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Showing posts from October, 2006

A Nightmare for Halloween

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(This is going to be the spookiest post I ever posted, just to let you know) It was a dark and stormy night (actually it was probably just drizzling or something, my dad doesn't remember). The year was 1971, and I was just a wee lad, maybe two years old. We were living in the old apartments across from the Raceway just outside of Trenton, NJ. One night, my dad had a dream... but a vision is a more fitting word for what he saw. Retelling it to me just yesterday still gives him chills. In his dream, there was shadow and fog, and a foreboding gloom. He couldn't say where he was, the space was filled with such a deepening mist. Suddenly, cutting through the darkness was a sight so horrible that he bolted upright shaking. My mother woke at the start and turned to him. Seeing such a fear in his eyes, she asked what it was that he saw. From the dark clouds there hung a thin brown wire, pulled taut by the weight of a small figure that spun slowly around. It was a child, ghastly whi…

Where the Wild Things Are

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I heard a wonderful talk a couple of weeks ago on the topic of Science and Religion and Where They Meet (or something like that), given by a local Catholic scholar. Over pasta and salad in a fancy restaurant, we pondered the perplexing profundity of Power that made all things to Be (sorry, I couldn't resist a little alliteration overload there). In a section of the talk that had some mind-boggling factoids, the speaker called us to reflect on the vastness of the universe. He tossed up some numbers that were nearly impossible for us to catch with our 3.5 pound brains. The Sun is 30,000 light-years from the center of our galaxy. The Sun is 93 million miles from Earth, yet it is 270,000 times closer than the next nearest star. The Sun is only one of the more than 200 billion stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way. The Milky Way is only one of billions of galaxies in the universe. Before these "astro"nomical figures, the human mind just quivers like jelly. "Whoa" is …
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Blurred Faces in Sacred Places Wawa is the name of a convenience store chain in the north-east section of the United States (is it out west too?). You can get chips, soda, batteries, a newspaper, even toilet paper there. And COFFEE. There are those who are addicted to Wawa coffee. I am NOT one of those people, but that coffee is mm mmm good! Now the more I read the Bible and the stories of the saints and that crazy holy Pope John Paul II, the more I begin to see things differently. I can't help it. I can't fight it. The sacramental vision kicks in and I realize we are not alone. Eeeek! We're surrounded by a Supernatural Love. He is everywhere! And everywhere I can find Him, and His angels too, leading and guiding us through our days. The Divine Whisper is just a hair's breadth away from us, if we but bend in to listen... This brings me back to Wawa. The other day I was stopping in for a cup o' joe. I make it a point to try and look the cashier in the eye when I …
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Mass Confusion Some people are bored out of their minds when they go to Church. What they experience in the Mass seems to be completely unrelated to the experiences of life in "the real world." They read Readings, pray Prayers, offer Offerings, and "take Communion." Often it seems they're just going through the motions of a conversation that's uninteresting, but obligatory. Like when you were a child, visiting "older people," and you had to sit in the dining room with them. Now we know from those trusty polls that Church attendance has dropped, belief in the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist has dwindled into a foggy, half-mumbled ascent, and faith in Church leadership has been deeply wounded by recent and ongoing scandals. Not a very comforting picture. For many living in our fast pace, gimme'-something-worth-my-time culture, the kind of experience of Church as a seemingly dry repetition of words and gestures just doesn't "do anyt…

The Cross-Shaped Door

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If I could be Less
I wouldn't be in this mess
But because of my More
I can't fit through the Door!

In the gospel of Mark, we find the story of the "rich young man." I would guess that most of us know it pretty well. A man comes to Jesus, a good man, and he is searching for more than just being Mr. Nice Guy. He has a burning desire to get beyond the mere following of the rules. He has a thirst for something (or perhaps Someone) that the Law simply cannot fully satisfy, so he turns to this new Master.

People say Jesus is... qodesh, different. And He is different. The Hebrew word also means holy. He travels with the poor, He owns nothing, He expects nothing, and yet thousands follow Him. His very glance, they say, can heal. He speaks with authority, and deep joy streams from Him like rivers. They say "We have never seen anything like this before."

Jesus listens to the rich young man's plea, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Haven't we all a…

The Mission Man, of Happy Memory...

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Six years ago today, I had the unbelievable grace of being in Rome for the Jubilee celebration for Missionaries. A World Mission Congress gathered hundreds of missionaries and mission educators from around the world. We had a few days of meetings, prayed together, shared stories, ate pasta and some real gelati, and finally came to a closing liturgy in St. Peter's Square for World Mission Sunday.This Mass was celebrated by Pope John Paul II. As a remembrance of the first missionaries, the Twelve Apostles, twelve men and women were chosen to receive a simple mission cross from the Pope and commissioned "to bring Jesus back to your country." I was given the amazing and unexpected grace to be selected as one of those twelve souls, representing the United States of America!That moment of kneeling before Pope John Paul II, a man I consider a spiritual father, and hearing the prayers and songs of over 80,000 people in St. Peter's Square will never fade from my memory. It wa…
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Old Inuit Song I think over again my small adventures, my fears. Those small ones that seemed so big. For all the vital things I had to get and to reach. And yet there is only one great thing. The only thing - To live to see the great day that dawns and the Light that fills the world.
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Magnetic Love Just a simple yet profound gem today from Pope John Paul II... The presence of Jesus in the tabernacle must be a kind of magnetic pole attracting an ever greater number of souls enamoured of him, ready to wait patiently to hear his voice and, as it were, to sense the beating of his heart. “O taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Ps 34:8). - Pope John Paul II, Mane Nobiscum Domine
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Let's Kayak to Work! My wife is amazing, and she is crazy about celebrating birthdays (lucky for me). So on Saturday, she drove us over to beautiful Chester County, through old farmlands, past crumbling stone walls, and down shady roads that had more twists than an episode of LOST. She wouldn't tell me where we were going. She didn't say what we were doing. And I was very cool with this. After a gorgeous ride through this country, sporting it's finest fall colors, we pulled up to the Northbrook Canoe Company, a string of tired old buildings with wide boards and people wearing flannel shirts. It was nestled beside the cool and meandering Brandywine River. I got out of the car and cried "Woohooooooooo!" Now there is something about water that just cries "God" to me. It's flowing with His presence! Tolkien said that in the music of the sea there is still a trace of that ancient music that made the world. It makes it's way through all the co…
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Mission Moment We are born with a lingering hunger We are born to be unsatisfied We are strangers who can't help but wonder And dream about the other side... - Nichole Nordeman Find out more about this amazing Christian artist at her website

The Eternal Now

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Have you ever been lost in a moment of timelessness? Have you ever felt suspended for a moment, above the tick of the clock? Dancing in a passionate play of words over something you love? An enraptured gaze into the eyes of a newborn? Face to face with someone you love, no words, just experiences? Was it a moment of prayer? A walk through golden leaves or near the music of water? Maybe it was an afternoon spent deep in a book that took you away from yourself for a time... Welcome to the Eternal Now. It's the human adventure! It's what we're destined to do: lose ourselves and give ourselves to God in the Now Moment. St. Augustine knew it well, and shortly before his holy mother Monica left this world, the two of them found themselves overlooking the Tiber river, on a balcony, talking of heavenly things. The scent of eternity thick in the air, they soon broke free of the chains of earth: "So we were alone and talking together and very sweet our talk was ... discussin…
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I WANT TO BE HOLY Let's just say we've opened up our hearts, even just a little crack, to the Awesome Love of God. Let's imagine we've given Him the OK to come on in, pull up a chair, and look at us, face to Face. We've broken through the barrier our culture has built up around us that says holiness is: 1. boring 2. unrealistic 3. overly idealistic 4. ridiculously naive 5. and/or mostly for nice people who aren't offensive We've broken through the lies and discovered that holy means wholly.... it means fully human. Let's imagine we've tasted, swallowed and fully digested that blindingly beautiful phrase of St. Irenaeus from way back before "self-help" that says "the glory of God is man fully alive." The question then would be, practically... How do we remain in Him? How do we live this HOLINESS? Because holiness is not a one time zap of grace, but a lifetime of saying YES. I say number one, we realize that holiness does NOT …
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I don't remember where I found this one, but it's achingly honest and beautiful. God, once again I find myself at an ending and a new beginning, full of mystery, sometimes pain, and a certain aching wonder. I hear you calling me to embrace this new beginning, to move on to discover new and deeper parts of myself. Help me realize that I can be free, that I am being freed at this very moment. Give me vision to see beyond my own small world and to smile at the mysterious path along which you lead me to a richer expression of my uniqueness. I want to live and to love the mystery of living. There is newness and wonder in discovering myself as a unique person, created out of love; in respecting and loving the secret of who I am. But this wonder can be experienced only if I have courage to face the mystery, the uncertainty, the lack of control, the anxiety, the pain. God, give me courage. Help me trust your goodness in all the situations of my life. I hold up to you in prayer the…
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Birthday Boy I'm not looking for well wishes or cards (mostly) , I'm just saying it's me birthday! And to my fair and lovely cousin Ellen, with whom I share a birthday today, I say Happy B-Day to you cousin!! Ah yes, 1969... the moon was just recently stepped on by Neil Armstrong, the fields of Woodstock had just recently been stepped on, slept on, and trampled on. Large antiwar protests were still raging. The colleges of Yale, Bowdoin, and Colgate admitted women for the first time. The supersonic Concorde made its first flight. There was no MTV, no internet, no cell phones. No legalized abortion. No microwave dinners. Why am I listing random stuff like this? It's my birthday.... it's time to party!! See you tomorrow!

In the House of Tom Bombadil

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My journey through Tolkien's classic The Lord of the Rings (my 4th go around, officially) has not been without fruit. New insights abound as I begin to unpack what Tolkien himself called "a fundamentally religious and Catholic work." I'm savoring each image, even more than before. It's the difference between riding in a car at 45 miles per hour and walking at 4 miles per hour. I say, "Huh, I never saw that before" at least twice a chapter. I've reached the House of Tom Bombadil. If you've never read Tolkien, you've missed a good friend in Tom. The four hobbits are making their way through shadow and darkness, through the Old Forest and away from the mysterious Black Riders. They are afraid, they are alone. And Frodo, with only a vague plan and no one to guide him, is carrying the evil Ring of Power. It's weight at times, like the weight of sin, is too much for him to bear. Deep in the Old Forest, in a dark encounter with Old Man Willow…

Good Things Come to Those Who Wonder

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I believe this posture, this attitude, this position, if we could just be open to it, enter into it, walk in it continuously, this one could change the world: It's the posture of Wonder. Think how Wonder would slow us down, stop us in our tracks before we made a rash judgment, or an offensive remark, or grasped at something rather than received it as a gift. Wonder can open our eyes. Wonder can crack the seal on the surface of things. It can break the jar of aromatic perfume that is Life and spread it out and into the world. Wonder is when we open up and say "awe" to the miracle of the persons and things that surround us, encounter us, and penetrate us throughout the day. "Without wonder, men and women would lapse into deadening routine and little by little would become incapable of a life which is genuinely personal." - Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio OK, I want some of this! But how do I get it? How do I fall into this position of Wonder when I don't…

The Rosary: Light on the Face of Christ

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. October is loaded with saints and feasts if you haven't noticed. It's like the Church gets a B12 shot before moving into the cold of winter (respectively, to our non-eastern USA friends!) One of the last letters our beloved Pope John Paul II wrote before he left us was devoted to this favorite prayer of his. Here are a few choice quotes from it:"The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium.It is an echo of the prayer of Mary, her perennial Magnificat for the work of the redemptive Incarnation which began in her virginal womb. With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love."Wow. What a powerful hymn to the power of the rosary. A compe…
"In words make the Word present" Pope Benedict today spoke of the task of the theologian. It is not to speak of God as an object but as a subject, as a Person, not a concept. Not to obfuscate with many words, but through a pure and focused gaze upon His Face, to make a way for the one Word. As theologians, our task is not to hand over dry information, but the water of Life Who is a Person, Jesus Christ. Here is Zenit's article on the sermon: "He who speaks in theology should be God himself," said the Pope. "And our speaking and thinking should only serve to have him heard, so that the world of God can find room in the world." For theologians to attain this kind of purification, he recommended "silence and contemplation," which "serve, in the dispersion of daily life, to keep a permanent union with God." The Pontiff added: "This is the objective: that union with God be always present in our soul and transform our whole bein…
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Sanctuary, Part 2...The media seems to thrive on spinning darkness like a web. How do we escape it? What is the baggage I carry even now, the images from our violent culture, the films and the shows I am drinking in, perhaps heedless of the poison they carry? We have been so bombarded by the media with images of violence, death, and terror. The very real events of war, genocide, and murder that are transpiring sporadically around the globe are selectively gathered up by the media and splashed almost instantaneously into our living rooms. It is shock and awe. Digging up death is sometimes the full time work of media personnel. But when these real events become the story lines for our "entertainment," have we crossed a line? It's this time of the year, as Halloween approaches, that more horror films are released. These "thrillers" are pounded out in teaser trailers that have so much adrenaline, gore and flashy sound bytes that it is a wonder more heart attacks …
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The Barren Francis As the day that belongs to Francis closes, a couple quick thoughts: We need Francis. Because he was radical, meaning, he could see past all the fluff and the pomp and the beaucracy and see JESUS ALONE in poverty at the root. We need Francis. Because he showed us in his own flesh and blood that we can live free in God's Providence. He will provide! Through the great stripping away of our selfishness, God will cloth us even here with all that we truly need. We need Francis. To show us that success is not in numbers or programs, but in each ONE of us turning our faces to God in absolute trust.... To quote again from Fr. McNamara: "One solitary God-centered, God-intoxicated man can do more to keep God's love alive and His presence felt in the world than a thousand half-hearted, talkative busy men living frightened, fragmented "lives of quiet desperation." Dear God, please send us through your holy saints, like light through a prism, the splen…
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Sanctuary - Part 1 Two days ago, another school shooting took place in nearby Lancaster County, PA. This time striking at the peaceful heart of a town that virtually did not know crime. A 32 year old milk truck driver entered a quiet Amish school house and committed unspeakable acts. It appears that 10 young girls were shot execution style and 5 are confirmed dead; the others are in critical condition. It's the third school shooting to happen nationwide within a week. The Amish lead a simple life, an unplugged life. They move with the rhythm of the sun and the seasons. But for this community, the rhythm has been broken by the madness of our age. What do we do in the face of such terror? I think of the children in that school who survived, trembling in that darkness, that place of terror. Though they've survived, still, something of their childhood has been forever lost. They are wounded in a way few can understand; only grace can heal such pain. And I pray that it descends n…
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Angel of God, My Guardian Dear Today is the Feast of the Guardian Angels, and what better way to honor them then with a little teaching, based in Scripture and the Church's Tradition, from Professor Peter Kreeft, teacher and author from Boston College. The Twelve Most Important Things to Know About Angels 1. They really exist. Not just in our minds, or our myths, or our symbols, or our culture. They are as real as your dog, or your sister, or electricity. 2. They’re present, right here, right now, right next to you, reading these words with you. 3. They’re not cute, cuddly, comfortable, chummy, or "cool." They are fearsome and formidable. They are huge. They are warriors. 4. They are the real "extra-terrestrials", the real "Super-men", the ultimate aliens. Their powers are far beyond those of all fictional creatures. 5. They are more brilliant minds than Einstein. 6. They can literally move the heavens and the earth if God permits them. 7. Th…
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Little Flower How can I let the day pass without a word from our little Therese? Happy Feast Day! Our Lord does not come down from Heaven every day to lie in a golden ciborium. He comes to find another heaven which is infinitely dearer to him - the heaven of our souls, created in His Image, the living temples of the Adorable Trinity. - Saint Therese of Lisieux
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Cranky Pants* Just a fair warning, I have my cranky pants on. And yes, it was this morning's homily that did it to me. OK, why complain? What right do I have to criticize a sermon by a trained teacher of the faith? I dunno, I'm just a pew potato, but I do believe we should get our money's worth! (?) After all, Father's had all week to prepare for this 10 minute teaching. And we are starving out here for a word that can stick, a word that can heal and help, a word that can be the spell with which we step out into battle against our own dragons and the dragons of the culture that will no doubt appear to try and defeat us first thing Monday morning. The readings started off strong, really strong. The Letter from James was cutting to the heart. "Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries." The gospel spoke of plucking out your eye if it offends you, cutting off your hand if it leads you to sin. Yikes! This is serious work, this transformati…