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


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


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 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


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


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!