Saturday, June 9, 2012

Diminishing persons

We often have ways of diminishing others; sometimes we don't even realize we are doing it. There are subtle ways of exalting ourselves at someone else's expense, even by the tone of our voice, by our attitude, by minimizing something they've done, or what they think or feel, or by making too much of our own thoughts, feelings and actions. I think the Charity of Christ obligates us to be ever more aware of the ways in which we may needlessly, heedlessly hurt another.

Friday, June 8, 2012

A True Leader

Saint Louis IX, king of France, who died after his, I believe, second crusade, was a model leader. He heard Mass every day, at least once. The poor and sick ate with him at table. He bathed the feet of the poor on Holy Thursday. He established a court of justice which enabled the ordinary person to have his grievances heard. He was frequently out and about within his kingdom, not partying it up hidden in his castle. He was a man concerned for justice, for the poor, for the glory of God, who was accessible to his people. He worked for peace amongst other rulers. Truly a saint and truly a model of leadership.

7 Quick Takes Friday



1. It has been raining here in Western Massachusetts for days and days. My lawn looks like something from the Amazon basin.

2. On top of it, we have an apparently egg-bound chicken, or something that looks like egg-bound. So, this chicken has been soaked in very warm water (by me) and cuddled in a warm towel (by my wife) for the last few days. One shell-less egg has passed, but that was days ago.

3. At the moment, the sun is weakly shining. According to my wife, as soon as she steps onto the sidewalk to take a walk, it will begin raining. She thinks a rogue dark cloud has it in for her.

4. It was a bit of a mob at my office Thursday morning. All of our employees who carry cellphones were being switched to a new carrier because of a sudden and ongoing depreciation in reception quality. The old carrier was surprisingly unresponsive to complaints. It was a real mystery to me.

5. Ok, now I don't get this. In summertime, usually if it rains (which I would say is 100% humidity) it feels cold. When it stops raining, and the humidity is, say 80-90%, it feels hot and sticky, even if the temperature is about the same.

6. Don't you love the feeling the sheets have when it has been raining or very humid? That almost-wet feeling?

7. I was wondering the other day about the relative sizes of muffins between past and present. I want to go to an antique shop and find old muffin tins and compare them to modern tins, or compare muffin recipes in old cookbooks with recipes in modern cookbooks. I have a feeling that muffins have about doubled in size. What you get in the store bakery, or at Dunkin Donuts is enormous.

Well, that's food for thought! Deep thought. So, go forth and think.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

God's irrepressible love

We must never let others, or circumstances, ever give us the idea that we are not entitled to enjoy, rejoice in, bathe in, be immersed in the beauty and goodness that God has spread around us - in big ways and in little ways, from the song of a bird, to the majesty of the sky, to the vast expanses of mountains, plains and seas. It is all for us, all for me, all for you, to direct our gaze and our love to the source of it all, the font of all beauty and love, God himself.

What makes a man?

Last night I watched the old Film Noir, Dillinger, which portrayed him as an intelligent, but very violent man, with a complete disregard for human life. Wikipedia portrays him as a little less violent.

But I found myself asking, why does a man end up on such a course of violent crime?

Reading over the brief summary of his childhood, I found nothing unusual that hundreds of other boys of the era didn't also experience. I don't believe in a genetic predisposition to crime.

I come back to my old belief: It's about the choices we make. Once we set off on a course, oriented by an initial choice, the next choice is somewhat predetermined by the first. I don't mean that we lose free will because of our choices, but that our choices often tend to give a certain weight to the next choice and series of choices. Sometimes it becomes really difficult to break out of a pattern or habit.

This is why it is so important for parents to help their children form good habits and make good choices. This is why it is so important to repent immediately of our sins, and to pray for guidance and grace, especially when trying to form choices. This is why it is so important to be wary of types of companions and other occasions of sin.

Something to think about.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Divorce

Just read elsewhere about a family's experience with divorce. Not many details at all. But details are not needed.

Divorce sucks. God hates divorce.

Sometimes, divorce seems very necessary. Most of the time, it probably is not necessary. We won't go there.

The most important thing is to be very prayerful, very discerning, very much open to and seeking God's will and guidance when choosing a spouse.

Marrying for God's reasons, marrying to do God's will, marrying with God's guidance and consent, greatly reduces the "need" for divorce.

What does God want?

Purity of Motive.

Branfordgirl wrote a post about failure, and its implications in the spiritual life. I left a comment to this effect:

God wants to eradicate the imperfect motive. As long as we are disappointed by “failure” or happy about success, that is a sign that some part of our motive retains the desire for approval, appreciation, some sign of success. When we are indifferent to the reactions of others, then that is a sign that our motive may be pure.

It is supposed to be about pleasing God, not ourselves, not others – and God, who can do all things with or without us, doesn’t care about success. He cares about our motive, and that should be: doing all for love of Him.

I worry about myself and others who either are disappointed by apparent failure, happy about apparent success, and who then go on to think that failure is a sign of God's predilection, and success a sign that he has abandoned us.

I think the far more important concern is purity of motive: indifference to success or failure, simply to have the desire to do all, and to do one's best, all for the love of God.

I am sure that Branfordgirl's underlying meaning, and that of writer Jean Petite, is the development of purity of motive, and not really a preference for failure.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What Would Jesus Do?

Jesus did not encounter every possible life-situation while on earth. It is hard to make his actions a concrete model for our own actions. Would Jesus walk or ride a bike? How can we know? There were no bikes at the time. He rode an ass. But would he ride a bike? The ass was to fulfill prophecy. There are no prophecies about bicycles in the bible.

Or is it just a matter of guiding principles? Jesus did and taught this, therefore, that would be wrong.

Jesus warned against the accumulation of wealth. Do non-essentials constitute wealth, and therefore, should they be avoided? If so, then bicycles might be verboten.

He never seemed to be in a hurry, perfectly happy to walk everywhere. Therefore bicycles and super-fast trains might be forbidden.

No, there has to be something deeper within our reasoning. We can't always know what Jesus would do, so perhaps we have to look at our motivations, as he revealed his. Why do I want to ride a bicycle? Why did he choose to ride an ass?

Jesus said his motivation was to "do his Father's will."

Do I ride a bike solely for my own reasons, or because on some level I sincerely perceive it to be the Father's will?

Ultimately, perhaps we have to find the Father's will in everything we choose. If we can't, we may have to work on modifying our intentions.

I suspect it isn't enough to simply change the words, "I'm doing this because ___. " We have to work to change our hearts about what we do and why.

Something to think about.

Goals

Should we have goals?

Well, on some level, goals may impede inspiration. I mean real inspiration, like vocation, like a genuine call from God to do/be/say something.

But if we are fixated on a goal we have set for ourself, we may not hear the inspiration, or worse, we may not obey it.

Because it may intrude on our goal. In an obvious situation, a man does not become a priest because he is dead-set on his goal to become a high-paid corporate manager. He keeps on brushing off the irritating "feeling" that he ought to give it all up and enter seminary.

There are easily many less obvious, less dramatic examples, daily choices we make, choices we avoid because of goals we have set for ourselves.

"Thy will be done, thy kingdom come."

That ought to be the first goal of every day, every new year, every life, at the head of any list of goals.

Don't get me started on bucket lists!

More on Jokes

EC Stoddard suggested that the difference between jokes and the opera is that one has a pretty good idea what to expect of the opera, whereas jokes often take us by surprise. We might be less inclined to give our consent to the "story of the joke" if we knew where it was going.

That may be so. Though I wonder about those who saw The Marriage of Figaro for the first time, or for that matter, those who heard Beethoven's Ninth Symphony for the first time. I'm sure they didn't know what to expect, and some were probably shocked, in their own ways, by what they heard and saw, and some might not have given their consent had they been forewarned.

Of course, a good joke, like a good opera, or a good symphony, is just as good each time you hear it.

Language is about communication. Communication is more than the conveying of facts: it is about ideas, persons, incomprehensibles. The joke about the adulterer who forgot where he left his bicycle is just as much about his hypocrisy as it is about the surprise of "where he left his bike." It is about human nature, human weakness. We laugh at ourselves, even as we are shocked by our sins.

We just need to be careful that we don't intend to trivialize weakness and sin.

Gifts

Maybe it is a mistake to regard as gifts only those things that are generally considered in a positive light: the ability to write a story or a poem, the ability to play a musical instrument, the capacity to understand physics, the ability to run fast, the ability to paint or teach, etc. Mere life is a gift, the fact of existence. That being true, then every element of life ought to be a gift: illness, sorrow, pain, hardship, making mistakes, being the victim of mistakes. We call these trials, or evils, and we generally don't regard them as gifts. However, viewed as gifts, they can easily become the means to perfection, they can be conduits of grace. I think that is the intention.

Monday, June 4, 2012

More on Magnanimity

Doesn't it make sense that the magnanimous man is generous with his giftedness? I mean, the "great man" will know that he is "great" and the Christian "great man" will know that his "greatness" is a gift from God. God is generous with his gifts, and the gifted Christian probably believes he ought also to be generous with what he has received. In other words, God is the original source of magnanimity, and all magnanimity derives from his magnanimity. By the same token, if God gives, and loses nothing in the giving, the magnanimous man, who gives of the abundance that he has received, also loses nothing.

God's magnanimity will not be outdone...

Magnanimity

from the Catholic Encyclopedia - The magnanimous man is described (by Aristotle) as one who, being really worthy of great things, holds himself worthy of them. For he who holds himself thus worthy beyond his real deserts is a fool, and no man possessed of any virtue whatsoever can ever be a fool or show want of understanding. He, on the other hand who holds himself worthy of less than his merits is little-minded, no matter whether the merits which he thus underrates be great, or moderate, or small.
I thought magnanimity is great generosity. But...
St. Thomas accepts his (Aristotle's) teaching concerning this virtue, but, to prevent it becoming pride, he tempers it with the doctrine of Christian humility. Christian doctrine joins all that is true and noble in Aristotle's description of magnanimity with what revelation and experience alike teach us concerning human frailty and sinfulness. The result is the sweetness, the truth, and the strength of the highest Christian character.
and...
With incredible energy, constancy, and utter forgetfulness of self, he works wonders without apparent means. If honours are bestowed on him he knows how to accept them and refer them to God if it be for His service. Otherwise he despises them as he does riches, and prefers to be poor and despised with Him Who was meek and humble of heart.
Finally, Merriam-Webster...
the quality of being magnanimous : loftiness of spirit enabling one to bear trouble calmly, to disdain meanness and pettiness, and to display a noble generosity.
Something to think about.