Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Welcome Aboard!

We celebrated our son's baptism on Sunday, the Feast of the Holy Family (Picking that date without knowing this feast fell on it brought a broad smile to our faces. I think our guardian angels we're behind it). Now baptism is an amazing thing. Let's check out what the Triple C (Catechism of the Catholic Church) has to say about it: "This sacrament is called Baptism, after the central rite by which it is carried out: to baptize (Greek baptizein) means to "plunge" or "immerse"; the "plunge" into the water symbolizes the catechumen's burial into Christ's death, from which he rises up by resurrection with him, as "a new creature." (CCC, 1214) "This bath is called enlightenment, because those who receive this instruction are enlightened in their understanding . . . ." Having received in Baptism the Word, "the true light that enlightens every man," the person baptized has been "enlightened," he becomes a "son of light," indeed, he becomes "light" himself... Wow, that's grand. "Becomes light himself"... What a goal to reach for, to become all light, to be clear in mind and heart. I'm all over this. Baptism is God's most beautiful and magnificent gift. . . .We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God's Lordship. (CCC, 1216) Very cool. "Sin is buried in the water." We die to live. We die to the old ways, the grasping, the fear, the doubt that has seeped into our very bloodstream because of the fall of our first biological parents right up to our present day parents. The desire to sin will still be there, but the power of it over us is GONE. Death, where is your sting? And the life of God that sin swept out of us comes rushing back in like a warm summer breeze.... an eternal summer breeze, so long as we keep those windows open to receive it. I grew up going to Church hearing about this sacrament all the time. We have our sprinkling rites for the Big People, "to serve as a reminder of our Baptism," as the priest says. (I think he secretly enjoys spraying us in the face with the Holy Sprinkler Thingee, by the way. I know I would). But on Sunday, we got a much stronger reminder of what this all means as we watched our son "get religion." It means he is no longer his own, nor is he "ours." We are stewards merely; he belongs to God. This could be scary depending on your knowledge of Who God Is. But I believe our little one is now in the best place he can be, and the safest place - the State of Grace. The arms of the Father. Some people have issues with infant baptism. "Here you go, placing your child into a faith that they are incapable of freely choosing. You should wait until they can make their own decisions." Well, I think of it this way; if a person has poison in them, shouldn't you give them the antidote as quickly as you can? Is there really a need for dialogue on this? Another thought: Your little boat has struck a rock and you are sinking. You are lost at sea. A Bright Ship has set sail over the waters of time, and God Himself is at the helm. He casts out a set of life preservers (the Sacraments) to draw you into safety, into warmth, and into a community of others who were shipwrecked once too. He wants us all to be safe now on the Bright Ship. I'm on the Ship now. Why should I wait to cast out that first line, Baptism, to rescue him? Why wait until he can "dialogue" about it, or discern if this life preserver is the one for him? There are no others! In this dangerous sea of sin, all that floats about are fakes and failed attempts to save. When the flood came in Noah's day, it was the Ark or the bottom of the sea. We chose baptism for our son. It was an easy decision. As he grows up and finds himself, walking about on the sunny deck of this Bright Ship we call the Church, he will look out at the watery world, and we will be there with him. We will point to the thin line of the horizon and say to him "There is our destination. A Blessed Realm beyond the world's edge." He will feel the salty breeze upon his face and hear the gulls cry, and feel that pine for More within him. He will learn to read the signs, and study the great books and scan the maps. He will explore the many levels of his Ship from the galley to the Crow's Nest, and he will decide whether he will stay on this Bark of Peter's or remain behind on one of our many island excursions. As for us, his parents and godparents, we pray that we will be there for him; guiding, inspiring, exploring, and learning our way right along with him. Welcome aboard son! And may God help you stay the course!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Year in 40 Seconds


One year in 40 seconds from Eirik Solheim on Vimeo.
Time flies, when you piece 12 months together into a 40 second clip. Very nice transition with the sounds of nature and all. So long 2008! Hope 2009 slows down a bit!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dad's Woodwork

My dad has begun a new wood carving hobby, and is creating some beautiful work! Check out this teething ring, carved from maple wood, finished in orange oil and beeswax. Non-toxic, and made in Maine. And our son just took to his Christmas gift like... bees to honey! Here's the link

To Consume or Be Consumed, That is the Question!

What a bizarre time this is; the Christmas season.Never is there a period of such polar opposites as there are at this time of year. All around us we are bombarded with the imperative to consume, collect, gobble, and grasp. There are lines of impatient, honking, beeping, cranky souls snaking through the shops and malls all around us. Incredible pressure is laid on people to find this or that gift for this or that niece or nephew, cousin or coworker. It can bring out the absolute worst in people. I watched a woman in her 50s sitting in her car with her elderly mother curse out a car behind her for honking at her... one honk. And it was one of those friendly little honks too. Grandma just kinda slid deeper into her seat, clutching her purse.Then comes Sunday, and we roll off to Church and hear just the opposite. "It is better to give than to receive" - "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son..." - "wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger." The radio plays as we whiz through the thousands of cars in the parking lot, like vultures looking for an open space... "Away in a manger, no crib for his bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head."We drive home flustered, past little glowing, plastic nativity scenes of a man and a woman kneeling in the snow, gazing down at a little plastic Child. A whole plastic, glowing mob of souls gathers round the Babe; kings and shepherds, the rich and the poor (and occasionally a big plastic Snowman or the Grinch, which is a whole other story). What do we make of all this? What is this all about? Yesterday I was out shopping and trying to stay focused, trying to recall what we are moving towards in these next couple of days. Standing in a massive snake of a line at Borders, with Mr. Cranky Pants on his cell phone behind me, a youth in angst blurting "Merry (expletive) Christmas" to my left, as only a youth in angst can do, I prayed for a great awakening.I prayed it would all vanish and we could all find ourselves kneeling in that cold cave in that backwater town of Bethlehem. Unplugged, unknown, and alone.... looking down at a very poor couple who had to find a place to rest their newborn baby... and the only "space" they could find was a feeding trough for animals in a stable.Scandalous. That would make the news, wouldn't it? Wouldn't that stop us in our tracks? We're told to be good consumers, to boost this failing economy. But this consumption of things will no more help our country than it will satisfy our souls. Someone else has come with a better plan for our salvation. He lays in a manger (the word means "to eat") and he is born in Bethlehem, which means literally "house of bread."And he looks at us all, racing about stuffing our stockings and stuffing our trunks with things. And he says, "Take and eat, take and drink; this is my Body, given up for you." We are invited to consume, to eat and by eating become one with the Love that has become our Food.This is the Love that truly satisfies! This is the Feast of Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Good Stuff

Nothing profound today, just a little laugh from the Mac commercials that literally were the impetus for me to check out their product. I love Mac! From the desktop to the iPhone, the iPod to Apple TV. We're sold. I think I need to dedicate a post a week on "Why I Love Apple." Hmmm.... "Mac Mondays?"

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A New Angle on Moses

After covering our section on Moses and the parting of the Red Sea a few weeks ago, one of my students had a kind of "Far Side" moment and set to drawing out his vision. Click his masterpiece for a full scale picture. Props to you Ryan Fulmer!

Flashback - The Nativity Story: A Review

I know, another flashback episode.... sorry gang! ____________________ From a private screening of the New Line Cinema movie "The Nativity Story." The film chronicles that year in the life of Mary and Joseph that forever altered the course of human history. It's the Christmas story, told beautifully in rich, earthen tones. The journey takes us from a windy garden annunciation of Gabriel to the Holy Birth soaked in starlight, ending with the flight of Mary and Joseph with the Child into Egypt. First Impressions: For me, the real treasures of this film lie in its attention to detail; the humble village of Nazareth is recreated with such evident devotion that this alone makes the film a joy to watch. We are invited to enter into the daily life of Mary, Joseph and their kin. We move with their schedules, we perform their everyday rituals, and it slows us down. These scenes are so rich with authenticity! Mary's coarse cloak, handwoven and weathered, brushing past the wheat; Joseph at his wood-working table, layered with sawdust... each speaks to us of the Divine descent into our time, our work, and our sweat; they pull back the glitter and the lights and show us again the gritty reality of the Incarnation, and the time and place in which God ordained that He would come. The olive press and the crushing of grapes for wine, so deeply foreboding of what lies ahead for Jesus; the gleaning of the grain in the fields hints at a "gift of finest wheat" that will soon come to fill us. The tanning of animal hides, the stirring of goat's milk, the planting of seeds and the tilling of soil. All seemed drenched with light and pregnant with meaning. Another charm of this film is in the intimate interactions of Mary and Joseph. A favorite scene for me was of Mary washing the travel-worn feet of a sleeping Joseph by a rocky stream. Again, a foreshadowing of what their Son will do for His Apostles. So we see in the parents what will come to be in the Child. Oscar Isaac was so refreshing in his portrayal of Joseph, the humble blue collar saint. He gave him a weight, a maturity, and a chivalry that is so desparately needed today. Well acted with convincing emotion, Joseph too makes the movie a must see. There are well placed pieces of humor, of the most innocent kind. The music is stirring, with subtle hints at the classic Christmas hymns and melodies we all know so well. They are woven almost seemlessly into the score and we smiled when we caught them. The cave that served as the birthplace of the God made Flesh was an open invitation to prayer, and that was almost tangible as we sat in the theater. The Nativity Story has its limitations, as all our works of art do. The opening scenes were a little too Peter Jackson-esque. Joachim and Ann seemed a little cranky most of the time. And Mary was overly distant, almost stoic at times. But who could ever come close to conveying the emotion and the love of the Immaculate Virgin anyway? Overall, I found myself thanking God for the gift of this movie. The timing is just right, in more ways than one. ____________________________________ For videos of the making of the film click here!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Flashback Episode: The ICLAs are Coming! The ICLAs are coming!

(Originally posted in December 2006.) Well friends, Christmas fever has once again gripped the nation, and it's hotter than a string of big bulbed Christmas lights from the 70's! I think you'll agree with me in noting that THIS Christmas is going to be bigger, bolder, and brassier than ever! Why? Because of INFLATABLE CHRISTMAS LAWN ART!! (The aforementioned oddities will hitherto be referred to as ICLA's) Now I don't know if the ICLA's have invaded neighborhoods west of the Mississippi yet, or even across the sea (any reports?) but let me tell YOU.... they are crawling all over the mid-eastern seaboard. Maybe they came from Sweden? IKEA? ICLA? Whatever the case may be, these massive Christmas mutants are taking over! Picture Godzilla with a wreath around his neck! Big, puffy pieces of plastic in yuletide shapes. We've got Santas, Frostys, Elves, and Reindeer.... even the Grinch gets a spot on the lawn! Sure, they seem kinda cute, but don't be fooled America! Remember the story of the Trojan Horse! Some of these Christmas creatures are bigger than the houses they are "decorating." I'm not kidding. I saw one peeking into the third story of a south Philly rowhome, and he looked HUNGRY. Thankfully ICLA's can easily be unplugged, or tackled by a 9 year old (which is hilarious to watch). But imagine if these things were intelligent! Think about it, America, for two seconds! Now this is just my conspiracy theory; it's one among thousands, granted. But I believe the ICLA's are actually filled with a mind-altering gas that has been created by none other than the BIGGIEMAN! (click for previous post on America's most fiendish foe!) That's right! Unbeknownst to the Jones', their "front yard Frosty" is really puffed up with a deadly toxin that seeps out into the neighborhood, hypnotizing us all into thinking that BIGGER is always better. What happens next? Open your eyes America! Do you remember these gargantuan Grinchs five years ago? Were there any super-sized Santas on your street even four years ago? And look at us now. I feel like a hobbit sometimes just walking to the deli. And some of these ICLA's, especially the reindeer, their eyes just seem to follow you! IT'S DOWNRIGHT CREEPY! Here's My Battle Plan... Let's form a resistance movement! We'll call ourselves the POPCIOWAMWOODs! (which of course stands for People Only Putting Candles In Our Windows And Maybe Wreaths On Our Doors). We'll show that BIGGIEMAN! Bigger is sometimes better, but smaller and simpler is best. After all, that's how He came into the world, isn't it?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On Babies by G.K. Chesterton

(from the essay "In Defence of Baby Worship" from THE DEFENDANT. 1903.) The two facts which attract almost every normal person to children are, first, that they are very serious, and secondly, that they are in consequence very happy. . . The most unfathomable schools and sages have never attained to the gravity which dwells in the eyes of a baby of three months old. It is the gravity of astonishment at the universe, and astonishment at the universe is not mysticism, but a transcendent common sense. The fascination of children lies in this: that with each of them all things are remade, and the universe is put again upon its trial. As we walk the streets and see below us those delightful bulbous heads, three times too big for the body, which mark these human mushrooms, we ought always to remember that within every one of these heads there is a new universe, as new as it was on the seventh day of creation. In each of those orbs there is a new system of stars, new grass, new cities, a new sea. . . . If we could see the stars as a child sees them, we should need no other apocalypse. . . We may scale the heavens and find new stars innumerable, but there is still the new star we have not found - [the one] on which we were born. But the influence of children goes further than its first trifling effort of remaking heaven and earth. It forces us actually to remodel our conduct in accordance with this revloutionary theory of the marvellousness of all things. We do actually treat talking in children as marvellous, walking in children as marvellous, common intelligence in children as marvellous. . . [and] that attitude towards children is right. It is our attitude towards grown up people that is wrong. . .

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Joyness

"Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil. May the God of peace make you perfectly holy.... spirit, soul, and body..." - 1 Thessalonians 5:16... I believe joy should be the undercurrent in the soul of every Christian. That's what this third Sunday of Advent is about, and so it's traditionally called "Rejoice" Sunday (Gaudete). After all, compared to the horrific death of Jesus on Calvary, to the crucifixion of Love Himself at the hands of His creatures, is there any sorrow that cannot be undone? So our crosses all combine and meet and meld into One at Calvary, and this is communion. And then they are buried in the earth, break open in the darkness and then push, pine, and blossom forth in the Spring into something holy beyond our wildest dreams. And this is redemption! The joy it births is evangelization.... "Joy is a net of love by which we catch souls." - Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Again, everything that happened to Jesus must happen to us. And didn't He say that He came to give us joy, and joy in abundance? So rejoice always. Mind the words of St. Paul to the Thessalonians. He was a realist, not an idealist, and he himself knew sorrow, and beatings, abandonment, imprisonment, rejection, and hunger. And in them he rejoiced for what was to come. Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him! Rejoice! In the words of the French sculptor Rodin "The victory of Truth is certain."

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Who's Your Daddy?

Our son loves to laugh and smile, but just when we think it's our funny faces or noises that are the cause of it, we're given cause to think again. He's like the ent named Quickbeam from The Lord of the Rings; it's simple things that stir up joy in him; the pattern on a couch cushion, a light fixture, a sneeze, a toot (of course, those are funny even if you're 90). These are the things that make him laugh and smile. The reality is, he has no clue who we are.... at least not yet. Unknown hands pick him up to carry him. Food comes right to his tiny mouth just when he needs it. He can barely see things that are just a few feet away from him. He's wrapped, rocked, cleaned, comforted, and cuddled by a love unknown to him. I was thinking the other day as I was feeding the wee lad, it's the same thing with us and God. So often, we have no clue just how close this Heavenly Father is to us.... just when and where He is comforting, cuddling, cleaning and caring for us. Even when, in our tears and cries, He seems absent, He's just a few feet away, and only our undeveloped vision keeps us from seeing Him. This fatherhood thing is doing wonders for the prayer life. I can see in our love and care for this beautiful baby boy and for his unborn sister Grace, a tiny glimmer of the love of God for us. I wonder if that too was part of His plan?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue

Lovely Lady dressed in blue Teach me how to pray! God was just your little boy, Tell me what to say! Did you lift Him up, sometimes, Gently on your knee? Did you sing to Him the way Mother does to me? Did you hold His hand at night? Did you ever try telling stories of the world? O! And did He cry? Do you really think He cares If I tell Him things little things that happen? And do the Angels' wings make a noise? And can He hear me if I speak low? Does He understand me now? Tell me, for you know. Lovely Lady dressed in blue Teach me how to pray! God was just your little boy, And you know the way. - Mary Dixon Thayer This prayer-poem was made famous in the 1950s by Bishop Fulton Sheen. Let's sing it from the heart today on this great feast of Mary's Immaculate Conception!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Wait Watchers

Waiting. Some of us just can't stand it. We can't wait in a line, on a phone, or for a table without getting our cranky pants on. You've seen it yourself, I'm sure. "I need it now and you're not facilitating my needs fast enough!" Black Friday was as black as ever this past week when an angry mob's impatience led to the death of a Walmart employee. Death... in a department store. Hordes of people trampled over a man and killed him in a reckless pursuit of things. May God forgive us, and bring peace to his soul and his family! This waiting, however, is absolutely critical to the Christian way of life. Advent begins our whole Liturgical Year as Catholics with a call to patient waiting. It's a period of watchfulness for Christians across the planet. This holy expectancy is at the very heart of a believer. It's name is Hope, and if Hope is not filling the cavern of the soul, then a person tries filling it, in vain, with something else. But no thing can fill us like Hope. It is not a waiting is not in order to clutch and grasp at a thing the moment our turn is up, but to receive the gift of a Person, like a sunrise fills the eyes of a sentinel at the start of the new day. So what will be our posture, our attitude, our position this Advent? Will it be restless with activity (probably at some point), or will rest dominate these weeks? Will we be a churning sea of whitecaps and swells of impatience, or a quiet pool that reflects the sky? In the quiet things are seen more clearly. I know I can be restless, not just in this time but in all my daily work. Thank God for our newborn baby boy, who by his very existence has caused me to put the brakes on more often. He gives me cause to waste time, to simply be with him for an hour, or two, or three; just gazing at each other, smiling, sleeping, nestling in my arms. What a meditation he has afforded us this Advent! We must all become as the little children, utterly dependent on the Father in Whose arms we are invited to rest and receive. And just to hammer it home, I'm building another devotion into my Advent schedule: the Friday Fast. It will become my Desert Day. I will be "unplugging" myself each Friday of this season - no blogging, internet, iPhone, radio, iPod, TV.... nuthin'. I'll only use technology for teaching and of course, the cell is on for emergencies at home. Anybody game for this? I could use a little team support! May this holy time be a fruitful time for us all! He is coming, may He find us watchful and waiting, preparing our hearts, sweeping then clean, warm, open and ready for His Abundant Love to come down and to be born in the Bethlehem of our hearts.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Let's Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

No matter how you slice it, Thanksgiving is an awesome holiday. First
off, it was strategically placed by our pilgrim ancestors on a
Thursday, which was brilliant. It means we ALWAYS get a four day
weekend. That's right! It's not like one of those "floating" holidays,
where you so often get stiffed; like Christmas on a Monday.

The other thing is, Thanksgiving involves large portions of food,
which is a thing everyone I have ever met is deeply interested in.
I've never met anyone who said to me, "Food? Never touch the stuff."

Finally, Thanksgiving is about family, and family is foundational.
Your family is the launch pad from which you blast off, the
springboard which you leap off of, sailing out into the Big Wide World.

Families are like seedbeds, little gardens wherein we start to grow.
They come in a million different varieties, shapes and sizes, but each
hold the same fundamental responsibility; to care for and to cultivate
the beauty of life.

So let us cherish the vocation and the vacation that this Thanksgiving
is all about. And in the midst of it all, let us eat, drink, and be
merry!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

King Me!

On Sunday, the Church celebrated the Feast of Christ the King. Now at first glance you might be thinking.... Wow, what an outdated concept! How completely irrelevant to my life and to talk at the water cooler on Monday. "Hey Bob, what you'd do this weekend?" "We celebrated the Feast of Christ the King." "The King? Huh... Sounds kinda medieval, Bob. When are you Catholics gonna wake up and smell the 21st century?" Then you hang your head and slink back to your little patch of serfdom behind some flimsy beige partition and think, "yeah, that does sound totally medieval." I mean come on.... this is America! We're a democracy! We don't want some archaic flashback to a time of fairy tales, princesses, dragons, and kings! Right? I mean WE the People! After all, we know what's best! Look around: isn't it working out perfectly in this new City of Man, this Brave New World? Finally, there's peace and justice for all! In the immortal words of Laverne and Shirley, "Give us any chance, we'll take it. Give us any rule, we'll break it. We're gonna make our dreams come true. Doin' it our way." Yeah, right. Truth is, the naive dreams of "our way" have hit the cold, hard highway and turned into a nightmare.... now we're singing "Welcome to the Jungle." Why can't we get it right? Because we're incapable of fixing ourselves. There's a disorientation within each of us that can only be reoriented by the Maker of our hearts. And doesn't that make sense? We didn't create ourselves, so how can we complete ourselves? We don't have a clue. We're unruly. We need a Ruler. But instead of humbly admitting this truth, we grab the "reigns" from the rightful King and we don't even know how to steer this carriage. It's as if Cinderella decided to make a hard left and skip out on the Royal Ball, settling instead for a "happy meal" at McDonald's. But this King has a much better meal prepared for us! I suppose the trap for "we the people" is a fear that the King will become a Tyrant (wasn't this the twisted lie of the Serpent right from the beginning of our story, in the Garden of Eden?) Granted, earthly manifestations of kings have clearly transformed into just that over the millenia. It's quite logical to want to rebel when your monarch becomes a monster. But here's the thing: Jesus isn't a monster. Jesus isn't a king who will sit on a golden throne waving an iron mace. Jesus came as a poor man wearing His Heart on His sleeve. Jesus is not a King who will crush and kill your freedom. He comes to be crushed and killed Himself, to give us all true freedom! When Matthew closes off his gospel, he points us to the Face of the True King, and it is a Face that we never expected. "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me." My King is a hungry, thirsty, broken man. My King is a King of Pain. He directs my eyes into the shadows and into the wounded places of the human condition so that I can learn compassion and love. He is not faraway in a polished palace but deep in the slums, among the "rabble." At the end of the day, governors govern, administrators administrate, and presidents preside, but always seemingly from a distance. I need a King close at hand to rule over me, to set my heart right again. A Ruler by which to measure my love. And I find it all in Christ my King, Who is not afraid to walk among the least of my brothers. In fact that is what He has become for me. For it is who I am... "The guest of our soul knows our misery; He comes to find an empty tent within us - that is all He asks." - St. Therese of Lisieux

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fatherhood

"Become who you were born to be."

 I've always loved this line, taken from a scene in Peter Jackson's film "The Return of the King." In a darkened tent where the army of Rohan encamps on the side of a mountain, Elrond speaks a word of challenge and invitation to Aragorn. He is the descendant of a royal line who has for too long wandered and waited for his vocation to be actualized.

In this scene, the Ranger from the North takes up his forefather's sword and takes hold once and for all of his high calling. He rises with a new name, Elessar, and a new mission. Since the adoption of our son last month, I've been feeling the weight of a call; of a new vocation. I think something was activated in me just a few weeks ago, something that has perhaps lain dormant until now, like a seed that was planted but never cracked open until God knocked on the thin shell of my heart and whispered "Let there be life."

It's the glowing ember of fatherhood, which was nearly snuffed out in these past years of trial, of purification and waiting. But now it's stirred by the breath of the Spirit and the gift of this adoption. In our sad experiences of miscarriage and loss, and in the midst of our unborn baby's condition in the womb, I have always felt this vocation growing. Our prayer for a miracle for Baby Grace continues, but it's as if in this time I were looking through a clouded glass, slightly removed, distant in a sense from this new act of "fathering." I know in my heart I am a father, but until now I've been standing in this "Waiting Room," pacing about, back and forth.

A mother's vocation seems to be woven and spun so early, as the little ones are knit together in the womb. For a father, the world is like a second womb; he must wait to receive the new life in its second stage. (I think our Heavenly Father waits at the world's end to receive us all. And what a happy, expectant Father He is! I wonder if God is pacing the halls of Heaven overjoyed for that moment when we are born into the Light of that Unending Day! Maybe all of the angels get cigars when someone enters Paradise?)

Right now, a child sleeps just feet away from me. Unbelievable. My vocation has made its "quantum leap"... has passed a test and is being given a new one. I feel this inspired instinct, this primal proclivity to guard and protect, to sacrifice and to serve my family at a new and deeper level than before. It's amazing! And I can see the design here, the plan of God that allows us massive opportunities for grace. Life is meant to be, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, an "an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God." It can begin in the self-gift of marriage, and continue for a couple in the gift of children.

 Thank God for this plan, the plan of fatherhood and motherhood, of self-gift and self-emptying love! Like the vocation to celibate love, to spiritual fatherhood and motherhood in the priesthood and religious life, the vocation of marriage allows us to break free of the bonds of self-gratifying gravity and into the Great Wide Open of Selfless Love. It is this kind of love that makes the world go 'round, and that builds a culture of life and love. May we all become what we were born to be!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Twisted Mystics is Here!

Truth and Beauty flow into us from many streams, sometimes cool and clear, sometimes muddy and blurred. One of the tasks of the New Evangelization is to step into the waters of our times and discover what streams lead to the Ocean of Truth, and which lead to a waterfall of self-destruction. Our new blog, Twisted Mystics, is an attempt to filter through and find in the music of our culture the longing for that Infinite Love that every human heart longs for. We'll sing the songs of our culture with the voice of the Theology of the Body! Please pop in for a visit, and pass it on! Visit Twisted Mystics here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Starved for Beauty Part 2

NOTE:
This is a flashback episode, as just this morning I discovered the clip referred to in Shawshank Redemption on YouTube! Enjoy...

How often have you found yourself out at a movie or watching the television, perhaps just flipping through channels in the hopes of finding "something good," and you actually find it?

Does it grab you? Is it like a new power descending and lifting you up... a fragrance you once knew and loved returning and flooding your mind? For me, it seems so often I stumble through the media with boots on, wading through the equivalent of sewage, and then fresh water comes in like a stream from the mountains. And I know I've found the Good Stuff...

Shawshank Redemption is good stuff. It's the film based on a Stephen King novella (he sold the movie rights for $1 to writer/director Frank Darabont): a heart-wrenching work with themes of endurance in the midst of suffering, hoping against hope, and the heart's yearning for beauty and freedom.

There's a scene I love where Andy Dufresne, the falsely accused prisoner, sneaks into the warden's office and blasts a Mozart aria on the record player. He sets it in front of the microphone so that the music pours through the loudspeakers, soaring over the prison like the hymn of angels. The tough, grey-faced men in the yard all lift up their heads and listen, as innocent and open again as children. For so long they have been in darkness, now a light from some "undiscovered country" dawns.

Morgan Freeman plays the character Red, a kind of narrator throughout the movie. He remembers the scene: "I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are better left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful it can't be expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a grey place dares to dream. It was as if some beautiful bird had flapped into our drab little cage and made these walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free."



We know beauty when we see it, hear it, taste or touch it. We are made for beauty, and beauty is clean, pure, and good. Beauty is a gift. It's really what the human heart craves more than anything. I firmly believe that deep down, in this culture so full of noise and distraction, greed and grasping, madness and materialism, we all pine for the fresh water of Beauty to wash over us. And it's out there, in a million different places. As the Bible says, "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." Like little birds we can turn to our Lord and let Him feed us.

Pope Benedict just published his letter for the 41st World Communications Day. In it he said "Beauty, a kind of mirror of the divine, inspires and vivifies young hearts and minds, while ugliness and coarseness have a depressing impact on attitudes and behaviour... Media education should be positive. Children exposed to what is aesthetically and morally excellent are helped to develop appreciation, prudence and the skills of discernment."

He continues; "Any trend to produce programs and products - including animated films and video games - which in the name of entertainment exalt violence and portray anti-social behaviour or the trivialization of human sexuality is a perversion, all the more repulsive when these programs are directed at children and adolescents..."

Above all, God wants to give us beauty, truth, and goodness. He is the very fullness of all three! And the Church desires to share with us a vision of human dignity! We are made for eternity, and for housing within us eternal truths! Like a mother, the Church knows what is best for us and she lays out a table of rich food and drink; this banquet of beauty, truth, and goodness is the meal that will really satisfy us! Much (by no means all) of what the media culture has been offering us is junk food, fast food. Let's try and shut down the pipes that are pouring the wrong stuff into our nice, clean living rooms. Let's turn to the rich and ever-growing, overflowing streams of Beauty that are coming from so many directions; art, music, poetry, prayer. What a rich history we have in the Church! Looking to Her, we never need to go hungry.

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Looking for that aria that was played in Shawshank Redemption?
Here is the opera in it's entirety.
And here's the single aria on iTunes.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Answering the New Atheism with Ben Wiker

Are You Able to Answer the Arguments of an Atheist? In this week's radio show, I interviewed Dr. Ben Wiker, co-author with Dr. Scott Hahn of a new book that hears and answers the arguments put forth in evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins' best selling book The God Delusion. Benjamin Wiker received his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University, and has taught at Marquette University, St. Mary’s University, Thomas Aquinas College, and Franciscan University. A senior fellow with the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and with Discovery Institute, he is now a full-time writer. He lives in rural Ohio with his beloved wife and children, and an ever-increasing number of a moderately useful but always entertaining animals. To learn more about Wiker's books, click here. For information on interviews and speaking engagements, click here. From his website: Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins’ Case Against God cuts through the shoddy reasoning, logical blunders, and factual errors that populate Richard Dawkins’ best-selling book The God Delusion. Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker provide readers with sharp logic and clear reasoning, exposing the muddle-headed thinking behind Dawkins’ veneer of intellectual rigor. Along the way, Hahn and Wiker offer a cogent and convincing argument for God’s existence. "Rarely, if ever, in my many years as a professor of philosophy did I ever have the opportunity to read such a compelling argument." - Antony Flew, Author of There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind The podcast of my interview with Ben is available here. For a video interview of the authors discussing this book, click here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Frivolity is Frivolous

OK, there are plenty of important things we should be focusing on these days; life, death, taxes, the economy, what's for dinner..... this I realize. But at the same time, in the immortal words of St. Thomas Aquinas, "there must be time for frivolity" (at least I hope that was Aquinas, since I've been getting plenty of mileage off of this quote for some time now). And so, I bring you, on this Tuesday evening in the year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Eight.... one of the coolest a capella tributes to the movie music of John Williams using lines from the original Star Wars movies that I've ever heard. Well, it's actually the only one I've ever heard. And that's a good thing.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Forest for the Trees

The other day at school, one of the theology teachers was trying to determine an answer on a crossword puzzle that his students were given in class. The question was “What is the fundamental norm of Christian morality and the fullness of the law.” The answer had 5 letters, the second to the last letter was "u." _ _ _ u _ Now there were a few of us in the department hanging around St. Rita's before class, and we all puzzled over it. We laughed, because no one could figure it out. A combined mass of Masters degrees in Philosophy, Systematic Theology, Church History, etc. Clueless! How the heck are the kids gonna get this if we can't? This got me thinking about how often we scramble and scratch and work incessantly to get an answer for the blank spaces in life. And we feel so limited. It's just a couple of blanks! How could we not guess the answer? Why won't this word fit, or this one? The book must be wrong. It's a typo. It's impossible! I think all of the questions we have ultimately have one Answer, but we think it can't possibly be that simple. And yet it is. The answer was Jesus. Ouch.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Stranger in a Strange Land

I'm packing my bags. This is going to be a way of sorrows. A long walk through a valley of death. We have just elected, as a people, the most abortion-minded politician in decades. "The first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That's the first thing that I'd do." - Barack Obama, speaking to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, July 17, 2007 The Freedom of Choice Act? What's that all about? Healing the economic crisis, bringing peace to the war in the Middle East? Finding solutions to issues like immigration or health care? No, it's about destroying our unborn children, America's future generations. Is this the change you wanted America? From the National Committee for Human Life Amendment: The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) ... is a radical bill. It creates a “fundamental right” to abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy. No governmental body at any level would be able to “deny or interfere with” this right, or to “discriminate” against the exercise of this right “in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information.” For the first time, abortion would become an entitlement the government must condone and promote.

FOCA would go well beyond the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in imposing an extreme abortion regimen on our country. No other piece of legislation would have such a destructive impact on society’s ability to limit or regulate abortion. It would eliminate a broad range of laws - informed consent laws; parental involvement laws; laws promoting maternal health; abortion clinic regulations; government programs and facilities that pay for or promote childbirth and other health care without subsidizing abortion; conscience protection laws; laws prohibiting a particular abortion procedure (e.g., partial birth abortion); laws requiring that abortions only be performed by a licensed physician; and so on. For a careful legal analysis of FOCA by the USCCB’s Office of General Counsel, see: www.nchla.org/docdisplay.asp?ID=190. A summary fact sheet for general distribution can be found at: www.nchla.org/docdisplay.asp?ID=194

In a September 19 letter to Members of Congress, Cardinal Justin Rigali, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, raised grave concerns about any possible consideration of FOCA. The Cardinal declared: “We can’t reduce abortions by promoting abortion.” He urged all Senators and Representatives “to pledge their opposition to FOCA.” For full text of the letter, see: www.usccb.org/prolife/FOCArigaliltr.pdf.

Recommended Actions: Contact your U.S. Representative and two U.S. Senators by FAX letter, e-mail, or phone. Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202.224.3121; or call Members’ local offices. Full contact info can be found on Members of Congress’s web sites, at: www.senate.gov and www.house.gov

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Song for Grace Elizabeth

Anyone who knows my wife Rebecca knows her gift for music. This is a song she composed for our unborn daughter, Grace Elizabeth, diagnosed with a terminal condition and not expected to live outside of the womb. The first image is of Grace and her siblings at the embryonic level, just prior to their transfer through the miracle of embryo adoption (click here for the original post of our story). Only Grace survived, and for this and for our time with her to date, we are eternally grateful. As we near an election that could spell hope or doom for the most vulnerable among us, the unborn, may this music stir our hearts into a true and lasting love for human life. Thank you all for your continued prayers! "Everything is a grace." - St. Therese of Lisieux

Fr. Barron on the Film "Religulous"

Fr. Robert Barron is the Bishop Sheen of the new millennium. He has a prolific presence on YouTube, podcasts on iTunes, and is now on location filming a mammoth series called The Catholicism Project on the history of the Catholic Faith, sure to be a media treasure when it comes to sharing what Catholics really believe. I'll be interviewing Fr. Barron this Tuesday, November 4, on the radio show, 5 to 6pm EST on www.catholicinternetradio.com

Friday, October 31, 2008

Abomination

A couple of nights ago, while our beautiful baby boy slept in mommy's arms after a good dose of formula, Rebecca and I caught a few minutes of a documentary on PBS. It was on terrorism and the Taliban. It's a mad world, isn't it? There are wicked things that take root in men's hearts and blossom in chaotic acts of violence. There are eyes blinded by hate that do not see. There are hands clenched in rage that will not receive. There are swords in the minds of many that want only to cut and to desecrate with their ideologies. For them, human life is cheap. People are means to an end; either obstacles or opportunities in a process they think will end as a good for them; for their agenda, their cause, their country. But that approach never works, because people are not means to an end but ends in themselves. "The reason for the world... you and I" in the words of The Riddle, a favorite song of mine. But the TV told otherwise, and the sanctity of humanlife was again desecrated. In the warmth of our home, deeply disturbing images flashed on the screen. Women stoned for not wearing a full burka, a man tortured and killed for drinking alcohol, mutilated bodies, explosions and burned out cars. Buildings were caved in and carved out, looking like open mouths, screaming. Desert landscapes were filled with throngs of bearded men, waving guns, chanting and burning flags. And then I looked back to our newly adopted son, breathing softly in Rebecca's arms. In the essay The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis said "Next to the Blessed Sacrament Itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses." These words should be sounded from the rooftops. Now that we have a little boy in our midst, and Grace in the tabernacle of Rebecca's womb, I am touched more so than ever before by the breathtaking beauty of human life, and by its fragility. "Behold, you are worth more than many sparrows" was Our Lord's tongue in cheek way of saying that we are... priceless; worth more than our weight in gold, more that the weight of the whole created universe. Your hairs are counted, your fingerprints are yours alone, you and only you are making the choices of your everyday life every day. And you have been ransomed from destruction and death and decay by the passion of a loving God. Thank God we see things differently here in America than these sadly misguided terrorists. Thank God we honor every one as a unique expression on the Face of God, that we cherish every human life because in every human heart the Spirit of the Living God lives and moves and gives us being. Then again... In the next few days, reflect on the sad truth that we have our own abominations, seemingly neater and cleaner than the images on the TV. With surgical precision, the horrors of abortion are nipped and tucked away from the eyes of most Americans. And yet, 50 million lives have been abruptly and most violently ended by abortion since 1973 in these "United" States. God, save us from this abomination. "A country that murders its own children has no future." - Pope John Paul II

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Just a Moment

So we've had a wee bairn in the house for sometime now. That's Scottish for "little one." And after five years, cries fill the house, and we are singing 80's songs put to new words, like "We've been waiting... for a boy like you... to come into our lives... yeah waiting, for a boy like you, to make us feel alive..." And then we tag team bottle time, and snuggle time, and we gaze into the little pools of this other little person's eyes.... and we see they are "impregnated with distance" in the words of C.S. Lewis; his eyes are full of light and of a future full of walks in deep woods and sword fights and drawing maps of Grandpa's land in Maine, of leaping from cliffs into cold water, and singing the Clancy Brothers songs, and a host of other adventures. Sure, the weight of glory that's been set upon our hearts with him is beyond measure. What greater thing is there in the world than to be given stewardship over one of His little ones? We have fallen head over heels in love with this squishy wee babe. Thank You God.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Unbelievable

There is weeping in the night; but joy comes in the morning. - Psalm 30 All's been quiet on the blog front for a while now. Today, I'm ready to tell you why! Rebecca and I wanted to say a quick thank you for the continued prayers and support for Baby Grace. She is now at 25 weeks in the womb and kicking more and more (or "dancing" as I like to say). There has been no apparent change as yet with her condition of acrania. Please keep praying through Pope John Paul II for a miracle; we believe it can happen. On another note, unconnected but providentially related to our story with Grace... we have been given a different kind of miracle, and you may from the picture have already guessed it! We have been chosen to adopt a BEAUTIFUL BABY BOY! It's been a real whirlwind of finding out about him, praying about it, deciding, and then being chosen. It all happened in a period of just about three days! When God cooks up a miracle, sometimes He just pops it in the microwave. So, what are feeling right now? Peace, joy, love…. The fruits of the Spirit, and that's been a good sign for my wife and I that we made the right choice in opening the door of our hearts and our home to him, even in the midst of our via dolorosa with Grace. There was no fear or feeling of not being prepared, or anxiety. We gave our YES and a YES was given back! He's come like a ray of light into this fog of uncertainty with Grace, and I think he's the reason his little sister is dancing in the womb! Like a little Simon he's helping us carry this Cross, just by being who he is. Because of the nature of this private adoption, and because it’s still in process, there are a few things I think I should keep from print, simply because of its sensitive nature. One amazing thing I will mention is that his given name from the birth mother can be translated as “appointed one.” For my wife and I, waiting years for the gift of children, this was a pretty amazing sign! He’s unlocked a new level in the adventure of our lives; he’s given us new names too. For five years Rebecca and I have been husband and wife… now we are mommy and daddy. It’s all a grace, everything is a grace! And every day, we will pray for grace to be the best parents we can be. The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from every face. - Isaiah 25

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fr. Frank Pavone Interview - Priests for Life

My guest on the radio tonight was Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director for Priests for Life. "... started in 1991 to do one of the most important tasks in the Church today . . . to help priests around the world spread the Gospel of Life to their people. The ministry of the priest is demanding. The priest presents to the world truths that are difficult to grasp. The priest confronts injustices in the world, which are often deeply entrenched in the attitudes and laws of society. Priests must be steadfast in calling for the protection of life at every stage, in exposing the myths surrounding abortion and euthanasia, and in working with others to provide compassionate alternatives." The podcast can be found by clicking here! GREAT RESOURCES! Fr. Pavone's Blog Voter Guide on Key Issues What Abortion Is Rachel's Vineyard CatholicVote.com

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Jesus Loves Me

A famous Catholic theologian, whose name escapes me right now, was once asked about the most profound thought he had ever had. He said it was simply "Jesus loves me."Isn't it crazy to consider that in the whole visible creation, you are the most priceless work of art to him? Even when we take the brush of self-determination he's given us and deface this work of God, smearing the paint of pride in garrish colors across the canvas of our lives, the Master still sees the good in us, and our potential for reaching our purpose: finding our home in his heart again. I think the Father sees with "Jesus-colored glasses." I think from the beginning He knew that Jesus would be that bridge for us, that "human face of God" so that we could remember the "Divine face of man." St. Paul says this was always the plan, that in the fullness of time, all things be summed up in Christ, brought to completion, recapitulated! The Father always knew that our Ring of Power and self-absorbtion would be broken, undone, and remade into a Cross with beams that could reach out to all the world (thanks Peter Kreeft for that analogy!)Jesus loves me. Not like my aunt or my grandpa, or Sr. Nativitas from grade school (that brief year or two in Catholic school, and I still remember her name!) Jesus loves me with a wild fire in his eyes, with a burning torch atop his sacred heart. His love is a blazing inferno! What a tragedy that he is pictured as an anemic, pasty "nice man" in so many insipid cartoons and films today. Scripture and human experience have painted him quite differently - a Lion, an Earthquake, a Hound of Heaven, a Thief, a King, Hunter, Husband, a Living Flame of Love. I am nearly 40 years old now, and I am just starting to see the real Jesus. It's a bit scary to be loved this much. It's actually shocking. I sit there in my chair drinking coffee every morning, reading those gospel stories, and sometimes the thought comes like a blast of wind through the old dusty alleyways of my mind; Jesus loves me. And I sometimes get the sense that he is knocking on more doors than just one. That since I let him in back at the age of 15 or so, he's been exploring other rooms, deeper levels of me than I ever knew I had. St. Theresa of Avila spoke of these rooms in our "interior castles." Jesus comes to love us in every one of them, and always as a gentlemen; he knocks first. I think this love then, elicits our response. Will I let him in? And how far? Let's go beyond the foyer, past the pews of our Sunday "obligation"... Right into the tabernacle of His Presence among us! Into that heart of fire!Let's ask ourselves: Where is he knocking today? What door can I open to this God of love?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Smelling the Seasons.... Again

FALL FLASHBACK There's much afoot at the Donaghy homestead these days, and my time for writing is a bit scarce. I hope you'll pardon this rerun from the fall of 2006, when I was just a baby blogger. Peace! ______________

I don't know where you are, reading this right now. But right now, in southeastern Pennsylvania, USA, the leaves are beginning to lose their grip, the wind is breathing cooler, and the earth smells soooo good. We have a cycle of seasons; they rise and fall from spring to winter like the very lives we live. And every season is a chance for us to taste again the sweetness and the sorrow, to pass through ourselves a life in miniature; to hear again that "still sad music of humanity." From the green fire of a youthful spring, to the ripe joys of summer, and into the contemplative colors of fall... we prepare ourselves for the quiet sleep of winter. I love the fall most of all. The very air has such a richness to it; the leaves are burning in a last shout of glory, and their earthy incense is a melancholic fragrance. It draws us into our past. The burnt gold of the evening horizon, the red-rimmed maple trees, the barren branches with their hundred tiny fingers, stretching out into space, stark against a deep night sky. For me, there is something ancient in this season, something somber. And yet pointing towards a promise, even through the cloak of brown leaves and misty mornings.


 Tomorrow, I'll begin again a journey through my favorite book, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. That journey begins in the autumn of Middle-Earth, a season and a place that Tolkien says is our own, just deeper into the pages of history than can be remembered. The time is a sad one; the Elves are moving through the Old Forest. And with them something of the magic of the world, the ancient ways, the high poetry is leaving too. They are moving towards the Grey Havens, singing hymns of Elbereth and Earendil, leaving Middle-Earth forever. As I sit on the shores of this new millennium, just beginning, and look back at the 20th century and so many gone before it, I see much that once was has been forgotten. In our noise and haste, lessons are left unread and unlearned. In my own life, and the cycle of its seasons, how many times have I forgotten the wisdom that came through the Woods. Through the leaves that rustled with Truth, the Beauty that came to me in every Sun rising. But what lies ahead is the journey. For the Elves, and for the Fellowship of the Ring as they begin their heroic walk, the journey is one of hope. A hope "beyond all memory." A hope that what is evil in the world can finally be overcome. A hope that Good can prevail, and the ancient wisdom, the Music that made the world can be played in all it's fullness. Let the journey begin!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Believing in Beauty

Three weekends ago, Rebecca and I took a wee stroll through Swarthmore College's campus. I had done a radio interview there with Gen Life educator Matt Chominski (check out the Podcast!) and he led me to discover its hidden beauty; an arboretum, pleasant walking paths, exotic plants and trees, and some classic architecture. So as Rebecca and I strolled about, our eyes fell on a number of treasures; one being the red fire that's leaping out of this ground fern. It's been said that one of the proofs for God's existence, and there are many, lies in things that are beautiful. Augustine told us centuries ago to question the beauty of the earth, and said hear its answer; "Behold, we are beautiful." Their beauty, he said, was their confession of the Beautiful One Who fashioned them. As Fall falls around us in crisp blankets of air, and wraps us in warmer clothes, and stirs up our hearts in clouds of colored leaves, lets take time to chill. To drink in these treasures. For Beauty abounds for the eyes to see!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A Francis Flashback

Today's the Feast Day of one of the greatest saints of all time! St. Francis of Assisi! Because the fall gets so busy balancing family time, teaching, talks, and lots o' grading, this will be the first of possibly a few flashback posts (nice for new readers, hopefully fun for faithful readers!). I have to step back a wee bit from writing fresh posts. This is a little poem from last year: You were small once, Wrapped in medieval mists playful, magnetic of mind and heart, even then. Little Francis. You grew through joy and magnanimous heart, casting off riches for rich feasts for friends. And you laughed, at fate, at fear, at the fretting of the too too serious adults. Francis, Then you fell. Your happy world crumbled with the piercing glance of a beggar, poor and broken. Drawn by his magnetic mind and heart, into his deep pool of poverty. Francis, he captured you. And the nothingness of his poverty captivated you. The emptiness of air and water and wind filled your hungry heart. And the purse with holes was full. And the nakedness warmed you. And the derision and the mockery of the spoiled was like the praise and spoils of victory for you, little Francis. Then you again, magnetic of mind and heart, as you always were by nature, were by grace perfected.... And you drew others into deep pools of poverty. And still we are drawn, because of you little Francis. Whose eyes looked into the piercing glance of a Beggar, Poor and Broken, Who cast riches aside, of Divinity and Power, of stars and worlds unseen, and stripped, descended, dwelt among us, a Poor Little God on a bed of straw. Drawn by His magnetic mind and heart, we too feel drawn to see... Riches in His poverty.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

We Are Not Alone

Think of the time and energy and the amount of funding that's been poured into the SETI program every year (that's the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). Think of the fascination, the Sehnsucht, we've all felt at one point in life or another when watching a film like E.T. or Close Encounters or even Star Wars... Haven't we all cried out to the "universe" at some point in life in the words of that classic James Ingram/Linda Ronstadt song "Somewhere out there, someone's saying a prayer, that we'll find one another.... in that big Somewhere... out there." (I'm really hoping you sang as you read that last line, and I hope it sticks in your head all day. Great song.) There's a deep seated desire in many of us to seek friends in high places, to ascertain whether or not we are alone in this universe. They say there's no desire (outside the twisted kind) that does not have its object somewhere to satiate it. It makes sense for us to look up and wonder about the presence of "higher" life forms. After all, when we look down we see myriads of life forms; a plethora of pulsating polycellular organisms. Millions of species in countless shapes and sizes. So who are we to say that above us in the Great Chain of Being there are not also countless species? To this question and this quest, the Church says there is an answer; Angels. They are real, they are here, but not in the same way we are here. They are our true Big Brothers. Well, not brothers (or sisters) ultimately; they are not embodied as we humans. They are as high above the biological realm, male and female, as we are above single-celled organisms; higher actually. Haven't you sensed them in your life? Perhaps in more innocent moments, when you were "fresh from the waters of Baptism" or alone in a wood or by the sea. They love to come to us when our guard is down, when we've slipped off the cynicism of the world and are more open, more vulnerable, more.... receptive. But here is where we need wisdom and a truly informed mind. For just as Angels are spiritual persons (having free will, like we human persons) so they too can manipulate and dominate to an evil end. They are free to serve or to enslave others, just like us. Today we celebrate the Guardian Angels, the Loyal Ones, whose choice was to love and serve God. It is to these holy spirits that we should entrust ourselves more and more, just as they have been entrusted by God to us. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” (Matthew 18) In these days of so many popular, faceless "spiritualities" we need more than ever the protection of God's Angels. And our thoughts should often turn to them. The Guardian Angel prayer should be whispered every day. And this prayed faithfully so that in the end, when the moment of eternity dawns, we might find ourselves safe and carried to Heaven in their care. I'll close with the final letter of C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters. It shows the veil pulled back, as a "senior devil" reveals his consternation and despair as another human soul slips through his fingers, thanks to the Guardian Angels: Screwtape to his nephew devil, Wormwood: "As he saw you, he also saw Them. I know how it was. You reeled back dizzy and blinded, more hurt by them than he had ever been by bombs. The degradation of it!—that this thing of earth and slime (that's us!) could stand upright and converse with spirits before whom you, a spirit, could only cower. Perhaps you had hoped that the awe and strangeness of it would dash his joy. But that is the cursed thing; the gods are strange to mortal eyes, and yet they are not strange. He had no faintest conception till that very hour of how they would look, and even doubted their existence. But when he saw them he knew that he had always known them and realised what part each one of them had played at many an hour in his life when he had supposed himself alone, so that now he could say to them, one by one, not "Who are you?" but "So it was you all the time."

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Less is More and More is Less

Jesus needs neither books nor Doctors of Divinity in order to instruct souls; He, the Doctor of Doctors, He teaches without noise of words. - St. Therese of Lisieux It's been said that the less you talk, the more people will listen to you. The simpler your life becomes, the richer your life will be. The one who humbles himself will be exalted, and the one who loses his life will save it. These are the paradoxes that are woven throughout Christianity like golden threads. Paradoxes, mind you, not contradictions. In matters of science, no two objects can occupy the same place at the same time. In matters of logic, the principle of non-contradiction says a thing cannot both be and not be at the same time. But in matters of faith, well.... that's another matter altogether. Here nature meets the supernatural. In matters of faith, God can become Man, Big can become Little, a Virgin can become a Mother, and a little French girl who died at the young age of 24 and never traveled to the missions can become the Patroness of the Missions. This "simple" girl became a Doctor of the Church, whose writings bring us great peace, even as she spoke above of the noise of too many words. The bottom line is, her less became more because she gave it to Jesus. Something magical happens in his hands when we turn over our five loaves and two fish. When we hand over our talents, our little treasures, our weaknesses, even our sins. Especially our sins. He takes and makes less MORE. He breaks and remakes everything! He purifies and multiplies and he is the only one who can truly turn our stones into bread (whereas the Devil can only turn our bread into stones). God is the magnifier of our souls. So let us turn our gaze to this simple young woman today; Therese, our big-hearted little sister. Let's read carefully the prescription this Doctor of the Church has given us, and ask her for that antidote to the poison of selfish power in the world today - her Little Way, that has made her such a Big Saint. Everything is a grace, everything is the direct effect of our Father's love - difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul's miseries, her burdens, her needs - everything, because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness. Everything is a grace because everything is God's gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events - to the heart that loves, all is well. Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you - for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart... The guest of our soul knows our misery; He comes to find an empty tent within us - that is all He asks. - St. Therese of Lisieux

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Trouble with Angels

Throughout human history, in our philosophy and in our cosmology (or worldview), the pendulum of our place in the cosmos has swung back and forth again and again. Are we the crown of creation or are we just "trousered apes?" In our tinkering with the inner and outer worlds that we find ourselves swimming in, we are often ennobled and belittled all at once. The great Shakespeare summed it up well: "What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?" (Hamlet, Act V, scene ii) And of course, the Bible encapsulates the enigma even better: "What is man that you should care for him? You have made him little less than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, putting all things under his feet" (Psalm 8) The perennial question remains for each of us as to where our destiny lies. Are we angels or are we animals? The singer-songwriter John Gorka once sang "We are dust that was made in stars, now we roll off to work in cars. When we were young we spilled our dreams in bars. Now we clean up the mess." I think the answer as to our place in the universe is, scandalously, up to you and me. You see, we alone in this wonderful cosmos can choose chaos. We can be sacred or profane, holy or horrible. No other created reality, stars, dogs, planets, buttercups, can choose it's identity. But we can. I think this freaks us out. I've been reading an amazing book for the past few months (that's my style, a couple pages at a time). It's called the Philosophy of Tolkien by my hands down favorite author, Dr. Peter Kreeft. He took me through a whirlwind of deep thoughts by positing this idea that we, as free persons made in God's image have the power (because of our freedom) to maim or to manifest that image; to distort or declare it. At the end of the day, I think we are afraid of this great task that God has laid upon us; the challenge of living up to our own dignity. We seem today to be shrinking away from it, from our worth as human beings. God has "put all things under our feet," and all we are concerned about is leaving our "carbon footprint." Wake up, people of the earth. "Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows." (Luke 12:7) And this brings us to today's Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. They are clarion calls to us, trumpet blasts from the Realms of the Infinite. Their mission it is to "trouble" the waters of our complacency, to stir us up, to remind us that there are indeed "more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies." (thanks again Mr. Shakespeare). Are we angels or are we animals? Neither. We are men and women, a unique bridge in the visible universe that opens up into an invisible world. So today we should take a long look below us at the plethora of animals and a deep look into Heaven at the myriads of angels. We should rise to the occasion and take our assigned seats in God's plan; to be voices of praise lifting up created reality, and hearts made for eternity that will someday swim in God.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

St. Michael Defend Us in Battle

PRAYER TO SAINT MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen. I've posted the following snippets from Dr. Peter Kreeft before, but on this eve of the Feast of the Archangels, I just can't resist a rerun! The Twelve Most Important Things to Know About Angels 1. They really exist. Not just in our minds, or our myths, or our symbols, or our culture. They are as real as your dog, or your sister, or electricity. 2. They’re present, right here, right now, right next to you, reading these words with you. 3. They’re not cute, cuddly, comfortable, chummy, or "cool." They are fearsome and formidable. They are huge. They are warriors. 4. They are the real "extra-terrestrials", the real "Super-men", the ultimate aliens. Their powers are far beyond those of all fictional creatures. 5. They are more brilliant minds than Einstein. 6. They can literally move the heavens and the earth if God permits them. 7. There are also evil angels, fallen angels, demons, or devils. These too are not myths. Demon possessions, and exorcisms, are real. 8. Angels are aware of you, even though you can’t usually see or hear them. But you can communicate with them. You can talk to them without even speaking. 9. You really do have your very own "guardian angel." Everybody does. 10. Angels often come disguised. "Do not neglect hospitality, for some have entertained angels unawares" — that’s a warning from life’s oldest and best instruction manual. 11. We are on a protected part of a great battlefield between angels and devils, extending to eternity. 12. Angels are sentinels standing at the crossroads where life meets death. They work especially at moments of crisis, at the brink of disaster — for bodies, for souls, and for nations. __________________________________________________________ For more fantastic spiritual reading from Peter Kreeft, visit his excellent website at www.peterkreeft.com

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