Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Functionally Illiterate

I am browsing through a trough of five-dollar movies at Wal-Mart. I see Jumanji and think maybe I can find a movie or two for the kids. A younger man walks by me and says, "Those movies are all in Spanish, sir."

Embarassed at my mistake, I look up and say, "Sí."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Keeping Jesus Revolutionary

I had the pleasure of seeing and listening to Scot McKnight and Tony Jones on Friday night with about 30 others. A more intimate conversation was scheduled for Saturday, but I couldn't justify (leastwise not to my wife) being away from the family both Friday night and all day Saturday. Nevertheless, it was interesting hearing the two men speak about "Keeping Jesus Revolutionary." Their differences were intriguing.

It seems that Scot's view of keeping Jesus revolutionary has much to do with gaining a less subjective understanding of Jesus and His mission as revealed in the Gospels. What he has to say is quite profound.

I was able to speak briefly with Scot afterward, but regretted that I didn't have Jesus Creed with me for him to sign (lack of planning) and that I couldn't sit down with him over a coffee (or whatever his poison) to discuss ecclesiology.

St Iggy and the Hierarchy of the Church

Last week, I had a rather extended quote that revealed the hierarchy of the early Church, indeed a hierarchy that goes a step further than anything that is clearly revealed in the New Testament. By saying that it is a step further than what the New Testament delineates, I am not suggesting that the Church has already gone off the rails by the time St John has died. St Ignatius, the disciple of St John, reveals the organization and hierarchy of the Church and how it had developed (rather properly developed) even in St John's lifetime (one would suppose, since at the time St Ignatius authored this letter it would have been only a few short years since St John's death).

"See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid." – St Ignatius of Antioch (Epistle to the Smyrneans, Ch. 8 – somewhere between A.D. 98 and 118)

I'm not going to belabor the quote. I only think it an important look at the structure of the early Church - indeed the apostolic Church. We need to be cautious in our treatment of hierarchy and authority, especially in an age that devalues it. The authority structure within the Church is not a power play. Though there have certainly been abuses (and there will certainly continue to be - as in any institution that includes us sinners) the hierarchy of the Church is and continues to be about service.

Friday, February 23, 2007

A Drive-By Meditation (or Two)

Theology is about prayer more than it is study. It is about silence more than it is about words. Theology is a life lived, not contrary to the doctrines of the Church, but compassionately and humbly within them.

I was praying this morning after dropping my girls off from school (it will probably be how I die, praying while driving). As I was praying the Our Father, the lines "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" struck me as being a particularly dangerous prayer. It is dangerous to self in light of Christ's passion and His prayer in His passion - "Not as I will, but as You will." A prayer of surrender. I then began to consider how the coming of God's kingdom, of our making present His kingdom in our world, requires the death intrinsic within these words. God's kingdom requires of us our lives, a kenotic reverberation - united, gloriously, with the reality of Pascha.

Death by Peanut Butter

We recently had some visitors from Tennessee at our house. Fortunately it was our friends Reid and Robin rather than the salmonella. But we could have had both. By the time we heard about the recall on Peter Pan Peanut Butter, we were already almost all the way through our jar. Yikes!

God is merciful. Certainly merciful, even when we are unaware of it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


(Click on the picture to go to the site.)

Ash and Oil

Lent begins. It is a season of penance, of conversion.

I want to convert and convert and convert until I am converted. I want to be born again, again. Wash my feet, Lord. Make me fragile and light, incarnating hope and expectation and wonder. Jesus. To set aside myself for her and him and you and them. I want Christ to be delivered into the heart of my world, to pick up where I have left off, to do what I have failed to do, to be when I am not.

I want to want it.

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness.

Lent is the time to come back to our self. It is a time of particular intimacy with God, in the secret of the heart and of the conscience. It is in this private intimacy with God that the essential work of Lent is accomplished: the work of conversion.

And in this inner secret, in this intimacy with God in the full truth of the heart and of the conscience, words like those of the psalms of today's liturgy resound as one of the most profound confessions that man has ever done to God: “Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense. Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me. For I know my offense; my sin is always before me. Against you alone have I sinned; I have done such evil in your sight that you are just in your sentence, blameless when you condemn” (Ps 50,1-6).

These are words that purify, words that transform. They transform man from the inside. Let us recite them often during Lent. And above all, let us strive to renovate the spirit that leads them, the inspiration that has rightly so given these words a force of conversion. For Lent is essentially an invitation to conversion. The works of alms of which the Gospel speaks about today open the way to this conversion. Let us practice them as much as we can. But first of all, let us try to meet God interiorly in our whole life, in all it is made of, so as to reach this conversion in deepness, of which the penitential psalm of today's liturgy is filled.
– John Paul the Great, Homily for Ash Wednesday, 1983 (©Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Donut Man

I just heard that the Donut Man has become Catholic.

I was watching The Journey Home on EWTN tonight, and there he was sharing his testimony. He came home Easter 2006.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

He's Here

Jack Henry was born at 11:38 a.m. on February 13. He weighs 8 lb. 4 oz. Both he and Mom are doing great.

Thank you for your prayers.

If I can ever work out this uploading files/pictures problem, I'll post pictures.


He's Coming

The boy's on his way. Pray for us.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Sub Tuum Praesidium

We fly to thy protection,
O holy Mother of God;
despise not our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from all dangers,
O glorious and blessed Virgin.

The Sub Tuum Praesidium is the oldest known prayer to Mary. It dates to A.D. 250. It may be older.

I have been praying the Sub Tuum more and more of late. I like the prayer. I pray it as I reach the beads on my Orthodox prayer rope when praying the Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner).

At the moment, I prefer this kind of meditative prayer to the Rosary. Not because I like it better than the Rosary, but because it is simpler. The Rosary is a gorgeous meditation on the mysteries of Christ's life. But it does require a chunk of time (it usually takes me 20-30 minutes to pray through it. When I pray the Jesus prayer, however, it allows me to immediately begin praying, and I feel a greater freedom to tackle interruptions as they arise during it (stay-at-home dad, remember?).

Here's how I am praying it at the moment: (1) I cross myself. (2) I pray the Our Father. (3) I begin praying the Jesus Prayer as I move from knot to knot on my prayer rope. (4) My prayer rope is separated into decades so that I can also pray the Rosary on it. So after each decade of Jesus Prayers, I pray the Sub Tuum on each bead. (5) When I reach the end of the rope (return to the beginning?), I say the Sub Tuum followed again by the Our Father.

As I'm meditating on these words, I bring my intentions, or requests, before God.

I also try to pray the Liturgy of the Hours as much as possible, though children make such regularity difficult. And the Rosary also, though I would love to make it more of a regular habit, perhaps after the children go to bed. These formal prayers do not take away from my spontaneity in prayer. I still cry out to God in need or in thanks. But the formal prayers provide something that the spontaneous prayers cannot for me. First, they allow me to pray along with the Church. Especially praying the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours) and the Rosary. Second, it allows me to pray what I need to pray, when I simply can't find the words. Third, which goes hand in hand with the second point, these formal prayers, specifically the Jesus Prayer, helps me to combat temptation in a way that spontaneous prayer simply never provided for me. In spontaneous prayer, I would become easily distracted by the temptation. In the formal prayer - in the recitation of the prayer - my focus is driven to the prayer. It's been a wonderful help for me in dealing with my many weaknesses.

But the meditation this week was the Sub Tuum, and I'm getting off track. It is a prayer to Mary. For those who read my blog regularly, I hope by now you know what that does and doesn't mean. Prayer does not equal worship for a Catholic or an Orthodox Christian. It is rather a request for intercession, for help, as I would request my wife to intercede, to mediate, for me before Christ. It does not mean I do not pray to Christ. Of course I do and must. But it is comforting to know that His mother and the saints also pray for me. Theirs is a powerful intercession.

And this idea of the communion of saints is a beautiful reality. Not only do I share in communion with those on earth who also believe, but also those throughout the centuries who are glorious alive, holy and righteous, in the presence of our Lord. In the communion of saints I have acquired brothers and sisters and a mother who teach me and pray for me.

This communion is a foreign idea to evangelical Protestants. But it is so rich and beautiful. And it becomes richer and more beautiful the further in I go. I hope that more of my friends and family begin to understand and explore and find comfort in these great riches made available to them by our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

And with such a prayer on my tongue, I want to briefly reiterate that this prayer has been found on a papyrus that dates to roughly A.D. 250. In other words, it may have been, and probably was, prayed much earlier. Such an ancient practice of Marian devotion is compelling to me. This practice was taking place nearly 150 years before the canon of the Scriptures was defined by the Church. It was being prayed 100 years before the Nicene Creed was written and the definition of such doctrines as the Trinity and the Incarnation. It is not a post-Constantinian "aberration," nor is it some strange medieval practice, but it is a prayer prayed even while the Church was being hunted and devoured within the Roman empire.

It is older than Augustine and Athanasius, older than Anthony of Egypt. Never once have such Marian prayers been condemned or criticized within the Church. Not until after the Reformation. The Church is ancient and, though people within her have acted intolerably and immorally, she has been and is and will be the Body of Christ. And the gates of hell have not and shall not prevail against her. So says our Lord.

And so we pray.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Circumcision Woes

My son, since he was circumcised, has been having trouble with his little thing and penile adhesion. I never heard of it, myself. But he's got a problematic peter, a tricky dick, ol' one eye's been having some blinder problems.

Anyway, we've applied copius amounts of petroleum jelly for great stretches of time (pull back skin, apply pet jelly, cross fingers), think it is resolved, and then, Wham-o! the skin re-adheres to his penis.

Yesterday, we took the crew to the doctor because of various germs. Two came away with antibiotics, and one of those two also came away with a sore penis. The doctor had yanked back the skin, once again. Will and his will were not happy. (Avery, in the room when it happened, said to the doctor, "I don't want you to do that to me." Amen, sister. The doctor guaranteed her that he wouldn't ever.)

Now, we can do this "skin yanking" at home. But it's altogether unpleasant to be causing Mr. Wiggles so much pain. And, added to that, we're pansies.

Will came out of the doctor. We got everyone in the Jeep, and Will says, "Muh buh(t) huh(t)s." You mean, your pee-pee? "Uh-huh." Well I would imagine so, buddy.

Then last night, after dinner, Will scrunched up his face into meany-mode and said, "Dat dotter huh(t) muh buh(t). I goh kih him."

Now, don't get me wrong. I understand the boy's sentiment. I do. But after I was able to stop my body from shaking with laughter (and stopping every jiggle takes a while), I assured him that he did not want to kill the doctor, that the doctor was only trying to help him.

I'm not sure if he's buying it.

And I need some more pet jelly.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Catholicism and Homosexuality

Here is an excellent article by a former homosexual-rights activist and current, chaste Catholic. In the article, Mr. Morrison strikes an excellent balance - the balance of the Church - on what is the proper Christian attitude toward homosexuals. And the dignity and worth of each person, heterosexual or homosexual. It's worth the read.

Picture imPerfect

I've been having trouble uploading pictures from my computer. I've tried using both FireFox and Safari, and both turn stupid on me when I try to upload pictures. I'm doing nothing differently from what I've done in the past: I can't upload to Flickr; I can't upload using Blogger. Anybody have any ideas?

I have had success uploading to my .Mac account, but I'm planning on letting it go at the end of this month (which means I need to send out my new personal gmail address - the sweptover gmail address will remain the same). Plus, uploading first to my Mac account is an extra step and therefore a pain in the arse.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Various and Sundry

I'm detoxing from caffeine ... again. I had a monster headache all last week and am still struggling through some rebound headaches as well. I have had one or two days headache free. I'm looking forward to more.

Important news: Yesterday was my mom's birthday. Happy birthday, Mom! I miss living near my mom and my dad. I miss being able to hug them rather than simply telling them I love you. But I do love you both, and, Mom, I hope you had a wonderful birthday.

The baby boy is coming! Our son is now full-term. And he will be in our arms before you can say Jack Robinson (No, that won't be his name). The due date is the 24th, but we are tentatively planning an induction on the 19th. Laura is just great with child and pretty miserable and tired much of the time. Pray for her and for our son.

I'm around, but I do have work to finish up this week - so, again, posting may be light.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Cedar Point

Cedar Point: The reason we allow Ohio to continue to be a part of our proud Union.

Let's just go on and say it: Sandusky ought to be her capitol.

This summer's new addition: Top Thrill Dragster. 420 foot high + 120 mph fast = Pure sweetness.

HT: Mom

Sharing Podcasts

Do you listen to podcasts? What are some of your favorites? One of my favorite podcasts is from Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan.

I know the man's a Protestant and all (relax, it's a joke), but this place has got it going on. I listen to Protestant sermons all the time. Some set my teeth on edge, some make me bleat out my own protestations, some are so us-them - but I don't find that, or haven't yet, listening to Rob. I've been listening off and on for nearly two years now.

Listen to the podcasted sermons (through iTunes) or download the MP3s from Mars Hill's home page. (Click on "Who We Are" and then "Teachings.") I highly recommend the first three sermons in January.

An Orthodox podcast I enjoy is Our Life in Christ. You can also find their MP3s at Ancient Faith Radio.

And Catholic podcasts? I listen to a few - Catholic Answers is usually quite informative. Another is the Cardinal Arinze webcast. I listen to each of these as podcasts through iTunes. But the links I've provided will allow you to download the same MP3s for free without being able to or wanting to subscribe to a podcast.

I do not listen to any of these always - I just don't have the time. Though some podcasts are so infrequent that it's fairly easy to keep up-to-date with them. Enjoy the ones I've posted - especially Rob's - and let me know which podcasts you have found that resonate with you.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Thinking about Stability

Someone asked Abba Anthony, “What must one do in order to please God?” The old man replied, “Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes; whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it. Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.” – St. Anthony the Great, Third Century

"And you will be saved" - many Christians stumble over these words. But consider Jesus' teaching about who may inherit eternal life - those who follow Christ (Mt 19.29) and who obey the commandments (Mk 10.17-21; Lk 10.25-28). In other words, those who love God and who love others - they will inherit eternal life. The kingdom of God is not something that can be boiled down to mere belief or trust. It is that, certainly. But it is more.

Abba Anthony is answering the needs of those asking the questions. The need may not be the same as your own, but we can learn from his teaching regardless.

And so Abba Anthony, the father of monasticism, said to one who questioned him that three things must be done to be saved: (1) No matter who you are, have God before your eyes. (2) Do everything according to the teaching of the scriptures. (3) Wherever you live, do not easily leave it. (To another, Abba Pambo, one nearer my size, he said, "Do not trust in your own righteousness, do not worry about the past, but control your tongue and your stomach.")

It is the third item that I want to write about today. It's not that I fully understand the first two items, but the third item, the idea of stability, has been stewing in my mind. Abba Anthony tells us, we who are so quick to wish for something different, to be content where we live. Stability was one of the early vows made by monks of certain orders, which also included poverty, celibacy, and obedience.

Why stability? Because there is restlessness in the human heart. This restlessness is a kind of unfaithfulness. It rejects what is for what might be. One stops seeing the bread around him and begins to seek other nourishment. And if such restlessness is given its head, then one becomes useless where he is. One becomes salt that has lost its saltiness.

I have been struggling with stability for the past three years, for much longer if I am honest. I have to wrestle with my understanding of myself as a stay-at-home dad. Of course, most of the time I do not think about it. But people bring it up, things happen. My being a stay-at-home dad was not a decision that was completely mine, if you know what I'm saying. But perhaps my best decisions are ones that don't include me in the decision-making process. Such decisions are the simple, though personally difficult, moving of the hand of God.

So the place I live is home; I am an oddity surrounded by children who invent ways of graying me. My wife loves her job. And I love mine. And though I sometimes wish it were different, she wishes so less than I do. But she does sometimes, and those are hard days for me.

Today I received an e-mail from my mom saying she had spoken on the phone with an old friend from Georgia - some of our oldest family friends, though it has been at least twenty years since we've seen them. My mom told her that I was staying at home with the kids and Mrs. Manning replied that she thought that was wonderful.

That kind of response to my situation comes almost exclusively from mothers. Most men have spent a Saturday afternoon watching the kids and quickly extrapolate from that experience an unwillingness to do so on a full-time basis. Meanwhile, mothers, I believe, are operating out of the principle of Misery Loves Company. "See," they think corporately, their feminine minds psychically connected, "it's the real hardest job you'll ever love." And so it is. And I imagine for most women, it is far more difficult than what I experience, because my wife is so untiringly helpful at home. Most men are ass-sitters; such is my natural state.

But I still grow twitchy at times, wishing I were somewhere else. I hear a myriad of ghosts whispering mad words in my head. And then the soft voice of Abba Anthony cuts through the cacophony: In whatever place you live, do not easily leave it. (Oh, and, Pambo, control your stomach.)

Yes, Abba Anthony. Thank you, father. Pray for me.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Christ the Lord is our day and our sunlight, shining on all men and never setting. Let us praise him, saying:
- O Lord, you are our life and our salvation!

Creator of the stars, we offer you in gratitude the first-fruits of this day, and we commemorate your resurrection.

May your Spirit guide us today to do what is pleasing to you: may your Wisdom lead us always.

Let us join together with joy at Mass this Sunday, at the table of your word and your Body and Blood.

Our souls give you thanks for your immeasurable kindness.

from the Liturgy of the Hours

Thursday, February 01, 2007

2 to 4 Inches

There is a chance of light blogging this week as I have some projects I need to wrap up. The situation may change at any given moment, seeing as how my brain tends to think about things absolutely irrelevant to the task at hand.

Oh, and snow again today - the schools are closed.