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

Saturday, February 25, 2012


There's something called "attachment parenting" I think. I don't know too much about it. I assume it's a parenting technique developed in the late 20th C. We liked to call things things like that then. To tell you the truth, I'm not too interested in what it is. For one thing, I'm not a parent yet, so it doesn't matter to me right now. For another thing, I feel like I wouldn't really be interested if I knew what it was. But maybe my mother can set me straight on that.

What I'm more interested in is what I would call "detachment Parenting." This is one aspect of the kind of Parenting that God employs. By our very nature, we're very attached to certain things. We have tendencies toward certain sins, but more importantly we have tendencies towards material goods. By goods I of course mean things that are good not things that you purchase at the nearest shop such as "dry good," "paper goods," etc. I mean things like friendship, television shows, hobbies, days at the beach, a good education, accolades etc. When God calls us to turn away from the things of this world he doesn't just mean candy and temptations of the flesh. He's talking even about the goods that point toward him. Just like we're not going to rip out the sign that points us to the city and carry it with us. We have to go in the direction is points. This means we have to turn away from the sign and turn toward the city. We have to leave the sign behind.

Ok, so God calls us to be detached even from the good things in our live. This is why we give up things for Lent. It's not because they're bad, but because their goodness can distract us from the Ultimate Good instead of pointing us toward him.

And really this brings us a greater appreciation for those things because they are then put in their correct context. You are able to see them from outside of your experience of them and thus get a greater view of them, a more objective view. Seeing the proper ordering of goods and and their relationship to the Ultimate Good will not only make it easier to pursue the Ultimate Good but also make it easier to use the lesser goods in that pursuit.

Lent is not a time of hate and rejection, it is a time of love. We love the goods of this world because they are the work of our Creator. Because of this, we do not want to abuse them. By practicing detachment, this love of creation and the Creator is possible

The Church is Universal

Today, the archies had a Mass said in Chiesa Nuova (less commonly called Santa Maria in Vallicella) at the Altar of St. Philip Neri who is buried there. I once again again led the Pigna Scholada in some 16th Century polyphony which was amazing because that type of music is intended to be sung in a huge church and not in the ground floor library of an Italian palazzo.

This polyphony was in 16th Century Spanish. Our Communion hymn was in English. The ordinary was chanted in Latin, the Kyrie was in Greek. We were in an Italian Church. Finally, after Mass, a group of French girls sang some French hymn in harmony. It was beautiful.

I am known for not being a huge fan of switching languages in Mass. Of course, I'm not against a vernacular hymn here and there (or an alternate vernacular hymn.) What irritates me is when the propers and other prayers of the Mass are in different languages so that it seems like one part of the Mass is directed toward one group of people and another part is directed toward another, which is kind of strange considering that Mass is supposedly directed toward God.

It is however supposed to indicate the universality of the Church. Perhaps it does. I do know that the fact that different languages were all used in the same chapel within half an hour of each other indicated to me that the Church was universal. While in the liturgy it's distracting to me, in devotions, it has the exact opposite since it is like watching a parade going past instead the King's Carriage. When the King's carriage is going past, you don't want the parade to be in the way. Before and after the Carriage, the parade only helps in pointing to the importance of the King.

This is what international expression of devotion does for me. It points to the King and his kingdom on earth which extends to all the nations.

Friday, February 24, 2012

In memoriam

The Church is truly Universal. It has been said that there is never a moment when Mass is not being celebrated. I don't know. It seems like it could be the case. Whether it is or not, there is something unifying about knowing that everywhere around the world, people are going to Mass.

Today, the Notre Dame Liturgical Choir is remembering its late director, Dr. Gail Walton, a powerhouse of musical proficiency and an important mentor for many in the choir and those who have graduated. Her impact on her assistant (now the Director) Andrew McShane is obvious and the dedication he brings to the choir is definitely inspired by her memory.

I will admit that I did not know her that well, but her impact on people I know is so tangible that to be unaffected is impossible. She was truly an extraordinary woman.

The point? The point is that tonight (5.15pm EST), the Liturgical Choir will be attending a Mass in memory of Gail. In solidarity, a fellow choir member in the archie program and I went to Mass at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. I was of course expecting the general weekday Mass said by an old dominican priest, but instead, we got a cardinal with full choir singing such things as the Mozart "Ave Verum." There is no better way to remember your choir director than to listen to a choir singing great music.

And so, I would like to offer you this piece of music, for remembrance, for consolation and for joy. This is the title track of the Liturgical Choir's latest CD which was conceived by Gail before she died. This was her song. And there is not a better song to hear on the memorial of the death of someone as special as Gail is.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Falling in Love...again

It's hard to describe the feelings I went through tonight. It's like everything was turned upside down. Everything that seemed to drag me down suddenly lifted me up. I saw everything I saw with new eyes. It's as if something inside me had changed. Maybe it did.

This happens when people fall in love, I'm pretty sure. Of course, since it's never happened to me, I wouldn't know.

Whatever the case, I am certainly in some sort of love. The only way I can think of it is that I'm in love with life again. Maybe even Life. It's been a while since the deep purply blue night sky in Rome could do to me what it did tonight. In fact, I'd say it's never done it before. Never have ugly apartments (worse than fascist, and that's saying something) filled my heart with wonder. I realized tonight that all I really want to do is look at and sketch buildings and cities, painting as I go, designing, working with Geometry and toiling away. It seems like such a dead life.

It's not. It's a work of love. It's a work of creation. I fell in love tonight perhaps. Once more I am sure that what I am doing is the right thing and thank God I'm in Rome. I wouldn't be anywhere else in the world right now.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


It's been quite a week so far. In truth, I'm counting this past Saturday as the beginning of the week. The strange thing about architecture school is that it messes with your schedule in so many ways. For instance, most college students have homework to work on during the weekend. I had none. What I did instead I'll get to in a second. Another proof that architecture is a weird world is that this coming Sunday is the deadline for our project. This of course means that the normal college weekend activities of Partying and Carousing have to take place...in studio. With drafting tools in hand. It also means that Sunday will most likely not be a day of rest in the strict sense.

Except for those of us who relax by constructing golden sections, Euclidian geometries, and similar things. The fact that I do this for fun may come as no surprise. In fact, I may have mentioned is at some point. I wouldn't know since I forget what I write on this blog as soon as I write it.

Anyway, I have nothing deep to say about golden sections or my love of geometry. I could come up with something, but I'll just let it stand.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Riding the Horse


If I had a mantra, that might be it. As it is, I am not nearly well known enough for a mantra to be worth it.

I would like to muse on the concept of Riding the Horse. One of the great things about knowing where to find an english-speaking priest in Rome is that occasionally he can hear your confession if he's not tying on his maniple. Today, good old Fr. [insert name here] hadn't yet tied one on, so he was ready to perform the rite.

I have said before that I am particularly plagued with that horrible pathology known as Emotionalism. It leads to such things as sentimentalist expressions of love, bitter expressions of dissatisfaction and more importantly, eating the nearest hamburger on impulse.

After confessing that last one (just joking), Fr. [insert name here] told me that the mind must ride the body like a person rides a horse. We can't let the horse lead the way. He doesn't know the way. The fact that the body is an important part of the journey should not be taken for granted. It does need reining in, though. We can't just go into every bakery that smells good (his analogy.) In fact, there is a bakery I pass every day on my way back from studio and boy does it smell good. Fortunately, I can't afford to act on impulse, so I don't buy anything. The funny thing is, we hardly ever think about how much we can afford spiritually. How often do we think about spiritual capital? Not often. Of course, in my youth I learned about the Capital of Grace from the Schoenstatt Movement, so there's that. However, the lessons we learn in our youth are so often forgotten.

We can't afford to let the body do our thinking for us. Or our emotions. Sometimes we want to say something about someone. But can we afford to destroy someone's reputation? Sometimes we want to say something to someone, but can we afford to destroy a friendship? Sometimes we feel like giving into temptation not knowing that the more we do that, greater hold the devil has on us. We an ill afford to let that happen for our souls.

The thing about confession is that it brings us back into the love of the Father (through the ritual performed by a father). The value of fathers in today's world is debated a lot. I would just say that fathers are one of the best things ever. They always have important things to say.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Theological Virtues: Faith, pt. 2: Remembering Joy

Faith, Hope, Love. The three Theological Virtues. A while back I started a series on the Theological Virtues. Like most series, I didn't finish it. Well, here I am to continue it.

Faith is related to trust. We trust that God exists and will fulfill all his promises. We have faith that He is Who He says He is. We trust that we have been redeemed. But what does this faith actually consist of? Does it consist in us yelling "We believe" while covering our eyes and ears to the evils of the world? Does it consist of us proving that God exists? Does it consist in acts of worship? Does it consist in works of mercy? It can possibly take all these faces. But I would like to look at something more fundamental. Faith is about a relationship with a Person--God. In our lives, we are often not with the people we love. It's just a reality. Does that mean that they don't exist or don't love us? Maybe, but not God. He is eternal Love. He may seem to be far away, but it is we who have lagged behind in our passivity. How do we speed up?

Take a look at this post by Steve Gershom and then come back.

We speed up by Remembering Joy. There are moments of Joy in our lives (and I use that word in the Lewisian sense) that we recognize as such. We might not see them as the work of God, but we certainly see them as something positive. I would urge us all to consider these positive moments of Joy as proofs of God's Love. God is constant. If once he gives us Love, he will never take it away. When we are lagging behind in this life, we must only remember these moments in life and then the proof will be there. No, not the proof. The faith. The belief in the existence of the proof. The belief in what is proved. The belief in the Person.

Admiration and Application

"More admired the monks' chanting of the Divine Office, but the fullness of the Office and the singing of it were viewed as too much for a man still engaged in the temporal order."--Source

The name of this blog is "Third Order", the URL is "holy in the world." I'm sure I've talked about this before and I'm sure I'll talk about it again, but I'm pretty sure I'm called to a lay vocation, one "in the world, not of it." Presumably this means a call to marriage, although I suppose it could in some way mean a consecrated celibate life. Personally I'm hoping for the former, though at this point there are no immediate prospect. The vista is, so to speak, less like a greek theatre and more like a medieval road (which has been described as "tortuous" by my architectural history professor...no comment.)

But St. Thomas More is my patron, and who can go wrong in this third order life with him on their side? He was a great man of prayer who spent four years with the Carthusians and developed a love of the Liturgy of the Hours. He, like me, had vocational clarity. He, like me was in many ways an intellectual, but was also a family man. He was, in other words, my ideal role model.

I would like to touch on one or two things before I wrap up this post. One is More's love of the monastic. I spent four days with some Cistercian monks, praying, painting, walking, resting. I woke up at 3 am just as More woke up at 2. It was probably the best week of my life. I decided right then that it was not for me. Those glimpses of heaven that come through the monastic life are glimpses that I relish when they come along, but it is something that elevates my mind to God in a very specific way. C.S. Lewis might call it Joy. It certainly is painful at times. Listening to medieval chant, waking in the early morning, hearing the single bell toll for the morning prayer, a chapel built with the hands of the monks in the style of medieval europe. All this is an experience that that I grasp at. But I remember that it is not in the experience, but in what it calls me to. And it calls me to God, to worship the All Powerful. The Father. And He calls me to be like Him, to be a father. He calls me to take up the example of the Cistercians, not to become one. He calls me to infuse my life with prayer, not necessarily to pray the seven Hours. He calls me to something else than the monastic, but my love of the monastic isn't dividing my life but rather infusing it with the fulness of what it means to be a reflective Christian in love with Beauty. To call it an aesthetic appreciation is not quite accurate. It is like when you notice something in a building and you say "Now that is brilliant" and decide to use it in your design. If I am truly called to an active life in the world, the contemplative interior life is a part of it that I cannot afford to leave out. It must in fact be fundamental. The Liturgy must be that from which my action springs. The public work of the Church must inspire my own public work so that it is united to the work of the Church and of Christ.

The second is the influence of More's father on his life. Both in the intellectual life and the personal life, Sir Thomas More was heavily indebted to his father, Sir John. The same is true of me. The education I received was one of the best I have ever heard of. I continually rave about it. Not only was it my father's (and mother's) intention to bring me up to be a thoughtful, intellectual, rational man, but also a prayerful one with two eyes on God (fortunately, I have two eyes in the back of my head, so I often use those. :P) My father taught me the value of books, the value of thinking, the value of feeling and the value of willing. He taught me how to work, how to play, how to create.

All of us kids have developed different interests and directions in life, but one thing is true, no matter what we do, the foundation laid in our education informs everything we do.

Anyway, I think I chose the right patron saint. I have become even more inspired by More after reading the article I linked to above. You should read it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Today I would like to talk about Heavenly insurance.

Not really.

What I really want to talk about is the three As. I will start with Apathy.

Sometimes it just feels like nothing's really going on in your life. At least nothing that matters. This is a pretty common feeling right around the end of a big project. Especially if you're not going to finish (I finished this last one. Yes, including scale figures, titling and North arrow, thank you very much.) Sometimes when there's a lot of stress, you just want to not care. It seems insane to be so stressed and uptight about everything. And yet, is apathy the answer? It truly feels no better than stress, although you have this weird feeling that you're actually not responsible for anything, so it's sort of a chained freedom. I tend to dwell in the land of Apathy a lot.

It gets worse.


Some people think that this is similar to Apathy. It's not. It means being of two thoughts, or in english, being of two minds. But this isn't just a normal "I don't know which to choose" sort of two minds. This is the "I want two things with equal passion and they both seems bad and they both seem good." Either way, you're traveling down the path to destruction. Actually, the choice is tearing you apart, so you're pretty much completely done for. When the stress of life is getting to you and the choices before you both seem to lead to hell on earth, you could use some apathy, right? Wrong. That is wrong. Recipe for disaster. the energy it takes to embrace apathy on a normal day is way too much. Add ambivalence into the equation and you will find yourself imploding, twisting your mind around and around in a vicious cycle of various thoughts that are not helpful, to put it mildly.

Believe it or not, it gets worse.

Anger. When this load of apathy and ambivalence comes crashing down on your head, it's almost unavoidable that you get angry. Why should you care so much? Why can't you just not care? Why can't you choose the path to go? Where is all that help that people talk so much, or are we truly living in a "self-help" society where we're supposed to somehow pull ourselves up out of our apathy and ambivalence...and anger? Where is everybody? And since nobody shows up, all you can do is get angry at them for not coming and you for not being able to Deal.

And then you feel like this:

And you're like: Woah, slow down, buddy. What's the point? Get Triple A! That's right, heavenly insurance. (Seriously? I didn't think I would actually do that to you....) It's a free gift. When we stop looking at ourselves, we can see that Our Father was right there all along. Yeah, sure, maybe we're still confused and maybe we're stressed and don't feel like anything matters, but something does. God isn't like the seasons. He doesn't change. He doesn't get bitter cold so that you call for the heat and then become blisteringly hot so that you scream for the cold. He gives us the seasons to show that He, and not creation, is unchanging and will never abandon us. He is the thing we desire. He is the source and the fulfillment of the passion we feel. He is the Choice to be made. He is the Way the Truth and the Life. He is the Beginning and the End. He can infuse our lives and he can surround us in his love. When we are hurt, we can fall back on the Cross and we will know that our little co-pays of suffering are nothing to what He suffered. And He will always provide us with the strength of the Cross. What's that song they sing? "Blessed Assurance?" I say "Blessed Insurance." I mean seriously, who would give up Free Eternal Life Insurance provided by the Author of Life Himself? It almost makes you want to sing. It almost makes you want to smile. It almost makes you want to listen to this song, because it is beautiful and tells of God's love breaking through our pain:

Leaving aside the beautiful voice, this is what the Heavenly Insurance can do for our three As. If we let Him, God will love us without barriers, without a doubt, without second thoughts. Freedom from apathy, from ambivalence, from anger. Free from fear, distrust, unfaithfulness. Free love? That's Free Love

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A weird analogy....

Imagine playing pin-ball in the following manner: Every time you shoot the ball, you place some sort of blockade so that it will never enter the playing field. You do this because you know that the ball will eventually fall between the flappers either because you're terrible at pinball or you get too tired to play any more. If you let the ball enter the playing field, you will have no time to play pool, or grab a cocktail or hold a philosophical discussion. You will be stuck at the pinball machine until you let the ball through three times. After that, the game is over. You don't want to just fail, and you want to play pool, grab a cocktail, and hold a philosophical discussion. It's better not to start playing at all.

But you love how it feels to pull back the lever and release the ball, but you don't want to have to deal with the time it takes to keep the ball in play and if you're just going to let it fall through, you might as well not even play. But you love the release of the ball, so you set up a blockade.

There are certain times when you insist on the blockade, like when someone comes up and messes up your release. You need to blockade it to prevent the loss of a ball.

To tell you the truth, this is a terrible way to approach the game of pinball. It will eventually ruin the game for you if all you do is release the ball and not play the game. The game was designed to be played.

So, let's all go out there and play pin-ball. And leave the blockades out of it.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Weight of Glory

Some of you may have read a short book by C.S. Lewis called "The Weight of Glory." I know I have. This post is only about this book insofar as it is about the concept of Glory's Weight.

Today at Mass, we didn't sing the Gloria. It was, in the words of the pamphlet, a "Messa senza Gloria." (Disclaimer: This was a Tridentine Mass. We celebrated the Sunday Seventy Days before Easter.) The time before Easter is a time to recall our mortality and our frailty as humans, our need for salvation. The problem is, God's Salvation is kind of a huge deal. For God's glory to descend to the Earth full force would destroy it. That's why God had to become Man. He had to hold the weight of Glory so that is didn't crush the Earth when God sent his Power. Not saying the Gloria during the 70 days (or 40 days) before Easter is symbolic of this reality.

In the altar painting at the church (I think I've mentioned it before. I really need to get a photo of it.), the Crucifix stands at the juncture of heaven and earth. Above is the gold of the Glory of God and below is the darkness of the earth. The Crucifix is literally holding up the weight of glory. It is through the sacrifice of Christ that we are able to access the Glory in appropriate doses. Would we be able to handle a full communion with God in our fallen state? No, so God gives us the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of His Son in the form of bread and wine. Even so, the earth trembled and the veil of the Temple was torn in two trying to hold back the Glory of God that was exposed at the Crucifixion.

We call the resurrected Body of Christ His Glorified Body. The Glory of God has finally been allowed to enter the visible realm. Of course Christ still didn't let it all out. We still can not handle the weight of Glory.

Since I got this concept from C.S. Lewis, I might as well mention that his fictional analogies of the spiritual realm fit very well into the idea of a heavy Glory. In his writings, Lewis mentions that the spiritual is really harder and more substantial than the material. In the Great Divorce, the grass of the Heavenly Vestibule was too hard for the newcomers. In the Space Trilogy, the same concept is discussed. The fact is, the spiritual throws itself at us in such a powerful way that we are thrown against the wall. How much more the Glory of God would press us to the ground in humility. Which is why we need the cross. We need some structure to hold back the Glory of God until we are made whole. In this case, it is through the very structure that holds up the Glory that makes us whole. What a beautiful thing the Cross is! Remember it this Lent as we omit the Gloria, for it is the Cross that both shows us the face of God and protects us from an unworthy reception of the Beatific Vision, which in the Old Testament phrasing would be certain death. But through the Cross we are made worthy so that it might not be death, but Life and when we stand in the presence of God in heaven, the Weight of Glory will be a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

In quei giorni...

In those days, when his son Absalom had been killed against his wish, King David cried out "My son, my son, Absalom, my son!"

That is an extremely abridges rendition of the first reading yesterday that I heard in a Dominican-run, Gothic churched, Roman parish.

While thinking about it, I realized that our relationship with God is quite a bit like Absalom's relationship with David. We are the favored children of God who decided that we should rule the land and thus rebelled against our Father. As St. Paul tells us, the wages of sin is death. So after we sinned against him and brought death on our heads, he cried out "My children!"

Just as David restored his succession through Solomon, God restored his Kingdom through his True Son, the Divine Word, Eternal Wisdom.

But, here's the catch: When thinking about it more, it occurred to me that God, the poet, was going beyond this simple typology of "better son replacing worse son and so saving the kingdom." Christ was not only prefigured by Solomon, but in an awesome twist by Absalom himself.

We call Christ the "new Adam," and indeed he is, but he also the "new Absalom." Just as Solomon finally fulfilled the will of his father as a new Absalom, so did Christ too. But it goes deeper. The poetry becomes even plainer. He wasn't just the new Absalom because he was the new Solomon. No, this poetry has to do with who Absalom was, not who Solomon was.

Absalom represents fallen humanity, as I have said before. Christ "became sin" in order to draw us out of our sin. He represents the emphatic "yes" to the Father who has wept over His fallen children. Absalom appealed to the people through his humble leadership, but Christ fulfilled the call to service that makes a king a king. Absalom wanted to be the "judge of the land." Christ came to "judge the living and the dead."

But wait! Don't run away! There are a couple details that all but the most poetic of gods would have left out. Absalom was found by David's soldiers hanging from a tree after being thrown by his own mule. He was not quite dead, so they dispatched him with three spear wounds. Does this sound familiar? Yeah, the son of the king, the "judge" of the people, the humble servant-king, hanging from a tree. They were certainly "looking on him whom they had pierced." Only Christ was the Son of the Eternal King fulfilling the will of his father, not a rebellious son intent on ruling his father's kingdom.

And at the death of this son, it was not the father mourning, but the Son calling out to His Father to forgive those who put him to death and to accept His Spirit.

The similarities are too striking to overlook. Christ is the fulfillment of all the scriptures because they are the Word of God--ergo, the expression of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. His right hand is too apparent in the stories of the Bible. Ever wonder why there were so many stories of sons and fathers? But Absalom's story is one of those that is full of the same anguish and emotion felt at the Crucifixion. A father mourns over a slaughtered son, but the Slaughtered Son brings him back to the Father.