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Showing posts from August, 2006
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One Man Can Make a Difference! Yes, you've probably heard this before, in many a movie trailer or inspirational talk. But ponder anew the fact that it's true! By grace poured into the open heart of a man or woman in love with God, incredible things are possible! I heard or read somewhere a story about St. John Vianney, the simple parish priest from rural France who took the world by storm with his transforming holiness. The devil revealed that if there were two more people as open to grace as St. John Vianney alive in the world in his day, then the devil's plans to ensnare souls would fail. Whoa... So here's a piece of Spiritual Dynamite for you..."One silent, 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."- Fr. William McNamara Hmmm, what do you think 'bout that one?
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The Great Divide, Part 2 In yesterday's post, with the inspiration of St. Augustine, we looked at the sad division that exists between the spiritual and the physical. We found that God's original plan for us is one of union and communion, not division and disruption. But sin has weighed us down; our bodies and our souls are often at war. We all have such deep wounds, and twisted truths that the culture has been cramming down our throats our whole lives. But it doesn't have to be this way! Grace gives us the upper hand. Openness to Grace transforms heart and mind and, in a certain sense, restores us to our origins. Grace teaches us the truth about our bodies: that they are meant to be shining sacraments that house the Divine Mystery! What's that? Listen to Pope John Paul's thought: "So in man created in the image of God there was revealed, in a way, the very sacramentality of creation, the sacramentality of the world." Huh? Back to School: A sa…

The Great Divide

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There's something disturbing about this week's Mission Moment from St. Augustine... You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.- St. Augustine I thought that God and the soul and spiritual things were, well, spiritual. What's with the breathing and smelling fragrances, the panting and thirsting? Augustine sounds so... sensual! Wasn't he off somewhere? Wasn't he getting a little carried away? Haven't we progressed from this 4th century, pagan outlook on God and the soul? Actually, we've regressed. In some ways, we've fallen prey to the very heresy that Augustine was set free of back in the "old days." It was called Manicheanism: a gnostic belief system that espoused that the body and the material world as we know it are bad, bad, bad. Material…
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Masterpiece Monday # 6 Today's masterpiece is Domenico Feti's "Moses before the Burning Bush." He was an Italian painter, living from around 1589 to 1623. This portrait of the shepherd of Sinai is one of my favorites because of it's weight and it's warmth. You can feel in the tightly packed space the intimacy of this Encounter. Moses is strong and his flesh browned by the years he's spent tending the flocks of Jethro. As he moves to undo his sandal, his gaze remains fixed on the theophany before him, the shimmering manifestation of that Other World, a World that is now breaking into his own. This mission moment will forever change him, and there will be no turning back. The types are all here, the Lamb appears below, as if to nod in affirmation that God Himself will one day prepare the sacrifice, and the fire pulsates, a heart of flame pointing to that Sacred Heart that will soon be formed in the womb of a Virgin, and beat with the deepest love for huma…

Be Nice to One Another?

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If you've grown up in the midst of a cool Christianity (see the On Fire entry), you might think that the call of the Gospel today is to "be nice." And Jesus said unto them "Be nice to one another as I have been nice to you." But I think we're called to step beyond "nice." To be "nice" is the secular equivalent of being virtuous, but with the fire taken out of it. "Nice" is like bizzaro holiness. It's not a hot word, but it's not cold either. It's like Cream of Wheat without the brown sugar. We say so often today that a given person is "nice" and what do we really mean to say? That person is innocuous. There is no spice in them. They are about as tasty as a meatloaf dinner at a diner (by the way, you should never order a meatloaf dinner at a diner. My wife thinks it should be illegal). Nice is not a heroic adjective. People are called nice if they don't do bad things. It's a word that serves mor…
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WORD UP! Hooray! It's time for a new addition to The Heart of Things blog! Along with such classics (and I use that term very loosely) as Masterpiece Monday, Filmables, and the Mission Moment quote of the week, I now introduce "WORD UP!" - an occasional attempt to redeem the meaning of words! Without a doubt, many of the words we use today have had the soul taken right out of them by a culture that often just can't get beyond the surface of things. Words like love, passion, purity, and God can sometimes fall like empty shells on our modern ears. We think we know what they mean, so the rich seed within is left to wither. But we've got to get to the heart of things, remembering that words are like jewels to be treasured and never tossed around lightly. The WORD UP! for today is humility. Today's gospel is from Matthew 23, and the last line is well known to most: "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Now I…

Nothing News

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Let's face it; the news is ridiculously depressing, most if not all of the time. Call me aloof or out of the loop or an escapist, but most of the time, I'd really rather not read it. I love G.K. Chesterton's insight on how unrealistic the reports can be (if this is your first taste of Chesterton, read slowly and savor it like steak!): We announce on flaring posters that a man has fallen off a scaffolding. We do not announce on flaring posters that a man has not fallen off a scaffolding. Yet this latter fact is fundamentally more exciting, as indicating that that moving tower of terror and mystery, a man, is still abroad upon the earth. That the man has not fallen off a scaffolding is really more sensational; and it is also some thousand times more common. But journalism cannot reasonably be expected thus to insist upon the permanent miracles. Busy editors cannot be expected to put on their posters, “Mr. Wilkinson Still Safe,” or “Mr. Jones, of Worthing, Not Dead Yet.” The…

Mission Moments

I need to stand at the gate of wisdom every morning. If only for a few moments, I need to sit still and listen for a word from God. I started the simple practice of sending the moments I came upon to friends in 2001. I figured with the huge cacophony of words we're bombarded with every day, why not send a small envoy of ones that might stick? Maybe inspire, comfort, stir things up if necessary?

These words are in our midst; in Scripture, in books, poems, songs and scattered conversations. And they have unlimited power, if we listen to them. They have dropped like jewels from God and only wait for us to pick them up and treasure them. I call these Mission Moments, inspiring insights from humanity that, if received with an open heart at the right moment, can alter our attitudes, even change the very course of our lives.

What word will you hear today? What word will you speak? Is there power in it? Does it come from Heaven? Is it bigger than you are, stronger? Does it seem to be lea…
Photo Fraud I just caught this from Steve Ray's website. Photo Fraud regarding the Israeli and Hezbollah conflict. Do our eyes deceive us? http://www.aish.com/movies/PhotoFraud.asp

The Talon or My Near Death Experience at Dorney Park

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Slightly Stale but Still Relevant I have to apologize to my readers. My intention in starting this blog was to share fresh experiences - the thoughts, insights and inspirations that come through daily encounters. I neglected to comment on the event in today's "post" the day after it happened, because... well... my subconscious was trying to block it out. FLASHBACK: My wife's family came down a few weeks ago from NY, and we planned on dazzling them with the many spectacles that can be found in and around the Greater Philadelphia area (no, we did NOT have cheesesteaks). We visited the Franklin Institute, jumped in Logan Square's fountain, paid alot for parking, etc... but the key experience was when we broke the chains of the city and headed north to Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom (I don't know why they don't just call it Dorney Kingdom or something). It was a perfect day to visit Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom - that conglomeration of metal, plast…
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The Fires of Sorrow There was a time when I was reading a page from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers every night, and every night it spoke to me, touching some spiritual nerve or confirming something that had happened that very day. I found this book of scriptural reflections by a Scottish Christian minister of the last century to be drenched in the Holy Spirit. Opening the book would unleash a torrent of insight and inspiration. Today, I want to share a portion of his thoughts on the place of suffering in our lives. Much of his teaching resonates with the Catholic understanding of trials and sorrows: "We say that there ought to be no sorrow, but there is sorrow, and we have to accept and receive ourselves in its fires. If we try to evade sorrow, refusing to deal with it, we are foolish. Sorrow is one of the biggest facts in life, and there is no use in saying it should not be. Sin, sorrow, and suffering are, and it is not for us to say that God has made a mistake …
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Masterpiece Monday #5 When it comes to gracing the canvas with paint, Rogier van der Weyden leads the way as one of my favorite artists. He's from Brussels, a Flemish painter of the Northern Renaissance (1400-1464). For an amazing tour of his work, you can check out the following webpage: www.wga.hu/index1.html and search under W. Of his many crucifixion scenes, this Crucifixion Diptych (2 panel piece) stands like a sentinel on the edge of the Philadelphia Art Museum's Medieval section, and I feel it's his most moving. You can't help once you've seen it but to be drawn into it, even as you turn the corner and enter the final section of rooms. Christ's body in warm and weathered tones is suspended over a flaming banner of crimson, the very color of His Sacred Heart. And at His feet are the bones that gave Golgotha its name; the Place of the Skull. The legend says these are the very bones of Adam, the first man. How fitting that Christ should offer His Life on …

A Power Quote from Fulton J. Sheen

This one helped me see the need for a redemption of some of our words from a fallen understanding of them, starting with the word Love. "Love does not mean to have and to own and to possess. It means to be had and to be owned and to be possessed. It is not a circle circumscribed by self, it is arms outstretched to embrace all humanity within its grasp."- Bishop Fulton J. SheenJesus is the perfect reflection of this Love. And we came to know love in this, as St. John told us, that God first loved us. Ours is the response to Love that enables us to then offer love to others. Love is not our own invention, a concoction we created, but the very Sea of God's own life in which we were born. +Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld

Faces and Places

I was in the city yesterday; met Rebecca for lunch and then ran some errands. Actually, I walked some errands. And there is nothing like a walk through the city; there's the traffic and the noise, sure. Some beautiful architecture, shops, etc. But the best part is when you look up and allow the great wave of human faces to wash over you. The city is a microcosm; a world in miniature. I saw busy men busily walking, talking into their plastic devices, women without haste pointing out flowers to their babies, and the elderly sliding along at an even slower pace, perhaps in an effort to teach us that life moves fast enough already, no need to push it along. Turning a corner onto Market Street, another wave breaks over me, and I see broken men slumped over plastic bags, full of our discarded treasures. What stories could they tell? A pair of young faces, sitting on a corner near a store, looking weathered, tired, tatooed, and thoroughly pierced. The young man held a sign: "Travell…
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On Fire, Part Two FROM YESTERDAY: It seems there's a cool Christianity all around us. .. the world is getting colder. But fire happens when we allow God to be God in our lives... Scott Hahn once wrote (in his excellent book A Father Who Keeps His Promises) that there is only One Fire, but two reactions to it. He said the fire of God's love is the same fire that burns in Hell. If we surrender to Love, we burn with the Passion of the Saints. But if we cast ourselves away from that Love and seek a counterfeit or a quick fix here below, the Fire still exists. But we are on the outside, and the heat is unbearable. How? Because our hearts have put up walls, and at our very core, we are cold. Oh the mystery of free will! The mystery that God has given us the very power to refuse His Love! God offers and invites, because love can never be forced. This is a deep mystery and we need to sit still with it. God is a Fire of Love, and we are called into that Love. It can hurt, it can bur…
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On Fire I had breakfast with a friend yesterday; a fellow lover of God, Life, and the Universe at large. Our talk took us deep into the Mystery before the eggs even hit the table (man, that was a good omelet by the way. Nice job Perkins!) We were sharing about our own journeys, insights from prayer, scripture, and Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. Thoughts starting flying like sparks, bouncing off of the formica, and glancing off of the glasses and cups. Fire was something we spoke of, and what the Spirit led us to see was that the very life of God is a consuming fire. He truly wants to set the world ablaze. Even the Pope's final letter on the Eucharist hinted at it: "when we eat the Eucharist, we eat fire..." And John Paul's wish in that last letter was to "rekindle a eucharistic amazement"! Then we looked at the Church today, and the experience of a regular guy going to a typical mass at a regular old parish. From a certain stance (and this…
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The Paradoxical Power of Obedience Here's a word that can often cause a knee-jerk reaction in many of us: obedience. It can conjure up images of childhood, of intrusive chores to be done, or adventurous dreams of camping out in the fort behind the house crushed. Obedience... bam! Conversation over! And then there are all those commandments and rules and holy days of obligation and stuff! Obedience; the word can fall on our ears like a hammer... thud. But let's get to the heart of things. What's the root of this word? It's Latin (of course). Obedare means.... to hear. Maybe the words we heard when we were young were harsh. Maybe they fell like hammers, and the handle was always "Because I said so." Well, this is unfortunate, and I would propose that we need to redeem the word; to clear away the clutter of bad connotations that parents or authorities or superiors or bosses may have piled on top of the word obedience. "Blessed are they who hear the Word…
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Pics from Maine Well, for anyone interested (who loves Maine, sunsets, flowers, little kids, a blurry moose), I have posted a "secret link" to a small photo album of our Maine vacation on my website. On the "About Bill Donaghy" page you may find a blank space that, when rolled over with your mouse, might just reveal to you, the viewer, a "hidden" and "secret-type-like" image! That's Amazing!! Click and enjoy, but be warned... the pictures are ginormously big. Sorry about that!

Our Destiny

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Today is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. This can be a difficult teaching of the Catholic Church for some to grasp or even see the relevance of in today's world. Catholics are called to believe that the body and soul of the Mother of Jesus was taken up into heaven sometime in the first century of Christianity. OK, that sounds really beautiful. But what does this have to do with me? What kind of connection do I even have with Mary after all? So her body is "up there"... in heaven. I'm here on earth. I hope I make it to Heaven some day, but that some day can seem pretty distant from my daily life. What difference does it make anyway whether I believe in this or not? Why is the Assumption of Mary a "holy day of obligation" (and that phrase doesn't exactly warm me up inside either). The various denominations of Christianity apart from the Catholic Church often see all this talk of Mary, feast days and prayers, rosaries and medals, as distractions from…

80's Music as a Proof for God's Existence

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I believe 80's music is one of the proofs for God's existence. Especially the stuff from Foreigner. Listen to the longing for love and communion in this one!!:"Now this mountain I must climb Feels like a world upon my shoulders through the clouds I see love shine It keeps me warm as life grows colder In my life there's been heartache and pain I don't know if I can face it again Can't stop now, I've traveled so far To change this lonely lifeI wanna know what love is I want you to show me I wanna feel what love is I know you can show me..."OK, more on this one later.....+

A Powerful Word from Clive Staples

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I'm preparing for a talk this Thursday night, and found an old favorite from C.S. Lewis. This one pours straight from his poet heart, so richly inspired by the ancient myths:"It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you may talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you now meet if at all only in a nightmare.All day long we are in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in light of these overwhelming possibilities it is with awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. …

Fire in the Thistle

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It's our last day in Maine, and I took a long walk this morning down Fitch Road. The sun was brilliant, and a few crisp clouds loafed through the blue fields like lazy sheep. No humidity, and the temperature about 60 degrees (no, it's not the Truman Show, it's Maine!). I must have walked about 2 miles an hour. Maybe you've heard the adage "We were created human BEings, not human DOings." I think, for me, it's partly being caught and taught by the culture to produce, to keep busy because being busy means you are important, you are "contributing." You have "things to do." And when you have things to do, you must be important. "I have a to do list. I have a cell phone and must check my messages. I have a meeting to go to. It is very important."We've made our own anxiety these days; we have it pumped in via our "time-saving devices" like the cellphone, e-mail, etc. A monster has been created and we do not know wher…

The Hermit of Manana Island

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"Ray Phillips was born in 1892, attended the University of Maine, fought in World War I, held down a job in New York City in the bustling 1920s, and then, seemingly on a whim, happily decided to leave it all behind for a life of solitude on the tiny, isolated island of Manana, Maine. He spent the rest of his life there, with a herd of sheep and a gander, and a small wooden rowboat, in a shack made out of materials that washed up onto the shore." - taken from www.thehermitofmanana.comYesterday, my wife and I hiked the sun-washed coastal trails and soft sun-dappled pine woods of Monhegan Island, and from time to time, across the tiny harbor, we could see the pool of rock and grassy fields that Ray called home for some 40 years: Manana Island. Monhegan Island (population 65 year-round) has its comforts and plenty of tourism; every other home there seems to have a gallery or studio attached to it. But it is a rustic, out-of-the-way place. Year round life there is not easy, for a…

On the Sea

Well, we're back from Moosehead and the North Woods of Maine, and at the moment sailing over to Monhegan Island, 10 miles off the coast of Maine. The briny foam is churning, seabirds are screeching and circling behind our ferry. And I have a signal... Satellites. Wow. There's been evidence of people fishing for swordfish off of Monhegan all the way back to 200 B.C. That's just crazy! Now it's a favorite spot for artists and poets, and those celebrating their wedding anniversaries ;)Peace and Salty Air!. Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld

"Let's just watch this day pass by."

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This was my father the other day, summing up the mood for us as we began our first day in Maine. A lazy breakfast, lazy stroll through the harbor town of Camden, and a lazy evening at my brother's place, tucked away behind oak and pine woods in the little town of Washington. Cooking up steaks, watching Ella run around, and catching glimpses of goldfinches as they dipped and dodged through the tree branches beside the house. But being lazy is hard work. Letting go of plans, not checking e-mail, not posting religiously to a blog (hmm), not looking at your cell phone every 15 minutes, is hard! Try it sometime!"Ours is a time of continual movement which often leads to restlessness, with the risk of "doing for the sake of doing". We must resist this temptation by trying "to be" before trying "to do"." - Novo Millennio Ineunte, JPIIPope John Paul II was and is the MAN. He recognized our restless itching to keep busy and tried to hush us, like a fa…

Deep Thought

Martin Buber once said "Solitude is the place of purification."As I woke early today and sat out in the stillness of the morning, on the front porch of my father's cabin in these quiet Maine woods, I had a taste of it. Things get clearer when the dust of our daily movement is given time to settle. In solitude we can see...Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld

The Heart of Things - Maine, The Way Life Should Be

Yes, it's a bold statement. Scrawled across many a t-shirt, mug and bumper sticker throughout this northern land: Maine, The Way Life Should Be.Bold, but it's true. At this very moment, the missus and I are heading NORTH (there's something mystical just in that statement!) A week in the balsam-scented, boulder-speckled, lake-covered hills and forests of Maine!. My dad has a little cabin in a little town that has a little post office where they always ask you about LIFE. And so we're going to those woods "to live deliberately".... for a week. I've been taking this route north for nearly 20 summers now. Maine is a wild, burning blue sky with air so clean and crisp it must be taken in slowly and prayerfully, like meeting someone older than you are. SPOTS IN TIME: Being nearly run over by a bullmoose, biking down a logging road (I was biking, clearly) when he burst out of the brush, nearly 7 feet at the shoulder.Sleeping on the shore of Moosehead Lake, watch…
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Poets Today's first reading and the gospel from today's mass got me thinking (and I didn't even have my morning coffee yet). Jeremiah is asked to rise up and go to the potter's house. So he goes. He watches the potter do his stuff for awhile; his callous hands working the wheel, shaping things from wet clay. Sometimes it works out, other times it crumbles, but he keeps working with the clay. A light goes off in Jeremiah's head; it's like us in God's hands. Then in the gospel, Jesus, working from similar observations of his surroundings, talks about a net fishermen have thrown into the sea, collecting fish of every kind. "When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets." It's like the Father embracing and drawing all of us and what is in all of us into His Heart. And He sits with us on the shore and we discover just what is good and just what we need to throw out of our hearts. Stop, Look, Listen - the big,…
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Deep Thought for the Day The Internet causes billions of images to appear on millions of computer monitors around the planet. From this galaxy of sight and sound will the face of Christ emerge and the voice of Christ be heard? For it is only when his face is seen and his voice heard that the world will know the glad tidings of our redemption. This is the purpose of evangelization. - Pope John Paul II

Beware of the Good Stuff!

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Here's a life story that would make an excellent movie: St. Ignatius of Loyola. (I would vote for Jim Caviezel to act the part). Born in 1491 in northern Spain, he was the baby of 13 children. At the age of 16, he worked as a page for Juan Velazquez, treasurer of the kingdom of Castile. As a member of the household, Ignatius was often at court and fell into a deep attachment towards all it offered. He was a gambler, a womanizer, and loved a good deal of swordplay when the occasion fell on him. He would actually walk around dressed in fighting array, wearing a breastplate, sword, etc! During a battle against the French, Ignatius was struck in the legs by a cannon ball. It wounded one leg and broke the other. As he was recuperating over those long months, he asked for some books to brush away his boredom. Romance novels, knight's tales was what he really wanted. But in the castle of Loyola, all he got was a copy of the life of Christ and a book on the saints. With nothing else …