Monday, April 30, 2007

Just a Little Gem from Clive Staples

Been away from the blog for a few days... busy busy busy. So here's a quick word from the "Man":

It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. 'Look out!' we cry, 'it's alive'. And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back - I would have done so myself if I could - and proceed no further with Christianity. An 'impersonal God' -- well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads - better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap - best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband - that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion ('Man's search for God!') suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?


- C.S. Lewis, from Miracles


Thursday, April 26, 2007

When Dating Gets Real - For the Young and "Old"

This article appears in the Catholic Standard & Times this week. It's directed to teens (but could also apply to teens at heart ;) How can I bring God into a dating relationship? What a powerful question — but I feel I should warn you right from the start, that's dangerous business. Once you let God in, there's no telling where things might end up. In the immortal words of Kip Dynamite, you just might find your "soul-mate" and be ridiculously at peace for the rest of your life. First off, I think we should revisit just what we mean when we speak of the reality of God. I think this is key, because the world can often distort the true image of God. The clear waters of our baptism can get a little muddied by our personal sins, and a true image of God can get twisted into something either scary, distant, or always wagging a finger at us when we mess up. Is that God? Let's go back to the beginning. Remember when you were 5 or 6 years old, and the world was one big wonderland? Everything was a gift then, wasn't it? From a snack to a bike ride to snowflakes. Here's the thing: We need to see everything still as a gift, as something flowing from the Giver that is meant to bring us joy. That counts for people, too. So as you grow older, meet new friends, start dating, the best attitude is to see in everything the gift that God wants to give. A mystic named Caryll Houselander once said, "Every ordinary thing in your life is a word of God's love. Your home, your work, the clothes you wear, the air you breathe, the food you eat… the flowers under your feet are the courtesy of God's heart flung down on You! All these things say one thing only: "See how I love you.'" Wow.

So who is God? Ultimately the One whose love is the seed of all loves. If that's the case, how could we not have Him as a part, and, indeed, the heart, of all our relationships, especially the ones that have the spark of love in them? If we keep God (a.k.a. Love) out of our relationships, then what are they based on? Startling News All that is good, true, and beautiful participates in God. When you see a great movie that moves you, and you talk about it, you're sharing in God. When you go to visit your boyfriend's sick grandfather, or go to Mass on a Sunday with your girlfriend (a great idea) you're living in God. When you walk in the fields together and you're struck by the beauty of creation, you are both sharing in the beauty of the Creator. If you're an honest seeker of the good, the true and the beautiful, then you already have God at the heart of your relationships. The next step is naming this — acknowledging Him — not being afraid to admit that He's the One you want at the heart of your dating. (It's a great way to clear away superficiality and pettiness, trust me.) Letting God into our dating is a real adventure. It keeps things real, and wakes us up to the miracle of our uniqueness — the uniqueness of everyone, every shade and texture on this coat- of-many-colors that is the human family. That is not easy, especially for teenagers with the weight of peer pressure bearing down. But we must look into each other's eyes. We must return to that innocence and openness that we had as children, looking, seeing, receiving the gift, not grasping at it. If we see dating as sharing in God's gifts, then life will become that adventure. There's a line at the end of Les Miserables: "To love another person is to see the face of God." Wow. Take that one to the dating scene. Make respectful love the first move, not lust, and you'll find God in the center of that relationship. Let the journey begin.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Miraculous Staircase

Here is the story on that mysterious staircase...

"Two mysteries surround the spiral staircase in the Loretto Chapel: the identity of its builder and the physics of its construction. When the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1898, there was no way to access the choir loft twenty-two feet above. Carpenters were called in to address the problem but they all concluded access to the loft would have to be via ladder as a staircase would interfere with the interior space of the small Chapel. Legend says that to find a solution to the seating problem, the Sisters of the Chapel made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Months later the elegant circular staircase was completed, and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him, some concluded that he was St. Joseph himself, who came in answer to the sisters' prayers.

The stairway's carpenter, whoever he was, built a magnificent structure. The design was innovative for the time and some of the design considerations still perplex experts today. The staircase has two 360 degree turns and has no visible means of support. Also, it is said that the staircase was built without nails—only wooden pegs. Questions also surround the number of stair risers compared to the height of the choir loft and about the types of wood and other materials used in the stairway's construction."

- from www.lorettochapel.com

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Faithful Traveler website!

If you're looking for the website we just spoke of on the Heart of Things radio broadcast, here it is! And thanks to Diana and David von Glahn for an awesome and inspiring ministry! www.thefaithfultraveler.com "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." ____________________________________________ From their website: About The Faithful Traveler The Faithful Traveler™ is a travel show with a Catholic focus. The show's host, Diana von Glahn, will explore the art, architecture, history, and doctrine behind the many shrines and places of pilgrimage throughout the United States and beyond. You'll learn about the faith and tradition of the Catholic Church and gain helpful information to plan your own pilgrimages. Diana von Glahn has been including shrines, churches, and places of pilgrimage in her travel itineraries for as long as she can remember. As a lifelong Catholic, she has always loved the feeling of home that each Catholic location brings, no matter where it is. Through The Faithful Traveler™, she hopes to share her love of these amazing sites with others, and help them learn about the wonders of the Catholic faith and tradition. She researches, writes, and performs in each show, and she helps her husband David edit the show and choose music for each episode. Click here for their map of the USA's Catholic shrines and holy places!

Feast of the Conversion of St. Augustine

A tribute to St. Augustine, as we celebrate his life 1620 years after his baptism! ___________ "Augustine's life as a young man was characterized by loose living and a search for answers to life's basic questions. He would follow various philosophers, only to become disillusioned with their teachings. For nine years he was associated with the Manichean sect. But he gradually became aware that Manicheism was unable to provide sastisfactory answers to his probing questions. At this time, Augustine was teaching rhetoric in Milan. He went to hear the preaching of Saint Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan. At first he went only to hear Ambrose's eloquent style of speaking. But the Bishop's preaching led Augustine to a new understanding of the Bible and the Christian Faith.

Some time in the year 386, Augustine, his mother Monica, his son Adeodatus, and several friends, were spending time in Cassiciacum, a small village near Milan. While outdoors, Augustine heard the voice of a child singing a song, the words of which were, "Pick it up and read it. Pick it up and read it." He thought at first that the song was related to some kind of children's game, but could not remember ever having heard such a song before. Then, realizing that this song might be a command from God to open and read the Scriptures, he located a Bible, picked it up, opened it and read the first passage he saw. It was from the Letter of Paul to the Romans. Augustine read: Not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual excess and lust, not in quarreling and jealousy. Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh. -Romans 13: 13-14 Reading this scripture, Augustine felt as if his heart were flooded with light. He turned totally from his life of sin. He was Baptized by Ambrose during the Easter Vigil April 24, 387. His friend Alypius and his son Adeodatus were Baptized at the same time.

Later, reflecting on this experience, Augustine wrote his famous prayer: You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. He went on to become a powerful influence on the spirituality and theology of the Christian Church."

- Taken from: http://www.midwestaugustinians.org/saints/s_augconversion.html

This Will Never Happen Again

A fellow teacher sent us an e-mail today pointing out the fact that at 3 minutes and 4 seconds after 2 AM on the 6th of May this year, the time and date will be 02:03:04 05/06/07

Is that cool or what? Worth staying up to experience? That's another question!

+

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Wait of Glory

I didn't watch the news coverage last week, other than a 10 second blurb. I haven't clicked on a single video from www.cnn.org. I saw a picture of Choh, but I have yet to read a full article anywhere on the story of Virginia Tech. I don't want to hear about the "record" set, or find a scapegoat to blame for the mistakes made in the two hours between shootings. I want to look at people's faces. I stopped in a Wawa last Tuesday, and I found myself captivated by the tiny hands of the Russian girl in front of me, with her little pink purse. I was mystified by the big man with the tattoos and the dark greasy hair writing a check at the register. I was captured by the haltered step of an elderly man in a grey suit, making his way towards the soda machine, moving slowly through the noise and haste. Where did these people come from? Where were they going? Did they each have a person they could talk to, pour out their hearts to, share silences with in the wake of all this violence? As numbing as the horror of this past week has been, I've been trying to reflect on the beauty of people's faces. Trying to see into them a little bit more. I am convinced that the way back into sanity and peace and a sincere love for others is through the human face. Through a deep insearching, a contemplation of the gifts that surround us in the gift of each other. "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 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 a 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 other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the 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, civilization — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours." These words from C.S. Lewis' Weight of Glory essay have always captivated me. They are the natural fruit of our meditation on our creation in the image of God. Do we follow through with the logic? If so then what we see should be just this; walking miracles, moving and breathing monuments to the presence of God in the world. "This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously — no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner — no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses." (C.S.Lewis, Weight of Glory) In his letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, Pope John Paul II called us to this holy reverence for one another. It is the cure for this modern madness, for this isolation and fear, for this complete denial of the beauty and worth of the person. The healing must begin, the wait has been too long. May we come to see the light of God shining on the face of our brothers and sisters around us, light streaming from our Creator in Whose divine image we are all fashioned. Today let's treasure the gift of each other, the miracle of the human face in all it's many shades, moods, emotions and reactions. Let's not pass by these miracles, on the trains, roads, hallways, bus stations, or even in those fleeting moments before the mirror throughout the day. For the Word that is God has become flesh, and even now moves among us...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

On This Earth Day Weekend

Some sweet words from the Man:

How could we not feel surrounded by the love of God who opens before us the book of nature and invites us to read there the signs of his presence and tenderness? Far from daily life, which is often frantic and unfortunately sometimes alienating, in this delightful mountain spot we have the opportunity to rediscover the grandeur of God and man in the beauty of creation, and we are invited to achieve a fuller harmony with the Artisan of the universe. - Pope John Paul II

A Video Tribute to Pope John Paul II

I discovered this beautiful tribute to Pope John Paul II this morning on YouTube. The collection of photographs alone is spectacular, and add to it a beautiful song "Be Not Afraid" written just for John Paul by the singer Janelle. Powerful stuff!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Extremists Threaten Church in Baghdad

This from the Church in the Middle East, reported on www.zenit.org

BAGHDAD, Iraq, APRIL 19, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Christian churches in Baghdad have been forced to remove crosses as threats from Islamic extremists cause pressure to mount. Wednesday was the bloodiest day in Baghdad since the start of U.S. security operations. Nearly 200 people were killed in a string of attacks in Iraq's capital. Meanwhile AsiaNews reported new threats to Christians. The churches in the Dora region, a Christian quarter of Baghdad, have received threats from an unknown Islamic group, which warned: "Get rid of the cross or we will burn your churches." Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad told AsiaNews: "In the last two months many churches have been forced to remove the crosses from their domes. "In the case of the Church of St. George, in Assira, Muslim extremists took the situation into their own hands: They climbed onto the roof and ripped down the cross." Bishop Warduni added that "in the Chaldean Church of St. John, in Dora, which has been without a pastor for months, the parishioners themselves decided to move the cross to a safer place following repeated threats." The Church of Sts. Peter and Paul has received the same threats but so far has withstood the intimidation. Ultimatum AsiaNews reported that the same unknown Islamic group active in Dora seems to have delivered an ultimatum to the Christian community there: Convert to Islam or die. - www.zenit.org

------------------------- God bless the lovers of Christ in this region and may He give them the courage they need to be faithful to that cross. Crucified Love is the only way to truly win hearts. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. May this crucified love melt the cold hearts of their aggressors!

Empty. . .

Suffering scours and scrapes us clean.

Then alone, we are hollow.
Empty as the heart of a mountain,
rough-hewn by the cuts of sin and sorrow.

Sitting in our stone-carved solitudes, clattering, words falling like rocks, who does not ultimately long to be filled? To be answered?


We come of age and reach that "cross"-road where a choice must be made. A turn to the right or the left, a turn within or a turn without.

Do we believe? Is there a hand reaching into our wounded sides to touch our trembling hearts? Will it take hold of our fear and pour it out? Is this a hand we can trust?

Will we take it or will we fear again what this pierced hand holds out to us?
Will we run from Crucified Love?

Running will not heal the hurt. We must put aside the pills and ask for no more substitutes. No more Babelling Towers that rise up to our own hollow heavens. We must turn back to Love.

Love that was born in a cave in the earth.
Love that was buried in a tomb in the earth.

We find Him suffering too, scoured and scraped clean by sorrow,
our sorrow, all sorrow, heaped up and balanced on His back.

Didn't we notice He was there?
In the classroom, in the alleyway, on the gallows, under mortar fire and in the ocean deep and cold? Where else would Love be?

All death and sorrow has been swallowed up in His death.
All tears and madness are consumed in His dying.
All tombs will someday be empty because of Him.

So let's come before Crucified Love and weep; then let's peer inside and see.

Until we recognize Him in all of this, we are in the dark, alone, outside an empty tomb...
struggling to make sense of ourselves without Him.

Seeking the living among the dead.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"Pearls Before Breakfast"

I find myself gravitating towards the same thoughts and ideas lately; the concepts of wonder and awe, a sense of the sacred and the beautiful. I think it's because I'm hungry! I've been left hungry by the glitz and the shallowness of the media. And I hear real Beauty beckon, offering food for my soul.

I think many of us are hungry these days. We're fed so much garbage from our fast food culture. A friend of mine sent me an article from the Washington Post that for me was a total confirmation of these thoughts and inklings. The article (attached below) absolutely confirms what many feel is an illness, a malignancy, a cancer of the modern mind: that loss of a sense of wonder. An ignorance of beauty.

The Washington Post pulled off this incredibly sobering stunt a few months ago. The full article is here, with video clips from the hidden camera: http://tinyurl.com/29k6hu

The short of this very long article (so worth the read) is that we are moving too fast, living too fast, and passing by beauty sometimes without a second glance. In the case of this story, many of us are not only NOT stopping to smell the roses, but we don't even remember what a rose is anymore!

Joshua Bell, one of the world's great musicians, was asked to slip incognito into a D.C. Metro station during the morning rush hour, open up the case of his violin, and play some of the world's most beloved classical music of all time for the masses. The point? Would the people notice? Would beauty stop them cold, or would they coldly pass beauty by in the rush to "other appointments"?

Shakespeare once wrote that it was "strange that sheep's guts should hail men's souls from their bodies." Do they still? Can music still calm the savage beast in us and raise our minds to what is above?

I'd love to know your thoughts on this one! So read on!

http://tinyurl.com/29k6hu

I'll close with a favorite poem of mine. I was introduced to this one by listening to Bishop Fulton Sheen, who often quoted it in his talks. I think you'll see the parallel when you read the article. For what is the sound of music, even the most beautiful, when we discover that the Musician Himself has been with us all the while?


"When Jesus came to Golgotha they hanged Him on a tree,
They drave great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham they simply passed Him by,
They never hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.
Still Jesus cried, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do,"
And still it rained the wintry rain that drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall and cried for Calvary.

- G.A. Studdert Kennedy (1883-1929)

Amazing Saint of the Day

From our friends at AmericanCatholic.org

Blessed James Oldo
(1364-1404)

You’ve heard rags-to-riches stories. Today, we celebrate the reverse.

James of Oldo was born in 1364, into a well-to-do family near Milan. He married a woman who, like him, appreciated the comforts that came with wealth. But an outbreak of plague drove James, his wife and their three children out of their home and into the countryside. Despite those precautions, two of his daughters died from the plague, James determined to use whatever time he had left to build up treasures in heaven and to build God’s realm on earth.

He and his wife became Secular Franciscans. James gave up his old lifestyle and did penance for his sins. He cared for a sick priest, who taught him Latin. Upon the death of his wife, James himself became a priest. His house was transformed into a chapel where small groups of people, many of them fellow Secular Franciscans, came for prayer and support. James focused on caring for the sick and for prisoners of war. He died in 1404 after contracting a disease from one of his patients.

James Oldo was beatified in 1933.

Comment:
The death of those we love brings a troubling awareness of our own mortality. James had that experience when he gazed into his friend’s grave, and it brought him to his senses. He determined to use whatever time he had left to build up treasures in heaven and to build God’s realm on earth. Our time is limited, too. We can use it well or foolishly: The choice is ours.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

HERO

A powerful post from Amy Welborn's blog and the Jerusalem Post....

Professor Liviu Librescu was 76 years old, a Holocaust survivor and a professor of engineer mechanics at Virgnia Tech. The Jerusalem Post reports:

As Jews worldwide honored on Monday the memory of those who were murdered in the Holocaust, a 75-year-old survivor sacrificed his life to save his students in Monday's shooting at Virginia Tech College that left 32 dead and over two dozen wounded. Professor Liviu Librescu, 76, threw himself in front of the shooter, who had attempted to enter his classroom. The Israeli mechanics and engineering lecturer was shot to death, "but all the students lived - because of him," Virginia Tech student Asael Arad - also an Israeli - told Army Radio. Several of Librescu's other students sent e-mails to his wife, Marlena, telling of how he blocked the gunman's way and saved their lives, said the son, Joe. "My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Joe Librescu said in a telephone interview from his home outside of Tel Aviv. "Students started opening windows and jumping out." At least three professors were among the victims. This morning on CNN, I saw one young man relate how he and a classmate pushed a table against a classroom door, barring the gunnman who was trying to enter and firing shots through the door. The reporter asked him, "How does it feel to know that some people are calling you a hero." The young man, who had been speaking calmly up to that point, bowed his head, choking back emotion. "I'm just glad I was able to be there," he murmured.

Monday, April 16, 2007

For the Souls Lost Today....

Why is this happening?

I don't know when the madness of violence will end. It is nothing short of domestic terrorism. I think we need to come home, to draw in all the sons and daughters of America, to sit at home and be with one another; heal our own wounds before trying to heal the wounds of the world. Our wounds run so deep.

Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord,
And let perpetual Light shine upon them.
May their souls
And the souls of all the faithful departed
Through the mercy of God
Rest in peace.
Amen.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Paintball is .... Fun?

My friend Joe is getting married in 6 days....

Yesterday, in an effort to celebrate this life-changing, grace-filled event wherein Joe will give himself and at the same time paradoxically find himself in marriage, committing to a sacramental communion with another human person, imaging the union of Christ and the Church in a real and mystical way, we decided to shoot paintballs at each other for 3.5 hours in Phoenixville.

Yup. We figured this was a "manly" activity worthy of Joe, who is a LionHeart of a soul. I tried to convince the boys that we should splash blue paint on our faces beforehand, and wear kilts like in the movie Braveheart... FREEEEEDOM!!!!!

Anyhoo.... before the Bachelor Party Dinner and high stakes poker began yesterday evening, a small band of brothers (4 of us who did not get the memo on the hazards of this "sport") gathered before the blue glow of the Internet at Joe's place. We typed "paintball" in the address bar and in 2.7 seconds, a whole new world of adventure and hideous pain opened up before us.

BELIEF: "Paintball is safe, fun, and inexpensive."

FACT: Paintballs are shot at your body and HEAD from semi-automatic airguns at roughly 200 miles an hour by perfect strangers who have "Paintball ROCKS" bumper stickers on their large camouflaged trucks. These people sprinkle paintballs on their cereal every morning.

BELIEF: Paintball is "an action game that is played by all walks of life."

FACT: Paintball is WAR and played mostly by teenagers who have been trained by Rambo himself and other special forces icons from our nation's history via very realistic video games.

BELIEF: This will be fun for Joe and quite a break for us all. A little fresh air and good times... good times.

FACT: I am completely exhausted and have muscle aches where I do not have muscles. Our activity served only to convince me that the expression "mind over matter" is like saying "cheese over planet earth."

Before each game, the referee (who wore a helmet and pads all over. Hmmm, curious...) would shout "Left side ready! Right side ready! Game starts in 10 seconds!!!!" They said this creates an eerie silence wherein we stare across the field of concrete bunkers or trees or large inflatable thingees, respectively, and get an "adrenaline rush." I would affirm that.

I will now describe my death-defying experiences of yesterday as a series of storyboards or sketches for your amusement, and as a warning to you. Take heed people. Take heed!

+ I'm crouching beneath a wooden bridge, in mud. Paint pellets whiz past like angry bees. The flag I need to capture is within reach. I toss up my hand for the prize and a splatter of pain ignites on my naked hand. In the distance, a 12 year old squawks victoriously from behind a concrete cylinder.

+ Leaping for life through a tangle of fallen trees, thorns and mud, I nearly lose a shoe before reaching a wooden door resting on a tree. Pellets pound and spray on its opposite side, knocking like the Big Bad Wolf. "Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin!!!" I toss my life to the wind and run, spitting paintballs at my "friend" Joe, my old housemate, my comrade for nearly ten years... and the groom-to-be. "EAT THIS!!" A paintball lands squarely in the middle of his mask, right between the eyes. His plastic face-shield looks like a breakfast of eggs, sunny side up.

+ With laser precision, Bob hurls a pellet at my gun hand and I drop it nozzle first in the mud. Anthony tore his flesh on a slab of concrete. I nearly shot a referee. By day's end, Bob's sweater looked like a Jackson Pollock painting. And then Joe sweetly ended the last round with a victory by reaching our "dead zone" unscathed!

+ I have welts the size of Rhode Island. They formed, curiously, an exact replica of the constellation Orion, the Hunter. The funny thing is, I felt more like the Hunted.

In all seriousness, it was a great day. Would I recommend this activity to others? HECK YES. Just be sure to take off work the next day!


_________________________________________

FROM ERIC SIBLEY'S WEBSITE
Paintball is an action game that is played by all walks of life. It is game where people are shooting a soft-shelled paintball that breaks, causing a mark on an opposing player. When a player is "marked" by a paintball, that player is out for the game. The rules section will help you to see the basic rules that are used by almost all fields. Paintball is played in wooded areas or on fields filled with giant colorful inflatable obstacles. Many people call what is used to shoot people a paintball gun, but as this sport tries to become more mainstream, there is a movement to call it a "marker" as it helps make the game seem less violent. You don't have to be rich to play paintball. If you want to go out for a first time then you can just rent equipment and have fun....

Friday, April 13, 2007

I Wanna Live Forever!

"Let nothing trouble you, let nothing make you afraid. All things pass away. God never changes..." - Saint Teresa of Avila

Sounds like Christian zen, doesn't it? To be still in the midst of restlessness, silent in the clamor of noise, anchored in the midst of life's storms. Well, Grasshopper, where is your heart in all of this?

St. Teresa of Avila, one of the Church's greatest superheroines, is singing us a mystical lullaby in this quote. She's trying to sooth our troubled hearts, give us confidence in the Father's love and faithfulness. And we know this tune: Life fades, God remains. We experience at least the first half firsthand; things "pass away" all the time. Everything is dust in the wind, as Kansas once sang; from the flowers of the field to the friends we grew up with. Nature herself is constantly changing clothes, and the children of the earth are rising and dying over and over again.

We know too that we should have a certain detachment from this passing world, even from our very selves, because we too our passing. But watching persons and things "fade" is not easy! We want to live, life is good!

So the thoughts about passing are thoughts we usually pass on. Even though we see, hear, read about and experience the Big "D" (death) every day, we still try and escape it, repress it, hold it back. Especially in our youth, we feel that we will somehow be able to elude it. We believe almost subconsciously that we will be the exception to this rule that's written in our collapsing cosmos (ooo, there's a cheerful image).

"Fame! I wanna live forever! I'm gonna learn how to fly... HIGH!"
These are some old school lyrics to a song whose refrain still echoes in every new generation. Now, some would propose that this desire to slip away from the cold grasp of death is just a biochemical reaction to the ultimate threat. We are shoved into a corner and so we try to dream our way out. It would be "nice" if my heart could go on, so I'll think happy thoughts and make a "happy place" with clouds and green grass and all my loved ones waiting there for me. Some would say it's a fantasy and nothing more.

Some believe we should just suck it up and face a cold dark universe armed only with this present moment. Some say we should have our feet squarely planted here and now and not in some castle in the clouds.I think, in the immortal words of Forrest Gump, that maybe it's both. Even as I watch things pass away, I have this sense deep down that I will remain, be reborn, be rekindled... How do I know? Where will the reanimating spark leap out from as it did in animating Adam with an immortal soul? From God's Finger, or more to the point, from the pierced hand of Christ. My new life too will leap from the empty tomb. What happened to Christ will happen to all of us; the sorrows, yes, but the glory as well!

This tomb of His is empty, not because we feverishly clapped our hands in the hopes that this fairy tale would come true. But because it is true. And so for us in the end, death cannot stop true love; "all it can do is delay it for awhile." We've been announcing our faith in this final victory for millennia, every Sunday, with millions of people throughout the world. It's from the Apostle's Creed: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen."

It's that biggie at the end there, the part about the body rising again. The author J.R.R. Tolkien once whispered this wisdom through his kingly and Christlike character, Aragorn; "In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound forever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory..." The hobbit-hero Samwise the Brave felt the same surge of faith in the midst of his trials, and in looking up from the very Land where Shadows lie, he saw a star eternal, inspiring and unchanging....

"The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.... Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master's, ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo's side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep and untroubled sleep."

With confidence, with deep faith, and with an undying hope, let's face our own shadows and the passing trials of this life. For even now the Son is rising...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Ten Reasons to Believe in the Resurrection

A solid post by Rich Leonardi 1. Testimony of the texts. Scripture, Tradition and the Church thereafter all agree that Christ rose. 2. Testimony of the Twelve. Cowardly apostles fleeing became courageous Christians preaching, and they unanimously said it was because they saw Christ alive. 3. Transformation of Saul. St. Paul went from persecutor to believer after seeing Christ alive. 4. No early Church debate. The early Church debated many fundamental things, but not the Resurrection. 5. Centuries of martyrs. Christians, from the Church’s first days to our own day, have been willing to die for their conviction that Christ rose from the dead. 6. Diverse sources. Gospel writers included different details, and material from different sources — all of which agreed on the fact of the Resurrection. 7. Eyewitnesses. St. Paul spoke of how Christ appeared, alive, to 500 at once — and he was writing not long after the event occurred. 8. Non-Christian historical accounts. Tacitus and Josephus mention Christ — and describe how Christians endured torture when simply renouncing him would end it. 9. Not dead again. Other resurrections are mentioned in the Bible — chiefly Lazarus — but of these Christ’s is unique in that it is never suggested that he died again. 10. Rise of a historical religion. Christianity spread and grew even though, as St. Paul told Christians from the beginning, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain.”

Diatoms and the Divine

I've been reading an incredible book by Thomas Dubay called The Evidential Power of Beauty: Science and Theology Meet. It's a book about wonder, and wonder is my favorite word. Wonder is the front porch to the House of God.

One of the many examples Dubay gives as a way of getting us to open up and say "AWE" is that of the diatom; these are mind-blowing microscopic one-celled plants. They are at the very heart of the ocean's food chain, and have been called "perfect architects." They may well be one of the most important plants on Earth. Ever hear of them? Me neither.

They come in about 25,000 different species and manufacture through photosynthesis possibly half of the oxygen you and I are breathing right now. They shape for themselves little cathedrals in the forms of pin-wheels, stars, and spirals, and like snowflakes, no shell is the same. Thomas Dubay writes of a man named Richard Hoover who had the opportunity to view a slide of over 4,000 diatoms mounted by the German microscopist J. D. Miller: "Four thousand shells in a space the size of a postage stamp! I sat transfixed at the microscope all afternoon."

And this little factoid kiled me: "Diatoms that live in topsoil can be dried up for decades in a desiccated sleep and then leap to life again when exposed to water. Hoover tells of studying a diatom collection in Antwerp, Belgium: 'I added water to diatoms that had been dried on paper in 1834. I was astounded when they began to swim—revived after nearly 150 years of slumber.'"

Wow.... if that can happen to a one-celled organism, what can the water of grace do to a soul away from the sacraments for years? What can a little prayer poured over our hearts by someone awaken in us? Wonders will never cease!



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Image of living diatom courtesy Virtual Foliage at the University of Wisconsin. Electron micrograph of Odontella taken by Karen Wetmore at UCMP.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Whom Are You Looking For?

Today's Gospel tells of the beautifully moving and deeply human encounter of Mary Magdalen and the Risen Christ. This passage from St. John speaks for itself!

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he had told her.

- John 20:11-18

Sunday, April 08, 2007

HE IS RISEN!

Who's the Man?

A few years ago, a movie called "Walking Tall" opened, starring the Hollywood muscle man known affectionately as "The Rock." This remake of the 1973 bruiser was about a man roughed up by some thugs in his hometown, which by the way was a 'cesspool of corruption.' He decided to take the law into his own hands, literally and figuratively: it was a huge piece of wood to be exact.

I saw a billboard for this movie while waiting for a train. There he was, "The Rock" looking righteous and rough, with the wooden beam resting ominously on his shoulder. Now is this the man? Muscle-bound, merciless with his enemies, trading an eye for an eye, and a punch for a kick? Is this what we're encouraged to become when times get tough, when the other team scores, when someone steals your parking space?

Coincidentally, the day I saw the poster of The Rock and his trusty wooden weapon, previews for "The Passion of the Christ" were out; it was set to release at the same time as "Walking Tall." Here I saw a vision of another Man, looking ridiculed and beaten, with a wooden beam resting ominously on his shoulder. He had entered into a town that could also be called a 'cesspool of corruption.' He too decided to take the law into his own hands, literally and figuratively. The law said death was the penalty for sin, but instead of dishing it out, he took death onto Himself. With the weapon of the Cross, he faced down the Devil and beat death at its own game.

This Man, who had every right to deal out justice to the nations (since He was and is the Just One), instead took the hits for us, laying down His life. What a paradox, what a total reversal of what we'd expect. Which way is the more manly way? Which path is the more difficult one? Which man was more effective in his mission against injustice?

Isn't it ironic that the day the world was asked to choose their answer, these two visions of man were both physically present? On Pilate's left in that stone courtyard was Barabbas, a revolutionary, a fighter who had killed for his cause, and on Pilate's right was Jesus, a revolutionary who would be killed for His cause. "Bar abbas" is Hebrew for "the son of the father."

And which son did they choose? And which Son will you choose?

Pontius Pilate himself tried to show us the answer, as he pointed to the wounded and broken one to his right; "Behold the Man!"

Friday, April 06, 2007

Why This Friday is So GOOD

From an Ancient Homily...

"What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam's son.

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: 'My Lord be with you all.' And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

‘I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise. ‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

‘For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden. ‘Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image. 'See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one. `I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

‘But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God. "The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages."

- author unknown

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Crazy Love

Today is the day! Holy Thursday is the Catholic Valentine's Day! This is the day Jesus longed for. He "eagerly desired to eat this Passover" with His disciples. His Sacred Heart was bursting to bring them this greatest of gifts. It was, and is, the gift of His crazy love for us.

Only Jesus Himself could have thought of this gift. Catholics believe (and this is apostolic baby!) that the Eucharist is not a little trinket or a keychain that says "Jesus loves you" - it's not just a memory or a symbol, like a painting of Him or a crucifix - not a little photo album of snapshots from the old days of miracles and wanderings and teachings from Galilee. It's.... Him, in the FLESH. When we open up the present of the Eucharist, surprise! It's His Real Presence!

This gift is so real, so present, that I fear many of us might be afraid to open it.

The Eucharist is such an expensive, exotic, exorbitant gift that sometimes I think we don't know what to do with It... Him.... this gift! "Wow... thank you. Thank you, thanks..." And we put this gift in a safe, dust-free place in our heads or hearts (or on a shelf in our churches) and we move on to the next thing.

The Eucharist is scandalous love. The Eucharist is crazy. As the saints and mystics have told us, It is love to the point of folly! I believe that's why we either get it or we don't. We're lost in this love (like the Air Supply song) or we're embarrassed by it and feel like we'd rather just say "amen" and scurry back to our pew and read the bulletin or something.

Now sometimes the love of my wife completely overwhelms me. What did I do to deserve this much attention, this much devotion, this much care and concern? I'm just a goofy guy from New Jersey! Then I sit back and say, "Thank you... thanks... for loving me, even in all of my unloveableness." Other times, I just sit back and wonder. Love is a crazy thing, isn't it?

When I sit down and think about the Eucharist.... oiy! I once heard a kind old priest on a retreat talking about some topic of faith. He said "Don't even get me started on the Eucharist! You'll have to get out the mop and clean me up off the floor!" Wow, that guy was in love. Even after so many years of service at the altar, he was IN love. Because the Eucharist IS Love. Love magnified and multiplied. Love dropped like an atom bomb or blossoming like a supernova in the center of our being. When we get it, we can't resist It. Worries and fears of worthiness are blown away, and we enter into the burning love of the Father and the Son; we're caught up in the dance of the Holy Spirit.

Tonight we can hear, in a thousand churches, the Heartbeat of God. And if we're ready, if the heart is washed in the showers of Reconciliation, and the table cleared of clutter as best we can clear it, we can enter into this embrace. Let's not turn away in shame or embarrassment thinking His Love is too much or our hearts are too distracted. Tonight, He beckons us to come and eat.

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me."
- Revelations 3:20

The Hand of Hope

I'm not a big fan of television. I know, I know... TV can be a wonderful medium for entertainment and education. We do watch LOST, and when it's in season, American Idol (that's right, I said American Idol). Channel 12 has some very "illuminating" material from time to time. But I think it goes without saying, although I am about to say it, that television for the most part is a "vast wasteland." That being said, the other night we found an oasis. We watched House. The weird thing is, we never watch House. It's a doctor show, and House is his name; he's as crass a doctor as you can find - insensitive, inhuman, and cold as an Alaskan Salmon. But he's a super genius. The episode we providentially clicked upon the other night featured the tale of a photographer who suffers from a stroke due to some mystery illness. To complicate matters, Emma is pregnant. House and his "special forces" team have to figure out what's up in this 60 minute show and save the 40 something mama and/or her unborn child. Hence the drama, and mama tells House she wants him to save both. The staff comes up with five possible conditions, all of which test negative. Dr. Cranky Pants (that's House) confronts the mother, Emma, and warns that there’s something wrong with the fetus. He refers to the baby as a fetus throughout the show, revealing unusual amounts of animosity towards the fetus (Latin for "little one" by the way), even for House. Time is running out, and he suggests to Emma that there's only one way to go: deliver the baby at 21 weeks, two weeks earlier than when it is viable. But Emma won't hear of it, wants to wait the two weeks, and refuses to have an abortion. Sounds like St. Gianna Molla to me. To cut to the chase, they finally decide to do exploratory surgery on the baby and explain things to Emma. She agrees nervously and House bitterly performs the operation. During the procedure the baby’s hand reaches up and out of the exposed uterus and gently grasps his gloved finger! In a powerfully long moment of silence, House stares at the tiny hand, perfectly formed and watches wide-eyed as the little fingers squeezes his own.
Now, lest we think this is some crazy television drama and a thing like this could never happen (I mean the little hand reaching, not just the amazingly pro-life message of this episode), take a look at the photo below and the following true story from photojournalist Michael Clancy. I am sure it was his experience last night's episode. He was kind enough to allow me to post this amazing picture he took about 8 years ago. (Visit his website for the full story here): "As a veteran photo journalist in Nashville, Tennessee, I was hired by USA Today newspaper to photograph a spina bifida corrective surgical procedure. It was to be performed on a twenty-one week old fetus in utero at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. At that time, in 1999, twenty-one weeks in utero was the earliest that the surgical team would consider for surgery. The tension could be felt in the operating room as the surgery began... The entire procedure would take place within the uterus, and no part of the child was to breach the surgical opening. During the procedure, the position of the fetus was adjusted by gently manipulating the outside of the uterus. The entire surgical procedure on the child was completed in 1 hour and thirteen minutes. When it was over, the surgical team breathed a sigh of relief, as did I. As a doctor asked me what speed of film I was using, out of the corner of my eye I saw the uterus shake, but no one's hands were near it. It was shaking from within. Suddenly, an entire arm thrust out of the opening, then pulled back until just a little hand was showing. The doctor reached over and lifted the hand, which reacted and squeezed the doctor's finger. As if testing for strength, the doctor shook the tiny fist. Samuel held firm. I took the picture! Wow! It happened so fast that the nurse standing next to me asked, "What happened?" "The child reached out," I said. "Oh. They do that all the time," she responded. The surgical opening to the uterus was closed and the uterus was then put back into the mother and the C-section opening was closed. It was ten days before I knew if the picture was even in focus. To ensure no digital manipulation of images before they see them, USA Today requires that film be submitted unprocessed. When the photo editor finally phoned me he said, "It's the most incredible picture I've ever seen." - Michael Clancy So that House had a foundation in the real world.... What a tribute to the miracle of life! _________________________________________ Photo © 2005 Michael Clancy, used with permission.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Battle Between Light and Darkness

Today, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of Judas' betrayal in powerful, almost cosmic terms:

"When the traitor exits the Upper Room, darkness penetrates his heart - it is an internal night - discouragement grows in the spirits of the other disciples - they too go toward the night - while the shadows of abandonment and hate grow darker around the Son of Man, who prepares himself for the consummation of his sacrifice on the cross... In the coming days, we will commemorate the supreme battle between Light and Darkness, between Life and Death."

Isn't this the dramatic struggle at work in every human heart? We should ponder the power of our choices in this light. We have this incredible freedom to be heroic or hedonistic, selfless or selfish! We can be like Judas, or as faithful as John.

The Pope went on to speak of us all who have "our own 'night,' of our sins and responsibilities." If we want to draw graces from these days, he said we should "bring light to our hearts, by way of this mystery, which is the center point of our faith."

The Easter mystery of death and sin's final destruction in Jesus! Freedom is near!


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Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Heart of Things Hits the Airwaves!

I'll be taking my maiden voyage tonight on AM radio, and live through the internet, with The Heart of Things radio show! So lend an ear or drop a line if you can! To contact please call: 610-527-2906 or 1-888-34-FAITH (888-343-2484) after 5:30.

We're airing every Tuesday evening from 5pm to 6pm, Eastern Standard Time, on 800 AM if you're local to the Philadelphia region, or live from anywhere via the internet at www.catholicinternetradio.com


No podcasts or MP3s yet, so you'll have to tune in sharp. Prayers are appreciated.... Peace!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Leaving Egypt Forever

Let's have a show of hands...

Who likes reading/ discussing/ hearing about the war in Iraq every day? Suicide bombers? Sitting back with the paper and discovering that people are still being victimized and horribly victimizing others? Who would enjoy hearing another tale about the wealthy and powerful who are still trying to get wealthier and more powerful-er... at the expense of the poor?

Anyone care for more violence on television before 8pm? Who believes we need another show that glorifies lust in the place of love, promiscuity over devotion, and marital infidelity as opposed to a lasting faithfulness?

No? You're done with this scene? You've had enough? Me too....

If it feels like 400 years of slavery to you, slopping through the mud of the media with this fallen nature of ours and you'd like to break away from sin to a Promised Land and hear some good news for a change, then take courage and lift up your heads. Change is a'comin'. But it will take work, and these 40 days of Lent were just the beginning...

The Early Church Fathers (these guys were the Catholic All-Stars) always saw Egypt as a type or shadow of our slavery to sin... Moses was a type of Jesus, and as Moses led the People out of Egypt, so Jesus leads us out of our addiction to self and selfishness. Finally, we can enter into the holiness (a.k.a. wholeness) of God and our true destiny! Real freedom, hope, joy, justice! Woohoo! When we’ve made this solid turn towards Him - metanoia, a.k.a. conversion - and followed, then we can experience that sweet honeymoon the saints talked about. But we have to make the turn. We have to step out in faith. We've got to leave the slavery of Egypt.

If we're committed to this work of getting out of Egypt, then we'll need to buck up and make it past the honeymoon to where the real journey begins. We have to walk through the desert for an undetermined period of time with no clear knowledge of where we'll rest or what we'll eat. Now won't that be fun?

Ah, but this desert of Lent has been the key. This is our detox time, where the poison is worked out of our systems, and we sweat out sin in our own personal Gethsemanes. This is the gymnasium of the soul and of the body. Then just when we think we've hit the Wall and can go no further, we'll look back and see Egypt coming after us (and guess who Pharaoh is a type of, by the way?). It's at this point that we'll hear Jesus say the craziest thing in the world, the last thing we think anyone should say when the chariots and charioteers are barrelling down at us and there seems to be no escape route for us on the road to holiness.

"Stand still."

Stand still? No way... We feel the pursuit of sin. The ground is trembling. I can't do this. It’s the residual effect of our selfishness... called concupiscence. This is the whisper of the preciousss... and the Gollum in all of us doesn't want to let go.

"In great fright they cried out to the LORD. And they complained to Moses, "Were there no burial places in Egypt that you had to bring us out here to die in the desert? Why did you do this to us? Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Did we not tell you this in Egypt, when we said, 'Leave us alone. Let us serve the Egyptians'? Far better for us to be the slaves of the Egyptians than to die in the desert.""


Did you ever look back and think "Man, those Israelites were whiners!" But WE are their spiritual children! When the water gets choppy, and the winds blow, don't we often take our eyes off of the prize, like St. Peter in his walk on the water? We can chicken out too! But it's in this moment especially, when all the world seems to be falling apart, that we must look to Jesus.

"But Moses answered the people, "Fear not! Stand your ground, and you will see the victory the LORD will win for you today. These Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again. The LORD himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still."

Keep still.... This was the dying wish of Pope John Paul II for the Church. This was his last piece of spiritual advice to the world before he went home to the Father's House. He said "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)

Hmmm.... And his secret for our wholeness in the days to come? What to do when we finally get the courage to be still?

"To contemplate the face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the “program” which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium, summoning her to put out into the deep on the sea of history with the enthusiasm of the new evangelization.
" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia)

Look at Him. Even as Pontius Pilate cries out this Good Friday "Ecce homo!" Then, especially then, in stillness let us "Behold the Man." Our leader and the perfecter of our faith. He can take us from death to life, through the waters of a Red Sea that pours from His sacred wounds. All for love, all for us... to free us from the captivity that has held us captive for so long! What will happen if we can do this? If we can look away from ourselves, our worries, our fears, and just look up, look and see and drink in the vision of Jesus?

"Ecce homo! Behold the Man!"

Stepping into Holy Week

We all know that time flies, and that there are moments we wish we could recapture or really savor, having brushed past them so quickly before. Well, this is the Week of Weeks, the week we call HOLY. It is unique and it is extraordinary, for it's the sequence of these days that led to the unthinkable... the death of God in the flesh and the rebirth of all creation. This is the time when we were ransomed, rescued, and redeemed by God Himself. Let's not let this week slip past without some serious reflection.

The events of Palm Sunday leading up to Easter Sunday hold within their precious hours all of the seeds of all of the greatest stories. There is faith and there is doubt, trust and betrayal, courage and cowardice... amazing love and blinding hatred. There is the shocking horror of an innocent man's death and the unexpected brilliance of Him coming back to life. And what is most beautiful about this story and the events of this week is the fact that they are true. Christianity is the hope that's rooted in real history, the fairy tale that is factual. The blossoming of all the sacred art and music and poetry and people and prayers that have stretched up and into the sky over these 2000 years all trace their roots back to these days of Holy Week, and into the turbulent soil of southern Palestine.

So let's sit still for some time this week. Sit back and crack open the Gospel of John. Take the scriptures to a quiet, out of the way place and get into this story; in a chapel before the Blessed Sacrament, on an old farm road as the sun is setting, in the backyard as the spring wind comes whistling through the trees. Let's take and read like Augustine, tolle et lege, as if for the first time to this ancient story. And let's see in it our own story. Let's make His Passion our passion.

The Office

For all its political incorrectness, socially inept characters, and inappropriate innuendos, the Office has moments of both hilarity and tenderness. Case in point: the Jim and Pam Scenario, captured nicely in this video (before it all hits the fan on April 5th).

Sunday, April 01, 2007

April Fool's Day

Today, Christ enters Jerusalem, the Holy City, riding on a donkey. He is greeted as royalty and palm branches are thrown down before him to honor his passing. But in five days time, he will be paraded as a fool before the courts of men. Such is the folly of the world. Its praise is conditional and short-lived. And even superstars are expendable when their life shakes us out of our comfort zone.

But such also is the folly of Jesus, who presses on against all reason and his disciple's warning cries. This Palm

Sunday is our April Fool's Day, for Jesus comes heedless of the threat of death, knowing full well that the religious leadership of his day despises him, cannot understand him, and feeling jealous of his fame is already plotting to kill him.

He rides on. Like a fool, he moves through the crowds, passing through their hollow hosannas, through the pale gleam of this spotlight. Towards the olive press that is Gethsemane, towards the crushing blows of the whip and the hammer that will literally carve from his body a Masterpiece of Love.

In the immortal words of the old song "Wise men say only fools rush in...." And that rush into danger and death can only be blamed on love, for he "can't help falling in love with you..."

This love of Jesus is a holy madness. His love leaps into the lion's den, into darkness. His love risks all, gives all to find all, to free all from bondage. The question for us is: Will we follow him all the way? Will our love share in this Love? Or will we back away into the shadows, afraid to appear the fool, mumbling to the crowds "I do not know the Man"?

The Sacramental Vision

With Christians, a poetical view of things is a duty. We are bid to color all things with hues of faith, to see a divine meaning in every ...