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Showing posts from March, 2007

Up, Up and Away!

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Come on, America, you know you love Superman. You know you want to fly, be impervious to pain, have the strength of will to always seek the Good. I love the fact that the Man in Blue is back, and however the film turns out (we'll see it in 46 hours and 19 minutes, or... Saturday), I'm sure the iconic qualities about the son of Jor-El will be clear as crystal. He's Christological! No denying it! How 'bout this line from the new film's teaser trailer: The voice of Marlon Brando, Superman's father from the 1978 film: "Even though you've been raised as a human being you are not one of them. They can be a great people Kal-El. They wish to be, they only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you, my only son." Wow. Now, this rather explicit typology is stirring up the anger of a few people in the secular press. They are upset that this comic icon is being morphed with "religion." …

Don't Mess with Star Wars!

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I decided to show the classic Return of the Jedi in my study hall yesterday. What the heck, Easter break is here, and it's Star Wars for the love of Yoda!!

Watching this classic brought me back to my own high school days. Actually the saga spanned throughout my elementary education and well into high school. We had to wait about three years for each sequel! What patience we had then! I could tell you some amazing trivia. I knew the actors and actresses behind the costumes, I knew the space systems, the creatures. I owned those classic action figures. Yes indeed, those were the salad days....

Now Return of the Jedi had "state of the art graphics." We were blown away by the speeder-bike chase, the "new" Death Star, and the wild alien creatures that came creeping out of the mind of George Lucas. How 'bout that Sarlacc Pit? Nasty! Star Wars was COOLNESS PERSONIFIED.

As I was reflecting on this, I was suddenly sucked back from my 80's nostalgia and into the pre…

What's Wrong With You?

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There is a moving scene (among many) in the film The Fellowship of the Ring where the character of Aragorn, known as Strider, struggles with his own mortal weakness. In the quiet of Rivendell, in a dimly lit chamber where ancient memories are held sacred, he gazes on a painting of his ancestor, Isildur. It was he who in ages long past cut the Ring from the Dark Lord's finger and saved Middle-Earth from defeat. But it was by that same Ring that Isildur himself fell into weakness and death. The memory of that fatal flaw has haunted Aragorn his entire life.

As he turns to the shadows in this fog of fear and shame. He sees his love, Arwen approach and she speaks a word of confidence to him. "Why do you fear the past? You are Isildur's heir, not Isildur himself. You are not bound to his fate."

The future King replies "The same blood flows in my veins. The same weakness..."

What is it that "leads us into temptation"? Why do we so often do the evil that we …

Do You Want Dessert?

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Silly question, I know. But this Lent, I made a rash decision: no snacks between meals, no desserts (except, of course, on special occasions, feasts, solemnities, and Sundays, which officially begin with the vigil on Saturday).

What?

I really like dessert. And dessert likes me. But let's get to the Heart of Things, because that's what this blog is all about.

In the realm of the spirit, which is of course intimately joined to the body, I think we can often fall into a "dessert spirituality." We want prayer to taste good. We want our time with God to be sweet, to cleanse the palate as it were, and to make our mood fresh, clean and clear.... "Ah yes, here's my list of wants and needs, Lord. And yes, whipped cream and a cherry on top would be great."

But most of the time, I think our Loving Father wants us to have a "meat and potatoes" spirituality. Solid stuff..... stick to your ribs kinda food. Better still, He calls us into a "desert spiritual…

Mary's Open Heart

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Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. It actually fell on Sunday, but that's Resurrection Day, so it got the Biblical Bump. Fine by me... because a solemnity in Lent means all fasts are off! Woohoo! Bring on the snacks! It's cool to be Catholic!

Just shy of nine months from now, we'll celebrate the fruit of the womb that was conceived this day; the Word Made Flesh! Miracle of Miracles!

Now sometimes we can see Mary's yes as such an easy thing, all roses and sweetness. Really, how difficult would it be to raise the Perfect Son? But let's remember that Mary was a true Hebrew, and as such she would know the prophets and the prophecies by heart. She knew her people were searching for the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. Mary had the tender heart to see that the Messiah would be this Suffering Servant that Isaiah alluded to, not a military man that the militant were hoping for.

So the shadow of the Cross fell over…

Planet Earth - The New Series on Discovery Channel

This is promising to be a sweet tribute, as far as I'm concerned, to the Creator's genius and to the myriad beauties of this Blue World of ours! More trailers to come...

Cutting Out the Sarcasm

Craig Ferguson, the late night funny man, takes a strong turn away from attacking the vulnerable. A beautiful confession about human weakness, his struggle with alcoholism, and getting sober.... (laced, of course, with laughs.... some crude, some hilarious, be warned).

Hush Ya'self....

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By the Sea - William Wordsworth

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free;
The holy time is quiet as a nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquillity;
The gentleness of heaven is on the sea:
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder - everlastingly....
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This is a piece of Wordsworth's poem that first grabbed me in my college days. Doesn't it make you want to, in the words from a recent Paul Simon song, "sit down, shut up, think about God"?

Oh the power and the beauty and the sometimes awkwardness of SILENCE! Before Easter, in the next two weeks, can we find some time to be still in it? To wallow in silence for a good 30 minutes, or 20? There are deep mysteries within and without every heart. Can we drink from that chalice given to us by the Father in a wordless act of prayer and adoration?

Silence is GOLDEN. Catherine Doherty once said "Silence can be the gr…

Jimmie vs. Creepy Bunny Man

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When you stand back (or sit back on a bench like I did last night at the Cherry Hill Mall) and look at the wacky stuff we do in our culture, you might wonder why things aren't actually worse than they already are.

Case in point...
We had a FANTASTIC dinner and conversation with mom last night in NJ (Bahama Breeze, 5 stars!). Afterwards, Rebecca and I just popped into the mall for a "quick walk." As I was waiting for my lovely bride to exit a store, a six foot rabbit (Harvey?) walked past me and disappeared behind a large outcropping of plastic plants.


I was in the mall's "oasis" area - this is where you can find large palm trees, various ferny plants, goats, and water coalesced in fountains or in pools, which are full of coins (why do we throw our money into their stores AND into these pools?). In the "oasis" you can hide from the heat of great sales and the storms of intense shoppers, finding peace, and sometimes large rabbits. I guess I had forgot…

Spring Cleaning

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Are you a back roads kinda person, or a main roads kinda person? Maybe a bit of both?

I had a great commute when I was studying for my associates degree. I'd stick to the back roads for as long as I could on that almost hour long drive; Georgetown to Sykesville, Chesterfield to 130, and sometimes Route 68, in the days before it was cluttered by golf courses and condos.
You see more life on the back roads. More trees, more fields, more bizarre lawn art. And there's always the added bonus of those little mom and pop convenience stores (the ones that carry "Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies"... deeeelicious!).

I was on such a back road drive one day, in my classical-music-and-opera-are-actually-amazing phase, when I was seized by a flash of beauty. At the exact moment that Puccini's "E Lucevan Le Stella" was roaring from my radio, I was passing a farmer's field where soil was being peeled back by a rusty old tractor. It was the springtime of the year. The…

Saint Joseph and Fatherhood

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I've heard it said that the crisis in the Church today, the crisis in vocations, and the crisis in the family, can all be traced back to a crisis in fatherhood; a cultural confusion regarding just what it means to be a man.

Interesting. Think of the failure of Adam in the beginning, to guard and protect Eve from the serpent. He chose silence rather than to cry out to God for help against the foe. He gave in and grasped at the forbidden fruit, rather than to suffer the bullet, to stand in the gap and offer his life for his bride. Men ever since find it easier to lust than to love, to take rather than receive the gift of the Bride. To cling to life rather than lay it down for others.

In the present state of affairs, in a society that thinks the only "sin" is intolerance and the greatest virtue is "niceness", the drive, the passion, and the initiation of the gift of self that is inscribed in the very soul of a man is looked down upon.

Our culture contracepts it. It …

Saint Patrick's Day

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“St. Patrick suffered mightily at the hands of the Irish,
but rather than seek revenge, he came back to share his faith.”
- Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley, O.F.M.Cap.

From the Confessions of St. Patrick:

I am Patrick, a sinner, most unlearned, the least of all the faithful, and utterly despised by many. My father was Calpornius, a deacon, son of Potitus, a priest, of the village Bannavem Taburni√¶; he had a country seat nearby, and there I was taken captive. I was then about sixteen years of age. I did not know the true God. I was taken into captivity to Ireland with many thousands of people and deservedly so, because we turned away from God, and did not keep His commandments, and did not obey our priests, who used to remind us of our salvation... And there the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and be converted with all my hear…

Sometimes "Stinky" is Good

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Years ago, I spent some time working as a groundskeeper at a beautiful garden estate in New Hampshire. It was a lush little plot of earth set right on the rugged New England coast, a stone's throw from the sea. Every day I'd drive the 'ole Chevy "Eurosport" Wagon (aptly named the Eggplant) down the winding ocean road to the gardens, to a place that was crammed with life: dozens of hybrid roses, delicate iris, a greenhouse packed with bougainvillea, cacti, ferns and flowers. The sea air was rich and fertile, pouring over us and into us from the Atlantic. The music of the waves was always soft and near. The irony was that in the midst of all this life, I was going through a kind of death.

It was a kind of "dark night of the soul." A deep fog surrounded me then, and life seemed suddenly like a pathless void. So, finding no clear path, I took to the soil. I tossed hay and trimmed roses. We hauled dirt and cut grass, kept the greenhouse green, and the plants …

Snatches of Poems

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When I was a teenager, we went to an Irish festival run by the Ancient Order of Hiberians near Hamilton, NJ. This was serious business. The music was rich, the smell of wool and pipes abundant, and the love of the open air rang out. The gypsy spirit, the wanderin' wonder of the pilgrim laid heavy on the crowd. And curiously, every face looked like a relative to me. Here's where those snatches of songs and pieces of poetry first began to stick and settle into my spirit.

I picked up my first tinwhistle at that festival and have been "foolin'" with the melodies ever since; a jig or a reel, but mostly the slow, soulful airs are what I like to play. And a tune must start with a poem. My brother and I know a few. They were absorbed by osmosis, by the listening over and over again to the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, in the wake of that great resurgence of Irish music and new folk music that struck in the 60's.

As I grow older, from time to time, I try and recite t…

Fiddles, Whistles and the Slowly Poured Pint

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Sometimes we want too much too fast. We want it all! But in the wise words of comedian Stephen Wright "You can't have everything. Where would you put it?" A Tangent...One of my favorite traditional Irish bands is the Chieftains. They've been around forever. They are amazingly gifted musicians: on the harp, the flute, fiddles, bodhran, tinwhistle... and Paddy Moloney on those Irish pipes! "Cheese and crackers!" (as Grandpa Donaghy would've said)... it sounds like the mystic moan of the poets and warriors of Ireland, calling us out to Tir na Nog! Matt Molloy plays the flute for the Chieftains, and he owns a pub in Westport, County Mayo. On our tour of the west coast of Ireland, we stayed a night in Westport. After setting up in a little B & B, with great reverence and a dose of excitement, we walked into town and entered the dark cavern of this legendary pub. Our eyes adjusted, and our ears as well, just as a stream of music came gushing out of a cozy…

The Irish Chronicles - Part One

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Now we're well into the octave of St. Patrick, so it's only fittin' that we should open up the floodgates of Story, of the Remembering and of Recollection. For the Irish, you see, are full of it (the art of storytellin'... that is.)

A few years ago, my wife and I had the chance to visit Ireland. We stayed with Rebecca's cousins in Cork and Killarney, touring up and down the western coast. We even made it up to the northwest corner of Ireland, to the windswept, rocky fields of Donegal where a section of my family traces its roots. We hiked up Slieve League and down the Gap of Dunloe, we prayed at Knock, and sang songs with the cousins for Denis's birthday party at the little red pub just near his house. The family took us in, as they say, and we experienced Ireland from the inside out (this being the third time for my wife!)

"And now a song from Bill" cried Rebecca's Uncle Pat one night. And like it or not, I was singing in the kitchen, "Four Gr…

Fearless and Finally Free

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I just finished watching the movie Fearless (thanks for the recommendation, Tom B!). This was to be the renowned martial artist Jet Li's last film. And what a way to end...

I'm a sucker for a super-kick'em-up movie. Not one that glorifies violence, however, but one that confronts the reality of violence and deals with it in a way that shows discipline, courage, and self-sacrifice. Films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, and House of Flying Daggers all portray characters who have learned great secrets, cosmic truths, and lessons about mercy and compassion through their discipline (be it Wu Dan or Wushu). The character Huo Yuanjia that Jet Li portrays learns these lessons well. So well that they lead him to a truly heroic end in the film, as he moves from an arrogant fighter who "will not be defeated" to a symbol of humble strength and endurance for all of China.

Huo learns his most valuable lesson after a self-inflicted exile leads him far from home. Ruined…

A Catechism in Flesh and Stone

Sacred Heart is a quiet little Polish Church nestled in a neighborhood adjacent to ours. We thought we'd go to Mass there today just to check it out (this is the good kind of "cafeteria Catholicism"). Besides, we were running late and they had an 11:30 as opposed to our parish's 11:15 (thanks a lot new Daylight Savings Time "Change Things Early" Idea!) What a happy discovery. The church was small but packed with theological delights. Marble stations with polish titles, powerful portraits of the Apostles flanking the nave of the church, luminous stories in stained glass above us, and a massive mural behind the main altar that looked like a scene right out of Heaven. Granted, the angels were wispy, pale, and pre-Raphaelite. I think they are a little more awe-inspiring than that. Why else would they always say "Fear not!" when they appear to us in the Bible? But the thoughts these heavenly creatures inspired were.... heavenly. Bearing their incense …

Cardinal Rigali on the Third Sunday of Lent

Being Driven

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Driving home, or I should say being driven, was always one of my favorite experiences when I was young. Sitting in the backseat, a good hour's drive ahead of us, the radio just loud enough to kindle thought, the raindrops streaking in a drunken race outside my window.... There was nothing to do but be on the road, be carried, be driven. The alphabet game was over, the talk about dinner or the movie died down, and now there was only the whisper of the wheels, a muffled radio, and the slosh of the windshield wipers. The stage was set. My mind turned inward, and the real journey began.

Contemplation is a gift. A sweet gift that is given, but we can facilitate her arrival. We can, in a certain sense, prepare for her coming. Keep a guest room ready, so to speak. That's part of the culture of prayer. It's building that interior room in the heart, and then patiently waiting for Love to call.

Back on the journey home, I remember moments of deep wonder, serendipitous moments when, be…

Lenten Resources from the Vatican

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Great resources from Catholic Headquarters, including MP3s of beautiful choir music from the Sistine Choir! Here follows a section of Pope Benedict's powerful Lenten message for 2007:

Dear brothers and sisters, let us look at Christ pierced on the Cross! He is the unsurpassing revelation of God's love, a love in which eros and agape, far from being opposed, enlighten each other. On the Cross, it is God himself who begs the love of his creature: He is thirsty for the love of every one of us. The Apostle Thomas recognized Jesus as "Lord and God" when he put his hand into the wound of his side. Not surprisingly, many of the saints found in the Heart of Jesus the deepest expression of this mystery of love. One could rightly say that the revelation of God's eros toward man is, in reality, the supreme expression of his agape. In all truth, only the love that unites the free gift of oneself with the impassioned desire for reciprocity instils a joy which eases the heavies…

Daniel Tammet - Brain Man

The incredible story of Daniel Tammet, a savant with a mesmerizing gift for numbers and calculation. This is the 60 Minutes segment, Part One.

WOW....

The universe is amazing. Seriously. The fact that we exist at all is amazing. And we are but the size of the head of a pin in the vastness of space. We're like a grain of sand on a planet full of sand! When we hear the astronomical figures, the ratios, the spaces between things in space, it makes the head swim. There are over 50 billion galaxies in the known universe, there are gazillions of stars, and the one star that is our sun is so large that a million earths could fit comfortably within it's warm and cozy interior. That is amazing. My brain hurts. And yet even with this knowledge, people are bored today. "What'd ya do this weekend?" "Nothin' much... what'd you do?" "Same ole same ole. What'd you do?" "You already asked me that." "Oh yeah.... huhmph." I believe we are starving today for a renewed sense of wonder at the universe. Let's be honest; aren't we burying our heads for most of the day in …

Windows Vista WOW Commercial

I love the WOW moments in this commercial. They're priceless, as is the funny twist in the last 2 seconds of this Italian version of the commercial.

Cardinal Rigali on the Transfiguration

Amazing Grace - A Review

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We just saw the new film "Amazing Grace" and we loved it! Ioan Gruffudd does an excellent job playing the humble and passionate William Wilberforce, an 18th century man torn between his desire to give his life to God or to stay "in the world" and make it a better place. With the help of some dedicated friends, he soon discovers a man may do both. The main thrust of the film is his more than decade long battle with Parliament to end the slave trade in the British Empire.

One of my favorite lines came from the character John Newton, the former slave trader whose conversion led him to compose the famous song "Amazing Grace." Newton is played powerfully by an aging Albert Finney: "Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly. I'm a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior."

This film was a refreshing return to good plot, solid acting, strong characters, real history, and the power of virtue to pull us out of vice. Stay for …

Do You Believe This?

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About 2000 years ago, a weathered old Jewish priest named Simeon was standing in the cool, shadowy interior of the Temple in Jerusalem. He was holding a little baby in his arms. With a surge of spiritual insight and trembling with emotion, Simeon whispered to the humble mother standing by "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

Two millennia have passed and that old priest's words ring truer than ever. Jesus is still a sign that is contradicted (or spoken against); our image of Him is still sometimes confused. His words remain an enigma that many feel is unsolvable. The truth of Who He is, Who He said He was, is still so contended, so contradicted that Mother Church still feels the stab of that unbelieving sword in her soul.

I think it all comes down to one question. The one He Himself asked to a trouble…

Tomb and Gloom - A Deeper Study

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For those who really want to know what the buzz is all about on this Jesus Tomb controversy, here's Ben Witherington's excellent (and quite long) point by point analysis of the claims made in the documentary: http://benwitherington.blogspot.com
Also, an article on Catholic News that's a little more to the point: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0701131.htm

And finally, other sources for understanding what happened to the body of Jesus (but be warned, they have no credentials, degrees, or doctorates to their names), would be Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.