Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The ONE Necessary Thing

Ultimately, there is one "argument" that convinces.

It is charity.

There is a grave absense of charity in our world today, especially amongst those (Christians) who should be living charity with every breath, and I certainly include myself.

Oh, perhaps, objectively speaking, we have a right to condemn the sin (you know, as in condemn the sin but love the sinner) but it seems there is a terrible imbalance, an awful lot more of condemning the sin and not enough (by far) of loving the sinner.

And when we do all the "condemning the sin" that we do, we are in fact, implicitly condemning the sinner as well.

True charity, faithfully, consistently lived out, is the only argument that will convince. In the end, most who end up embracing the true God will do so because one way or another they witnessed the great love of God, and most of the time, through the faithful consistent living out of Charity by Christians.

Friday, September 21, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday

1. I am reading a new book about Saint Francis of Assisi, written by a Dominican, which is an attempt to find the "historical Francis" hidden behind traditions and agendas and politics. It is quite an interesting book, and I find that in several ways it sheds light on Saint Francis. It is very readable and definitely worth while for anyone who has an interest in Francis.

2. A particularly interesting discovery about Francis, for me, is that he seemed to be far more interested in obedience, properly celebrated liturgy, and the Holy Eucharist than any other biographies I have read let on. Far more, apparently, than on poverty. And, contrary to the practice of the time of other religious orders, he was a meat eater!

3. Francis was also a rather confused and conflicted man. I have often found myself thinking that he might have been a little bit mentally disturbed, possibly scrupulous in some areas. Whatever the reality was, he was not the absolutely certain, unconflicted, clear-headed "reformer" that he is depicted as.

4. More than anything, what I get out of this biography, is that Francis was totally committed to following, imitating and radiating Christ as authentically as possible. He also regarded himself as having the obligation to be an example, a "living rule" for the other brothers, so that by looking at him, the brothers could learn how to live the written rule.

5. He was also driven to be the least of all. Here was part of his conflictedness. He did not want to be considered over anyone, or more than anyone, or having any importance or authority over anyone, and yet, in order to ensure that the brothers lived according to his vision, he had to exercise authority, often in a convoluted way through others, such as Brother Elias, his vicar, the visible head of the order, or through a Cardinal, a supporter and sort of protector of the order.

6. While the Francis of this book is a little different than my previous understanding of Francis, and very different from the "popular Francis," I find this Francis to be more real, more human, more believable, more worthy as an example, than the Francis I've read about in other biographies.

7. There is a second part of the book which can serve as a long footnote to the biography, giving sources, and explaining the reasoning behind the author's choice of sources, and the conclusions drawn. All in all, a very worthy resource for anyone sincerely interested in discovering more about the real person, the real Francis of Assisi, even if this depiction doesn't wholly resolve that quest.

Happy weekend, and don't forget to check Jennifer's and others' Quick Takes.

Friday, September 14, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday

Isadora Duncan

1. Until today, the only things I knew about Isadora Duncan were that she was a dancer and that she died when her scarf got caught in the wheel of the car in which she was riding. today is the anniversary of her death.

2. That's tragic enough. She was only 50.

3. But once you read a little more about her, you see even more tragedy. The fact is, she led a sinful life, she died unexpectedly, she was probably unprepared.

4. Her two children (born out of wedlock with 2 different fathers) were killed when the car they were in rolled into a river when the driver tried to re-start the car without the brake being set.

5. None of us knows when our life will end. It could end at any moment; it might go on for years, yet still end suddenly and without warning.

6. All the "good" that we have or do, beauty, earning wealth, gaining fame, creating art, becoming famous or popular, will avail us nothing. God doesn't care about that stuff. In the end, we ourselves will stand before God and will be ashamed of our sins, our wasted gifts, our wasted time, our distance from the will of God.

7. In the end, if our sins are great enough, if what God considers failure, has been great enough, WE ourselves will acknowledge this and will turn away from God that final time, and will cast ourselves into hell. THAT is the ultimate tragedy.

Jennifer F's Page

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Jesus Didn't Heal Everyone...

I had an insight the other day about the healings of Jesus. Obviously, Jesus didn't heal every sick or dying person he encountered. He could have, of course, but he didn't. But I think I noticed a small common thread in the healings he did perform. Many of them were for people who were or would be marginalized by their illnesses. Lepers, the woman with the flow of blood, the widow whose son had died. These were people, who because of their illnesses, were actually prevented from taking part in public worship and who were kept on the margins of normal society. They were considered unclean. It would seem that Jesus was very concerned about restoring persons to society, but not merely society at large, the worshipping society, especially.

This would also seem to be the case with public sinners, the tax collectors, the publicans, the prostitutes. By forgiving their sins, by enabling them to repent and be forgiven, they could then so change their lives as to be reintegrated into public worship.

I think this is very important to consider. God commands us to worship him in community, he doesn't want anyone to be excluded, but many are, because of sin and because of other impediments. The physical impediments, while sometimes still causing marginalization, are also symbols of the greater impediment which is sin.

The goal for the Father is, through Jesus, to free everyone (who accepts it) from any impediment that prevents inclusion in the "public" worship of eternity, beginning here in our earthly liturgy which mirrors the eternal liturgy in heaven.

This must have an impact on how we view the marginalized in our society, locally and globally. It must have an impact on how we view our own sins and other impediments to "public worship."

This must, above all, perhaps, have an impact on just how important God regards the command and the freedom to participate in public worship.

Friday, August 31, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday

1. Well, it's been nutty for the last couple of weeks. Worst, probably, is that the track bar in my family's van broke, and now the van wobbles in the rear end. I'm assuming that it would be safe as long as we don't go too fast over bumps or around corners and stay off the highway.

2. Sunday (due to the urgency of the issue) I spent about 5 hours trying to get the old track bar off, crawling around under the car. One bolt, ONE, mind you, is totally frozen and I cannot get it off! So, I stopped around night fall and resumed work on Monday.

3. So, Monday, I spent the entire day, ENTIRE, chiseling, filing, grinding that bolt, and still have not gotten it off. The nut and the end are cut off, and most of the head are cut off. Tomorrow, I am going to finish grinding off the head, and hope I can then just pull it out of it's slot.

4. So, we've been driving the wobbly van around all week: so far, so good. But, here's the good news, sort-of... back in the day when I was still eating a standard American diet, with lots of carbs, and relying on carbs for my energy, I would have felt totally drained at the end of the day. Now that my primary energy source is fat, I felt tired, but without that drained feeling, without that feeling that my muscles were entirely empty of fuel. I simply felt tired. It was good.

5. Last week we took our two younger kids to the fair, and primarily ate and let them go on unlimited rides. My son and I watched the circus (2 women and two men, one a clown!) and my daughter and wife visited a few animals. It was an astounding outlay of money. What a racket! The place was packed. They must have taken in an incredible amount of money.

6. Starting tonight, I hope, if everyone shows up, I am going to start teaching my church choir the O Magnum Mysterium by Lauridsen, which you can listen to here... It is a beautiful piece. The composer wrote about his thinking behind the piece in this WSJ article.

7. I was particularly touched by his decision to use a dissonance, sung twice in the Alto part, the ONE note in the entire piece that is not of the key of the piece, to represent the suffering of the Blessed Virgin in witnessing the crucifixion of Jesus. Lauridsen said it is the most important note in the entire piece.

And on that note, I bid you adieu. Have a great weekend. Be sure to visit Jennifer's Quick takes, if you haven't already.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Evangelistic Effectiveness of Charity

We tend to think, in terms of evangelizing, that teaching, preaching, correcting, are the essential things. They ARE important, but absent charity, they are ineffective, and often even counter-effective. Charity is like the resurrection, a kind of proof supporting what one believes or teaches. If Jesus had taught all that he taught and had NOT risen from the dead, then there would be no point in embracing his teachings at all. It was the resurrection that proved that he is God, and that he is worthy of obedience and submission and imitation.

By the same token, a Christian can go to a population and in charity, motivated by love for God first of all, help provide food, shelter, clothing, medical care, etc, and hardly speak at all of what he believes, and gain a far greater number of converts than the zealous preacher who has little charity, because the people in the first case will be aroused by the charity of the one, and will inquire about the beliefs that are made attractive because of the charity.

Charity is like the seedbed for fruitful conversions. Like Saint Paul said, without charity, our preaching is like a clanging cymbal. And when the preaching and teaching includes a lot of judgment and harshness, no one is going to be attracted to that.

Also, God's grace accompanies the practice of charity. The gentle, humble, prayerful soul that goes about doing good, helping the poor, the sick, the lonely, will be supported by God's grace. I don't think we can say the same, consistently, about the teacher/preacher who simply teaches, preaches, condemns, even if in perfect truth, if his words are not accompanied by practical charity.

It is the same in parenting or in leading. People usually have a far more positive response and a far more positive memory of a father who tells the truth and teaches and corrects by an example of humble conviction lived out in gentleness and charity. People never grow up and complain: "My father was so damned loving, I wish he had been less forgiving and gentle." No, they complain about a father who was harsh, whose beliefs were overshadowed by harshness and justice and an inability to love. For the child looking back, what he remembered was a hypocrite who put correcting error above love and forgiveness.

As tough as Jesus could be with sinners, especially hypocrites, he readily forgave any who repented, and his miracles benefited all who were willing to believe.

Friday, August 17, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday, #10

1. On the bus this morning, I overheard a conversation between 2 men, one of them a nurse. Let me tell you, our health system is way more messed up than we realize.

2. A fairly nearby hospital, a public hospital that is supposed to take in anyone regardless of their ability to pay, has an administrator whose salary is 2.5 million dollars a year. How does this make any sense?

3. Apparently the shortage of nurses is so severe that many of them must travel great distances (I forget what they're called) in order to cover shortages at other hospitals when, for instance, someone is on vacation.

4. The nurse said we will never catch up. The government has mandated that nursing schools increase their output of nurses by 20% over the next 10 years, or so (he was uncertain of the time frame) but there just isn't enough young people out there to do the work. The median age of nurses today is around 55.

5. The schools also just are not really equipped to educate and prepare the number of nurses that we need.

6. And then there are all kinds of inefficient practices, such as having people come in for treatment for their asthma, sitting in easy chairs to inhale their medication, something they ought to be able to do at home, but they cannot. And it is similar with migraine headache sufferers. Apparently, the medication they need for particularly bad headaches is so regulated that an ordinary physician cannot prescribe it. The patients must go to the hospital, and if they have to go in the middle of the night when the right doctors are not on duty, then they have to sit around waiting until a doctor can see them. A lot of this sounds crazy.

7. But on a totally different note, I have a few times, as a choral director and pray-er, come across the phrase "wailing wights." I finally looked it up. A wight is an archaic term for human being, so saith wordnet. There are going to be more and more wailing wights over the next 10-30 years due to our messed up health system.

And on that happy note, God bless you, have a great weekend, and be sure to check out Jennifer's quick takes! or should I say quick TAKE, today!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Crossed Paths, Being Stretched, Baseball, and God

I've mentioned Katie Davis before: the young woman who came from a well-to-do family in the USA who is now living in Uganda and has adopted (I think) 14 girls who had no families. She is called Mommie by many, and Aunty Kate by many others. I admire what she is doing there, personally, and through her organization, Amazima (see the links in my side-bar.) But I also worry about her.

Uganda is, in many ways, a very messed-up place. And someday, Katie may cross paths with the wrong neglectful father, or crazy man, or misguided person, who may just dislike what she is doing enough to kill her. And she will be a martyr for love. Pray for her, and others like her.

Fr. Z has an interesting piece comparing the spiritual life with pitching in Baseball, aiming for the perfect game, and how every moment is a new opportunity to change the way things are going...

I am reminded of the chapter in George Will’s great book Men At Work: The Craft Of Baseball (I have a signed edition) in which he asks pitcher Orel Hershiser, “So what’s your goal when you go to the mound? A no-hitter?” Hershiser responds:

“No … A perfect game. If they get a hit, I am throwing a one-hitter. If they get a walk, it’s my last walk. I deal with perfection to the point that is logical to conceive it. History is history, the future is perfect.” (See the rest here.)

On another note, many are suffering, worrying, searching, wondering if they have a safety net, if they should have a safety net, wondering where is God? When is he going to intervene? As to intervention, Katie Davis has said that she often worries about all the children she can't help, but hears God telling her, it is enough to help the one he puts in her path. (Of course, that one could be one a day, or one a week, we don't know until we cross their path, but, that One is enough - who knows who God might call to help the others.)

But the other side of it is that God likes to wait until the last possible moment. He likes to stretch us, to show US how far we can go without breaking. He knows, of course, but he wants us to know. And so, he stretches our faith, our trust, our perseverance, sort of like a physical trainer who gets you to push up the weights one more time, or to run just a second faster, or do one more lap. It strengthens us.

But it also reassures us that our Father will not abandon us if we trust in Him, even when WE abandon him. If we reach out our hand, even if he seems to delay, he will not fail to take our hand and lift us up. We just have to keep the hand out there.

Sometimes, a safety net is a sign of a failure to trust God. Not always, but sometimes. And when we work without a safety net, when we really do our best AND rely fully on God, he may let us fall now and then. He may let us get bruised a little, and get discouraged a little, and feel almost about to give up.

But if we don't give up, if we keep trusting, if we keep that imploring hand reaching out there, he will grasp it and lift us up, or direct our path to cross with someone else he has directed to help us, and maybe even someone WE are to help.

Monday, August 13, 2012

It's a Great Life...

My father used to say, (with a little irony in his voice) "It's a great life if you don't weaken." He died of cancer in 1978, when I was 20, so I never really knew him as an adult. It was ironic, I think, that he died of cancer. He gave up smoking out of concern for cancer. The tumor was in his pancreas or spleen, I can never remember which. He used to have one or two drinks each evening in the last while before he died, and my mother came to believe that he had been numbing the pain, which delayed getting the check-up that might have been early detection that might have saved his life. Who knows?

At any rate, (what a lead-in!) it was supposed to rain Saturday, so we didn't have the tag sale. Our house is full of boxes of stuff that is supposed to be sold, so it's a bit messy in there. So, we didn't have the tag sale, and you know what, it was sunny and hot almost the entire day! I didn't rain until about 3:30 or so.

I had gone out to clean up the remaining roofing shingles I'd scraped off the roof about a year ago. I and my children have been working on it bit by bit now and then when we had the time and the weather. I finally got all except some scattered bits that need to be raked into a pile. I had, (cleverly, I thought) covered much of the area with a sheet of plastic before shoveling the shingles off the roof, so most of that spot is relatively untainted by the asphalt bits.

Any way, just as I was finishing, it began to rain, and in moments, the rain was torrential. I had just enough time to put the shovel and rake back in the garage, then I took off my shoes and stood beneath the rain spout from the back roof and washed the worst of the dust off of me. It felt great. If only a shower could be that heavy and intense, but we gotta skimp on water nowadays, don't we?

So, we could have had the tag sale. But we were going to have it on Sunday instead, but then my wife had a bad stiff neck and it was appearing even more likely to rain (and it did, off and on), so we didn't set up the tag sale after Mass.

Now, the plan is to have the tag sale this afternoon, hoping to gather in the "rush hour" traffic, though my wife is going to set up shortly after lunch. Whatever we don't sell today, we may try again to sell on Saturday. Which means I will take my daughter to her step-dancing performance in a nearby town celebrating it's annual Old Home Days. And my wife will have to miss the performance and the celebration. (It's just a small, homey thing.) So, my point... yes there is a point. I was quite aware, when we were trying to decide about the tag sale, that God's will, while behind everything that happens, even if as his "permissive will" there is just about nothing more clearly His will than the weather. So, you can't complain about the weather. You have to give thanks to God for manifesting his will so clearly in the weather. Would that everything could be so clearly God's will.

In reality, however, everything that happens is God's will, even if only in the sense that He permitted such and such. And so, we really ought to see all that way, and give thanks, even if we also must pray and act to work with what happens in the best way. We can't just sit around and say, "It's God's will," and think that our part ends there. But complaining, impatience, annoyance: I don't think so.

When we get to the end, and see all the loose ends tied up in eternity, we will see just how this or that or the other thing were willed or permitted by God, first for His glory, and second for our good or someone else's good. We'll see it and it will all make sense, and we will certainly rejoice that things happened as they did.

The thing that is most incredible, is that we can mess things up by our sins. He allows our free will to have its effect, but in the end, even with our poor cooperation, he can still bring about great good. We have to trust that.

So, it IS a great life, if you don't weaken, because weakening can mean giving up, or sinning, or complaining. We just have to trust that God knows what he is doing, and cooperate with that as well as we can.

Friday, August 10, 2012

7 quick Takes Friday, #9

1. Having read about the situation with many olive oils not actually being olive oil, or not being virgin olive oil (as the bottle states) or not being 100% olive oil, I decided to look into something other than European oil, and came up with this stuff:

... which I love! It has a nice grassy taste that I have never experienced in olive oil before. My wife, however, doesn't like it. So... I don't have to share!

2. Speaking of my wife, she really, really wanted this prayer book, put out by the Melkite Diocese of Newton...

...So, when I heard it was only $35, I decided to go ahead and order it for her. She's happy. I hope she likes it when it arrives.

3. We're planning on having a tag sale tomorrow. It might rain. The house has been in major disorder for weeks, while my wife seeks out and prepares stuff from our closets. We're hoping to make some money and attain some space in our house. It will be nice to have the piled up stuff gone.

4. For those of you who care, and who didn't see the post of a few days ago, I reached my low-carb way of eating goal. It took a year and a half, but I lost the 40 unnecessary pounds I had gained over the last 15 or so years. I owe it all to Reader's Digest, Gary Taubes,

and the interview with him about his book, Why We Get Fat. He also wrote the more technical, Good Calories, Bad Calories. I haven't read that.

5. Because of the possibility of rain, my wife is conflicted about having the tag sale tomorrow, but I think we should go for it. I think the chance is only 50% and she'll deeply regret it if she doesn't have it and it doesn't rain.

6. So, Today is the Feast of Saint Lawrence. For those of you who don't know, not only is he a martyr who laughed in the face of death, but he may have saved the stone cup used by Jesus at the last supper, which is now in Valencia Spain, in an ornate setting (which Jesus did NOT use.) You can read this book all about it.

7. Now, get this. Some few hundred years ago, a deacon, I think it was, somehow dropped the Holy Grail and broke it! I was astounded to read that. It has been repaired, but I guess you can see the crack. The thing survived persecution and fire and multiple transfers for centuries, and then a deacon drops it! I don't know what happened to the deacon, but I do not think I would like to go down in history as the guy who broke the cup from Jesus' Last Supper!

On that happy note, have a wonderful weekend, and be sure to check out Jennifer's Quick Takes!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Goals and Death

Funny thing: About a year and a half ago, I set myself a goal to lose 45 pounds. On Saturday August 4th, I attained to that goal. And I'm pleased. And I can't say I've made this an enormous thing in my life. I have other goals too, such as to be more patient, kinder, more resigned to God's will in my life, etc.

But for some reason, I have begun thinking more of death, in relation to the accomplishment of my goal, in the sense that, it is nothing. I will die. I could die at any moment, or I could die many years from now.

I feel that I eat more rationally now, more in accord with how my body was designed, so even though I usually enjoy what I eat, I rarely eat food that could be considered inimical to good health (and therefore irrational.) I am not often eating food that contributes nothing to health and well-being, or may actually contribute to bad health. This is for me, a stewardship issue. I must not coddle my body, giving in to its every whim and desire, but I also must not harm my body.

So, objectively speaking, I have probably improved my health and extended my life: worthy accomplishments, but not the be-all and end-all of my existence. While this is worthy and good, what matters most is preparation for death and the judgment that will ensue.

God will not be pleased with me (nor will I be) if I have improved my body's health and extended my life by eating properly, while I have neglected other obligations, if I have failed morally, in justice, in charity, in humility, etc.

I am to die. It is good that I have reached my goal. It will be good to sustain my healthier way of eating. But I am to die, and I must not swerve from the goal of living in a morally "healthier" way, in charity, justice, resignation, and humility.

On another note, I have had very few long-term goals in my life, and there are very few short-term goals that I've attained to. I have aimed to repair our washer or drier or automobile at various times, and have succeeded. I have set out to write a novel and have done so. But in terms of long-term fairly important goals, there are few in my life that I have set, and few of those that I have attained. There are many major decisions I have made throughout my life, that I have unfortunately made without carefully discerning God's will.

In an earlier post, I wondered if it is useful to set goals, at least if they do not take into consideration God's will and plan for our lives.

Perhaps my new goal should be to more actively discern God's will and to work more assiduously to fulfill it.

Friday, August 3, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday, #8

1. I wish there were a Chick-fil-a close by here! Sounds like it's been a great national neighborhood event!

2. Hot muggy weekend ahead. The river is still low, despite a lot of rain here. I guess it hasn't rained much north near the origin of the river.

3. The news was on a couple of times during the bus ride into work. It amazes me what the radio stations actually consider news, what they consider the most important THREE stories they want to tell us over and over every hour.

4. One item the disc jockey was talking about was the new Total Recall movie.

5. And there was discussion of who would prefer to buy watermelons with seeds! Maybe for seed spitting contests. (How about it might be nice to eat a watermelon that hasn't been bred to be something other than what it is?)

6. I saw a flock of sheep laying in the damp fields on the way in. It was very foggy near where I saw them. Damp sheep.

7. Which led me to the though that it might be nice to have one or two sheep in our back yard. I'll have to talk to my wife about it.

Have a great weekend. Be sure to check out Jennifer's quick takes!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Too Much "Talk"

On Dragnet, supposedly one of the detectives used to cut witnesses short (maybe he did it only once, but it has gone down in the TV pool of memories)

"Just the facts, ma'am."

And someone once said in my hearing, and I often remember it:

A detective can't cut off a witness like that. If he doesn't listen to everything, he might cause the witness to omit some fact that turns out be essential to solving the case."

But...

In this internet age, I'm beginning to think we have far too many opinions, too much chatter, too much talking and reacting and blabbing,

but not enough thinking, pondering, meditating.

Well... maybe the writers are thinking. But why? Is X of X blog writing because he/she now has a contract and has to write something everyday, and it ought to be relevant and attract an audience?

Or is X writing because he/she has really given this topic a lot of thought and felt his/her thoughts OUGHT to be out there for everyone else's benefit?

Let's suppose that I am X (actually, I'm one of many Xs, and so far I'm not all that widely read, so I guess I'm not all that relevant and attractive, so far.) Why am I writing? Is what I have to say all that important, useful, valuable? Ultimately, how much is what I'm writing going to help anyone save his soul? I mean, that's the big issue isn't it (for a believer at any rate) saving one's soul?

I hope to eventually help support my family with my writing, so I have an underlying motive for getting read. Does that undermine the value of what I write, in that I write to get attention, so that someone will click on one of my Amazon links and I'll eventually get 50c or $2.49 when that someone buys a book?

Why did Beethoven write the Ninth Symphony? Was it to make a living? Or was it because he had all this danged music swimming through his head that he just had to get out there on paper and into the hands and lips of musicians and the ears of an audience? Was it to glorify God who put the music into his head?

Would the world be a better or a worse or a pretty much the same place if Beethoven had been a candle maker instead of a composer? Well, we now know what we would be missing, but if he'd never written a note, or played a note, how much of a difference would it have made?

But that's just a rabbit hole (and that's a reference, I believe, to Alice in Wonderland, so what expression would I use if Lewis Carroll had not written that book?) because Beethoven DID compose music, and he DID have his unique impact on the world.

Salieri composed too, and he had an impact, but a much smaller impact, some might say not the impact he deserved to have, but if Salieri hadn't composed, most of us would not have noticed. And there are possibly millions of people who have existed since the time of Beethoven who never heard a Beethoven melody or chord (and yes, in my mind, there are uniquely Beethoven-ish chords.)

But I'm not Beethoven, nor am I a Stephen King or a William Wordsworth or a Charles Dickens or even a Michaelangelo. I'm just a mediocre musician, a mediocre choir director, a mediocre writer of fiction and poetry and commentary. No one, probably, needs to read or hear anything I've written. And I think there are a lot of other people out there who are writing stuff that no one really needs to read.

Maybe it shouldn't be so easy to get one's works "out there."

Saint Paul had to write on papyrus or parchment, with ink and pen, or dictate to a scribe who used those materials. Others had to inscribe cuneiform onto clay or lead tablets, and Beethoven had to write with a pen or pencil on paper, as did Thomas Aquinas and Victor Hugo. Now we have word processors and lulu.com and Amazon.com with Kindle and Readers and Tablets. And how much of what is getting "out there" really worth our time and attention? Is much of it changing anyone for the better? At the very least, is much of it leading to real thought, self-examination, growth in goodness? Or is it simply confirming something we already believe, or contradicting something we hold firm and will not change?

Here's an irony. I read something by Simcha Fischer, and it lead to my writing this. So, I agreed with much of what I read, and it led to these thoughts, yet something in what I read made me question the value of what she wrote, and the value of what her commentators wrote, and here I am with no solid answer.

Beethoven might not have thought all that highly of his work. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. Same with Hugo and Wordsworth. I don't know. maybe they all thought their work was valuable and had to be read, heard, seen. Maybe they were on a mission.

Still, the world is different. Many more people possibly are going to experience Beethoven because of the internet than would without it, as well as Simcha Fischer, and possibly me, but also a lot of real schlock and garbage.

So, this wasn't very brief and I don't think I've come to a conclusion. But I've been thinking, and I hope it makes someone else think too. And most of all, I hope that Beethoven and Hugo and Simcha and Wordsworth and me somehow help someone else have a thought that contributes to the saving of his/her soul.

Guilty Conscience

My wife and I watched an old movie on Hulu last night, Edward G. Robinson in "The Red House" about a farmer with a wooden leg, who has an adopted daughter, and who hires a local kid to help out on the farm because now he's older and it's hard to manage with the gimpy leg. The farmer is also helped by his unmarried sister (who for some reason is not married to the local doctor who we know she loves.)

The whole plot revolves around the woods (and a Red House in the woods) that the farmer (Pete) forbids the kids (Nath & Meg) from exploring. He speaks of the woods as dangerous, even as evil. He talks of screams in the night.

Well, I don't want to reveal more of the plot to those of you who haven't seen the movie. Suffice it to say, the movie is about unresolved guilt. And unresolved guilt works on the mind and the soul, eats away at it, and if it remains unresolved, it will destroy the person.

Resolving requires acknowledging the truth of one's guiltiness, and seeking forgiveness, and where possible, making reparation. Ultimately, if there is no resolution, the destruction will follow us into eternity, where the destruction will be permanent (hell.)

So, let us make sincere, regular and faithful use of the sacrament of conscience resolution, confession.

By the way, my review of the movie is 5 stars. I enjoyed it a lot, it held my attention, it was thought provoking. The acting was good, the cinematic values were good. I would definitely recommend it. Check it out.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Inestimable Value of Married Consecration (7 Quick takes)

1. Let's say you're Catholic, married, (or engaged, or widowed.) Wouldn't it be wonderful to find a Church-approved vowed form consecration just for the married that would add sacred value to all the ordinary actions of your life?

2. On top of it, you use the internet and other forms of media, maybe you're even a Catholic blogger, and you're aware that the bad use of the media far exceeds the good use. Would you like to spiritually support the good and holy use of the media?

3. Family life is busy, challenging, even grueling at times, but full of rewards and blessings. A special form of consecration for the married that doesn't add much to the daily burden but greatly increases the value of your life in the eyes of God would be an incredible blessing.

4. Within the context of this consecration, you would receive monthly materials in the form of a one hour CD, a booklet filled with guidance oriented toward married and family life and the good use of the media, and other materials. And there is a yearly retreat called the Triduum, at which many couples and families of the HFI gather together for prayer, liturgy, teaching, and fun, and to witness the vows of members.

5. Blessed James Alberione,

the founder of the Daughters of Saint Paul and of the Society of Saint Paul, envisioned an associated group of vowed-consecrated married couples who by the ordinary works and prayers of married/family life would lend support to the media work of the Saint Paul Sisters and Fathers.

6. This group is called the Holy Family Institute. It began in 1960, and in 1993, the Institute and its Statute (Rule of Life) was formally approved by the Catholic Church in this decree.

7. Members pray with and for the priests and sisters of the Pauline Family in their work with the media. They are consecrated in their ordinary duties of married/family life, by special forms of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience which are completely oriented toward married/family life. If this intriques you at all, visit one of the HFI websites, (here too) (and here) or contact our Delegate Superior, Fr. Tom Fogarty.

God bless you! Have a great weekend, and be sure to check Jennifer's Quick Takes!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rain And Grace

On the bus, on the way to work this morning, I was amazed at how low the level of the river was. It was perhaps the lowest I've ever seen it. And it's not like there has been no rain. The last week has seen at least two decent rain storms. But that water was here, not north of here, and has already gone down south. I suppose it's a drop in the bucket of how much water flows in the river.

This is one of the worst droughts we've seen. I think I saw it written that it is the worst since 1950, before I was born.

It reminds me of a passage in the prophets wherein the prophet predicts a drought of hearing the Word of the Lord. It is a fearful thing that most of us don't recognize. A drought of grace, a drought of hearing the word, a drought of receiving good, holy, true teaching, and holy help from heaven.

Much of it has to do with receptiveness. Grace, like rain, falling on hearts hardened by sin and self-centeredness and indifference, rolls off without penetrating. It can do no good. It can give no relief. We need to prepare our hearts like the soil, tilling and turning and fertilizing, so that when the rain falls, when grace is given, it will be able to do some good.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Like Children Squatting in the Market Place...

How many chances do we get? How many opportunities will come our way? The old saying goes, "Opportunity only knocks once." Well, it's not true. Opportunities come many times. We just don't see them for what they are. And so, we squander them. We ignore them.

We fight and squabble over windfalls. We fail to use them in justice and charity. We refuse forgiveness; we refuse to forgive and forget. We take what is not ours, we act like little children fighting over some toy, while God's watches sadly, his little gifts wasted, turned into moments of disunity and revenge rather than the acts of love he meant them to be.

This is why people like Mother Teresa and Katie Davis are such important examples for us. They are people who take everything: trials and windfalls, as gifts, precious gifts, not to be fought over, not to be squandered, but as means to extend and continue the Divine love and generosity.

Something to think about.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Pictures

I thought I'd post some pictures now and then. Besides, I can't think of anything to write.

Our front door. It has character, kind of like the face of an old boxer.
What story could be written based on this photo?
Still life of potato and onion basket.
A welcome rain.
Jesus of the Stairway?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Horror Story of Sin

In view of the recent theater killings, and some of the commentaries I have read, and after having read the Wikipedia article about a serial killer, the anniversary of whose arrest is today, I am reminded of a theme I have often dealt with in my short fiction.

Sin has a cumulative and addictive effect on us. We are often warned about sin, repent because death can come at any moment and an awesome judgment awaits.

But that's only part of the concern. Small sins are not really so small, and they can lead to greater sins. Unrepentance can lead to an deeply worsening habit of sin that can totally destroy a person and have far-reaching effects on others.

We must be vigilant, unremittingly vigilant about our sins, our activities, our interests. We must examine ourselves daily, and expose our hearts as honestly as we can to a trustworthy guide.

What I have noticed about the kinds of killers who end up in the news, is that they spent a good deal of time alone, hidden, even ignored, left to their own devices, fantasizing, developing obsessions. They go unchecked in their activities.

This is partly their fault, but it is also the fault of parents who leave their children unchecked, unsupervised, unmonitored. If we, as parents, teachers, people in authority, take note of odd or strange or obsessive or sinful behaviors, we ought to do something about it. We have to have the wisdom to see the path that certain interests and behaviors can take one down, and prudently, gently, yet firmly intervene before the habits are too deeply ingrained.

My point is that sin and occasions of sin and sinful interests, if unchecked, draw one into deeper involvement in sin. Sin attracts and ruins a soul, usually very gradually. If, when we are young, our parents guide us and form us and redirect us, keep track of us, we can learn good habits that will serve us well when we are on our own. Parents must help to form the consciences of their children. Parents cannot leave children too much to their own devices. We cannot stand by and think that a child will form good habits, avoid evil and develop a conscience if we do nothing to guide and influence them in a positive way.

And we must look to ourselves, and strive to sincerely, thoroughly know ourselves, so that we can note the beginnings of an attraction that might be dangerous. We need to develop self-discipline. We need to continually work on forming a good conscience. We need to nip bad habits in the bud as soon as we see them beginning to develop.

The warnings about death and judgment are certainly valid, but I think there is a more immediate concern. Death and judgment do not always come soon. Often a person has far too much time to wallow more and more deeply in sin, and the only thing that might be as bad, or even worse than hell, is the degradation of sin, the destruction of the God-given dignity of the human person. To become a beast, to live like an animal, to wallow in degrading behaviors that make us even less than beasts is the great horror of sin.

The thing is, if we allow ourselves to be deceived about sin, we can convince ourselves that there is such a thing as a little sin, an unimportant sin, and so we can ignore it. Yet, every deliberate sin is an offense against God, is destructive to human dignity, is erosive of goodness. This is why Jesus told us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. He knows that we can never achieve the absolute perfection that is intrinsic to the Father's nature. But we can achieve a human, grace-enhanced perfection by self-examination, in the light of Love, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, according to the model of Jesus, with the help of the sacraments, especially of confession and the Eucharist.

Every sincere confession cuts at a habit of sin. Worthy reception of the Eucharist feeds the good roots of virtue and acts as a poison to the bad roots of the weeds of sin. When we carefully examine our consciences, seeking the origins of sin, the reasons for the attractions and the lies we tell ourselves, and confess all to God in the sacrament, we dig at the nascent horror within that would, if unchecked, lead to self-destruction. In confession and the Eucharist, we achieve the perfection to which we are called by Jesus, even if it only lasts for a moment or a day or a week after confession. Hopefully, with each successive examination of conscience and confession and worthy communion, the gift of holiness will take deeper root and last longer, and will more and more thoroughly eradicate the seeds of sin and the beginnings of the horrible destruction of our unique and invaluable dignity.

There are many ways in which the unchecked habit of sin can lead us to self-destruction. Not all habitual sinners end up mass murderers, but the insidious tendrils of sin will always eventually choke and kill and bring darkness and despair one way or another, always affecting others in subtle ways that sometimes only God knows.

We can't wait for the bad habits to develop. And we can't wait for the warning about death and judgment. We have to be aware and stay aware of our inherent, precious dignity and strive with all our strength, with prayer, seeking grace, to preserve that dignity against the erosion of any sin.

Friday, July 20, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday, #7

1. I saw this on NewAdvent. This is very cute: How would a Marine attack and take Cinderella's castle?

2. Cool weather in New England, finally. I realize we haven't had it as bad as, say Texas on a cool day, but it's good to be cool again.

3. Our visit to our beekeeping friends went well last Sunday. The husband had to leave for about an hour (he's a volunteer fireman);(a local school had a false fire alarm because some student lit some toilet paper under a sprinkler.)

4. We visited the lamb and the pigs and the chickens, and a lone rooster, but not the bees. I think I heard they were not in a good mood due to the heat. I was going to take pictures, but I forgot the camera.

5. On the way back, we saw a sign for the Institute of the Musical Arts, in little backwoods Goshen. Turns out it is a nonprofit teaching, performing and recording facility dedicated to supporting women and girls in music and music-related business. Very interesting. Judging from all the cars, they must have been having a concert that day.

6. Almost across the street from IMA, is a sort of meditation or have a gathering or just visit and look at the interesting art sort of place called Three Sisters Sanctuary, built by a man who named it for his three daughters. For all my life, there has been this more than life size tin man erected in front of the building. I think at one time, it was a storefront for a wood stove seller, or maybe some kind of contractor, or a junk yard, or all three, I don't know. But now the tin man is part of the art.

7. So, tonight, a priest from Poland, a Missionary of the Holy family, Fr. Boguslaw Jaworowski, is going to give a talk tonight at our parish on "The Family and God's Blessings." He doesn't speak English well, so another local Polish-speaking new priest is going to translate for him. (Of course, this means I had to cancel choir rehearsal, as I have had to for various reasons for something like the last 5 weeks. So hopefully, the talk will be worth while!)

Have a good weekend, and be sure to visit Jennifer's blog.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Vulnerability

When a military leader is preparing for battle, he will look for the weaknesses of his enemy, and his strategy will be to exploit the weaknesses that he finds.

When we are striving to accomplish some personal goal, say holiness or weight loss, it is also a good idea to look for our own weaknesses.

So, if someone is trying to lose weight, he ought first to investigate: what, in general, are the biggest contributors to weight gain? And of them, what is he most likely to indulge in? Then he cuts it/them out, one at a time.

If one is aiming for holiness, he has to look carefully at himself, and find his weakest points: manifestations of pride, self-love, impatience, etc. Then he has to work at rooting them out, one at a time, or one group of related weak points at a time.

Just like preparing for a battle.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Weight Loss

OK, I have lost about 40 pounds in the last 16 months. I did it by eating more fat and less carbohydrates. My only real difficulty has been ice cream, and I think it, and too much protein, were responsible for stalls. So, I reduced the protein to closer to what the charts say my body needs based on height and weight, and instead of eating a pint or more of ice cream once a week or two, several times a week I may eat a half a cup or three quarters of a cup of chocolate ice cream (with sugar, not corn syrup.) My final stall is over and I am 2 pounds from my goal weight.

The thing about the ice cream is this. I finally realized that once a week, or every two weeks, that much sugar is going to take me out of the fat burning mode (ketosis) and it may take 2-3 weeks to get back into it. So, by eating ice cream and going over 50 grams of carbs in one day, I was short-circuiting my weight loss. Keeping the carbs, with ice cream, to under 50 grams a day, apparently keeps me in the mode of using fat as fuel, and I lose the weight.

I was not fat. I was a little overweight and was beginning to feel uncomfortable in my skin. I feel much better now, and I intend to stay within 5 pounds of my goal weight, not less, though, that would be too thin.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because there is a book out that sounds like it may have some useful advice for people out there who are trying to lose weight in a sensible and fairly uncomplicated way. Six Weeks to OMG, Get skinnier than all your friends. He is a trainer who has read a lot of studies and come to some conclusions that are similar to what I've read and put into practice myself. The first review on Amazon is by a physician who was skeptical, but gave it a try and confirmed the research cited, and has lost at least 6 pounds himself.

It's not just diet though. It's life-style. Skipping breakfast, taking cold baths in the morning, drinking black coffee in the morning, watching out for unsuspected carbs in things like broccoli, fruit, and juices. I haven't read it yet, but it sounds very interesting. I may do a review once I've read it. You might want to check it out.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Haiku

A couple of years ago, I given the penance of writing 50 Kaiku related to the Passion of Jesus. This is one of them.

40. gentle springish breeze
little temple lambs a-bleating
Mary, mother, weeps

Selling Things

If you are at all interested in my poetry, my stories, or bead-items, (rosaries or chaplets) come back here and check out the Etsy and eBay links on the sidebar, as well as the Amazon and Lulu links. I plan to sell my own hand-made rosaries, and Eastern Catholic-style beads for reciting the Prayer Rule of St. Pachomius. (More info here.)

Poems Are Coming

I finished editing my book of poetry on Saturday. I want to add some pictures and a table of contents before I publish it. But if you are interested, here is a sample.

The Titan's Embrace

I stood 'neath the diamond-spattered sky
and deeply breathed the cool fall air;
transported by an exhilaration
awakened by the drama of ordinary beauty.
I thrust my arms to the silent twinkling stars
as if to embrace them all
and draw them deep into my heart.

The wind swirled about me,
a myriad of magic spirits dancing,
prancing, teasing, whispering tempting spells
and I felt myself as full of fire,
imbued with the dynamic, driving force
of enduring, newly 'wakened life.

I stood, a mighty titan, on the earth
and touched the white, frozen flames.
Life leapt like lightning from my fingers
and sprayed the galaxies with brilliant splendor.
My heart seemed afire with greatness and power...

and I opened my eyes once more
and gazed with awed joy and admiration
'pon the mystic silver-dusted dark above.
Silent laughter glittered brightly brittle,
casting ageless crystal messages--
that true and glorious greatness
is always and forever born of the Divine.

Friday, July 13, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday # 6

1. Purgatory, that's the word I'm looking for. To describe the recent weather, not hot as hell, but like on the fringes of hell.

2. Also to describe my browser situation. I love Opera. I find it most pleasant to use, fast, it's just great, except: there are websites out there that don't support it for some reason. So, if I want to use Amazon's cloud reader, Opera won't work. If I want to ship packages for eBay or Paypal, problems. Even blogger, while Opera works, I keep getting the annoying message that Opera isn't supported. This isn't a problem with Opera's functionality. It is a question of support. Sites choose to support Firefox and its derivatives, and Explorer, for the most part, but not Opera, for some reason. It is very annoying.UPDATE: I had once tried Maxthon, which I liked, and since this post, I've tried it again, and it is actually quite good. It is most similar to Opera. Quick, with speed dial, which I like very much. And since it uses a couple of different engines, it is recognized by sites that don't like Opera, even the Amazon reader. It may become my new browser.

3. I find Firefox to be slower, and not as nice to use. Seamonkey is a little better in the usage department, but still slow, maybe sometimes a little slower than Firefox. Chrome has security issues that concern me, but there is a more secure version called Iron, even so, I don't think Amazon cloud reader supports Iron! And I don't like having to use two browsers for different purposes.

4. My son Samuel just got back from his Altar Boy camping trip. It sounds like he had a lot of fun. They opted out of visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame for just plain camping, hiking, fishing, hanging out, and acting out very odd-sounding little skits that seemed to involve a lot of "fake" punching, kicking and hitting. But that's boys for you. Hardly anything they do doesn't involve some form of punching, kicking and hitting.

5. He also discovered the joys of the Arcade! I don't know how much time he spent there (I'll have to check with the fathers who chaperoned.) but it sounds like he sort of thinks the nearest Arcade may be the hours away in upstate NY! I'm not in a hurry to disabuse him of that notion.

6. In the meantime, my daughter has been attended a sort of day camp summer school which she has loved, which includes Mass and a couple of little devotions, play of course, and some lessons. She has really enjoyed it.

7. And Sunday we are going to visit friends who live about 45 minutes away who, among other things, keep bees and harvest honey. I'm looking forward to seeing their place.

Have a great weekend, and don't forget to check out Jennifer's quick takes!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Exhortation on Marriage

From The Exhortation on Marriage from the older Catholic Rite: ht to Fr. Z

Henceforth you will belong entirely to each other; you will be one in mind, one in heart, and one in affections. And whatever sacrifices you may hereafter be required to make to preserve this mutual life, always make them generously. Sacrifice is usually difficult and irksome. Only love can make it easy, and perfect love can make it a joy. We are willing to give in proportion as we love. And when love is perfect, the sacrifice is complete.

Something to think about.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Control, Fear and Health

When you look at a guy like Adrian Monk, while you will see a genius in crime detection, you will also see a lonely, self-centered man tormented by fear and a longing for control. So much of his life is about taking control of things such as dirt, and sometimes of other people - well - often of other people.

Watching an episode in the last season last night, I realized that Monk has to eat certain things, in certain ways, on certain days. Even after five years, Sharona can still tell you what Monk ate on a Wednesday and how it was prepared.

We often fear what we cannot control. The future is a big one. What will it be? What will it hold for us? What unknowns (and therefore uncontrolled) lies ahead? So, we worry.

It's funny, because as much as we think we need control, there are many ways in which we give away control, and we end up harming ourselves as a result. One example is over food - we often eat out-of-control, and end up harming ourselves by getting fat, developing diabetes, heart disease, cancer.

For instance, it is known that most cancers feed on sugar. If you reduce sugars you can greatly hamper the growth of cancerous tumors. It has been known for a long time that if you eat a lot of starchy foods, like white bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, starchy snacks, you will gain weight. But we keep eating them, and gaining weight.

Monk's name is perfect for him, because in a way, he lives the self-denial of a monastic monk, but for the wrong reasons, and so his is often a self-centered, lonely life, consumed with fear. The monastic lives self-denial in order to give up control, to submit himself to God, to make himself available to others in love, and so he has no fear.

If we carefully look at the places where we have wrongly given up control (our diet, our media usage) and at the places where we wish to exercise too much control (over others, in our fears, worries and anxieties) we can proceed, with the help of God's grace, to make corrections, and possibly find greater contentedness and less fear, as well as better physical and spiritual health.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What's the point?

This morning on the bus, a man and a woman spent the 40 minutes of our trip discussing roofing, and construction contracting with the state. And at the end of the ride, as I left the bus, I wondered what was the point. It was a conversation, and maybe they enjoyed it. Maybe each of them shared information that the other hadn't known. But I don't think it is going to change anything. I don't think they're better people for the conversation. I don't think the state bid system is going to be improved. It was a little bit like gossip. At best, useless, as worst, hurtful (though in this case, I don't think anyone was hurt, well... I don't know. A couple of specific contractors were mentioned, it could affect whether or not either of them uses those contractors in the future.)

And a short time ago, I read Jennifer Fulwiler's post about her conversation with a gay friend. It seemed like she did a good job, and she got 70 plus comments, most supporting her effort, some not, but in the end, it was sort of like the conversation I overheard on the bus. Sort of, only.

I think part of what is sad is that so many of us aren't all that interested in the truth. Jennifer's friend didn't really seem interested in the truth, only in challenging her on her new Christian beliefs about gay marriage. Some of the commentators seemed similar, coming from their own pro or con starting point.

Spouses can be like that when they get into an argument. The egos, the pride gets all worked up, and it becomes much more about defending or cutting down or challenging or asserting than about the truth.

Many of say we care about the truth. But I don't think we really do. Caring about the truth requires deep humility (and I'm NOT saying I have it.) It requires a willingness to submit the intellect and the will to someone else who demonstrates that he knows the truth, primarily God, and the agents who cooperate to teach his truth. It requires a certain amount of faith, too, and it probably requires a lot more effort and even pain than most of us are willing to put into it. They say the truth hurts, and I think it often does, in one way or another.

When the truth flies in the face of what we want, or what we have, or what we desire, or what we've been doing or saying or thinking, it causes pain, and very often, very many of us are not willing to embrace truth because of what it must do to us, what it must require of us.

In the end, there is Jesus who said an extraordinary thing. He did not say I know the truth, as if it were external to himself, something he found or discovered. He said: "I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life." He said, He, a person, not an idea or a thing, but a person, IS the Truth. He didn't say A truth, as if there were several or many to choose from, but THE Truth.

He is THE Way to THE Truth, the Truth that leads to and gives THE Life.

This statement was in answer to Thomas's query. He said, "Lord, we don't know where you are going. How can we know the way?" If you read the whole passage, you can see that it is really about a relationship more than about doctrine and rules and regulations.

And the right kind of relationship with Jesus, is IN the Spirit and directed toward the Father. It is personal and corporate, it is intense and real, and it has to be ordered properly, in that Jesus, the Father and the Spirit are God, and we are his creatures. Without him we are nothing, and so our relationship must be in utter humility, and based on Love.

Then it's a lot easier to hear and "bear" the truth.

How is this fair?

How is it that Arnold Ziffle has human parents,

and Eb Dawson is always trying to claim some?

Says something about our world.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Words of Wisdom

Harold Hill - on holding onto the dream:
"I always think there's a band, kid"

Bernadette's Sister - justifying theft:
"Wood is wood."

Dorothy - is the grass really greener on the other side?
"A place where there isn't any trouble."

Elizabeth - reluctant love
"I cannot bear to think that he is alive in the world…and thinking ill of me."

And finally, why are squirrels better liked than rats?

Some things to think about.

Friday, July 6, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday #5

1. New Publication - as some of you might know (if you've clicked on the link to my other blog, The Cimmerian Journal) I have a kindle book called "Tales From Cimmeria," a collection of my short weird and unusual stories, most of which touch on issues of faith and hope in some strange fashion.

2. Well, now I am working on a collection of my poetry. It will be called "Love and other Tragedies." I haven't decided whether it will be a Kindle book, or a real book or both, but I hope to have it ready in a month or so.

3. Speaking of poetry, my pastor, every now and then, likes to give me odd penances in confession. Twice, I think, he asked me to write Haiku as a penance, something like 50 Haiku on a parrticular spiritual topic. Which I did. I'll have to look for them and post a sample.

4. Speaking of spiritual topics, my 9-year old daughter occasionally writes little poems and prayers. My wife posted a prayer on her blog the other day. Check it out, it's pretty good. It mysteriously appeared on the printer the other day because after setting up our printer on the network for my wife to use, I printed the prayer to test the printer's link.

5. I discovered an odd thing, a form of "art" called Piccinini animal-human hybrids. I am not going to provide a link because it is disturbing. (You are warned.) But apparently, they are photos created by the Artist, a woman named Piccinini, depicting imaginary hybrids of animals and humans. The little that I saw on Google image previews is enough to determine that there is something fairly sick about this. I'm sure it won't be long (if it isn't already happening) when scientists will do this for real, perhaps to produce organs for transplant into humans. It just goes to show that "art," when divorced from a sense of beauty related to the Creator and source of all beauty, can become quite grotesque. I don't know what the artist's point is, but I'm not sure I want to know.

6. This "art" made me think of a film that I thought was by David Lynch, but I couldn't find any information that seemed to be about the film I was thinking of. It was about a woman who "conceived" children on various parts of her body, but the conception, if I understood correctly, was a manifestation of her negative emotions, anger, hatred. You can imagine where that went. I like some of David Lynch's work, but some of it is a little too much.

6. Does anyone else find it troubling that we just cannot celebrate a holiday on the day it falls anymore? We are so fixed on getting a 3 day weekend, that even when a Holiday like July 4th falls in the middle of the week, we have to celebrate it (in this case with fireworks) on the weekend. I yearn for the days of my childhood when we celebrated Lincon's Birthday, and Washington's birthday on the day on which they happened to fall, before we started the more recent practice of celebrating President's day on the nearest Monday. I'm not fond of this.

7. Speaking of July 4th, we will be celebrating it tomorrow (?) with a party/picnic of parishoners, capped off by the local (to that family's home) fireworks. So, while I'd rather this happen on July Fourth, it's nice to have many members of the parish get together like this. Have a good weekend, and don't forget to check Jennifer's and Branfordgirls 7 Quick Takes!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Virtue and Fruit

From the New Advent Catholic encyclopedia:

The fruits of the Holy Ghost are not habits, permanent qualities, but acts. They cannot, therefore, be confounded with the virtues and the gifts, from which they are distinguished as the effect is from its cause, or the stream from its source.

The charity, patience, mildness, etc., of which the Apostle speaks in this passage, are not then the virtues themselves, but rather their acts or operations; for, however perfect the virtues may be, they cannot be considered as the ultimate effects of grace, being themselves intended, inasmuch as they are active principles, to produce something else, i.e. their acts.

Further, in order that these acts may fully justify their metaphorical name of fruits, they must belong to that class which are performed with ease and pleasure; in other words, the difficulty involved in performing them must disappear in presence of the delight and satisfaction resulting from the good accomplished.

So, this is interesting. If one is patient and mild, for instance, and it is easy to be so, and one finds delight and satisfaction in that patience and mildness, then one has these fruits of the Holy Spirit. I guess that would mean that the virtues are therefore perfected.

In other words, when one practices, acts according to, the virtue of patience with ease and pleasure, one has the fruit of that virtue.

I guess then, when it is still difficult, one does not have a perfect or fully-formed habit of virtue.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

New Old Translations

So, authority has issued the English texts to be used by Anglicans who have returned to full communion with the Catholic Church. Below are two samples from the Rite of Marriage:

During the exchange of consent in the Order for the Celebration of Holy Matrimony, the man says:

I, N, take thee, N, to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse: for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy law; and thereto I plight thee my troth.

During the exchange of rings, the man says:

With this ring I thee wed; with my body I thee worship; and all my worldly goods with thee I share: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

THIS is something to think about.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Discernment of God's Will

Branfordgirl recently wrote that God honors sincere attempts to discern his will, even if we don't exactly hit upon it. I would add that when we do something other than his will through specious, self-centered, misguided reasoning or impatience, then our own choice may end up becoming a means God uses to correct, heal, punish, prepare, redirect, whatever. In some fashion, God can use our bad will (choice) as a corrective measure in whatever way we need it: to point out faults, to illustrate weaknesses, to encourage virtues, as a means to do penance or make reparation.

So, even if we end up, by our own fault (in some fashion) doing something other than God's will, we can still do God's will be accepting with patience the circumstances in which we have found ourselves, with the trials and blessings, that are the consequences of our choice.

It gives a little hope even in the midst of the consequences of our mistakes.

Winning Is Everything...

Unless I'm really unusual, I think most of us have often gotten into arguments or disagreements or perhaps little competitions with a spouse, a friend, a co-worker, a relative, that begin with small things, minor issues, semantics, phrasing, whatever, which end up consuming a lot of time and effort, and perhaps even turn into full-blown fights that are very destructive to the relationship, whatever it is.

We often don't (allow ourselves to) see these disagreements for what they are. We tell ourselves that we must make our point, that it is important, even essential, crucial. Next thing we know, hours, days even have passed, the disagreement has escalated, someone might even be crying, and often we can barely remember the original point we were fighting for. Damage has been done. Sometimes, irreversible damge.

I recently saw a billboard that read: "Wisdom is the foresight to see the consequences."

We need wisdom to ask ourselves: is winning this little point really important enough to risk the harm, or at least the time lost, that will likely be the consequence of this contest? Sometimes, the pride behind the need to win a point is really stupid, and the humility to give it up is the real wisdom.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The "Complexity" of Following Christ

The Gospel for Mass today was about people asking to follow Jesus, and his short, almost dismissive responses.

The priest-celebrant gave a short homily in which he emphasized that basically we sometimes, some of us, choose how we are going to follow Jesus, often doing good things (like certain devotions or emphases) but that the essential thing is to Follow Jesus, which often may mean something we're not doing, something that we don't really "get," something that is way outside of our comfort zone, or "zone of predictability."

For instance (and this is my example) a fairly wealthy 18 year old, contrary to her parents' wishes, goes to Uganda, and ends up adopting six destitute orphans, and has pretty much settled herself down to live there for the rest of her life. She is convinced that God called her to this, and that she has no other choice, in love, but to do it. This was way out of her comfort zone and her zone of predictability, as it would be for most of us. But, there she is, and very happy.

So, my point is this. There are a gazillion devotions to follow. There are trillions of different prayer-forms to use. There are loads of vocations to choose from and live out. There are umpteen bazillion prayer books one can buy, and 42 versions of each to choose from. There are n to the 40th translations of the bible, and yet, none of it matters a whole heck of a lot if we are not following Jesus.

But what does following Jesus really mean? Well, a clue is in the beatitudes. But the real thing is in what Jesus said about his own purpose.

"I came to do the Father's will."

We, like Jesus, need to carefully, honestly, sincerely discern the Father's will, and just do it. Like Katie Davis did - is.

It seems easier said than done, though. (There is a lot of room to screw up or miss the boat.)

Amiability

Amiable and Amiability are words that one used to see often in literature, such as the works of Jane Austen, but not as often in modern literature any more.

At any rate, the dictionary has this about amiable:

1 archaic : pleasing, admirable
2 a : generally agreeable
b : being friendly, sociable, and congenial

And there is a "Code of Amiability" written by Blessed Teresita Gonzalez-Quevedo...

The virtue of amiability results from the fusion of several strong virtues. It is the all things to all men that grows out of charity: the knowledge of self that humility teaches; the pure detachment found in mortification; the meekness born of patience; and the undaunted courage won of perseverance....The Code of Amiability obliges one:

1. To smile until a kindly smile forms readily on one's lips.
2. To repress a sign of impatience at the very start.
3. To add a word of benevolence when giving orders.
4. To reply positively when asked to do a favor.
5. To lend a helping hand to the unfortunate.
6. To please those toward whom one feels repugnance.
7. To study and satisfy the tastes of those with whom one lives.
8. To respect everyone.
9. To avoid complaining.
10. To correct, if one must, with kindness.

Something I'll be thinking about.

Friday, June 29, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday, #4

1. Hard to believe, my son Samuel, is going to turn eleven next week.

(Samuel a couple of years ago)

2. Samuel has an encyclopedic mind. He has voraciously read, over the years, books on mythology from various cultures, magicians, dinosaurs, war, animals, religion, weaponry, knighthood, world records, you name it. And he remembers much of it, in surprising detail.

3. He also has an incredibly facile and flexible imagination, playing and acting out games alone and with his best friend. Usually these games involve improbable wars (he is up to World War XI or XII, I think) somewhat inspired by the game "Call of Duty" which we let him play only sparingly.

4. He and his friend also often act out scenarios involving his society or club called "The Craven Little Cowards" I think this is very loosely based on the "Mysterious Benedict Society" which both my kids love, and which all of us enjoy reading together. We highly recommend the series.

5. Samuel also has had plans to dominate the world with a multinational monolithic corporation called "Jack of All Trades." Even the name is very clever, as he intends to take over all aspects of society, providing products and services that everyone needs, and that no one can refuse!

6. He (like his father) enjoys word play, has a sharp and clever wit, and is developing his sarcasm, which for the most part, is more amusing and mild than cutting. He has yet to develop his father's gift for puns, however, but that is a rare gift, and who knows, maybe it'll come eventually. Sadly, this is not a gift much appreciated by his mother.

7. For the most part, he and his sister, Evangeline, get along very well. They often play together, despite the fact that she's a girl, and about 2 years younger, but I think I see signs that their mutual play is becoming less frequent. It depends on the situation, and the availability of their other friends. I have an ardent hope that, playing together or not, they will always be best friends, and will be loving and supportive to each other throughout their lives. They are both good kids.











Live long and prosper -

(Samuel likes to give me the Vulcan hand signal when he leaves me), and be sure to check out Jennifer's quick takes - and Branfordgirl's - if you haven't already.