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.
— 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.
— 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 —
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.
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.
People: We did the things.
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?
Pilate: He didn’t do the things.
Other people: Kill him anyway.
People: We did the things.
Paul: Jesus still loves you, and because you love Him, you have to stop doing the things.
PAUL’S LETTERS PART II
People: We did the things again.
John: When Jesus comes back, there will be no more people who do the things. In the meantime, stop doing the things.