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


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

"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.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Father, Forgive John MacArthur

I need to say what follows in order to get it off my chest. My intention is not to question John MacArthur's love for Christ, but to share how deeply unsettled I am today because of MacArthur's virulence toward and mockery of Catholicism. In the sermon I just listened to, he blasphemes Christ - though he does not do so intentionally.
     I have begun listening to some mp3s of John MacArthur called "The Heresy of the Mass" (Parts 1 and 2). I need to stop because he's terribly misinformed and painfully arrogant. And I've run out of Tums - it is terribly disturbing. (Why am I listening? Because I know friends and family who listen to this man, and I want hear what they're hearing.) MacArthur gets maybe 5% of his facts straight - and I'm not exaggerating. In fact, I'm being generous - at least in his first sermon. I haven't heard all of the second sermon. He is woefully misinformed about what takes place in the Mass and he's misinforming about 7,000 of his congregants plus tens of thousands more who think he's a voice of truth. And I know he does speak the truth in many areas of the faith. But not here.
     For instance, he states in his sermon that during the Mass the people are strictly spectators. They don't pray, they don't sing - they do nothing but watch. Anyone who has been to a Mass knows how grossly misinformed of an assertion this is.
     He mocks the priesthood and infers that they are wicked, pedophiles and homosexuals.
     And these statements are what I found to be some of the tamer moments in his sermon.
     He calls the Roman Catholic Church satanic. And says that the hottest hell is reserved for us who, having had the truth, have turned away from it - for those of us within Catholicism. Then he gets angry that Trent dare lay anathemas against those who don't accept the Catholic Church's teaching on the Eucharist, not understanding the Church's teaching on Trent and these specific anathemas.
     He mocks what Catholicism teaches and mocks the Blessed Sacrament. In his closing prayer, he prays, "It's so dishoring to you. We want to make a whip and clean it out. It is a den of thieves. It ... is ... a ... den ... of thieves. Stripping people of their money and their souls, in your name. How it must horrify heaven. But our horror is also mingled with grief for the millions upon millions of people who are captive to this system and don't even know what they teach. But worship a dead woman, Mary, and worship a box with bread in it and never the true and living God. They trust in a priest who may have a wretched heart and not in the Lord Jesus Christ, the holy, harmless, undefiled, one, truly, great high priest by whom access to you is given. Help us Lord to understand these things and to rejoice that we know the truth and have been delivered, many of us, from this satanic system ... "
     At the end of the program, the radio announcer says, "We trust you're encouraged by what you have just heard ..." Frankly, I laughed out loud when I heard this even though I knew it was the standard verbiage that wrapped up MacArthur's sermons.
     John MacArthur is, unfortunately, not a fringe figure in Evangelicalism.
     I feel anger and pity all at once. I don't know this man. I've certainly known of him for years and years and have often listened to his preaching in the past. But he's ignorant about what Catholicism teaches. He is an exemplar of what Bishop Fulton Sheen famously said, "There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church, which is, of course, quite a different thing."
     So I am praying for John MacArthur today. I pray that God might forgive him, for MacArthur truly doesn't know what he's talking about. I also am praying that I might love him instead of responding in anger and remember him in prayer often.
     This post may seem a strange way to do that, but please understand that I need to dump this emotion somewhere. I'm sorry if it offends any of you - it is not meant to.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Thirty-Seven? You've Gotta Be ******** Me!

It's true. Today. I've never been one to broadcast my birthday, but I'm changing all that. I want you to share in my joy.
     It's been a busy, prayerful, work-full weekend. Some of you were a large part of my weekend, though you don't know it. And having you in my heart has made it more joyful, even while I am mourning with some of you.
     However, this birthday weekend (I may go on and claim the whole week) has not only been wonderful because of your unwitting participation in it, or in that I'm nearing the age of dirt, but because of the weather: Today it was 75. Gorgeous. Yesterday was about the same. I feel like I can live again - that Outside is not discomfort and sweat and oppression, but beautiful creation. I'm no longer holed up like The Omega Man. Glory to God for blue skies and cool breezes. It has been heart-wonderful getting out into. Lovely.
     My inordinate preoccupation with weather out of the way, I do know that there are bigger concerns for some of you than birthdays and beautiful skies. For those of you whose needs I am aware of, know that I have been praying for you, hurting with you. You are loved. And you are not alone.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Attercop, Lazy Lob, and Crazy Cob Certainly. But Old Tomnoddy?

Some might say wicked lucky, but I don't buy it. This one, she's brilliant. I know you can't tell it from the picture, but trust me. She's written her web in front of the electronic eye of our porch light. And she's still enough to pull it off. Every time a opossum or raccoon or Tula walks by, she has dinner: The light clicks on. The millers fly in. Voilà.
     I can see Araneus newly hatched, explaining her idea to a sac of dubious black and yellow argiopes. Most of the spiderlings send a silken thread into the wind in search of saner havens. But she doesn't care. She's sure of herself. Capable. And though the fare is mainly moths, she doesn't complain. On the contrary, she's altogether content. Simple, she knows nothing of ingratitude.

Taking a picture of a spider causes no little discomfort in me. I took a picture on each side of this web, and the other side's picture turned out blurry - I imagine from the shaking camera. I can't get rid of the feeling that she will lunge at me if I get too close. She doesn't. She schemes, surely; doubtlessly, she dreams. But she's a wise and patient beast.

God and Evolution

There is an interesting article in the latest issue of First Things titled "God and Evolution." In it, Avery Cardinal Dulles writes of three categories of Christian belief about evolution: (1) Theistic Evolution - a kind of neo-Darwinism where evolution adequately explains most everything that exists, and where God's presence is not greatly required, (2) Intelligent Design - à la Behe and Johnson - that there are irreducible complexities in creation that require God's hand, and (3) a teleological view of evolution, which believes that God's involvement in evolution is quite present, overseeing and guiding the process in nearness. (Cardinal Dulles also teases out what the Catholic Church does and does not say about evolution - and the freedom of belief within Catholicism.)
     And I've probably slaughtered each view. My apologies. I'm not well-versed in evolutionary beliefs, I confess, growing up as a staunch six-day creationist. I know even less about the philosophies/thought surrounding them, which is, perhaps, why I find this perspective so fascinating.
     I was raised with, and believed in, a literal six-day creation view of the cosmos. This whole concept of evolution still startles me when I read of it in, and the acceptance of it by, the Church. Not that I deny it - that startles me all the more - but belief in a literal six-day creation and a young earth was core-and-foundation sort of stuff for me. At the same time, I understand the creation narratives more broadly, I hope, than I have before and I'm no longer convinced that they need be taken literally. There is a great deal to be said for understanding the literariness of the Scriptures, and the creation narratives certainly are not to be excluded. There is also something to be learned from the Church's past mistakes in regards to science and belief.
     But I'm thinking out loud. I would love to hear your input. What do you think of God and evolution? Or are you a Creationist through and through? I realize this may be a bit of a non-issue for many of you, but beginnings and endings lie quite large on the landscape where I live. It is simply my milieu of belief and the milieu of my family: My father-in-law a conservative pastor, my brother a biologist and very strong defender of a literal six-day creation. (While my becoming a Catholic, for him, may not have quite pushed me into hell, even considering this issue might. ;) )

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bl Teresa of Calcutta

Saints are funny people. What do you do with them? Do you read of their lives in admiration? Do you borrow saints without thinking about the Catholic Church, which gave birth to them? St Francis of Assisi has always been a favorite saint of mine, as a Protestant and a Catholic. "Make me an instrument ..." - what a prayer. And I love that he is always portrayed, in statuary and pictures, as if even the animals recognized his holiness and responded to his love for them and for all creatures. Thomas à Kempis (though not canonized a saint) and St Thomas More were minor heroes for me as well. À Kempis, of course, for The Imitation of Christ and More mostly because of an agnostic's portrayal of him in a modern play, A Man for All Seasons. (Robert Bolt also wrote the screenplay of one of my favorite movies, The Mission.) As a Protestant I also loved St Augustine for his Confessions.
     The saints of the Catholic Church are phenomenal individuals, though some of them are quite funny and strange, and some even folkloric and ridiculous. But all of them gave themselves to God wholly. St Joseph of Cupertino is talked about as not being particularly bright, but would be given to moments of levity. Literally. And as he rose off the ground, he was always taken by surprise - evidenced by the expression on his face. I love that picture, a dumb and lovable saint with saucered eyes floating a few inches off the ground. Many people today dismiss St Catherine of Siena as a troubled woman with an eating disorder, but she exhorted and chided popes, and they listened.
     Some saints we find easy to dismiss or dispute. Some are more difficult.
     Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Blessed Teresa, is a modern saint (certainly the canonization process is not yet finished, but it seems inevitable) who is difficult to dismiss, though certainly often disputed. Never more often discussed, derided, or damned, than now, with the disclosing of many of her personal letters that describe the deep, felt darkness of her later life.
     It disturbs me at some of the reactions I've read concerning these "new" revelations of her inner struggle. Some people have found their fodder. Though, honestly, these are simply the same people who dismissed and despised and pitied her before. I suppose it's easy to reason that our faith is better, righter than someone else's. And, if you do not agree with Catholic theology, then how do you solve a problem like Teresa? If you say she was a saint, godly, then you kind of have to admit something about Catholicism, even if it's that there can be Christians in a heretical Church. Or there's the simpler way - condemning her because of her faith and chalking up her life to the fruit of fear.
     At the Evangelical college I attended, one of the head residents had a picture of Mother Teresa on her wall with the Matthean verse, "Come unto me all you who are burdened and heavy-ladened and I will give you rest." A nice poke in the eye. Unfortunately, and I say this to my shame, I felt the same for some years.
     Ironically, her darkness provides excellent food for discussion among hard-core fundamentalists as well as Catholics. The hard-core fundamentalists think it supports the opinions they've held about Teresa for years - she didn't feel Jesus' presence because she didn't know Him, she didn't have Him. And the Catholics think it supports their opinion that she was a saint because the saints often suffer deeply with Christ.
     Certainly there's a lot of middle ground. Many Protestants understand her as a lover of Christ as well. And my hats off to you, because it was difficult for me to see it at times, more concerned with my theology than my family.
     But how her dark night appears to others wasn't our Lord's great concern (not that He will not use it as a witness for Himself). Rather, her darkness was given to her for her justification, her sanctification. It was given to her because she wished to embrace Jesus, and she embraced Him in his suffering - such severe suffering experienced by so many who are marginalized and poor and diseased. And, eventually, she learned to love the darkness, knowing that in it she was with Jesus, crucified. And Jesus was kissing her.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I Share Because I Care

I'm not sure if you've noticed the "Sharing" widget in my sidebar. Most of you are probably familiar with this feature. But for those who aren't, it's a way for me to share interesting, funny, profound, and insightful posts - at least from my perspective - from other blogs or feeds that I read. I don't believe I've shared anything that I thought was ridiculous, but I suppose it could happen.

My blogroll is woefully inadequate and I don't really add to it - the blogs listed there are the blogs I began with and still read. (Some bloggers change names and addresses quite frequently. Not that I would name names. *Cough*Jared*Cough* So you may see some minor shuffling and rearranging. Maybe even an occasional deletion.) The Google Reader Sharing widget, on the other hand, allows me to give tastes of many of the blogs I read without creating a specific link to each and every one. The downside is that you don't get to see whether I read your blog unless I share a post of yours. The upside is that I'm really not all that important.

I hope you enjoy it. And if you enjoy certain blogs you think I would also enjoy, please share them with me.

Monday, September 10, 2007

North Carolina

September days separate for me the difference between where I live now and where I used to live. It's 5:30 p.m. and 97°F outside. Nearly mid-September. I hope it cools into the 80s soon. It's been a hot summer.

(I know, I know, you have worse problems.)


It's our 22nd day of homeschooling. We're learning things. Mostly me. I think my daughter has a classic case of predominately inattentive ADHD. We're thinking about getting her tested, but more on that later. Pray for me to be full of understanding and kindness. All that being said, she's doing a great job. I'm very proud of both Sophie and Avery.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

You Don't Know Jack

We visited a mountain today. We swam under its waterfall, I took pictures, and I discovered, while making a piddling hike, how out-of-shape I am. (My mirror says, a bit wryly for my taste, "I showed you so." My scale, he just lies low, fearing to draw my attention.)
     I huffed my way back up from the falls - pushing Gigantor uphill in a stroller over rocks and through sand, with the stroller skiing as often as rolling. Gigantor, by the way, is precious little sweet Jack Henry. Here he is - his three-year-old brother is holding him, or being held down by him, depending on where you're sitting, I suppose.
     Jack's Charminy soft. Squeezably so. When he wakes up in the morning and I hold his warm body against my chest, I am exorcised. Something restrictive, stressful, sick leaves me. It is similar to what writing does for me. But Jack makes it easy. He just has to be. I catch him staring at me from his car seat, his head is craned up and backward to see me driving, to see me. He sees me see him and he smiles. And, with a smile, something oppressive, something wrong peels away from me. There are so very many instruments of God's grace.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Show Us Jesus

Today a virginal gateway draws near: through her the God who is above all creatures will “come into the world” “bodily,” according to St Paul’s expression (Heb 1.6; Col 2.9). Today, from the stump of Jesse a shoot has sprouted (Is 11.1) from which will grow a flower for the world, united in its nature to the divinity. Today, from earthly nature a heaven has been created on earth by him who, in former times, made the firmament solid by separating it from the waters and setting it in the heights. But this heaven is more astonishing than the former, since he who in the first case created the sun has now himself arisen from this new heaven like a sun of justice (Mal 3.20)... Eternal light, begotten before the ages from eternal light, immaterial and incorporeal being, takes his body from this woman and, like a bridegroom, comes forth from his bridal chamber (Ps 18.6)...
     Today, the “son of a carpenter” (Mt 13.55), the ever-active Word of the one who made all things through him, strong arm of God Most High... has made for himself a living ladder whose base is set on the earth and whose summit reaches the sky. Upon it God rests; this is what Jacob beheld in dream (Gn 28.12); by it God descended from his immovability or, rather, bent down in condescension and thus “appeared on earth and moved among men” (Bar 3.38). For these symbols represent his coming here below, his descent through pure grace, his earthly existence, the true knowledge he gave of himself to those on earth. The spiritual ladder, the Virgin, has been set on earth since she takes her origin from the earth, but her head has been raised to heaven... It is through her and the holy Spirit that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1.14). It is through her and the holy Spirit that the union of God with men is accomplished.

- St John of Damascus (c. 675-749), monk, theologian, doctor of the Church, Homily on the Nativity of the Virgin (trans. SC 80)

HT: The Daily Gospel

Don't Know Eschatology

You scored as Moltmannian Eschatology, Jürgen Moltmann is one of the key eschatological thinkers of the 20th Century. Eschatology is not only about heaven and hell, but God's plan to make all things new. This should spur us on to political and social action in the present.

Moltmannian Eschatology












Left Behind


What's your eschatology?
created with

This is all, quite honestly, a mess. While it is probably indicative of my eschatology, I would like to offer up my reservations about how much "political action" I think one should be involved in as a Christian. I do not believe the kingdom of God is waiting upon us to shoulder our way into power again, as the Church once enjoyed. That kind of power, we know, is corruptive - it is still true that God's kingdom is not of this world.

P.S.: Don't really know much about Moltmann and his beliefs, so I'm not terribly comfortable being identified with a Moltmannian eschatology. Then again, since I am ignorant, it might just peg me.

P.P.S.: In all fairness, I would also like to add that a few short years ago, this table would have been completely reversed.

HT: The Southern Conservative

Friday, September 07, 2007


After Annunciation

This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There'd have been no room for the child.

- Madeleine L'Engle

"You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."

Memory Eternal!

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Memory Eternal!

HT: Ad Orientem

A laxative by any other name ...

We went to Wal-Mart yesterday to pick up some groceries for breakfast and lunch. There, where she always sits, was the elderly plastic-wrapped lady serving up her always-delectable food-like samples. The children could hardly be restrained.
     As we arrived at her table of plenty, we saw that she had samples of cheese and cottage-cheese-fruit mix. (The boy was not happy and could not be convinced that what he thought was yogurt - his favoritest food - was cottage cheese with mixed berries.) These particular dairy products had been pumped full of wonder-working bacteria that make one regular. Now, this is not a kind of product we Lyonses would normally require, being your run-of-the-mill, regular types. But it was cheese.
     We threw our napkins in the trash, and continued shopping.
     At 7:30 p.m., the yellow-haired child returned from the bathroom and said, "My butt just threw up in the toilet."
     The experience taught me three things: (1) Children make excellent connections between past experiences and never-before-encountered ones, (2) "My butt just threw up in the toilet" is much funnier at 7:30 p.m. than it is at 4:00 a.m., and (3) If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Don't Know Much Theology

Why is it that you believe what you believe? Is your belief merely an intellectual exercise - a kind of Pascal's Wager? Faith and theology, are felt, lived and prayed things. There is, sometimes, simply an intrinsic, unprovable rightness of a thing, like a sunset or the ocean. Like love. Like the Sistine Chapel or "Ave Maria." Like Dostoevsky and Milton and Hopkins. I hear "Christus Vincit" and I am undone.
     A kiss says more than a contract ever could.
     Do you know what I mean? Faith and theology are not things that can simply be explained, outlined, and bulleted. I can't hold them in my hand. And that's their beauty. These things about which we construct this or that particularity of our theologies is Mystery. Certainly, we must love the Lord our God with all our mind. But we must also understand the limitations thereof.
     And I can be particularly thick. So please do not ask me for proofs. I cannot give you proofs, unless you will accept a rose. Or a poem.

" '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).

Monday, September 03, 2007

Rethinking the Baptist, Rethinking Me

I have always imagined John the Baptist as grizzled and middle-aged. But he wasn't. He was only six months older than his Cousin. And he died before Him. How old would that have made him? 31 or 32? He sat in a jail cell while Christ ministered to others. And he is blessed in his obscurity. He is blessed in becoming less and less. His star fell. And he, happily, though sometimes without understanding, fell with it until his very life was extinguished. And the world went on, following its own path or, even, following Christ. But no longer following John.
     John the Baptist decreased. John the Baptist's life is an exemplar of his teaching. He bowed before obscurity that the Light of the world might be seen all the more clearly.
     I read this morning St Ignatius of Loyola speak of three humilities. I could barely classify myself in the first and lowest humility - the humility to have Christ as Lord. The second and third love obscurity and poverty and the cross. But I am not so humble. I still want to be rich more than I want to be poor. I would still rather be somebody than nobody. I am not a humble man. I am not sure that I want to be. I am not sure that I want to want to be. But therein, I believe, is my salvation.
     This life is not about what we do with ourselves so much as it is about who we are. That is not to say that this life is not about loving. Of course it is. What I mean is that it is not about becoming a success in whatever profession I profess. I count it all as nothing that I might gain Christ. My success is not my ambition. So I change poopy diapers, I attempt to teach pronouns to one daughter and patterns to the next. I clean up other people's messes. Here in this obscurity and lowliness, and only here, can I learn to love and serve God. I am not Christ's unless I am Christ's. And I cannot give Christ to others if I do not possess Him.
     I am a proud man. I sometimes think that I am too proud to be able to call myself a follower of Christ. So now, with no coffee yet in me this Labor Day morning, I want to tell you that I need this blessed obscurity that I have for so long resisted and despised and feared - that I still struggle against. If I were to be famous, perhaps even successful, I would lose my soul.