Lent: giving up and taking up

Repent and do penance. – Make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.

*****

Lent is primarily seen as a time for giving something up. Pop. Candy. Television. Giving up Facebook has become the popular choice for some.

But Lent is also a time for taking something up. Prayer. Reflection. Spiritual reading. Serving others.

I have chosen to give up Facebook and Twitter for Lent. Last night I logged out of both on my iPhone, which is no small task. Facebook has made it very difficult to completely log out and I had to go into my phone’s notification settings to delete my account from my phone in order to log out. I chose this road because of what I’ve seen over the past few months and how it’s begun to eat away at me. I’ve written about it before: the comboxes. Below are a few choice ones I took from an article about Pope Francis and same sex “marriage” on the Huffington Post:

As the French say, ‘The more things change, the more they remain the same.’ Catholics are no better than ISIS. – David

And that is how a Theocracy begins…. Anyone else recognize that this is just the ‘Christian’ version of Sharia law? Once religious principles become established as law … like it has been in much of the Muslim world … it is a self-perpetuating dictatorship … and whether it is Christianity or Islam makes NO difference. – Fran

No better than ISIS? Of course, we Catholics recently burned a Jordanian pilot alive in a cage while videotaping it, “randomly” killed Jews in a Paris deli, beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians and to top it off burned another 45 souls alive in Iraq just yesterday. I can’t wait to hear what Father tells us to do for Lent. I’m sure he’ll tell us just as soon as he receives the marching orders from the pope on the special shortwave radio we hide in our basement and use with our Vatican-issued Decoder Ring™.

No difference between radical Islam and Christianity? Fran has spent too much time swallowing what the president says. Actually, I doubt Fran has spent any time in thought at all and has confused using big words with comprehension and thought.

This is what the Internet has become: a home for uninformed, unintelligent, unintellectual, unreasoned, uncompassionate opinions. Popular jargon refers to them as trolls, for trolls they have become.

(Just got the call from Father. I’m to bring an extra two gallons of gasoline to church tonight. Oh boy!)

Now David and Fran are the outliers, right? Lately I’m not so sure. What was hailed as a tool for opening up lines of communication has become an isolation chamber where we block ourselves off from icky opinions other than our own and those people who are so stupid as to have them. I have friends on my Facebook who I know are anti-Catholic, anti-military, and hate conservatives to their very core thanks to the Facebook algorithm that now allows us to see almost every like or comment our friends make anywhere on Facebook. And it’s painful. Some of these are people I’ve known since we were kids, or in college. It’s hard knowing that I have friends who truly despise the things I hold dear.

I’m Catholic. As such I’m conservative in some things and liberal in others. I’m a white, male business owner who is also a married homeowner. And you’re damn right I’m pro-military as I currently have a son who is a Marine. Oohrah!

Hence the hiatus and what I’ve planned to become a permanent vacation. I’ve even got a timer set on my iPhone: July 20, 2015. I’m only staying that long because I’m the administrator of the page for my son’s baseball team and the season will be wrapped up around then. I know I’d written about leaving Facebook several months ago but then I got sucked into managing that baseball page.

152 Days from today I’m walking away from the noise for good. For Lent it’s a social media hiatus as well as the comment sections on any article I read.

So what am I taking up? What am I going to fill that space with?

For starters I pulled out of the driveway this morning at 6:15am to drive to 6:30 Mass for Ash Wednesday. Yes, while doing so I managed to brush my left-side rearview mirror against the garage entryway and shattered the plastic shell. But now it matches the right-side mirror that was cracked in the car wash two summers ago. I laughed it off however as a sign of the trials and graces to come this Lent.

It’s time to make the switch to the red book (Volume 2) of the Liturgy of the Hours for Lent and Easter. I did so this morning and was so edified by what I prayed and read that I could double or triple the size of this blog post. I will quote a portion of the second reading from today’s Office of Readings, however. It is from a letter to the Corinthians by Pope St. Clement (d. 100 AD):

Brothers, we should be humble in mind, putting aside all arrogance, pride and foolish anger. Rather, we should act in accordance with the Scriptures, as the Holy Spirit says: The wise man must not glory in his wisdom nor the strong man in his strength nor the rich man in his riches. Rather, let him who glories glory in the Lord by seeking him and doing what is right and just. Recall especially what the Lord Jesus said when he taught gentleness and forbearance. Be merciful, he said, so that you may have mercy shown to you. Forgive, so that you may be forgiven. As you treat others, so you will be treated. As you give, so you will receive. As you judge, so you will be judged. As you are kind to others, so you will be treated kindly. The measure of your giving will be the measure of your receiving.

I’m pausing in my reading of The Fellowship of the Ring (Strider and the hobbits have just arrived at Weathertop) and am going to read The Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ by Archbishop Alban Goodier. It contains 36 chapters which means I should be able to read a chapter a day and be finished by Easter. I read the first chapter this morning and it is excellent.

Finally, I’m spending my Lent meditating and chewing over the following passage from Holy Scripture:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)

LOTH, Vol. 2 and my bible opened to Ephesians 4:31-32.

LOTH, Vol. 2 and my bible opened to Ephesians 4:31-32.

Two simple verses. Thirty words. Each day I plan on reading them 2-3 times and writing what insights I receive.

“…we should be humble in mind, putting aside all arrogance, pride and foolish anger.”

“The measure of your giving will be the measure of your receiving.”

The world (and its internet) are filled with bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice. It’s begun to rub off on my soul and psyche like bug grease on a car windshield when driving the highways on a hot, summer South Dakota evening. Before I succumb to temptation and add to these ills I say enough.

Enough.

*****

He will give strength to your bones and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters never run dry.—Isaiah 58:11, from The Office of Readings for Ash Wednesday (The Liturgy of the Hours, Vol. II)

Let my future radiant shine

American-Catholic-AlmanacI purchased a copy of the new book The American Catholic Almanac as a Christmas gift to my family and keep it on a living room end table for all to enjoy. While each one-page entry has thus far been enjoyable, I wanted to share yesterday’s story. It involves a favorite author and a favorite prayer of mine, and I believe demonstrates that no matter how much we may try, no matter how busy and distracted we keep ourselves, real beauty is always before us. Always it pursues us. It waits. It is patient.

Why are we moderns so afraid of it? Why do we deny it in our attempts to squelch, eradicate and even kill it?

Questions that have weighed heavily on my mind much of late. Questions I ask again on this Friday morning.

*****

Fame found Edgar Allen Poe late. On January 29, 1845, four years before his death and 14 long years after he began attempting to earn his living as a writer, “The Raven” was published in The New York Evening Mirror. It was an overnight sensation, and Poe, suddenly, a household name.

Its success, however, did little for Poe in his lifetime. He made almost no money from the poem, and he took little consolation in the applause. His beloved wife, Virginia, was dying of tuberculosis, his debts were mounting, and his reputation as a hard drinker made it difficult for him to find steady work as an editor and critic.

Not long after the publication of “The Raven,” Poe and Virginia moved to a small cottage in Brooklyn. Following her death in 1847, Poe befriended his neighbors, the Jesuits of St. John’s College (the future Fordham University). There, the father of the modern detective story spent long nights in conversation with the (mostly) French Fathers, and, when he couldn’t bear the thought of returning home to an empty house, he would remain with the priests at the college.

After the 40-year-old poet died in 1849 under mysterious circumstances, those Jesuits continued to pray for Poe’s soul. That soul never embraced the Catholic Faith, but, as his poem, “Hymn of the Angelus,” attests, it was touched by the Faith’s beauty nevertheless.

At morn, at noon, at twilight dim,
Maria, thou hast heard my hymn!
In joy and woe, in good and ill,
Mother of God, be with me still!

When the hours flew brightly by,
And not a cloud obscured the sky,
My soul, lest it should truant be,
Thy grace did guide to thine and thee;

Now, when the storms of fate o’ercast
Darkly my present and my past,
Let my future radiant shine
With sweet hopes of thee and thine.

The Angelus (L'Angelus) by Jean-François Millet, completed in 1859.

The Angelus (L’Angelus) by Jean-François Millet, completed in 1859.

Gazing through the knothole

Last night while on my knees next to my daughter’s bed I tucked in a little girl who asked me a big question.

“What will we do if Nolan dies?”

I had asked her if she was ready to see her oldest brother again when he had graduated from boot camp and was a Marine. “Yes,” she said, her head settled onto her pink pillow and blue eyes locking onto mine. “But what will we do if he dies during the next four years?”

I pulled back to look at her and there were tears in her eyes, trickling down each cheek. As I moved to wipe them away she moved her hand quickly to her face and did so before I could.

I didn’t know what to say. I assured her that he’d be safe. That he and his Marine brothers were training to ensure such a thing wouldn’t happen. I hugged her close.

As will happen with my mostly matter-of-fact and practical daughter this moment passed swiftly and she soon made a joke, said her goodnight, and shooed me out the door.

She’s quite bright, and growing up in a house with two older brothers and a dad who watch John Wayne westerns and Peter Jackson visualizations of the battles of Middle-Earth has made her aware of the fact that well…it is a fact that soldiers die.

Soldiers + Battle = A chance of death

Nolan will be a Soldier, ergo she now sees that

Nolan + Battle = A chance of death

I had always danced around that possibility with her. But as I said, she’s quite bright this young one.

The October day that he left for boot camp we stopped to pray in a roadside chapel along the interstate between Omaha and Lincoln. We continue to pray each day, at Mass, and each Sunday late afternoon/early evening we four pray a family rosary together. Except this last Sunday we didn’t. I don’t know how or why but we forgot. This was not unnoticed by my daughter. Before I closed the door I turned and told her to continue to pray for Nolan’s safety.

“We forgot to pray our rosary on Sunday, dad.”

“Yes, Sophie, we did.”

Turning to face the wall she said “We need to remember better.”

“Yes Sophie, we do. How about we do one tomorrow night after your brother and I return from his practice?”

“Ok. Good.” <yawn>

“Goodnight Sophie. I love you punkin.”

“Goodnight Dad. I love you too.”

I have been surprised to learn just how lonely a place it is to be the parent of someone in the military. Our “family” has expanded in a sense as we’ve met many other parents going through the same ordeal in online forums, and friends of mine that I know personally have been warm, supportive and encouraging. But in the end you are alone. Alone when you see how much your son’s peers have moved on. How carefree and different their lives are whereas just a calendar year ago they were doing the same things in the same classrooms or same ball fields. As parents we all shared in these things together. Now I feel as distant from them as I did before we met.

“It’s part of the growing up process. It’s normal. It would be the same had he gone to college” I tell myself, and it’s true.

But it’s different. Much different.

So different that it brings tears to a little sister’s face and dampens her pillow.

It’s tempting to wallow in self-pity, especially during the holidays. But I’ve always tried to be a “big picture” kind of guy. I try to maintain perspective. Believe it or not I am an optimist.

peeking-through-knotholeLife is like looking through a knothole in a wood fence. You can see whatever passes by the knothole, but not the whole picture. God knows the bigger picture, and all is well in it. We are being blessed right now even if we are only looking through the knothole and don’t see all the good that God has planned for us. We must trust. When you feel the pangs of struggle, turn your gaze and know that you are cherished by God. Your human past or present might leave a lot to be desired. But your spiritual now is filled with love. My daughter has not learned this yet, which is where my experience and guidance is best served.

I love to keep the Psalms close which is why I pray the Divine Office. It has become so much a part of who I am and my day overall that I am aware of the emptiness when I fail to do so. It is a part of the rhythm of my life.

There are two other prayers that I pray each day. I began to pray the Anima Christi on my knees after returning from Holy Communion. I will let the Eucharist dissolve slowly in my mouth, consciously absorbing every fiber of the host and Body of Christ. This is warmth. This is safety. This is Eternity.

This prayer attributed to one of my spiritual mentors and favorite saints, Ignatius of Loyola (who was also a soldier before becoming a priest) is one that I’ve prayed and meditated upon many times. I closed my final letter to Nolan at boot camp with it.

ANIMA CHRISTI
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
Good Jesus, hear me.
In your wounds, hide me.
Apart from you let me never be.
From the enemy, defend me.
At the hour of my death, call me.
And close to you bid me,
that with your saints I may always be
praising you eternally. Amen.

Right below this prayer in my Daily Roman Missal is another prayer that I’ve now made a part of this time with God. It has become my prayer for 2015 and indeed the rest of my life. I will continue to pray them in order to keep my gaze on God and not on my struggle as seen through a knothole.

SELF-DEDICATION TO JESUS CHRIST (OBLATIO SUI)
Lord, take all my freedom. Accept my memory, my understanding, and my will. You have given me all that I have or hold dear. I return it to you, that it may be governed by your will. Give me only your grace and the gift of loving you, and I will be rich enough; I will ask for nothing more. Amen.

ADDENDUM:

As I was proofreading this post and about to hit “Publish” my mobile phone rang at 4:45pm. I knew from other recruit parents that phone calls were being made from a certain area code by our recruits to finalize travel arrangements post-graduation. This would be Nolan.

When I answered the phone I heard his voice for the first time since Oct. 27th. He sounded strong and normal; his already deep voice sounding even deeper. As soon as he recognized my voice answering him back his tone immediately changed. And then my 6’3″ 185 pound soon-to-be-Marine began to sob. I knew the call was monitored and there were to be no questions other  than those related to travel. So I kept on task and I asked him if he’d received the ticket information I’d sent to him two weeks ago and if we were all set. His voice was still breaking but he seemed to recognize what I was trying to do and he said “Yes, we should be set.”

I told him I loved him and that we’d see him soon. And then we hung up.

The entire conversation lasted 43 seconds.

My son turns 19 in two days. I forgot to wish him Happy Birthday.

animachristi_obatiosui

Reflected in Our Faces

I read this today and it profoundly connected with my own musings and observations of late.

It was a spiritual kinsman of St Isaac, the Father Zossima of The Brothers Karamazov, who showed how our direct responsibility for our own bodies and for dumb creatures may indirectly stretch yet further. In his final conversations father Zossima describes how our very faces may indireclty produce momentous consequences. He asks us to think of a child walking down a street, rather bewildered by the evil in the world and searching for signs that life has meaning. If we have over the years allowed our hearts to become embittered, that will be reflected in our faces. So when the child has seen our face the image that will remain in his heart will be of evil and meaninglessness. It may turn out that our face has sown a seed of evil in the child which will one day overgrow his whole heart. On the other hand, if we have over the years filled our hearts with love, that also will be reflected in our faces and the passing child in the street will be encouraged by what he sees to find meaning in life.

Nor is such an illustration by any means imaginary. We have from the pen of Olivier Clément a moving account of how a face saved his life. It as in the days when he was an atheist, though an unhappy one. He was so unhappy, in fact, and so oppressed by the meaninglessness of human life that he was seriously thinking of committing suicide. Then one day as he was walking depressed beside the Mediterranean sea-shore his attention was riveted by the face of someone who was passing by. The person’s face was radiant with meaning, full of such goodness as can only come from years of cultivating a loving heart. In a twinkling Clément’s suicidal thoughts were dispelled and a seed sown in his heart that was eventually to transform him into an ardent believer. Not surprisingly, Clément asserts with warm conviction that there is a branch of theology that is properly described as a ‘theology of faces.’ Donald Nicholl, Holiness (New York: Seabury Press, 1981), 48-49.

Source: Shirt of Flame

*****

I wonder how much of the unrest, protests and violence today is caused because those committing these acts feel they are invisible. I suspect much of it is. Have you looked around lately when you’re in a crowd? How many sets of eyes actually raise up to meet your own? How many are staring at their shoes or more likely…at a digital screen?

How many lash out because it’s the only way they can think of anymore to get someone…anyone…to pay them attention? When I see a rioter or a protester I see my toddler (when I had a toddler) lashing out in order to get my attention.

I see a lot of things these days through the tired eyes of a parent.

We don’t look at each other in the eyes anymore as a species. I think that is one of the greatest problems we face today. Comments are entered on the internet in anger or biting sarcasm as we viscerally cut those whom we cannot see.

One of the great miracles of the Incarnation of God made man was his desire to enter into His creation and to look us in the eye. When we peer into the manger at the child wrapped and fragile in human flesh we look into the very Creator of the universe. Time and eternity meet our humanity in a glance.

Don’t be quick to look away this Christmas. You are made in the Imago Dei. The image of God. Your eyes contain the power to change someone’s life.

Your eyes show them they matter.

Tell them that they are not invisible.

Demonstrate that they are indeed seen by someone else.

No longer alone, two-dimensional and empty. But surrounded by love, hope and joy, three-dimensional and full of the Spirit and able to do the same for others.

This Christmas I’m grateful for a God whose eyes are much older than my own, but that are never tired.

I’m thankful that He came for me.

He sees my face.

Even when my eyes are closed to His presence, He sees me.

Thank you for those in my own life who look me in the eye when I feel unworthy, lost and alone. I needed that.

We need each other.

face_reflected_in_eye

*****

My Jesus, I forever thank You for allowing me to see You.

I thank You for being visible in all the grandeur of nature, in the mountains, the streams, the oceans, the trees. I thank You for being visible in the beauty of the stars, the sky, the magnificence of the sun.

I thank You for being visible in every beating heart, in every created life. I thank You that I am able to see the gift of love, instilled in every human being, and so often abused, crushed, neglected by the world.

My Jesus, You are visible in every act of charity and compassion, in the forgiveness of every hurt, in every sacrifice offered for another. I thank You for allowing me to see You in the pain and suffering of all people in their struggles.

My Jesus, You are visible in every baby’s smile, in every mother’s caress, in the innocence of every child and the willingness of every mother to say “yes” to life. I thank You for being visible in every miracle, in every healing, in every conversion, in the joy of every soul who has suddenly accepted Your existence.

I thank You for being visible in the faith and trust of countless millions, in the perpetual existence of Your Church in the face of centuries of persecution. I thank You for being visible to me now, in my prayer, in my trust. In every day of my life, in every need, in every way.

Jesus, You died for my sins and I thank You for allowing me to see that sacrifice perpetually before me in the Eucharist. Jesus, I especially thank You for being so visible to me through Your forgiveness and love in the midst of my failures and sins. The world never has.

From An Hour With Jesus: Volume II.

C’mon…laugh.

*****

Photo credit

Friday Five – Volume 90

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

Friday Five-Mere Observations

— 1 —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen to that. Well done ladies.

— 2 —

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

elf on shelf santa

— 3 —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I see none of these in Ferguson.

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

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

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

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

— 4 —

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

Most people worship something – God, State or Self.

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

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

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

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

And it can have equally deadly consequences.

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

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

— 5 —

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

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

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

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

PAUL’S LETTERS
People
: We did the things.
Paul
: Jesus still loves you, and because you love Him, you have to stop doing the things.
People
: Okay.

PAUL’S LETTERS PART II
People
: We did the things again.
Paul
: Guys.

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

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

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

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

But not my opinion.

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

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

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

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

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

*****

Our Greatest Gifts Are Not Visible

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

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

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

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

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

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

From An Hour With Jesus: Volume II.

*****

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

Psalm 37

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

Another Rule of the Road

going it alone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Requiescat in pace, Sherri.