Category Archives: Friday Five
It’s been a month of horrifically overwhelming headlines. As such I’m taking a break in today’s Friday Five and am going to go “soft”. I awoke in a cold sweat this morning after a nightmare that involved the loss of one of my children. And then I was greeted with the news of the day and its cynicism coupled with an extensive prayer list that I receive each morning through our state Knights of Columbus organization. All of which finds me wanting to open the gate to a green open stretch of mental prairie and let my mind wander around aimlessly for a day.
I read a quote once by Marsha Norman that said
Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.
I must say that lately I’m not a fan of this book. Let’s instead journey to the open prairie…
— 1 —
A favorite book of fairy tales that I purchased a few years ago was The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle. It is a masterpiece of nineteenth century storytelling and meant to be read by parents to children at night. The premise of the story is given in the introduction whereby the narrator comes across a clock in Father Time’s attic which strikes the hour with songs and puppet dances. Twenty-four stories follow, one for each hour of the day. Each story begins with a verse that corresponds to the hour of the day: lighting the fire, preparing breakfast, sending the children to school, making the noonday meal, milking, tea, bedtime. The small verses that begin each “hour” alone are fascinating, as they bring to life the household routines of a very different era, and the illustrations perfectly enhance the storytelling.
The Wonder Clock is also available to be read online here.
From the preface:
I PUT on my dream-cap one day and stepped into Wonderland.
Along the road I jogged and never dusted my shoes, and all the time the pleasant sun shone and never burned my back, and the little white clouds floated across the blue sky and never let fall a drop of rain to wet my jacket. And by and by I came to a steep hill.
I climbed the hill, though I had more than one tumble in doing it, and there, on the tip-top, I found a house as old as the world itself.
That was where Father Time lived; and who should sit in the sun at the door, spinning away for dear life, but Time’s Grandmother herself; and if you would like to know how old she is you will have to climb to the top of the church steeple and ask the wind as he sits upon the weather-cock, humming the tune of Over-yonder song to himself.
“Good-morning,” says Time’s Grandmother to me.
“Good-morning,” says I to her.
“And what do you seek here?” says she to me.
“I come to look for odds and ends,” says I to her.
“Very well,” says she; “just climb the stairs to the garret, and there you will find more than ten men can think about.”
“Thank you,” says I, and up the stairs I went. There I found all manner of queer forgotten things which had been laid away, nobody but Time and his Grandmother could tell where.
— 2 —
When younger during the lazy days of summer one of the things my friends and I would do to pass the time was sit in the shade of the front porch eating popsicles and debating lazy summer things like “what is the greatest album side?” While I can still list four or five I listened to one of my favorites driving to work yesterday: Side 3 from Eagles Live. Seven Bridges Road, Wasted Time, Take It To The Limit and Desperado. The only thing missing was an open and endless ribbon of highway and twilight skies.
Sometimes there’s a part of me
Has to turn from here and go
Running like a child from these warm stars
Down the Seven Bridges Road
— 3 —
A little encouragement for our walk along the prairie:
For a while, we are fully aware of God’s concern for us. But then, when God begins to use us in His work, we begin to take on a pitiful look and talk only of our trials and difficulties. And all the while God is trying to make us do our work as hidden people who are not in the spotlight. None of us would be hidden spiritually if we could help it. Can we do our work when it seems that God has sealed up heaven? Some of us always want to be brightly illuminated saints with golden halos and with the continual glow of inspiration, and to have other saints of God dealing with us all the time. A self-assured saint is of no value to God. He is abnormal, unfit for daily life, and completely unlike God. We are here, not as immature angels, but as men and women, to do the work of this world. And we are to do it with an infinitely greater power to withstand the struggle because we have been born from above.
From My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers (May 1st entry)
— 4 —
In an article titled “Music as a Character-Forming Force” I read the following quote by philosopher Roger Scruton:
Nobody who understands the experiences of melody, harmony, and rhythm will doubt their value. Not only are they the distillation of centuries of social life: they are also forms of knowledge, providing the competence to reach out of ourselves through music. Through melody, harmony, and rhythm, we enter a world where others exist besides the self, a world that is full of feeling but also ordered, disciplined but free. That is why music is a character-forming force, and the decline of musical taste a decline in morals. (The Aesthetics of Music, 502)
Behold the Agnus Dei from Berlioz’s Requiem, Op. 5. It’s as moving as any piece of music I’ve heard, and when used with the final scenes from Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life pretty much renders me a puddle of goo.
And if you don’t have nine minutes to spare in order to watch or even listen to the music, then perhaps you can spare five to read and ruminate over this:
Ever heard about the three transcendentals? Christian philosophers claim that the ultimate desire of man, the ultimate direction towards which all things are ordered, is perfection. Perfection has three properties which cannot be divorced from one another: Veritas, Bonitas, Pulchritudo; Truth, Goodness and Beauty. As Christians we believe that God is the fulfilment of these transcendentals. In His being we find absolute Truth, absolute Goodness and absolute Beauty. Hence St. Augustine’s famous line: “Our hearts are restless Lord, until they rest in Thee.” We will never be satisfied until we are suffused with His being.
I’m afraid I’ve lost the source, so if you happen to know who or what that might be, please let me know.
— 5 —
I’ll end in an unconventional place. It’s true that among my favorite songwriters and performers are the members of ABBA. I was a fan when being a fan was very uncool. Maybe it still is. I don’t really care. All I know is the music is catchy, yet more layered and complex than given credit for, and that Benny and Bjorn’s collaboration with Tim Rice for the broadway musical Chess is on par with Les Miserables in my opinion. Again…my opinion. If you want to debate it or argue go elsewhere. I’m not in the mood for that today. I read where they opened an ABBA Museum in Stockholm earlier this week. I found myself listening to this and thinking of friends, both old and new.
You and I can share the silence
Finding comfort together
The way old friends do
And after fights and words of violence
We make up with each other
The way old friends do
Times of joy and times of sorrow
We will always see it through
Oh I don’t care what comes tomorrow
We can face it together
The way old friends do
From The Island of the World by Michael D. O’Brien:
“Love is the soul of the world, though its body bleeds, and we must learn to bleed with it. Love is also the seed and milk and the fruit of the world, though we can partake of it in greed or reverence. We are born, we eat, and learn, and die. We leave a tracery of messages in the lives of others, a little shifting of the soil, a stone moved from here to there, a word uttered, a song, a poem left behind. I was here, each of these declare. I was here.”
The world can make one crazy if we have not love. We are not immature angels. We have been born from above in love.
We are here. Together.
— 1 —
On Tuesday the hard drive of my work laptop went kablooey. As I had some time I took an early lunch to walk to my favorite used bookstore to look around. I hadn’t paid them a visit in many moons and the owner, Cinnamon, was quick to greet me and point out several shelves of books that had new titles that she thought might interest me. They did, but mostly I was there to pick up a copy of Huxley’s Brave New World for a friend of mine, which I did.
Cinnamon was eager to show me the current jewel of their story, a two volume Folio Society edition of David Roberts’ The Holy Land and Egypt and Nubia. She pulled them from under the glass counter and I spent the next twenty minutes slowly turning the pages of these incredible and beautiful books. I’ve purchased volumes from The Folio Society before and these are among the finest I’ve seen. Big, heavy, well bound, large slip covers, and thick paper. I swallowed hard and asked her how much. “$1600 for the set,” she said. It’s a very fair price and I couldn’t argue with her. They are number 719 of a limited printing of 1000 and in pristine condition. The text is wonderful, but the lithographs are truly fantastic. “I’ve had offers from people of their kidneys or children,” she laughed. For twenty minutes I turned the pages and tried to figure out how I could purchase them and be allowed to sleep in the house over the next year. Not being able to come up with an answer to that question and not wanting to sleep in our shed I reluctantly passed them back across the counter.
She hasn’t made it available on their website yet as she always gives the locals a chance to purchase finds like this first. A three-minute video showing lithographs from the book is on YouTube.
— 2 —
While in the store I also looked at a copy of The Cloister and the Hearth by Charles Reade. The opening paragraph was beautiful and I wanted to share it here.
Not a day passes over the earth, but men and women of no note do great deeds, speak great words, and suffer noble sorrows. Of these obscure heroes, philosophers, and martyrs, the greater part will never be known till that hour, when many that are great shall be small, and the small great; but of others the world’s knowledge may be said to sleep: their lives and characters lie hidden from nations in the annals that record them. The general reader cannot feel them, they are presented so curtly and coldly: they are not like breathing stories appealing to his heart, but little historic hail-stones striking him but to glance off his bosom: nor can he understand them; for epitomes are not narratives, as skeletons are not human figures.
You do not need to change the world. It’s big and so vast. But you can and should change your world. There is no such thing as an obscure person. You are the entire world to someone.
We tend to forget this.
— 3 —
You know that there is a rabbit hole in which the media buries stories it doesn’t want the public to see because it doesn’t fit with the way they view the world when Snopes.com is compelled to publish a page confirming that the story is real, not merely an urban legend.
I remember when journalists were objective reporters. Now they are activists wanting to “change the world”. Just stop already.
— 4 —
Speaking of the story-which-must-not-be-named:
Source: Michael Ramirez at IBD
— 5 —
I’ll be brief today (hold your applause). The new project continues its slow progress and is taking what little free time I have. I considered naming the new blog “500 Words or Less” but I know better. However the reason for my creating it is in fact brevity.
I’ll wait until you are able to stop laughing and catch your breath. All done? Good. Where were we?
Ah yes, brevity. That and wanting to carve out a space where I am free to anonymously experiment a little. I’ve got an e-mail inbox dedicated solely to all the story notes and blog ideas I’ve had for the past 3-4 years and I’d like to focus there awhile.
This song’s title (see video below) was what I wanted to name my new blog, but sadly it was not available on either WordPress or Blogger so I’ve gone with Plan B. The lyrics to Josh’s song sum up the direction I am going with the new project. But instead the new blog will owe its title in part to this song. And also this one. At least for now anyway. I’m still mulling it over.
I was wrong, everybody needs someone, to hold on
Take my hand, I’ve been a lonesome man, took a while to understand
There’s some things we can’t live without,
A man’s so prone to doubt,
Faithful are the wounds from friends.
So give it just a little time,
Share some bread and wine
Weave your heart into mine,
Walls fall down, where there’s a peaceful sound, lonely souls hang around
Don’t be shy, there’s nothing left to hide, come on let’s talk a while
Of the places we left behind,
No longer yours and mine
But we could build a good thing here too
So give it just a little time,
Share bread and wine
Weave your heart into mine
If I fall, I fall alone, but two can help to bear the load
A threefold chord is hard to break
All I have I give to you if you will share your sorrows too,
Then joy will be the crown upon our heads
— 1 —
The hardest role…the most difficult job…I will have, and have it for the rest of my life, is that of a father. I’ve been a dad for seventeen years. What I’ve learned is that whether for seventeen or seventy (should I live to be 98) I will never stop being a dad and all that role implies. I realize we live in a society that has marginalized fathers, is hostile to them, and finds them wholly unnecessary. Laws and societal norms have been changed and pushed them to the side to the point to where men themselves have thrown up their hands and surrendered in weakness, abdicating their role to the spiritus mundi.
Folly. Weakness. Madness.
I am a father. I am also a dad. My job is not to be my children’s best friend. I challenge them. I correct them. I discipline them. I help and guide, and I try to trust them enough to step out and make their own mistakes once in awhile. When they do I’m there for them. I make mistakes as I’m still learning, too.
And I love them.
I do not abandon them. I practice instead self-abandonment when necessary.
I do not come first. I sacrifice. But I still am a line in the sand. As they get older and more responsible that line becomes more pliable. But it will always be there in case they ask for guidance.
It’s a very hard and frustrating role. It is also the most fulfilling, awesome, amazing thing I will ever do in this lifetime. I will continue to do it for as long as I breathe no matter how much my government or the surrounding culture of experts attempts to fashionably redefine it or tell me I’m unnecessary and a relic of a quaint but distant and unenlightened era.
It’s a challenge to be a father. So I’m not surprised so many men fail or quit.
Along the same lines I saw this pop up on Facebook this week. Reinforcement.
At age 13, I went to my dad to complain about a situation where I didn’t think I was being treated fairly by a coach. My dad listened very closely to the whole story and then looked at me and told me something that stuck with me for the rest of my life… He simply said, “Work harder”, and walked away. Lesson learned. Stop whining and get to work. Instead of rescuing, excusing and enabling our kids by blaming others and fighting battles for them, or going immediately to the AD, principal and school board to demand the coach be fired… think about teaching our kids the simple wisdom of taking responsibility for your own situation. – Proactive Coaching status update on Facebook, April 22, 2013.
— 2 —
Last weekend my oldest and I watched Terrence Malick’s 1998 film The Thin Red Line. He and I have become Malick fans after 2011’s Tree of Life and decided to check out this film. We both agreed it was an excellent film, but at three hours it tended to drag in a few spots. This is not a movie review however. I wanted to highlight a series of questions we heard as the internal thoughts of one of the main characters, Private Witt played by Jim Caviezel. The movie takes place during 1942 at Guadalcanal during World War 2 and provides a glimpse of the brutality and inhumanity of warfare.
We were a family. How’d it break up and come apart, so that now we’re turned against each other? Each standing in the other’s light. How’d we lose that good that was given us? Let it slip away. Scattered it, careless. What’s keepin’ us from reaching out, touching the glory? ~ Private Witt, The Thin Red Line
I’ve asked myself these same questions a lot lately with regards to our nation…our world…right here in 2013. Two nights ago I found my answer during my nightly reading from Divine Intimacy (Baronius Press, 2010):
To be able to recognize and meet God in every creature, even in the ones that hurt us, offend us, or make us suffer, and in every happening, even the most disagreeable, painful, and disturbing ones—this is a great secret of the interior life. Then the world becomes an open book, on every page of which is written in large letters the one word: God. Before God, His will, His permission, His plans, everything else becomes secondary; we see how stupid it is to fix our gaze on creatures, which are, as it were, only a veil which hides the Creator. We need, however, assiduous practice before we can reach such deep faith.
In my contacts with my neighbor … I can form the habit of greeting Our Lord, present in every creature. … I can see the expression of God’s will in all circumstances—great, small, or even minute—which cause me boredom, uneasiness, suffering, increase of labor, or change of plans. I must learn to see them as the many means which God is using to make me practice virtue—patience, generosity, charity. My hours of prayer must serve to show me all the details of my life in this supernatural light, so that I may always be able to find Our Lord in them.
Divine Intimacy by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D., #163 – The Spirit of Faith (p.473)
We were created in God’s image. But we stopped believing in God. Once we did that our fellow man was no longer an inherently beautiful and unique soul to whom we showed love, patience or understanding. He or she became nothing more than an accident of biology; a mass of cells, muscles and bone. YOLO!
We were created in God’s image. As God and the Son are one, we are made in Jesus’ image as well. Christ is in all of us. Jesus was clear about this in Matthew 25:35-45.
…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’
We are to do this. We fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, friends and strangers. As some fathers have abdicated their roles to their families we as a nation are abdicating our roles to a faceless bureaucracy and what some such as Senator Harry Reid would have us believe is an “inherently good” government. The same government that turns a blind eye and even advocates the dismemberment and murder of the most helpless among us. The same government that went house-to-house in Watertown, MA, kicking families out into the street with armor-plated storm troopers without warrants (goodbye 4th amendment) or ordering them to stay inside, cowering without protection afforded them by the 2nd amendment because they had willingly given up those rights to be sheep.
Like it or not we are called to be sheep to a shepherd. Americans are choosing to be sheep all right. But not sheep following the Good Shepherd.
— 3 —
A respite from all of that to what remains my goal in the next few years:
Walk the Camino and you will never forget entering the forests at sunrise, when the full moon still hangs like an earring from pine branches. The air is cool and fresh, the silence as palpable as an empty cathedral. Many mornings you are the one who awakens the birds so they can begin chirping. How simple it is—walk, eat, sleep, pray—and how overwhelmingly variegated it becomes. Cross 20 rivers and streams, hike through a dozen picturesque villages—many that haven’t changed much since medieval times—trek over a mountain pass or two, and soon you cannot remember half the beauty of a morning, let alone a week. A month down the road and you no longer remember the person you were when you began.
— 4 —
Confession: Last Sunday after drinking some coffee much too late in the day and finding myself wide awake instead of in bed, I tried to watch the popular television series Mad Men. It wasn’t the first time I’ve tried. Of course I’ve read all about it and how it’s the bees knees and the coolest, bestest show in the history of television or something. I lasted just twelve minutes and one commercial break before I wanted to punch Don Draper (the main character we hear sooooooooo much about) in the face. Based upon everything I’ve read by critics and fans of the show he’s pretty much the ass they say he is. Why in the world would I invite that cretin into my home every week? To make myself feel better because I’m not him?
So I watched 2.5 hours of Buffy the Vampire Slayer until 2:00am instead. Comfort food.
(Please don’t write to tell me this is inconsistent with what I wrote above in Section 2. Mad Men is a television show (I’d argue it’s a cartoon, just as Buffy was) and the characters are not real. But the Mad Men cartoon pisses me off. I don’t watch cartoons to be pissed off.)
— 5 —
As for one of the truly greatest shows in the history of television, if you grew up during the 70s and early 80s you were spending a part of your Saturday nights in front of the tv watching The Carol Burnett Show. And while every week provided a highlight, on this day, Carol Burnett’s 80th birthday, I present what for me is the funniest moment from that show of shows.
Happy birthday Carol. And have a great week everyone!
I haven’t posted a Friday Five yet in 2013 but have had a few requests to do so. I’m a little rusty but here goes…
(Admin: obviously I’m rusty as I hit the “Publish” button two days early instead of the “Preview” button. Ugh.)
— 1 —
A quote from the Terrence Malick film The Thin Red Line that seemed especially appropriate this week:
“This great evil. Where does it come from? How’d it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who’s doin’ this? Who’s killin’ us? Robbing us of life and light. Mockin’ us with the sight of what we might’ve known. Does our ruin benefit the earth? Does it help the grass to grow, the sun to shine? Is this darkness in you, too? Have you passed through this night?”
— 2 —
After their album Advent at Ephesus spent six weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Classical Music chart in 2012, The Benedictines of Mary are recording once again and will be releasing Angels and Saints at Ephesus on May 7, 2013.
From an Editorial Review on Amazon.com:
Angels and Saints at Ephesus features 17 English and Latin pieces sung a cappella on the feasts of the holy Saints and angels throughout the year at their Priory in the heart of America. In the pure fusion of their now well established bell-like choir sound, the Sisters once again radiate peace with their hymns of Praise of God in the company of all of His angels and Saints.
Here’s a preview:
I own Advent at Ephesus and very much enjoyed it during Advent. And I enjoyed it during Christmas and into Easter.
H/T: The Chant Café
— 3 —
A little over a year ago I read the story of Grant Desme, a former second-round draft choice of the Oakland A’s. At the age of 23 and on the verge of realizing his dream to play in the major leagues the star center fielder and 2009 Arizona Fall League MVP announced his retirement from the game. He didn’t leave baseball due to injury. There was no drug abuse scandal or otherwise. So why did he give up baseball and all the worldly goods that accompany the status of a major leaguer?
For the answer to that you have to read the interview in the National Catholic Register with Brother Matthew Desme of St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California. I was struck by a number of things that Brother Desme spoke about in the interview, but this part in particular stood out to me:
I was living out every young man’s dream. I was playing well enough to be a Major League Baseball player. I had a big, shiny SUV and even bigger bank account. That’s what most people would think of as being at the pinnacle of manhood. You’ve got all these things that display how strong and capable you are: You become better known, people want to be around you, and everything looks great.
That’s a very superficial form of masculinity, though. It’s based on externals and trying to put yourself before others. I’ve since learned an authentic masculinity based on self-sacrificing love. Being a man is not about stepping on others, but lifting others up. It’s about using the God-given strength you have to protect others and guide them to eternal life.
Some people have the idea — which I shared at one time — that Christianity is kind of a soft religion, not worth giving much attention to. What I’ve come to know, however, is that if you truly attempt to live it out, Christianity is anything but soft. A sincere attempt to be a follower of Jesus requires nothing less than a complete dedication of your entire being.
You’ll want to read it all.
— 4 —
In early April I came across this story on The History Blog about Notre Dame de Paris receiving a set of new bells for her 850th birthday. The article contains an excellent history of the bells, much of which I didn’t know, and links to various articles and videos on YouTube of the dedication ceremony. One of the links to Turkish Weekly describes the reaction to those hearing all ten bells peal together on Palm Sunday for the first time in over two hundred years.
The heart of Paris went suddenly silent as, for the first time in more than two centuries, 10 bells pealed out from Notre Dame Cathedral to thousands gathered to hear them on a sunny afternoon.
Some, like San Francisco tourist Faith Fuller, were moved to tears.
“They made me cry…this is 850 years of history of a fantastic cathedral. And I’m here in an historic moment…hearing the bells ring for the first time. So it’s emotional for me, and beautiful.”
I grew up in small towns on the Great Plains of America where one would hear church bells ring not only on Sunday mornings, but also to mark certain points of each day. One of my early memories as a first and second grader was when me and the other small children of Fedora, South Dakota, would ask our minister to be the ones allowed to pull on the big rope just inside the doors of our small church to ring the bells before and after Sunday services.
It is not just a sense of childhood nostalgia that makes me feel that we have lost something by eradicating the neighborhood or community bells. It’s not as if the sound of the bells is causing people to lose sleep or disturb their quiet Sundays. From spring to fall my neighborhood Sunday mornings are instead disturbed by the buzzing of weed trimmers or the roaring of lawn mowers. As bell maker Paul Bergamo said “I think that people rediscover [their humanity] when you do a project of bells, it’s like evangelization. Because it’s a project where you federate people. It’s not only a project of bells, it’s a human project. And I think people, believers or not, need these kinds of projects just to go ahead, to progress.”
To read more about the nine new bells to go with one of the originals, Emmanuel, as well as seeing the fascinating process used in the manufacturing of large bells, go here. The nine new bells were christened as Marie, Gabriel, Anne-Genevieve, Denis, Marcel, Stephen, Benedict Joseph, Maurice and Jean-Marie.
This is the video of the bell ringing event held outside the cathedral after Palm Sunday mass. It’s very long, so if you’d like to cut to chase, 12:15 – 21:50 is the ten tower bells rung in groups from largest to smallest, 43:20 – 45:18 is all ten tower bells rung with three from the spire for additional flavor, and at 58:12 is the “Grand Solemnity,” kicked off by Emmanuel followed by Marie and then the eight smaller ones.
Fedora Church photo courtesy of Penny Postcards from South Dakota
— 5 —
It was twenty years ago this past Easter that I became a Catholic during the Easter Vigil Mass at what is today still my home parish. I was taking baby steps towards becoming Catholic for a few years prior to meeting my future wife, herself a Catholic, and having the process sped along. What Archbishop Sheen said below was along my same line of thought prior to my conversion. He just said it a heck of a lot more eloquently than I could.
“If I Were Not A Catholic…”
by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (web source)
“If I were not a Catholic, and were looking for the true Church in the world today, I would look for the one Church which did not get along well with the world; in other words, I would look for the Church which the world hated. My reason for doing this would be, that if Christ is in any one of the churches of the world today, He must still be hated as He was when He was on earth in the flesh. If you would find Christ today, then find the Church that does not get along with the world. Look for the Church that is hated by the world as Christ was hated by the world. Look for the Church that is accused of being behind the times, as our Lord was accused of being ignorant and never having learned. Look for the Church which men sneer at as socially inferior, as they sneered at Our Lord because He came from Nazareth. Look for the Church which is accused of having a devil, as Our Lord was accused of being possessed by Beelzebub, the Prince of Devils. Look for the Church which, in seasons of bigotry, men say must be destroyed in the name of God as men crucified Christ and thought they had done a service to God. Look for the Church which the world rejects because it claims it is infallible, as Pilate rejected Christ because He called Himself the Truth. Look for the Church which is rejected by the world as Our Lord was rejected by men. Look for the Church which amid the confusions of conflicting opinions, its members love as they love Christ, and respect its Voice as the very voice of its Founder, and the suspicion will grow, that if the Church is unpopular with the spirit of the world, then it is unworldly, and if it is unworldly it is other worldly. Since it is other-worldly, it is infinitely loved and infinitely hated as was Christ Himself. But only that which is Divine can be infinitely hated and infinitely loved. Therefore the Church is Divine.”
— 1 —
A few months ago I came across the essay “How God Makes a Pencil” on the Acton Institute’s blog. In 1958 Leonard Read published his essay “I, Pencil” and recently a video illustrating Read’s point was made. The article itself by Joe Carter is worth a read; most especially the video (and essay) is worth a look.
— 2 —
In his essay Read quotes G.K. Chesterton:
You may wonder why I should write a genealogy. Well, to begin with, my story is interesting. And, next, I am a mystery—more so than a tree or a sunset or even a flash of lightning. But, sadly, I am taken for granted by those who use me, as if I were a mere incident and without background. This supercilious attitude relegates me to the level of the commonplace. This is a species of the grievous error in which mankind cannot too long persist without peril. For, the wise G. K. Chesterton observed, “We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”
What Chesterton wrote a century ago is more true today. In this single paragraph one could make the argument that we are more than ever today treating and using the wonder that is human life with the same “supercilious attitude” with which we regard the pencil. It struck me during the course of the past few weeks how deeply shocked we were and how strongly we mourn the deaths of so many young and innocent children in Connecticut. And rightly so! But every day in this country we silently acquiesce to the murder of over 3300 infants in their mother’s wombs. We are a society leaning ever more closer to legalizing euthanasia for our elderly and infirm. Our blind eyes turn away from prostitution, the sex-trafficking of children and the strength and stability of the traditional family unit for reasons too numerous and complicated to get into here today. We glorify violence, paying ever increasing amounts of money to reward those who produce it, and accept the ridicule and scorn heaped upon the institution of fatherhood. Joseph was a man of whom no words or speech is recorded in Scripture. Silently he did the honorable and just things by protecting his young bride and child and providing for them. In fact today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Innocents, to honor the memory of the children of Bethlehem slaughtered by King Herod. These children died specifically because Herod wanted to kill the Christ child of whom he’d heard the prophecies regarding Christ being a king. Those children died in place of the baby Jesus, who was saved by Joseph’s obedience to an angelic dream warning him to take his family and flee to safety in Egypt.
Today Joseph would be celebrated only had he been a drunken, belching fool sitting on a barstool with his buddies and bedding the occasional bar floozy while shooting one-liners from the hip that would be posted on Facebook. “Good ol’ Joe,” we’d snicker. And then he’d get a sitcom on ABC Family called “Who’s Yer Daddy?” in which Mary is a lesbian and teen Jesus is supporting the family by dropping out of school and running a porn site.
This is what we glorify today. It is the truth-that-no-one-dares-admit-or-mention. No one will because to admit this fact is to admit our own guilt and complicitness. So we ignore it all…all the wonder around us represented in our neighbors, family and friends…and turn on the damned television and pass the blame on to other things. We’re perishing without having a clue.
— 3 —
All of this can be disheartening to a Catholic guy. Fortunately there exists in the world strong Catholic women. (Talk about a portion of society who is not only vastly misunderstood but openly ridiculed!) One of them, Supertradmum, recently posted some encouragement for her Catholic male friends:
First of all, as heads of families and as husband and fathers, you cannot wallow in depression. You must rise to the occasion.
Second, did you not expect these turns of events-the mystery of evil, which some of us have seen for 40 years coming?
Third, it is your responsibility to be the spiritual as well as material leaders in your families and in your parishes. Leaders, like Christ, pray, accept the burden of suffering and decide what to do.
She lists twelve, of which I pasted the first three above. All of them are good reminders, but just receiving acknowledgement and encouragement from someone was salve to the wound. Her list is mostly about shaking off the depression surrounding recent events in the world. And the truth is I was depressed for several weeks after November 6. That Depression has given way to disgust and contempt, but I try to remind myself of something J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in one of his letters:
“Actually I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’ – though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.” (Letter 195)
And so I am first made courageous, then humble, and finally I remain hopeful. I’m hopeful because as Mark Shea wrote last week:
The journey into God’s love does not end here. It never ends. The horrors in Connecticut are not a sudden revelation that the gospel is a fraud, but a sudden revelation of how blind we have become to the depths of human and demonic evil that Jesus died and rose to defeat. We have been too long comfortable and sentimental about the gospel. But the gospel was born into a world that welcomed the Christ Child by slaughtering innocents in Bethlehem. … Christmas is not and never was a celebration of Kodak moments. It is D-Day: the moment when the Son of God landed on the beaches of Occupied Earth and began the work of liberating a population captive to sin, death, and the powers of hell. The powers of hell shoot back and have a special hatred for children and other innocents – and they will continue to do so until they are cornered in the last bunker of hell. But Christ, who has conquered death, is the great champion of children and good martyrs still. And he is coming with all the Holy Innocents from down the ages to exact judgment against the devil and all his angels and on That Day, to wipe away every tear from our eyes. So we weep at this obscenity as He did at the grave of Lazarus. But we also are “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (John 11:33 – the Greek contains the idea of growling anger) and when we are done weeping, we get up, don our spiritual armor, seek all the graces of Christ in the sacraments, and go off to make war on sin, hell and death with the weapons of the Spirit and not the weapons of this world.
One more from Supertradmum’s list:
Eleven, Christ was crucified. So what do you expect?
— 4 —
Just three days ago we celebrated the birth of a baby whose mom had no inn in which to give him birth. Her husband found the best place he could and made it as comfortable for her as possible. I read a quote that I considered posting all alone as my Friday Five this week. At first glance it appears to be a bumper sticker slogan that could be posted to Facebook and quickly forgotten. But there is much here to contemplate upon.
“Life is a night spent at an uncomfortable inn.” ~ St. Teresa of Avila
While we’re spending this long night at such an uncomfortable inn, I thought of something that Chesterton (yes, him again) wrote about Charles Dickens. I had forgotten it until reading an article in the National Catholic Register last night about the final lecture given at Georgetown University by one of my favorite authors, Fr. James Schall, who quotes the passage. I happen to own a copy of a biography Chesterton wrote about Dickens because a friend of mine in California, knowing of my love of books, of Dickens and of Chesterton, purchased and shipped it to me when she found it in a used bookstore in San Diego.
“There is ‘a long way to travel before we get back to what Dickens meant: and the passage is along a rambling English road, a twisting road such as Mr. Pickwick traveled. But this at least is part of what he meant; that comradeship and serious joy are not interludes in our travel; but that rather our travels are interludes in comradeship and joy, which through God shall endure forever. The inn does not point to the road; the road points to the inn. And all roads point at last to an ultimate inn, where we shall meet Dickens and all his characters: And when we drink again it shall be from the great flagons in the tavern at the end of the world.’”
As Clarence wrote to George Bailey: “No man is a failure who has friends.” I have been truly blessed with many and can only hope I’ve been the same in return. May we hoist our flagons together in the hereafter.
— 5 —
As a palate cleanser, I offer one of my favorite scenes from a series laden with favorite scenes.
Merry Christmas. Because it’s still Christmas, ya know. It didn’t end at midnight on the 25th.
— 1 —
Last night I noticed a title on my DVR list that I’d recorded and forgot: a short film called Janey Mary. Filmed in 2007 the film is based on the original short story by Irish author James Plunkett about a young five-year old girl in 1940s Dublin who is sent out by her mother onto the cold and wet winter streets to beg for food.
The film is 19 minutes long and outside of The Butterfly Circus is one of the greatest examples of storytelling in film that I could cite. It is also something that I would not recommend someone watch if they are, like me, still nursing a very deep grieving after the events of just one week ago in Connecticut. It could be said that it is a metaphor for our culture, with adults trampling on children to satisfy their needs. It is a beautiful little film that led to my wife finding me a sobbing wreck last night on our sofa as the credits rolled.
Do not let my reaction discourage you from its viewing should you be able to watch the entire film. All I ask is that when it is over you spend more than a few seconds or minutes thinking about what it portrays. There is much to meditate upon and I’m willing to bet that like me, you will fall in love with little Janey Mary and recognize that there is much truth in Plunkett’s fiction.
God bless good storytellers, and may He give us more of them.
Website for Janey Mary: www.janeymary.com
— 2 —
Two ladies who are excellent storytellers in their own right are the Writing Sisters. If you haven’t subscribed to their Facebook page you should, as more times than not you will be blessed with little snippets to launch your day. This morning’s was no exception as they shared something by Sharon Jaynes. It is 1 Corinthians 13 for Christmas, and I won’t post it here because I want you to check it out on their blog right here. After you do, take a look around. Laurie and Betsy do what as yet alludes me: create beauty in brevity.
— 3 —
While driving in to work this morning and listening to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the following lyrics from the song Old City Bar struck with much clarity:
If you want to arrange it
This world you can change it
If we could somehow make this
Christmas thing last
By helping a neighbor
Or even a stranger
And to know who needs help
You need only just ask
— 4 —
A woman who has been a favorite columnist of mine for over a decade is Alicia Colon. In her column on December 18 she touches on the subjects of faith and belief, and the sneering condescension with which both traits are met by the so-called “intelligent” secularists of our age. As always, Ms. Colon is worth reading in toto, but I’m going to focus on one part below because she correctly gets to the heart of the one thing that separates people of faith from those who profess to have none:
People of faith have no problem believing that there is evil personified in the Devil but the way more ‘intelligent’ secularists think he’s a myth. Christians have been taught to regard Satan as an entity that loathes humanity and delights in our anguish and unlike the Rolling Stones; I have no sympathy for him.
While I was at Mass on December 8th, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, I listened to a reading from Genesis and another reading was about the angel Gabriel visiting Mary telling her she would become a mother and I thought, “Boy, is that hard for some to swallow.” Such a fantasy – a virgin birth – a legend and yet, one that is the core of my faith. It then occurred to me that belief in the supernatural and otherworldly events requires one to be humble. Humility is probably the hardest virtue and Pride probably the most deadly sin. To surrender to a higher power and feel its love is a gift that is there for us all and it is in the Christmas season that we are reminded that God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son.
Pride and its antithesis: Humility. If you’ve the time I invite you to listen to a twenty minute homily given last Sunday by Bishop Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin. In his talk he uses the question asked of John the Baptist in the Gospel, What should we to do?, to reflect on last Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. There is only one explanation: Satan. And there is only one solution: turn back to God, and turn back to beauty.
I’ll put it this way: while I have admitted to avoiding much of the media this past week I have seen enough to know that there is no wisdom in what explanations they are struggling to feed the public. Of all I’ve seen or heard since last Friday, Bishop Morlino provides the most clarity I’ve encountered.
Lord, grant us humility this Christmas.
— 5 —
One more lyric from Old City Bar: “If one could be home, they’d be already there.”
This week I touched upon the following: truth, beauty, and humility.
One more: Home.
Home sweet home. Dolce Domum. I hope that this Christmas season finds you home, wherever your home may be. Whether home is a physical place or one of spirit, may you travel safely there for a time and warm yourself by the fire of its hearth.
And after the gifts have been opened and should you find yourself looking at all of the wrapping paper, bows and ribbons scattered about, remember the gift you received that was wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger.
From TAN Books and Saint Benedict Press yesterday came a message to its customers from publisher Robert M. Gallagher. I present a portion of it here, and close this Friday Five with his thoughts on Our Gift, that when read in the light of the pride that Alicia Colon touched upon gives me much to contemplate this season with regards to that Gift, and to remember that despite mankind’s efforts to defeat God the message of faith, hope and love that the babe of Bethlehem proclaimed throughout His life is still being conveyed by men and women around the globe.
Merry Christmas to you all. “Rejoice and be glad for today is born a Savior, Christ the Lord.”
Therefore the birth of Jesus that we are preparing to celebrate is the most unimaginable of gifts: God the Creator offering Himself to His creatures out of pure unselfish love.
And, what have we done with this gift?
Today our secular culture attacks not only the meaning and public celebration of His birth, it attacks the very mention of His name. As brazen attacks increase against the Christ child and the Church He established, I must remember that attempts to destroy Jesus started not long after His birth, with Herod’s massacre of the Holy Innocents.
Then I am heartened by the fact that for almost two thousand years this old world of ours has tried to stamp out the Christ child and the meaning of His life, death and resurrection; and, for two thousand years every attempt has failed.
Herod could not kill Him as a baby; the grave could not hold Him as a man; and all the might of the Roman Empire could not destroy His message or the establishment of His Church. From the blood of His martyrs, which stained the floor of the ancient coliseum, the Roman Empire itself was converted to Christianity in less than four hundred years. Today, the ruins of that ancient coliseum stands in the shadow of St. Peter’s where His vicar still resides.
Throughout history many have tried and failed to stamp out His message. Within our own memories, the Nazis have tried and failed and the Communists have tried and failed. Today even our own government is trying to suppress His message, and force His Church to violate its own principles or subject it to unconscionable fines. Our government too shall ultimately fail in its attempt.
— 1 —
Less than two weeks to go before Christmas and my family is still enjoying a wonderful Advent. We put the tree up last week (I still wanted to wait until this weekend) and on Sunday travelled to Omaha to attend Mass at the St. Cecilia Cathedral. Just before we began dating my wife lived in the Dundee neighborhood in Omaha and attended Mass at St. C’s. She has always loved the large Advent wreath, about 8-10 feet in diameter, that hangs suspended 10-15 feet above the center aisle of the cathedral. She wanted our kids to see it for themselves and I wanted to revisit that big ol’ church. In the spring we had attended the wedding for the daughter of great friends there and it was probably one of the “best” (whatever that means in terms of weddings) weddings I can recall attending. The bride and groom did not spend a small fortune on flowers or decorating because they were told that “we’ve had families spend over $10,000 or more on flowers here and they get lost in the space.” And it’s true. It is a large, vast, beautiful space that elevates one’s mind and soul to where it should be focused: on God. Instead of being all about flowers, and all about them, their wedding was a witness to this couple’s faith and their joining to not just one another but to God. There was no Bridezilla. No narcissistic look-at-me-look-at-me attitude by the bride or anyone in the wedding party. No goofy processional dance routines to post to YouTube. I’ll never forget that.
(And less you think them a stodgy family, the reception was a blast. Two large Irish-Catholic families were joined. I seem to even recall hearing Irish bagpipes at one point, and plenty of Guinness was available at the bar.)
So we went to see the big Advent wreath. And the kids got to listen to their dad sing all the various parts of the Mass for a change due to the excellent cantor direction and the cathedral’s use of Gregorian chant. It’s the one thing I can sing well. While it still requires an ability to carry a tune, the natural cadence and “breathing” of chant makes it so enjoyable. We were blessed to hear an excellent homily by the young assistant pastor in which he discussed the dearth (and shallowness) of feel-good movies on Hallmark and ABC Family this time of year. And this leads me to…
— 2 —
My Top 5 list of Christmas movies. Around ten years ago or so my wife used to roll her eyes and poke fun at me this time of year because I would plant myself in front of the television each night to watch a Christmas movie on Hallmark or what used to be known as The Family Channel. This was before ABC bought the channel and turned it into the anything-but-family channel it is today. But over the years I began to notice that almost all of these movies came from the same script template:
Small town (single/divorced) young woman who is a (ad executive/magazine publisher/lawyer) works in (Chicago/New York/LA). A traumatic event (mom dies/father dies/job crisis) causes her to have to go back to said small town in (Iowa/Oklahoma/upstate New York) in order to (execute a will/close the small town’s factory). While there she runs into the ghosts of her past, represented by (family/old boyfriend/old best friend who stayed behind to get married, have babies and be generally happy). Thus she begins to struggle with the decisions she’d made in her past life and question what it is “she really wants out of life.”
Wrap this up in a bow and in the show’s description as “Samantha/Tiffany/Melanie, a young successful woman’s magazine publisher, returns home after the death of her father and to face an old love. While there she discovers the true meaning of Christmas.”
And yet, that is what’s being churned out year after year. Basically I just described Sweet Home Alabama with Reese Witherspoon, but in December.
There are not any of that type of movie on my list. Those below, however, are. And when watched with a quilt and something warm to drink are just about perfect.
5. A Christmas Story (1983): Yeah, I know. Not really about the Christ-child. What it is is a harkening back to the simpler times of childhood. I own four Jean Shepherd books (he plays the voice of the narrator) and believe it or not the short story upon which this movie is based is not the funniest of the bunch. Plus, in this two seconds the film captures so much of my own dad that I can’t not love this film.
4. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965): No, it’s not a theatrical release and without the Dolly Madison commercials it’s only 22 minutes long. But just try to get a cartoon or any other kind of show on television these days in which a main character recites from Scripture.
3. Going My Way (1944) / The Bells of St. Mary (1945): I can’t choose between the two. I love them both. Bing Crosby as Fr. O’Malley with either Barry Fitzgerald or Ingrid Bergman.
2. A Christmas Carol (1984): While I do enjoy Patrick Stewart’s turn as Scrooge in 1999, I like the George C. Scott version from 1984.
1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946): I skipped this movie for years before finally watching it while alone in my apartment on Christmas Day in 1991. I fell in love with the film and wept like a baby when it was over. Still do.
Honorable mention: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians from 1964. But it has to be the Mystery Science Theater 3000 edition. I can’t stop laughing when I watch it as they riff on it. Starring a young Pia Zadora. No, really.
And my favorite Christmas book? I suppose it would have to be the first two chapters of the Luke’s Gospel. After that, the rest is just details.
— 3 —
This is the time of year when one spends some time in reflection, looking back over the year that was and the lessons learned, and setting goals for the year to come. One of the things I learned that was both frightening to me and a shock to my wife came to me during my retreat in September.
Are you ready?
I learned that I have too many books. I could spend the rest of my days reading, studying and meditating upon probably less than fifty. Or twenty-five. Maybe even just ten. If you could have only seen the look on her face when I told her this. It was a combination of relief and shock. Yet it remains true and among the goals I have set for 2013 is a significant reduction in my library’s inventory. I will never part with the classic editions I’ve purchased over the years from Easton Press or the Folio Society as I believe a day is coming when paper copy books will be worth a small fortune (and I’m not just talking monetary value) as the era of digital publishing presses forward. They will be valuable because of the unaltered and un-politically correct content contained within. There are already stories in the news regarding the censoring and altering of magazine articles, news stories, and yes…even books. It’s all too easy to do this to a citizenry dependent upon the digital landscape. No…I’ll never part with many of these works. But I do need to scale back. Check that. I want to scale back.
C.S. Lewis said “I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.” I’ve more than one book that I am trying to get to the first time, let alone the second.
— 4 —
My rational for scaling back is that I’ve decided it’s time to go deeper. I’ve reached the age when I’m becoming aware of the limited time I’ve got left and I no longer have an interest in casting my net as far and wide as possible to experience a little taste of everything under the sun. I’m satisfied with the experiences I’ve had and know that more is to come. But now I also want to go deeper and get into the heart of life and all its wonder.
Today is the feast day of that great Spaniard and spiritual master St. John of the Cross (1542-1591). John was, along with his Spanish contemporary St. Teresa of Avila, a Carmelite. A book from which I read each night, Divine Intimacy, is steeped in Carmelite spirituality. During the last two days in particular there he’s been: St. John of the Cross advising whoever is reading that in order to deepen one’s spiritual life and knowledge of God one must rid him or herself of the trivial things in life. And in the second reading from this morning’s Office of Readings he had more advice:
Though holy doctors have uncovered many mysteries and wonders, and devout souls have understood them in this earthly condition of ours, yet the greater part still remains to be unfolded by them, and even to be understood by them.
We must then dig deeply in Christ. He is like a rich mine with many pockets containing treasures: however deep we dig we will never find their end or their limit. Indeed, in every pocket new seams of fresh riches are discovered on all sides.
Put another way, I’m not accomplishing some goals I wish to achieve because I’m too busy madly grasping and anything and everything I can experience. My God, I’ve somewhat adapted the YOLO (You only live once) mentality I criticize so much. My attic…my brain…is as cluttered as the bookshelves and end tables in my home.
— 5 —
Last week an old buddy from college asked people to list three things they were going to stop doing in 2013. I listed two items, and then paused before typing out the third: Facebook. I’m not deleting my account because it has become my extended family’s preferred method of communication. And because baseball season for my boys is around the corner which means more communication and photos shared with our extended baseball families. So what do I mean? Nothing more really than that I will not be actively participating in the Facebook “community” on a regular basis.
I have just a few goals for 2013. The reduction of clutter in my life is one. Another is going deeper into my prayer life.
The third? To learn how to play the guitar, baby. I’ve got a beautiful Fender acoustic guitar collecting dust on its stand as it sits partially hidden behind a stack of books. My nine-year old son likes to strum it and for Christmas is getting one of his own. My baby brother is in the Nebraska Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and while known primarily as a drummer, he is also an accomplished bass player. He lives here in town and I’d be silly not to tap him as a resource for lessons.
Music soothes the soul. It helps one go deep.
— 1 —
Thought I’d begin by sharing a photo I took while standing on the third landing of the parking garage last night after work.
— 2 —
Last week I recommended you check out Heather King’s blog Shirt of Flame. Have you? Good.
She wrote something on Tuesday about a recent visit she paid to her church to make a confession in preparation for Advent; a few parts of which totally resonated with me:
Beforehand, I’d happened to run into a friend who had also come for Confession. That’s a rare occurrence—to run into a friend at church, period, never mind one who’s come for Confession—and to see him lifted my heart. We chatted for a bit before, wished each other well, exchanged Advent blessings. We didn’t tell each other what we had to confess. We didn’t do our penance, then meet up for coffee. We knelt before Father, one by one, and went our separate ways.
This is the kind of thing that if you’re looking for a Church that’s a social club, a fellowship, or an “experience” can seem very thin. But membership in the Mystical Body of Christ does not depend on our feelings; it depends on our orientation of heart; on where we bring and put our bodies. To be a Catholic is to enter into a relationship with Christ that is at once intimate beyond imagining and entirely anonymous, hidden, and private. Flannery O’Connor once observed: “I went to St. Mary’s as it was right around the corner and I could get there practically every morning. I went there three years and never knew a soul in that congregation or any of the priests, but it was not necessary. As soon as I went in the door I was at home.”
There’s a little more, and I left off the best part at the end. I love the way this woman writes.
— 3 —
I’ve been thinking about writing styles a lot this week. I find myself in awe and admiration of those who can consistently churn out pithy and interesting bits and pieces of themselves that their readers can identify with. Or share. Or comment on…whatever. I lack this talent and I’ve allowed it to start to frustrate me and nag at me this week. Try as I might to keep to 700-800 words max as most opinion columns do, I frequently wind up at the 2000+ word mark. And while I do not want to be like everyone else, I’d like to at least be, well…I don’t know exactly.
Vanitas vanitatum, et omnia vanitas. “Vanity of Vanities, and all is vanity.”
Maybe that’s all this really is, and this, too, shall pass.
— 4 —
While cleaning out my inbox files I came across this story from late September that I’d meant to share. It’s the story of Josh Horn, an ardent atheist and former president of the Secular Free Thought Society at Arizona State University where he was enrolled as a junior majoring in history. I say former president because Josh had a change of well…heart.
Imagine society’s collective shock if Hillary Clinton were to join the National Rifle Association, if members of the Westboro Baptist Church were discovered frolicking at a gay bar or if Quentin Tarantino were to announce plans to make a Justin Bieber documentary.
Josh Horn’s friends were hit with a shock wave of that magnitude when Horn, then an ardent atheist, announced his resignation as president of the Secular Free Thought Society, an ASU club known for its skepticism of religion. Horn had committed the ultimate taboo and sealed his self-imposed excommunication with one act: he decided to become a Catholic.
Horn had been raised in a strict Southern Baptist family became a deist and eventually an atheist after being exposed to the secular world in public school.
“I had a lot of anger and I sort of took on a victim mindset,” Horn says. “I was pretty antagonistic toward religions in general … I gave myself this personal mission to prove to everyone that every one (religion) was wrong.”
After starting college at ASU Horn advanced to the highest position in the Secular Free Thought Society, propelled by his “new passion for privileging truth and reason over religious dogma and manipulated spirituality.” A well-prepared and fiercely intelligent debater, he enjoyed scrapping with anyone who would do so. And then he came across one of my favorites: the Litany of the Sacred Heart.
Horn, usually so articulate, was at a loss for words to describe his experience.
“And yeah, that was weird, but it was more that this was a mystical thing that was weird, even than who I was perceiving,” Horn says. “It was a whole new way of experiencing reality, to which there is no analogy in anything else that I’ve experienced, and because of that it’s very difficult to explain.”
Contrary to most tales of divine encounters and mystical happenings, this one doesn’t have an ostentatiously emotional climax—no arms thrown in the air in jubilation, no praising the lord with gospel-choir lungs, no golden rays emanating from the clouds. Instead, the thoroughly rational Horn was irked.
“I was actually kind of annoyed that it happened, and scared – not comforted in the least,” Horn says. “I didn’t want it, I didn’t think it was possible. It just happens, and you come out of it realizing that this obliges you to change your life and the entire course you thought it was taking immediately.”
He resigned his position the next day and the reaction from the SFTS was predictable.
Read it all here.
Bishop Fulton Sheen famously said: “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”
Heather King and Josh Horn are great examples of what the Catholic Church truly is.
— 5 —
Speaking of home, does yours have the Christmas tree up yet? We still don’t, though I suspect we’ll finally put it up this weekend. I’d prefer to wait at least one, maybe two more weeks, but the fact that I’ve been able to put it off this long and not have my kids revolt is pretty good. We have always put it up after Thanksgiving and kept it up until after New Year’s but in the past few years I’ve expressed my desire to not put it up until Gaudete Sunday (the 3rd Sunday in Advent, or December 16 this year) and leave it up until the Epiphany on January 6. Small steps I suppose, and I was able to hold them off for two weeks. Plus I put in my Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack CD this morning on the drive to work. I have to admit it’s hard to stem the tide after listening to that.
Here’s something The Piano Guys released this week. O Come, O Come Emmanuel is traditionally thought of as an Advent song, so I throught I’d leave you with it this week. Have a wonderful weekend.
(Hey! Only 1,184 words!)
This past Wednesday I left the downtown office at 6pm. When I pulled into my driveway around 25 minutes later it was dark outside and the full moon was rising high above my home’s roofline on a crisp, autumn evening. A few minutes prior to my arrival an old favorite by the BoDeans queued up in my car’s CD player and with the engine off I sat back to listen.
I was there for three minutes before a gentle tapping at my window brought me back to 2012. It was my wife, standing there with a smile and informing me that while it was a good song the neighbors were probably enjoying the quiet before I came home. “And,” she said, “if you hurry in you can still catch the end of the cycle.”
— 1 —
Sunlight fall down on the fields
Sunlight fall down over me
Work all day, be all that I can be
Say I can say words only simple
Say I can say words only clear
But, oh, I can feel your heart is beating near.
A few hours earlier the large, local appliance store had delivered a new washer and dryer. Five days before the ones that we had purchased nineteen Thanksgivings ago had finally collapsed in exhaustion. During those nineteen years we’d only called the repairman out twice, both times in the past three years. But the dryer has been making noises that resemble a 757 on the runway before takeoff and on Saturday night the washing machine had gasped its last with a drum full of water and soapy clothes. So for the second time in our married life we went in search of a modern necessity. The cycle to which my wife was referring was, of course, the time left for a load in each machine. We had opted for a top-load washer and each machine has a clear glass door. And so it was that for fifteen minutes yours truly stood watching clothes swish around in a large silver drum and others tumble dry.
For the first six months of our marriage we had traveled together to the small laundromat in Sidney, Nebraska, to do our weekly load of clothes. In late November of 1993 we made our first major purchase: a set of Maytags. We bought them because her mom, a farm wife with six kids, had a set of Maytags that lasted for twenty years. While standing still and watching clothes flop themselves dry through the glass window a rush of memories came back for fifteen minutes. Memories of a newly married couple sharing their loads of clothes together while sitting in the warm, stale air of a humming Laundromat, of a Tupperware container full of quarters, and of moving that set of Maytags several times over the years to new homes.
I was brought further back into the recesses of my childhood. I think the glass dryer door is what did it, but the thought of the quarters solidified the memory. For when I was growing up in Yankton, South Dakota, my mom had taken me each week with her for laundry day to the rounded metal building that served as the local laundromat. As a four year old I spent countless hours reading picture books, watching the Daddy long-legs spiders in the back parking lot, or watching clothes spin endlessly in the dryers. When I was six and we moved an hour north to Fedora (a small town of 50 people) we’d drive west seven miles to Artesian (population 200) to wash clothes in their laundromat. Here we boys could get a bottle of soda pop for a dime and play Superman in the phone booth on the corner. My brother and I would giggle in fascination at a sight that made my mom blush. Some high school pranksters had scaled the corner light pole and attached a stuffed bra some 25 feet in the air, suspended for all to see: a beacon at the intersection of Main Street and Highway 34. We lived in Fedora for two years and moved to Artesian for the next two. That bra remained for the four years I lived in the area.
It’s amazing what will flood back into your head while watching clothes tumble through a dryer window for a few minutes.
— 2 —
Haunted love is all that I feel, when you’re passing by
Haunted love is all that I see, it’s there in your eyes
And I say
No, no, no, don’t pass me over No, no, no, don’t pass me by
See I can see good things for you and I
Yeah, good things for you
I am nothing if not a creature of habit. For almost five years the CD selection in my truck’s multi-disc player has remained the same:
- Don Henley – Inside Job
- U2 – How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
- Cowboy Junkies –Trinity Revisited
- The Blessing – Prince of the Deep Water
- BoDeans – Homebrewed: Live from the Pabst (2 discs)
The remaining CD slot above the radio is the one that changes from time to time, though it mostly remains empty. At one time I owned a music collection with over 1000 titles. It’s now down to about a quarter of that, and I probably listen to only 10-15% of what remains. I’m slowly liquidating it and as I do I’ve found that these five titles encompass most of what I desire to hear. In other words: they never get old.
— 3 —
Give I can give love and attention
Give I can give all time away
Only to one heart I can give today.
Be I can be man full of color
Be I can be man black or white
But only to one heart I can be tonight
On the same day that the new washer/dryer arrived I also received an order from Amazon.com that contained an electronics gift for my daughter along with a few “stocking stuffers” for me. The two books at the bottom of this stack (Brideshead Revisited and The Cantata of Love: A Verse by Verse Reading of the Song of Songs) are ones I’ve previously purchased and are the next rungs on my reading ladder. Praying the Psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours is a final book for use in researching a project, Cosmas is from the brilliant Loyala Classics series and that latest that I have chosen to read, and A Father’s Legacy is a journal I’d first found at a Walgreen’s store next to the Hallmark cards and had to order almost a decade later from a used bookseller through Amazon. I won’t be writing in this book but will be using its writing prompts to write a book for my children and (hopefully) grandchildren over the next two years.
— 4 —
Haunted love is all that I feel, when you’re passing by
Haunted love is all that I see, it’s there in your eyes
And I say
No, no, no, don’t pass me over No, no, no, don’t pass me by
See I can see good things for you and I
Yeah, good things for you
The last book in that stack that I wanted to mention is a little gem I didn’t even know existed until earlier this week when Heather King mentioned it on her blog. If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland looks to be just what the doctor ordered as I’ve been struggling with how, or whether, to continue in this endeavor.
Everybody is talented because everybody who is human has something to express. Try not expressing anything for twenty-four hours and see what happens. You will nearly explode. You will want to write a long letter or draw a picture or sing or make a dress or plant a garden. Religious men used to go into the wilderness to impose silence on themselves; but really it was so that they would talk to God. They needed to express something; that is to say, they had thoughts welling up in them and the thoughts went out to someone, whether silently or aloud.
Writing or painting is putting thoughts on paper. Music is singing them. That’s all there is to it.
— From If You Want to Write, pp. 9, 10.
I haven’t read the book yet obviously but have thumbed through it. I love what I see so far. I do not have the mailing address of a friend of mine who is a much more talented writer than myself. But if you’re reading this Ms. C, I believe this just may be a book for you to add to your own writer’s shelf. A quick read at 168 pages, it is presently available for $8.45 on Amazon and the Kindle version is $3.99.
PS: I also highly highly recommend Heather King’s blog Shirt of Flame. Do yourself a favor and check her out. As she describes herself:
I’m an ex-barfly, ex-lawyer, Catholic convert with three memoirs: Parched (the dark years); Redeemed (crawling toward the light); and Shirt of Flame (my year of wandering around Koreatown, L.A. “with” St. Therese of Lisieux, a cloistered 19th-c. French nun).
I write, I speak, I teach, I explore the confluence of creativity and transcendence; the sacred and the profane; the weird, the wonderful, and the wacky.
I wasn’t kidding. Go now.
— 5 —
Haunted love is all that I see, it’s there in your eyes
And I say
No, no, no, don’t pass me over No, no, no, don’t pass me by
See I can see good things for you and I
Yeah, good things for you
And so we come to the end of the fifty-second edition of this weekly series. It would normally signify a one-year birthday celebration but I skipped a few weeks here and there due to other commitments. There is no cake this week.
I had actually planned to stop after a year, thinking fifty-two editions of this weekly exercise would be enough. But I don’t think it is and the truth is I don’t think I could stop if I wanted to. For while I’m in the process of closing this blog’s Facebook page and eliminating a few other time vampires while I focus on two writing projects for the new year, I plan to keep this little corner of my world going. I like it here. It’s home. And whether it entertains only myself, one or two other readers, or a house-party full of guests, I do enjoy time spent here. I hope you do too.
Brenda Ueland (again):
My explanation of it is that when I walk in a carefree way, without straining to get to my destination, then I am living in the present. And it is only then that the creative power flourishes.
Of course all through your day, however busy you are, these little times come. But they are very short in most lives. We are always doing something—talking, reading, listening to the radio, planning what to do next. The mind is kept naggingly busy on some easy, unimportant, external thing all day.
That is why most people are so afraid of being alone. For after a few minutes of unpleasant mental vacancy, the creative thoughts begin to come. And these thoughts at first are bound to be depressing, because the first thing they say is what a senseless thing life is with nothing but talk, meals, reading, uninteresting work and listening to the radio. But that is the beginning. It is just where your imagination is leading you to see how life can better.
But if you would only persist. If you would continue to be alone for a long time, amblingly swinging your legs for many miles and living in the present, then you will be rewarded: thoughts, good ideas, plots for novels, longings, decisions, revelations will come to you.
— From If You Want to Write, pp. 42-44
The BoDeans sang that “you have to sleep with your decisions” and my decision is to continue this series for at least a while longer. In the meantime you will find me sitting on a tall chair in my basement, “amblingly swinging” my legs, and watching clothes toss and turn through the dryer window. All while thinking of good things.
I am thankful for many, many things. Each day, 365 days per year, I express my thanks and my gratitude for different aspects of and in my life during Lauds, Vespers, and during the Holy Mass itself. Because of this I do not feel the need to participate in the narcissistic, look-at-me-look-at-me exercises I witness every year at this time on Facebook or other social media. If you are on Facebook you know what I’m talking about. Here’s an idea: instead of waiting until the month of November and writing for a faceless internet audience about how much you care for someone or something, step away from the computer to phone and/or actually spend time during the entire year telling them personally.
Just a thought.
Speaking of Lauds, during this morning’s prayers the following passage from the Book of Tobit was used:
Do to no one what you yourself dislike. Give to the hungry some of your bread, and to the naked some of your clothing. Seek counsel from every wise man. At all times bless the Lord God, and ask him to make all your paths straight and to grant success to all your endeavors and plans. – Tobit 4:15a, 16a, 18a, 19.
It’s a few days early, but within that passage I found my Friday Five. A warning: I’m in a mood so you may wish to just skip ahead to #4 or #5. I am just being honest by letting you know that below I am, well…being honest.
— 1 —
Do to no one what you yourself dislike.
Ever hear of the Golden Rule? It was in all the papers. Somewhere along the way we have stopped practicing this rule and have adopted one that goes along the lines of “Do as I tell you to do because I alone know what’s best for you and besides, it’s politically correct.” It’s bad enough that this has become the motto of our government but so many people seem to have adopted it too.
The Golden Rule vs. the Nanny State. A no-brainer as a decision if ever there was one.
— 2 —
Give to the hungry some of your bread, and to the naked some of your clothing.
See above. It’s become apparent that not only does the government want to take more of what I’ve earned to pay for their entitlement society, but now they also want to tell me who I should be giving it to for the sake of their idea of social benevolence, no matter whether that particular “cause” violates my First Amendment rights or not.
And again, the majority of the American population is okay with this. Now I know why they stopped teaching history in public schools so many years ago. They knew that the way to control the population is to steal said population’s heritage. Well played, Democrat-controlled teacher’s unions. Well played.
— 3 —
Seek counsel from every wise man.
Shut off the television America. There is no wisdom there. It is not to be found on Desperate Housewives, The Voice, The Big Bang Theory or Glee. It definitely isn’t coming from Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, Wolf Blitzer, Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity. A wise, successful man once told me that you could tell a lot about a person by the music they listened to, the books they read and the friends they kept. In other words, what is put into a mind by association has a profound effect on a person. I have observed the same for fifteen years now after having studied this man’s methods. Rarely, if ever, has it failed me. And never before in the fifteen years I’ve practiced this method have wise men and women been so ignored in our land, but hey…the final season of Jersey Shore is on.
Funny ol’ world.
— 4 —
At all times bless the Lord God, and ask him to make all your paths straight and to grant success to all your endeavors and plans.
Man is called to praise God without ceasing. It is what we were made to do. It is how I hope to spend eternity. I will admit that it wasn’t really until this past year or so that I grasped that concept and took it to heart. One cannot immerse him or herself in the psalms each day without discovering this. So we are to bless and praise Him. But we are also to petition Him. We do this in the great prayer, Our Father, when we ask “give us this day our daily bread.”
What also stands out in that last portion from Tobit is that we are to petition God to grant success to all our “endeavors and plans.” In other words: make a plan. Take action. Don’t just sit around waiting for something to happen. Get moving. Slowly, if you must, but move. My rule for taking action? I begin always by asking myself “Is it moral, legal and ethical?” If so, I begin to make plans to move in that direction. Ask God to bless that path before you begin as well as along the way.
So looking back we can see how this passage from Tobit is cyclical.
- Praise God.
- Make a plan. Ask God for His blessing.
- Practice the Golden Rule.
- Perform corporal works of mercy along the way.
- See the counsel of wise men to tweak your plan or for those times you veer off into the ditch.
- Repeat Step 1.
It’s cyclical and a preferred alternative to the one seeking to replace it.
- Praise the government and its leaders.
- Plan nothing. You can’t move forward without the government anyhow, so just don’t plan.
- Do what we tell you. Question nothing.
- Your money and property will be used as we deem fit for the good of The State whether it complies with your beliefs or not. Ignore that 237 year old piece of parchment known as the Constitution. It was written by old, dead white guys. Slaveholders. And they were atheists. It’s in our history books and we teach it to your children with or without your permission.
- Watch the state-run media. View always the shows on network tv, no matter whether they corrupt you or your children. The culture may be a sewer but it’s our sewer. Look at the monkey!
- Return to Step 1 and thank your leaders for the sewer they graciously provide us all to dwell within.
“War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.”
― George Orwell, 1984
— 5 —
If you’re still reading I suppose I should offer my apology for being so sarcastic this morning. I’m sure I greatly diminished what is to be gleaned from Tobit and for that I’ve done it, and you, a grave disservice. But it is also where I am at this point in time. For in this passage I see not only tremendous wisdom and teaching, I see also a great contrast with what is going on in our society today. For while no one likes to admit it, we have lost our way as a collective whole. However, we can still live our lives rightly as individuals and affect real and lasting change in this manner. It starts with us and ripples out through our neighborhoods and communities. We still have a choice.
I can think of no greater example of this at the moment than Katie Davis. I’ve written before about Katie and Amazima Ministries. There is a link to the right of this blog that you can click upon in order to support her or learn more about her work. I still highly recommend her book, too.
Amazima released this video for Thanksgiving the other day. While I may have caused a little bile to gather in your throat, I hope this soothes the ol’ windpipe.
I wish each and every one of you a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving. Advent approaches soon after, and due to a couple of writing projects I’m endeavoring to complete I do not plan to be around as much through the end of the year. You’re probably thankful for that right about now. One is a large teaching project/lesson plan. The other is a work of fiction. I haven’t written fiction in a few years so this will be a challenge. I plan to practice the six steps outlined above.
The first set of six. Not the second set.
After all of that is finished I’ll go back to being the nice man with the quaint blog who won’t ruffle any feathers by challenging you to think.
Yeah right. Who am I kidding?