Sunday, December 20, 2009

Undiscovered riches

As if the beautiful hymn O Holy Night weren't already glorious enough, I have a little extra-special gift for you as we approach the joys of the Christmas season.

My Dear Husband remarked that the French lyrics of O Holy Night reveal some beautiful theological truths that are missing in the English version. He was kind enough to write them out for me so I can share them with you. Enjoy and be blessed!

Traditional English
From the French

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviors’ birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
Midnight, Christians, it is the solemn hour
When he Man-God descended to us
To erase the original stain
And to stop the anger of His Father.
The whole world trembles with hope
At this night which gives it a Savior.
People, on your knees! Wait for your deliverance.
Noel! Noel! Here is the Redeemer. (2x)

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

May the burning light of our faith
Guide us to the cradle of the Babe.
As before a brilliant star
Led there the chiefs of the East.
The King of kings is born in a humble manger
Though powerful in your day and proud of your own grandeur,
To that pride, it is from that place that God preaches.
Bow your foreheads before the Redeemer. (2x)

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

The Redeemer has broken every barrier;
The earth is free and heaven is open.
He sees a brother where there was only a slave.
Love unites those whom iron enchained.
Who will tell Him our thanks?
It is for us that He is born, he suffers and dies.
People, stand up! Sing of your deliverance!
Noel! Noel! Sing to the Redeemer. (2x)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Lovely person, lovely heart, lovely prayer

While web-meandering today, I followed a trail of breadcrumbs that started with Gregorian Chant sites, moved on to the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles and their beautiful description of Mary's dwelling at Ephesus (which I've been privileged to visit); at the bottom of which page can be found the lovely prayer for priests written by Mother Louise-Margaret Claret de la Touche, who is beautifully profiled by Fr. Mark at Vultus Christi. (See honey, I'm not really wasting time at all!)

Fr. Mark posted the beautiful painting by Mother Louise-Margaret that you see here. The more I look at it, the more inspiring I find it.

During this year of prayer for priests, I've seen a number of intercessory prayers for these servants of God, but Mother Louise Margaret's I find especially deep and beautiful, particularly the final paragraph:
O Jesus, eternal High Prist, divine offerer of sacrifice, who in an incomparable act of love for men, your brethren, allowed the Christian priesthood to flow from your Sacred Heart, continue to pour out on your priests the life-giving streams of infinite Love.

Live in them, transform them into yourself, render them by your grace the instruments of your mercies, act in then and through them. Grant that, having been completely clothed with you by the faithful imitation of your virtues, they may perform in your name and by the strength of your Spirit, the works which you yourself have accomplished for the salvation of the world.

Divine Redeemer of souls, see how great is the multitude of those who still sleep in the darkness of error; count the number of those unfailthful sheep that are walking on the edge of the eternal abyss; consider the crowds of the poor, the hungry, the ignorant and the weak who are groaning in their state of abandonment. Return to us by your priests, live again in very truth in them; act through them and pass again through the world teaching, pardoning, consoling, offering sacrifice, renewing the sacred bonds of love between the Heart of God and the hearts of men. Amen.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What is faith?

Atheism must hold that there is no possibility of God, or a god, or supreme being, or anything supernatural.

Agnosticism says "Could be -- we don't know."

Seeking says, "Could be -- we don't know, but I want to learn more."

Hope says, "It looks like there might be."

Faith says, "He found me."

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Archbishop Chaput's recommended reading list

. . . has 26 books. Good books. See the list here.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Quick takes - Great quotes from Bishop Fulton Sheen

Click on the post-it to head over to Conversion Diary's quick-takes gathering place.

I find that a number of great quotations from Bishop Sheen have found their way into my notebook. So I present them here for you to run deliciously through your fingers.
(1) Truth must be sought at all costs, but separate isolated truths will not do. Truth is like life; it has to be taken on its entirety or not at all. . . . We must welcome truth even if it reproaches and inconveniences us -- even if it appears in the place where we thought it could not be found.

(2) Nothing is more harmful to a man than his resistance to Grace.

(3) So much do the will and its sin become wedded together that a soul will say, "Let me alone. I made my bed and I will lie in it."

(4) Those who hate Truth and fear Goodness are not far from the kingdom of God. They are fighting against it, and yet they know theirs is a losing battle. The more violently men hate truth, the more they think about it; the more they fear the goodness that demands perfection, the more they know it is what they really seek.

(5) Once we accept him, we find we were truly deceived. It was only the skin of the heavenly fruit that seemed bitter. The meat ravishes the soul. . . At first glance, God seems to be taking away our happiness, but in the moment of surrender we discover he has deceived us. He has merely taken away the dross to give us the gold of his eternity.

(6) Sin was the act by which man refused to see created things for what they were -- stepping stones to God, a means to an end -- and began instead to clutch at them as ends in themselves. That is what sin is, still. As a man loves his sense of humor when he cannnot see the point of a pun, so he loses his humor in its entirety when he ceases to see the point of the universe, which is that all things are revelations, symbols, reminders of God who made them. To take things as ends in themselves is to overrate them, treating them with a solemnity which is not warranted.

(7) Every person carries in his heart the blueprint of the one he loves.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Committing an act of citizenship

Today I sent e-mails to my Congressional Representative and the two Senators representing Michigan. I don't expect any of them to be remotely swayed by my urgings, but one does what one can and leaves the rest to God.

Here's the text of what I wrote to my representative:

To the Honorable John Dingell:

Re: Health Care reform

It is of vital importance that the eventual legislation has:

(1) Explicit broad conscience protection provisions for health care workers and health-providing institutions in the areas of abortion provision and end-of-life issues.

(2) Clear and explicit prohibitions against any -- ANY -- federal financing of abortion services.

Therefore I urge you to support the Stupak amendment and to see to it that the bill's Rule enables a vote on this amendment.

In the absence of protections, the eventual bill should be opposed.

We're paying attention.

Thank you for your service.

Rosalind Dieterich
Ann Arbor, MI

If you would like to e-mail your public servants, the "Contact" page for members of the Senate is here, and the (bit more cumbersome) one for House members can be found here.

Monday, November 02, 2009

The truth packs a lot of clout

Abby Johnson worked for eight years at the Bryan, TX office of Planned Parenthood, the last two as its Director. She piloted the nonprofit through a tough economy, realizing that it had to change its business model from an emphasis on prevention, which wasn't going to pay the bills. "The money wasn't in family planning, the money wasn't in prevention, the money was in abortion."

Then she watched an ultrasound of an abortion procedure.

On October 8 of this year, she submitted her resignation. Johnson has been meeting with the Executive Director of Bryan's Coalition for Life and has participated in praying outside her former workplace.

Full story here.

Hat tip: Curt Jester

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Friday quick takes: Blogger Colleagues Edition

Click on the post-it to head over to Conversion Diary's quick-takes gathering place.

  1. Gotta love Enbrethiliel. Like me, she can't just blog one way. She's the hostess of Sancta Sanctis, a great Catholic blog, but adds the personality-filled Shredded Cheddar to boot. She may just be serious about her tag-line: "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." (My own quirky side is on display at In Dwelling.)

  2. Another fun dual-personality is TSO. You must know him from his unspellable Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor, the only blog I know where the title is longer than the URL. It's also the home of "Spanning the Globe", in which every Catholic blogger worth his salt strives to earn a mention. TSO lets his ya-yas out over at Parody is Therapy. (I'm not letting cats out of bags, am I sir?

  3. For a good time, go over to Karen Edmisten and do a search for posts with the label Ramona. Ramona is her 7-year-old daughter with an amazing talent for coming out with quotable nuggets that are both profound and hysterical. An example:
    Me: Hey, Ramona -- you played a lot in your room earlier today. Are we going to be able to find your bed when it's bedtime?

    Ramona: Ummmm ... maybe not. I can guarantee you my room is not in tip-top shape.

    Me: Well, let's take a look.

    After surveying the bountiful clothing coverage -- both dress-up and the real stuff -- in her room, Ramona observed,

    Ramona: All it really needs is some hamperage.
  4. I very much enjoy reading whatever Mr. and Mrs. Darwin write over at Darwin Catholic, but I am especially charmed by the comments Mrs. Darwin makes on blogs here and there. I wish she'd collect and catalog them.

  5. Genevieve Kineke blogs at Feminine Genius (which I absolutely must remember to get up on the sidebar blogroll). However, she is also the author of The Authentic Catholic Woman (on my Wish List) and articles, including this one entitled "Choices Last".

    It was good timing for me to read the article because I've just been finishing the classic Kristin Lavransdatter, a superb portrayal of one young woman's journey of finding out exactly what the long-term consequences are of some key choices. Great juxtaposition.

  6. The American Papist is a good source of Catholic news and commentary. He has the ability to be witty without being "snarky", a rare talent. Here's an example from a recent post:
    Someone should tell the folks writing NARAL's petitions that marijuana isn't legal (yet). They actually have posted a petition - and almost 32,000 people have signed it - which reads in part:

    "Anti-choice extremists at the Family Research Council are launching an outrageous media and lobbying campaign claiming that Congress' health-care reform bills will deny seniors the medical care they need in order to pay for abortion."

    Yes, you read that correctly - NARAL is worried that seniors might lose their medical coverage for abortion.
    [Ed. note: Perhaps this offers evidence, at least in the case of NARAL members, the sex education of their day may well have been inadequate.]

  7. Finally, you've heard me talk about "Two Ways of Renouncing the Devil" before. As I said in a comment there, she has knack for wondering about things that would never have crossed my mind. So cruise on over there if you've every wondered about the Ethics of Gift Cards. And just in time for the holiday giving season, too.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Quick takes for no particular reason

I'm usually really busy on Thursdays, so I keep missing the "Friday Quick Takes" tradition that got started over on Conversion Diary. It's been so long since I posted that I'm going to just break into your day with bits of whatever has been striking my fancy lately. It's mostly practical stuff, but we'll lead off with a quotation from the esteemed Cardinal George on the American Catholic Church.
* * * * * * * * *

"Liberals are critical of [authority], although they’ll use it when they’re in power. Conservatives would tend to be less critical, but equally dependent upon it. Consequently, when you get into the church, you get the conservatives unhappy because bishops aren’t using power the way they’re supposed to, the way they want them to. You get liberals who are unhappy because [the bishops] have any power at all. Both of them are defining themselves vis-à-vis the bishops rather than vis-à-vis Christ, who uses the bishops to govern the church. It’s not a Christ-centered church, as it’s supposed to be, it’s a bishop-centered church."

Francis Cardinal George

* * * * * * * * *

It's my belief that one of the most significant spiritual gifts is a profound love for children. My husband has it. I don't, although I have always deeply loved my own children and grandchildren. There are many kids of whom I am quite fond when I've gotten to know them, but love for Children as a genre is foreign to me. For Henry, it's another matter entirely. Put a couple of babies in the pew in front of us, and he's hard pressed to tear himself from charming them enough to pay attention to the homily.

* * * * * * * * *

If you haven't yet gotten turned on to Paperback Swap, hie thee hence immediately. You offer the books (both paper and hardbound) that you no longer want and earn credits that you can use for requesting books that others have offered. (After you post your first 10 books, you get two credits as a "welcome" gift to get you started.) I have a wonderful stack of books waiting for me right now. There is no richer feeling. Plus, I've greatly enhanced my professional library with books that, I suspect, were required reading in college courses somewhere but which will actually now do somebody some good.

Hint: We had a stash of Christian romance novels we acquired as left-behinds from formerly-teenaged daughters. (In family parlance, we refer to them as "Christian bodice-rippers", but don't tell anyone.) They were wildly popular on the swap market. Some of our more staid books haven't moved quite as quickly, but you never know. But now I know what to look for next time I go to one of those "buck-a-box" book sales in the basement of the library.

* * * * * * * * *

Have I mentioned before my deep and abiding affection for my Tivo? Just saying. It protects my priorities -- I never am tempted to run home from somewhere to catch the opening scenes of Lie to Me.

* * * * * * * * *

Have I mentioned before my deep and abiding affection for Facebook? It's easy as pie to have casual conversations with kids and friends and keep reasonably up to date with "what's up" with them. It's now the standard place to find pictures of my granddaughters. And I'm reconnecting with old friends from years back I never would have found otherwise. Yes, it can be a time sink, so be warned.

* * * * * * * * *

Another "have you discovered?" item: If you have an Amazon wish list, you may not be aware that you can add a button to your browser that will add any item from any site, anywhere, to your wish list at Amazon. This way, you can keep all the things you have your eye on in one place. I wish this had been in place when I was getting married and setting up a bridal registry.

I can imagine it would have other private uses, too, such as keeping track of cars you're considering purchasing and the like. I suppose Delicious and other bookmarking sites are better for this sort of thing, though.

* * * * * * * * *

As you may be able to tell, I'm crazy for online productivity tools. Happy to share what I know with anyone. Any time. Anywhere. Feel free to ask me to stop.

POSTSCRIPT The Biebl Ave Maria I talked about in the last post? The choir sang it yesterday as a meditation at the end of communion. Henry, I and our sore throats were in the congregation. It was -- wow. That's all I can say. It was "anointed" as they say in charismatic circles. And I was speechless, which doesn't happen often.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

A refreshing musical break

Here's a beautiful rendition of the newly-popular Ave Maria by Biebl. Our parish choir is singing a version for mixed choir later this month. I can't wait.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Padre Pio

Julie says: "It was a photo of him with his head thrown back laughing that first made me notice him. I thought, 'Now there is someone I could talk to...that is what a real saint should look like.'"

Happy feast day, Padre Pio and all his fans.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I firmly believe in not much

For those of you who have outgrown the rigid, 'things are either right or wrong', judgmental, fact-based beliefs of your saner years, I offer you the Alternative Apostles' Creed.

Thanks to the Rev. Bosco Peters at the Liturgy blog, who knows and oldie-but-goodie when he sees one.

(Caveat: I myself have come to see that much of life has more shades of gray then I used to think. However, I don't believe the Apostles' Creed is included. Please do not accuse me of either heresy or blind inflexibility -- at least without more evidence than this.)


Matt at Creative Minority Report tells us about the first time God broke through to him, though he didn't quite recognize it at the time.
[A]s I approached the car I looked up. And my goodness. All the stars. Brilliant splashes of light shimmering like some clumsy angel had spilled a jar of stars over upstate New York. I stopped.

And that's how it happens. An unsuspecting kid on the New York State thruway on a random Sunday night looks up at the sky and is amazed by it all. For the first time since childhood, believing in something not named Matt Archbold was easy, the world looked so...on purpose. And to a punky know-it-all atheist like me that was a shock. . .

I wish I could say my life changed that night. But it didn't. I had a few more months of stupidity left in me. But it was one of the first intimations that there was something more.

It's worth reading the whole thing here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

How I'd rather speak

I noticed an unusual act of charity in speech today that really impressed me, perhaps especially because one of my besetting sins is criticalness and judgment. Sometimes I keep my little critique-y commentary to myself, but sometimes (usually to my husband) I just let fly with my tactful yet pointed assessment of something that's actually none of my business, rationalizing it to myself as "honest", "authentic", or "concerned". I'm working on it, but God's not done yet.

Today, we went out for brunch after Mass with several friends. One of them is a guy who I already realized is a wonderfully enthusiastic flat-out servant of God. He was talking about a priest-friend of his who is suffering considerable health problems that are greatly hampering his life and ministry and who, despite it all, hasn't been able to quit smoking. Did he at all imply in word or tone any contempt or criticism for this? Not at all. I believe his phrase was, "It has a strong grip on him that he hasn't yet been able to break." There was no hinted implication of weakness or poor judgment.

I was stunned. In a quiet way, relevant facts were presented without either criticism or the mealy-mouthed "it's no big deal" rationale which is my other automatic response to such things.

I'm sure my friend didn't have to think twice about how he spoke because he's been yielding up more and more of himself to Christ for decades. I admire him and would like to be more like that.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Quick Takes, a day late

I've been looking forward to joining the "7 Quick Takes" bandwagon, and then I let Friday go by without doing anything about it. So, though a day late, I hope I'm not a dollar short. (That is a really lame use of idiom. Don't try this at home.)
  1. I've started an intermittent series of helpful hints over at In Dwelling that will be tagged "Let me 'splain it to you". Stop on by to say hello.

  2. One of my almas mater is playing the other one in football this afternoon. There is no contest for my affections. Go Blue!

  3. I'm sort of enjoying living a more simple life since our household financial situation has been affected by the downturn. I would like it, though, if travel could still be an intermittent part of our lives. My current cravings (besides cruising the country to visit my kids and hitting the Atlantic ocean from time to time) include the British Isles, Lebanon, and revisits to Italy and Turkey.

  4. I have the cutest grandchildren. Case closed.

  5. I was reared Catholic, spent 15 years at a Presbyterian Church, and then reverted to the Catholic Church in 2004. Therefore, I'm reasonably fluent in both Catholic and Evangelical language. I've been thinking of attempting some posts explaining some aspects of Catholicism in a way that attempts to be clear to Protestants in order to increase understanding. Would this be worthwhile, or has it been done to death? Any suggestions on what should be covered? Let me know your thoughts, either in the comment boxes or via email.

  6. I've been a little preoccupied with politics lately, what with concerns about choice and conscience provisions in health care and the propriety (or not) of calling the President of the United States a liar during an internationally-televised session of Congress. It's not very good for me. I have a pretty good analytical mind, but it's hard for me not to get bent out of shape and become argumentative. I hereby remind myself of my personal maxim: If I'm not required to hold an opinion on an issue or have no responsibility for an area, it's perfectly okay to delay forming (much less voicing) said opinion.

  7. I wish people would stop sending mail to my house with my late husband's (or my former married name) on it. I didn't live here until two weeks before Henry and I married, which should clearly demonstrate that Late Husband never had this address. The ultimate transgression happened today: Henry got mail addressed to "Mr. Henry Latehusbandname".

    Please cut it out, Stumpy's Sprinkler Maintenance and whoever else you are. If you haven't yet learned who lives here, chances are we don't value the communication you're sending. (Forgetful old friends who address correspondence while on autopilot are exempted from this scolding.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Kids these days . . . may surprise you

The Longing Teaser 1 from Kerygma Studios on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hey, listen to this

As I perused the latest copy of First Things, I found myself delighted with thoughts, articulations, and turns of phrase; I longed to have someone in the room to whom I could read them aloud and smile in shared enjoyment.

Like it or not, you, my friends, are my virtual companions. I will just have to imagine the shared smiles as we read some snippets from the October issue.

§ § §

It is an outrage, a shame and a scandal and a sin, that the old and ill should feel that they are alone with their demons, that those demons render their lives worthless, and that the only sensible, charitable thing to do is to take themselves and the demons as far out of everyone else's way as possible.
Sally Thomas, Letter

* * *

Sex is now considered a private recreational activity with no moral or social significance. The default setting in this society is that sex is sterile. Childbearing is available as an optional lifestyle extra, if you happen to like that sort of thing.
Jennifer Rabcock Morse, Letter

* * *

[H]is arguments seem coherent only because they are so perfectly circular.
David B. Hart, reviewing The Evolution of God by Robert Wright

* * *

In Loh's essay … a husband — as it happens, one of those husbands no longer interested in sex with his wife — bookmarks his pornography on the computer; his wife knows all about it, even reports it to her friends who are commiserating about their sexless marriages — and no one seems to connect the dots at all.
Mary Eberstadt

* * *

Existing economics has a negative moral content in that it treats economic factors as though they were pieces on a game board rather than human beings who learn, discover, and innovate.
Edmund Phelps

* * *

[T]here are two distinct tribes of Wind in the Willows lovers: those for whom Toad is what it's all about, and those for whom the milder adventures of Rat and Mole are the heart of the matter.
Alan Jacobs

* * *

When humanity is guided by the gospel, earthly reality can indeed prefigure, however modestly, the heavenly reality that is to come. Unguided by the gospel, earthly reality will become a mockery -- a false progress toward a false unity.
Douglas Farrow

* * *

[I]f you do not feel God's presence, you will become desperate to feel anything at all. Terror and horror create at least some kind of feeling. After pornography has jaded the capacity to feel pleasure, what remains is the capacity to feel fear and pain.
David P. Goldman

* * *

On Peter Seewald, author of Benedict XVI: An Intimate Portrait, in a review:

[B]y his own account, the answers Seewald received [from then-Cardinal Ratzinger] "grabbed him by the scruff of the neck." He started to read the gospels regularly and to go to Mass. Belief became a burning issue for him … He has now quietly returned to the Church, acknowledging that, by Catholic criteria, only a conservative can be progressive — which is to say, only someone who keeps the treasure of faith complete and intact is able to achieve progress.
George Cardinal Pell

* * *

The language of partnership with God is a tricky, dangerous one, easy to misunderstand — particularly if it is used by those whose rhetorical style is already messianic, as President Obama's is. And, besides, he didn't speak of preserving [life] and delaying [death]. He said flat outo that we are "God's Partners in Matters of life and death." The answer to which is simply: no. We're not.
* * *

The headline from a recent Newsweek article by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend reads: "Why Barack Obama represents American Catholics better than the Pope does." An alternative does suggest itself. "Why Barack Obama represents Kathleen Kennedy Townsend better than the Pope does."
"While We're At It"

Friday, September 11, 2009

On 9/11

Quoting someone I don't know who commented on a friend's Facebook post:
We all became more considerate, more respectful, more mature, almost instantly. Drivers drove their cars correctly. People held doors for one another. There was the tacit understanding that we were all "in this together." We put ourselves aside. We were as one. We could have moved a mountain. You could see it. You could feel it. It was real.

It only lasted two weeks. After that, we reverted. But to have seen it at all, even once in a lifetime, is a memory worth keeping.

I remember that. It was real. It was as if our national resentments were locked in a closet for a couple of weeks. Expressions of good will weren't only performed, they were honored. Pique felt cheap, and people apologized without being asked.

I think it was grace.

The person I was quoting is the sage Ed Gurney who blogs here.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

When this man speaks, I think I'll listen

Following today's theme of being late to the party, I just came across a terrific letter from Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison on the subject of Ted Kennedy, his funeral, his life and his Catholicism. (I, myself, am guilty of sniping at the Senator on, yes, this very blog, so the issue has significance for me.) I commend it to your reading if you are, like me, interested in parsing the nuance of important issues rather than picking a good-sounding bandwagon to jump on. (Scroll down through the first part of this good blog post to get to the letter in its entirety.)

Some excerpts:
The challenge for us as Catholics in the United States — and it is a challenge both personally and as a community — is to bridge that disconnect [between his strong leadership in helping the poor and downtrodden and his leadership against pro-life causes] and pull that whole seamless garment of the defense of life together, rather than rending that garment in twain and choosing one, while almost, or actually, excluding the other. The social teaching of the Church and her pro-life stance surely are interwoven as a seamless garment.

Here is something I did not know.
Senator Kennedy, a good number of years ago, convened a meeting of priests and very high-level theologians to address the issue of Catholic political leaders and their votes with regard to abortion. . . . Sadly, that meeting simply became another occasion for the development by theologians of the “two-conscience” approach to the faith for Catholic political leaders — that is the approach which says, “privately I’m opposed to abortion, but in the public arena there are other conflicting responsibilities which allow me to vote in favor of legal abortion." . .

[I]f Senator Kennedy was given this advice and this approach, this “catechesis” — false though it is — by prominent theologians, it could at least be said that there was some ground for confusion and ambiguity in his own practice about these matters. The priests and theologians who counseled Senator Kennedy are not free of blame for causing the confusion and the ambiguity through false catechesis.

The bishop goes on to say:
God forbid that I be taken as making excuses for Teddy Kennedy’s behavior in certain areas, yet Senator Kennedy’s having written a personal letter to our Holy Father during his last days, a letter that was hand-delivered by President Obama, is also an indication that he believed that the pope alone was the Vicar of Christ, and he wanted to make absolutely sure that our Holy Father received his letter. And too, since priests were regularly present to him during his final year and final days, it would be more reasonable than not to believe that he had made a good confession.

Regarding concerns about offering Senator Kennedy a public Catholic funeral:
he death of Senator Kennedy has called forth at least an apparent rejection of mercy on the part of not a few Catholics. On the cross of Christ, God’s justice came into conflict with God’s mercy. God’s justice was fully satisfied, but mercy triumphed in the conflict, according to the teaching of Pope Benedict. Without denying any misdeeds on the part of Senator Kennedy, the Church, seeking to reflect the face of Christ, proclaimed God’s mercy for the whole world to see in a subdued but unmistakable way. It was more than appropriate.

Food for thought.

Happy belated birthday, Holy Mother

I love Mary. I'm still early in getting to know her, but a deep affection is growing. So, Mama Mary, if you'll please overlook the lateness of this birthday greeting, I'd like to post this in your honor.

UPDATE: The video I originally posted was pulled, but here's another, equally beautiful.

An angel-voiced Joan Baez singing the traditional Virgin Mary had a One Son from a 1977 concert.

Lyrics, courtesy of uuLyrics by way of Jendi Reiter:
Virgin Mary had a one son,
Oh, glory halleluja,
Oh, pretty little baby,
Glory be to the new born King.

Well, Mary how you call that pretty little baby,
Oh, pretty little baby,
Oh, pretty little baby,
Glory be to the new born King.

Well, some call Him Jesus, think I'll call Him Savior
Oh, I think I'll call Him Savior
Oh, I think I'll call Him Savior,
Glory be to the new born King.

Riding from the East there came three wise man,
Oh, came three wise man,
Oh, came three wise man,
Glory to be the new born King.

Said, Follow that star, you'll surely find the baby,
Oh, surely find the baby,
Oh, surely find the baby,
Glory be to the new born King.

Well, the Virgin Mary had a one son, etc.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Knocking, 21st-century style

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rest in peace, Ted Kennnedy

I say Amen! to all prayers for Senator Kennedy's soul and those who loved him and offer some of my own.

But this pushes the envelope of reality: He Made Me Proud to Be a Catholic by Sr. Maureen Fiedler in the National Catholic Reporter (not to be confused with the reliable National Catholic Register).

As Inigo Montoya said, "I do not think that word means what you think it means."

Patrick Madrid's interesting response can be read here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Behind the scenes with blog groupies

Me: (excitedly) I had to call you. I just had a Celebrity Blogger sighting.

Therese: Really? Who?

Me: Fr. Rob Johansen of Thrown Back. I told him that his was the first Catholic blog I ever bookmarked. He promises he'll start blogging again soon.

Therese: Where did you meet him?

Me: At a banquet about the Cardinal Newman Liberal Arts Project. They're trying to start a Catholic liberal arts college in Southwest Michigan.

Therese: You people up there really know how to think big. When we want to do a project, we put on a church picnic. In Michigan, you get together and decide to found a college.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Salve Regina

Jesus wanted his mother with him and took her in the same way he will take all of us - bodily and wholly into heaven to be with him and the Father. Today is the Feast of the Assumption. We can look at it and be sure of what is in store for each of us - mercy and sweetness.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

What will not happen when you give yourself to God

From a homily at Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham, Massachusetts:
There are two related wounds that all or most of us experience: the fear of abandonment, and the fear of engulfment. In other words, we fear being unseen, lost, not held in our hearts, we want to be existentially embraced by another. Yet, we also desire to be free, not swallowed up by another’s emotional neediness; we fear losing our individuality and freedom, our independence.

Two general truths are helpful in reframing this paradox:

1) There is no created reality that can really give me all that my heart desires, and there is no created reality that can take anything away from me. So I need not be lost in the frenzy of seeking, nor in the despair of protecting myself.

2) in a life of prayer and ongoing conversion of heart one may come to know that it is only God who offers an existential embrace which is also total freedom for me. The Divine embrace is freedom. Love casts out fear.

In other words, relinquishing my will to God does not put me at risk of being at the mercy of a capricious or erratic sovereign, nor does it mean that I, the essential I, will get swallowed up or subsumed and therefore lose who God has created me to be. Nothing that is Not God can do these things, and God will not.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What it takes to be a bad blogger

Pauli of Es Quod Est has posted a mea culpa list entitled "Why I am a Bad Blogger." I appreciate this very much, because I have always wondered how to clean up my shabby act. Some of his items include:
No stated commenting policy. A lot of the big-time bloggers have these. They say things like “Don’t use threatening language toward other commenters or their expensive pets.”

Not enough posts beginning with the word "so" as in "So my wife and I went to a nightclub last night . . ."

No "true confession" moments

Lack of misspellings

Well, I can do better than that. Here are some of the things that make me a much worse blogger than Pauli:
I lose most of my ideas. I get dozens of ideas for posts that I'm sure will be scintillating, insightful and will gain me hordes of readers. Unfortunately, most of these are scribbled on little pieces of paper that end up clumped in the bottom of my purse and grease-stained by the Chapstick that's lost its top.

I use little original material. I love inspiring quotations, so I pass them along to you. When I share insights or flashes of wisdom, they're probably things I've cribbed unconsciously from others and am passing along as my own. And amusing anecdotes, of course, are usually actions that have been sparklingly performed by someone who is not me.

I'm inconsistent.
Sometimes I'm here a lot. Sometimes I'm AWOL for long periods. I don't know if it matters, and I apologize if it causes a problem for anyone (as if!). But it's just the way it is; I have no explanation. My attention goes somewhere for a while and then I get involved with other things. If you saw the other pieces of my life, you might be surprised. My interests and enterprises are quite varied and I find keeping everything moving forward an interesting challenge. Even my husband has a hard time keeping track of what I'm into at the moment.

I love fun. I just am not earnest enough. Humor trumps many other things for me (which is why I have another blog just for things that amuse me). But my love for the humorous turn of phrase, combined with my love for the things that touch me with spiritual depth, probably cause some awkward gear-changes for my readers. If so, I hope you enjoy the ride.

So there you are. If you want to add to the list, call me to repentance or give me new ideas about how to be an even worse blogger, the comment box is there for your enjoyment. Since I have no commenting policy, I am free to delete offensive comments with no warning, justification or excuse. Bad bloggers cling to their delusions of power, you see.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Need a bite of Carmel today?

Some tidbits from St. John of the Cross:
If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.

Understanding is not the understanding of God.

In order to find Him you should forget all your possessions and all creatures and hide in the interior, secret chamber of your spirit. And there, closing the door behind you, you should pray to your Father in secret. Remaining hidden with Him, you will experience Him in hiding, and love and enjoy Him in hiding.

And from St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein):
If anyone comes to me, I want to lead them to Him.

The nation... doesn't simply need what we have. It needs what we are.

Only the person who renounces self-importance, who no longer struggles to defend or assert himself, can be large enough for God's boundless action.

And my dear favorite and patron, St. Teresa of Avila (Teresa of Jesus):
Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul.

Pain is never permanent.

What a great favor God does to those He places in the company of good people!

Mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.

You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him.

Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; and there is only one Glory, which is eternal. If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

On Michael Jackson, from the wisest man on radio

Al Kresta, whose afternoon show on Ave Maria Radio never disappoints, offers some worthwhile thoughts, not on Michael Jackson himself but on the "Michael Jackson phenomenon."

Lest any doubt remain about Michael’s status as a commercial property, let his father lay claim. When a CNN reporter asked his father, Joe, shortly after Michael’s death, “How are you doing sir, how’s the family holding up?” Joe Jackson replied, “I’m great. My family’s doing pretty good. It has been really tough. Remember we just lost the biggest star, the biggest superstar in the world.” Most fathers would have simply said they had lost a son. Undeterred, the CNN reporter asked if he’d like to share anything about his son and his legacy. Joe Jackson throttled the tender moment and immediately squeezed in a promotional spot for his new production company proving that even the sudden, shocking death of his son couldn’t soften the stage parent from hell. Michael Jackson had been parented to be sold. Link (HT to TSO for this one.)

Iranian protesters are using the anniversary of the 1999 Tehran University student uprising to resume demonstrations against the outcome of the June 12 presidential election. An estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people crowded the streets and headed toward Tehran University, the site of the 1999 demonstrations. Several protesters were hit on the arms and backs by the Basij, according to video evidence. The militia tried to persuade one man, whose face was bleeding, to get into an ambulance, but he refused. Meanwhile we continue to watch Michael Jackson. Link

Monday, July 06, 2009

Worthwhile things said in my hearing

Lucky me.

"By definition, intercessors are sojourners in enemy territory."

"The enemy is powerless; he's hustling for time and leverage. He wants us to believe him enough so he can get away with a certain number of things during our lifetime."

Martha Balmer, in a talk on intercessory prayer

"Developing empathy (rather than repulsion) connects and helps them. Love says 'I'm glad you exist.'" Speaking of caring for people with problems that disturb us.

"Go slow. Don't assume."

David: "What if you want to make music and don't care about making money?"
Ron: "There are showers for that."

Exchange at weekly A2B3 networking lunch

"Are you asking for enough?"


"It's about the indissolubility, about the cleaving . . . The love of married couples is the only thing that shows to the world the love of Christ for his Church."

Fr. Eric Weber, delivering a couples' meditation on the
Feast of the Sacred Heart

"We tend to define what's possible based on our present experience. That doesn't apply where the Holy Spirit is involved."

Fr. Ed Fride, pastor of Christ the King Catholic Church

"In worship, God prepares us to see the unbearable beauty of his face."

Ed Conlin, quoting John Henry Newman

"I've Got Those Post-Pentecostal Pre-Parousia Blues."
Me, recalling the title of an old song from college days

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Billions and billions of saints

It's not All Saints Day, but this would be perfect for it . . . or for anyone in a dilemma about whom to pick as a confirmation patron. Hat tip to Gilbert and Sullivan.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cheap office supplies, intercessory prayer, and Gregorian chant while you're on hold

Through a link from The Ironic Catholic, I found the Laser Monks from a Cistercian monastery in Wisconsin. In order to support their needs and raise funds for charitable work, they provide printer and fax supplies such as toner cartridge replacements, etc. General mark-up on ink and toner is generally astronomical, so a more modest profit margin allows the monks to make a comfortable living while serving their customers with lower prices and, as they say, "making e-commerce more human".

The fun started for me when I read the "About Us" page. The story of how their enterprise began is an interesting one, but I completely fell for them when I read the section on building relationships with their customers. A sampling:

  • We try to make e-commerce more human through personal and truly caring customer service, that reflects our 900-year tradition of hospitality.
  • The LaserMonks website offers an invitation for Prayer Requests.
  • Thoughtful phrases and quotations are provided that encourage a moment of reflection and growth in the midst of a busy day.
  • Handwritten notes of thanks and encouragement from the monks are included in some of our shipments and in occasional correspondence with our customers.
  • Our telephone service and auto-attendant are designed to be cheerful, encouraging and thankful, even including our own Cistercian Gregorian Chant for any moments that one must be on Hold.

How can you top the chance to participate in a good work, save money on things you need to buy anyway, and perhaps get a handwritten note from Fr. Bernard?

P.S. The site includes a directory with links to other monastery-made products. It will be my one-stop shop for Monastery Mustard and Trappistine Creamy Caramels from now on.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Not your mom's Psaltery - it's yo' mama's

The Anchoress has a (get this) Hasidic rap version (well, take off) of Psalm 137 embedded from YouTube. Just goes to show you, eternal truths have eternal applicability.


Friday, May 01, 2009

Friday quotation

A collection of the great G.K. Chesterton for your pleasure.
"The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected."

"The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice."

"The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog."

"Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere."

"I regard golf as an expensive way of playing marbles."

"Journalism is popular, but it is popular mainly as fiction. Life is one world, and life seen in the newspapers is another."

"Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair."

Thanks to The Ironic Catholic for the meme idea.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Go ye unto the world and tweet the gospel

Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, was present at the Sunday unveiling of a statue in honor of Fr. Patrick Peyton, a sunny, brogue-filled Irishman who was remarkably successful in the 1940s at encouraging the use of the media to promote faith and devotion to the Rosary.

Cardinal Brady's remarks are all over the internet today because of their direct applicability to this very medium.

“Fr Peyton had a great gift for using the most up-to-date means of social communication. He was pioneering in his use of television to communicate the gospel and the power of prayer through the rosary,” said Cardinal Brady.

“He attracted the support of many famous film stars along the way. I am sure if there had been mobile phones in his day, Fr Peyton would have been big into texting and Twitter. He would rejoice in the power of the internet and e-mail to join people together in prayerful solidarity instantaneously and across the world.”

This is aligned with the direction my thinking has been going. I am a heavy user of various social-connection tools for my work, and I give a lot of consideration to the ways various modes can be applied to businesses and organizations to help them be effective. I've also observed how one of the indirect effects of this involvement is, frankly, that I'm in touch with exponentially more people than I used to be without a proportional cost in extra effort and time.

This has allowed me to observe and participate in many opportunities for either explicit sharing of the gospel or simply doing what God wants me to do -- showing love and concern to the people he's created as they cross my path. Though the utilitarian measurable benefits aren't yet ready to harvest, I firmly believe that if wisely incorporated, Twitter, Facebook, Plurk, Second Life and who-knows-what-else can be successfully used in service of God's kingdom.

What do you think?

Friday, April 24, 2009

I will only tell you this if you promise not to make a big deal about it

It's my birthday. Okay, hush now.

I'm telling you this because I have to share with you a poem a friend posted on my Facebook wall. I'm charmed.

Happy Birthday, Roz Mackraz Dieterich

Let's hear some applause for the Wizard of Roz!
(Those Zs in her name merely add to her fame;
on Facebook or Twitter,
girl's handle's got glitter.)

What I'm trying to say
in a memorable way
is that this one's a
summa cum laude.

Okay, how much fun is that?

Thanks to Kathryn Dearing, poet extraordinaire.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Let's hear it for Homeland Security. Um, maybe not.

Okay, I don't know what I think of Sr. Mary Martha's theology here (perhaps she's being playful and I don't get it), but here's a quotation I simply had to bring you:

"There are many other types of Scapulars, though, and they come in different colors, like our national Terror Alert System, only useful."

(And you thought I was going to talk about Janet Napolitano, didn't you?)

Mixed feelings

The news is out: Bishop Robert Carlson of Saginaw has been named the new Archbishop of St. Louis.

Those who made this choice are certainly wide awake. Bishop Carlson has been tireless and effective in helping the diocese of Saginaw emerge from its former rocky state. He was appointed to Saginaw in 2005, but it seems like it was just yesterday. Michigan Catholics will miss him. A lot.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Quotatious Friday

Easter says you can put truth in the grave, but it won't stay there.

~Clarence W. Hall

Hat tip: The Ironic Catholic

Monday, April 13, 2009

How Jesus is like a beer

And a happy Easter to you all.

The Hypostatic Union of Christ: Black and Tan

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Knight

Imagine yourself
tied to a tree,
condemned of the sins
of eternity.

Then picture a spear
parting the air,
seeking your heart
to end your despair.

Suddenly--a knight
in armor of white,
stands in the gap,
betwixt you and its flight,

And shedding His
'armor of God' for you,
bears the lance
that runs Him through.

His heart has been pierced
that yours may beat,
and the blood of His corpse
washes your feet.

Picture yourself
in raiment white,
cleansed by the blood
of the lifeless Knight,

Never to mourn
the prince who was downed,
For He is not lost!
it is you who are found.

-Johnny Hart

This was a B.C. comic some years ago. Thanks to Janet Holtz for posting it on Facebook.

Friday, March 06, 2009


She: "For a pig farmer from Kankakee, he really is a wonderful homilist."

Me: "That is so on the blog."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

One of my favorite times of year

I know people who dread Lent. I do not. Perhaps this is partly because no one has ever been able to accuse me of being too hard on myself when it comes to mortifications of the flesh. Since I came back to the Catholic Church, I've found the season of Lent a wonderful time of interior retreat no matter what my outside circumstances.

During Lent of 2004, I was a widow of one year, with a new job, living alone (for the first time ever) in an apartment in a new city far from my home town. My taxing and rather erratic job and travel schedule prevented me from becoming involved in outside activities or meeting many people; to top it off, television reception in my apartment was poor. Seeing what I've just written, and knowing the warm and extroverted woman I am, it sounds like it would have been a prison. But it was not. I did not feel bereft. Instead, God was disengaging the gears that ennmeshed me within my life while he shifted them.

I was a practicing Protestant at the time, but there was a Catholic parish halfway between my apartment and work, so I began attending daily Mass. I started reading books and following Catholic blogs. Good friends answered my questions, including the Catholic gentleman who had taken me to dinner just before I left and who continued to keep in touch.

My life was simple, peaceful, rewarding, quiet, different.

On the Saturday of Palm Sunday weekend, I met the priest of that local parish and made my confession. I went to Mass later that afternoon and had to keep myself from lunging at the Eucharist (as I expressed it at the time to my co-blogger). On Sunday, I watched the Passion of the Christ for the first time. On Thursday, I flew home and participated in my home parish's celebration of the Triduum. I can't express to you what it meant to me.

What is Lent? For me, it's captured in the gospel reading we will hear in several weeks on the Feast of the Transfiguration: They looked around them, but saw nothing any more except Jesus only.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A devastating loss

Michael Dubruiel, beloved husband of Amy Welborn, died suddenly yesterday, February 3 while running at the gym. Amy's blog, Charlotte Was Both, has been among the most important of my sources of carefully considered, well written and God-loving commentary on the Catholic Church ever since I first considered returning to it. Michael's heart was in the same place: service to God and his family, spreading God's word and the faith to as many people as possible. His books are notable. [Update: I'd forgotten to include a link to Michael's excellent blog, Annunciations.]

I met Amy and Mike when Amy spoke at a local parish a couple of years ago. Mike worked the book table, the kids looked out for one another and did a little homework, and Amy was her completely comfortable and personable self. I wish I had had the opportunity to become better acquainted with them, but the combination of fans and old friends kept them well occupied.

I know what it's like to lose a husband, though my children were older and we had time to prepare. I won't forget the feeling of going through the hardest thing in my life without the person who always had helped me through the hard things. Even I can't imagine what strength and grace it will take for Amy and the children to deal with the next days, weeks and months. But I know, as does Amy, that the grace will be there.

If anyone wants to do anything for the family, buy Michael's books. It will bless you and bless them.

Well-wishers may want to add a note here.

O God, by your great grace and mercy, the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus, and the grace and consolation of the Holy Spirit, receive your son Michael into heaven and give comfort and strength to his family and all who loved him. All you saints and angels, pray for us.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Do I really love God?

I'm not much tempted toward over-scrupulosity. My fault lies in the opposite direction: I am inclined to presumptuously take for granted that my efforts are acceptable because, hey, I'm doing the best that I can. (Well, I'm not always doing the best that I can and sometimes God and I have to have some serious discussions about that.) I tend not to be motivated by hearing "It's the right thing to do", but I will leap into action if I hear of something that will make a contribution to someone's life. My affections -- fortunately being drawn more and more into conformity with Christ -- are my spark plugs. But, in moments of doubt, people like me may ask ourselves, "Do I do what is right or am I locked into just doing what I feel inclined and motivated to do?"

Others may have the gift of being energized to accomplish what is right and just. They may say, "I want to do my duty faithfully. I am committed to God, I am loyal and I am at his service. My family, my work responsibilities, my service to God and Church -- these things come first." But they might ask, "Am I cold-hearted? God talks about loving him with my whole heart. Do I do that? I'm not sure I know what that means."

I found a very helpful piece of writing that went a long way to helping me understand the different ways God works in the human heart.
In people who pursue the spiritual life, you can distinguish two ways. The first strives for the love of God through the virtues. They mortify themselves in a spirit of penance; they practice humility because justice demands it; they obey because duty demands it. These moral virtues are geared toward restoring order in the soul and, little by little, they will lead on to the sphere of perfect charity.

Others take an opposite way. These immediately look to love. This is the virtue they wish to acquire . . . For them, this queen of virtues is, so to say, the only virtue from which all the others flow.

Achille Durant C.SS.R

I'm reminded that God's way with each human heart is personal and individual. Is one more valuable because of feelings and expressions of devotion? Or is another more admirable because of its strength in fidelity, fortitude and sense of justice? Though there are differences of degree (and we keep pressing on to make him our own because of Christ Jesus who has made us his own), we are different from one another as an orchid and a waterfall differ. Each beautifully glorifies God, not by resembling one another, but by displaying something unique God has created.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Prolife Superbowl Ad? Not if the network refuses to run it

I guess all dollars are not equal.

A short pro-life video ("beautiful", "tasteful", and "inspiring" are among the comments often evoked) is not acceptable as an advertising spot during the Superbowl, NBC has decided. The video has become a viral hit, with over 700,000 viewings over a one-week span.

According to published reports, NBC indicated that they are "not interested in advertisements involving political advocacy or issues." That makes me wonder. What would happen if the national election were held two months after the Superbowl rather than two months before?

Is the video offensive? Is it political? You be the judge.

Update: I went to the Anheuser Busch website and sent them this message:
NBC has declined to accept the video from as a Superbowl advertisement. It is my intention to make note of all Superbowl advertising sponsors and stop purchasing their products if this video is refused. It is also my intention to communicate this to people on my blog, hoping that others spread the word and imitate.

Anheuser Busch has always had the most (and most amusing) commercials during the Superbowl. I'm sorry this will be for naught this year. I'm sure I will enjoy them, but I will stop purchasing your product.

I suggest you contact NBC and ask them to make other arrangements.

Very truly yours,

Rosalind xxxxxxxxxxx

Does anyone want to join me?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Just talk to him

I read something that was a great encouragement to me, so I wanted to share it with you. It's written (or translated into) the English of an earlier time, so I'm going to update it slightly to read more familiarly, so the impact isn't diluted by a (to our ears) awkward phrasing. It's from How to Converse with God by St. Alphonsus Liguori.
Act toward God as you act on occasion toward those who love you and whom you love.

God delights that you would relate to him confidently. Speak with him of your business, your plans, you griefs, your fears — of all that concerns you. Above all, do so (as I have said) with confidence, with an open heart. For God does not as inclined to speak to the soul that does not speak to him since, if unused to conversing with him, we would be unlikely to understand his voice when he spoke to us.

God will have himself esteemed the Lord of surpassing power and terribleness when we despise his grace, but on the contrary he will come to us as the most affectionate friend when we love him; and to this end he would have us often speak with him familiarly and without restraint.

Reading this stirs up the hunger in my heart. I want to be right next to the heart of God, sitting next to Jesus on a bench murmuring to him, having him answer, taking time for companionable silences, having lots of time stretch ahead to just speak from my heart and be delighted to hear him answer. Apparently he wants this, too. Is it only my reluctance, my distractions, my self-imposed criteria, my unconfesssed sins that keep this from happening? It seems so.

Well, St. Alphonsus gives a gentle and easy way. Just talk to God. Tell him what's going on, even if I'm sure he knows it already. Let him know when something's hard for me. Tell him the problem even before I know the solution I want him to help me with. Tell him I'm confused, I'm resentful, I feel sucked dry, I'm procrastinating and I don't know why. Ask for help. Tell him I don't feel like I even want his help. Just talk to him.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

An open letter to my Democratic friends

I myself am a Democrat. Or at least, I was. But since the days of Jack Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey, I have been orphaned by the party I loved. It moved elsewhere, leaving me now with no recourse but to pull the Republican lever. As you might suspect, these are hard times for someone in my position.

In the midst of the joy and acclamation over the recent events in Washington, I am finding the inner resources that enable forbearance wearing a little thin. I choose to assume that those who are causing my pain would welcome clarification so they could refrain if possible. Therefore, I would like to propose some reciprocal understandings in the interest of preserving mutual charity and respect during the next four years.
  1. I am glad that you are rejoicing over the election and inauguration of Barack Obama. I will refrain from verbally raining on your parade, even though I do not share your joy and optimism. This does not mean I share your views, but I respect them. I would appreciate your exercising similar consideration by refraining from speaking as if yours is the only legitimate point of view. It is not necessarily true that every individual with (a) a heart not made of stone, or (b) the brains God gave a goat will see it your way.

  2. Yes, I am happy that the United States of America has come to the point that a black man (or woman) can be elected to the highest office of the land. I do not, however, consider that this accomplishment necessarily implies that the electorate was on the side of the angels. (We could have gotten there much more quickly if we had accepted the offer of service tendered by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and we know how that turned out.) I extend President Obama the respect that I would extend to anyone -- I will evaluate his presidency by his performance. I will judge him, not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.

  3. I have, from time to time, been accused of not wishing our new president well. "I bet you're hoping he fails!" is among the remarks I have heard.

    Well, that depends. Do I want him to discharge the duties of the office ably, responsibly, in a way worthy of respect? Yes. Do I want America to thrive under him? Yes. Am I hoping for a disaster that can be laid at his feet so I can say, "I told you so?" Not at all.

    But do I want him to successfully implement many of the things that his statements and his record indicate that he will pursue? By no means. This is called "having a different opinion." It's okay, really.

  4. I would appreciate your respect in return. There were two reasons I declined to vote for him, both arrived at after careful consideration: (1) I am not confident that he has the character, presence, experience and abilities to meet the challenges of the presidency in the 21st century; and (2) I believe that many of the things he will try to accomplish, together with the goals of the interest groups to which he is beholden, would be contrary to the best interests of the United States. You came to a different conclusion. Welcome to America. This country was founded precisely so that we could do business this way.
When people speak as though American conservatives are hateful and hating, racist, war-hungry, and the enemy of all that is good, I take umbrage. I am one of them, and by the grace of God, I hope I am none of those things. I will try my best to think of your political convictions and personal intentions with charity and respect. I would appreciate the same.

On mercy and wrath

I recently wrote a post entitled "What Does God Do When We Fail," pointing to God's ability to carry through with his plans regardless of our sins and failures. I didn't intend to downplay the seriousness of sin -- my premise is that those who are hid with Christ in God obey him in regular repentance and commitment to obey him -- but instead to remind us that without God we can do nothing, including derailing the sovereign purposes of God Almighty.

The thrust of that essay was the effect of our sin on the overarching purposes of God. But what about us as individuals?

A reflective friend says:
I would also add a word about His wrath and discipline. I recall the many that were slain on the day of the Golden Calf. And David and Bathsheba's first child was taken from them and the sword did not depart from David's house during his lifetime. The consequences of sin can be overwhelmingly crushing for our God is a consuming fire to be sure. But for those who are His children, His wrath has been diverted onto Christ - for us there is no longer any judgment but only the fatherly discipline of His love. And God's discipline, though dreadful to go through, is such a humbling, cleansing, healing and transforming work of His love and mercy to those who bow before Him. I give Him praise for this too!

My friend raises an interesting point about discipline. Forgiveness does not erase the temporal effects of sin and so does not rescue us from experiencing suffering resulting from our sinful acts. But the game has changed between the Old Testament and the New. The death of Jesus turned a corner, not in God's love for us or hatred for sin, but in the new availability of genuine reconciliation between the sinner and God.

I, frankly, am grateful for God's wrath. I look around at the awful realities of our world -- innocent people raped, slain and starved; hopelessness; lies and deception; verbal and physical cruelty; -- and I am glad that the Fountain of Mercy himself looks at such things with anger and hatred. But I would not be grateful for it if I were stuck with the unscrubbable stain of my sin marking me out as a worthy object for that anger. But for the gift of Jesus, that would be true. But the death of the Son of God has changed the game, and I will never stop thanking him.

God's mercy toward us extends to doing whatever it takes to free us from the things that block his outpouring of grace and our growing love relationship with Him. If my habitual sin is blocking the freedom of the Holy Spirit in my life, then I want him to bring it to my attention so I can hand it over to him to squash. Knowing, however, my own disinclination to launch uncomfortable change until it gets too painful not to do so, I shouldn't be surprised that the process of God getting my attention can be an arduous one.

God himself says in Ezekiel, "As I live, says the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live."(13:11) We needed a way out. The Good News is that Jesus took care of it. The better news is that God didn't stop there. Not satisfied with getting us out of the criminal dock, he wants to anoint us with fragrant oils, give us beautiful clothes and take us to the altar and marry us. The process of being a Christian isn't the process of becoming acceptable. It's the process of becoming more and more who we were made to be -- God's Delight.

You can be anything your mama wants you to be

Sunday, January 18, 2009

What does God do when we fail?

A conversation with a friend led me to think about God's response to our failures. I'm talking about serious failures here, not the "I try so hard to be loving, but I get sarcastic all the time" genre. I'm talking hard-bitten, ashamed-of-myself, How-Could-I-Have-Done-Such-A-Thing failures.

One fact I cling to is this: the only person surprised when I fall into sin is me. God knows me far too well to be startled when I do, yet again, what I have practiced for years. In fact, I am often greatly consoled by the thought that he has factored my weaknesses into his game plan ahead of time.

But what, in fact, does God do when we fail spectacularly? Let's look at Scripture.

The pattern is set early in the very first "daytime drama" ever written: the story of Adam and Eve. They are created for blissful and eternal union with God. There are hundreds of thousands of things they can spend their days doing that will bring joy to themselves and pleasure to their heavenly Father. But like bees to the flower, they zero in on the one thing that will make the whole arrangement nosedive into misery.

There are many ways the story could have proceeded afterwards. If God hadn't revealed the determined mercy of his nature, all of Scripture would have been very short and read only by the angels: "God created the whole world. He made Adam and then a suitable helpmeet for him for their mutual benefit and delight. They screwed it up. God withdrew his hand and they died instantly. The End." But, in fact, the serpent failed to keep God from pursuing his plan -- creating for himself a people who would love him in return and live with him in wonderful joy forever. It just took longer.

So that's one example. What else do we find?
  • At one of the most important and solemn moments in God's formation of a people for his own, after the clearest and most powerful exhortations to faithfulness and purity by the living God, the very people he has delivered from bondage get a bit impatient that he is taking so long to give his law to Moses. They grumble to Aaron who gets the bright idea to melt down all the gold into a pretty idol so they won't feel so lonely. To add to the disaster, Moses is so angered by this travesty that he smashes the tablets to smithereens on which the finger of God himself has written the law of the ages.

    And God? Does God blast them all with lightning and rain meteors upon their heads? Why, no. God calmly asks for a fresh set of stone tablets and takes it upon himself to inscribe the law again. Angered but not dismayed, the sovereign Master of the Universe continues faithfully and steadily honing, hammering and purifying this crew into a fit people to receive the Messiah and be the means of God's redemption of the world.

  • God singles out David as one "after his own heart", to belong to Him in a special way and play an important role in salvation history. Sometime later, though, David's eyes light on a babe (inconveniently married) with whom he becomes obsessed. Unused to frustration, he exploits the faithfulness and loyalty of her soldier husband by arranging to have him killed on the field of battle, and proceeds to take possession of the object of his desire.

    What does God do in the face of this baseness? He perseveres in his purposes, calling David to deep repentance (the record of which continues to inspire and bless the people of God), fulfilling his covenant, and arranging for David to be an ancestor of the Redeemer through the child eventually born to him (wait for it) by the woman who he so venally seduced. (Matt 1:6) Not does God forgive the sin, he glorifies himself even in those circumstances.

  • There was always something a little special about Simon Peter. The minute Jesus meets him and issues a call to be a disciple, he gives him the name Cephas ("the rock") [Jn 1:42]. Clearly not an accident, the deeper meaning becomes clear later: "You are Peter [rock] and upon this Rock I shall build my church." (Matt 16:15-19) Who was it whose grandiose "I will never deny you!" made him look like a knave and a fool when he turned tail as the going got rough? Yes, indeed, that was Peter. And who, after his betrayal, preached the first sermon after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, going on to lead the churches of Jerusalem and Rome? Right again.

So what does this teach us about God's response to our failures? Yes, we can defy God's plans with a "no" and cause much misery and pain for ourselves, others and the entire People of God. But can we stop God? No. Does he cut us off and take back his promises? No. Does he alter his calling on our lives? Apparently not.

How good God is. How much love he pours out on us at every moment. How paltry is our response, but how much he deserves it.

Monday, January 05, 2009

And now a word from our Anglican brethren

While web cruising (an unfortunately rationalizable exercise in time-wasting), I came upon some lively thought and writing on a blog dedicated to the discussion of "Continuing Anglicanism" (aka churches that have withdrawn from the Episcopal Church in the USA in response to the unorthodox beliefs and actions of recent years). Although leaving me with the unfortunately (though perhaps undeserved) impression that good and faithful Anglicans are trapped, for now, in defining themselves by what they are not (e.g. Not Protestant, Not Papist, Not Heretical), the vigor and dedication of the writers' commitments to following Jesus faithfully is apparent and inspiring. I am honored to consider them brothers and hope they would reciprocate.

A post that particularly impressed me is a discussion by one of the contributors (nom de plume "Poetreader") on Pope Benedict's recent remarks on gender identity. Poetreader's essay, Benedict on Gender, is one of the most well-articulated discussion of the issue of homosexuality and the Church that I have ever come across. What makes it more striking is that it is written by a man who himself experiences same-sex attraction.
There are those of us who, for whatever reason, genetic, biological, psychological, or social (where it comes from doesn't really matter all that much), find ourselves attracted to members of our own sex. That is a present reality. It is, so to speak, the hand we've been dealt, and we need to be able to play that hand according to the rules. There's a difficulty, a struggle, involved in that. I am male, and that does make me different in a surprising number of ways from females. That is biological fact and any attempt to ignore that or to minimize it is an attempt to make me less than God intends, and this is so for the female as well. True freedom does not arise from denial of biological reality but from embracing it, and it is not freedom to be imprisoned by one's desires, but in knowing how to rise above them and, when they are not acceptable, to deny them.

The author has gone into greater depth about his personal journey here.


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

Pres. Barack Obama, Feb 5, 2009