Saturday, December 29, 2007

Merry Christmas!


After having to look at the dog-headed picture for over a week, I thought I owed you. Merry Christmas!

HT: Chad, whose wife, btw, is having their second baby - perhaps even as I type. Congratulations, Chad!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Tonight We Drive

We're heading out to Michigan tonight. We'll be driving through the night and so we covet your prayers. In the meantime, I have much to do around the house. I figure schooling today will be light as we prepare for the trip, pack, clean, nap, etc.

Last night I received a special dispensation from my wife to travel up the road to the library by myself. I found three audio books for the trip: (1) The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, (2) Whiteout by Ken Follett, and (3) Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns. All told it is nearly 28 hours of listening pleasure (I hope). Although, I will only need to fill up 24 of those hours. If you know anything of any of the stories, please let me know. I have good recommendations on Kite Runner and Lewis & Clark so the only one I'm nervous about is the Follett book. (Though if you've read Kite Runner and there's plenty of "new vocabulary" for the kids, let me know. They should be sleeping during the trip, but I don't want anything explicit on the speakers. Well, not too explicit.) Also, if you have any recommendations for driving music, I'd appreciate it. I just thought about the soundtrack to Rain Man this morning, which has some great driving music on it. But if you have anything else, or if you want to set up a nice driving mix for me on iTunes, just let me know before dark tonight.

Blessings to you and yours on this most excellent feast day approaching. Merry Christmas to all and to all a prayer-vigil-for-weary-travelers kind of night! Pray for us, St Christopher.

Christ is born!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Memory

I sat in my car waiting for my girls to finish their Faith Formation classes. In the parking lot the Knights of Columbus were selling Christmas trees.

A man and his three kids drove up to pick up their trees. Two for them. One for Grandma. The daughter was the oldest at about 12, the younger boys, perhaps 10 and 8. And as I watched them flit from tree to tree, like hummingbirds, it struck me what joy children bring into our world. And I wondered if, without them, how long we would exchange gifts or put up trees or tell stories. (All of which certainly deserves qualification, but for now, I'm leaving it there.) The children were wide-eyed and their chatter was constant. "Daddy! Daddy!" they cried. "Look at this tree! Wouldn't this one be perfect downstairs!"

Daddy, daddy.

Not long afterward, we lit our Advent wreath - the first in our home. We turned off all the lights and ate by the flame of a single candle intent on imparting hope to us. The children, mine this time, were wide-eyed and their chatter was constant. They asked questions (Having just seen Fiddler on the Roof for the first time, one of them asked, "Are we Jewish, now?") and told stories. "Daddy! Daddy!" - they clamored for my ear.

And, as I treasured the experience in my heart, I realized that this night, though perhaps not specifically December 2, 2007, this night would be remembered. Advent would be part of who they are, who they become. Just as I, even as a confirmed Protestant, would always find Midnight Mass and Christmas inseparable events. Just as this ring on my finger bears witness to memory, to union, to life.

Our personhood is birthed in memory. We give our children memories, cherished traditions, so that their faith is rooted not in the ephemerality of Idea, but in the permanence, the concreteness, of water and flame, of fir and crèche, of ashes and fish. So that when the tempter comes to them, they can go to the Jordan and see the rocks in its midst. So they can arise and journey to Bethel and know that there is a ladder there. So that a candle will give hope, and a cross, peace.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Is There a Santa Claus?

With the season nearly upon us, I wanted to share that famous New York Sun article written by Francis P. Church, September 21, 1897.

"Is There a Santa Claus?"

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

"Dear Editor--I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, 'If you see it in The Sun, it's so.' Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?"

Virginia O'Hanlon, 115 West Ninety-fifth Street

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no child-like faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.


Apparently, I do not know if it is true, the article is reprinted in the Times annually. So I hope I'm not breaking too many copyright laws by reprinting it here.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Significance of Place

A friend, in his comments on my last post, asked about Catholicism's view of place. I thought it would make an excellent short post (since I only have a little time) all by itself.

Place is important to our faith. Sometimes crucial. While we can, of course, worship in any place in spirit and truth, our faith is not merely spiritual. Our faith is incarnational. God has become man. Therefore what is physical and tangible is important, and ought not to be shrugged off. On the contrary, as all of us know, there is something highly attractional to places where we deem something important has happened. It is why we have memorials. And we all, as humans, have these places (and they can be of personal or communal importance). It is also an understanding that we have a connection, that there is communion, between us and them - a real communion that place, often, broadens the sense of.

Pilgrimages are made to such places because we want to be a part of this larger thing, this community of faith, we want to experience it for ourselves. And, as well, often times many are healed by God even still in such places, though the event took place hundreds of years before. (These are the same reasons why the Church values relics as well.)

This incarnational view of the faith is not something that only Catholics or Orthodox recognize. The vast majority of Protestants do as well. Most Protestants consciously understand memorial and place and the importance of the concrete. But some deny it to elevate the spiritual. And to me, the longer I am Catholic, this simply seems gnostic faith rather than Christian. Of course, even these celebrate Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, and Easter. Even these would jump at a chance to visit the Holy Lands. Even these kiss their wives.

We venerate these places because God has, in the past, touched them in a special way. There is significance in that. To honor the place or the relic is to honor God and to recognize his working, his real presence, in the world.


More, I hope, on this subject later. Until then, I would highly recommend Fr Stephen Freeman's (an Orthodox priest living in Knoxville) series on One-Storied Faith.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Ave Maria

Hail Mary, thou blessed among women, generations shall rise up to greet,
After ages of wrangles and dogma, I come with a prayer to thy feet.
Where Gabriel's red plumes were a wind in the lanes of thy lilies at eve,
We love, who have done with the churches, we worship, who may not believe.
Shall I reck that the chiefs we revolt with, stern elders with scoff and with frown,
Have scourged from thine altar the kneelers, and reft from thy forehead the crown?
For God's light for the world has burnt through it, the thought whereof thou wert the sign,
As a sign, for all faiths are as symbols, as human, and man is divine.
We know that men prayed to their image and crowned their own passions as powers,
We know that their gods were their shadows, nor are 'shamed of this queen that was ours:
We know as the people the priest is, as the men are the goddess shall be,
And all harlots were worshipped in Cyprus, all maidens and mothers in thee.

Who shall murmur of dreams or be sour when the tale of thy triumph is told,
When thy star rose a sun and a meteor o'er empires and cities of old?
When against the dim altars of passion, the garlands of queens god-embraced,
Come the peace of a poor Jewish maid in the lily-like pride of the chaste,
Came weak, without swords of the flesh, without splendours of lyres or of pen,
As a naked appeal to things pure in the hearts of the children of men;
And e'en as she walked as one dreaming, sweet, pale as the evening star,
The spell of the wanton was snapped, and the revel of gods rolled afar,
And she brightened the glens that were gloomy, and softened the tribes that were wild,
Till the world grew a worshipping choir round the shapes of a mother and child.

(G.K. Chesterton, The Debater, Feb. 1893)

These are the first two of five stanzas. HT: The Magnificat

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Giving Up Giving Up

My giving up on this blog is officially over. It's become a habit, writing here. I write. It's what I do. It's how I breathe. It's how I think. And though it's not the only place I write, it has become a kind place for me. Certainly, this is not the proper setting for every exhalation.

I may, someday, buy an old manual typewriter and pound out my thoughts exhaustively, compiling reams of strange ideas about stranger things for my great-grandchildren to someday stumble upon and subsequently use to heat their homes. But until then, here I am.

That being said, rather sheepishly, my writing this month may certainly still be scarce regardless of my resolution to continue forward. I have some articles due at the end of this week, and then the next week will be spent in preparations for the holidays and finishing school with the girls.

Again, I thank you for your prayers. It's been a sorrowful time for our family, and a break was certainly needed from some of the things with which I normally busy myself. But the sun also rises, doesn't it. We are doing reasonably well. I haven't, as of yet, written through my grief. I probably will soon. I probably must.

"For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Is 11,8).

Friday, November 30, 2007

"Saved by Hope"

Because of the nature of the news and the beauty of the document, I have to quickly "break fast" in order to point you to Pope Benedict's new encyclical, "Spe Salvi," which was released this morning. I've read it, am meditating upon it, and will need to reread it. It's a tremendous exposition on hope. And timely.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Start of an Explanation

I know my last post was abrupt and unexpected. Maybe, as Dan suggested, my leaving this blog will merely be a sabbatical, maybe through the holidays. Maybe until spring, in that glorious season of resurrection. Maybe forever. At this point, I just don't know. There's part of me that feels terribly lost right now, much of which, I realize, is related to the loss of our baby. And added to it all, I feel as if this blog gums things up for me sometimes with my writing, keeps me from being the writer I want to be, and the provider that I, right now, feel that I desperately need to be (how that all works out, or why that wound hurts so badly right now, I haven't the slightest).

Then again, all of that simply may be my confusion right now. It may merely be me, in my grief, digging up the shallow, marked graves of a lifetime of griefs and regrets and losses - of deaths. I need time to mourn all of it. And to rebury most of it.

I appreciate your affection that spills over, so naturally, into prayer.

I will still be a reader and commenter on your blogs, for those of you who have them. And I may add things to my "Shared" list in the sidebar from time to time, or update pictures. But my writing, for now, will take place in other venues. And I hope productively so as I deal with everything that hinders me in that arena, the biggest obstacle being me.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Goodbye.

I am over and done here.

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thess. 5.16-18).

Glory to God for all things!

" 'God, have mercy upon all of them, have all these unhappy and turbulent souls in Thy keeping, and set them in the right path. All ways are Thine. Save them according to Thy wisdom. Thou art love. Thou wilt send joy to all!' Alyosha murmured, crossing himself, and falling into peaceful sleep" (Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, final sentences of Chapter 11, Book 1).

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Memory Eternal.

It's been a long week. And it hasn't ended well.

Please pray for us.

I haven't told you this news because we wanted to wait, but, for nearly two months, my wife and I have been expecting our sixth child. (Our seventh, including Baby Torey - May her memory be eternal!) We discovered yesterday, however, that we had lost the baby.

It wasn't long ago that we were left wondering at this tiny heart, full of hope, beating furiously. Now there is only hard, impenetrable silence. And life moves forward, laboring soberly.

So pray for us.

Most Holy Theotokos, pray for us.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Jack Henry

Thank you all so much for your prayers today. Jack Henry is out of surgery. It was quick and successful. Jack was born with having only one testicle descended. The exploratory surgery's purpose was to find the other to place it, or find the remnants of the other and remove it. We are very thankful that they were able to find the second testicle and bring it down. He also had a small hernia that needed fixing, and that also went well.

I must say, Jack did much better than I would have done had someone been cutting on me down there. The boy's got balls (*hits drums* - Ba-dum-CH!).

Seriously though, thank you for your prayers. It was an anxious morning.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Euphemisms

Anna came home from school today and asked me, "Is darn a bad word, Daddy?" She had heard the word on TV. How do you explain euphemisms to a six year old? But I figured Anna had as good a chance as anyone at wrapping her mind around the concept. So I began to explain to her what euphemisms were, why they were used, and how people felt about them. I told her that many words depended on how they were said rather than that they were said. I also said that around some people, and in some situations, even euphemisms were bad manners and considered bad words. I said that it would probably be best for her to try not to use them now, but that I was sure she probably would as she got older and that that was OK with me.

Now for Anna, writing and drawing helps her understand concepts that are new to her or that she's been thinking about. I presume this to be true because she does so much of it and because I'm wired the same way. And so at supper, my wife and I were not surprised to find that Anna had written a list of euphemisms on the white board we use for homeschooling.

And we laughed and laughed and laughed. We even verbally added a few of our own "euphemisms" that I can't post on the blog.

Here's what she wrote:

Pray for Jack Henry

Please pray for Baby Jack Henry, who is nine months old today (and for his mommy and daddy). Tomorrow (11-14) he will be undergoing outpatient surgery and we're all a bit nervous, except for Baby Jack who's completely oblivious. It's not serious, but he will be put under for the surgery. It's also our first child to undergo any kind of surgery (other than stitches and staples).

Please pray for us, for no complications and for peace.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What Do You Do?

What do you do when you are contracted to write about spiritual practices, but feel unworthy and incompetent to do so?

You pray and try to be diligent in your duty. And you pray.

When I said I'd take this job, I wanted a paying gig where I could write about the spiritual life - I thought it would be cool, honestly, and I needed the money - but the more I write, the more I understand my own utter lack of authority in such matters. I am humbled by it.

So this is a nothing post. Just a note to say that I feel totally inadequate for this endeavor.

May God guide me, and forgive me my errors.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Educating Me

OK. I need help.

I was reading on Zenit.org about Papa Benedict's thoughts on Beethoven's Ninth as follows:

At the end of the concert, the Holy Father recalled that Beethoven composed his final symphony in 1824, after a period of isolation and difficulty "which threatened to suffocate his artistic creativity."

Yet the composer "surprised the public with a composition that broke with the traditional structure of the symphony," rising at the end "in an extraordinary finale of optimism and joy," the Pontiff said.

Benedict XVI continued, "This overwhelming sentiment of joy is not something light and superficial; it is a sensation achieved through struggle" because "silent solitude [...] had taught Beethoven a new way of listening that went well beyond a simple capacity to experience in his imagination the sound of notes read or written."

.....

"God - sometimes through periods of interior emptiness and isolation - wishes to make us attentive and capable of 'feeling' his silent presence, not only 'over the canopy of stars' but also in the most intimate recesses of our soul," the Holy Father affirmed. "There burns the spark of divine love that can free us to be what we truly are."

... and it made me want to enjoy some truly good music, which I have so little of. But I need your help. I need a list of composers, compositions, and good interpretations of their compositions. Because I'm ignorant. Could you help? (I know some of you certainly can.) A list would do - your favorite classical music and the specific (if you have one) recording of it.

I would certainly appreciate it.

I listened to Beethoven's Ninth on the way to and from picking up Anna from school yesterday and was pleasantly surprised by it. Surprised by its beauty, but also surprised by its narrative. The beauty of so much of art was lost on me as a child. I was happy with boxed macaroni and cheese and hot dogs.

I intend to make up for lost time.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Big-Boned

After watching a video from Netflix, You Fat Bastard: On a Diet, recommended by a friend, I began walking again.

That was 15 days ago.

So far I've lost 4 inches off my gut(!), but only about 5 pounds (I didn't weigh myself when I began, but only had a general idea from the last time). I'm happy about the gut. I've got a long way to go (literally "miles to go before I sleep"), but I'm refreshed and ready to keep on walking (at 5:00 a.m. every morning - pity me, people).

I have some new shoes arriving in the mail today.

I lost weight when my first two children were born about eight years ago - about 75 pounds. When I began to teach, I stopped exercising, and began self-medicating with food. I gained 90 pounds. "Shut up!" they said. I know, but it's sadly true.

I want to be around for my grandchildren and that's not going to happen unless I get this weight off - not with my family's medical history. Besides, most days I feel like crap at this size - physically and often emotionally. And that ain't good.

I need to better watch what I eat still, but I'm working on that.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Crucible

I don't think I've told you about how my faith was nearly crushed by a balloon. If I have, please bear with me. It's worth repeating.

The past two years have been filled with uncertainty, questions, doubt, rejection, and even death. And then this past summer brought with it an extraordinary drought and blazing temperatures. August was not a good month. The A/C went out the night before one of the hottest days of the year. Our vehicles bitched and moaned incessantly and protested vigorously. And I did my share. Our home seemed to be falling apart around us and we had no resources to address the entropy of our lives.

And I was tired. And I was losing hope. And the Lord, great and powerful, awesome and mighty, rent the heavens, came down upon clouds, and gave me a swift kick in the seat of my pants. I was able to repair the A/C. But then the ceiling fan broke, which is very effective in helping the heat pump deliver the cool air. So after a few days, I choked up $50 for a new fan and installed it. It worked beautifully. And, I suppose, it became a symbol of hope for me. It was a sign that things would be OK. It showed me that while things wound down in life, I had the ability to wind them back up again - some things, at least. And the next day a child (my child, my wife assures me) walked under the fan with a balloon and stopped the fan dead. Tore clouds out of the sky. Ripped hope from my heart. Made me question everything. I sat down at the dining room table and roared and grumbled, and, finally, I wept. I removed my crucifix and placed it in front of me. I removed my glasses. I wondered if I would wear both again. I was angry and full of despair because of a stupid balloon and a cheap ceiling fan.

That, my friends, is the measure of my faith. That is the extent of my hope. That is the depth of my love.

I wiped my eyes and blew my nose. I put my glasses back on. And my crucifix too.

An idea struck me. I flipped the switch to turn the fan in the opposite direction and turned it on again. It began to move. I turned it off. I flipped the switch back to where it had been and turned it on again. And it worked. It has worked since.

I don't know why it worked, though a simple explanation, I'm sure, could be given. I am not claiming any great miracle here. But I do know that when that fan came to life again after I thought it was dead, it was as if the Lord had removed His heavy and terrible hand from me.

And it begins to rain again. And Catholic Frogs unbury themselves and shake mud from their eyes. Flowers bloom where no flowers had been, and rivers flow in once-barren river beds.

There will be other droughts in my life. But, my God, this is beautiful.

Our hearts were made to hold that which the heavens cannot contain. But they grow clumsy when we try to grab lesser things, like fans or cars or even deserts that green. They are the wrong tools for holding lesser things.

I am a man of little faith. I am a man not unlike St Thomas. And God, as He draws me into His life, is merciful to my weakness and offers me His hands and His side. My Lord and my God!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stuff Happens

So much has happened in October, our heads are still spinning.

Here's the latest: We got a new vehicle - a 2004 Ford Expedition. Our phat minivan was on its last leg: It smoked constantly and refused to start O so often. I had taken to calling it the Old White Dragon for all its smoking and stinking. It needed to go. We've put a couple thousand into it for the past two years just to keep it running and there was no way it was going to make it through all our traveling during the holidays - especially through the Virginias on the way to Michigan.

Now, the Expedition is sweet and I never thought I'd own one due to its price tag, but we had to have something to meet the needs of our family. I'm still unsure whether we'll be able to afford it, but I can eat ramen noodles and potatoes for a while. The minivan was packed like sardines with five kids in it - not to mention luggage and what not. The Expedition is roomy for our family and still has an extra seat just in case our gracious Lord blesses us with another child. We considered going to a 15-passenger van, but thought this would be a nice compromise until we absolutely had to go Mammoth. The gas mileage isn't great, but then it's not much different than our minivan was running and would be comparable to a 15-passenger van.

Laura suggested that it was somewhat of a status symbol, which if you knew our "status" is a knee-slapper. I said it might be a status symbol if we had only two children. Since we fill up the thing, it's a symbol only of our fecundity and not our finances.

The vehicle was not in our lava-stone driveway for 15 minutes before Will had succeeded in falling out of the back of the truck onto his head. A rock gashed him nicely and earned him an all-expenses-paid trip to the ER. He received two staples in his head. Such is life with small monkeys and curious raccoons.

He is doing quite well and seems, if possible, more rambunctious than usual - causing my heart to flutter into spasms and yet even more of my hair to shock into white.

I've considered shaving that patch of his head and making the staples visible for Halloween - then we could go in the direction of zombie or Frankenstein's monster quite nicely. But I suppose the hair does protect the wound and I probably ought to leave it alone. Man, that would be a sweet costume though. It might be worth an infection or two.

Anyway, that is my News of the past three days - October has been full with days like that. The good news is that fall temperatures have finally reached us and we even had a week of rain. I may need to mow that lawn yet.

Enjoy your Halloween celebrations. We'll be spending a good chunk of our day crafting and eating candy. I think I'll have to make up some "ghoul-ash" for supper tonight.

St Symeon the New Theologian

"See, O Christ, my anguish,
see my lack of courage,
see my lack of strength
and see, too, my poverty,
my weakness,
and have pity, O Word, on me!
Shine upon me now as in former times
and enlighten my soul, illumine my eyes
to see you, light of the world:
You, the joy, happiness, eternal life,
you, the delight of angels;
you, the Kingdom of heaven and Paradise,
crown of the just, their Judge and King.
Why hide your face?
Why depart from me, my God,
you who never desire to depart
from those who love you?
Why flee from me, why burn me,
why wound and crush me?
You know well I love you
and with all my soul I seek you.
Show yourself according to your word ...

"Open wide the doors
of the wedding chamber, my God;
ah! do not close to me the door
to your light, O my Christ!

'... Do you think to move me
with your words, O sons of men?
What are you saying so senselessly:
that I hide my face?
Do you suspect me, however slightly,
of shutting doors and entrances?
Do you suppose that I could ever
distance myself from you?
What have you said?
That it is I who inflame you and burn you,
I who destroy you?
How unjust your words
and no more just are such thoughts!
Listen, rather, to the words
that I myself am going to say to you:
"I was light even before I had created
all those things you see.
I am everywhere; I was everywhere
and, when I had created all things,
I am everywhere in them all ..."

'Consider my blessings;
contemplate my designs;
learn what are my gifts!
I was manifested to the world
and I manifested my Father;
on all flesh I poured out
abundantly in truth
my most holy Spirit.
I have revealed my name to all men
and through all my works
that I am the Creator,
the author of the world.
I have made it known and now I show you
all you have to do.'"

St Symeon, pray for us.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

St Elizabeth Ann Seton

"O Jesus, sure joy of my soul, give me but a true love of you. Let me seek you as my only good."

St Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us.

Monday, October 29, 2007

St John Bosco

"Instruction is but an accessory, like a game; knowledge never makes a man because it does not directly touch the heart. It gives more power in the exercise of good or evil; but alone it is an indifferent weapon, wanting guidance."

"Frequent Confession, frequent Communion, daily Mass: these are the pillars which should sustain the whole edifice of education."

St John Bosco, pray for us.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

St Augustine of Hippo

"Those trifles of all trifles, and vanities of vanities, my one-time mistresses, held me back, plucking at my garment of flesh and murmuring softly: 'Are you sending us away?' And 'From this moment shall we not be with you, now or forever?' And: 'From this moment shall this or that not be allowed you, now or forever?' What were they suggesting to me, O my God? ... I hesitated to shake them off and leap upwards on the way I was called: for the strong force of habit said to me: 'Do you think you can live without them?' But by this time its voice was growing fainter. In the direction towards which I had turned my face and was quivering in fear of going, I could see the austere beauty of Continence honorably soliciting me to come to her and not linger, hands full of multitudes of good examples... 'The Lord their God gave me to them. Why do you stand upon yourself and so not stand at all? Cast yourself upon Him and be not afraid; He will not draw away and let you fall. Cast yourself without fear, He will receive you and heal you.'"

St Augustine, pray for us.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

St Thérèse of Lisieux

"Sometimes, when I read spiritual treatises, in which perfection is shown with a thousand obstacles in the way and a host of illusions round about it, my poor little mind soon grows weary, I close the learned book, which leaves my head splitting and my heart parched, and I take the Holy Scriptures. Then all seems luminous, a single word opens up infinite horizons to my soul, perfection seems easy; I see that it is enough to realize one's nothingness, and give oneself wholly, like a child, into the arms of the good God. Leaving to great souls, great minds, the fine books I cannot understand, I rejoice to be little because 'only children, and those who are like them, will be admitted to the heavenly banquet.'"

Little Flower, pray for us.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Faith

Last week I mentioned briefly the allegations that have been brought against my pastor, Fr Al, allegations about something that happened, if it happened, 50 years ago. I want to speak some more about my feelings on the issue. And I also want to state unequivocally, at the outset, that I believe my pastor is innocent of the allegations.

My bishop celebrated Mass this past weekend at my parish and his care for the parish is and has been a blessing. I decidedly respect and love this man. And this is some odd Catholic thing, that at the thought of certain men in the Church, I grow deeply emotional. And I hold them in my hearts with gratitude and respect, and I feel a deep, deep love for them even though I do not know them. (Show me your ring, Holy Father, that I might kiss it. - Yes, it's quite bizarre. It's quite difficult for my brain to work out, but my heart knows the truth of it.) It must be because I identify them and their ministry in the Church with Christ. Not that they are Christ literally. But as St Ignatius of Antioch said - where the bishop is, there is the Church, there is Christ. And of course Papa Benedict is our dear sweet Christ on Earth (and, no, I don't mean that blasphemously or idolatrously).

But I'm digressing. This post is about my pastor, Fr Al, whom I love though he has only been my pastor for three months, and though he has been accused of sexual misconduct. I don't believe he's guilty. And if he is, for I certainly do not know what has transpired in the life of this man I don't know, I will stand by and guard his reputation nevertheless. I am for him. First, because, while I cannot know, he is my pastor. Second, because if he is guilty, I am still called to love him deeply - and he has been forgiven. And if he proves to be guilty, and let me state as strongly as possible that I do not believe him to be so, I will be honored to have stood by his side nevertheless. Third, when his good name is restored and it is shown that I have not stood with him, how would I ever again be able to stand in his presence?

We shy away from our commitments to relationships because of our being burned in the past, or because of all the tawdriness from our leadership in the past and in the news. And so we trust no one, living in suspicion of everything and everyone, not realizing that our distrust is antithetical to our very faith. And if I keep my pastor at arm's length because he might be guilty then I am no kind of Christian. And if I keep my pastor at arm's length if I discover that he is guilty, then I am no kind of Christian. You see, as a Christian, I can only properly give one reaction to an allegation against Fr Al - and that is by offering my faith and hope and love. So what if it all turns to dung and I'm left standing there holding my faith, hope, and love? I don't care. Let them think me a fool. I stand where I stand, because if I refuse affection and loyalty then I don't just turn my back on Fr Al, I turn my back on all relationships.

For none of us are trustworthy. And I have my own sins.

In no way am I suggesting that the awfulness of pedophilia (or whatever misconduct is alleged) and the ruin it effects in the lives of all involved be covered over. But Fr Al is my pastor. And Jesus has risked far more than his reputation for me. And though the Church has dragged Jesus' reputation through the mud, yet Jesus is faithful - "If we are faithless, He remains faithful - for He cannot deny himself" (1 Tim 2.13, RSV). For you see the Church and Christ are the whole Christ - as St Joan of Arc said at her trial, "About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they're just one thing, and we shouldn't complicate the matter."

I cannot judge. I can only love. I can only show mercy because it is mercy I seek from the hand of the Father. So I pray and I ask for your prayers.

St Ambrose of Milan

"Omnia Christus est nobis! [Christ is everything for us!] If you want to heal a wound, He is the physician; if you burn with fever, He is the fountain; if you are oppressed by iniquity, He is justice; if you need help, He is strength; if you fear death, He is life; if you desire heaven, He is the way; if you are in darkness, He is the light. ... Taste and see how good the Lord is. Blessed is the man who hopes in Him!"

St Ambrose, pray for us.

St John Chrysostom

"We say to ourselves: 'My master is delayed in coming.' The faithful and wise steward has no such thoughts. Wretch! using the excuse that your Master is late, do you imagine he won’t come at all? His coming is certain. Then why don’t you stay on your guard? No, the Lord is not slow in coming; this lateness is purely in the imagination of the wicked servant."

St John Chrysostom, pray for us.


By the way, most of the icons I've been posting in this litany, which are excellent, come from the Orthodox Church in America's site. Their "Lives of the Saints" section provides exceptional information and icons of the saints. I would encourage you to browse through it sometime.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

St James the Just

"Behold, we account them blessed who have endured. You have heard of the patience of Job, and you have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is merciful and compassionate."

St James Adelphotheos, pray for us.

St Macarius the Elder

"Leave everything that happens, good or bad, in God's hands."

When counseling on prayer, St Macarius said that the best prayers are not always those that are long or eloquent. Short ones are equally pleasing to God, like "O God, come to my assistance"; or "Lord, show me mercy as you know best." This absolute mildness and patience communicated itself, and was responsible for many conversions.

...

St Macarius was not spared trials from without. At one point the heretical bishop of Alexandria [Lucius, an Arian] exiled him and his monks to an island in the Nile. But the exiles lost no time, and converted the pagan islanders. At length they were released. The people loved them too much to allow that to happen again.

St Macarius ... advises us: "Do not fear false accusations: God always knows the truth."

St Macarius, pray for us.

Excerpted from Fr Robert F McNamara

St Clare of Assisi

"Live and hope in the Lord, and let your service be according to reason."

St Clare, pray for us.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Like Dull Narcotics, Numbing Pain

My six-year-old daughter arrived home from school today with a red ribbon on her dress. My eight-year-old daughter said, "Did you win something, Anna?"

"No," she said.

"Then what is that ribbon for?" Sophie said.

"I don't know," said Anna.

Hey, School, message received.

"Dumbledore Is Gay."

So J.K. Rowling announced to a bunch of munchkins last week. I'm not sure why she announced it, since it adds nothing to either the character or the story and risks losing so much, risks distracting so much. It puzzles me as a writer. It's surely no "Baldur is dead!" kind of announcement.

So move along, people. Nothing to see here. Further up and further in.

St Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland

"I am Patrick, a sinner, most uncultivated and least of all the faithful and despised in the eyes of many."

St Patrick, pray for us.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

St Peter Claver

"Man's salvation and perfection consists in doing the will of God, which he must have in view in all things, and at every moment of his life."

St Peter Claver, pray for us.

Fun with Mormons - BYU Vocal Point



St John Vianney


"The soul can feed only on God; only God can suffice it; only God can fill it; only God can satiate its hunger. Its God is absolutely necessary to it."

St John Vianney, pray for us.

Friday, October 19, 2007

St Ignatius of Loyola

"The Lord wants our limitations and weaknesses to find their support in his strength; he wants us to hope that his goodness will make up for the imperfectness of our means."

St Ignatius, pray for us.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

St Gregory of Nyssa



"Ideas create idols; only wonder leads to knowing."

St Gregory, pray for us.

The Weekend

It has been a busy week. The end of last week was the yellow-haired child's fifth birthday. (Blows me away, but I don't have time to get into it.) My parents also came down for the weekend. Sunday, before Mass, we learned that our priest had been accused of molestation some 50 years ago, before he was a priest. (Hey, come be Catholic, Ma, Pa!) According to the Church's charter to protect children, he's been removed from administrative duties (removed from our parish) while the investigation plods forward. Please pray for Fr Al, our parish, and our diocese as we bear this cross. And, while we don't believe the allegations to be true, pray for the man bringing them - that he might be drawn nearer Christ and find peace, regardless of what may have happened in his past.

St Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)

"Nobody merits anything in this world; it is the Lord who grants us everything out of sheer kindness and because, in his infinite goodness, he forgives all things."

Padre Pio, pray for us.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

St Brigid of Ireland

On Heaven...

"I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings. I would like to be watching Heaven's family drinking it through all eternity."

Amen and amen.

St Brigid, pray for us.

Sophie is supposed to dress up like St Brigid for All Saints' Day. Now I'm not sure how to dress her.

St Jane Frances de Chantal

"Oh, how happy is the soul that freely lets herself be molded to the liking of this divine savior!"

St Jane Frances, pray for us.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

St Ephrem the Syrian

"O Jesus, in that hour when darkness like a cloak shall be spread over all things, may your grace shine on us in place of the earthly sun."

St Ephrem, pray for us.

Friday, October 12, 2007

St Athanasius the Great

"It is the Father's glory that man, made and then lost, should be found again; and, when done to death, that he should be made alive, and should become God's temple."

St Athanasius, pray for us.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

St Irenaeus of Lyons

"The glory of God is man fully alive."

St Irenaeus of Lyons, pray for us.

St John of the Cross

"You considered
That one hair fluttering at my neck;
You gazed at it upon my neck
And it captivated You."

St John of the Cross, pray for us.

With Tears

There is probably no blog that so regularly edifies me as Fr Stephen Freeman's, Glory to God for All Things. I "share" his posts so often that I sometimes feel like a groupie; I'm certainly a junkie. Fr Stephen is an Orthodox priest. What does that mean? Well, whatever else it means, it means this much: If I were to meet him, we could not receive Holy Communion together.

I had a dream the other night that my family went to a Baptist church and the people of the church tried to force me to take communion with them, which I refused. It was one of those dreams; it bothered me throughout the day.

Sometimes the oddest things will get me thinking about the oddest things.

There are many of you, many whom I dearly love, with whom I cannot receive Holy Communion. We are separated, here, at the Lord's Table.

And I'm struck by how casually we discuss our separation - should I even be able to speak of it, let alone argue about it, without tears?

I cannot receive Holy Communion with friends.

I cannot receive Holy Communion with family.

And the reason we cannot share in Holy Communion is because our separation, this wound, is the reality in which we live. (And I know my part in it. But there are some places one must go regardless of the cost. Aren't there?)

I'm not sure I intend anything by writing these words. I was simply reading Fr Stephen's blog when I saw his picture and imagined meeting him.

You and I, we are brothers and sisters, separated. It is not as though there is no unity, of course, but we are not one as we ought to be. And how can we speak of our disunity, our brokenness, with anything but tears?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

St Justin Martyr

This month's Magnificat has a brief litany of the counsel of the saints down through the centuries. It encourages us to meditate on them and "pray for a deeper personal participation in their sanctity," which, of course, means a deeper participation in the sanctity of Christ. The litany is included in the publication for our anticipation of All Saints' Day on November 1. I've decided to post one quote per day for the rest of this month - or attempt to. On some days I may also include a thought or two, but I'll keep it limited.

The saints are windows into heaven. They show us Christ.

"The greatest grace God can give someone is to send him a trial he cannot bear with his own powers - and then sustain him with his grace so he may endure to the end and be saved."

St Justin Martyr, pray for us.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Dog-Days of October

"Yes, it feels like summer, Avery, but you can't wear bathing suits all day."

Blah, blah, blah, blah. Ten minutes later I'm brought another bathing suit for her to put on. She's found a nice terry cloth cover now that she's taken to wearing as well. After all, what do daddies know about fashion? So we sleep and eat and take walks and pick up Mommy, all in a bathing suit. Even when she's wearing shorts and T-shirts or a dress, she's got a bathing suit underneath. Last night she wore footed pajamas, with a suit on underneath. I make her take the bathing suit off for Mass, but that's all I can manage. I imagine next week it will be something different, though equally incomprehensible to her daddy.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Interesting

Jennifer at "Et Tu?" and Handmaid Mary-Leah, an Orthodox Christian, have also posted on covering their heads during Liturgy in the past couple of days. Jennifer just posted hers. Handmaid Mary-Leah posted hers on Saturday - thoughts from St John Chrysostom.

I read them, but I'm pretty sure neither of them read me.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Pigs and Angels, Veils, Liturgy, and Our Blessed Mother

Women wearing veils during prayer and worship is quite new to me as it concerns the Roman Catholic Church. But oddly, as I thought about this practice, it triggered a slew of other issues that I am struggling through with Catholicism. And that's why, and the only reason why, I brought up the issue in my last post. I'm not simply writing about veils - if you choose not to wear one, I will not be upset.
     So what follows is an odd jumble of thought and emotion, and I hope, for your sake, I can tie it together to some degree. It has a lot to do with modernity and Church teaching and parish life in the Catholic Church, and probably not so much to do with veils. It's been a struggle to put down in words all that I'm feeling and this weekend I've erased and edited and started over more times than I care to admit. I'm tired, but let's start.
     At Catholic parishes I've attended, many of the young women dress inappropriately. The same thing happens in Evangelical churches. Inappropriate and immodest dress in church isn't new to me. But last weekend, when I went to a rather staid street festival in a very conservative Southern town it again struck me how many of the women (the majority of younger women) were dressed immodestly. Then I saw a woman, in stark contrast, walk by in a sari and I was struck by the pure dignity, modesty, and beauty of her dress (not the sari itself, though it was beautiful, but of how she was dressed).
     She stood out as particularly feminine. And she did so because she treated her body honorably. She looked more like a woman than the other women at the festival.
     My point here is not to say that women cause me to lust by what they wear and, therefore, they ought to put more clothes on. I'm not saying that. I have learned, though imperfectly, to control my eyes and my thoughts. I am also not saying that women can never relax and throw on shorts and T-shirts and enjoy a festival. But then, T-shirts and shorts are not what I necessarily mean by immodest either.
     My point here is to say, however, that women have lost something because of the sexual revolution, because of their "liberation." They have allowed their own objectification. And men, the objectifiers, are largely to blame for their situation.
     That horse has already, perhaps, been beaten past recognition. But let me tie it in with my thoughts on veils.
     Veiling oneself in prayer, it seems to me, offers a woman dignity and honor and authority. Such an act is subversive in a culture that objectifies women. I say so even while many would point to the hijab, and perhaps especially the burk/qa, and cry subjugation. I don't see the hijab as subjugation, but I can understand that if a woman has experienced oppression and associated it with a hijab that she can and perhaps should, at least for a while, set aside the thing.
     Adding to my thoughts on veils, this past week we celebrated in the Catholic Church the feast days of the archangels and of our guardian angels. So angels have been on my mind. Which brings, of course, 1 Corinthians 11 to mind - that women should cover their heads "because of the angels." How or why a woman covering her head is done for the angels' sakes is not the question here. But according to the Scriptures a woman covers her head for the angels' sakes - for when we worship, heaven is opened and we worship in their midst. What bearing does that have on our lives? Can it be called a cultural teaching? Can a teaching or practice be dispensed with after 1,900 years? Can and should the Church change these teachings or practices?
     Now my comments may say one thing to Protestants and another thing entirely to Catholics or Orthodox. In Protestant circles I may be seen as an ultra-conservative, a fundamentalist extremist, for suggesting that women start covering their heads during worship. In Catholicism and Orthodoxy, on the other hand, there are different associations that are tied to the veil - and some are not pretty. But many Catholic women today see the veil as an opportunity to express their devotion to or love for Christ as, perhaps, someone in an Evangelical church might lift their hands in worship. And perhaps the difference arises because it hasn't been that long ago that many (the majority) of American Catholics, and even American Orthodox, have laid aside the veil.
     There is something right and beautiful about women being veiled while they pray. I don't know how to develop that thought past my feelings at this moment - perhaps it's St Paul's exhortation to the Corinthians, perhaps it's the growing awareness of angels, perhaps it's the gold-ring-in-a-pig's-snout. Whatever it is, the veil seems to me to fit the spirit and reality of the Liturgy.
     I do not see a head covering as a statement or a symbol of a woman's subjugation, but rather of her authority, of her emulation of our Mother.
     I'm rambling, quite circuitously, about veils not because of veils so much as my frustration with parish life in the Catholic Church in America. I have paid dearly to become Catholic, too dearly to be happy about Catholic parishes behaving Protestantly. (And that is no attack on Protestants, forgive me if it seems to be.) I want to be Catholic. And I want parish life to reflect Catholic belief and practice rather than rise up against it in protest.
     I don't know if women laying aside their veils is a sign of modernity's erosion on the Church's life and practice. But modernity has eroded parish life and made it something less than it was and something frustratingly less than it could be again. This is what deeply concerns me. Modernity's reach is frighteningly long. And the Church must reject it if she wishes to survive, if she wishes to be the Church.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Veiled

I don't particularly have time to address this topic this morning, but it has been on my mind and I want to throw out a question for consideration. (I'll tack on some qualifications at the end of this short post so I don't lose my female readership overnight [and they have the lion's share of it].)

Now, for the question: What do you think about women wearing veils during Mass?

I love icons and after seeing Mary veiled for so long, I've begun to consider the idea. I have never seen a woman with her hair covered at Mass, so if veiling during Mass is a requirement, I'm at a loss for words.

Anyway, I'd like to address this topic more fully later. Lash away as you see fit. But before you do, let me jot down a few considerations and qualifications in order that you still might love me as a brother in Christ.

  1. I haven't made any decisions about this issue as of yet, and I would certainly not condemn anyone who disagrees once I do "come to a decision" - however permanent or temporary that might be for me.

  2. I'm not talking about top-to-toe burkas (though some burkas and saris are beautiful and give a woman more dignity than advertising themselves with ... well, I'll stop there). In fact, I'm not advocating anything. Just thinking out loud.

  3. I understand the "rights issues" this immediately brings to mind for many women. I am not advocating the subjugation of women in any manner, and hope I would never do so. This is not about that.

  4. Let me make it abundantly clear, I am not advocating anything at this point.

  5. Please be patient with me, I'm just thinking out loud about this issue due to some experiences in my life recently, which I'll talk about more later.

  6. I haven't talked to Laura about this issue, so all my thoughts can and probably will change on the matter after such a discussion.

The picture is of Iraqi (or Jordanian?) Catholics worshiping.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Remedies and Brilliant Kicks

A couple of notes about some recently purchased music:

For the If It Ain't Christian, It Ain't Cool crowd there is, newly released, Remedy by David Crowder* Band. My personal opinion is that in the world of CCM, no one is doing it better right now than David Crowder. And while I don't think that Remedy is as complete or as full an offering as A Collision, it's still a worthwhile purchase. The title track, "Remedy," is beautiful and the lyrics throughout achieve much.

It's a good album. If you don't have any Crowder and are going to purchase only one album, however, go with A Collision, it's my personal favorite and what made me a Crowder head. B Collision has more of a bluegrass feel to it - and I love that - but loses the narrative that A Collision accomplishes.

For those of you who like to change things up and aren't afraid of murder ballads and an occasional f-bomb, I'd recommend Okkervil River. This band's sound is, perhaps, my favorite at the moment. Will Sheff's voice pours out of him. Their new release The Stage Names is brilliant. And brilliant following the darkness of Black Sheep Boy. Perhaps it is Black Sheep's darkness that makes this album seem all the more brilliant.

That being said, I need to interject a word of caution. While The Stage Names sheds the violence, the "Pan's Labyrinth-ness" of Black Sheep, it's still got some language. And it's still, thankfully, moody at times. But if you can't stomach buying the entire album, try buying one song.

"Unless It's Kicks" makes even a fat man want to crank it up and shimmy and shake all night long. It propels. Inspires. It makes my heart beat faster and threatens to throw out my back. There is no cussing in this song and no violence. But it kicks.

Spend $0.99 and shimmy and shake with a fat man, miles and miles away. (I know, it's tempting. Am I right?)

It'll make you happy to be alive ... at least for about five minutes.

"what gives this mess some grace
unless it’s kicks, man—unless it’s fictions,
unless it’s sweat or it’s songs? What hits
against this chest unless it’s a sick man’s
hand, from some midlevel band? He’s been
driving too long on a dark windless night,
with the stereo on, with the towns flying
by and the ground getting soft.

And a sound in the sky, coming down
from above, it surrounds you and sighs
and is whispering of what pulls your body
down, and that is quicksand. So climb out
quick, hand over hand, before your
mouth’s all filled up. What picks you up
from down unless it’s tricks, man? When
I’ve been fixed I am convinced that I will
not get so broke up again.

And on a seven day high, that heavenly
song punches right through my mind and
just hums through my blood. And I know
it’s a lie, but I’ll still give my love. Hey, my
heart’s on the line for your hands to pluck
off.

What gives this mess some grace unless
it’s fiction—unless it’s licks, man, unless
it’s lies or it’s love? What breaks this heart
the most is the ghost of some rock and roll
fan, floating up from the stands with her
heart opened up. And I want to tell her,
“your love isn’t lost,” and say “my heart is
still crossed!” I want to scream, “hey, you’re
so wonderful! What a dream in the dark—
about working so hard, about glowing, so
stoned, trying not to turn off, trying not to
believe in that lie all on your own.”

Friday, September 28, 2007

Oh, Miss Avery

While I was changing a dirty diaper, the yellow-haired child said, "If chocolate came out of Will's butt, that would be delicious."

She's going to be five this coming month.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Education of Women

I've been thinking about education a great deal, feeling my way through the past 30 days and considering what I'm doing and wondering what I'm not doing. I would appreciate any help you can offer.
     I want my children's education to be something more. I did not pull my children out of their schools to simply give them something other, and certainly not to give them something less. I have hopes and dreams that my children can inherit good things. I don't want those gifts squandered. So I pull them from the institution, dreams in hand, and sit them down with the institution's curriculum, and day in and day out we do the institution's schooling in this building rather than that building.
     I feel like I need some direction, possibly some alternatives. Isn't there more to educating my children myself than this? Am I being too idealistic? Do I simply need to be patient? Is there a better way?
     I need a way.
     So there's malaise. And ennui. And I know this is my greatest danger. So pray for me that I can be enthusiastic about my children's education even while I'm feeling my way forward in the dark hoping not to crash into anything. Or trip.
     I know that some of these feelings may arise from my not knowing what to expect. Some, perhaps, even from expecting too much too soon. But I feel as if I'm missing out on something - not making use of the potential for education I have with my children at home.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

So Who Exactly Is On Notice?

I've never met Bob Hyatt, but I enjoy his blog and, much of the time, the way his brain works. He's started a conversation/discussion about Mark Driscoll's latest lecture - one given at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. There Driscoll says that Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, and Rob Bell are heretics. (The names are separated from "heresy" by a few intervening sentences, but the title is applied.)
     Now, I also have never met Driscoll and I don't know exactly what he means by heretic or heresy (Does he think they're condemned?). But I have listened to the mp3 of the talk and I'd largely agree with most of what Mark says. And, frankly, how he says it. I cannot comment on McLaren and Pagitt, since I've heard very little or read very little of either men. But I too think that Bell went over the line in Velvet Elvis discussing whether Jesus' birth of a Virgin is an essential of the faith. The Virgin Birth is an essential.
     On Bell's side, he believes in the Virgin Birth - just that he doesn't think it crumbles the faith if it is dispensed with. We will have to disagree there. If I can dispense with the Virgin Birth, excuse my slippery slope, what else do I think I can dispense with? It seems the Scriptures are quite clear in speaking of Mary's virginity, and Mary's virginity allows and guards Christ's divinity. That being said, Bell does believe in the Virgin Birth - so I don't think one can call him a heretic for believing what all Christians believe.
     It's an interesting conversation taking place on the edges of the emerging conversation. I pray that it proceeds and ends in a greater love for one another rather than a diminishing of that love. And it raises some interesting questions: What is heresy? What is orthodoxy? Why does Driscoll believe that he has the authority to say that someone who believes differently is a heretic? Why do I?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Miscellany

For the last month and a half we've been at a new parish, Our Lady of the Rosary. It's our parish actually, the parish closest to us. The other parish we were members of was about 40-45 minutes from us (next door to our last Protestant church). This parish is 25 minutes. It's smaller and simpler. Less glitzy. But it's nice. It's real. And this is where we'll remain unless we move far away, which is not in the plans right now. In some ways, it was difficult leaving the other parish because our children were all baptized there in the past year. But being closer means more involvement on our part and allows the kids' faith formation classes and Laura's RCIA class to be a more-convenient part of life.


I've been loving foreign films and documentaries lately. The selection of both offered by Netflix is one reason I love the mail movie service so much. Indeed, the most DVD viewing pleasures I've had this year have been from foreign films: Pan's Labyrinth, The Lives of Others, Mostly Martha, The Chorus, and, most recently, The Wind That Shakes the Barley.

As I've already gushed about Pan's Labyrinth, I'd like to simply recommend the others. Lives of Others is the only other 2007 film in the list, I think. Now there's some sexuality in it, but not so much that it seems gratuitous or overwhelming as in, for me, The Sopranos or Rome. (Two HBO series I'd love to watch, but can't because I can't handle watching that much sex. It's true, I can't. Mea culpa. Or something like that.)

Anyway, if you've not seen them, queue them up. And please give me your suggestions as well. Now, I must add that they are mostly quieter films - not too much action going on here, with the exception of Wind That Shakes the Barley and Pan's Labyrinth. (An added bonus to watching a foreign film is that they can swear until they're blue in the face and the "sleeping" children hear not a word of it. And if they start cussing in French, well, then Merde! good on them.)


Our "Homeschooling Project" (as it's been called by some) is going well. It's hard work, no doubt about it, but it's going well. My oldest is now praying the table blessing in Latin. And that's some cool merda. (She's got sweet aural skillz.) I've been considering starting up with koine Greek in a few years as well. I've had a few years of Greek, but I'm not so sure about teaching it to my children. I might go with a modern language instead. I know I could do both, but I'll have to wait to see where we are at that point. Anyway, just thinking out loud. It might not be the best thing for my children anyway (or all my children). I don't know. We'll see. Suggestions welcome.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Again in Spring

I need rain, lazuli skies suggesting sweaters, coloring trees, the unashamed cry of flowers, fat snow, and even, on some days, the clean heat of summer. The seasons whisper Gentle and Trust.

In winter, Mother Mary holds her naked Son. And again in spring.

But the sun has wings. Hair grays, eyes wrinkle, my sons revel in strength, my daughters grow in beauty, and my wife is no longer young. And though I say that she is beautiful, she doesn't hear.

And I grow wintry. My back is cold and my eyes are weak. Less than I should be. Less father, less husband. More doubt than faith. Less poet. I am poor. And I am poor. And my wife, though she says that I am more, I do not hear, for the wind is in the trees.

Leaves pirouette to the ground. Oranges, browns, reds, and yellows grace dead grass.

The world is old, I say. And tired.

Babbling brooks and crocus buds answer me.

My faith is gone, I say. I am lost, I say. And dead.

Golden-leaved pecan trees whisper Peace and Good, Peace and Good.

Ah, Sweet Christ! I need faith. Ah, pardon and peace. Ah, body and blood. I need the green days. I need the purples and the reds. I need the white days.

In winter, Mother Mary enthrones her Son. And again in me. She whispers Yes.

Life pours out of her naked Son's side. Be drunk with Me.



Friday, September 21, 2007

The Church Needs Art

Apostle St Matthew
El Greco
1606

"In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art. Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God. It must therefore translate into meaningful terms that which is in itself ineffable. Art has a unique capacity to take one or other facet of the message and translate it into colors, shapes and sounds which nourish the intuition of those who look or listen. It does so without emptying the message itself of its transcendent value and its aura of mystery."

Upon reading an extract of John Paul II's 1999 Letter to Artists yesterday, I pulled up the document, printed it out, and have been thinking of it since. Here's more:

"Human beings, in a certain sense, are unknown to themselves. Jesus Christ not only reveals God, but 'fully reveals man to man.' In Christ, God has reconciled the world to himself. All believers are called to bear witness to this; but it is up to you, men and women who have given your lives to art, to declare with all the wealth of your ingenuity that in Christ the world is redeemed: the human person is redeemed, the human body is redeemed, and the whole creation which, according to Saint Paul, 'awaits impatiently the revelation of the children of God' (Rom 8:19), is redeemed. The creation awaits the revelation of the children of God also through art and in art. This is your task. Humanity in every age, and even today, looks to works of art to shed light upon its path and its destiny.

...

"Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence. It is an invitation to savor life and to dream of the future. That is why the beauty of created things can never fully satisfy. It stirs that hidden nostalgia for God which a lover of beauty like Saint Augustine could express in incomparable terms: 'Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you!'.

...

"... may your art help to affirm that true beauty which, as a glimmer of the Spirit of God, will transfigure matter, opening the human soul to the sense of the eternal."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Kids and Crocs

Beware of escalators, Mom and Dad, if your child is wearing Crocs or any of the cheap imitations that parents- who- don't- love- their- children buy. (You know who you are. You probably don't buy Jif either.)
     Apparently, some toenails and a toe or two have been ripped off in the teeth of the escalator because of how soft and grippy the shoes are. So if you're headed to the escalator store, leave the Crocs behind or take the stairs. Here's the article from CNN.