Oh Lord, purify me, make me a chalice in which you dwell, offer your sacrifice in me and spread your love through me. Let me shine like gold, adorn me with the jewels of virtue that I may always be open to you. Fill me. Overflow me. Let me be like that most perfect vessel, the Singular Vessel of Devotion, She to whom I cry for protection against the Evil One. I ask this for your glory, for the vessel is nothing without the sustenance inside, the cup nothing unless it is filled. Oh Lord, purify me.

Give me a word, Abba

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Interior Guide

In a couple days, we are going to celebrate in a very important way the Incarnation of Christ. God came to us in the flesh that we might be able to look on the Face of God and hear his Word in preparation for our final union with Him. Obviously the Incarnation is an amazing thing, but we know that ultimately, God's time here on earth in human form came to an end. It seems a strange thing that God would show us His Face only to leave us with bread, wine and the Spirit...hidden realities. One might want to think of this as a cruel joke, but I doubt that was God's intention. Instead, as usual, He has a more benign joke or paradox up His sleeve (if He has a right arm, He's bound to have a sleeve, no?) I was reading Newman last night (one of my favorite past times) and in one of his reflections, he mentioned that Christ left us so that we did not merely have a superficial relationship with God but also an interior one. The Joke is that God has to leave in order for him to come--we have to lose Him to gain Him. And the best part of it is that we gain so much more than we had. If Christ had stayed on earth, his apostles and the rest of us may have taken his physical presence for granted. They may have thought they had Him all figured out. They might have said "I know this guy. I hang out with him every day." But we know from the Gospels that even after three years of spending all their time with him, they were no closer to understanding His mission or theirs either. It took the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Interior Relationship for them to understand more fully what was expected of them.

The same could be said for the Eucharist. Christ did not stay with us in "human" form because then our union with him could not be both physical and spiritual whereas with the Eucharist we are able to have a physical outward communion and a spiritual interior communion and they are one and the same.

Thinking about marriage (cause when aren't I?), this is sort of the ideal. We can easily take for granted the physical communion in marriage (in different language, we can get "bored.") We need to be able to develop the spiritual communion necessary for marriage as well as the physical one. Does this mean we have to leave our beloved? Perhaps it is indeed healthy to part with your betrothed, your fiance, your girl/boyfriend for a time even while intending to remain in the relationship. Not to "take time apart" in the traditional sense, but to take the time apart together to grow in spiritual communion. Of course, I can't speak to within the marriage itself, but it seems to me that if marriage is a metaphor for our relationship with Christ then the same principles might apply.

In the end, it is about an interior connection. God is able to guide us from inside more easily if we do not have something exterior to cling to. This interior guidance, since it is not based on creation can not be as easily affected by the loss of created goods and is therefore more permanent. Hopefully the same can be said for marriage and perhaps we will see less divorces and broken families in the future.

Happy Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

In the World, not of it.

Last night, I recalled the reasons why my personal patrons are St. Louis and St. Thomas More. They were both men in the world. St. Louis was a married third order Franciscan and a King. St. Thomas was a lawyer and the Chancellor of England. St. Louis was killed by the fever while on a Crusade. St. Thomas was executed for refusing to disobey his well formed Conscience. They were in the world but not of it.

It's almost a shame (and I think I recall the words of some early martyrs) that we in America (or in my case Italy) can not suffer death for our Faith in the same way. We don't really understand what it's like to be put to that kind of test. True, it is good that we live in a civilized and dare I say Christianized society, but because of this, we need to find some other way of showing the uncivilized and dare I say secularized society that there is more to life than nothing.

The life of a Christian is not easy, as the brilliant Mr. Wright remarks in this essay:

When I first became a Christian, I had been warned by sundry writers, CS Lewis and GK Chesterton, that being a Christian was difficult. I often in jest lamented that I had not been visited in my hour of distress by Thor. Dying in battle during some act of brigandage against treasonous relatives, then to be carried aloft by singing fierce-eyed Valkyrie to endless feasting until foredoomed Ragnarok, to fall as loyal as his wolves at the feet of dark-hooded Odin was much more in accord with my natural inclination. Given my druthers, I’d much rather be a pagan. Unfortunately, and despite what your modern teachers tell you, reality is what it is, and you don’t get a vote.

It was not until long after that I encountered those who scoffed that following Christ was the lazy or the easy path. Even if the teachings of Christ are a false and pernicious as a Dawkins or a Hitchens scoffs, they cannot honestly call the disciplines false. (Not that honesty is their strong point.)

The point is that we don't always live an heroic, death-filled life (if that makes sense) and often have to live the hum-drum. Who knows, we may be called to give our lives in the end as St. Thomas and St. Louis did, but until then we have to do our duties, the everyday. In the essay, Wright goes through the list of disciplines that a Christian is called to and they are very well applicable to our daily lives. Prayer is not something that we find time for, it is what everything we do should be...an offering to God. When we do charitable acts, or sacramental disciplines or grow in virtue, it all has the same goal: to give glory to God.

I wanted to write today because of something Wright wrote at the end:

The pagans of ancient times were converted not by words only, but by the silent example of Christians living in their midst: in their midst but not like them. How can the modern men, less even than the pagans of old in dignity and intellect and uprightness of stature, be led by our example if we live as they do?

What? You cannot find any poor who need food, clothing, shelter? Are there no prisoners in jail to visit, no sick in the hospital, no aged in the Old Folk’s Home waiting in loneliness to die?

Have you truly no enemy to forgive? Is there truly no one in your life who has cursed you or reviled you or said all manner of evil against you falsely?

If not, you might be doing something wrong, O ye faithful: if you are true servant of Christ, you well know that the world will not treat the servant better than it treated the master.

Let us abide by what we have been commanded to do, if not for a whole month, then at least for Advent.

Or a week. Or a day. Or an hour.

Our actions are what converts the pagans, the secularists, the atheists and the militant religionists.

Just because it's barely relevant, I'll digress to mention the Tebow phenomenon. I appreciate Aaron Rodgers' approach as the sort of silent guide to his peers. Tebow is a Christian rock-star in many ways and that could be dangerous. Not saying anything against what he's doing, because it's good, but remember that those whom we revere can fall the hardest. Or maybe it's just because I'm a Packer fan... Anyway, both these men are showing the Christian message through their actions. And yet, who sees our small actions? Who sees us go to confession but Catholics? Is it worth thinking about these things as evangelization? Can we really only evangelize through martyrdom, public displays of piety and social justice?

I would say no, although I don't want to diminish the impact (and the inspiration) of these acts. I wish I could do something that people would notice and make people think, but I'm not necessarily called to that. Often we are only called to touch those in our immediate circle. I have had discussions that were thought-provoking and evangelization in a way. I wasn't martyred, just disagreed with. This is often what we are called to do and in this way, we can evangelize the world through Truth and Beauty one friend at a time.

However, I am thinking of something else as well. We do not always know what effect our actions have on people. For on thing, there may be a natural chain reaction that prompts actions in others. More importantly to my point, there is always a supernatural chain reaction and a constant pouring out of Grace through the channels of our works and prayers. Even if we never speak an explicit word of evangelization, our duties done at home can be performed for the glory of God and therefore can become occasions of Grace. Any Grace that touches the world can convert souls to the Love and the Truth of our Lord Jesus Christ. We only need to believe that we, like the saints and martyrs, can be channels of Grace, if only the size of a drinking straw.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

12 Days of Christmas

Coming up is Advent, and I'm sure most of you know that that is my favorite liturgical season ever in the whole wide world. I will most likely be blogging as much as I can 'cause I tend to think a lot during Advent. However, I have decided on a new year's resolution (liturgical new year). I am going to not blog and not check any blogs for the 12 days of Christmas (Christmas to Epiphany). I want to urge everyone in the blogging community to do the same. Let us see of the world goes on without us for 12 days. I bet it can. All those horrible things that happen on the internet can chill out on their own while we celebrate the birth of our Savior. So, any of you who read this, pass it along. I think it would be cool to have a Catholic Blogosphere Blackout. Really show where our priorities are.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sewing Division

On Wednesday, I went to Mass at SS. Trinitá in the centre of Rome. I will soon post something about the Mass itself, but one of the side effects of the Mass was a reflection on the Cross.

As I looked up at the Altar piece in the church I noticed a couple things. First of all, the Father was at the top of the painting with the Holy Spirit right below him and Jesus on the Cross just below that. At the foot of the Cross were the usual suspects. The coloring above the cross-bar of the Cross was a bright Gold which flowed from the Father. It was stopped short by the Cross and below it, the scene was one of deep, muted blues and purples. This got me thinking about the Cross as a source of division. It has divided people since the Crucifixion first happened. Here again was the Cross dividing things. It divided the painting into four parts. It reminded me of the story of the sheep and the goats. The King divided the bad from the good. But in the case of the painting, he was not "dividing" in the same way at all. On one side was the Virgin and on the other side was St. John. What does He say to those two? "Behold your son," "Behold your mother." Where sin had divided, the Christ was healing. However, he is still in some way a division. He is the thing in the center. The seam, so to speak, keeping the pieces of cloth together. The seam makes a distinction, but more than that it binds things together. That is what Christ is. He divides in that he distinguishes. She is mother, you are son. You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church. I no longer call you slaves but friends. In Christ there is no longer slave and free...man and woman...Jew or Gentile. How are we to make sense of these distinctions that he makes between people when he seems to break down all distinctions. He is the seam that distinguishes and makes one. And it's not just between us that he "sews division". He sews division between us and His Father. He unites the Blue and the Gold, the earth and the heavens, the human and divine because he is both. He is one in substance with us and one in substance with the Father. When so much is fractured in this world, we need the thread of grace running through our lives.

And that was my reflection on the Cross.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Good Heretic

There were once two architects in the Baroque period that were great rivals. Their names were Bernini and Borromini. Bernini is famous for the Arms of St. Peter's Square and the Baldachino. Borromini is famous for Sant'Ivo and Sant'Agnese. Also, they each built a church on Via Quirinale.

Bernini was known for an adherence to the ideas of the Renaissance orders while Borromini liked to play a little bit. Bernini, of course like all good traditionalists, didn't like this. He once made the comment that "a bad Catholic is better than a good heretic." Although it may have been the other way around and Borromini said "a good heretic is better than a bad catholic." Either way, this opens up a lot of questions. They were talking in code about architecture, but let's think a little bit about the implications.

First of all, "good heretic" could mean a lot of things including "bad heretic". In other words, in the view of a Catholic, a good heretic is one who is least heretical thereby making him a bad heretic. In this sense, I think I would agree. It is better to fail at being a heretic than fail at being a Catholic.

But wait, a twist!

"Bad Catholic" (A blog, by the way) could also mean a Catholic who does bad things, namely a sinner. In this case, even if you were a "good" heretic meaning you were a "bad" heretic, you might still be worse off than a "bad" Catholic who at least wanted to follow the truth but failed.

Then again, bad catholic could just mean being a heretic, so it all comes full circle.

I think that Marc Barnes is on to something in his blog. All of us Catholics are "Bad Catholics" in that first sense. We are all sinners. Even the heretic! If he is a good heretic, however, what to say that he's not trying to follow God's will whether he knows it or not? What if his sins blind him but he is working on overcoming them? What if he wants to believe the truth but has not yet come to a place of receiving the gift of faith?

Being a "Good Heretic" in this way could be almost as good as being a "Bad Catholic" in the Marc Barnes sense.

And it's certainly better than being a Catholic who doesn't even try.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Don't ever forget the background. In painting, it's the background that makes the foreground come to life. Sometimes the background becomes the focus of the painting. In architecture it is the same. Behind the facade, what goes on? But we take it for granted.

Two instances come to mind. Here in studio, it is not uncommon for people (including myself) to eat lunch while on the computer. Or rather, go on the computer while eating. I will argue, however, that being on the computer while eating is not only bad for the computer (grease, spills, you know) but also for the eater. Food is meant to be savored. It has a taste and a texture for a reason. I've noticed that when I'm doing something and eating at the same time, some powerful taste will immediately bring my mind away from whatever else I'm doing. It's supposed to do this. Eating food is one of the most important things for the development of culture. It makes for a well fed and healthy culture (or not) and it brings people together. If eating is relegated to some secondary activity, it merely becomes a bodily function. By the way, cooking your own food helps in making it an important thing in your life. It becomes a craft and an enjoyable activity.

The second instance is that of listening to music while doing something else. People have always done it to some extent, but whether in churches, dance halls or palaces, the music was integrated into what was going on. Now, people listen to their itunes on shuffle and do whatever it is they're doing (this does not include running to music. That is more integrated). I do it in studio. Everybody does it in studio. For me sometimes it's an escape from the environment of studio, but often, it's just something to hear while I'm doing what I'm doing. However, the music becomes secondary. If we want to truly listen to what's going on, we have to stop what we're doing and listen. When we finally hear what's happening, we are amazed at the song all over again or some similar experience. Then we realize that we were doing something else and get back to it, forgetting the beauty that surrounds us.

Ok, that was just a little thought on studio culture here in Rome.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Where was I?

What is a pencil for?
Shall we write wrongs for all the world to see?
Shall we draw conclusions from smudges?
Are we led on by pointless arguments?

Small words for a small world
it, like, was, no, lol, what? she was like, he
This night of thought might have held grudges
Against convictions, against testaments.

Are we deafened by or
Are we blinded by the hypocrisy?
Our own? Theirs? Both? All of the above?
We hear the cock crow in our potter's field.

What is a pencil for?
Write softly spill no more red ink on me
We are dulled, soft, 4B, can't take love
Why then is love the only needful thing?

I can see you see me
But our eyes don't meet, unspoken decree
Our words freeze and freeze our lives. What lives?
Alone, alone, together but alone!

If we are still alone
Why not remove the occasion of pain?
Why stay with her until he arrives?
So leave, your cries an unheard dial tone.

What is a pencil for?
To find yourself? To lose yourself? Insane!
Snapping wood and broken lead destroyed
First ink, now lead, a mess, so clean your hands.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A couple thoughts

Today I went to the Messa Vespertina at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. It is a Dominican parish with the tomb of St. Catherine of Siena. It also happens to be a Gothic church, a rare commodity here in Rome. The Mass was the Mass was the Mass, but the Dominican friars who say Mass there are very short. They are not quite dwarves, but if someone were to tell me that in the Middle Ages, men were 5 feet tall barely taller, I would say "Yes, in fact I have seen some." They look straight out of an earlier era. It reminds one of something...something about universality, timelessness etc. The Church, maybe.

The congregation is mostly old women. In fact, that is the case everywhere here in Rome. The funny thing is, every Mass I've been to (daily and Sunday) has been decently attended considering each is one Mass of about fifty a day in the surrounding neighborhood. They seem to be very devout and quite unconsciously showy about it. It's all a very nebulous affair. Maybe they'll come in late maybe they'll pray three rosaries beforehand but whatever the case, the complete their set of devotions however they can. They wander over to a statue of Mary near the altar after Communion and light a candle. You know, devoted and somewhat wandery. It's very pleasant to watch people who actually connect with something supernatural in such a holy way.

However, there are young people. They generally are employed and so often don't have the same wandering sensibility that the older generations do. They come and are quite devout (I doubt they would be there if they didn't want to be). They are well dressed and they leave right after Mass, but not before the Priest leaves. Although the Mass attendance may be less for the young people, the ones that come seem to understand it. Also, Fr. Cliff Ermatinger, my pastor from back home, said that they are quite sincere and well formed from his experience in confessionals. They understand the supernatural in a way that the more puritanical anglos tend to.

I don't know what it's like everywhere else in Europe, but the creative minority is a pretty visible one here in Italy. Yes, they may live in a culture of passion where temptation is rampant and they may often give into it, but did Jesus ever say he would not forgive these sins?

He did not.

Every saint was a sinner. Heros always have flaws. Alongside the best virtue is often a grave fault. This is humanity. Let us not then despair of our brothers in sin who seem to fall to great depths. They may be devoutly seeking Christ. Let us never forget, like the Italians, that God is there for sinners.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pleasure Seekers

I have written a lot about sin and hypocrisy recently.

Right now though, I want to look at sin, pleasure and the nature of evil.

To the utilitarian, the basis for moral choices is the relative amounts of pleasure and pain that the action will cause. I'm not here to refute that, in fact it might be argued that I am here to support it. Let me tell you, I am not. I am however going to talk a lot about pleasure and pain.

Utilitarianism has shaped a lot of the choices made in the current culture for better or for worse. For instance, free love in the 60s was looked on as good because it was very pleasurable and there was no pain involved (at least they were able to convince themselves that there wasn't). However, rape is considered (rightfully) wrong because the pain that it inflicts is given much more weight than any pleasure experienced by the rapist. This theme of pleasure and pain is constantly on our minds. But why? Should we be so focused on this?

I don't know if we should be as intensely aware as we are, but the awareness itself is a good thing. God created us with an innate understanding of pleasure. We gain pleasure through good things (food, beautiful vista, good music, sex) and experience pain through evil (illness, assault, ugliness). There are some things however that people choose to do that are condemned by others. One of these things is Rock Music. It is said that rock is too loud (causing physical pain), inherently violent (causing pain in others) and inherently corrupt (causing pain in the soul). All these things may be true, but why then do people choose to listen to this music? Is it because they like pain? Are we a culture of masochists? I'm not going to deny that it sometimes seems like it. But what is masochism? It is the derivation of pleasure from pain. In other words, the reason masochists do what they do is for the pleasure, not for the pain. If rock music is for masochists, it is based on the pleasure received and not on the pain. However, I think it goes deeper than masochism, though related. I think that there is some beauty in rock music. Beauty causes pleasure in the beholder and so the listener of rock music (or the player of rock music) does what he does because of that beauty and pleasure despite any pain it may cause.

That then is my thesis. Whatever pain we cause ourselves through bad choices is, in our minds, a side-effect and secondary to the pleasure that is inherent in the good things of this world. There is nothing created that has only evil because to say that something is evil is to say that it lacks something. There is not one created thing that is total lack. Total lack means non-existence. Therefore, everything that exists has the potential to produce pleasure to some extent or another. We are all pleasure-seekers and we know where to find it.

Broken Stones

Is your heart a cobbled ancient road?
Who can fill in the cracks that catch our toes
That catch our loves, our broken loves.

We are walking can’t seem to find the stop
Our life is a fermata that seems to sing
We want to find the sign, start from the top
But we seem to have forgotten everything.

Is your soul a free bird with license?
Who is singing the song of your life?
It is sparrows, no mourning doves.

Is your mind a broken architrave?
Who then is left to lift the beams of life?
Who’s strong enough to reform it?

As dust swirls around our tired heads
We need an open window, mercy, light
To catch the dust to transform it.

Sanctioning, Sanitizing, Sanctifying

Over at Virtuouspla.net, I wrote an article on different ways to engage the culture. A clue, rejecting it is not the answer.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Does Mortal Sin exist?

Once upon a time, there were two people who ate an apple. At least that's how the story goes. The result was that the whole human race was cursed to die and burn in Hell. It may sound extreme, but that's the story. Anyway, a Man came along and said that He was God and that He would save the world from the power of that curse. He was killed. I don't know why people would kill someone would save them from burning in Hell, but people do strange things. It may have been the curse. Unfortunately for them (or fortunately, depending on your reading of the story), the Man's followers claimed he was Back and had conquered death. An exciting end to an exciting tale.

Whether it's true or not, and I believe it is, one part of the story seems strange: Eating an apple got the whole human race damned. I don't know about you, but I eat apples all the time and it's under the assumption that I will not damn the human race to Hell. So what is it about this apple that makes it so serious?

The answer is the reason for eating the apple. Admit to yourself that you would be more offended if someone said "If I eat an apple, I will be intending to insult you" and then eats it than if they just left that first part out. The reason the two people ate the apple was that they got it into their minds that God didn't know what the heck he was talking about (he had mentioned offhand that they would die if they ate it). They thought they would become like gods. Well, the jury's out on that one, eh?

Why do I bring this up? Because some people doubt that mortal sin exists. After all, no one would willfully choose to do something that would cause them damnation (this is what mortal sin that is not forgiven can do). This is not talking into consideration the weakness of the human will.

God told Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate the apple. God was who they knew who they trusted, who had made them for goodness sake. Yet they decided to listen to the devil. Why? Because the fruit looked good to eat. It wasn't a matter of practicality. Eve wasn't hungry because there was a garden full of food surrounding her. She and her husband ate the fruit because they wanted to be like gods and because it was attractive fruit. In other words, they wanted to set themselves against God and using the beauty of creation to do it.

This is of course what mortal sin does. It either sets us against God or our neighbor in a serious way. Let us take some examples:

a) Contraception. A whole blog could be dedicated to this topic (and probably has been). However, the reasons it is a mortal sin are pretty simple: Because of the creative function of sex, by contracepting, we are "playing god" by deciding not to create through a process of creation. It's kind of like what the devil tried to do: "No, I know you say you love these things, these humans, but creating them is a mistake and will only cause harm for them later on in life. They will grow up in a hard environment and will suffer greatly. Don't make them." He was jealous, in fact. There are ways to not bring children into a world of suffering, but cutting creation short is not the way to do it. Simply put, we can not be God and we should not try to be. This is a sin of pride and it is a mortal one: trying to be God.

Of course, it is also pretty nasty to your partner cause you're saying "I don't trust you" or "I don't want your complete self donation." I don't think such a spit in the face is something to take lightly.

b) Abortion. Killing. Trying to control life. God's job. 'nuff said.

c) Premarital sex. Once again, it says something to the partner. it says "I don't trust you to wait for me" and "I don't trust myself". You may not trust yourself or the other, but if that's the case, it's not very charitable to stay nearby. If I was a maniac who like to slice things with knives, I would not want to be near anyone just in case. This is a pretty big sin against charity (and all sins against charity are sins against God who is Charity Himself) and so it's kind of a big deal.

Those are three examples. To find more, look to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Now, here are three examples of mortal sins, but do people really do them knowingly? Do people seriously know that contracepting can take them outside God's Grace and into the circle of Hell? Probably not a lot of them. But there are some who have been told quite openly how wrong it is and the reasons and claim to still be Catholic and yet they contracept. The same goes for the other two and a whole score of others. I know from experience that sinning is not something that you just kind of do. Yeah, there are external forces at play (and internal) that can reduce your culpability for the sin, but the sin is committed.

What to do? Go to confession. If you aren't culpable for your sin, then everything is ok. But it is impossible to know what your exact culpability is and so to be safe, go to confession. If nothing else, it will expose you to regular graces that God intended for his silly little creatures to experience.

We can't make up for the eating of the apple, it's true. Only God can do that, and he did. But we can, before eating an apple, say "God, this is for you." If we can say this before all our actions, then we have come a long way.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Condition of Contradiction

In line with my last post, I would like to think about more contradictions. This one has to do with confession, sin, hypocrisy and condemnation.

We all like to judge people. In a certain sense, this is appropriate. So your friend is pounding Jack-and-Cokes like they're water? It's not like that's a good thing or anything. In fact, we may very well have a duty to tell him as much. A politician gets caught with his pants down and we're supposed to not judge? Please! That is totally on the wrong side of the line.

At the same time, remember the plank/speck line in the Bible. You may be right that your friends relationship is grossly inappropriate, but what about your own? You think your piety excuses you from the "lapses in judgement" that so often catch us off guard...or maybe not so off guard.

Switchfoot has this song called "Company Car" and it's a good one.

In it is the line "I'm the king of things I've always despised." Sometimes we find ourselves in this position. We never thought this would happen but it did. Now what to do?

We can try to justify our own failings and sins. We can compare them to others and say "Oh, it's not that bad." Well, it probably isn't, but really does that matter? This is your soul we're talking about?

So you decide to go to Confession...or at least consider it. You start to prepare and then realize something. You would have to say that you would never do it again. Or at least try, and you're not prepared to do that. You're not willing to give it all up for a relationship with God. After all, it wasn't that bad. You didn't hurt anyone. And you wouldn't mind doing it again. In fact, you want to do it again.

So you don't go to Confession because doing that would admit that you should change your behaviour. However, you realize that you are certainly not living how God wants you to...avoiding the Sacrament of Penance because of weakness of will. Because of this, you avoid the other Sacrament...the Eucharist. You know better than to defile THAT. But you can't get right with God.

So, should you go to confession and lie that you will change or just say "forget it. I don't think this is serious enough" and forget confession?

I believe this is where spiritual direction can help. We all go through this type of thing. We need advice. We can tell the priest that we are struggling with actually being sorry for our sins. We are human after all. We're not perfect and even when we know what is right, we don't want to. It's called concupiscence. It kind of sucks, but there you go.

You know, maybe that's where all those pro-choice politicians are in life...just sayin'

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Practicing and Preaching

They always say "Practice what you preach" and I say "Yes." They always say "Christians are hypocrites for not practicing what they preach" and I once again say "Yes." But is it really surprising that we often fail to practice what we preach? It destroys our credibility, yes. It can destroy friendships, yes. It can scandalize, yes, but is it really surprising?

I would say given our multi-thousand year theological tradition of Original Sin, Satan, and Concupiscence, it is the exact opposite of surprising.

What is especially hard, it seems, is for the outspoken to practice what they preach. They are constantly thinking through issues and so it is always on their mind. This recalls to mind the different "celebrity priests" that have been in the news recently.

All serious Catholics want to get to heaven and want to love God...and do what they please. The problem is that the "do what you please" often drowns out the "love God" and you get the Fall of the Orthodox Catholic. And believe me, it looks terrible from the inside and from the outside. I've experienced both. Scrupulosity is, I think, a sin and not only because it is obsessive. Scrupulosity can lead to believing you are totally depraved (certain protestant heresies which often manifests itself as nihilism in modern times), and because of this, you can lose hope in God. This loss of hope in God is exactly what leads us into a deeper fall. I've heard priests say "the Devil's trick is that once you sin, you can keep on sinning, cause you've already fallen." Well, that's just a lie and a half. The more you sin, the deeper you fall and soon enough, all hope in God is gone and you are left with emptiness. My favorite Psalm, or one of them, is 130: "Out of the depths have I cried to thee oh, Lord!"

We must not forget that every time we fall, we have recourse to God's Grace. In Batman Begins, Alfred says "Master Bruce, why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up again." Of course, it's God who picks us up, but he doesn't do it "alone". He leads people into our lives and uses our strengths to pick us up. That's why we have priests in confession. God works through people and specifically through priests to help us back onto the road that is often described as straight and narrow.

So should we, Catholic sinner, continue preaching the Good News even though we consistently fall? I would say "yes", as usual (let no one call me a naysayer). It is important even when we are struggling to show others what we truly believe to be good, true and beautiful. Especially we should not start hating ourselves because that is no testimony at all. When our sin has caused us to lose sight of beauty, we can not show others. We must be healed. In this case, our first prerogative should be our own soul.

So let us continue in our work, but remember...practice what you preach, but if you fail in practice, continue preaching unless preaching becomes no preaching at all. Then go on retreat.

That is all.
Roma, 20-9-11

Thursday, September 15, 2011

l'Udienza Generale

Yes, I did.

It's actually very easy. You just have to get up in the morning, shower, eat something and head over to the Vatican. You can, if this is your first time there, symbolically touch the Bernini Colonnade for the first time. You will most likely be confused, and if you speak no Italian, all is lost. Fortunately for me, I speak a little Italian. There are numerous lines all over the place and although it's free, you have to get a ticket. Or do you? I never found out and I don't think I ever showed it to anyone. The guard that I talked to (the third one) who finally gave me a ticket was surprised that I was going alone. Well, these things must be done occasionally, right?

The Audience itself was a mixture between a prayer, a lecture, and World Youth Day. (Meaning, I suppose, that WYD with Benedict is a little like his Audiences.)

The prayer part was that Psalm 22 was read in 7 languages. Italian, French, English, Spanish, German, Portuguese, and Polish. The World Youth Day bit was when all the different groups were called on by their language representative. I was not called on. If I had been, I would have shrieked because every time anyone made any noise, the HF would point to them. I'm sure this made them happy. It even made me happy.

The Holy Father gave a reflection during each of the language sections. As far as I could tell, they were slightly different from one another, but I'm no language expert. Here is the reflection in English:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Today we reflect on Psalm Twenty-two, a heartfelt prayer of lamentation from one who feels abandoned by God. Surrounded by enemies who are persecuting him, the psalmist cries out by day and by night for help, and yet God seems to remain silent. In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, the opening line of this psalm is placed on the lips of Jesus as he calls upon the Father from the Cross. He too seems to have been abandoned to a cruel fate, while his enemies mock him, attacking him like ravenous and roaring lions, dividing his clothing among them as if he were already dead. The psalmist recalls how, in the past, the people of Israel called trustingly upon the Lord in times of trial, and he answered their prayer. He remembers the tenderness with which the Lord cared for him personally in his earlier life, as a child in his mother’s womb, as an infant in his mother’s arms, and yet now God seems strangely distant. Despite such adverse circumstances, though, the psalmist’s faith and trust in the Lord remains. The psalm ends on a note of confidence, as God’s name is praised before all the nations. The shadow of the Cross gives way to the bright hope of the Resurrection. We too, when we call upon him in times of trial, must place our trust in the God who brings salvation, who conquers death with the gift of eternal life.

* * * I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including the groups from Great Britain, Scandinavia, Asia and North America. I extend a special greeting to the delegates of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services and to the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums. Upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

The pope certainly has a way with words. I especially like, as did the people at the Vatican News Portal, the phrase "The shadow of the Cross gives way to the bright hope of the Resurrection." It reminds me of the Switchfoot song "The Shadow Proves the Sunshine."

What I would like to reflect on is the point about distance and silence. God sometimes seems distant. I would like to ponder more deeply the meaning of God as "other", but that will have to be put on the back burner. Suffice it to say, I think God as "other" has a lot to do with this. Our separation from God is only possible because He loved us enough to make us distinct from Himself. Because of the Fall (which was also possible because of this distinction), the separation or "otherness" of God is greatly increased and can hurt. In fact, it often does. There are times when we separate ourselves from God through sin, but that is not what I think is going on in Psalm 22 or in a lot of peoples' "Dark Night of the Soul". God sometimes seems to be distant and silent even when we are screaming prayers to him. When I was thinking about this, I came up with an analogy that might be helpful.

When a child is screaming about something he wants, the parents have a couple options. They can argue with the child and try to convince them that what they need is different from what they want. They can pick up the child and take him up to his room (or just tell him to go there) or the parents can just wait until the child has settled down. In the first option, the child will very often scream louder and want the thing more. The whole thing will be prolonged and everyone will get emotionally compromised and then nobody is responsible for their actions. The second option is perhaps a little more helpful and sometimes when God isn't seeming to listen to us, He seems to put us into new apparently less helpful situations. However, the child will often, when picked up, squirm like crazy and both the child and his parents will be subjected to the dangers of kicking feet and gravity. If God decides to move us to a different place in life and it seems like it is restricting, maybe he just sent us to our room for a time out, right? However, I think that God often chooses the third choice. You see, He has given us His Word and so we know what's up. When we shriek for his consolation, forgiveness, help etc., we know where to go for those things. Maybe it won't feel good, but we know it's there. He gave us the Sacraments for this express purpose: to give us His life, his forgiveness...even Himself! However, we often rage against Him because somehow it just isn't Right. And so he lets us rage and says nothing because when we have the sacraments and the Church at our disposal, when we have settled down, we will realize what we have.

In short, it seems like God is a good parent.

Well, I should hope so.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Christian Rebellion

"You say you want a revolution? Well, you know, we all want to change the world..."

Recently on a blog post by the popular Marc Barnes, a commenter made two statements that I have trouble accepting: 1) Rock is fundamentally, at its deepest level, an expression of rebellion and 2) Christianity is not rebellion.

Now, I guess it's hard to argue with the fact that rock music is a symbol of rebellion for many, but I would say that fundamentally it's an expression of a desire for freedom. And sometimes, it succeeds in hitting on authentic freedom. Often it doesn't. But here's the thing. I'm not writing this to debate the merits of rock music (I believe there are some). I want to address the next statement.

Christianity is rebellion. It is a wake up call in the lethargy of a pagan or secular culture. It is a complete turn-around from the Roman world from which it sprang. It took Rome and turned it on its head. In fact, it's been doing that consistently since. Christianity is a rebellion against the chains of sin. It will not accept just getting by. Christians will not just go along for the ride. We are radical in what we believe. God exists, He loves us, He became one of us, died and rose. He will come again and bring those who love Him to His Father's house in which there are "many mansions".

This has always been my experience. Christianity watered down is not rebellion: The fullness of truth is. The commentator cited acceptance, submission and obedience as what Christianity is. Well, yes, but to obey one Person is to rebel against someone else. A friend of yours invites you to do cocaine with him. Do you do it? It would be so easy to just say yes, because you wouldn't have to refuse anyone anything. Except you shouldn't do it. You should rebel against the false friendship that is inviting you into destruction. You should, in fact, stand up and denounce cocaine-addiction for what it is, the ultimate System. If there was anything had us in bonds, it's our addictions. That is a System from which we can not escape without rebellion. There is often something enticing about this System and when we first taste it, we want to continue. But we eventually know that, no, this is pure imprisonment. This is a suffocating, oppressive system. And we need to rebel.

There are so many systems that we need freedom from. We need freedom from attachment to money, too fierce an attachment to a humanistic utopia, attachment to Hollywood, attachment to pleasure. We need to find the freedom to do what is right, and in order to do that, we must rebel. Christianity is rebellion. It is Obedience. And if we must sanctify rock music, maybe it must be by expressing this exact thing. The tension between obedience and rebellion. Freedom from, freedom for. The Paradox.

I think Chesterton would agree...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Introduce yourselves!

I've been getting quite a bit more traffic and a couple more followers recently (probably due to me joining virtuouspla.net). Most exciting is the hits from other countries, such as Germany and Belgium. I haven't yet gotten a hit from Italia...too bad. However, if you want to introduce yourself if you've decided to read this blog, be my guest. Unlike Hilary White (*wink*) I don't mind newcomers. Hopefully I will have more posts of substance up, especially after I've arrived at Rome!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Let's try this out...

So, I put a donate button up on the blog. I've seen others do it, and I thought "Why not?" But it's not for just getting money (which, as a college student is a particularly important thing to me) but rather to help me pay for a trip that my choir is taking next spring to sing for the Pope in Italy.

Now, I will already be in Italy studying abroad for my architecture degree, but it is not cheap to live over there, and since this tour is also not cheap (although discounted since I won't be coming from the states) I thought "Perfect, an opportunity for me to get some small donations for a very worthy cause." So, if you wish to donate, you may do so. It doesn't matter how much, but if it's not enough, I'll just buy a bunch of gelato...

Just Kidding.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Job 11:1-6

This goes out to all the people out there (and especially Bloggers and other NewMedia persons) who believe that as long as they hash something to pieces, they will convince everyone that they are right. One of the temptations for a blogger is to be the Lone Voice of Reason. Well that's a common temptation, but it comes out in blogs a lot. Anyway:
And Zophar the Naamathite spoke out and said: Should not the man of many words be answered, or must the garrulous man necessarily be right? Shall your babblings keep men silent, and shall you deride and no one give rebuke? Shall you say: "My teaching is pure, and I am clean in your sight"? But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against you, and tell you that the secrets of wisdom are twice as effective: so that might learn that God will make you answer for your guilt.
There has been lots of talk about courtesy on blogs. Oh well, might as well turn to scripture.

This Week in Feasts

This week is one of my favorites of the Year. Starting on Monday, we had the Queenship of Mary. Mary as Queen is one of my favorite images so this is one of my favorite Marian Feasts. On the 23rd is St. Rose of Lima. Don't ask me why this is one of my favorite female saints, it just is. Wasn't she also Royalty before she gave it up? Oh and I think she had the Stigmata. Following that was the Great and High Feast of St. Bartholomew. Today we celebrate yet another royalty: St. Louis IX of France, husband and ruler (as it said in the missal of readings at St. John the Evangelist church here in Milwaukee). I have liked St. Louis since my brother and sister were in a play about the Crusades when I was like....6. "To the Holy Land we ride..." I even considered him for my Confirmation Saint. Then on the 27th is St. Monica who was the mother of St. Augustine my all-time favorite writer of Catholic Theology. Her dedication in prayer is an astounding witness...plus I just like the name Monica. Then, the next day, the 28th, is St. Augustine himself. Now, I have yet to finish the Confessions, but I'm working on it and I can't get over the absolute gems in that book, and that wasn't his most potent theology. His commentary on Heaven at the end of the City of God is astounding to put it mildly.

Anyway, this is a great week for the Church.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Living under the shadow of the fig tree.

I was intending to write this yesterday, but never got around to it.

August 24th is the Feast of St. Bartholomew, who happens to also be named Nathaniel and is my patron saint. I have known the story of his martyrdom since I was al little child (he was flayed alive), but it never seemed to bother me. Yesterday, I read this article by Fr. Z. which discusses St. Augustine's commentary on the story of St. Bartholomew. St. Augustine talks about how Christ saw Bartholomew (or Nathaniel) under a fig tree and that the fig tree is the tree that Christ cursed for not bearing any fruit. Most of us know the interpretation that Christ, when he met Bartholomew, called him a "true Israelite, a man without guile", and that he was being facetious because Israel was anything but guileless. However, there's more to the story than Jesus's awesome sense of humor. What St Augustine said got me thinking about living under the shadow of sin. Sin is a curse (and its origin is related to a tree), and we live under that curse from the moment of our conception. However, Christ calls us out from under that Tree of Sin and instead to the foot of the Tree of Life. And how does He do this? Well, for Nathaniel (or Bartholomew), He used Nathaniel's friend Philip to bring him the good news. He often does the same for us. He uses our friends to tell us when we are under the Cursed Tree because we are often blinded to our own faults with blaze forth for the rest of the world to see. We can then be led to the Tree of Life to worship God. And that is one lesson to be learned from the great story of St. Bartholomew.

Monday, August 22, 2011


The "blogosphere" is an interesting place. It's almost like the collective human mind. One thought or post leads to another through links and eventually you start to dwell on certain trains of thought. Eventually though, those trains of thought will connect to others and soon you have a whole new world of thought before you.

This happened to me recently. I forget where I first found the link, but I discovered a new train of thought on the Catholic Blogosphere. It is a community of faithful Catholic bloggers of the JPII and BXVI generation. Since I consider myself part of this generation, I quickly applied to join in the fun.

See my first post here.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Concerning the Heavenly Court

One of the images of God which most potently strikes my heart (as well as my head) is that of King. See, for those who know me, I tend to talk a lot about monarchy. It's one of my "ideals" is some form of Monarchy as the "perfect" government. The thing is, I don't actually believe it's possible.

But when I think of a knight swearing fealty to his King and offering his life for his country, I can't help thinking that we need a little more of that in our tepid (or do I mean torpid? torrid?) hum-drum, pathetic, exhausting political system.

There is, however, an opportunity for me to swear loyalty to a King...and be willing to die for a cause. That King is God.

I once attended a youth day here in Milwaukee where we had Adoration, a Eucharistic procession and Benediction. Now all of us know how much I like architecture and think that it lends itself to worship, but here we were in the old Field-house of an all girls college. It wasn't an amazing building, but the experience blew me away. More so than any experience up to that point, it seemed like the Great Hall of a King. Does it not strike you as it struck me that it would be hard to get 1000 people no matter what age to be silent for an extended period of time? Well, I was amazed that teenagers could keep it up. And yet, they were there for their King, because we all need someone to give us orders, but not only to give us orders but to have a King's affection for his men. The youth in that field-house knew what it was like to need a King.

Since then, Adoration has been something different for me. It is more about putting myself completely at His service. "You are my King, you are the Ruler of my Life! Give me my orders for I swear my fealty to your terrible and Divine Majesty."

Every Good King has a Queen, and the Knights first duty is to defend her honour. We as Catholics happen to have the Best Ever Queen. She is Princess, Queen-Mother, and Queen-Consort all rolled into one. She is the Virgin-Mother, the Contradiction and because of her Mystery she is even more fascinating and we shall defend her.
Her feast is today, Aug. 22. Queenship of Mary, I think it's called, and I as a Divine Monarchist am pleased that the Daughter, Mother and Bride of my Divine Monarch has been crowned my Queen and that that crown can and should rule over my life and my love.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Proof that hope springs eternal

It's often easy to be discouraged by the culture we live in. It's easy to wish for the "better days". Well, reality check: there were problems then too. Here's the thing, if we give up on the culture, it will never change. Here is a story about a young woman who didn't give up hope....

And neither should we. When all the powers of darkness seem to be against us. When the world seems to be falling apart, when violence, cruelty, death, and sin seems the norm, we should remember that in the midst of all this, we are human with an immortal soul and a conscience and we have been redeemed by the Savior. He "will not abandon [the world] to the netherworld nor allow [his] holy one to suffer corruption."

Which, by the way, segues nicely into a discussion of the Feast for today. In the Dioceses of the United States, The Assumption is not a Holy Day of Obligation today because it falls on the day after a Sunday. Now we can argue the merits of this, or we can just talk about the Feast. I prefer to do the latter.

God did not allow Mary's body to undergo corruption. He did however allow her to go through intense pain and suffering. Mary is the prefigure of the Church and indeed the first member of the New Covenant. She experienced the saving power of God from the moment of her conception (a different feast) and is a sign of hope that no matter what pains we go through as a Church and as a world, we are saved and intended for God. God will sanctify the world and all of creation. One of the ways He does that is through our continual offering of our whole lives, actions, experiences etc. When we offer Him our time, the people in our lives, our emotions, our thoughts, our desires, our actions, our environment, he is able to work amazingly in our lives.

Although not required, I did go to Mass today. Thinking of the Gospel now, I realize that it is very relevant to the story I linked to above. Mary visits Elizabeth and they pretty much immediately start swapping baby stories...sort of. They both are in pregnancie situations that would be cause for concern. One, an old woman, could easily expect complications in the pregnancy including miscarriage. Mary was a virgin and would not be in a good position when people found out.
Except Elizabeth knew, and she welcomed Mary into the house. This story as well as the Feast on which it was proclaimed is designed to give us hope, to build up our faith in God and to call us to charity, especially those in difficult pregnancie situations.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Churches that Might have Been: St. Dominic's, San Antonio

One of the things that happened in the last century was the de-emphasizing of churches. A lot of them were built to look like other things, barns for instance.

However, in the last decade, there has been a revival even outside of traditional circles to reclaim the church as a building type. We are still in the growing pains phase of this revival and so we aren't quite up to the standard of even the early 20th century, but we're getting there. The problem is, now we often get churches that are close but are very obviously not quite there. And since it's not just a barn and the congregation has paid millions for it, there's no hope of replacement for a while.

I call these churches "churches that might have been." Here is an example, the first in a series:

What I don't understand is how they decided to put the new church at such an ange with the original church facade. The continuity is just plain absent. It however is very nice in its materials, it looks like, and give off a generally good impression. Inside, however, there is a huge absence of natural light. It's kind of atrocious.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The importance of Scripture

Catholics often get a bad rap. We apparently don't know the Scriptures well enough and it's likely because we "don't believe it is infallible teaching" or rather we don't hold to Sola Scripture, a somewhat self contradicting dogma. We do however hold that the Scriptures are infallible and the Word of God itself. So, what does it mean to us that we have in our possession the Word of God? St. Jerome said "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." True, seeing as Jesus Christ himself is the Word of God, the fulfillment of all revelation and all Scripture speaks of Him.

Therefore, we should read Scripture to get to know our Lord better. After all, our telos is to know, love, and serve God in this world and the next, if I recall the Baltimore Catechism correctly.

In our Sunday bulletin, our Pastor gave a scriptural basis for the response "And with your Spirit" which will be used in the new translation of the Roman Missal. In fact, the whole liturgy is and has always been heavily scriptural. Mostly the Mass has consisted of Psalms and allusions, quotes and references to other books of the Bible. Of course in the Novus Ordo there are two readings and a Gospel read each Sunday (usually one reading and a Gospel on a weekday) in a three year cycle. This cycle takes us through most of scripture so that the daily Mass goer will become familiar with almost the whole Bible while at the same time participating in the highest form of prayer we have and receiving our Lord. It seems to be the perfect combination.

Finally, as we Catholics do believe in the authority of the Magisterium, I thought I might link to this article about Pope Benedict's advice concerning reading Scripture.

Soon I'll have some more reflections on scripture up.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Interesting blog

I came across, in my "random browsing", this blog. Warning, it has some pretty adult topics and may not be for the squeamish. It is, however, a very good example of someone who has faith, even when it sometimes doesn't feel right.

Theological Virtues: Faith, pt. 1

I have reflected on faith before, specifically in its relation to reason. I would like to go further into what it means to have faith in someone and specifically God.

Do we have faith in anyone? It seems to many people an impossible task. Who is there to trust? So many of our families are broken by abuse, divorce, etc. Our politicians seem to be self-serving men and women. Even our priests and bishops are often unworthy, as it were, of our trust. Why then should we put our faith in them? Why should we follow them?

No human being is completely trustworthy. I have told lies before. I am not perfect in that regard as I am not perfect in almost every regard. I would say that most people have at least bent the truth before. It's very easy. No consequences. The only person who has never lied is God. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. If he is truth, how can he tell a lie? That's like saying that we as humans can somehow leave our soul behind at certain times. Well, we can't, and Christ could not lie.

To have faith is to stand on the assertion that someone is trustworthy and will fulfill his promises. It is not blind. It is an act of the will. You can either choose to stand with Christ or against him. What many call "blind faith" is often merely someone having a very personal reason for understanding that Christ is on his side. Not everyone can articulate every truth. Not everyone is as advanced in the ways of philosophy to do that. If I were to assert that (-3)(-3)=(3)(3) because that is what I was taught without understanding it, would that make it untrue? And so it is with those of us who have faith. We may not have the arguments for it, but we have been taught and we have chosen to trust what our teachers and ultimately Christ tells us. And we stand with him. And that is faith.

For a better understanding of faith, read "Introduction to Christianity" by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger who is now someone important in the Church.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Midnight Dancers

One of my senior projects in high school was producing and starring in a production called "Midnight Dancers." It was based on a book by Catholic author Regina Doman. The book is a retelling of the story "The Twelve Dancing Princesses".

In the play, the main character, Rachel Durham, who was brought up in a strict fundamentalist christian household, discovers that goodness is "more than morality" through the actions of Paul Fester, a Catholic who is also a part time juggler/ninja. Paul plays a pivotal "salvific" role in the play/book and in one of the last scenes, Rachel tells a sleeping Paul the following, which translates nicely into a prayer:

"I think I know what you meant, Paul about goodness, but you left something out. It’s not always pretty to look at goodness, especially when it comes into contact with evil. Like me, I saw what it did to you, what it cost you to come down and get mixed up in my own brand of evil. Thank you for not standing apart in your goodness. Thank you for coming. Because you did, I think I know what goodness looks like, and you’re right. It’s beautiful. Forgive me."
It is, of course to realize that Christ came down for a reason, and that reason was to bring us out of our "own brand of evil". We all have one, and none of it is pretty. Christ took our ugliness to purify it. And that is where our hope lies.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


"She's almost brighter than the sun
Seems to me to be unfair
When you consider everyone
Who pales when they compare."

So says the lyrics to the Relient K song "Candlelight" from their album "Forget and Not Slow Down." Ever since I've heard the lyrics, I've always thought of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I doubt it was their intent, but there you go. At Mass on Sunday, I noticed these two statues of angels holding lit candles. During the Consecration, the servers lined up in front of the altar with their torches, candles and incense. Everyone seemed to be serving the King with light...

Consider this: God is Light....Jesus Christ...Light from Light. We are all made according to the image and likeness of God. We are all in our own way lights. "You are the light of the world." We each have our own light to offer God. In heaven, we shall worship him each to our full capacity...at our brightest. Even here on earth, we must accept our duties. We must our candle, no matter how small, forward and if the world will not see the light as it is, then they will not, but we must continue to carry, by the Grace of God we will carry our part, our torch and eventually present ourselves to the King.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Corpus Christi: Special Report

Today the Catholic Church celebrates one the most mysterious things ever: The Eucharist. My family and I went to St. Anthony's, as we usually do on Sundays, and let me tell you, it was amazing as usual. Fr. Cliff, in his homily, talked a lot about marriage. It was interesting because certainly the Eucharist should and does remind us of the priesthood. However, it is also the Marriage of the Heaven and Earth, the Marriage and Christ and His Church...the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, the Feast and the Consummation. A marriage is a contract, a covenant really of total self giving. God has deigned to bestow on us the gift of his whole self, his whole essence in the person of Jesus Christ continually present in the Eucharist. How can we not then give all of ourselves, insignificant as we are? And we are insignificant. We are less than a drop of water in the Ocean of God's love. We are less than a grain of sand on the seashore. But remember, God said that Abraham's descendants would number more than the sand on the seashore. We are a Communion of persons in Communion with God. We as a Church should be constantly offering ourselves to God. Even so, are we not almost nothing in comparison to God? Yes, which is why He came to earth. He participated in our humanity so that we might participate in his divinity. It is through the Incarnation that the Church, as Christ's body, is offered back to God as an acceptable sacrifice, as a "suitable partner" in the heavenly marriage vow. God grants us Himself through the Incarnate Christ and He offers himself back with our own meager offerings--we are merely the water in the wine. It is truly a marriage made in heaven. Let us then throw it all down at the feet of our King and worship. All our actions--let them be for Him. All our thoughts--may they give Him glory. All of our desires--let them ultimately be a desire for the good and therefore a desire for Him. And let us fall on our knees before the Lord knowing that He Himself has brought us to His throne.

Oh, God, who are you?

Notice, if you will, that I did not say "Oh, God, what are you?" I said "who" for a very specific reason, of course. It is interesting to look back on different conceptions of who/what God is. To the ancient pagans, the gods were basically forces in nature that were also personal in some way. We could interact with them on certain levels...that is they could, if they wanted, interact with us. Eventually, however, the philosophers rejected this idea of the divine and instead introduced an "idea" based god. God is conclusion that we reach, a concept that must be present in the universe. In his five ways, St. Thomas Aquinas, who is of course a Catholic, uses this conceptual idea to reason toward "a god". In the five ways at least, this is not the personal God that Thomas himself believes in.

I opened a book by Joseph Ratzinger called "God is Near Us." It's a collections of homilies etc. I had just opened it to the first page and started reading when I came upon a passage that addresses just this. God is a person. He is not an idea that can be proved. If I were to tell you that I had a brother (I have three) would you believe me? Could I prove it to you if you yourself had not experienced my brothers? I don't believe I could. A person is such that the experience is what matters. Now you could certainly believe me, but they doesn't mean I've proved to you that my brother exists. Proof is for statements. If God is True, he can not be proven like a true statement.

However, he is Reality Himself. All that is true is only true if he has created it that way. To say God is Good is a statement about God and can be proved....with the right premises. The thing is, one of the premises is the empirical experience of God. In the ancient Hebrew civilisation, they experienced God in many potent ways, but none more potent that the Incarnation of Christ. Since then, we can say that humanity has experienced God empirically and now since he is "with us always" we don't need proof, we just need to meet him.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Three Attacks of Holofernes: A Scriptural Rambling

Judith 4.

In Judith 4, the Israelites hear about the ravaging acts of the Assyrian general Holofernes. Obviously, they want to defend themselves against him and his horde. What they do is a great lesson for all of us:

Then the children of Israel[...] sent into all Samaria round about, as far as Jericho, and seized upon all the tops of the mountains: [4] And they compassed their towns with walls, and gathered together corn for provision for war. [5] And Eliachim the priest wrote [...] that they should take possession of the ascents of the mountains, by which there might be any way to Jerusalem, and should keep watch where the way was narrow between the mountains.

[6] And the children of Israel did as the priest of the Lord Eliachim had appointed them, [7] And all the people cried to the Lord with great earnestness, and they humbled their souls in fastings, and prayers, both they and their wives. [8] And the priests put on haircloths, and they caused the little children to lie prostrate before the temple of the Lord, and the altar of the Lord they covered with haircloth. [9] And they cried to the Lord the God of Israel with one accord, that their children might not be made a prey, and their wives carried off, and their cities destroyed, and their holy things profaned, and that they might not be made a reproach to the Gentiles. [10] Then Eliachim the high priest of the Lord went about all Israel and spoke to them,

[11] Saying: Know ye that the Lord will hear your prayers, if you continue with perseverance in fastings and prayers in the sight of the Lord. [12] Remember Moses the servant of the Lord, who overcame Amalec that trusted in his own strength, and in his power, and in his army, and in his shields, and in his chariots, and in his horsemen, not by fighting with the sword, but by holy prayers: [13] So shall all the enemies of Israel be, if you persevere in this work which you have begun. [14] So they being moved by this exhortation of his, prayed to the Lord, and continued in the sight of the Lord. [15] So that even they who offered the holocausts to the Lord, offered the sacrifices to the Lord girded with haircloths, and with ashes upon their head.

[16] And they all begged of God with all their heart, that he would visit his people Israel. (D-R)

There is, in this passage, the obvious tension that is so often referenced nowadays. Should we trust God in prayer up to the point of doing nothing that is in our own power? Well, the Israelites certainly did not think so, and God heard their prayer. He wasn't like "Oh, you're preparing for war? Well you obviously don't trust me." In fact, they did trust him, and they showed it in their prayer and penances. However, they also trusted that He was the source of their own power and could act through them and their armies if need be. There was a need, for Holofernes comes later to destroy the House of Israel. He didn't end up doing it though, and that's the thing.

I was thinking about this and I realized that we encounter three attacks in our lives that require a similar response: The attacks of evil In the World, the attacks of evil In Our Lives and the attacks of evil In Our Souls. It's a triple attack, and it's kind of annoying. However, the Israelites show us the way in approaching these attacks. The one that struck me the most was the attacks In the World. Not only were the Israelites up against an attack In the World, but also this blog is about living in the world while not being of it. So here is my thought (finally) and I'd say it applies to all three:

There are many ways in which The Evil One attacks the world at large, whether through vile movements such as Playboy, evil regimes, such as Saddam, Quaddafi, or what have you. He just loves making the world a scary place to be. However, we must follow the example of the Israelites. We must judge what we ourselves can do to protect ourselves and our own from these disastrous things, and then pray and do penance. I'm sorry, but that last one is the hardest, I'd say, harder than even figuring out what to do. If we're honest with ourselves and each other, we can make honest mistakes, but we just don't want to do Penance. We hate mortification. We want to be the best looking, happiest, most successful people out there, and that is exactly contrary to a penitential attitude. So, just as Our Lady of Fatima called us to Penance, we should actually do it. The Lord hears our supplications if we trust in him, and what better way of trusting Him than to show that we are not that Big of a Deal?