It’s happened before

The two excerpts below were taken from the book A Postcard from the Volcano by Lucy Beckett. I am about 2/3 of the way through the book and am enjoying it thus far. To set the scene for the passages below:

It is 1928. Max Hofmannswaldau, a Prussian-born count who is half-Jewish, half-Protestant (but in name only…the family was primarily secular), is visiting with his old high school teacher Dr. Fischer, a Catholic, in Breslau, Germany, where they both reside and Max as a pre-law student. Post-WWI Germany as a republic is struggling and the centrist government is beginning to be challenged by both the Communist party and the new fascists calling themselves Nazis.


“The certainties within which people used to grow up have gone. Everyone now who has any education or reads a newspaper has to make up his own mind about everything. Of most people, that is asking too much, so they find ways of allowing other people to make up their minds for them, and they will choose whatever will make them feel better. The present is difficult—when, it reality, is it not?—so the promise of a golden future is what they’re inclined to choose: this is the secret of the success of both the left and the right.”

Dr. Fischer, p. 337


“You see, what is blasphemous about both the promise of the left and the promise of the right is that neither will acknowledge the fallibility of man, his dependence on God. Both of them suppose that man can do everything for himself and therefore that there was no need for the Incarnation, no need for Christ to come into the world and die and be raised from death. That is the heart of the blasphemy, because once man has no need of God and is permitted to do everything for himself, that is precisely what he will do. The self, what I want, what I can get at the other fellow’s expense, what a few of us can get at the expense of the many, … the will of the self now has no bounds, and cruelty will be sanctioned on the right by the idea that the strongest have the right to prevail, and on the left by the idea that the strongest will deliver paradise to the weak. Which they will not.

Meanwhile, there must be judgement, exercised every day, about small things and great, exercised in the light of Christ, with reference to the absolutes, the goodness, the truth, the beauty of God, and people must be able to look to the Church for help in making these judgements. And the Church more than ever will need priests with educated minds to give people with less ability, less good fortune, the capacity to make such judgements for themselves. God does not sleep.”

“The court of the Lord is never closed, in the here or in the hereafter.”

“That is precisely right.”

Dr. Fischer and Max Hofmannswaldau, pp. 338-9


I contend that what was true in 1928 is true today in 2015 America. History does repeat, and we continue making the mistakes of the past precisely because man is in fact fallible.

When I read those passages the current presidential electioneering came to mind. Both sides of the political aisle see themselves as infallible and contend that things will be all better if the great unwashed would only see and understand how awesome they are. While there are still those who do not buy into these assertions it seems that more and more of our population looks to a political party to resolve their problems and usher in a mindless utopia. I don’t know if it’s a modern trend thanks to social media, or if the deranged have always been with us, but more and more people seem all to eager and at ease with resorting to violence to achieve their utopian ends. I saw the following, for example, only last night. It’s but one of hundreds I’m sure I could post from either side of the aisle.


The American political process has always involved a fascination with a candidate’s personality (or lack thereof) to an extent, but over the last decade it has increasingly become a contest between two cults of personality. Two parties and seemingly two different viewpoints (liberal or conservative) but more and more they are two sides of the same coin. It’s not just in politics that we have adapted this mindset when it comes to personalities/celebrities, but it is politics where its consequences are the most dangerous.

I remain perplexed by the fact that more people haven’t seen this for themselves or figured it out. When I do so the blowback I receive is largely of the sort that tells me God is not welcome in such conversations. I do not bring it up in order to steer debate towards the merits of a theocracy, so-called. I bring it up in the context of the value of man. Of virtue. Of his heart. Of the dignity and respect due to all. But once anything related to God is uttered their ears close and a reactionary defensive position is assumed. Considering they worship the self and government as idols the irony is lot on them.

I’ve sensed myself begin to develop a detachment from the world of politics and government as a result. These debates and battles have gone on for much longer than I’ve been around, and will continue long after. Men and women better than I and with more of a voice/platform have fought it but to no avail. There will always be those ready to direct the construction of a golden calf at the foot of the mountain.

We, like so many nations before us, have made government our god. Too many, as acolytes of this god, are prepared to do violence on its behalf.

It’s happened before.

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.  
They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.  
They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.  
Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them.
~Psalm 115:4-8


Oct. 6 – Memorial of St. Bruno

What’s in it for me?

On September 30th the anonymous author over at Set Your Paths Straight answered questions that have weighed on my own mind for a long time.

Today is one of those days. I want to write. I need to write…but my thoughts are like spider webs – knitting together and then floating away. I can’t concentrate. So I sit before this screen and ask myself the question, “why must I write?”

The truth is there are millions of blogs out there and at least many thousands that are faith-based. Everyone has something to say, and now that we can all self-publish – it seems we think we have to say it. So, what makes me think what I have to write is important enough to be read?

It’s because of Him.

I write because of God…. because I have this pressure in me – to have one more chance to share (and make a difference for someone) – that Jesus is real. I write because if I didn’t do so – I would burst from the inside out. I want to jump and down and tell anyone who will listen that though people will forsake you, Jesus will not. I write because I am a broken vessel who has been given a particular heart for others who are as broken as me. I write because I know that Jesus came to heal the sick – and God knows we are all sick – mentally, physically, spiritually… so broken, so tragically broken.

I’ve really wrestled with these questions over the past few months. Sometimes I think I’m just throwing bricks into the Grand Canyon. I ask myself (a lot) “What’s the point?” Is this the greatest vanity project of all time for me?

I do my best to write well even if it doesn’t always work that way. I once harbored a small dream of attracting legions of readers and turning this into a successful literary career of some sort, but that was not meant to be. In many ways I’m glad for that unanswered prayer. In the end I write for God, and for me. I also write on the slim, small chance that something I say may break through all the noise, clutter and shouting of the blogosphere and find its way to the troubled or questioning mind of someone who needs it at that moment in time. That in some way, and somehow, I’m making a difference for someone. Anyone.

Last weekend, and for the first time in years, I watched Field of Dreams with my family. It’s one of my all-time favorite movies and I’ve watched it dozens of times. But last week these few lines (listed below) smacked me upside the head for the first time. It’s towards the end of the film, and Ray is frustrated because after doing all that he was asked to do by a disembodied voice (yes, really), risking his farm and his relationships with family and friends, his new friend Terry is asked to do something that Ray wanted to do. (I’m not going to explain the whole plot because I’m assuming you’ve seen it by now. If you haven’t, do so soon.)

Ray Kinsella: I did it all. I listened to the voices, I did what they told me, and not once did I ask what’s in it for me.

Shoeless Joe Jackson: What are you saying, Ray?

Ray Kinsella: I’m saying, what’s in it for me?

Shoeless Joe Jackson: Is that why you did this? For you?

So while I do in a small way write for me (because sometimes I just have to get it out or I’ll “burst from the inside out”), I ultimately write for God. And for you.

It’s like sowing seed in the Parable of the Sower. And it can be lonely work involving a lot of patience with little to no feedback.

But it’s enough. It has to be.

Oct. 2, 2015 – Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels


corn farmer bwThere was a farmer who grew excellent quality corn. Every year he won the award for the best grown corn. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.

“Why sir,” said the farmer, “Didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”

So is with our lives. Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all.


Friday Five – Volume 98

Friday Five-Mere Observations

— 1 —

I begin this letter with a clarion call and clear charge to you, my sons and brothers in Christ: Men, do not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you, the battle that is wounding our children and families, the battle that is distorting the dignity of both women and men. This battle is often hidden, but the battle is real. It is primarily spiritual, but it is progressively killing the remaining Christian ethos in our society and culture, and even in our own homes.

On Tuesday Bishop Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix released his new apostolic exhortation directed at the men of his diocese, and the men of America, titled “Into the Breach: An Apostolic Exhortation to Catholic Men, my Spiritual Sons in the Diocese of Phoenix.”

Men in general should read this 23 page letter, but most especially Catholic men. In August I wrote about my own preparations for battle and I’m encouraged to see the same (but much weightier) exhortation coming from a man such as Bishop Olmsted.

Last night I printed the entire 23 pages and sat down in a chair with pen in hand to read, highlight and scribble notes. I could, and may in the future, pull quotes from this document for use in future blogs as there is much to digest. This letter must not be allowed to go the way of so many things in our short attention span world and be forgotten within a few days.

Again: if you are a Catholic man you simply must read this. I also encourage any Christian men who are not Catholic but who recognize in our culture today the need for such a clarion call to action to read it as well.

Since the Church as “field hospital” after battle is an appropriate analogy, then another complementary image is appropriate for our day: the Spiritual Battle College. The Church is, and has always been, a school that prepares us for spiritual battle, where Christians are called to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6), to “put on the armor of God”, and “to be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).

Ever since Jesus chose the Twelve Apostles, formed them in his presence, and sent them out in his Name, He has continued to choose and form men through his Church and to send them out to the wounded. This is the meaning of the word apostle – men who are sent. With this letter, then, my sons and brothers, I urge you to heed Jesus’ call and to let him form your mind and heart with the light of the Gospel for the purpose of being sent. That is why this letter is an apostolic exhortation. I am hereby exhorting you to step into the breach – to do the work of Christ’s soldiers in the world today.

Below is the trailer for the letter. The letter itself is available at You may also read about it here and here.

— 2 —

So…cultural decay.

I admit that during my high school years I subscribed to Rolling Stone magazine. I haven’t read it in decades as my values changed while the magazine’s values ebbed ever downward. Rarely do I read online articles from it anymore. But now and then they feature something about an older artist that I listened to at one time (or still listen to) and so I found myself reading this article by perhaps my favorite singer/songwriter Don Henley. Henley just released Cass County his first solo album in fifteen years and has been making the usual publicity circuit. I even saw him interviewed on CBS Sunday Morning last week.

Anyhow, in this interview there were many statements made by Henley that I found myself nodding with in complete agreement. Here are a few:

Though he’s well-known for delivering songs with pointed social commentary, he says that isn’t his intent on Cass County. “It’s songs about the circular nature of life and how life is one big circle with a lot of smaller circles inside of it,” says the 68-year-old. “I’m at an age now where I’m thinking about mortality, what kind of world my kids are going to inherit when they grow up, and how I can prepare them to be resilient of that in the face of that because, let’s face it, the world has gone batshit crazy.”


“The politics in this country are really messed up right now,” he continues. “It’s just ridiculous, the things we focus on, how shallow our culture has become, how you can get famous now for not really accomplishing anything. Fame, at one time, was associated with accomplishment, but in this day and age fame and notoriety have become confused. A lot of people who we call famous, should not be famous. They should be notorious because if you can build a multi-million-dollar empire just by taking your clothes off and going on the Internet, there’s something very wrong with our values.”

— 3 —

So…cultural decay.

— 4 —

One day, if I feel it’s still worth the effort, I plan to write about something I’ve been outlining since last week. It concerns the bizarre Pharisitical split I’ve seen open wide during Pope Francis’ papacy among Catholics, most especially Catholic commentators and social media officianados. It reached a ridiculously high pitch during his trip to America last week. Many American Catholics have become products of their American culture and now find themselves viewing everything through a cynical political lens. I’ve documented some of it to write about later but I am finding the entire exercise just too depressing.

It’s not only Catholics that have embraced Phariseeism, but Christians in general. On Sunday popular blogger/writer Matt Walsh simply posted the gospel reading from Mass (Mark 9:33-48) with no commentary. The very first comment was from a woman who identified herself as a bible-believing Christian (I guess we Catholics are not) and posted the same passage from the King James Version, because “it’s the authentic translation.” What happened next was predictable and sad to watch. Hundreds of comments followed involving Christians fighting amongst themselves over scripture translations. You could almost hear satan cackling with glee over it all. Walsh’s response was simply this:

I posted a simple Bible verse to Facebook. No commentary. No opinion. Nothing but the Word of God on a Sunday. Not only that, but it’s a Bible verse specifically about finding unity and not competing amongst ourselves. What happens? Almost immediately, a few smug individuals decide to “correct” the translation I used (because apparently it’s not “right” unless it uses “sayeth” instead of “say” and “ye” instead of “you”) and next thing you know a simple Bible verse has turned into a reason to bicker amongst ourselves. I am so disgusted, disappointed, and grieved by this — especially after a week of hearing people tell me I’m not a Christian because I’m a Catholic, and after years of reading comments on this page about how I’m not a good representative of Christ because I have tattoos or I like to drink sometimes, etc — that I really don’t know what to say. I heard this passage in church today and it spoke to me. I thought I should share it. The fact that ANY Christian would find ANY reason to take issue or criticize is beyond inexcusable. God help us in this country. I’m tired of this crap. Now, yes, please tell me I’m not a Christian because I said crap. Pharisees. The church in America is overrun by Pharisees.

— 5 —

Ok…last point to this long Friday Five. Thank you for staying with me.

To one Catholic who took to her very public blog to commit out-and-out defamation of character against Pope Francis in a very politically American hysterical way I commented:

I have always enjoyed your articles and look forward to them. But this was an almost unreadable mess much like the majority of the live tweets, blogs and social commentary of last week. I’m a conservative for the most part but a Catholic Christian first, and what I read coming from the conservative side of the aisle as events were still unfolding was embarrassing. Most would do well to pray first and then write.

At the risk of appearing to give too much credit to myself I highlight this point:

Most would do well to pray first and then write.

Too many, it would seem, who consider themselves orthodox Catholics or conservative Christians have not cultivated an interior life of any sort. They may walk the walk and look good on the outside, but inside they are dead. They may have even had a strong interior life at one point but it got swept away in the torrent of instant social media commentary. Jesus spoke of just such a person when he said:

 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Matthew 23:27-28)

To that end I’ll wrap with something written by Dan Burke. In his article Burke begins by saying how difficult it is for us to extend mercy when we are not intimately familiar with our own failures.

Most don’t realize that the Pharisees were stalwart orthodox. They were deeply committed to their faith. However, they had strayed interiorly. Their faith was one of external adherence and they thought that this was the entirety of the life in God. Jesus’ rebukes of this problem were not new and were echoed throughout the Old Testament. … Here’s the hard part: external orthodoxy is a distorted orthodoxy when it is not accompanied by a properly oriented interior life.

Burke then asks: How do we know if we who consider ourselves “vehemently orthodox” (as so many of those writing about the pope no doubt do) would be rebuked or embraced by Christ? He then presents a list of questions to ask ourselves:

  • Are we deeply aware of our own sins and frailty or are we more aware of the sins, mistakes, and errors of others?
  • When others fail or seem to demonstrate a lesser commitment than ours, or seem to live outside of the boundaries of orthodoxy, are we quick to throttle them as the wicked servant did in the gospels?
  • Do we fail to see that conversion is a process and that each person is somewhere on the path and that not all actually know the path and how they should proceed; or do we always attribute negative motives or weak commitment and then criticize or condemn on that basis?
  • Are we patient, kind, gentle, and respectful with others as the Holy Spirit has clearly instructed us to be in scripture, or are we impatient, harsh, critical, unkind, or disrespectful as we engage those with whom we disagree?
  • Do we spend much of our time arguing and debating with others on the internet or are we actually giving our lives to the tangible service of our communities, our parishes, and those in need both of the works of corporal and spiritual mercy?
  • Do we fail to see the providential hand of God active in redemption and the leading of His Church and thus do we only see and constantly complain about the human failure and frailty in the Church?
  • Do we demonstrate the joy of the presence of God within us that is fostered by daily mental prayer and frequent participation in the sacraments and that reflects a peace and love that dominates our hearts even in the most challenging of times? If we do have that joy, does it show on our faces or are we always dour, sour, and downtrodden?

I invite you to examine your conscience, answer these questions truthfully, and read Bishop Olmsted’s apostolic exhortation.

And join me in the breach.

What Forgiveness Requires

forgiveLast night as I read a favorite book I use to study and meditate on the Gospels the following section kind of leapt off the page at me. The selected passage was Matthew 6:7-15, wherein Jesus teaches his disciples (and all of us) the Lord’s Prayer during his Sermon on the Mount. It struck me because of the increasing rancor expressed as partisanship (political or non-political) that we witness each day, or perhaps even participate in. I’m tired of it; a pointless waste of precious time and an exercise in futility. At this point in our history I am having a difficult time imagining our nation shaking loose from this uncorked genie bottle we’ve chained around ourselves. Yet I am fighting to remain an optimist. I’ve watched (and experienced) forgiveness as it unlocked those chains. “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

Anyhow, here’s that passage. Note what’s required for forgiveness. I sure did.


‘Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.’ – Mt. 6:14-15

Forgiveness requires humility – from both directions. Basically, humility means recognizing that you are not God, and when we refuse to forgive someone, we are forgetting precisely that. A refusal to forgive involves passing judgment on the offender. But to pass judgment on another person is to put oneself in God’s place. Only God can see the whole interior world of a human being; only God can see into the secret recesses of the human heart. And so, only God has the right to pass judgment. (This same reasoning applies to forgiving yourself; a refusal to forgive yourself comes, ultimately, from arrogance. We find it hard to forgive ourselves if we think we are so perfect that we, unlike normal human beings, are beyond the possibility of falling short, failing, or sinning – it indicates a shortage of healthy humility.)

So those who refuse to forgive are acting like God, elevating themselves above their offender. But acting like God inhibits them from recognizing their true dependence on God and their own need for his forgiveness – the throne of judgment only has enough room for one judge at a time, either oneself or God. This attitude, then, simply ousts God, shutting the door on him. And so the merciful, forgiving God is left standing outside in the cold, unable to bring us his forgiveness.

The tragedy of this dilemma is that every human soul needs to experience God’s forgiveness in order to be at peace. And so, the unforgiving person ends up destroying himself in his self-righteous attempt to destroy his neighbor.

(from the book The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer by John Bartunek, p.105.)

Friday Five – Volume 97

Friday Five-Mere Observations

— 1 —

“The road that stretches before the feet of a man is a challenge to his heart long before it tests the strength of his legs.” — St. Thomas Aquinas

— 2 —

I had planned on touching a little upon the ongoing trip that Pope Francis is making to the United States. After thinking about it for awhile last night and again this morning I’ve decided to take a pass. It’s really not my comfort zone right now and I doubt anyone is interested in my thoughts on the matter.

I will say that I believe Pope Francis is neither a Marxist or a bigot. These are popular dismissals coming from both sides of our American political aisle. They is also over-simplified, non-thinking knee-jerk bumper sticker sloganeering. Pope Francis is criticized in this manner for three reasons:

  1. Americans have become a reactionary, hyper-partisan political people (“Politics uber alles”). Almost everything is seen through a rigidly defined lens of what is considered to be left and/or right.
  2. Cafeteria Catholicism: So many American Catholics have a poor knowledge of the depths and beauty of their faith. Instead they treat it like a buffet line: “I’ll follow that portion of the faith, but not portion.”
  3. A growing lack of attention span coupled with a lack of critical thinking skills.

Being a follower of Christ and His Gospel means that you are not defined by partisan politics. I’ve learned from personal experience through interactions with friends in person, online, or strangers, that holding the line on Christ’s teachings when it comes to the issues of the day does not equate with one being popular. That is simply not the way of this world, nor has it ever been. I’ve lost friends in real life and been attacked on Facebook or Twitter by people I do not know (and some I do know), simply for gently discussing an issue from the point of the view of the gospels. (Those who know me just now snickered at my use of the word “gently”. But believe me, it’s true.)

I guess there is a reason why the Church on earth has referred to itself for two thousand years as the Church Militant. When fully engaged on earth as a Christian you will take hits from all sides. I’ve found strength in prayer, the Sacraments, the Mass, and in service to others.

When it comes to the attacks on Pope Francis for what he said or didn’t say this week while in America I can only say that I seems to recall another man who pleased neither side of the political aisle with his message.

We crucified Him.


Addendum: Father Longenecker points out how polarized Conservatives and Liberals have become as well and lists five papal takeaways for both right and left wingers.

Text of Pope Francis’ speech to Congress is here.

Text of his address to the United Nations is here.

— 3 —

Parent/Teacher conferences were yesterday evening at our Catholic elementary school, which means there is no school today. Yet despite the opportunity to sleep in on a free day our sixth-grader asked to be woken up early this morning so that he could be dressed and ride his bike to church to serve at the 8:15 Mass. I’m not sure what his reasons were for this nor do I question them. I’m grateful that he desired to do this at this point in time. Freshly in to junior high as he is these moments could be fleeting and the next time he may just as likely balk at my suggestion that he do so. So for now I’ll gladly accept and be thankful for his unprompted bit of service and this grace.

This week First Things published Rules for Being an Altar Boy at Saint John Vianney Parish for the Liturgical Year 1964. I’m pasting it in full below, and am considering having a framed copy made for our parish sacristy (and perhaps my son’s room).

If you have to sneeze on the altar do so quietly and turn
Your head away from the Holy Sacrament. Please carry
A handkerchief in the pocket of your trousers. No jeans.
Wear good shoes. No sneakers. Arrive 30 minutes early
Minimum: 5 minutes early is 25 minutes late. The bells,
As a crucial part of the Mass, are rung firmly but gently.
It is the unaware altar server who rings them too loudly.
Be attentive. You too are an integral aspect of the Mass.
You are witnessing and abetting a miracle. Always treat
The Mass that way. Your service allows the miraculous
Easier passage into this plane. Never let your cassock be
Stained or sullied. Similarly your surplice. Do not under
Any circumstances drink the wine or eat the consecrated
Hosts. You will be tempted to do so. Resist the Tempter.
You may be late for, or fail to appear for, only one Mass.
If you are late for or miss a second Mass, your privileges
Are suspended. Two boys in nine years have been ousted.
Don’t become the third. Honor the parents who are proud
Of their son and his service as witness to Holy Sacrament.
It is a gift to serve on the altar. Treat your service as a gift.
Listen to the Holy Spirit as you serve. The Mass is ancient
And comes to us directly from the hand and words of God
When He assumed human form in the person of the Christ.
In and through and suffusing every aspect of the quotidian
Is the sacred. Treat Father with respect, but be aware of his
Own complex humanity. The sacristy is not a locker room:
There is no horseplay, no vulgar language, and no shouting.
If you have a problem, or a question, of any sort, or if there
Is anything whatsoever that you wish to speak to me about,
Be assured that I will keep it in confidence, and listen with
Respect for your own miraculous existence, and admirable
Service to the Church Eternal and particularly to our parish.
Finally as to the length of the hair, any length is acceptable,
As long as the hair is noticeably clean. Christ had long hair,
But you can be sure that His was clean. Boys—be like Him.

— 4 —

In his book The Breviary Explained, Pius Parsch explains the difference between private prayer and liturgical prayer. I pray the Divine Office in order to join the voice of my prayer with that of the Universal Church. I pray because I know that at that moment, around the world (and most especially in my time zone) hundreds of thousands are praying along with me. During that time I am not alone.

The breviary is above all the prayer of the Church, the prayer said in the name of the Church. It is helpful to understand the difference between private prayer and liturgical prayer. In private prayer I pray, mostly, for myself and my own affairs. It is the isolated person who stands in the centre of the action, and the prayer is more or less individualized. But in liturgical prayer, and therefore in the breviary, it is not primarily I who am praying, but the Church, the bride of Christ. The object of her prayer is broader, too: all the needs of God’s kingdom here on earth. In liturgical prayer, I feel more like a member of a great community, like a little leaf on the great living tree of the Church. I share her life and her problems. The Church is praying through my mouth, I offer her my tongue to pray with her for all the great objectives of redemption, and for God’s honour and glory.

Of course I’m not alone during private prayer either and that is my one-on-one time with Jesus. I cherish that time and place great value on it. But just as we humans will “participate” in the big game by talking about it with a buddy at the office water cooler, or among 90,000 screaming fans at the stadium, prayer affords us similar opportunities.

I close my eyes, and while my lips murmur the words of the Breviary which I know by heart, I leave behind their literal meaning, and feel that I am in that endless land where the Church, militant and pilgrim, passes, walking towards the promised fatherland. I breathe with the Church in the same light by day, the same darkness by night; I see on every side of me the forces of evil that beset and assail Her; I find myself in the midst of Her battles and victories, Her prayers of anguish and Her songs of triumph, in the midst of the oppression of prisoners, the groans of the dying, the rejoicing of the armies and captains victorious. I find myself in their midst, but not as a passive spectator; nay rather, as one whose vigilance and skill, whose strength and courage can bear a decisive weight on the outcome of the struggle between good and evil, and upon the eternal destinies of individual men and of the multitude. – Blessed Card. Ildefonso Schuster, Archbishop of Milan, 1929-54

Source: New Liturgical Movement

— 5 —

Sometimes we miss the moment trying to capture the moment. Just stand there and enjoy. This woman, watching the Pope in New York City yesterday, gets it.


Source: Twitter via @JamesMurphy

That hidden treasure which is within us all

Not screens. Not alone.

Not screens. Not alone.

Silence is an indispensable condition for keeping things and pondering them in one’s heart. Profundity of thought can develop only in a climate of silence. Too much chatter exhausts our inner strength; it dissipates everything of any value in our heart, which becomes like a bottle of perfume left open for a long time: only water remains with a slight touch of its former fragrance. – F. Suarez, Mary of Nazareth, p. 155 (In Conversation with God, Volume 5 by Francis Fernandez. p. 77)

A few thoughts about solitude, isolation or quiet time.

Yesterday I read an article on the First Things website by Mark Bauerlein titled Prayer in the Facebook Age. In this piece Bauerlein articulates something I’ve failed to each time I discuss my need to quiet time. It is not merely that I seek quiet, or that I am withdrawing into some sort of forced isolation. It is that, like Jesus during his times of departing from the crowds, I am “going toward something else.”

It is easy to overlook those moments in the Gospels when Jesus withdraws from others. They come across as pauses, a rest between miracles, parables, and edifying encounters such as that with the rich young man. The work of Jesus’s ministry takes place amid others, and the exchanges can be taxing, as when the Canaanite woman asks his help and he replies that his bread is not for dogs. “And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table” (Matt. 15:26–27), and Jesus relents. The souls he helps and tangles with make him weep and roar; he denounces, mourns, blesses, and heals. Disengagement allows for calm and quiet. Especially in Luke 4:42, his solitude marks a retreat from the madding crowd: “And when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought him, and came unto him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from them.” Here and elsewhere, the people press and beseech, and Jesus needs a respite.

But, of course, the isolation has a positive content. It’s not about getting away from others but about going toward something else. Jesus isn’t alone. He’s with the Father. Prayer can happen in company. Church worship is corporate prayer. But there must be times when a soul petitions the Father in solitude. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone,” but Jesus’s example shows the periodic necessity of making God your only companion. Too often the world draws you away from him, and so you must slough off your circumstances and address him by yourself, oriented toward nothing else, no outside distractions or commitments. The first commandment is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Loving your neighbor comes second.

Bauerlein says that we are in danger of losing these moments of solitary faith, and I agree. He goes on to implicate the abundance of social media as the culprit for this loss, and again I agree.

Social media is the culprit. Text­ing, selfies, updates, chats, snapchats, tweets, multiplayer games, blogs, wikis, and email enable people to gossip, boast, rant, strategize, self-promote, share, collaborate, inform, emote, and otherwise connect with one another anywhere and all the time. The volume is astounding. Earlier this year, Facebook boasted 1.23 billion active users, while late last year Twitter’s 200 million users sent 400 million tweets per day. According to Nielsen Media, a teen with a mobile device sends or receives on average around 3,300 text messages per month, in addition to logging 650 minutes of phone calls.

Those habits, which researchers term “hypersociality,” dominate leisure time. Data analyst Bill Tancer found in 2008 that social media had passed pornography as the most popular type of search. The whole range of fallen human motives passes through the tools, but the prime one is, precisely, “I want not to be alone.”

No wonder so many are lost. No wonder so many have no concept of God. Look at those numbers of Facebook and Twitter users and their activity again.

zombiesWe simply have no time for God.

If you’re interested in learning more you will want to read the rest of his brief article.

When I recently took a few weeks off from Facebook I found myself really getting into Twitter. Instead of checking Facebook throughout the day on my phone or laptop, I justified Twitter because I would only check it twice a day. And this was manageable in the beginning because I did not “follow” too many other accounts. However, once I started immersing myself in it I began to follow others, be followed by more, and before you knew it those times spend at the beginning and end of each day had doubled in minutes spend reading though all the Tweets.

When Baurelein stated that Jesus wasn’t alone in his times of isolation but was with the Father it wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know. Yet it was as if I was really comprehending it for the first time. When I go on retreat, or spend time alone outside my house or down in my basement, I am not merely doing nothing. True, sometimes I am doing nothing by staring blankly at the tv, but more times than not I am reading or praying, specifically the Divine Office. Other times it’s a favorite devotional book. Others it’s a piece of favorite music, such as a Beethoven symphony, uncluttered by words. I am not alone. I am in good company. I am conversing with the Father.

Reading the commentary about today’s Mass readings from In Conversation with God, author Francis Fernandez point out that:

mary kept in her heartAs the Gospel wonderfully demonstrates, Mary lived in a beautiful state of recollection, of presence of God. She kept all these things in her heart. Her contemplative spirit has a certain enchantment. In the intimacy of her soul, Mary penetrated more and more deeply into the mystery that had been revealed to her. … Only he who ponders things in his heart with a true Christian spirit can discover the immense riches of the interior world, the world of grace, that hidden treasure which is within us all … It was by pondering things in her heart that Mary, as time went by, grew in understanding of the mystery, in sanctity and in unity with God. The Lord invites us to cultivate this same interior recollection. We will then be able to converse with the Master. St. Teresa has written that recollection is nothing else, in my opinion, but being on terms of friendship with God, frequently conversing in secret with Him Who, we know, loves us.

As she does in all things, Mary always points us to her Son. To go deeper into the mysteries of this life and into the very depths of our very souls, we need to make time to develop and interior life. This goes against the exterior life of celebrity, narcissism, Facebook likes and retweets. This is where the seeds of the eternal are planted, nurtured and in time, grow.

Bauerlein points out that a study shows that there is a correlation between time spent on social media and time spent with God in prayer:

This may explain the findings of a recent study showing a correlation between Internet use and religious disaffiliation. Using data from the General Social Survey, computer scientist Allen B. Downey concluded that Internet use accounts for 20 percent (5.1 million people) of overall decreases in religious commitment since 1990. The science is fuzzier than Downey allows, but the trend matches our assumption that more social media means less prayer. People spend fewer minutes alone with God, and, more damaging, they acquire a sensibility less inclined to seek him out.


I believe these last two excerpts from Fernandez speak to the ills of social media as pointed out by Bauerlein.

Jesus approaches us in many different ways. If we are to properly understand his message, we must needs be souls of prayer. Like any artist or man of letters, the Christian must know how to temper his impatience and anxiety to the slow plodding of time. He learns the lesson, perhaps with some pain, that every seed needs time to germinate in the earth, take root and break forth from the soil. That is no matter, for it is essential to a plant’s growth. As the ancients were wont to say a tree will spread out its limbs in accordance with the depths of its roots. (F. Delclaux, The Silent Creator, Madrid 1969)


Human life has a profound meaning which is ultimately expressed in God. Therefore, we cannot allow our lives to be dominated by frivolity, vanity or sensuality. God teaches us the true importance of events and the real value of things. To be recollected is to join what is separated, to re-establish a lost order. If we want to be recollected souls, we have to guard our senses from hazardous dissipation. Otherwise, we shall find it impossible to be contemplatives in the middle of the world, no matter how tranquil our immediate surroundings may be.

A final point. Take a look at this AdWeek graphic. (The AdWeek article is worth a look as well.)


Instead of reaching for your phone in the first fifteen minutes of your day, try prayer. In doesn’t have to take more than a minute or two to initiate the first conversation with God of your day.

My God, I adore You, and I love You with all my heart. I thank you for having created me, made me a Christian, and preserved me this night. I offer You the actions of this day. Grant that all of them may be in accordance with Your holy Will and for Your greater glory. Protect me from sin and from all evil. Let Your grace be always with me and with all my dear ones. Amen.

Friday Five – Volume 96

Friday Five-Mere Observations

— 1 —

Andy is a friend that I have not met in person. We met through a social networking site six years ago and that friendship has carried over onto Facebook. We became friends due to our interests in reading and writing. Andy spent the last several weeks with his wife Viv sailing down the Ohio River and back again and chronicling their journey on Facebook through photos and even short videos. He has also at long last began to blog and I am glad he did. One of his initial posts was called “Orphans” and it brought out some memories and musings for me that I shared with him in the Facebook combox and will post below.

I remember going to auto salvage yards all the time with my dad when I was young. The “office” you described is spot on the money with accuracy, and it was the same in the auto garage/gas station in a small South Dakota town that my dad owned. I can remember going there with him early in the dark morning before the sunrise. He’d put the coffee on for those who always came by first thing and I would play with the adding machine, smell the freshly brewed coffee and wait for the school bus to arrive. I love those places.

Andy’s response: I do too…I get excited about a trip to a place like that the way my wife does about IKEA.

I really do remember those early days. I was in the first and second grades when I met the bus each morning at my dad’s gas station along the highway. Fedora, South Dakota was a town/burg/dot-on-the-map of 50 souls. I went to school in Howard, 30 minutes away, instead of Artesian (only 7 miles west) because Artesian was in another county. We moved to Artesian (pop. 200) after two years in Fedora and I attended third and fourth grades by walking across an open lot a half-block wide. The bus ride to Howard took an hour each way. An ice box in the winter and an oven in the early fall and late spring, that yellow bus and its crusty old driver was an education all by itself. I only missed the bus once when I failed to get to it on time after school and screamed my head off outside the locked doors of the school until my teacher found me in hysterics and was able to call my mom to come pick me up.

Anyway, I’ve digressed. I meant to write about those mornings with my dad and even the many trips we took to auto salvage yards looking for the right part for a car he was fixing. Maybe another time. Autumn always seems to bring these types of memories to the forefront for me.

— 2 —

In Book X, Chapter 23 of his Confessions, St. Augustine said this regarding truth. Here is an excerpt.

Why, then, does truth generate hatred, and why does thy servant who preaches the truth come to be an enemy to them who also love the happy life, which is nothing else than joy in the truth–unless it be that truth is loved in such a way that those who love something else besides her wish that to be the truth which they do love. Since they are unwilling to be deceived, they are unwilling to be convinced that they have been deceived. Therefore, they hate the truth for the sake of whatever it is that they love in place of the truth. They love truth when she shines on them; and hate her when she rebukes them. And since they are not willing to be deceived, but do wish to deceive, they love truth when she reveals herself and hate her when she reveals them. On this account, she will so repay them that those who are unwilling to be exposed by her she will indeed expose against their will, and yet will not disclose herself to them.

Thus, thus, truly thus: the human mind so blind and sick, so base and ill-mannered, desires to lie hidden, but does not wish that anything should be hidden from it. And yet the opposite is what happens—the mind itself is not hidden from the truth, but the truth is hidden from it. Yet even so, for all its wretchedness, it still prefers to rejoice in truth rather than in known falsehoods. It will, then, be happy only when without other distractions it comes to rejoice in that single Truth through which all things else are true.

They love truth when she shines on them; and hate her when she rebukes them. This brought to mind those who are always saying “Who am I to judge? Jesus loved sinners and forgave everyone.” They love that truth. They hate, however, and therefore never mention what Jesus said after he forgave someone their sins.

“Go, and sin no more.”

— 3 —

I read something the other day that both shocked and disgusted me. Take a look.

‘I want them all to die in a fire,’ said one man with a doctorate. ‘I would be in favor of establishing a state for them … . If not then sterilize them so they can’t breed more,’ said a middle aged man with a master’s degree. ‘The only good Muslim is a dead Muslim,’ said another under-45-year-old man with a doctorate. ‘I abhor them and I wish we could do away with them,’ said a middle-aged woman with a master’s degree. ‘A tortuous death would be too good for them,’ said a college-educated man between the ages of 36 and 45. ‘They should be eradicated without hesitation or remorse,’ said an elderly woman with a master’s degree.

Gotcha! That wasn’t what was said. After all that’s horrible! Who would ever wish that on another human being, who though of a different faith, is still fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of our Creator? Here’s what was really said.

‘I want them all to die in a fire,’ said one man with a doctorate. ‘I would be in favor of establishing a state for them … . If not then sterilize them so they can’t breed more,’ said a middle aged man with a master’s degree. ‘The only good homosexual is a dead homosexual,’ said another under-45-year-old man with a doctorate. ‘I abhor them and I wish we could do away with them,’ said a middle-aged woman with a master’s degree. ‘A tortuous death would be too good for them,’ said a college-educated man between the ages of 36 and 45. ‘They should be eradicated without hesitation or remorse,’ said an elderly woman with a master’s degree.

Holy crap that’s terrible! The hubris of someone saying such a thing and hiding behind their so-called higher education. I don’t care if you do have a Master’s Degree or your Ph.D., to advocate such a horrific crime against someone just because of their sexuality and in this, the Golden Age of Tolerance®! Such thoughts are surely to be shunned by people of a more liberal and progressive slant.

Oops. I messed up again. In my rush to condemn I mistyped. Here, finally, is what was really said:

‘I want them all to die in a fire,’ said one man with a doctorate. ‘I would be in favor of establishing a state for them … . If not then sterilize them so they can’t breed more,’ said a middle aged man with a master’s degree. ‘The only good Christian is a dead Christian,’ said another under-45-year-old man with a doctorate. ‘I abhor them and I wish we could do away with them,’ said a middle-aged woman with a master’s degree. ‘A tortuous death would be too good for them,’ said a college-educated man between the ages of 36 and 45. ‘They should be eradicated without hesitation or remorse,’ said an elderly woman with a master’s degree.

Oh. Well…nevermind then.


— 4 —

The continued release of videos exposing Planned Parenthood brought to mind something I recently read in a book by Paul Thigpen.

I looked to the heart of the nation,
and, behold, an army of children,
an infantry of infants,
naked except for a covering of blood,
crawling and calling their mothers and fathers.

“You champions of choice!” they cried out to them.
“See now what you have chosen!”
Their souls were radiant, but their bodies a horror:
some burned, some disemboweled,
some dismembered,
and some with their brains sucked out.

“We are the lost generation;
we are the unborn nation;
we are the disposable souls,
the holocaust of your lust for leisure.
We are the birthright you traded
for a stew of pleasure,
the future you forfeited
for a crib of convenience,
the heirs you betrayed
for thirty pieces
of silvery selfishness.”

The doctors of death have made their fortunes
digging tiny graves
and singing as they dig:

“We wage the war for women;
we are the health care heroes;
we are the friends of freedom;
the keepers of your secrets;
the pillars of your privacy.
Our bloody hands are trophies.”

Rachel no longer weeps for her children,
but joins hands with Herod.
Mothers, fathers, and their children’s assassins
sit down to dine together.
They feed on the flesh of their babies,
and wipe their mouths, and say,
“We have done nothing wrong.”

While all along, the multitudes
pass by and look the other way,
busy with their banalities,
preoccupied with their pleasantries,
complacent in their comfort.

[excerpt from The Burden, by Paul Thigpen, pages 14-15]

— 5 —

I was too busy to add this back on August 24, the anniversary of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. It is interesting to watch one rendering of what the destruction of Pompeii may have looked like. Watching the initial minute and the morning of that day, with its blue skies, reminded me of the blueness of the skies over New York City, as well as Lincoln, Nebraska, back on Sept. 11, 2001.