Thursday, February 18, 2010

On Conscience - WHOSE a Good Girl????

"Conscience is a dog that does not stop us from passing, but we cannot stop from barking."
- Nicolas de Chamfort, writer (1741-1794)

When I was a kid, I knew a dog like this; she lived down the block from my grandparents. She was a little "yipper" of a Mini Schnauzer named Penny. My sister and I used to take great delight in running back and forth along the sidewalk in front of Penny's yard. Penny would run with us along the chain link fence, jumping and barking and yipping. This mutt couldn't have been more than 6 lbs., yet she thought she was a full grown Rottweiler! Patti and I would continue until we grew weary of the game, after which we'd head back down the block towards Gramma's. Penny's insistent, continuous bark would follow us and go on for at least 5 minutes after we went into the house. We'd think to ourselves, "Jeez does that mutt EVER shut up???"

I am blessed (cursed?) with a very loud and insistent conscience...just like Penny. Regardless of whether I am paying attention to it or not, paying it lip service or not, sneering at it in outright contempt or not, my conscience keeps barking. Like Penny, its bark can't can't cause me to do anything, nor can it stop me from doing anything. It WILL however, run alongside me. It will not stop howling its insistent warning until the intruder is long gone. It will certainly not allow me to ignore it. Whatever I am doing, it will wait behind its chain link fence, ever-vigilant...especially when I am not. It seems that the more annoyed I get at the racket, the more insistent it becomes. When that brand of annoyance sets in is when I really need to be paying attention - what is that dog YAPPING about??? Am I doing something I shouldn't? Most often, the answer is no. Am I setting the stage to be doing something I shouldn't? Ahhh, there's the rub - I can still reasonably rationalize at that point! My conscience is trying to warn me of danger coming up the street.

While Mini Schnauzers are considered fantastic watch dogs, they cannot STOP most danger; they can't fight off most intruders. However, they make their masters aware. They make their masters listen and pay attention, whether they want to or not. I guess that's what any good conscience is supposed to do. Whatever the case, I need to give my conscience a good belly-rub and throw her a Scooby-snack more often. She's always trying to keep me out of trouble.

Free will is a beautiful (if not loud) gift from God.


Daily Mass Readings
Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Psalm 1:1-4,6
Luke 9:22-25

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Looking past Mardi Gras...

So, I've been thinking. How am I going to "be" this Lent?

Last year's Lent for me, consisted of a number of grand pronouncements, followed by false starts and rationalizations. I did facilitate a prayer group for my parish, but admittedly, that was more to convince myself of the promising parish leader I was becoming. I did not embrace the spirit of fasting and abstinence, was sporadic in my prayer, more sporadic in Mass attendance, did a lot of loafing in front of the computer and TV, and I certainly didn't do anything for the poor. am I going to be?

I was thinking of trying to be an example this year, the example I'm always touting. If I am not embracing in my life what I profess to believe in, what's the point, really? There's a lot in my life that needs changing; my laziness around the house. My wasting of time on the TV and the Internet. Not engaging in personal prayer unless it is late at night and I'm alone, as if I am embarrassed by it. Not making Sunday Mass an absolute priority. Not spending quality time with my wife and my children. In other words, if I am not living my faith where it counts the most - in my own home, with my own family - what's the point, really? If I am not giving what I receive at Mass with my Church community, with the Franciscans, with the Hibernians, with the Knights, what the heck am I doing, really.

So here's how I am going to be this Lent, with the help of God's grace:
- Be faithful to the standard fasting and abstinence requirements. GO FURTHER...try fasting, not just abstention, each Lenten Friday
- Severely curtail TV and Facebook time. Fill that time with housework, quality time with my family, reading, writing, and prayer
- Join the Lenten Mission at my a participant instead of a facilitator to keep my considerable ego in check.
- Create a Lenten "sacred space" to use for daily prayer
- Make time for the following: Daily Lauds and Vespers, daily Rosary, at least one Stations of the Cross meditation, and at least one additional Mass per week.
- Attend Holy Triduum services
- Remember the poor in prayer and action.

We need to go beyond the idea of simply "giving something up" for Lent. This penitential season is an invitation to grow in our understanding of God's love for us and our solidarity with the poor, with the rich, and everyone in between. Certainly, giving up something or things that we don't need is a good start. However, if we are not proactive in its stead, if we are not filling that "hole" with something good and worthwhile, we are left with nothing but a hole, ripe for us to grumble about.

Peace & All Good,

Daily Mass Readings
James 1:12-18
Psalm 94:12-15,18-19
Mark 8:14-21

Monday, February 15, 2010

Meeting of the minds and souls

It's been awhile since I have been able to write. Thankfully, our busy season is starting to wind down and I am nicely recovering from a long hard bout of bronchitis; I will be able to hit the blog a bit more often as Lent arrives.

For the second month in a row, I've not been able to get to my Franciscan fraternity meeting. Last month I was laid up with the aforementioned bronchitis, and tonight's meeting was canceled because of the forthcoming snow. I've not been together with my spiritual brothers and sisters since the beginning of Advent, and I really miss them. We're supposed to have a day of prayer at the Friary this Saturday, but our host and spiritual director, Bro. Ed, is recovering from a minor stroke, so he's touch and go for the time being.

God does always have an answer for our needs, however.

This Friday I am getting together with 2 dear friends from high school, both of whom I have discovered are "kindred souls". All 3 of us come from different spiritual paths, yet we all seem - I don't know - excited by the possibility and hope that belief in the Divine can bring. We've been shooting emails and messages back and forth for the last few months and have finally nailed down Friday as an opportunity to "solve the problems of the Universe".

I'm really looking forward to it!


Daily Mass Readings
James 1:1-11
Psalm 119:67,68,71,72,75,76
Mark 8:11-13