Saturday, December 15, 2012

Thoughts on the Connecticut school shooting

The horrific elementary school shooting in Newton Connecticut this morning (the death count standing at 20 children and 27 overall at the time of this writing) inevitably brings the debate on gun control back to the forefront. I am saddened. I am angry, angrier than I've ever been about something like this, God help me. It is tragic and terrifying when something like this happens at a university and even moreso when it happens at a high school. This latest evil was committed at an elementary school. These were babies, who had their lives ripped away from them in a senseless act of mass murder.

I've been a 2nd amendment advocate for many, many years. I'm also a father for 15 years. Whenever something like this would happen in the past, I’d wince and mourn, but would be comforted by the idea that it was the “gun-free” school zones that were to blame. If only a good law-abiding citizen had been armed nearby, the violence could have been lessened or done away with altogether.

No. Just...NO. Not today. Not anymore. Someone in the state of mind this sick man had to have been in to commit such an unspeakable act of violence wasn’t spurred on by a “gun-free school zone” sign. He would not have been deterred by the idea someone might fire back...he took his own life afterwards. Besides, an armed teacher or janitor would likely have produced a crossfire that would have killed even more people, likely more children. Answering violence with the same produces more pain, more corpses, more sorrow, more memorial vigils, and more child-sized coffins being carried out of churches, temples, and synagogues.

I have no solution to this. I have nothing to say that isn’t already being said in thousands upon thousands of places on and off the internet right now. But there has to be some kind of meeting of the minds in this debate; there just HAS to be. Our founding fathers could not have foreseen this kind of senseless violence when they penned the 2nd Amendment; there is simply no way. How do we keep firearms out of the hands of people who would cause such horrific suffering? How do we preserve our right to self-defense without losing our precious loved ones to a slaughter like we saw today? Brother Francis pray for us...

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

O Divine Master,
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


Saturday of the Second Week of Advent
Daily Mass Readings
Sirach 48:1-4,9-11
Psalm 80:2-3,15-16,18-19
Matthew 17:9a,10-13

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Reviewing Testament of Mary

I mentioned being interested in reading The Testament of Mary in the orevious entry. After downloading it and reading the novella, I composed a quick review in America Magazine today (look down to comment # 34)

I wasn't all that impressed:

What I was looking for in Testament was an emphasis on the humanity of Mary, the anger she must have felt at the death of Jesus, the annoyance and exasperation she may have felt toward the fawning disciples trying to understand what being His mother must have been like, lingering doubts of the enormity of who her Son was and what He was in her post- Ascension years; aspects of Mary that could possibly bring me closer to her in prayer.

What I found in Testament was a contemptuous, nasty woman bearing the name of Mary, who ran at the crucifixion of Jesus (whose name is never once mentioned in the novella), who never believed in the mission of her Son while He was alive, and who dies believing the world was never worth redeeming. Jesus is pictured as a blowhard whose fame and self-importance get the better of Him. John (who is also never mentioned by name, referred only to as the 'guardian') is imagined as one who contorts and manipulates every word that comes out of Mary's mouth to invent his Gospel and writings. A dream Mary relates to her cousin after the crucifixion; that they and John stayed with Jesus until he died, and that Jesus rose zombie-like from the dead is what John turns into the Easter story. In other words, not only doesn't Mary believe the Resurrection ever happened, Testament's Mary KNOWS it was a figment of her imagination.

AND it what seemed like a cheap stunt (or the cheapest stunt, given the context) is that Mary and her neighbor Farina no longer attend synagogue, but now worship Artemis at a pagan Temple (the author was careful to capitalize it). I would think modern Pagans would think this a cheap stunt as well.

What struck me more than anything was that Testament's Mary is a complete stranger to me. Even when recounting the death of her Son, there is no sense of sorrow, no sense of love, no sense of motherhood. I saw no one I could relate to, and no one to whom I would WANT to relate, were I able to. There was no Love represented, either from Mary, the disciples, or her un-named Son in Testament. I am grateful it was as short as it was, or I'd have had to put it down. I was looking, straining to find some kind of faith, something that approached redemption. Nowhere to be found, unfortunately.

Perhaps it was an interesting idea...but I was disappointed.

Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra
Daily Mass Readngs
Isaiah 26:1-6
Psalm 118:1,8-9,19-21,25-27
Matthew 7:21,24-27

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Testament of Mary

I was reading through America magazine and happened upon this review of Colm Toibin's new book.…

Titled The Testament of Mary, it is an imagining of Mother Mary's life following the Ascension until her death/Dormition. From the comments on the review I've read so far (a comment of mine is in there somewhere), it seems like it is stirring up some controversy much in the same way The Last Temptation of Christ did; the former by imagining the thoughts of Mary, the latter by daring to imagine the thoughts of an all-too human Christ on the cross. In Testament, Mary is apparently depicted as sad, bitter, and annoyed with her Son's disciples.

Honestly, I've not given too much thought (in prayer or otherwise) to the life of Mary after the Ascension. Was she instrumental in the formation the infant Church? Did she miss her Son? The horrible wounds on her heart from her Son's execution; were they healed by the Resurrection or did they still burn in His earthly absence? Did she fully understand her role in salvation history?

I think I'm going to give this book a read.

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier
Daily Mass Readings
Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122:1-9
Matthew 8:5-11

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Holy Darkness...waiting

Holy darkness, blessed night
Heaven's answers, hidden from our sight.
As we await you, O God of silence,
We embrace your holy night

It's usually diffuicult to stay OUT of the Christmas spirit at this time of year, and practice the time of longing and waiting that Advent is supposed to signify. I'm having an easier time this year in some respects; I don't feel Christmas-y. I feel off. I feel angry. I'm awaiting answers and directions from a "God of silence" at this time.

And that is why I was so happy to remember this hymn this evening. It demonstrates right where I am. Embracing the darkness feels impossible. I want to shout the darkness away from me. But to recognize the Light...we must dwell in the dark from time to time I guess.

We await you with longing. Come, Christ Child!

First Sunday of Advent
Daily Mass Readings
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:4-5,8-10,14
1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2
Luke 21:25-28,34-36

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Back in the saddle again...

It's been far too long since I've written, here or anywhere. The easy lure of tweeting and Facebook browsing has proven too tempting(no, tweeting is NOT writing). So, hopefully I can get back into the habit of writing and documenting the journey.

So much has happened in the last 7 months; hurricanes, several ill family members, blessings, challenges, and sorrows. I won't try to squeeze all that stuff; suffice to say the latter half of 2012 has been like a rollercoaster.

I may be a little sadder, a little more tired...but profoundly more grateful than I was in May. My family, my Franciscan brothers and sisters, my brother Knights, and a small but incredibly amazing circle of friends have been the major source of said gratitude. I truly see the face of God in all of you.

So it looks like I'm back...again. Let's see for how long!

Daily Mass Readings
Revelation 18:1-2,21-23;19:1-3,9a
Psalm 100:1-5
Luke 21:20-28

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Impact of a Council

It has been said, although I don’t know where the original quote comes from, that it takes a century for the changes of a Church Council to be full accepted by the Church. A good number of folks believe that this formula doesn’t apply to the Second Vatican Council because of today’s instant availability of the documents and the 24-hour news cycle. Clergy, religious and layperson alike are drenched in this information, with literally thousands of commentaries on it, scholarly, not-so-scholarly (like this one), Vatican watchers reporting whether the Holy Father is upstairs or downstairs in the papal residence, etc. Traditionalists calling for a return to a pre-Vatican II era church a “smaller, more pure” church, and progressives calling for a Third Vatican Council to expand on the Second, and a sea change in the governance of a billion plus member global community. Based on all of this, 50 years out, I would say that we are precisely on schedule when it comes to general Church acceptance of the Second Vatican Council. Although we are constantly bombarded by all of this information, there still needs to be reflection, discussion, compromise, and concession on all parts, because we are a Church of all peoples. When the Council first concluded there was a great deal of confusion. The greater church swung wildly to the left for the first couple of decades after the council, along with the rest of society. The sisters traded in their habits for street clothes, Humanae Vitae was penned by Paul VI and largely ignored, men stopped heading to seminary in droves, women stopped heading to convents in droves, the first predominantly married group of Latin rite clergy in centuries were ordained as the permanent diaconate flourished, guitars and folk groups replaced organs and choirs at many Masses, and the laity was up in arms when the abuse scandals hit. Afterward there was a pendulum swing to the right; the Latin Mass took on new life, traditional contemplative religious orders and seminaries began flourishing while the apostolic orders continued to gray, and proud emphasis on “traditional values” became the watchword of the majority of Catholic press. Now with the crackdown on the American sisters, the pendulum may be swinging back yet again, but perhaps with not as much force. What does this mean for us as Church? In my eyes, it means we still have a ways to go. We are all still talking past each other to get our voices heard…and all the voices still need to be heard. The Vatican/hierarchy of bishops need to realize that this is far more educated Body of Christ than decades and centuries past; the old formula of “pay-pray-obey” simply is not going to work any longer. They need to give ear to the priests, sisters, brothers, and laypeople in the trenches who deal daily with the poorest of the poor, the marginalized, the needy, the forgotten, and the vast majority of the Body of Christ. At the same time, the critics of the hierarchy need to give ear to and respect the bishops as the holders of apostolic succession and not dissent simply for the sake of dissension. There is wisdom and knowledge to harvest from these men of God…and many ARE true men of God. Come Holy Spirit as we near Pentecost. Give us eyes to see and ears to listen. Help us all leave our pride at the door. We…the Pope and his bishops, the priests, the deacons, the religious, and the laypeople in and out of the pews…WE are Church, Your Body of Christ. Help us welcome each other was we welcome Your fire into our hearts. Daily Mass Readings Acts 14:19-28 Psalm 145:10-13,21 John 14:27-31

Friday, March 23, 2012

Who gets in and who doesn't???

I don't remember where I saw this today, but it got me thinking about what it takes for a soul to find Heaven.

"It was time for the final judgement and all the souls were gathered at the gates of heaven. All of a sudden, a murmur rose up among the souls as folks were saying, "There is a rumor that God is going to forgive EVERYONE!" Some souls were saying, 'That isn't fair, I worked my whole life to obey the commandments!' Others muttered 'He can't do that, I gave up so much to do the right things!' While others complained, 'I went to church every Sunday, this is wrong!'

At that very moment, all the complainers were denied admission to heaven, for LOVE had appeared and they REFUSED to accept it

Reminded me that the Church (COMMUNITY) is a hospital for sinners not a country club for the righteous or a museum for saints...

Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Daily Mass Readings
Wisdom 2:1a,12-22
Psalm 34:17-21,23
John 7:1-2,10,25-30

Monday, March 19, 2012

A morning distraction

In the middle of a muddled attempt at praying Lauds this morning, I heard a distant squeaking noise. It sounded like the unoiled metal of a machine. I looked at my watch; 6:15am.

"REALLY?", I thought. "What could that neighbor of mine be doing? He has workmen at the house already?"

Just as I'm about to throw on my jacket and start some ruckus with the offending workmen AND my neighbor, I listened more carefully, as something about this squeaking began to sound familiar. It was the chirping of birds in the backyard tree that I'd not heard in a year. Smiling, I sheepishly took my jacket off and went back inside.

Perception is everything.

Solemnity of St. Joseph
Daily Mass Readings
2 Samuel 7:4-5a,12-14a,16
Psalm 89:2-5,27,29
Romans 4:13,16-18,22
Matthew 1:16,18-21,24a

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I am disappearing.

So says Jane McAllister, the woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in this article. I read it slack-jawed with tears welling in my eyes before I was finished. There was to be a series of articles in National Catholic Reporter. However, Mrs. McAllister passed away last week, as these articles began to be published.

Jane is an inspiration to me. She was FAR from happy at her predicament, but exuded such a quiet dignity about her fate, such a deepness and richness of faith. And her husband and caregiver Robert? After suffering along with his beloved, offering her care, his love his patience, his entire heart and soul…how much more does he suffer now? Is there guilt because there might be a tiny, hidden tinge of relief in his suffering, now that Jane is at rest? It hurts me and frightens me to think of myself being in his situation. I pray if I ever am, I will be reflecting the image of God to my beloved in anywhere near the same fashion.

I can’t imagine the torture, fear, and final resignation of losing your memories and experiences good and bad, to something like Alzheimer’s. It seems to me it must be exactly like the Passion of Jesus. How frightened He must have been, knowing what was to occur, knowing the inevitability of His life being cut short in a violent, betrayed fashion. Losing His friends, His mother, His joy of Life. Almost...almost...losing hope on the Cross (‘…My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34), and finally commending His spirit home. Just as Jane did; “My voice is hoarse these days, but I say words of praise with you each day, and someday I’ll sing them when I come home.”

Thank you God for the gifts I have today. Help me, HELP ME squeeze every bit of goodness and utility out of every one of these gifts. Everything I have is “on loan” in my stewardship, and I may not possess these gifts tomorrow. Grant me overflowing gratitude!

Daily Mass Readings
Isaiah 1:10,16-20
Psalm 50:8-9,16-17,21,23
Matthew 23:1-12

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Supper of the Lord

Thank you God for this day.

It happened again, first time in ages. It was one of those moments where I felt infinitely close to God.

Me and the boys were at Mass today. It was your typical Sunday Mass, with about a third of the congregation STILL saying the words to the old missal (whether this is accidental, born of a spirit of protest, or a bit of both, I'm unsure.) Deacon Jim's homily was a dry explanation of the day's readings and Gospel; HE even yawned widely while he preached. That kind of Mass.

After the Consecration when we were going up to receive, the cantor and organist started softly playing the hymn, The Supper of the Lord. It's a beautiful little hymn, but nothing out of the ordinary; it's a typical Communion hymn.

Precious body, Precious Blood here in bread and wine.
Here the Lord prepares the feast divine.
Bread of Love is broken now; Cup of Life is poured.
Come, share the Supper of the Lord.

And when I got back to our pew and these lyrics sank in, I felt such an overwhelming sense of warmth, of comfort, of peace. It was like fragrant warm water rushing over me. I felt the congregation in solidarity with my family, all going to share in our Sacred Meal together. From all walks of life, backgrounds, financial brackets, and political affliations, THIS IS CHURCH is the message the pounded in the blood of my heart. Goosebumps and what likely looked like a pretty silly grin on my were the only outward signs of this. It was pretty amazing to me, all the same!

The very essence of our faith...for me it is contained, right there in that verse from the hymnal. It's what makes me a Catholic Christian, and comforts me when I'm almost in despair, of any number of things; sharing the Supper of the Lord with the Body of Christ, His Church. I'm so glad to have my faith today!

First Sunday of Lent
Daily Mass Readings
Genesis 9:8-15
Psalm 25:4-9
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:12-15

Friday, February 24, 2012

Stumbling into Lent

I found myself slipping into an old habit this evening; getting into nasty religious debates. Whether it's with fundamentalist Christians, Dawkins-esque atheists, or SSPX Catholics, the object never changes - win, making your opponent look as hapless as possible. There's a perverse joy in that, in feeling you've bested someone, in the "I'm-right-you're-wrong" mindset.
There's nothing wrong with discussion and disagreement in the pursuit of truth. But when "winning" or embarrassing someone becomes an end in itself, there's something amiss (at least for me). Have to re-focus and screw my head back on right.

One the lighter side of these first couple of days of Lent, I've decided to give my 4-legged and feathered friens a break and give up meat for the duration. The fish are still on their own...not ready for that yet!

Jesus, help me imitate your time in the Desert well. Help me have a Holy Lent. Amen

Daily Mass Readings
Isaiah 58:1-9
Psalm 51:3-6,18-19
Matthew 9:14-15

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Change in my title?

Doesn't really matter all that much, but I've recently discovered that acronym for the Secular Franciscan Order has changed. According to the International General Minister, we are now going to be using the acronym in Latin so that worldwide, Secular Franciscans will have the same "title".

1. The official name of the Order is Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis.
2. Translations of the name of the Order
2.1. The translation of the name of the Order is already made in the four official languages, and these are the ones to be used in these languages, namely in Italian, in English, in Spanish and in French.
2.2. The name can be translated into local languages only when the literal translation from Latin is easily understandable even by the civil society and does not change its meaning or substance.
2.3. When the translation into the national language distorts the meaning of the name, or is linguistically impossible to transfer the genuine meaning, Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis must always be used,which can be followed by expressions to clarify and make more understandable the nature of the Secular Franciscan Order to everyone in the local language.
3. The acronym
The acronym which refers to the name Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis is OFS and is always to be used regardless of the language. For example, when Secular Franciscans use the acronym after their name, they must use “OFS”.

Encarnación del Pozo, OFS
General Minister

I've always been a bit dyslexic anyway. OFS it is!

Daily Mass Readings
Jonah 3:1-5,10
Psalm 25:4-9
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Seeing Christ

We hear it all the time as Christians...we need to see Jesus in the people we meet. Sounds all nice and new-agey, and I say it all the time. So you can imagine my surprise when it actually happens; when I see the unassuming face of Love in another person, or group of people.

I won't go into details. Let's just say my faith was rejuvenated by a number of generous, selfless, other-centered people today. And I am humbled and grateful for it. May we all show that glimpse of the Face of God from time to time, if only for an instant.

Daily Mass Readings
1 Samuel 17:32-33,37,40-51
Psalm 144:1b,2,9-10
Mark 3:1-6

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ecumenism re-imagined....

Ever tried to be too many things to too many people?

Spiritually. I've been learning to attempt this is monumentally draining, I can tell you. Being in contact and discussing matters of faith with folks of all faith or none is one thing. In an attempt truly be understanding and tolerant, I've been immersing myself in other said folks' viewpoints. In other words, instead of finding the common ground between us, I'm so concerened about seeming "intolerant" that I'm downplaying my beliefs in favor of theirs. It almost feels like, in the name of tolerance, I'm diluting who I am. Like I'm losing focus.

And to label it as "ecumenical" just doesn't work for me any more.

Love all of you....but I'm going to have to start adhering to the adage of "agree to disagree".

Not in the best place right now.

Daily Mass Readings
1 Samuel 3:1-10,19-20
Psalm 40:2,5,7-10
Mark 1:29-39

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Engaged Encounter - 1995

We're doing a little purging of our paperwork this weekend. To my delight, I came across the notebook I used during our marriage prep weekend, Engaged Encounter. Looking back on my pre-marriage musings about where our shared life was going to go, with the hindsight of almost 16 years of marriage, was fascinating. All the things I didn't know about being a husband and a father, a provider and a partner; it just blows my mind.

L and I have been through so much together. Reading my notebook, remembering the different man I was then, the different WORLD we were living in, and contemplating the enormity of everything that's happened since then...and we're still standing. Different people, a different couple, with a relationship we couldn't have dreamt up in a million years. But we're still here.

Thank God she stayed.

The Epiphany of the Lord
Daily Mass Readings
Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalms 72: 1-2,7-8,10-13
Ephesians 3:2-3a,5-6
Matthew 2:1-12

Friday, January 6, 2012

Another list from Deacon Joe

A very dear friend and I were musing over how much we both love writing lists; the books we want to read, the things we want to accomplish, the things we have accomplished, etc. Then in my email this morning, I received a list from my Franciscan Brother Deacon Joe. Too lovely not to share (and I sure could do with following a good number of these!)

This one is for you, S!

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short – enjoy it.

4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and
family will.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Stay true to yourself.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. Everything can change in the blink of an eye But don't worry; God never blinks.

15. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

16. Get rid of anything that isn't useful. Clutter weighs you down in many ways.

17. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

18. It's never too late to be happy. But it’s all up to you and no one else.

19. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

20. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't
save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

21. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

22. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

23. The most important sex organ is the brain.

24. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

25. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will
this matter?'

26. Always choose life.

27. Forgive but don’t forget.

28. What other people think of you is none of your business.

29. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

30. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

31. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

32. Believe in miracles.

33. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

34. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

35. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.

36. Your children get only one childhood.

37. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

38. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

39. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd
grab ours back.

40. Envy is a waste of time. Accept what you already have not what you need.

41. The best is yet to come...

42. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

43. Yield.

44. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

Memorial of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Daily Mass Readings
1 John 5:5-13
Psalm 147:12-15,19-20
Mark 1:7-11

Monday, January 2, 2012

A few New Year's Resolutions

A wonderful Advent and Christmas! Which means it is time to consider what kind of 2012 I want for me. So here goes, in no particualr order:

- Lose weight around my middle and care for myself more diligently. Yeah, everyone has this one and I'm no different. I'm not setting specific weight loss goals. But my stamina for doing anything physical these days is negligent. The unexpected heart attack of a healthy YOUNGER friend a couple of days ago frightened me. I have far too much to lose. So my dormant gym membership finally will be put into use!
- Publish something...outside of this blog. I love to write. I love to tell stories. That's not enough however. I've never really made a concentrated effort to "put myself out there" as far as writing goes. Self-publishing is easy; no one can tell you 'no'. It's time I started to frame the stories I have within me and really try and do something with them.
- Continue my sobriety. It's not a given; I'm as close to the next drink as any alcoholic, regardless of the time I've put in. As with my health, I've far too much to lose now. Remain vigilant!
- Read at least 25 books. I've always prided myself on being a reader, but I've done precious little of it the past year; MAYBE 10 books? Now that I have a Nook, there are no exuses. Hit the books!
- Go vegetarian for Lent. After years of planning to do so and falling off the wagon before the First Friday, I think I'm ready to try this again. Not only is it a sacrifice for me...but as a Franciscan, giving my Brothers and Sisters of the Animal Kingdom a break for a couple of months is the least I can do.
- Study and become familiar with at least one other religion/spiritual path to better understand how others recognize the face of God.
- Find a workable program to read through the Bible in one year.
- Pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily (at least Morning and Evening prayer)

That ought to keep me busy!

Blessed New Year to all!

The Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God
Daily Mass Readings
Numbers 6:22-27
Psalm 67:2-3,5,6,8
Galations 4:4-7
Luke 2:16-21