Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Offering it up

Lightning struck a power pole less than 100 feet from our building last night. The transformer was annihilated, the pole was split, wires came down and landed all over cars, siding and glass blew off the closest house to the pole. Nobody was hurt, so (not minimizing the repairs to the house) it was a very exciting and thoroughly satisfying five minutes of BAMMMBABOOMbzzzzzzzhissssssss.

We all came to our balconies and patios and chatted, watching other people work harder than us, firemen and the utility company.

Then the terrific heat wave we're in started asserting itself. No wonder people are shooting each other in the poor parts of the big city. I lay in bed, radiating heat, too hot to sleep, watching the emergency mars lights strobing across the ceiling and listening to the repair workers pounding, drilling, buzzing, whacking, sawing and yelling at each other. I finally talked to the Lord and offered the whole sweaty experience up for the sake of those poor people who live that way all the time. So of course I then dozed off. The power came back on about seven hours later.

So many people misunderstand the verse from Romans: "...all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." They think Christians are saying that death and pain and discomfort are good. No! They are not good, but they humble us, drive us to our knees in supplication, and attach us more firmly to the Lord, dependent on His Help and seeking to learn and follow more closely His Will.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Walking awhile in the Song of Songs

Beautiful as it is, I tend to shy away from the Song of Songs because my own concupiscence often leads me into thoughts of romance and fantasy rather than devotion and agape. This beautiful Scripture snuck up on me yesterday, however, in a talk/sermon and later in prayer, giving me an opportunity to further fathom the yearning nature of His love for us.

The talk came at a prayer meeting in the afternoon from one of the most analytical, left-brained God-loving men you'll ever meet. An overview:

When you read the verses, you will see many references to aroma, fragrance, perfume, spices, nard, liquid myrrh, incense, honey, aloes . . . you can practically feel the heavy breeze wafting off the pages. What does that aroma signify? Well, in each Gospel we find a story of a woman pouring out perfume on Jesus as a measure of her devotion to Him. He doesn't allow her to be stopped, seeing in that demonstration of her love an appropriateness that his disciples' concrete minds miss completely. The aroma that draws the Groom to his Bride in Songs is that devotion, that love, that beauty that only Christ's transformation of his Bride can inspire and enable. God loves us, not because of anything we have done, but because he has bathed and anointed us, and now we carry the fragrance of the Holy Spirit. He longs for us, he causes us to long for him, and when we find him we are supremely satisfied.

Then I went directly on to my weekly appointment in the Adoration Chapel where I came excerpts from St. Alphonsus Liguori's writings on the Holy Eucharist:
"'The voice of my Beloved knocking: Open to Me, My sister, My love, My dove, My undefiled' (Song 5:2). Open to me, he says, O soul, thy heart, and there I will come to unite myself to thee; so that, being one with me, thou mayst become my sister by resemblance, my friend by participation in my riches, my dove by the gift of simplicity, my undefiled by the gift of purity, which I shall communicate to thee.

And then he goes on to say, "Open to me, for my head is full of dew and my locks the drops of the night." As if he said: Consider, my beloved, that I have waited for thee all the night of the bad life thou has led in the midst of darkness and error. Behold, now, instead of bringing scourges to chastise thee, I come in the Blessed Sacrament, with my hair full of heavenly dew, to extinguish in thee all impure desires towards creatures, and to kindle in thee the happy fire of my love. Come, then, O my beloved Jesus, and work in me what Thou wilt."

What I love about this is the reminder of the overwheming gift-ness of oneness with him. It's truly Christmas - lavish gifts of riches, simplicity, purity, love - with nothing for us to supply but a willingness to open the door.

All I could do in response was pray to hear the knock when he comes, for him to show me what it means to open my heart and give me eagerness to do it.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Numerical biography meme

I've been tagged by my blogsister Roz, at her other blog In Dwelling, to complete this meme:

What I was doing 10 years ago: Going through a agonizingly bizarre and sudden divorce, nearly completely without faith in Christ to sustain me, but lots of help from friends and family.

5 years ago: Delighted to have found Jesus in my heart, working full-time in real estate management, realizing it was what I was going to end up doing as a career.

1 year ago: Working more than full-time in the same job for the same company, growing rapidly in my relationship in my parish and with my Lord.

Yesterday: Cooking dinner for my mother who is ill and bed-bound, watching a Bob Newhart retrospective on public television.

5 Snacks I enjoy:
Onion dip and chips
Peanut butter on anything edible
Cold pizza
Hot pizza
Nuts in any form

5 songs I know all the words to:
Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?
all of Handel's Messiah
Another Saturday Night and I Ain't Got Nobody
Wouldn't It Be Loverly
American Pie

5 things I would do with $100 million dollars:
Keep it a secret from all but closest confidantes (I'll keep Roz's first answer)
Wipe out parish’s building debt and make mongo donation to local pregnancy center (and her second answer, too)
Spend a month in Rome
Buy every musical instrument I ever had the urge to play and learn to play them
Invest the rest and live on the income, giving things away whenever I felt like it
(Roz, your answers are too good!)

5 locations to which I would like to run:
Ireland, specifically wherever my ancestors are from
Germany, specifically wherever my ancestors are from
Poland, specifically (you guessed it) wherever my ancestors are from

5 bad habits I have:
Interrupting others
Fascination with myself
Being nosy
Procrastination, especially about housework

5 things I like doing:
Eucharistic Adoration
Telling jokes, including big-set-up, stand-up jokes
Interesting and witty conversation
Listening to old-time radio, especially Jack Benny
Watching old movie musicals

5 things I would never wear:
Anything with a visible brand name
A really, really expensive watch
"Slut slides" (ultra-high-heeled shoes) (Yes, I know the REALLY dirty name for them, too, thanks)
A vinyl or plasticized raincoat
A backpack, unless it had a tent on it and I was camping

5 TV shows I like: (limiting myself to ones on air now)
The Journey Home (on EWTN)
Whose Line is it Anyway?
Life on the Rock (on EWTN)
America's Test Kitchen
Antiques Road Show, especially when they feature gazillion-dollar surprises

5 biggest joys of the moment:
Trying to do the Will of God in our current family crisis with mom's illness
Losing weight on Weight Watchers
Visiting with my friends weekly at the local farmer's market
Making wonderful new friends and reconnecting with old friends who love the Lord
Watching my tomatoes and pepper plants produce a harvest

5 favorite toys:
Laptop computer
Crochet project I can actually manage
The perfect saute pan
"Bare Escentuals" makeup (their spelling, not mine)

5 next victims:
I'll pass for now!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Good things are bustin' out all over

Excellent things appear to be happening in a Catholic parish in Greenville, SC of all places. This is meant as no insult to loyal South Carolinians, but it's not the first place I'd look for top-drawer Catholic life.

St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville has started a Center for Evangelical Catholicism seeking to bring parish members and other Catholics more deeply into true transformation of life through the Gospel. Then, "[h]aving experienced the freedom and the joy of being transformed by the Gospel, Evangelical Catholics pursue an intensive, intentional and radical living out of their Baptismal promises in communion with Jesus Christ and His Church."

This is truly an exciting development. Have a look at their document called "A Simple Way of Life" which is one of the best descriptions of normal devotional life for the lay person that I've ever encountered. And there's a further treat. They're about to begin saying one Mass each Sunday according to the Novus Ordo in Latin, courtesy of one of their own seminarians who is assigned to the parish as a transitional deacon.

Does anybody want to go on a field trip to Greenville?

Friday, July 15, 2005

Really, really short prayers

The first prayer I remember saying as a child was "Jesus, Mary, Joseph: I give you my heart, my soul, Amen." It was a very good prayer for a very little kid, who had yet to be able to remember and recite all of the Our Father, Hail Mary, or Glory Be. To a little kid, the fact that the baby Jesus had a mommy and a daddy was reassuring; Jesus wasn't a ghost or a spirit. He was a real boy, who was also really God, a starting point into the Mystery of the Trinity for a four- or five-year-old.

The Church has a special name for very short prayers: they are called ejaculations. (Yes, there's a ten-year-old somewhere in me too who finds that term hilarious.) The link is full of nice quoted reminders that praising God all day, at all times, sometimes using words, is part of our love affair with Him.

A famous short prayer everybody knows is "My Jesus, Mercy." And the most famous short prayer in the Church, perhaps, is most beautifully practiced in the Eastern Catholic Churches, as well as by our Orthodox brethren, the Jesus Prayer: "Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Some try and say it timed with every waking breath.

My man St. Francis de Sales says "Aspire to God with short but frequent outpourings of the heart." The Orthodox mystic St. Hesychois, in his Philokalia, says "The more rain falls on the earth, the softer it makes it; similarly, Christ's holy name gladdens the earth of our heart the more we call upon it."

It's not a mantra, because we are not using words to detach ourselves. It's not fruitless multiplication of words, because we aren't keeping count (we'd better not be). We're instead attaching ourselves to Him and most specifically to His Will, of offering whatever the moment is to Him, our resentments, our frustrations, our joys, our sorrows.

I want to grow in the habit of keeping a few beautiful words handy in the front of my mind, to sing or groan or cry them out to the Lord every time I think of Him.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Step on a crack

I saw a penny on the ground this morning, and I didn't pick it up, because it was face down. Well, I really didn't pick it up because it was a penny, and the sidewalk was crowded and I'd have blocked everyone, but my mental eye noted the tail of the penny and remembered.

The rituals of childhood! How many of you:

- grabbed a button to hold if a hearse passed you by
- jumped over sidewalk cracks, or even over sidewalk panels if they had the maker's stamp in them
- tossed salt over your shoulder if you spilled any
- said "padiddle owe me a coke" if you said something at the same time as another person
- parted company if you walked toward a tree, to rejoin after you'd gone around it
- punched your little brother, shouting "slugbug!" if you saw a VW Bug (transparent excuse for punching said brother)

Wasn't there something one did if you saw a car with only one headlight lit? It also probably involved punching little brothers....

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

More Wisdom

Roz tells us of the happiness in recognizing God's Wisdom in our lives in the post below. Let me add this verse from the Book of Wisdom which I love more and more each year (I may have quoted it here before, but I simply love it, so ssssh and read):

For all men who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature;
and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know him who exists, nor did they recognize the craftsman while paying heed to his works;
but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air, or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water, or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world.
If through delight in the beauty of these things men assumed them to be gods, let them know how much better than these is their Lord, for the author of beauty created them.
And if men were amazed at their power and working,let them perceive from them how much more powerful is he who formed them. For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.

Yet these men are little to be blamed, for perhaps they go astray while seeking God and desiring to find him.
For as they live among his works they keep searching, and they trust in what they see, because the things that are seen are beautiful.
Yet again, not even they are to be excused; for if they had the power to know so much that they could investigate the world, how did they fail to find sooner the Lord of these things?

Wisdom 13:1-9

I found this Scripture when I was in college. I was literally "playing Bible," taking the family Bible, letting it fall open and sticking my finger down on the page. I was searching, hard, for God, and I kept blowing through my college physics and biochemistry studies, coming out the other side, saying "well, He's not there." I wasn't finding Him in the neighborhood church or the rote graces and bedtime prayers at home, because I was blinded by familiarity. Nobody was around me at the time to show me that I could find Him without heroism, that He was closer to me than I realized, waiting for my "Yes," and that I could be guided to the source and summit of all joy by the faith of my childhood.

The people described in this passage aren't sensualists, delighting in the sins of the flesh and in selfish pleasure-seeking. These are earnest seekers, studiers, ponderers. But the effort that it costs them, to delve and dissect and discover, fools them into stopping at their discovery of the things created and thinking they have found the Creator.

They represent a piece of my character and probably yours, too, and they are in for a heck of a surprise when they look at the Hand that puts all the world in motion. I was, and science repositioned itself and became a part of my religious outlook.

Saturday, July 09, 2005


When God gave Solomon a choice of whatever he wanted to receive from all of God's providence, he chose wisdom. God told him he had chosen well and would be amply rewarded through the gift. The Church sees wisdom as a type of Christ -- another Gift that is larger on the inside than it appears on the outside.

I've noticed wisdom lately. I've seen it prematurely flashing out of my children, young as they are. I honor it when it's donated to me by a friend who cares more for what is best for me than about whether I will like what is said at the moment. And, to my surprise, I sometimes hear it coming out of my own mouth.

This is the part of growing older that I just love. God has, in fact, changed me over the years. I have grown in wanting what he wants. I am able to wait for good things, having seen that God's timing works exceptionally well. I know how to communicate the truth in love better than before, because I've seen fruit of trying lots of different approaches.

One might call this plain old horse sense. I would be inclined to agree with you, except that I see plenty of people who are smart, experienced and talented, yet who don't seem to be able to get out of their own way. Oh, I still find myself in that position too, sometimes. But, thanks to the mercy of Jesus, I have more than an abstract conviction that his ways are great than my ways. I have tried the other path often enough and have learned that the peaceful fruit of righteousness is far more juicy and sweet than the dry and woody fruit of getting what I might want instead. Folly, it turns out, is no fun.

Staying close to God's heart is the best place to be, and he gives us the tools to do it.
1My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
2making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
3yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
4if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
5then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
6For the LORD gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
See? It's a promise.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Keeping the laborer's keep

Today's Gospel reading is from Matthew 10:7-15 -

{Jesus told His Apostles to} "Preach as you go, saying, `The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay. Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it, and stay with him until you depart. As you enter the house, salute it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town."

Matthew also tells us that Jesus said "not to lay up treasures up on earth." That is certainly clear, stark teaching: I wonder what the "prosperity gospellers" make of those Scripture verses in amongst their "Name It, Claim It" sermons.

What I was struck by this morning at Mass is not only are we to keep from overamassing possessions, but I think these verses also tell us that once we enter a house, bringing our peace on it, we are to accept our keep, such as we find it, but not to take any of that with us, either.

Scripture truly lives, doesn't it? I found a new emphasis this morning. I'm cool (or I think I'm cool) with passing by a great deal of life's experiences and goods, because Jesus will give me what I need (whoever gives up land, or children, or father, or mother, will receive a hundredfold and inherit eternal life - good old Matthew). But then I have to keep giving that away, too!

Travel light.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

And in this corner . . .

Well, it looks like it's going to be a fight, doesn't it? There will be at least one Supreme Court nominee during W's second term, and we'll be lucky if we can fight through the muck to the facts. In fact, Scrappleface gives us a preview, in his inimitable style.

The very able Oswald Sobrino, JD at Catholic Analysis offers a helpful post that draws from an article in the weekend New York Times that explains some of the judicial philosophies on the conservative side of the spectrum. Before your eyes glaze over causing you to close this window in self-defense, let me suggest this as a chance to become literate about the wrinkes of judicial decision-making. The terms "judicial activism", "strict-constructionist", "Constitution as living document" get thrown around hither and yon. Those of us without a legal education but with a point of view about the upcoming Supreme Court appointment(s) may well want to learn the language so our opinions can be responsibly honed and eloquently expressed.

As for me, I'll settle for far less than eloquence. I'll be happy not to embarrass myself. But I do intend to develop well-reasoned opinions when appropriate and to refrain when it's not necessary. So I at least need to become well-educated enough to tell the difference.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Land that I love

In all the tragedy and shock of 9/11, something valuable was restored to me. I regained the love of my country that the Vietnam war protests and Watergate had stolen. I renewed my appreciation of our unparalleled freedom and the courage and duty of our armed forces that have preserved it.

I honor God's unwarranted gift of allowing me to live here with the wonderful variety of men and women that he has likewise blessed. From the stouthearted determination of the pioneers, the clay-footed elegance of the antebellum plantations and the readiness to roll the dice that every willing immigrant had to have -- the legacies of all who have gone before make our lives richer.

I am thankful to have compatriots under the flag with whom I can link arms and say, "I am glad to be an American." May God bless us and keep us faithful to himself.

Friday, July 01, 2005


Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
- our Lord Jesus, recorded by St. John 14:27

Peace is not the absence of effort, but the tranquillity of order.
- St. Augustine or St. Benedict or St. Thomas Aquinas

But Christian peace, true peace, is neither wilderness nor helplessness, nor stillness; that is the peace of cemeteries. Christian peace is life, it is motion, it is spontaneous action, the fruit of harmony and cooperation
- from the "General Notions" on a paper on peace by Msgr. Luigi Civardi

Finally, here's an almost over-familiar prayer. Yeah, yeah, you say, good old raggedy St. Francis of Assisi. But look at it with new eyes, and try and say it in a thoughtful way, as an examination of conscience.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
when there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand,
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life

What say you of peace?


Sample Text

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Sample text

"There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know."

Pres. Barack Obama, Feb 5, 2009