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

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.