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Showing posts from November, 2006
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Reflections on the Word - 1st Sunday of Advent December 3, 2006 - Reading 1 - Jer 33:14-16 What are you waiting for? What are you looking forward to? What is the star you are following? When I was young, I had my markers, my signposts that kept me moving, getting up out of bed every morning through those groggy teenage years. I loved the idea, the sense, the feeling of expectation. So often I would project my thoughts into the future and dream of that next good thing. From the ridiculous to the sublime; getting an Atari 2600 for Christmas (what a classic!) or maybe it was the next Star Wars movie (we had to wait 3 stinkin' years for the Empire Strikes Back!). Perhaps it was the next Sunday, when I might catch a glimpse of the Mysterious Girl Who Always Sat on the Far Side of Church. Oh those nerdy, self-conscious high school years! "The days are coming," says the Lord. So begins the Prophet Jeremiah in this first Sunday of Advent. The days are coming... Jeremiah puts…
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Floundering Faith

When I was young we used to love to go "fluking" at Captain Mike's. We'd get up around 5am and drive through the Pine Barrens to the Jersey shore, to a smelly strip of weathered old buildings on the green fly infested edge of Tuckerton. We'd rent a little boat for the day and tool around the salt water channels, catching the drifts, and catching some rays. Our mornings were spent slicing up squid into slippery strips, and then baiting our hooks with them, as well as the ever faithful "keelies" which were sure to be wasted on the sea robins (very cool to look at but not to eat, by the way). All the while we'd be stuffing chips and sandwiches into our faces with our unwashed hands. Ah, what fun! Makes you want to throw up, doesn't it? Needless to say, it was Dad who took us "fluking." And we LOVED IT.

We'd bring the old radio and pop in our Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem tapes, or maybe some John Cougar (Mellancamp)…

Minimize Me!

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It's Black Friday! Aaaaaggggghhhhhh!!! This is the day when millions of insane people (please don't take this personally) who were nestled in perfectly legitimate turkey comas and invited to participate in National Sleep In Day, willingly (WILLINGLY!) got out of bed at 3am and went shopping. They are out there right now. They are drinking lots of coffee. Don't get in their way. The following reflection was inspired by this secular feast day, but let it be known: I like a good deal as much as the next guy, and I too have been snared many times over by.... the BIGGIEMAN.Lemme 'splain...In mainstream America, we have BIG culture. I don't mean a lot of culture, I mean BIG culture. We love to maximize and biggie-size. We love those "Buy 6 get 1 free deals," even when the item is a cheese grater. When someone says "Do you want the Behemoth Burger and Jumbo Bucket o' Fries for only .30 more?"... generally we say "sure." This is not becaus…
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Thank you President Abraham Lincoln! You made an inherently religious act a national holiday! Thanksgiving has indeed become one of the most sacred of secular holi(y)days for Americans. Not only does this day give us pause from our little rat races, but it draws us back to the family, where we reminisce, recreate, and invariably recline after some serious FOOD. This is so good, so warm, and so true. For it all, we are thankful. Not to the cold Universe, or to some vague Power, but to the Father, from Whom all good things come! The posture of thanksgiving is one of humility, and that too is so good. We look up with hands that were empty yet now are full and we say again one of the first phrases we were ever taught - "Thank you." Now here's a way to stay in that position, and it works wonders. I used to do this, and God has inspired me to kickstart it again; it's the Gratitude Journal. In this week of Thanksgiving, America, let's start a new tradition. Three t…
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The Nativity Story: A Review We've just come fresh from a private screening of the New Line Cinema movie "The Nativity Story." The film chronicles that year in the life of Mary and Joseph that forever altered the course of human history. It's the Christmas story, told beautifully in rich, earthen tones. The journey takes us from a windy garden annunciation of Gabriel to the Holy Birth soaked in starlight, ending with the flight of Mary and Joseph with the Child into Egypt. First Impressions: For me, the real treasures of this film lie in its attention to detail; the humble village of Nazareth is recreated with such evident devotion that this alone makes the film a joy to watch. We are invited to enter into the daily life of Mary, Joseph and their kin. We move with their schedules, we perform their everyday rituals, and it slows us down. These scenes are so rich with authenticity! Mary's coarse cloak, handwoven and weathered, brushing past the wheat; Joseph at…

When Do I Have to Believe All This Stuff?

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We are filled when we are young with all manner of information; people and places, dates, and diagrams, maps and mathematical formulas, theories and theorems. We are filled to overflowing with information. Then, in the middle of this cacophany of cognitive activity (we hope, we hope, we hope), something happens. Something wonderful. It's the something every teacher dreams of and looks for in his or her students, like a gold digger looks for sparkles in the glassy-eyed riverbed. It's the moment when the mind opens and the channel from the brain to the heart is cleared of obstructions. Information turns into formation. The heart hears, recognizes and responds. The pupil dilates, expanding to let in the light. I love teaching. LOVE it. I love to dive into a classroom of 15 year olds who have been drinking in the foul air of our culture and offer them the sweet fragrance that is Christ. The scent of eternity that the human heart, at every age, secretly and deeply longs for, thoug…
It's Stupid, Really Just when you think the secular media can't sink any lower (than using sex to sell M&M's), someone actually publishes and offers a timeslot for the following, just in from CNN: O.J.'s latest: 'If I Did It, Here's How It Happened'' LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- In a new TV interview and book, O.J. Simpson discusses how he would have committed the slayings of his ex-wife and her friend "if I did it." The two-part television interview, titled "O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened," will air November 27 and November 29 on Fox, the TV network said Tuesday. "O.J. Simpson, in his own words, tells for the first time how he would have committed the murders if he were the one responsible for the crimes," the network said in a statement. "In the two-part event, Simpson describes how he would have carried out the murders he has vehemently denied committing for over a decade." I…

A Tale of Two Grapes, Part Four, The End...

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Could this be the Something More? The Moment that Agapito the Grape longed for? In an act that would forever change him, he turned his face towards the Shape... And let go of the Vine. All that he knew brushed past him, then Hand took hold of him, and he fell into shadow.... Agapito found himself in total darkness. He could not remember much of the events of the last few days. There was fear, an exhilarating rush, and movements so fast his thoughts could not keep up with them. He howled past the leaves and branches of the Vineyard, the old latticework, and the hills. He saw new sights and heard new sounds, and he was full of the Mystery of it all. Everything was a blur, like the days on the Vine when Wind would blow and the leaves would sing. Then everyone would cry and cling to the Vine for fear of being torn from It. But it was those days, incidentally, that Agapito loved the most! He tried to piece it all together, and recalled that there were many others with him; a whole multit…

A Tale of Two Grapes, Part Three

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"We're meant to be raisins, old wrinkled and sweet So cling to this Vine and never retreat! When Hand comes to take you, hold tight or you'll die Stay safe in the Shadows, keep facing the SkyAs much as you can, beware of the Feet We're meant to be raisins, old wrinkled and sweet." Agapito sighed as the night breeze began to whisper through the Vine. Maybe there's another way to live, he thought. Maybe there's another Ancient Song, older than Adhaesio's. Maybe that Song is fearless.... The next morning, Agapito awoke with the other Grapes. The morning dew was heavy on their glossy skins and many on the Vine began their morning rituals. Drinking, slurping, growing fat on the Vine, and unfolding their leaves for the Sun to warm them. That Sun was just now glimmering on the Edge of the Vineyard. Suddenly, Agapito felt a strange trembling sensation in the pit of his little grape heart. A great wave was rising and rumbling through the Vine. Every Grape felt…

A Tale of Two Grapes, Part Two

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From the corner of his eye, Agapito saw a shape moving quietly through the shadows below. It was a shape he'd never seen before; tall, free, and moving softly through the Vineyard. Something stirred in Agapito. Perhaps this was a sign of the Something More? The shape was gone in an instant, lost from his sight by the tangle of leaves and the rich clusters of other grapes all around him. Drawn deeper into his thoughts, Agapito grew silent and pondered what this might mean... Later that day, as the Sun tipped low in the sky, pouring its benediction of light over the Vineyard, Agapito the Grape was still deep in his thought. Gazing but not looking at a patch of dark leaves in the Vine, a sudden shock pulled him from his ponderings. He found himself staring into the oldest, wrinkliest pair of eyes he had ever... laid eyes on. "Wazzityooosed?" squeaked an old voice. "Pardon me?" said Agapito, aware now of an elderly Grape who was beside him on the Vine. It was so…

A Tale of Two Grapes, Part One

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Once upon a time, there were two grapes. Their names were Agapito and Ampelio. Aren't those fantastic names? As the Sun rose one morning over the Vineyard, brilliant as ever, and the glistening dew warmed away from their shiny skin, as comfortably as ever, Agapito pondered their purpose in the Vineyard. "What's our life about, Ampelio?" he whispered, slightly conscious of the cluster of grapes around them. "I mean what is... Life?" "Eh? Life?" yawned Ampelio. "THIS is the life, Agapito. What else is there? To grow fat on the vine, to enjoy the Sunshine, to drink in the dew, to be talking with you. That's the life, Agapito. Any other questions?" Agapito looked troubled, as only a grape can. "But, I just get this sense sometimes... that were called to Something More." "Called?" cranked Ampelio, slightly disturbed, as the vague remembrance of Agapito's perplexingly ponderous personality came back to him. &qu…
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Beauty that Burns: A Filmable! I was recently watching one of my favorite films, Hero. It's a patchwork quilt of stories, all woven around the same characters. Each story is from a different perspective, and in each retelling the figures are robed in a different color. Jet Li, the renowned martial artist (and he is an artist) is a central figure. In the style of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, this film is visually stunning. It is a feast for the eyes. It's a heart-breaking story of sacrifice, honor, love for country and letting go. I think the Truth gets muddied along the way, and the conclusion seems to affirm a Communist China. But glimmers of the Good are seen along the way. In one poignant episode, a calligraphy school becomes a place of martyrdom when an army comes to shut down this oasis of Chinese culture. The white-bearded headmaster stands his ground and calls to his pupils to return to their places just as a swarm of black arrows descends upon them like locusts. …
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Snowflakes A very short but sweet article on Catholic Exchange today, clarifying for us yet again on the embryonic stem cell debate. "It is that simple. Stem cell research is a good and it is moral according to Catholic social teachings. Many cures have been discovered through research on stem cells taken from umbilical cords or from fully developed persons. What makes stem cell research immoral is when it requires killing a living human being..." Read the article in full here.
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Extreme Toothbrushes! I don't know if you've noticed, and here I speak to the older crowd.... but toothbrushes are out of control these days. I guess it was just the other day when I realized you should update your brush every ten years or so. To my surprise, there's a veritable army of brushes out there now.... fully loaded! They've got sparkles, gel grips, sportgrips, SpongeBobs, ScoobyDoos, racing stripes, ground effects... I think mine has voicemail, I just have to get around to activating it. Sportgrips? Come on! As if it could get away! How fast do YOU brush? Anyhoo, I was just noticing. I'm not going to make any profound connections to our fast-paced culture or anything (I guess I just did). I really want everyone reading this (all three of you) to wake up to the fact that our toothbrushes are intense! Just be careful out there everybody.
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Holy Now There's a tune I first heard Dave Wilcox sing a few years back. It was a song called Holy Now by Peter Mayer. It struck me that night at an open air autumn concert as pure beauty. Sitting with the lyrics some more, I see some of the theology could get a little murky. It's not the truest sacramental vision that the Church holds as a treasure for us to open, but I feel the vision is still inspired. Here's my favorite verse: "This morning, outside I stood and saw a little red-winged bird, Shining like a burning bush, singing like a scripture verse. It made me want to bow my head, I remember when church let out, How things have changed since then… everything is holy now. It used to be a world half there, Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down, But I walk it with a reverent air ‘cause everything is holy now." Happy Sunday!
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Circle Up It's early November. Crisp and cool the days are, and the leaves are letting go. The sun tips and pours his light into the nooks and crannies of trees, stone walls and ledges. The stars are fiery gems wrapped in the cloak of the night. Who can peer into the dark, cool waters of these days and not see reflected in their deep currents our own mortality? 'Tis the season to ruminate, contemplate, and conversate. I think we should have a bonfire. All of us. We could gather 'round, wrapped in sweaters, our breath coming out in puffs in the frigid night air. We could tell stories, all of us. Ponder the deepest of questions deep into the night. Watch the flames flash and glow, the waves of heat roll through the embers, shimmering liquid fire, and then the sparks pop and spin up into the "mystical moist night air." And we would soon be warm again. Warm with words and human company. We could watch and listen, as the great heart of humanity rose and fell, keepi…

A Dream for All Souls Day

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In November of 1993, my grandfather died. Over the short time he spent in the hospital, the family was given the grace to come and see him. It was a chance to speak our goodbyes, but Grandpa was speechless. He could see us, his eyes could pierce our own with a sorrow and pleading that I never saw in him before that day, but he could not speak. The stroke had robbed him of words. So we gathered, and prayed. We told him we loved him, and he was given the Anointing of the Sick. In that month of the Holy Souls, my family hoped that he would make his peace with God, that he would be able to trust, to rest. A scapular was placed on the bed post. My father saw Grandpa try to make the Sign of the Cross once or twice, but those frail arms would not obey. Frustrated, locked in silence, this man of the Old Sod who fought in World War II, worked as a welder for over 30 years, raised ten children, and loved his John Wayne movies, gave up his last breath on a Saturday, Our Lady's Day, wearing …
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It's the Feast of All Saints! Woohoo!This is yet another day, and there are many of them in the Church's calendar, when the "universal call to holiness" beeps in and says "Hello, are you there? Answer me." Holiness, sheesh... I'll just let that one go to voicemail. Heard it all before anyway. Being holy means I lose my individuality and get subsumed into a big mass of people who are all good with nice haircuts and see the bright side of things all the time, like Ned Flanders. Well, that ain't me. Some things just get me angry, or frustrated. Sometimes I doubt. Sometimes I'm afraid I could never reach such high standards. Sometimes I just want to be silly, goof off. Sometimes I just want to be me. I mean, I'm only human. Well, to be human should mean to be holy. "The glory of God," St. Irenaeus says, "is man fully alive." Do we know what this even looks like? We've been duped and the devil has distorted what it means …