Saturday, June 28, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
I feel like Frodo, lying in that soft bed of grass in Ithilien after his torturous trek through the pits of Mordor. In some ways, I'm reminded very much of the feelings that the Lord of the Rings stirred up in me at my first reading. It was a sweet melancholia, and in some ways I didn't want the tale to end. With Island of the World the pain was much sharper. It's realism pierced like a sword. Here was not a myth but a man, and I grew up with him, from the age of 8 or 9 until his late 70's, through love and sorrow, pain and poetry; the span of his life and experiences is massive and deeply moving. O'Brien's craft is growing more tender with the years. His characters seem to palpitate, their heartbeats pound right off of the page as they move through the world, taste and dance and sing and suffer. I suffered right along with them, and these wounds will be with me, I think, for some time. Reading this book was like open-heart surgery, and I didn't even realize I needed this operation! But the wound revealed is what St. John of the Cross called the Wound of Love. This book preaches without preaching our need for the tonic of forgiveness.
Wow.... I can't say more but to suggest committing to the work of reading this novel. And pack tissues... yeah, lots of 'em.... and you'll throw the thing down a couple of times too, by the way. It's crazy.... a crazy powerful tale of rapturous beauty rapt in frail mortality.
Peter Kreeft, one of my all time favorite authors had this to say about Island of the World.
"You will not want to put this book down until you finish it, and you will continue to live in it even after you close its covers. This story will change you. It will make you a wiser, better person. Is there any greater, rarer success we can hope for in a mere book than that?"
- Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., Boston College. Author, The Philosophy of Tolkien
Write up from O'Brien's website:
"Island of the World is the story of a child born in 1933 into the turbulent world of the Balkans and tracing his life into the third millennium. The central character is Josip Lasta, the son of an impoverished school teacher in a remote village high in the mountains of the Bosnian interior. As the novel begins, World War II is underway and the entire region of Yugoslavia is torn by conflicting factions: German and Italian occupying armies, and the rebel forces that resist them—the fascist Ustashe, Serb nationalist Chetniks, and Communist Partisans. As events gather momentum, hell breaks loose, and the young and the innocent are caught in the path of great evils. Their only remaining strength is their religious faith and their families... Ultimately this novel is about the crucifixion of a soul—and resurrection."
- from O'Brien's website
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
He lived in the desert, which is a sweltering stretch of HOT SAND and SCORPIONS with little water and lots of wild animals, in addition to the scorpions. He had a huge, ZZ Top, bird's nest of a beard. He ate bugs and wore camel hair, which I imagine was a wee bit abrasive on the flesh. St. John the Baptist was a wild man. He was crazy.
And yet, people flocked to him. Beyond those exterior and eccentric markings, there must have been a deep well of peace, and a truly magnetic personality. What else could have drawn not only the carnival curious but the learned, the leadership, the local government, heck, everybody living in an enemy-occupied land and longing for the freedom that this crazy man seemed to be swimming in down by the Jordan?
Something must have shone through those ragged clothes, that behemoth beard. Some fire burned out from his spirit that illumined every act and action of this wild man of southern Palestine. They say "clothes make the man." But the man also makes the clothes. The body of the Baptist, like our bodies, was the outward sign of the invisible reality of his person. It's like a sacrament; well, it is a sacrament. The body is the first marriage made by God of the spiritual and the physical, heaven and earth, and we perceive and encounter spiritual realities through the physical sign of the flesh. Wow.
So what is this wild man saying with his body? What truth is revealed in and through the radical posture of his personality?
A Totally Intentional Digression...
I was in Manhattan last Saturday giving a talk to engaged couples on the Theology of the Body. At the end of the day we discovered that there was a ton of leftovers from lunch. Probably 100 little sandwiches, chips, soda. So we loaded up the car and drove up to the Bronx to drop off the food at the Franciscan Friars house, knowing the boys in the hoods would know plenty of hungry bellies to fill. I drove through an amazing microcosm of humanity on the way to the Bronx; faces from all over the world, clustered together, crammed into row homes, bustling through the streets, music from three continents playing from windowsills and cars and little corner shops. When the door of Our Lady of the Angels Friary opened, I kid you not, the scent of incense poured out and over me like a river, like the odor of sanctity! The Holy One was in the heart of the city. Isn't He always at the heart of things?
A young friar named Brother Joachim greeted me in bare feet, gray robe, a huge ZZ Top bird's nest of a beard, and a smile that said peace in the midst of all the noise and haste. We brought the boxes of sandwiches into the friary and set them on a massive wooden table in the dining room, beneath a beautiful crucifix and shelves of books. The exchange was simple and then I was on the road, heading back to Philly, left thinking of the Wild Men that lived in that wilderness of concrete and glass and noise, and of the Wild Women, living in cloisters and convents, serving the poor, taking radical vows of poverty and chastity and obedience in the midst of a culture too often bent on amassing wealth, indulging lust, and breaking the rules whenever the rules try to break us.
What are these Wild Ones saying in and through their bodies for the Church and the world at large? Some thoughts....
THE BEARD: Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. A crazy beard says I am not consumed with how polished I look, I am consumed by the Mystery of the Living God.
THE BARE FEET: Feel the earth, walk in simplicity, suffer the chill and the heat, and remember from whence you came. Thanks St. Francis!
THE ROBE: It's penitential, it's poverty, it's simplicity (and it has cool pockets in the sleeves)
THE ROPE: Wild men and women are bound to the Heart of God with three promises of poverty, chastity and obedience, and the rope holds three knots to remind them of this every day.
THE SUFFERING: The radical life of the Wild Ones brings many disparaging looks. Why are they so different? Why are they giving their lives to what can't be seen or touched? (so they think). And hasn't the experiment of Christianity been tried and failed? In the words of G.K. Chesterton, "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found too difficult and not tried."
Thank God for the Wild Men and Women of the Church! May they continue to be a sign of contradiction for us all, a sign pointing to Something More beyond the circles of this world! They inspire and encourage us all to be that voice crying out in the wilderness "Prepare the Way of the Lord!"
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Deep down I think we know this. We know that an authentic human life is one that steps into those shallows in order to launch out into deeper discussions, richer thoughts, into mysteries as infinite as the sky. Into the questions of our origins, our history, our destiny.
One step beyond mediocrity and we are saved.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
another amazing week of prayer and study on Pope JPII's Theology of
the Body (for the previous post, search this blog for Black Rock; it's
an August post of last year... For more on the TOB, just click the tag
on the right side o' the blog).
One of the highlights of this week of intense theological study and
discussion is the trip to the 300 foot water slide on the retreat
center's grounds. Sounds random, right? What's a 300 foot water slide
got to do with God's original plan for creating us male and female and
calling us to love, our fall into fear, shame, and sin, then His
coming into the world in the flesh to redeem us and make us one again
with Him in the Body of Christ? Well, uh... everything!
The slide is buried like a hidden treasure in the deep woods, and
spills into the tea brown waters of Lake (a generous term) Hiawatha (a
Native American term). Man, it's awesome.
After two days of rigorous reflection and a challenging invitation to
trust and walk ever more deeply into the gospel call to selfless
surrender and love, we are invited to leap quite literally into the
deep! To let go and let God take us into the deep waters of mercy!
What an exhilarating journey past the shallows, past the lies of the
culture about what it means to be human, and into beauty. Into a
dignity and a reverence for life and creation that brings real joy!
But it takes a letting go. A surrender to this new gravitational pull
of Grace. And we must abandon the old orbits around old habits, and
take our hands off of the weathered, worn, wooden handles of our life
and feel the rush into a divine life! To dive into our destiny, which
St. Peter said is a "share in the divine nature"! When St. Irenaeus
jumped onto the water slide of grace in the second century, he too
cried out with joy ("woohoo" in the ancient Greek) with words that
sing: "The glory of God is man fully alive!"
Saturday, June 14, 2008
gorgeous, the beaches have alien creatures on them, and this morning I
watched dolphins leaping around in the surf just 20 yards off the
shore. Holy squid, that was beautiful! A nice little gift from the
sea, since I was robbed of the sunrise due to cloud cover. It was a
big red yoke in the high heavens by the time it broke through. But
there's always something to see by the sea for the early risers;
1. My aforementioned friend, the horseshoe crab above
2. Birds piercing air and water like needles through an unseen cloth
3. A young surfer catching waves at 5:30am (that's dedication... or
4. Other beechcombers like meself, zigzaging the waterline like
sandpipers, looking for glossy treasures the sea tosses up and then
drags back again into her frothy curls
What a wonder. The sea giveth and the sea taketh away. And what can we
do but sit at the salty hem of her dress like kids and listen to her
stories? Just sit and stare at this Lady of Water, so deep, so
ancient, so full of power and mystery and life, and death. She has a
mystic music too; a secret song that the elves could not forget, that
Adam could not name and therefore not hold dominion over... But Eve
and her daughters know the music - they hold it within them.
Water is the womb of worlds. And from water we all have come. And
through water we all must pass again, if we want to enter into Life.
"Put out into the deep on the sea of history with the enthusiasm of
the New Evangelization."
- Pope John Paul II
Thursday, June 12, 2008
The Courage Apostolate (from the website)
Persons with homosexual desires have always been with us; however, until recent times, there has been little, if any, formal outreach from the Church in the way of support groups or information for such persons. Most were left to work out their path on their own. As a result, they found themselves listening to and accepting the secular society's perspective and opting to act on their same-sex desires. His Eminence, the late Terence Cardinal Cooke of New York, was aware of, and troubled by this situation. He knew that the individual dealing with same-sex attractions truly needed to experience the freedom of interior chastity and in that freedom find the steps necessary to living a fully Christian life in communion with God and others. He was concerned that many would not find this path and would be constantly trying to get their needs met in ways that ultimately do not satisfy the desires of the heart. In response to this concern, he decided to form a spiritual support system which would assist men and women with same-sex attractions in living chaste lives in fellowship, truth and love.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Because, truth is, behind every Super Apostle there lies a “son of encouragement.” And that's our man Barnabas, who's feast we celebrate today! He introduced Paul to Peter and the Apostles. He was present at the miracle in Lystra that led some of the people to claim he and Paul as gods - Barnabas being Zeus, and Paul, Hermes (how cool that Barnabas gets called Zeus, King of the gods, and Paul gets his son Hermes who was just a herald! I can just picture them years later, sipping goat's milk, telling stories... "They thought you were Zeus! Bah hah!" Goat's milk sprays all over.)
Barnabas was the great Encourager, the Right Hand Man, the Patron Saint of Sidekicks, and yet so much more! When doubt surfaced, he floated his faith. When tension knotted the air between Gentiles and Jews, he unraveled it with peace. When Paul went out on a mission, Barnabas made the sandwiches... and he did his own fair share of preaching to boot. Good 'ole "Behind the Scenes" Barnabas... He was a man of humility, filled with the Spirit.
THUS SAYETH THE WEBSITE CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA:
With the exception of St. Paul and certain of the Twelve, Barnabas appears to have been the most esteemed man of the first Christian generation. St. Luke, breaking his habit of reserve, speaks of him with affection, "for he was a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of Faith". His title to glory comes not only from his kindliness of heart, his personal sanctity, and his missionary labours, but also from his readiness to lay aside his Jewish prejudices, in this anticipating certain of the Twelve; from his large-hearted welcome of the Gentiles, and from his early perception of Paul's worth, to which the Christian Church is indebted, in large part at least, for its great Apostle.
So you see, you don't have to be a superstar, or a Super Apostle, to be a saint. You just have to love, tremendously, and do the task at hand. Different gifts, the same Spirit.
There are countless Barnabasessess in our Church's history. Find St. Francis and there was Brother Leo in his shadow, St. Dominic and there were two nephews of his who were pretty dang saintly themselves. Mother Teresa was surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who still touch countless lives today all over the world. Behind the scenes of every parish, there are the sidekicks: kneeling in pews after daily Mass, praying countless rosaries, clutching rubber-banded novena booklets chock full of yellowed holy cards, passing baskets around the church at collection time, running the Bingo, baking casseroles, stuffing envelopes... there are thousands of "encouragers"... doing little things with much love; and these are the makings of Great Big Saints.
Today, our smallest word of encouragement is exponentially greater because of the benevolent benediction of St. Barnabas. So power to the Sidekicks, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Ah yes, I remember it well.... The year was 1980something, and the summer broke over us like the peel of bells, and our freedom flashed like light from brandished swords, and the slamming of our lockers was definitive! Peaceout Mr. Biscardi! Your jokes were lousy! And thanks for the B - in Algebra! Yeah!
For my brother and I, and our motley crew of friends, it was to the woods that we would go, to live deliberately. And so it was, one fateful day in June as we slithered down the Rancocas Creek in canoes, as furtive as Iroquois, as reverent as the Sioux, that we stumbled upon a single strand of rope, dangling down from heaven like a silken cord, suspended over the water like a magic wand.
"Holy crud!" we all cried in unison.
There is something magnetic, something even cosmic, that occurs when youth and rope swings encounter each other for the first time. Weary as we were from paddling, a new fire coursed through our adolescent veins, and in seconds we were clambering up the grassy knoll to this Tree of Life. What we found (pictured above in a snapshot with my cousins Mike and Tommy, circa 198osomethingish?) was a platform that was apparently built by lumberjacks in the 1800's. At least 15 feet off the ground, with a second platform for the real thrill seekers another 6 feet higher, was the launchpad into summer that became a second home to us.
We'd waste away the hours, discovering new ways to fly off of the rope, freestyle moves, the Jumping Jack Johnny (expertly done by John Moyer), the Classic Cannonball, the Triple Lindy... you name it. Gazing up at the green canopy, dappled sunlight streaming through, laughing, exploring, looking deeply into the cedar water of the Rancocas, the color of sweet tea, the smells, the sound of the hermit thrush, the chickadee, eating store-bought hoagies and Cool Ranch Doritos while batting away green flies. Ah summer! What a gift, and we knew it all along.
I dream of this freedom for kids today. Some have it. Some have never tasted it. Some find the virtual world of video games and media more appealing (a tragedy). And granted, the world seems a more violent place than ever. I know the risks. I know it's scary out there. But I thank God I had the chance to run through this playground, to taste it and savor that taste. Those were the salad days and I'll never forget them.
I think fear and comfort can lock us in, but what a price to pay. The freedom we had formed us, the risks we took made us stronger, and I'm so grateful for this....
Let me turn off your TV before you go crazy.
Come out for a while with me. No, don't be lazy.
Tall trees whose shadows fall along Sheep's Meadow.
Never know what we will see. Come take a walk with me.
- Edie Brickell, Take a Walk
Monday, June 09, 2008
Learn more here.
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Did they say free?
Friday, June 06, 2008
"When I became pregnant at 18, I had an abortion. I was completely unprepared for the emotional fallout. I thought the abortion would erase the pregnancy. I thought I could move on with my life. I was wrong. I experienced periods of intense anger followed by periods of profound sadness. When my feelings became too difficult to deal with, I reached out for help from a trained counselor. With counseling and the help of supportive friends, I was able to enter into a healthy grieving process. In addition to grieving the loss of my child, I slowly became aware of how my choice to abort had impacted my family. I was surprised and saddened that my parents, my sister, and even my living children struggled to deal with the loss of a family member through abortion. Over the years I’ve heard many heartrending stories about abortion. Although each story is unique, a common thread moves through them all—abortion changes you. Yet there is no forum to help abortion participants—and the people who are closest to them—explore this tragic truth. Although abortion has touched many of us, we rarely share our personal experiences regarding it. This is what led me to write a book that shares some of the stories I’ve heard. There was also a need for a safe space for people to tell their stories, explore the ways abortion has impacted them, and find resources. We created AbortionChangesYou.com to fill this need. It is my hope that this Web site will assist you as you seek to make sense of your abortion or the abortion of someone close to you."
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Matt Smith (from Life Teen), Bill Donaghy (Catholic Nerd), Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (these guys are like Catholic Super Heroes)
Rising High School Freshman to Graduating Seniors
A weekend packed with dynamic talks, praise and worship, perpetual adoration, prayer, fellowship and entertainment.
Ave Maria University, Ave Maria, FL
July 11-13, 2008
Registration is $125 and will include a NON-REFUNDABLE deposit of $50 for each person.
"Be Not Afraid...Open wide the doors to Christ!"- Pope John Paul II
For more info, visit the online registration page here.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Well, I don't get enough of it and I thought if I just gave it a crack, others might also step into this Doorway to the Deep. To plunge into the real questions of life, to get past the shallows and out into the open water. I wanted to do all this with an honest, objective, and wonder-filled vision. Because, at the end of the day, Life is Beautiful. Amen?
So the invitation stands to take a few minutes each day to look deep within at the well waters of the soul and, well.... reflect!
SO WHAT'S GOIN' ON?
Now at the bottom of each post there is a little icon called "share this" - if you enjoy a certain article, after reading it, just click "share this" and a pop up window appears that allows you to e-mail it to a friend, add the post to your Facebook profile, your blog, Digg it, and a bunch of other nifty little options.
Scrolling down on the right side of the blog, you'll find a pretty cool pic of two floating youth on a mountain in North Carolina. Clicking this image will bring you to my new photo feed... woohoo!! Just as a blog has a feed (a feed is a web format used for providing readers with frequently updated content. You click the little orange button in your address bar, then click subscribe, and have easy access to the latest posts) so now you can subscribe to the latest pictures I snap from the Adventures of Bill! I know, it's random, often ridiculous, but sometimes beautiful..... hey, it's a life. And if it gets you thinking or starts a conversation about the deeper stuff, mission accomplished!
I continue to tag my posts, which means each article has been given labels as far as the content in them. If you liked yesterday's post "The Good Stuff" which had the tag "nature" at the bottom, just click it and it will bring up all the other posts in the last two years with that tag and similar content regarding "nature" - et cetera, et cetera! All of the topic tags are listed on the right side of the blog in alphabetical order.
BLOGS 'R' US!
I have a couple other blogs now, discoverable if you click my profile info on the bottom right side of the blog (there's lots of fun to be had on the right side of this blog, huh?); "The Love Worth Waiting For" is for youth and young adults on the Theology of the Body. I don't post to it much, but there are some reflections and good resources. And "Bill and Sean's Excellent Adventure" will be the platform I'll be mobile blogging to this summer with my nephew as we embark on a Vision Quest for his Confirmation. He doesn't know where the heck we're going yet...
And of course the Heart of Things podcast is updated almost weekly (it houses the interviews done on the radio show each week, downloadable through iTunes for your iPod). A new podcast is still under construction called The Good Stuff which I'm EXTREMELY excited about. "Dedicated to the True, the Good, and the Beautiful in music, movies, books and beyond. Sometimes silly, always random, it’s shafts of Light from Another Country shining out from the most unlikely of places... coming this summer!
INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES AND SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS
A growing batch of quotes from the saints, poets, and mystics can be found at my main website, the Mission Moment, as well as links for speaking engagements and presentations that are up and coming.
So there it is, the June update. Thanks for being a reader, and please feel free to drop a comment anytime and let me know how this blog can be a better service to you!
Peace and Prayers,
Monday, June 02, 2008
- Philippians 4:8
Spending time two weeks ago with my friend Fr. Kauth down in North Carolina was pure grace. It was a blessing to meet the young people and to wander through the mountains with them, to pray a little, laugh a lot, ponder some deep thoughts, and at the end of the day, to slide under the tree branches that set apart the rectory garage (the Bat Cave, as Father affectionately calls it) and just BE with an old friend.
We cooked up a delicious dinner, talked about the paths our lives have taken, and dove into the topics we love: faith and culture, good books, philosophy and theology... the things that have always wheeled us around the Son in a gravitational pull since the seminary days we shared 13 years ago.
Funny how distance or time or the thousand splintered fragments of life's crosses never seemed to throw us off of that orbit. When I wonder how it could be, the only answer that comes is Grace. What else? The years of 1993 to 1996 at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary were like a golden age, and the oddest thing is, we knew it. Sure, there was work and study and much discernment regarding a call that for Fr. Matt continued on to ordination, and for me moved on to the vocation of marriage. But in those three years, the young men who were called together at that precise moment in time had a strong sense of synchronicity, of a Guiding Hand that was shaping our hearts and minds for tasks to numerable to imagine. Even now as I look at my classmates, those ordained and those who left early and discovered another call, the tasks spill out in tiny rivulets like incense from a golden thurible, filling the world with that fragrance of the Eternal that caught and captivated us.
Somehow we few, we happy few were given a glimpse into the Eucharistic Heart of the Hidden God, the God Who loves to play hide and seek with His children. And that Hidden God captured us, heart, mind, and soul.
I remember one morning, on a walk through misty shadows, I made my way to the Chapel for morning prayer. I was part of the "Vampire Club" as we called ourselves (Picture the Dead Poet's Society with cassocks and prayer books. We would find our dark corners of chapel and make our holy hour before the red glow of the sanctuary lamp). I found the now Fr. Matthew walking the same way in that pre-dawn darkness, but as we turned towards St. Martin's, a pale rosy glow in the east caught our eyes. Wordless, we both headed for a massive elm tree and stood beneath it's dark boughs. For what felt like a few minutes, we stood "like sentinels awaiting the dawn" - and it came. Pouring out fire over the green fields, stirring the birds into song and the bells eventually to peel and crack the air with a call to celebrate another Day.
It was contemplation; a deep gaze into the heart of things, a letting go to the pull of Beauty, the irresistible attraction to wonder that to this day takes only a few words to reactivate and rekindle. I praise God for friendships like this, for kindred spirits.
When we turned away from the sunrise to head into chapel, we discovered that nearly an hour went by, and the chapel before us was now bathed in light! Isn't that what Grace so often does? Light up what lies ahead of us as well as what lies behind?
A glass of wine with some friends
Talking to the wee hours of the dawn
Sit back and relax your mind
This must be, this must be, what it's all about
This must be what paradise is like
Baby it's so quiet in here...
- Van Morrison
A much repeated sentence we hear at our Theology of the Body retreats and courses is "I wish I heard this when I was younger!" ...
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