Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Michigan Seems Like a Dream"

In the next couple of hours, we'll be leaving for Michigan. I'll be driving through the night. We covet your prayers - especially for our safety and my wakefulness - two sides of the same coin I suppose. I have David Sedaris's Me Talk Pretty One Day, which I'm looking forward to. If the library is still open on the way out, I may stop and look again sans children. It's easier finding something when you're not chasing and shushing a toddler and a yellow-haired child. (I had also picked up Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, but one of the tapes is broken. Nice. This is why you put these things on CD.)

I'll see you on the other side.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Catholic, XX

We are baptized into Christ, into one body (Gal 3.27; 1 Cor 12.13).

It is in receiving this sacrament, because of our belief, that we are saved (Acts 2.38; Col 2.12; 1 Pe 3.21). In it, our sins are washed away (Acts 22.16).

Baptism is God's most beautiful and magnificent gift. ... We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God's Lordship.

- St Gregory of Nazianzus (A.D. c 325-389), Oratio

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Winter's Eve

Leaves and ribbon race across the ground, frustrated
By passing whirlwinds, holly and chain-link.

A snake scribbles over red clay, like a memory,
Crawling under the sun and the bare river birch.
The sun shines in gold indifference. It's untroubled
By fading linens, by daydreams and bright lipstick.

From the window I watch the sky slip into color.
Sunlight and clouds conspire beauty. And the wind
Chases dead leaves in fitful bursts of curious
Distraction. My hair, old wire, plays gray. And brown
Leaves huddle against the diamond hem of your fence.

I close my eyes imagining you, and I breathe.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Evening (draft)

Leaves and frayed string race across the ground, distracted
By cars and transitory whirlwinds and chain-link.
A snake scribbles through gravel like a memory,
Writing something old and dusty, half-forgotten.

The sun shines on unaware and gold, distracted
By cars and cool water, by lipstick and chain-link.
From the porch I watch the sky slip into color
As sun and clouds conspire beauty. And the wind

Chases dead leaves in fitful bursts of curious
Distraction. My hair, old wire, plays gray while brown
Leaves huddle against the diamond hem of your fence.
I close my eyes imagining you, and I grieve.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Catholic, XIX

The sacraments are ineffable. They are true, and not mere, symbols - they are God's presence and the presentation of His efficacious grace. In faith and love we receive them, bowing before the Mystery.

Catholic, XVIII

In the sacraments of the Church the transcendence and the nearness of God collide. And it is in this collision of the mystical and the physical, in this incarnation of the other and the familiar, that we feel the hand of Christ upon us, uniting us to Himself.

They, the sacraments, are the activity of the whole Christ, the head and the body acting as one, giving and receiving.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Catholic, XVII

The sacraments are life and are shaped to life, and the Church is shaped by them. It is through the sacraments, principally, that Christ meets with us. And it is in these encounters that we are healed.

Leona Choy

Leona Choy, evangelical missionary to China, writer, and publisher, converted to Catholicism in 2005 (at 79). I saw her last night on Journey Home - she has a beautiful and moving testimony. Check out the interview if you have the time. You should be able to find it this week at EWTN.com.


Me and the Crue are heading to Michigan in a week, braving the cold and the gray, braving two holidays being pressed into one.

We'll be celebrating Christmas with my side of the family after Thanksgiving (I imagine it will be on Saturday, though Who knows?).

We're driving through the night, we've decided. It usually works out well: Kids sleep, wife sleeps (if only fitfully), Dad sleeps (if constantly interrupted by those annoying rumble strips). We get to Michigan the next morning, and, for the most part, it's as if the trip never happened. Then I collapse on the couch and nap until it's time to drive home again. All around, Good Times.

Maybe I'll pick up a DVD player so I can watch movies while I drive. Or maybe get some movies on CD at the very least. Or do they just do books?

I suppose coffee is always a good option, or a 2-liter bottle of diet Mountain Dew with loads of chips and candy. ("Ew," he shudders.) That just doesn't sound as appealing to me as it did when I was in college. But I'll make it work - suggestions are welcome.

Monday, November 13, 2006


My soul is occupied,
And all my substance in His service;
Now I guard no flock,
Nor have I any other employment:
My sole occupation is love.

- St John of the Cross (Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom, 28)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Misc.ing Me

I mowed today. Yeah, you heard me - November 11. I hope it will be the last time I need to this year, but it was 81 today and now I hear it beginning to rain - I wonder.

. . . . .

I go through bouts of depression. My spirit rains, my soul drizzles. I usually don't recognize the depression until I'm on the other side. Once, several years ago, I realized it had been four days since I'd brushed my teeth. That was a rather serious bout as I do try to regularly brush my teeth. This summer I didn't mow the lawn for two months. It seemed like the right thing not to do. I was so busy, after all.

I don't like being depressed. Though I do. I like to shrug it off on my being a classic melancholy, but that is a box smaller than who I am.

I'm not glum. I would even describe myself as "very happy." Most people who know me know my smile. And the smile is not hiding anything, though sometimes it co-exists with something blacker.

. . . . .

My mom sent me some jokes this week. Here's one of the three - with some cussing:

A man went to church one day and afterward he stopped to shake the preacher's hand. He said "Preacher, I'll tell you, that was a damned fine sermon. Damned fine!"

The preacher said, "Thank you, sir, but I'd rather you didn't use profanity."

The man said, "I was so damned impressed with that sermon, I put five thousand dollars in the offering plate!"

The preacher said, "No shit?"

The last of the three jokes was funnier, about penises and such, but that's probably already too much for this blog.

. . . . .

I have beautiful children. I'm just stating a fact. They're beautiful. They're monkeys, the whole lot of them, but they're beautiful monkeys.

I was wondering today what the state of my soul would be if Will had been twins. I whispered a profound prayer of thanksgiving. I cannot imagine the sheer destructive potential of twin boys. If you have twin boys, let me know so I can daily pray for you.

. . . . .

Although I could have sworn I had locked the door, a few months ago my oldest daughter walked in on Laura and me, uh, conjugating. She opened the door, her eyes saucered, and - like an old reel-to-reel playing backward - she exited.

A little while later, Laura was sitting out with the kids and Sophie asked for a drink.

Laura said, "Daddy's in the kitchen; go ask him."

Sophie said, "That boy better not be naked!"

Friday, November 10, 2006

Mea Culpa

It has been a rough week - one of those weeks where I've seen too much of myself. I've been angry and impatient. I've been depressed and tired. It's been a week where everything, no matter how well-intentioned, has turned into crap. I sing with Joe and Blue, "I did that."

I am a maker, a little creator, fashioning my world with these two hands, with this mouth, with anger or peace. My children suffer under such a creature as me. They deserve so much more.

I am less than I ought to be.

I want to make the days better. I want to fashion them through the freedom that is given through grace - to laugh without resistance, to smile without this downward tug.

I am less than I ought to be.

Puppets and cartoons and sing-songy songs saturate my brain, turning it into crap. But I still know one thing: Elmo sucks. I used to love him, but a half hour of the furry red bundle of cute makes you wonder how Dorothy keeps from going belly up. Or at least vomiting little goldfish vomit all over the multi-colored pebbles that line her cell.

While we're speaking of excrement, I changed a dirty diaper today. And then, fifteen minutes later, realized that the boy was just revving the ol' engine. Tuning the orchestra, if you will. And the movement that followed was less than sublime. So I changed that one too. Last diaper. I call Laura and ask for more diapers - my only request. I don't request a book by von Balthasar or a CD, no newly released movie, not even a pack of new pencils (I love new, wooden pencils). Just diapers, please. And hurry.

O Lord Jesus, I am less than I ought to be. Heal me.

Praise for Little Things

This morning I took a shower with no interruptions. I dressed with no interruptions. No one pounded on the door. No one cried. No messes needed to be cleaned when I came out to check on the two ephemeral angels.

. . . . .

It is 82 today. Yesterday it was in the low 70s. Tomorrow it is supposed to be in the low 70s - a little island paradise in a sea of 50s and 60s. North Carolina ain't so bad.

Catholic, XVI

Dostoevsky said that God will save the world through beauty.

As I enter the church, I dip my fingers into holy water and cross myself. Icons, sculptures, and stained glass surround me, proclaim the Good News. Indeed, the very architecture speaks in cruciform.

Beauty silences me. I breathe in deeply and kneel before the Mystery of God. And I am saved.

For a Caramel

We took drives in the country. We'd first stop to pick up something to drink, and a snack, and we'd drive. We'd normally head east, though we'd rarely reach Williamston; we'd drive and we'd look and we'd talk.

Once, when my sister had her driver's permit, we almost died over a caramel. My dad, sitting in the passenger seat, took one of Tania's caramels. She tried to stop him, reaching suddenly for him and for the candy, and the van followed. We swerved sharply onto the shoulder of the road and back.

We didn't die, I'm pleased to report, over the caramel. Though it would have made an excellent story.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Got my blog back.

Blogger Beta

I am officially on Blogger Beta. That does not mean, however, that I can now view my blog.

So I'll be staying with you all until it's fixed. Get that guest room ready! Yee-haw!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Catholic, XV

My wife and I light a votive in remembrance of our unborn daughter as we pray for God to hold her and whisper our love to her. Our prayer dances, en croix, warming and illuminating us.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Hey, Hey, Hey!

Ever have a

Cashier: Did you find everything you need?

Me: Unfortunately for my arteries.

kind of grocery experience?

Such was mine, not half an hour ago. In my defense, it takes a great deal of work to stay as conditioned as I am. And, uh, my wife is pregnant? ...

More for Tim, Jerry, and Hal

G.K. Chesterton says, concerning John's Revelation, "Though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators."

Why I Am Catholic, XIV

In Catholicism, I love that one can dedicate his or her life to Christ, and that this radical devotion is encouraged and respected within and by the Church.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Why I Am Catholic, XIII

Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus - Outside the Church there is no salvation. All salvation comes from Christ the head through the Church His body. The Church is necessary for salvation.

Section 838 of the Catechism says the following:

"The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter." Those "who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church." With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound "that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord's Eucharist."

(A proper baptism means baptizing one who believes - the faith of the parents in the case of an infant - using the trinitarian formula: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.)

The Compendium puts it like this:

171. What is the meaning of the affirmation “Outside the Church there is no salvation”?

This means that all salvation comes from Christ, the Head, through the Church which is his body. Hence they cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her. At the same time, thanks to Christ and to his Church, those who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ and his Church but sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, try to do his will as it is known through the dictates of conscience can attain eternal salvation.


I am up too late again. I am tired and so, in my delirium, must write. Confusion or clarity ensues - be forewarned.

I went for a hike about a month ago - on Avery's birthday. The knob we hiked around is a favorite place of ours to visit. On my visits to Pilot Mountain, I love to touch the trees and the bare, cold face of the mountain itself.

The stone is real. It is hard and cold. And when I touch it I know that I am, and that it is. And I come away from the experience thinking I do not touch enough.

I carry the yellow-haired child to bed. I embrace my children and kiss them. I pray with them. Similarly, my wife. They stand apart from the natural world in their warmth and life. Touching them is wholly better, but familiar.

The stone is not warm. The tree does not create heat. They are other. I touch both and I am educated. It is difficult to put into words. But I am a creature - made from the clay under my feet. This rock, this mountain, whispers something to me about myself. It whispers to me about our brotherhood. It whispers something to me about our Father. And I fall in love.

We are not brothers as you and I are brothers. But there is an affinity between us. Life is the difference. The Breath of God is the difference. The imagination of God differentiates one thing from another.

As we grow, we hear it often enough: Do not touch. It is said for our protection. I say it to my own children. But when I am on the mountain with them I tell them to touch. To smell. To see. To hear. And, on occasion, to taste.

We are creatures, you and I. And we know in creaturely ways. And I fear it would be sacrilege to wish it different.

We do nothing of worth abstractly. The worthwhile is concrete like the rock and the tree. If I feel love for God but do not obey Him, do I love Him? No more than I would love my wife or children, if I merely felt love for them. I love as I am able, as the creature I am, or I do not love.

The cold seeps into me. Given time, it could overpower me, but it will not. Not today. Today I stand on the cold rock under the burning sun beneath the shade of the trees and I live.

Touching the mind of God, I praise Him.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Waiting for the Boy to Fall Asleep

I notice I've been including the writings of a particular Anglican in all of my most recent reasons for becoming Catholic. A little ironic, I suppose, but it's just the way it is. A more contemporary Anglican who has done and is doing the same for me, at a different level, is N.T. Wright.

I believe their thinking can be so transitionally profound because the Anglican Church is, of sorts, a transitional body.

. . . . .

I replaced my water heater today. I'm still praying the pipes hold up. At one point, when the water heater was almost entirely hooked up, one of the old pipes and all its soldered joints simply fell apart. (Nothing I had soldered.)

Then Sophie said she'd pray for the angels to help me (she was watching Angels in the Outfield - such was the source of her superb catholicity). And, it was at that point, I realized I could circumvent the sweat soldering that I thought was inevitable with my flexible pipe and compression valve. I still don't know if the pipe's going to hold. But it's not leaking.

For now, we have hot water again. The dishwasher and the bathtub have been popular since.

My prayer for this project has simply been, "I am not strong enough, Lord Jesus. Strengthen me." Perhaps I will now pray, "Lord Jesus, establish the work of my hands." And, "Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ."

Friday, November 03, 2006

Why I Am Catholic, XII

"I believe in ... the communion of saints." This statement, pulled from the Apostles' Creed, means two things to me currently: (1) Believers are to be one, and (2) When believers die, they are not wholly lost to us.

Love necessitates prayers for or to or about the dead. And if we close off such an important part of our life from Him, how are we to be honest with God? Or do we simply die piecemeal with those we love, as they die?

"Of course I pray for the dead ... At our age, the majority of those we love best are dead. What sort of intercourse with God could I have if what I love best were unmentionable to him?" (C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm, 107).

Why I Am Catholic, XI

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner - no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat - the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

- C.S. Lewis, the final sentences of "The Weight of Glory"

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Why I Am Catholic, X

I am compelled to be Catholic, or at least not Protestant, because the Eucharist is no mere symbol, though it is symbolic. It is a true symbol, just as C.S. Lewis called the incarnation a true myth. It is, churching up my speech, a sacrament - indeed, it is the Most Blessed Sacrament for it is Christ's Body, Christ's Blood.