Friday Five – Volume 90

This week I’m going to be short and I’m going to be blunt as it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving and I’ve got a lot on my plate, none of which involves shopping. I hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving. I also hope that while you were listing off your litanies of persons and things that you are grateful for, you also remembered to express your gratitude in thanksgiving to the One responsible for those blessings.

Friday Five-Mere Observations

— 1 —

Two of my favorite blogs are written by young ladies who just seem to nail whatever they are writing about each and every time. I’m talking about Paige over at The Nice Thing About Strangers and Bryanna at Having Decided to Stay. I read something by each of them this morning that I wanted to build upon.

Bryanna wrote about her efforts to go twenty-one days without complaining or arguing. She wonders

why it’s so easy to tear things down and so much harder to stack them up. Why are the grim words the ones that draw laughter and why do we flock about the funny instead of crowding in around the kind? Why does mutual irritation bring strangers together when we all know it’s this very bitterness that’s bound to take us apart?

Before quoting a passage from scripture she includes one of the funniest little videos I’ve seen recently.

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights… (Philippians 2:14-15)

It’s a worthy goal for this Advent which is of course a time of preparation for Christmas. What better way of preparing ourselves for the miracle of God entering His Creation than by continuing our “attitude of gratitude” and checking our complaining natures at the door?

Paige’s post this morning wrapped it all up in a bow for me when she quoted Fernando Pessoa:

Life is what we make of it. Travel is the traveler. What we see isn’t what we see but what we are.

Amen to that. Well done ladies.

— 2 —

Though if I’m going to complain in the coming weeks I’m pretty sure it would be about the Elf on a Shelf.

elf on shelf santa

— 3 —

I realize that I wrote a few days ago of how I wouldn’t offer an opinion on the events that have unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri, and I intend to honor that. However after watching a video posted by Vic Maggio that showed a courageous young lady, small and unarmed, standing up to huge and brutish thugs who have come to loot the Papa John’s.

As I watched her I had a thought: This is courage defined.

As the video went on to show other scenes of looting I had another thought: This is cowardice defined.

I take no pleasure in saying this. In fact it broke my heart to watch those scenes and to have that thought come to mind. I didn’t just hurt for the business-owners and their losses. I hurt for those who have been reduced to believe that this is their only recourse. And I grow angry when I know that it does not have to be that way at all.

I will admit right here that I’ve had to resist the urge to grow prideful and smug about the fact that my oldest son has chosen the path he has through the Marine Corps and military service. He has chosen a hard road. One of discipline, courage and honor. As I watch so many 18-26 year olds wander aimlessly through their lives I begin to think that mandatory military service is not such a bad idea after all. Let’s just say that I’m willing to consider and even debate it now.

There is something to be said for discipline, a virtue that is not only lost in our culture these days but discouraged. It comes in many forms, including the military, but where I’ve chosen to employ it is in my life of faith.

There is a school in Newark, New Jersey, that is helping young wayward men learn to apply discipline their lives. St. Benedict’s Prep was founded in the 19th century and

Decades later, St. Benedict’s is still there, and its recent history is a remarkable story of educational success under extraordinarily challenging circumstances. The Rule, a documentary by Marylou and Jerome Bongiorno opening this Friday in New York and next week in Los Angeles, recounts the improbable tale of priests and brothers living under a nearly 1,500-year-old monastic code, and the Newark kids whose lives they have transformed.

This film opened in September 2014 and is one I hope to see one day.

I will also take a moment to plug the little book that has guided Benedictines for fifteen hundred years and the one that is employed at St. Benedict’s Prep. The Rule of St. Benedict is short and to the point and is available online.

As this films trailer points out The Rule teaches counselling, history, adaptability, commitment, hope, connectedness, trust, leadership, community, perseverance, spirituality and stability.

I see none of these in Ferguson.

The obstacles to the school’s success are formidable. As the documentary makes clear — its camera insinuating itself into the daily interactions between the monks and secular staff on one hand, and the students on the other — the priority of getting an education sometimes takes a back seat to simple survival for St. Benedict’s boys. Some come to the school angry at the world, haunted by memories of living in motels or moving from relative to relative, lacking fathers, and surrounded by violence. Sometimes they don’t know what’s expected of them because no one has ever told them. In one scene, St. Benedict’s headmaster and guiding spirit, Father Edwin Leahy, counsels a young man on the verge of failing out; the boy’s mother explains his chaotic behavior outside of school, including shuttling among various relatives, as his way of having “fun.” In an exchange that I doubt you’d hear in any contemporary guidance counselor’s office, Father Edwin asks the kid, “Who told you you’re supposed to have fun? Everybody else has to work their behinds off so you can have fun?”

I urge you to read more about St. Benedict’s Prep as I did here.

In one of the film’s final scenes, a counselor defines the school’s aims and goals more broadly.

“How do I measure success?” he asks. “You’re able to graduate St. Benedict’s, have a mortgage, deal with your marriage, deal with your family, stick it out. How do I measure success? I got a father working with his son, in his son’s life.”

— 4 —

Random thought I pecked out on my iPhone and saved to the Notes app a few weeks ago.

Most people worship something – God, State or Self.

Someone who utterly rejects the idea of any sort of higher power generally comes to the conclusion that Man is the ultimate development of evolution.

With that in mind, they conclude that they are “superior” to believers of any sort because of their “rejection of superstition”, i.e., they are just inherently smarter than everyone else. Because science.

Someone with these two standards tends to move on to the third: I must make everyone see how superior I am and then make them acknowledge my fitness to rule by virtue of that superiority.

It’s an extension of the basic progressive conceit of being “the smartest guy in the room”.

And it can have equally deadly consequences.

Indeed it has had deadly consequences throughout history, as the twentieth century so recently showed us with genocide after genocide being committed in the name of the secular state.

We will never know how many acts of cowardice have been motivated by the fear of not seeming sufficiently progressive. – Charles Péguy

— 5 —

The Reddit user Cabbagetroll recently posted this incredible TL;DR (= too long; didn’t read) version of the Bible. Fabulous! Hat tip to ChurchPop.

: All right, you two, don’t do the one thing. Other than that, have fun.
Adam & Eve: Okay.
Satan: You should do the thing.
Adam & Eve: Okay.
God: What happened!?
Adam & Eve: We did the thing.
God: Guys.

: You are my people, and you should not do the things.
People: We won’t do the things.
God: Good.
People: We did the things.
God: Guys.

: I am the Son of God, and even though you have done the things, the Father and I still love you and want you to live. Don’t do the things anymore.
Healed people
: Okay! Thank you!
Other people
: We’ve never seen him do the things, but he probably does the things when no one is looking.
: I have never done the things.
Other people
: We’re going to put you on trial for doing the things.
: Did you do the things?
: No.
: He didn’t do the things.
Other people
: Kill him anyway.
: Okay.
: Guys.

: We did the things.
: Jesus still loves you, and because you love Him, you have to stop doing the things.
: Okay.

: We did the things again.
: Guys.

John: When Jesus comes back, there will be no more people who do the things. In the meantime, stop doing the things.

No one asked for my opinion about Ferguson. Nor should they.

opinionbuttonNo one asked for my opinion on the events in Ferguson, Missouri. I am not going of offer it. There’s more than enough of that going around. Believe me when I say that it’s tempting and I’ve considered it more than I should. But Robert Louis Stevenson once said “When the teeth are shut the tongue is at home.” Based upon what I’ve seen over the past twenty-four  plus hours there are a lot of homeless tongues on the loose.

Instead I’m going to share what I read while praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament at the Adoration Convent of Christ the King chapel. One of the best parts about my recent change in employment has been the ability afforded me to visit the chapel of the Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration, or “the pink sisters” as they are more affectionately known around these parts. With one child away at boot camp, a new business venture that launched successfully on Friday, and Thanksgiving and Advent a few days away, there is much to pray about and be thankful for. Yes, there is also much unrest occurring around us that also warrants our attention and our prayers.

But not my opinion.

So with Ferguson on my mind among other things I knelt in prayer while reading a meditation on Gifts, which I share below.

The meditation contains a call for our response more than once. It asks that we forward the gift we have received on to others. To mankind. To pass along our peace. While on my knees in that pew I decided to do precisely that and create this post.

And then God, as He always does, got in the last word.

After meditating on the gifts in my own life for awhile my thoughts turned to the civil unrest in our own country while I opened my breviary to pray the Office of Readings from today’s Liturgy of the Hours. As will happen, God answered my questions within the first reading from the psalter.

So I won’t offer my opinion on these things. God gave me His instead.


Our Greatest Gifts Are Not Visible

Lord, I want to thank You for the greatest gifts You have given us, and for making me aware of them. I have also discovered that Your greatest gifts cannot even be seen. They are invisible. How can you see faith, trust, forgiveness, or a soul, or eternity?

We often picture a gift as only something tangible, and how it fits into our world, our standard of living. It often has material value. We are in the realm of clothes and comfort, automobiles and television sets, vacations and money. And even if a gift is not something of material value, we place a value on it because of the sentiment attached—a photograph, or even a hug perhaps.

I guess all gifts do have some importance, Lord. And they all command some sort of response. If we accept a gift, isn’t there an obligation on our part to do something with it? If we accept the gift, doesn’t that require some sort of response or action on our part?

Your greatest gifts to us, Lord, seem beyond human understanding—the creation of a soul—a new life that has the capacity to reach paradise, to spend eternity with You. Trust, forgiveness, love. They are not tangible things. They can’t be handed over in a gift-wrapped package, or purchased at a store. The world cannot manufacture trust, nor pull love from a computer program. Your love and mercy for us cannot be perceived by our eyes, or handed to us in a box. Heaven cannot be purchased by anyone and then given to another as a gift. Our greatest emotions, our greatest joys, our faith and trust in You and Your love for us, are the most precious gifts we can obtain. They are not material, tangible things. They cannot be seen. All we see are the results. Cause and effect are not the same. We can see the results of love, forgiveness, mercy, trust, and most certainly, faith. But can we see the cause? Can we see the soul? The conscience? And yet, they are ours.

We have accepted those gifts, Lord. Doesn’t it require a response on our part? How do we respond for gifts that we could never acquire on our own, that are not earned or even deserved? How do we respond to the greatest gift ever given—Your dying that we might have eternal life? Yet, we have not seen You.

The gifts themselves cannot be seen. But the effects can. Can we not respond by showing the results of those gifts, Lord? By passing them on? By showing love and forgiveness? By showing You our faith and trust in You, and sharing it with others? Can we not extend peace to mankind? Can we not tell them where we got it?

From An Hour With Jesus: Volume II.


From The Office of Readings for November 25, 2014 – The Liturgy of the Hours

Psalm 37

Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not envy those who do evil:
for they wither quickly like grass
and fade like the green of the fields.

If you trust in the Lord and do good,
then you will live in the land and be secure.
If you find your delight in the Lord,
he will grant your heart’s desire.

Commit your life to the Lord,
trust in him and he will act,
so that your justice breaks forth like the light,
your cause like the noon-day sun.

Be still before the Lord and wait in patience;
do not fret at the man who prospers;
a man who makes evil plots
to bring down the needy and the poor.

Calm your anger and forget your rage;
do not fret, it only leads to evil.
For those who do evil shall perish;
the patient shall inherit the land.

A little longer—and the wicked shall have gone.
Look at his place, he is not there.
But the humble shall own the land
and enjoy the fullness of peace.


You proclaimed the poor to be blessed, Lord Jesus, for the kingdom of heaven is given to them. Fill us generously with your gifts. Teach us to put our trust in the Father and to seek his kingdom first of all rather than imitate the powerful and envy the rich. – Psalm-prayer, Office of Readings for Nov. 25.

Another Rule of the Road

going it alone

To pick up where I left off yesterday, another rule of the Road is that during your journey many will join you, and many will fall away. Indeed you yourself are one of those people for someone else as they make their own journey.

My wife’s aunt died last night after a battle with breast cancer. She and her husband Ray had one child, a daughter who graduated from high school this past spring. Mandi and her dad will now continue their journey, minus the companionship of their beloved wife and mom.

During their ascent up the stairs at Cirith Ungol and into Mordor, it occurs to Sam that the tale he and Frodo have been put in is not a thing isolated from the past, but is instead the continuation of a tale that began long ago in the First Age of Middle Earth:

“Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on. Don’t the great tales ever end?”

“No, they never end as tales,” said Frodo. “But the people in them come, and go when their part’s ended. Our part will end later—or sooner.”

(The Lord of the Rings, Book IV, Chapter viii.)

Only God can see the whole picture and every detail within the picture at the same time. As for us on our journey we must learn to trust the Lord of the Road. One of the ways I’ve learned to do that is by praying the Divine Office each day when I can. Each day as part of Morning Prayer (Lauds) we pray the Canticle of Zechariah from Luke’s gospel. Near the end of this piece of Scripture is this passage:

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Buoyed by these words I am able to continue my walk each day with an open heart and an open mind. The “dawn from on high” does break and my feet are guided along the way. My decisions are still my own, yet I’m not alone when I make them even as companions come and go.

The greatest book I know of to take along for this journey is the psalter. Within the psalms are thoughts and prayers for every situation. The years have taught me this.

As I prayed this morning before driving to work these words from Psalm 143 resonated with me:

In the morning let me know your love
for I put my trust in you.
Make me to know the way I should walk:
to you I lift up my soul.

Requiescat in pace, Sherri.

The Road

Jeff Walker:

For the first time in the two weeks since our oldest left for boot camp and I started my new job I allowed myself to pause for breath last night. What I discovered is that I’d managed to keep myself so busy with a new job and new running program that I had kept my mind and heart off of his absence. This despite seeing a bunch of photos of his friends, now in college, attending fall socials, college football games and such. Of messages and plans made by this year’s crop of senior parents as they begin the home stretch towards their children’s graduation (was it really only a year ago we were there, too?). Of pictures on Facebook posted by some of his best friends of scenes of them together last year. Of a suddenly more empty house, where I comfort a sad beagle and remain strong and upbeat for the other humans in the house.

But last night, for the first time, it got really hard, and I allowed myself to breathe.

I’ve joined a few online groups and forums for new recruit parents. It helps. We talk about the mixture of emotions we endure as military parents: on one side a fierce, strong pride. On the other is a melancholy anxiety, even fear.

I’ve been thinking and writing a lot lately about the journey, or pilgrimage, that I am taking. Last night I began reading a book that I can just tell I’m going to enjoy, and am reblogging a passage from it below. I had considered posting it to my main blog but thought it fit with the theme of my other too-long-neglected part of the internet. It fits with where I’m at right this very minute on my journey.

On The Road.

Originally posted on Rides the Sun:

The path on The Stations of the Cross at Broom Tree taken by  the author in Sept. 2014.

The path on The Stations of the Cross at Broom Tree taken by the author in Sept. 2014.

… That’s one of the things that fairy tales teach us: that we are all heroes or princesses in disguise. And if that is so, then we must all set out to discover who we truly are: not so we can become rich or successful in the debased modern, consumerist sense, but so that we can step into our true inheritance.

The Road is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, but it offers to those who embrace it the rare and precious gift of self-knowledge. It forces us to step outside that which is known—outside of our “comfort zone” we would say today—and, by doing so, strips us of all our masks and disguises and alter egos. It forces us to look unswervingly into the face of fear, of confusion, of loneliness, reduces us…

View original 110 more words

Friday Five – Volume 89

Friday Five-Mere Observations

— 1 —

Autumn is, much like the spring, a season of transformation. Thus it has been for me. My oldest away at boot camp while I have a new job, new schedule, and am taking art lessons as well as having started running three times a week. I finally found an app worth paying for and shelled out $1.99 for the Couch to 5K app on my iPhone. (Their website says the app is also available for the Android system). So far I’m really enjoying it. As a former college athlete who was never mistaken for a runner I was still capable of running two miles in under 12 minutes. But that was over twenty years ago and decades of sitting behind a desk and becoming preoccupied with other things kept me pretty sedentary. I still have a goal of walking the Camino across northern Spain in three years. It’s time to get moving.

— 2 —

Here’s my choice of “soundtrack” for you to listen to as you read the rest of this post. To be honest I haven’t been able to stop listening to it a few times per day.

It seems that the translation is difficult to find online, and the best I could find was on Orthodox Wiki. I do not know if this is the actual lyrics or not. I can’t get enough of that bass though. Glorious.

Before Thy Cross we bow down in worship, O Master, and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify. (Thrice)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
And Thy holy Resurrection we glorify.
Before Thy Cross we bow down in worship, O Master, and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify.

— 3 —

One of the other changes to my schedule has been my re-enrollment in the King’s Men. I’ve pledged a visit at least once per week to the Pink Sisters chapel in the middle of Lincoln. I was a member years ago before my work schedule (and location) gave me an excuse to stop going. I went back a few hours after seeing my son off to boot camp. I returned again this week and found myself wondering how on earth I managed to stay away this long.

They pray for priests. They pray for God’s help and comfort following floods and earthquakes. They pray for an end to war. They pray for individuals who are sick or unemployed or mourning or spiritually lost. They uphold the Diocese of Lincoln and the universal Church in constant communion with the Lord.

Affectionately called “the Pink Sisters” in reference to their rose-colored robes that represent joy, these cloistered sisters came to the Diocese of Lincoln in 1973 at the invitation of Bishop Glennon P. Flavin.

The bishop gave up his own residence to serve as their convent. In 1980, he oversaw the construction of a chapel adjacent to the convent, the Eucharist Church of Christ the King.

I pray for many things while there. In particular this month I am reminded to pray for souls.

(for All Soul’s Day)

by Hilary M. Flanery

Yes, I know November
The tolling of the bell,
The whispers of the suf’ring souls
From mountain top to dell.

The chilly, gray, damp mornings
The rusting of the leaves,
The whispers of the suf’ring souls
Like moans from one who grieves.

And in the windy noon-time
When clouds fight ‘gainst sun’s might,
The whispers of the suf’ring souls
Cry, “Sanctuary light!”

So ‘fore the red-glassed candle,
Compelled I go to pray,
The whispers of the suf’ring souls
Plead, “Sacrifice today!”

Now deep, dark sanctuary
Is lit by candle bold,
The whispers of the suf’ring souls…
“Your prayers are autumn gold!”

So like the leaves of autumn
I fall to kneeling posture
The whispers of the suf’ring souls
Beg, “Say a Pater Noster!”

The flicker in the red glass
Burns hotter now with Creed.
Oh, yes, I know November!
The month of Hope…souls freed!

— 4 —

Behold! The 100 Best Christian Books website.

I own or have read seven of the first ten, and fifteen of the top twenty-five. The list is pretty darned good I’d say, from Saint Augustine to Simone Weil. Compiled by judges for the Anglican newspaper Church Times, each book listed has a brief summary, author information and comments by the judges and contributors. It’s worth having a look.

— 5 —

I have so many video clips I’ve stored to share over the past few weeks that I briefly considered posting five videos today and calling it good. I’ve decided to same some for next week (or stand-alone posts) but am going to add one more here. In the book Keeping Company with Saint Ignatius the author speaks more than once about an alternative pilgrimage. Instead of walking the thousand year old Camino de Santiago which is becoming more and more overcrowded with pilgrims, he suggests walking the Ignatian Camino. This trek isn’t quite as long as the 800+km walk across Spain, but at 640km is still a good hike. As I’ve felt an ever-growing kinship with Íñigo López de Loyola and wish to avoid huge crowds I’m going to be doing more research on going this route instead. The Ignatian Way recreates the route that he took in 1522 from Loyola to Manresa.

There is a lot more information on the official website and the video below.

The Bonfires of November

When I was a small boy growing up in a very small South Dakota town I always looked forward to this time of year because of the smells. Autumn just has a certain aroma: pumpkin spices, cookies and caramels, turkey and stuffing. But that’s just the food. I’m also referring to the crisp, chilled air of autumn that is all about the earth: the dirt of gardens plowed under for the winter, decaying leaves and moist grass beneath them, and of course, the bonfires.

angel leaves 600x800In our tiny town of two hundred villagers almost every yard contained raked mounds of leaves prepared for the burning. While some of us did carry the leaves into large metal trash barrels near the alley and set them ablaze, I recall, too, the smoldering, smoking leaves burning where they were piled on our lawn. Next to the pile I stood holding a rake that was too big for me, dressed in blue jeans, boots and layers of shirts with a knit cap, sniffling and wiping my nose with the back of my sleeve. My younger brother, aged six, stood nearby with ruddy cheeks, while our youngest brother, aged two, was sitting in the next pile to be burned, covering himself in the leaves recently shed from their trees.

I awoke this morning, refreshed by the extra hour of sleep thanks to the end of daylight savings time, and stood by my patio door with a steaming cup of coffee to watch the yellow, red and brown leaves rain onto our lawn. After praying Morning Prayer I reached for a book I do not read often enough to see if Monsignor Ronald Knox, an Anglican convert to the Catholic Church who lived from 1888-1957, had written something for me to meditate upon before the other occupants of my house awoke and the morning quiet disappeared. I purchased a collection of his sermons nine years ago when Ignatius Press had it on sale and over the years have become an admirer of his prolific and beautiful writing. I wasn’t disappointed on this morning. After pulling the heavy book from my shelf and scanning the table of contents I found his sermon for All Souls Day and smiled when I saw that he, too, was thinking of bonfires. An excerpt is below.


But we mustn’t forget the bonfire! Don’t let us allow November to be ushered in without the bonfire, the natural sacrament of the dying year. The dying year, mark you, not the dead year. The year lies dead in January, under its shroud of white and its pall of black skies; but November is a transition stage between the golden glories of its maturity and the silver fineries of its funeral. And because the year is drawing to its end, we occupy ourselves in tidying up. Those leaves, whose violent emerald colour we welcomed so when they first sprang in March; those leaves, that made such a riot of restfulness over us and around us in the summer; those leaves, that autumn showed us beautiful even in decay, a golden ceiling over our heads till they fell, a golden carpet under our feet when they were fallen; they have lost, now, even the splendours of their maturity; they lie brown and damp underfoot, an unwelcome reminder of our decay. Sweep them up, then, and carry them to the bonfire. For the year is passing, and we must tidy up.

Most of us, I suppose, when we were small, didn’t care much for tidying up—at least, if we were brought up to put away our toys on Saturday night. It gave a chill finality to the end of the week—almost a premonition of death, that last, solemn Saturday night when all our toys have to be put away. We scoured the room half-heartedly, working under orders; and, when the last dragoon had been restored to his long-lost charger, and the last elephant had folded its reluctant legs into the Noah’s Ark, we turned away with a sense of duty done, indeed, but a sense, too, of regret at the law that will not let our games last forever. But the bonfire in November, at the great tidying-up of the year—that was a very different matter! Here was rich, pungent smoke rising, it is true, from a heap of refuse, but how satisfying to the nostrils! How it invited us to rush, breathlessly, through its fragrant eddies. And there was always the chance that you might find a potato or two somewhere, to roast on the embers. That tidying-up was worth having.

People are always telling us that our Christian festivals and fasts are only heathen festivals and fasts that have survived with altered names and altered ceremonies; but I take comfort sometimes in the fact that our All Souls’ Day, anyhow, is in bonfire month, in November. The ancients, too, had their Day of the Dead; but the Romans and Greeks, at least, the only ancient peoples for whom I can answer, celebrated it in February, and very naturally. For in February the year is dead; bare trees and sighing winds make us think of our end and the short time of our earthly passage. But that is not our Christian tradition. We think of our dead in November, the tidying-up of the year. For, when death separates us from the toys of earth, our souls are still such that there is a work of tidying-up to do. And, as St. Paul warns us, that process can only be effected “so as by fire”. There are still the leaves to be burnt.

Pastoral and Occasional Sermons by Ronald Knox. (Ignatius Press, 2002) “All Souls”, pp. 533-534.


Photo Credits
Photo 1: an angel flowerpot surrounded by leaves in the author’s front yard and taken last fall.
Photo 2: Morningside Cemetery, an almost completely forgotten pioneer cemetery in southeastern South Dakota. This photo was taken by the author in March 2005. The bones of my ancestors lie beneath the cold Dakota prairie.

Friday Five – Volume 88 (Pilgrimage Edition)

Friday Five-Mere Observations

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

— 1 —

And so a new journey begins. For my oldest son, who today is undergoing what’s known for Marine recruits as “Black Friday”, the day they meet their drill instructors for the first time. He left Monday for boot camp and has been mostly going through receiving these first few days: paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork. Today his journey really starts.

I’ve written before of how I see life as a pilgrimage. I am not alone in this as many before me have done the same. I think I first began to think of life in this way when I first read The Pilgrim’s Progress just after college. It has held true for me ever since, this life-view of mine, and so it was that this week another path was taken, a fork in the road, and I began my walk down into the unknown that lay ahead.

One of my favorite saints saw life this way as well. Last night while finishing up Luke Larson’s book Keeping Company with Saint Ignatius I highlighted this paragraph:

Ignatius’s mini-pilgrimages are instructive for those of us who desire our own. First, he left his cave. Likewise, it is good for us from time to time to step away from all that is comfortable—and confining—in our caves. This includes our large screen television, laptop, tablet, e-reader, and, yes, even our smart phone. Second, Ignatius had an intention, a purpose. Ours might be to seek guidance, forgiveness, healing, love, or simply the opportunity to walk in the company of Jesus for a few blocks. And third, Ignatius had a destination. Ours might be a local church, shrine, grotto, convent, monastery, or other place market by God’s fingerprints. The place is not as important as the ability to check out of the “too busy” of our lives and to recharge our spiritual batteries while there—and while on the way.

― Keeping Company with Saint Ignatius: Walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, by Luke J. Larson, pages 146-47.

The  path on The Stations of the Cross at Broom Tree.

The path on The Stations of the Cross at Broom Tree.

— 2 —

Our son’s exit from home was hard on all of us though we knew it was coming eventually. His little brother has had the most difficult time followed by his mom and his beagle. But life goes on and as the week has unfolded adjustments have been made.

As for me the best decision I’ve made in a long time was the one that lead me down the path to my new job. In the first three days I’ve felt more alive, fulfilled and productive than I have in many years. I relish the opportunities ahead and feel reenergized. One of the plusses is that my commute is now four minutes instead of thirty. This leaves me time to attend daily Mass (which I’ll begin next week) and pray Morning Prayer. I am doing this at home for now but intend to begin praying it out loud at my parish prior to the 8:15 school Mass at some point later on.

Again from Larson’s book (page 149):

I savored Lauds in the early mornings, Mass at midmorning, and Vespers in the early evenings in the Basilica at the Abbey of Santa María de Montserrat, followed by hymns sung by students of the world famous L’Escolania choir school. My mind could not understand the words chanted in Catalan, the official language of Catalonia, yet the psalms and prayers of the monks transcended linguistic barriers to fill my soul with their sacredness and beauty.

After fourteen years of praying the Liturgy of the Hours in silence or in quiet recitation I have begun to chant Lauds with the aid of The Mundelein Psalter, a book I purchased last week. I’ve been a little wobbly out of the starting gate but with practice comes confidence and I think I’m getting better. While still far from eliciting such a dramatic response as the monks did for Larson at the Abbey, I think given time and after being joined by others we will be able to add a beautiful element to this prayer at our parish. Simply chanting them at home by myself before work has done wonders.

Just another leg of the journey.

stations path-rosary

— 3 —

Of course today is All Hallow’s Eve, with All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2) right behind. Part of our pilgrimage is of course death, but from death comes new life as well. Autumn never fails to put me in a reflective mood about the journey ahead as well as those people I’ve known who have already departed for that leg of the trip. This year has been no different, and while he didn’t die our son’s departure again brought this to mind. After he was sworn in we stood together for a family photo taken by the mother of another recruit. Just before the photo was taken my wife looked at our second son who was sobbing, and naturally she began to cry, and despite several attempts at a photo of her not crying we were not successful. Finally after 5-6 attempts our oldest son said “Jeez, I’m not dead.”

He’s right of course, which is why I laughed out loud on Wednesday when I received a photo text from my wife. Her sister’s family had very thoughtfully sent an arrangement of flowers to our home. When I opened the photo on my phone and read the card it said “Thinking of You.”

I thought of our son’s words, and laughed.

— 4 —

From an article over at Dappled Things by Diana Von Glahn comes this snippet:

When I used to teach CCD to little third graders at Our Lady of Malibu, I used to explain Purgatory like this:

Imagine you’re going about your day, wearing your normal, everyday clothes. You eat a PB&J sandwich and a little jelly falls on your shirt–because it always does. You wipe it off and don’t worry about the stain. As you play outside with your friends, you trip and fall in the grass and, oh darn! You have a grass stain on your knee! Whatever. Mom can wash it later. When someone hands you a mango, you eat it up, slurpily, and wipe your hands on your pants because no one has a napkin and, whatever! They’re messy already, right?!

Then imagine that you go home, and your mom tells you that JESUS is coming over for dinner! And he’s bringing the Blessed Mother and the Holy Spirit, too! Oh, and God the Father is coming, as well . . .

Do you stay in those dirty, sloppy clothes?

HECK NO! You go upstairs and change right away into the cleanest, nicest clothes you have. You brush your teeth and hair, too. Can’t be clean enough for the Trinity.

That, my friends, is Purgatory.

— 5 —

I have gone on record for several years now in saying that The Butterfly Circus is one of the most beautiful pieces of filmmaking I’ve seen.

Until now. You must watch Crescendo.

It should not have surprised me to learn that the same man involved in The Butterfly Circus was also involved in this film: Eduardo Verástegui. And just as that film said more in its twenty minute length than most feature-length blockbusters, so too does this brief fifteen minute leg of our pilgrimage.


Photo credits: The author.