Friday, August 29, 2008

10,000 Years

When we've been here ten thousand years Bright shining as the sun. We've no less days to sing God's praise Than when we've first begun. - Amazing Grace When I was in college seminary, our rector gave a homily that I've never forgotten. Well, at least the line I'll quote today. I remember it so well because I thought it was goofy when I first heard it. Really goofy. And I think he said the line three times. We all thought it was goofy, and had a good laugh afterwards (wasn't that very Christian of us?), thinking it was one of those "how not to preach" moments to keep in mind, should we be called all the way to ordination. But now, years later, having left those studies and discerned this beautiful vocation to marriage, having experienced so many joys and sorrows already that Life has spilled out before us, watching five fast years unfold like delicate wrapping paper from each "present" moment, the phrase from that homily has come back to me. "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." That was it. Want to hear it again? OK. "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." You can sort of put your inflection anywhere, which is fun. For example, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." Though, personally, I think I like "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." This sentence, of course, begs the question: What is the "main thing"? Right now, it's easier for me to see than ever. In the midst of the fires of our sorrow, of possibly losing our unborn child, all the plans, desires, dreams, worries and wants of a lifetime just melt away, like paper tossed onto a burning wood. What matters most? The main thing is life with God in it; with God all around it, surrounding it... because this life and this suffering make no sense without Him. Honestly, this suffering makes no sense with Him. I think suffering falls sometimes without rhyme or reason; it can be random and reckless. Sometimes we bring it on ourselves, it's the friction caused by the scraping of sin in the world against God's original dream for us. But mostly I think it's the fallout or aftershock of that rebellion, sending rippling waves throughout the universe. "Thorns and thistles grew," nature rocks and rolls and reeks havoc, from the macro to the micro, the physical and the spiritual, and even into the tiny cells of a little baby that should be healthy and whole. I don't know what it is keeping me afloat. I'm not angry at the world or God. I'm just in a white-hot furnace of sorrow. Barring a miracle, our baby will die. This is insane and this is burning us. I'm not carrying the baby, but I'm doing my best to carry Rebecca and the baby. I don't know what to say. But I know God isn't doing it to us. It's not His fault. It's not our fault. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. - John 9 The main thing, it seems to me, is a life with God in it. The kind of God Who Himself entered into this mess, bore suffering to the extreme, and redeemed it. He tells us to carry on, the way He did unto the Cross itself. The main thing is for us to know we need God. We pray that this suffering might end in a miraculous healing so that the works of God might be made visible through our baby. We are fervently praying for this. But in it all, I remember the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Love is here, burning us in sorrow. But in 10,000 years this sorrow will have passed, have been redeemed, transformed. In eternity we pray that we will be surrounded by the beautiful little ones we've adopted and lost. And the destiny of our 13th little child, who soon will be given a name, we don't yet know. We live in hope for life here and now, to have the grace to walk a little life through the beauty and the brokenness of this world, and we hope for life in its fullness in the world to come for all of us. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same. - C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity Pope John Paul II, intercede for us.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Augustine's Restless Heart

What better way to celebrate this great feast of St. Augustine, than to let him speak for himself. This excerpt from his classic book "Confessions" is by far my favorite of his, and one of my favorite writings from all of the saints. Learn more about his amazing story at American Catholic's link here. "Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace. " - St. Augustine of Hippo

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Nancy Pelosi is Misrepresentin'

I don't often get political in this blog for two reasons; 1. I don't follow politics, and 2. When I do, it seems like endless repetition without any fruition (like Ecclesiastes). But yesterday, a friend pointed out to me a little video clip of Nancy Pelosi, first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives, giving her answer to the question "When does life begin?" (Please take 3 minutes and 23 seconds to view the video clip above). In watching this clip, I was stunned at the ignorance displayed and at the completely distorted picture of Catholic theology she offered. I actually laughed out loud once, but not a happy laugh. I don't want to attack this woman, or belittle, or throw sarcastic remarks around like little daggers. She is a daughter of the Father and loved deeply by Jesus. I just need to say that this is NOT what the Catholic Church teaches.... at all..... ever, never, past, present, future. Nancy, before this interview, you should have skimmed through the Bible (Jeremiah 1:5), the Catechism, and the real Doctors of the Church (not the spin doctors). And you should formerly apologize to St. Augustine too, for misrepresentin'. Our own Cardinal Rigali (here in Philadelphia) has posted a statement on the US Bishops website, and there are links to other Catholic teachings on the issue of the sanctity of life in the womb. I pray this is ignorance on Nancy's part, but her words tell me something else. That she is a tool. Rebecca thinks that Madame Speaker was dragged in and asked to throw her "Catholic" face behind Obama in light of his recent and equally foggy "answer" to the question of life's origins. He claimed that knowing when human life begins is "above his pay grade." What does that mean anyway? If someone gives you more money, you'll give us a more adequate answer? Madame Speaker claims to be an "ardent, practicing Catholic" in this interview with Tom Brokaw, and she says that this is an issue she has "studied for a long time." I can't believe it. She said in the interview: "What I know is that over the centuries, the Doctors of the Church have not been able to make that definition.... St. Augustine said at three months... We don't know." OK... let's look at just one of the earliest teachings of the Church. This is from the Didache, written about oh.... 70 A.D.! "You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child." - Didache 2:1-2 And let me quote St. Augustine, who by the way, did not have the chance to live in the 21st century, where 4D ultrasound and MRIs have given us an unprecedented window into the womb. He lived 1600 years ago.... they had candles, and sliced bread, and it was really dark when the sun went down. They made the best judgements they could on the mystery of life's origins (while always defaulting to respect for life and a clear stance that abortion was always a grave evil). "And therefore the following question may be very carefully inquired into and discussed by learned men, though I do not know whether it is in man's power to resolve it (now it clearly is, thanks technology!): At what time the infant begins to live in the womb: whether life exists in a latent form before it manifests itself in the motions of the living being. To deny that the young who are cut out limb by limb from the womb, lest if they were left there dead the mother should die too, have never been alive, seems too audacious. - Enchiridion 23.86, St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Therefore brothers, you see how perverse they are and hastening wickedness, who are immature, they seek abortion of the conception before the birth; they are those who tell us, "I do not see that which you say must be believed." - Sermon 126 Clearly, Augustine believed it. Tertullian, aka the Father of the Latin Church (who lived c. 155 – 222 AD), is as clear as crystal on this issue as well: "In our case, a murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from the other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in its seed" - Apology 9:8, A.D. 197 _________________________________ ADDITION: Please consider taking two minutes to sign in and send a signed petition to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the Bioethics Defense Fund website by clicking here. The statement is ready and only needs your click to send a message of LIFE.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Catholic Vision of J.R.R. Tolkien

"Humanity in every age, and even today, looks to works of art to shed light upon its path and its destiny. " - Pope John Paul II I had a wonderful conversation last week with Generation Life speaker Matt Chominiski on the Catholic vision of J.R.R. Tolkien. We blazed a trail with the characters of the Fellowship through some of the inspiring themes that made this novel a worldwide phenomenon, and a truly Catholic classic: Providence, friendship, love, loyalty, sacrifice, creation, stewardship, a touch of Chesterton's Distributism, virtue and vice, and the unfailing power of hope. For the podcast, visit iTunes and search the store for "The Heart of Things or Bill Donaghy" or just click here and listen right from the podcast website (the show is an hour long and may take some time to download). WEB ARTICLES AND ESSAYS: BOOKS on TOLKIEN: J. R. R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-Earth, by Bradley J. Birzer. J.R.R. Tolkien: Myth, Morality, and Religion, by Richard L. Purtill. Tolkien: Man and Myth, by Joseph Pierce. Ignatius Press, December 2001. Tolkien: A Celebration - Collected Writings on a Literary Legacy, edited by Joseph Pierce. Ignatius Press, November 2001.

Survey Says....

Yesterday's gospel reading from Matthew 16 contained one of my favorite dialogues in all of the New Testament. For me, it's like one of those "grasshopper" moments from Kung Fu. A great mystery is encountered, and questions like fingers fumble their way through the mind's knot. Possible answers start to unravel and shimmer on the surface of the soul, each inviting one to take hold of them. But which train of thought carries the precious cargo of the Truth? THE QUESTION: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Jesus, the Master Teacher, leads them into the Mystery. He doesn't blast a trumpet, pass out literature, get a lush campaign going to get everybody to follow Him. He just lives... exists... each day, preaching and teaching and walking and breathing, being Who He Is in utter simplicity. And those miracles aren't like flashy fireworks you know. Read the gospels. They fall from His fingertips so nonchalantly. No airs, just His actions. Wasn't this all prophesied anyway? This is how Jesus begins His "campaign." Not very conventional, eh? And then He invites some feedback. The first Gallup poll. How incredible, how humble, how disarming is it that He wants to know what we think of Him? This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship! And He wants us to take a really good look at what He's saying and doing, He wants us to get to know Him so we can give an informed answer when it's time to vote. I know that for us today, the invitation still stands (it always has and always will, until the curtain falls in the western sky). Now all we have to do is sit down for a little while each day and read the gospels to illuminate our minds, to experience what He said and did ourselves (because He is still doing it). May we discover in this sincere quest for the truth what so many others have found... Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Yes, Grasshopper, you have chosen... wisely!

Friday, August 22, 2008

"Embracing" Suffering?

I watch the movie The Passion of the Christ about six times a year; five times with the five sections of freshmen I teach at Malvern Prep, and usually once at home with Rebecca during Holy Week. Needless to say, the powerful images, encounters, music, and ancient languages in this film are deeply ingrained in me the way few things are. One of those images occurs as Jesus is pushed by the people outside of the walls of Jerusalem (and this image alone speaks volumes) and encounters his cross for the first time. One of other condemned criminals watches the Christ kneel and take hold of this tool of torture and press his face against it, almost lovingly. "Fool! Look how he embraces his cross!" I've been thinking about that line these days, now two weeks into our own way of the cross. When I was a kid, fresh from my own "awakening" to the reality of God and the call to a relationship with Him, I used to be perplexed by the whole "embrace your cross" mentality. I was reading about it in the lives of the saints, and over and over again I could hear in their voices such a passion for the Passion, a real love for suffering. I struggled with my own attitude towards the cross. I thought... "Well, these guys are saints, I should feel this way too, but this sounds nuts." It was very unsettling, almost morbid, I thought. "Is this what God wants of me? Doesn't He want me to be happy? Am I missing something here?" Suffering is a funny thing. It surrounds us all like air, it trembles beneath nearly every step we take, and sorrow echoes in so many of our conversations every day, but we rarely look it in the eye. Our right to the "pursuit of happiness" as Americans has become an all out mad dash, an arms flailing race towards almost any door that will get us out. Anything but that narrow, cross-shaped Door that seems to lead only to pain. But here's the truth we're coming to see, and strangely it was quoted to me in a movie back in 1986 that seems totally random right now, but perfect. The Man in Black says to the Princess Bride... "Life is pain, highness. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something." Well, there it is. Ever since the Fall there has been conflict, pain, death, and war; inside and outside our hearts. So what do we do with it? Most people want to run from it (hedonists), some people pretend it doesn't exist (Buddhists), a few take a morbid pleasure in it (masochists), and a few, a select few, have come to peace with it by allowing themselves to be nailed to it, trusting in a greater plan. So the saints weren't nuts, though some may have been slightly off balance in the penance department. Really they were just.... realists. Just like the One Who came in a body to take on Death like a hero. And He destroyed it. He really did. So all of this is to say that I think I'm going to pray harder every day facing not fleeing from this cross that Rebecca and I have been allowed to carry. Maybe some will say "Fools! Look how they embrace their cross!" (We've already gotten that from the eyes of one of our doctors). Good Friday has come early again. But we hope it leads to a miraculous Easter Sunday, and we're imploring the prayers of a man who bore his cross heroically, Pope John Paul II. We don't know how long this via dolorosa will twist and bend, but I want to feel the wood, let the weight of it sink in. I was encouraged by a good friend to swim into this dark abyss, and keep swimming into Rebecca's pain as a mother, to swim and not to give up. He said that at a certain moment, if I hold fast like an Olympian, then I'll make a quick turn, like Michael Phelps, and we can rise again into golden light. I'm banking on that!

Fireproof Movie

There is a new film called Fireproof coming out next month that brings a very positive message to marriage and family, and particularly to helping marriages that are failing. On the homepage of the website is a powerful video from the Christian band Casting Crowns (I thought I'd plug it in here). It holds a sobering message and one we all need to hear.... true love takes discipline, hard work, and an unfailing devotion to the beauty and truth of the other. Husbands, let's make this advice of St. John Chrysostom's to young husbands as our own! I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us.... I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you. - CCC 2365

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What Amazes You?

So we closed off our vacation in NY last week with Holy Mass and the traditional Byrons Family Blowout Breakfast at Benny's Mexican-American Diner (you can have salsa with pancakes). I love Byrons Family Blowout Breakfasts (hereafter named BFBBs). Basically, they involve the peaceful takeover of small eateries by the Byrons boys, girls, babies, big and tall uncles and wonderfully affirmative aunts.... and Grandma and Grandpa B. You need (and we often exceed) at least a dozen souls for an official BFBB. Tables are pieced together like Tetris blocks, wait staff quail, menus get flipped and decorated with classy drawings, and the cooks run out of eggs real quick. This Sunday, Taylor Man (my 13 year old nephew with a rapier wit) was perusing the comics section in between his pancakes and Pepsi when I noticed the "Zits" column. I took it home with me and here it is above, thanks to the power of our HP scanner. If you click on the image it will become muy grande (which is Benny's for really big). (The other image in this post is Trogdor, The Burninator, who needs no introduction, expertly drawn and labeled on the back of a placemat by SB and TG, respectively). If you're a consistent reader of this blog, you can see why the above comic caught my attention. A teenager is dragged across the globe and shown some of the great wonders of the world, and he simply sighs, moans, groans, or slumps through it all. It takes a trip to the cell phone boutique kiosk thing at the local mall to rekindle his sense of wonder. As they say at Benny's.... "aye ya yai!" * Now I get tantalized by technology and geeked out by gigabytes myself, as you may well know. And my daily walk can be a slippery slope into "technolatry" if I'm not careful. These days, it's become hard to imagine life without Mr. Google, or cell phones, or the 150 billion e-mails we "MUST READ AND NOT DELETE!" that zip out every day across the planet (and that is an accurate number)... but the question remains, what truly amazes us? Takes our breath away? Reminds us of our place in the Great Chain of Being? What wows you? And let's keep our examples unplugged. Here are a few of mine: - the iridescent shine on the backs of Japanese Beetles - feeling the rush of wind and not knowing exactly how it forms and how it found me - getting caught in heavy rain when hiking up north through balsam firs and pine trees. Rain splattering, dripping, dropping all around us, and the scent of the wet woods was intoxicating - incense hanging in a church and how it can conjure up so many things and so many feelings. It's a SMELL! - a baby's fingernails - reciprocated love "Faced with the sacredness of life and of the human person, and before the marvels of the universe, wonder is the only appropriate attitude." - Pope John Paul II ___________________________________________ * I'm not sure if they ever really say that at Benny's.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Where Do They Stand (or Fall)?

These are two short clips of Senators Obama and McCain, each answering the very simple and direct question "At what point is a baby entitled human rights?" One answer lasts 1 minute and 25 seconds, the other 41 seconds (much of which consists of applause). For all of their individual weaknesses, on this point more than any other we need strength. If life is not reverenced, what are we living for? When the womb is no longer sacred, the world suffers.

Friday, August 15, 2008

All Shall Be Well

Today, Catholics throughout the world celebrate a feast and sing a
hymn of praise for the gift and beauty of the human body. This is a
feast of hope in the resurrection of the body, and our eyes are gazing
in wonder at the beauty of a human body: the Ark of the Covenant, the
New Eve, the Mother of Mankind, the Woman clothed with the Son. Mary.

We revel in the beauty of her body, not as the world does, with a
beauty only skin deep; we see the big picture, not parts but the
whole. Like a crystal that shines throughout, it's the body "capax
Dei" - capable of the Divine. The body as a temple, God's dwelling
place, open to Grace, now glorified and divinized!

Mary is taken up into glory today. And why should this seem so
unlikely, this mystery that seems not to appear in the Bible? Isn't it
in fact the Song that suffuses the entire Bible? This song is the
original music, the song of life, the Song of Songs, and the score
that sin tore apart and twisted. But we still in this valley of tears
remember the melody. Mary's Assumption into Heaven is God's symphony
for sinners.

And so we gaze in wonder, and reflect on the fact that for us too, by
His Grace, what has fallen shall be raised up, what went sour shall be
sweet again, what was broken will be repaired in us. And not by our
merit, or by Mary's alone. In the end it is all and always the Son who
supplies the Light in this darkness.

As we pray for the healing of our unborn child, I relish this feast of
the Assumption even more. We're asking for a miracle, for God can heal
all of our wounds, weakness, cancer, acrania, disease, decay, and
deformity even now, today. In this moment He can make all things new.
He did it before and if He so wills it He can do it again. So I pray
He pours His redemptive and healing power into the womb and bring
forth life! Through the hands of Mother Mary, like a channel of grace
from God, through the prayers of Pope John Paul II, Apostle of the
Human Person, and all in the Name of Jesus... let it be done unto us
according to His Word. Mary, Mother of the Unborn, pray for us.

Covered in Grace

AN UPDATE: We've prayed about sharing so much of a very private matter in such a public forum. Rebecca and I have come to an awareness, though, that this is part of the mission of being "Snowflakes" parents (see previous post, and visit I believe that to get to the "heart of things" - of God and Life and everything - you have to take a path that leads to a kind of vulnerability; an openness that is painful but purifying too. The prayers and thoughts and stories of others who have heard our story has been so comforting and so beautiful, and we feel covered in Grace. In this open wound of suffering, these prayers are a powerful balm. So thank you to anyone who has whispered a simple "please God" on our behalf. This Wednesday's level two ultrasound confirmed the worst for the life of our little one, now over 17 weeks in the womb. There are three abnormalities, but the one that is life threatening is called "acrania." For some reason, the baby's skull has not fully developed and offers no protection for the brain as it grows. Babies with this rare condition do not often make it to full term, and the trauma of birth (both vaginal and c-section) would certainly end the baby's life. The high risk pregnancy doctor told us that survival outside of the womb is virtually impossible.We have a month until our next ultrasound. In these four weeks we are storming Heaven with prayer, pleading to the God of Life for a miracle, and asking in particular for the intercession of Pope John Paul II.We want to thank everyone who has so beautifully responded to this plea for prayer on our behalf. That response has been amazing, and with such heartfelt sincerity and emotion. We are so grateful.When we were told this news I just looked at Rebecca and was overwhelmed at the path ahead. She offered to do anything so that this little one might live even for just a few moments. We are completely in God's hands and riding on the waters of prayer. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Sorrowful Mystery

Rebecca and I believe babies are a gift and meant to be the fruit of a covenant of love. They come tumbling into the world and into a couple's lives reckless, utterly dependent, and babbling that inarticulate speech of the heart that only the Spirit can understand. A baby pulls two people in love into a deeper love, a love, they say, that seems scandalously deeper than even the love they have for each other. "Three is the magic number" - reflecting the Life and Love that is God. I think this is how God tries to make us holy, and whole, and unselfish by allowing us to cooperate with Love in making another self. There we get a taste of His Fatherly care. Rebecca and I know this, believe this, and since our wedding day five years ago this August, we've thirsted for this new life. A life wherein the word of our love becomes flesh. But the sorrowful mystery in our life's rosary is that we cannot have our own biological children. We knew babies were gifts never to be grasped. For us, the process of In Vitro Fertilization seemed to be tampering with those sacred powers that Psalm 131 says are "too great for us" and beyond our reach. Our faith informs us as well that IVF would pull our biology from our theology, creating life outside of the expression of our love. So we mourned the loss of little ones and wept like Hannah, praying for a miracle and preparing our hearts for the call of adoption. Then we found both in Snowflakes, an organization that seeks to heal the wound caused by aggressive reproductive technologies like IVF. It's little known, but when a couple have their sperm and eggs meet in a glass dish (in vitro), science assists in the hopes of making more "viable" embryos for implantation; sometimes up to dozens of little souls. When an IVF couple achieves a desired pregnancy, those remaining little ones are cryo-preserved (frozen) sometimes for years and years, awaiting the warmth of a mother's womb and a chance for life. Across the country, there are over 400,000 of these frozen embryos. Science has rushed into a mystery "too great for us" and the question now is, what do we do with these embryos? Destruction is an assault on their dignity, as is embryonic stem cell research. This is where the Snowflakes program (which sees every embryo as a unique and individual life) offers a beautiful and life-affirming answer: Adoption. It is without a doubt a challenging call, and a journey laden with heartache. Rebecca and I see this call as an answer to our prayers for a family, and a witness to the dignity of these little "snowflakes" who are already in the world, waiting for a warm heart to grow beneath. To date we have loved and lost twelve tiny souls through the transfer of these embryos and their two resulting pregnancies. And now our thirteenth is growing within Rebecca. But the sorrow continues. An abnormality has been found in the baby's brain and we need a second ultrasound to determine what's happening. We ask for your prayers as we walk this sorrowful way. The ultrasound is today at 1:30 followed by a consultation with a high risk pregnancy doctor.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Howard Jones and the Meaning of Life

Howard Jones. This name, depending on how "old" you are, may have stirred up images unbidden to your mind, images from a faraway past; images of parachute pants, breakdancing, big hair (exhibit A), scenes from random movies involving, perhaps, John Cusack or Sean Astin from Goonies. Ah yes, the 80's... I grew up in the 80's and was shaped by the soundtracks of John Williams, the movies of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, and yes, the lyrics from songs like Pink Houses, Cherry Bomb, and artists like Bruce Springsteen, Journey, and Mr. Howard Jones. The 80's culture wasn't all squealing guitars and bad hair you know (except maybe Flock of Seagulls... Now that was some bad hair). As in every time and place, there were human beings with the same longings and desires of the heart for love and beauty and freedom that there are today. As I re-listen to the songs I used to love, I realize that there were some profound truths whispering through the big honkin' headphones of my big clunky Walkman. So let he without Reboks cast the first stone... Ponder these lines from the song Everlasting Love by Howard J. He wasn't looking for a pretty face She wasn't searching for the latest style He didn't want someone who walked straight off the TV She needed someone with an interior smile This is what Pope John Paul II would allude to in his teaching on human sexuality as the "interior gaze" that men and women should have for one another... To see the person and not just the parts... the soul and personality shining through the human body. She wasn't looking for a cuddle in the back seat He wasn't looking for a five minute thrill She wasn't thinking of tomorrow or of next week This vacancy he meant to permanently fill YES! Love is meant to be exclusive, faithful, more than a flash in the pan. Howard, you are the man. And then he cries out with a longing that I know echoes in my heart, and must in every heart... a longing that betrays the lies of our wounded culture that sees sex as the be all and end all of life here below. No, human love is pointing towards a Love Divine, and "Everlasting Love!" That's why we are so caught up in it in our movies and our music. I need an everlasting love I need a friend and a lover divine An everlasting precious love Wait for it, wait for it, give it some time Wow... so today, in the office or in the car, listen in to those "soft rock" stations, try and discern in the lyrics of these lovers this longing for More. We can't deny it... we are made for it. Let's end with another icon of the 80's.... John Cougar Mellencamp: A million young poets Screamin' out their words Maybe someday Those words will be heard By future generations Ridin' on the highways that we built Maybe they'll have a better understanding Maybe they'll have a better understanding....

Monday, August 04, 2008

Hugging the Universe

I was reading the latest edition of Islands Magazine the other day (which we get for FREE for some strange reason which I don't object to at all because of the beautiful pics), and I came across a curious story. It was about a young woman who resides on one of the "10 Best Islands to Live On."  

Meet Kate: She grew up in Georgia, graduated from college in 1991, and then spent four years traveling the globe, working in hospitality and tourism in the USA, Europe and Australia. "I have never really had any 'plans,' so life just seems to happen around me," says the 38-year-old. "I just grab ahold occasionally."  

The article continues: But it seems Kangaroo Island grabbed ahold of Kate during her first visit in 1994. "I could have just kept moving, but I heard what my mind and body were telling me, and it was, 'Stay!' " says Kate. The following year, she moved to the island full time.... Overall, Kate's philosophy is to go with the flow. "Life takes us on strange and wonderful pathways to get where we are going," she says. "I think you have to be open to what the universe gives you. Listen to your heart." Now at first glance, Kate's philosophy seems rather inviting; it's about being open, receptive, adapting to the vicissitudes of every day living, the ups and downs, with a certain grace. And listening to your heart, well, isn't that what Disney has been telling us to do since we were seven years old? (Although, Jiminy Cricket actually defaulted to the conscience, which was nice).  

A QUICK DIGRESSION... Did you know that Disney gave this appellation to that little grasshopper? "Lord High Keeper of the Knowledge of Right and Wrong, Counselor in Moments of Temptation, and Guide along the Straight and Narrow Path." Wow! I wish Jiminy C. would pop in on some of Disney's latest works.

BACK TO KATE... "Life takes us on strange and wonderful pathways to get where we are going," she says. "I think you have to be open to what the universe gives you. Listen to your heart." Now... I am not begrudging Kate her island dream, nor am I trying to toss a soggy blanket on this whole "follow your heart" philosophy.... in fact, I'm all about it. It's just that my spidey senses are tingling at that line: "I think you have to be open to what the universe gives you." The universe? How can I be open to a cluster of stars or swamps of microbacteria? What if I'm on top of an erupting volcano and lava comes spewing towards me. Is this a gift from Mr. Universe? I may have my Cranky Pants on tonight, but I think sometimes we forget who we are, and Whose we are. We love the earth too much, and we forget Who it's pointing to. Remember Wisdom 13? "For all men were by nature foolish who were in ignorance of God, and who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing him who is, and from studying the works did not discern the artisan... For from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original Author, by analogy, is seen."

Let's give credit where credit is due. There is a Face shining behind this thin veil of a universe! I get enraptured by the beauty of the world every day, but I know He is peeking through the curtain. So, unlike the Wizard of Oz, let's pay attention to that Man behind the curtain! The wonders of this earth quite literally take my breathe away sometimes. But when the THANK YOU wells up in my heart, its trajectory arcs beyond the simple heavens towards the Presence in Heaven. Or it bends low, onto this very earth, towards the tabernacle, or to the core of my own feeble and trembling body, where He said He would abide if I opened the door of my heart to Him. My thanks doesn't spin out into the Milky Way. I'd get no signal of a response. I can't hug the universe to express my gratitude, but I can get a hug and a kiss from Abba Father and Jesus the Savior in every encounter with the Eucharist. So one of the best islands to live on for me is my local Catholic church; it's a little slice of heaven floating in this sea of time! Of course, if there was a chapel with the Blessed Sacrament on Kangaroo Island, I mean, that would be pretty awesome... 

Friday, August 01, 2008

Three is the Magic Number...

Who knew back in grammar school, while munching down on me Lucky Charms cereal, waiting to make that hike into Alexander Denbo Elementary School (I was a "walker" not a bus kid), that there was a deep theological mystery being piped through the TV on that awesome cartoon between the cartoons - "Schoolhouse Rock"? I don't know who wrote this song, but it gave me a glimmer of the truth about God and ourselves.... in a Saturday morning cartoon! Just look at these lyrics... Three is a magic number, Yes it is, it's a magic number. Somewhere in the ancient, mystic Trinity You get three as a magic number. The past and the present and the future. Faith and Hope and Charity, The heart and the brain and the body Give you three as a magic number.... A man and a woman had a little baby, Yes, they did. They had three in the family, And that's a magic number. ________________________________ So often we hear people say "Things happen in threes." Perhaps it's because Three is the watermark behind everything, for the Trinity is the Truth behind all of creation! That Ancient Mystic Trinity is the ceaseless whirlwind of Self-giving love that is the interpersonal relationship of the very life of God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! God is not a solitude, said Pope John Paul II, but a family! It's deep, it's mysterious, but it has it's echo in every family.... and the reality that a "man and a woman had a little baby" is a little glimmer, a little icon of this great mystery of God. That He should will that His Life be reflected in human love, in its giving and receiving of love between persons which "makes love" and brings life into the world is.... well, magic! And all of this is a build up to a very real and personal experience of mine.... or should I say... ours. A man and a woman had a little baby, Yes, they did. They had three in the family, And that's a magic number. Coming January 20! Baby Donaghy.... Wooohooooooooooo! (to be continued ;)

Talking to Your Little Ones About the Big Topic of Sex

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!" ...