... so let's give in and do it!

And now, for something more cheerful ... I present The Periodic Table of Awesomements


If seeing that number 1 is Bacon and number 2 is Ninja doesn't make you smile ... well then, I'm stumped. Click on it to see a larger version or, better yet, go visit John C. Wright's place which is where I picked this baby up.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Catholic Church to Be Regulated by Connecticut?

Although from what I've read there is no need for that question mark. If so, I am appalled both as an American and as a Catholic.

Ed Morrisey reports:
According to the First Amendment and the Establishment Clause, the government has no business dictating to religious organizations how they should structure themselves. In Connecticut, though, some lawmakers seem to have skipped over the Constitution. A new bill will require Catholic parishes and dioceses — and only Catholics — to organize their parish leadership in a way that pleases the Connecticut legislature (via The Corner)...
American Papist has more:
On top of it being an outrageous violation of the First Amendment it is also particularly anti-Catholic, and the politicians who have introduced and supported this bill should be strongly rebuked not just by Catholics, but by all Americans who hate religious discrimination and "hate legislation."

One particularly-offensive line in the bill (emphasis mine):

"The corporation shall have a board of directors consisting of not less than seven nor more than thirteen lay members. The archbishop or bishop of the diocese or his designee shall serve as an ex-officio member of the board of directors without the right to vote."

That's right - archbishops and bishops under this bill would be stripped of their power to govern.
Both sources will have updates, as I am sure that many more will also. Much thanks to The Anchoress for the heads up on this.

Update
Get Religion wonders why the media is ignoring the story altogether.

Further Update

From The Anchoress who wrote a stunningly good and thoughtful post on the whole thing:
UPDATE: Well, a reprieve of sorts. Seems
“The bill is dead for the rest of the legislative session. As soon as word spread about the bill, the Legislative Office Building was flooded with telephone calls and e-mails on Monday. The bill, virtually overnight, became the hottest issue at the state Capitol.”.
(H/T Ace) That’s good. But it’s still on the way - next year, year after that. This battle is going to happen. Bank on it.

Where Do We Draw the Line with God?

This was the theme that our priest returned to again and again as he talked about the story of Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain, thinking that God would have him slay his son as a sacrifice. Neither Abraham nor Isaac protested or put up any opposition to God's orders. They exhibited completely willingness and trust in God no matter how terrible and abhorrent his plans seemed.

This made me think of Mary's "yes" to God, her similar complete willingness and trust.

I also thought of what I had read that morning in Thomas Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation.
We must learn to realize that the love of God seeks us in every situation, and seeks our good. His inscrutable love seeks our awakening. True, since this awakening implies a kind of death to our exterior self, we will dread His coming in proportion as we are identified with this exterior self and attached to it. But when we understand the dialectic of life and death we will learn to take the risks implied by faith, to make the choices that deliver us from our routine self and open to us the door of a new being, a new reality.

The mind that is the prisoner of conventional ideas, and the will that is the captive of its own desire cannot accept the seeds of an unfamiliar truth and a supernatural desire. For how can I receive the seeds of freedom if I am in love with slavery and how can I cherish the desire of God if I am filled with another and an opposite desire? God cannot plant His liberty in me because I am a prisoner and I do not even desire to be free. I love my captivity and I imprison myself in the desire for the things that I hate, and I have hardened my heart against true love. I must learn therefore to let go of the familiar and the usual and consent to what is new and unknown to me. I must learn to "leave myself in order to find myself by yielding to the love of God. If I were looking for God, every event and every moment would sow, in my will, grains of His life that would spring up one day in a tremendous harvest.
I thought of a couple of occasions when I have seen people who knew what was right but who so clearly desired to do what they wanted instead. How they went from friend to friend asking for an opinion. When it never was the answer they wanted, these seekers having honest friends, they kept searching almost frantically for someone who would affirm their wishes instead of the larger truth. In each case, their friends' hearts ached for them during the search.

Then I thought of myself. How easy it is to identify when someone else is turning from obedience. Yet, as I had just been telling Tom that morning, I had been feeling nudges from many sources to begin attending daily Mass. No one was saying that most deadly of arguments to me, "It's so wonderful. So inspirational." I'd heard that before. It merely left me thinking I didn't feel that "call."

No, the comments that nudged would always be about something else entirely. I can't really recall they were now, for the most part (except for yours, Rita, that one I remember). To get my attention to that level, however, they had been coming for some time and from many sources. Even at a party on Saturday when a friend was telling of her own Lenten addition of Wednesday morning Mass, my antennae perked up. That "I ought to ..." feeling was there.

I could not even argue that it would disrupt my morning schedule. I would merely have to put aside my own activities for an hour before getting to work ... and I can't even tell you what activities would be disrupted, that is how unimportant they are.

I was beginning to feel annoyed and hunted. Until I realized during that homily just where I was drawing the line. At giving God one hour in the morning. An hour which He fully is intending for my own joy and good and benefit ... and freedom. If I am reading the "nudges" aright.

In response, here I was kicking and screaming. Not trusting and wondering and looking forward to what might come that I cannot possibly foresee.

It was a shaming moment.

But afterward, when I had apologized and said a wholehearted, "Yes" ... I had complete peace. No annoyance over the schedule, over the daily obligation. Simply peace. That is the clearest sign of all.

My only mulling over then was wondering what time, if some of the daily Masses were held at the lower school instead of the church and so on. At which point I spared my guardian angel a thought. He had just been waiting, evidently, to whack me on the head and say, "Just go, knucklehead! Don't sweat the details."

Got it.

I went home afterwards and finished reading the essay.
My chief care should not be to find pleasure or success, health or life or money or rest or even things like virtue and wisdom--still less their opposites, pain, failure, sickness, death. But in all that happens, my one desire and my one joy should be to know: "Here is the thing that God has willed for me. In this His love is found, and in accepting this I can give back His love to Him and give myself with it to Him. For in giving myself I shall find Him and He is life everlasting.

By consenting to His will with joy and doing it with gladness I have His love in my heart, because my will is now the same as His love and I am on the way to becoming what He is, Who is Love. And by accepting all things from Him I receive His joy into my soul, not because things are what they are but because God is Who He is, and His love has willed my joy in them all.
Indeed.

And if not joy yet, certainly peace.

No measurable good may come of daily Mass attendance that I will ever be able to report (though I don't really believe that). However, even if the sole good comes from my realization of my stubborn struggle and my change of heart to a willing "yes" ... then that is enough.

Update: Ironically, this morning at my first daily Mass I realized that this actually may be God's way of economically answering my own prayers and using them for something which I had not intended. I'd been having so much trouble getting my time use under control that I'd been praying for help with focusing. Mass waiteth for no man (to paraphrase that famous saying). Except for the priest, one supposes. I've gotta hustle and focus to get there on time. Hoist on my own petard!

Prayer, Penance & Pain

The Anchoress has an excellent, personal piece about offering up one's own pain for others. Here's a bit, then go read it all, including her links to others' pieces.
But I realized that just laying about in pain was silly and wasteful; it went against everything the good nuns and my own mother and granny had ever taught me about pain and suffering. In my head I heard Sr. Mary Gemma telling us children, “when you are in pain, when you are disappointed, when your feelings have been hurt, offer these things up to the Lord and ask him to use your pain - that He join it to His own pain on the cross, for the good of others. Offer it as penance for your own sins, or the sins of those who cannot or will not do penance for themselves.” ...

I asked Him to take the pain in my feet and use it to bless those essential, undernoticed people who spent so much time on their feet serving others - cops, nurses, food workers, teachers. I asked Him to take the pain in my ankles and use it to bless the men and women who stand a watch at home and abroad, the people they protect and the people they guard.

My knees - sometimes the knees wake me up in the middle of the night from pain - I offered the pain in my knees for those who suffer through long nights, either from insomnia, loneliness, social or family affliction; for “the night people” on the streets who live their lives in the bleakest hours, because they perhaps feel like they have no better choices, or because they do not feel like they “belong” to the day.

Friday, March 6, 2009

How Do You Know You Have the Best Husband in the World?

When he walks up with a Barnes and Noble Christmas gift card that still has $56 on it ... and hands it over.

Now there's a nice surprise!

Tom is much more into music and BN has been phasing it out since before Christmas. Lucky, lucky me!

100 Enlightening Bible Study Blogs

Still digging out on emails that piled up while I was gone ... here's an interesting resource with blogs categorized by such things as Scripture, Inspiration and Enlightenment, Community, and more.

Oh, and look way down the list ... keep scrolling ... that's it, number 57. Surprise! You are already reading one of the recommended blogs!

What Rose Has Been Up To

Catch a couple of her first semester projects here. She's still fixing thumbnails, etc. since they just set these pages up earlier this week.

The first "black" one is a group project.

The second is Rose's project a la Billy Wilder (they had to choose a director to emulate).

The third, which looks as if it has some sort of upload problem at the moment, is an experimental film done by a fellow pilot program group member. It is fascinating to watch and then to hear Rose talk about how she achieved the special effects bubbles. This was to tie in with Rose's Billy Wilder project, which makes more sense if you know that Rose was forced by her teacher to give her film a happy ending instead of the bleak one she desired.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Short Realization About Death

This is going to be a "duh" moment for many.

Seeing all the comments and sympathy and reaching out to Amy Welborn after Michael's tragic death has made all of us probably think about death more. I know I was quite surprised to read that Amy has had a fear of death. I was surprised when people commented that their deepest fear was that their husband might suddenly die.

This is only reflective of the fact that I just don't think about death, even when it is right in front of me, so to speak. I think of where we're going after death. I know intellectually that if one of my loved ones died suddenly I would be devastated, just like anyone would. However, as I said, I know that intellectually. I don't think about how it would feel.

I remember once, years ago, Rose asked me if I were afraid of dying. I thought for a second. "I'm not afraid of death. I'm not looking forward to the process of dying, but I'm not afraid of death because I figure Heaven will be so interesting."

Over confident. Yes, I am surely that. But I hope and trust that my honest efforts to get to Heaven will be supplemented by a generous supply of Christ's grace and I'll scrape my way into Purgatory and get to Heaven eventually.

Anyway, driving back from Springfield, I wound up thinking about Amy and that haunted hotel room and all those cars whizzing around me that could make a wrong move and wipe me out. I realized that I had never thought about that moment of death. You know. The process of death. When you move from one world into another. I never thought about what that would be like. For me myself as a person to experience that shift.

Scary.

Very scary.

In my mind's eye it was like trying to squeeze through a teeny, tiny hole into ... what?

That was when I realized, really felt it to my core, the sheer helplessness of death. The sheer need to fall into Christ's arms because He'd be the only constant, the only person I could trust in that moment to be there the whole time, helping me, loving me, taking care of me ...

Yes it is a helpless feeling, a thing that is scary to think about. But I like that it made me realize just how fully I do place my trust in Jesus ... and how much I need and utterly depend upon Him. There's a rightness about that. I like it.

Cracker Cooking

My review of The Cracker Kitchen: A Cookbook in Celebration of Cornbread-Fed, Down Home Family Stories and Cuisine is up at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen

Well Said

From my quote journal. Note: I do not always agree with the 3 Minute Theologian, however, he is usually inspirational and always thought provoking. I recommend that you try out a few of his podcast episodes.
We now seem to believe that realism is one part cynicism and two parts disappointment, and to drink deeply and despondently of such a potion is the sign of the “realist”. The world will eventually disappoint you, and your leaders will inevitably let you down. To be cynical merely means getting your disappointment in first. ...

Even so, the opposite of optimism is not realism: it is pessimism. Pessimism is the sense that nothing will make any difference; our destiny is to go to hell in a handbasket (The Duke of Wellington’s comment, “Reform, sir! Reform! aren’t things bad enough already?” is the peak of pessimism). The handmaid of pessimism is cynicism, the belief that things will go bad because of stupidity, greed and deliberate malfeasance. Optimism, on the other hand, is the belief that there is more good than evil in the universe, and that good will ultimately win out. This belief does not, should not, exist as a wide-eyed and unworldly Pollyanna-ism. After all, optimism’s first principle is that evil exists and bad things happen. Rather, optimism’s handmaid is a clear-sighted realism: being able to look at the world as it truly is, and see where the forces of good are at work and where they need to be strengthened.

And the personification of the optimistic realist (or realistic optimist) is Jesus. After all, it was he who sent his disciples out with this hopeful piece of advice: “‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16).
3 Minute Theologian: Words about God for the Attention Deficit Generation