Friday, May 30, 2008

Speaking with Authority, Ya Know?

We live in strange times, where our words have lost their flavor and our thoughts their sting. We're more like pudding than we are like chili. I like chili. It's hot, meaty, sticks to your ribs. "Whoa! That's good chili!" In this video, a young comedian (though I think he's so much more) gets to the source of the bland banter that surrounds us; we do not speak with authority. Conviction and courage in professing the things we believe in have slithered down into a tasteless, quivering jello. Why? I suppose because things that are true are scary. Like barbed lightning, they shock us out of our sleep and illumine the dark places in our minds and hearts. And who the heck wants that?! Thanks to Fr. Stephen Leake for this link, found on his blog Da Mihi Animas.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Carpet for the King

There are only two parishes in the country, that I know of, that have this tradition. (If anyone has seen it elsewhere, please drop a comment!)

For the Feast of Corpus Christi here at St. Francis Church in Franklin, NC, a Eucharistic procession will be led over a stretch of"sawdust carpets" - beautiful images from the Sacred Heart to the Holy Family laid out in dyed sawdust onto chalked grids as big as cars. What an amazing process. Families have been plugging away all afternoon and in just under an hour Fr. Matthew will lead us in Evening Prayer, then into the procession. Only the priest with the Blessed Sacrament raised high can walk over these works of art. A carpet for the King Who has become our very food; the Bread of Eternal Life.

(More of these incredible works of art are being uploaded to the "My Mac Web Gallery" link in the links section to the right. Once you're there, click on the North Carolina album)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

On Top of the World

I'm in North Carolina this weekend, catching up with an old friend and giving a couple of short reflections to his Confirmation students. We had a great hike today up Whiteside Mountain. There's nothing like talking about the wonders of God's creation while you're sitting in the middle of it! The kids, all roughly high school age, were a great group and brought a peaceful, fun spirit to the hike. The pictures of the day and the beauties we discovered can be found by clicking this here link! - "My Mac Web Gallery."

"To materialists this world is opaque like a curtain; nothing can be seen through it. A mountain is just a mountain, a sunset just a sunset; but to poets, artists, and saints, the world is transparent like a window pane - it tells of something beyond....a mountain tells of the Power of God, the sunset of His Beauty, and the snowflake of His Purity."

- Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Two New Podcasts are Up!

In my interview with Sr. Josephine Kase, the Assistant Director for the Office of Ecumenical & Interreligious Affairs in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, we spoke on Sister's work in building up and sustaining dialogue among other Christians and non-Christians within the Archdiocese.


Lisa Hendey is the Founder and Editor of CatholicMom.com, a Catholic web site focusing on the Catholic faith, Catholic parenting and family life, and Catholic cultural topics. We spoke at length on the idea of "E-vangelizing" through blogs, websites, and podcasts! Lots of good resources at www.CatholicMom.com! The podcasts are available here!


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Two Roads Diverged in a Wounded World

Rebecca and I are in Hawley, PA, at the moment, staying at a beautiful
bed and breakfast called Settler's Inn. I was asked to speak at a
Knights of Columbus annual breakfast today, and they've been
incredibly gracious! The sun is peeking up and the coffee is hot and,
as usual, I can't sleep when there's a world to explore!

The picture here is a little garden path outside the front doors. Out
back there is a babbling river, and a stretch of ground covered with
tulips and dogwoods. The grass is cool and wet, and life is good! In
the words of my man H.D. Thoreau, "I have heard no bad news."

The talk today is called "Rekindling a Sense of Wonder: How a Catholic
Sees the World." It's a reflection on the sacramental vision we're
called to view the world with as people of faith. I can't stress
enough that this is not a "rose-colored glasses" kind of talk. It's
not like pouring glitter and butterflies on top of pain and sorrow and
saying "It's OK!" A sacramental vision is seeing every sorrow and pain
with eyes wide open, and crying out "It's redeemed!"

True Christians are the most real of realists; why else would we have
the figure of a Crucified Man Who soaked up all the pain of the world
hanging in every one of our churches? (well, most of our churches; but
that's a whole other post!) Catholics are invited to look pain and
sorrow in the eye at every Mass. We know it well, but we also hold
fast to the truth that death has not won.

So these two roads diverge in our wounded world: one despairs, or at
best doesn't care, and one hopes. One covers over the sorrow, with
pills or thrills or business or busyness, and the other road, less
travelled, walks in wonder.

So look, gaze in wonder at the Hand behind all things great and small,
sometimes placing, other times permitting, this or that to occur. See
through, like a kind of x-ray vision, that there is a "destiny that
shapes our ends."

No matter what the materialists tell us, no matter is dead. Everything
matters, every thing speaks to us. The created world is a great book
with the same Word on every page, and the same invitation: will you
walk this way? Down the prim-rose path with thorns, webs and the dank
wetness of mourning?

"Wait and see," whispers a Voice that once too was silenced by
suffering, "I make all things new!"

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fly Away

When I was a kid I wanted to fly. I'm pretty sure I wasn't alone in that desire. I think everybody has a deep-seated longing for the freedom of the birds, the freedom to simply lift off, float, ascend, sail away. From the Greek myth of Icarus to Leonardo's sketches of flying machines, human beings have never been completely content as muddy-shoed bipeds.

TODAY'S QUESTION: What's up with that?

Just imagine this scenario: Someone clearly exhibiting supernatural powers walks up to you and offers you the chance to either pay off your car, your mortgage, and get that new washer/dryer combo in the cool new colors for the basement, or.... you can fly... which would you choose?

When I first saw Superman in 1978, I wanted to fly like crazy. When I saw E.T. and watched Elliot and his alien friend cruise over the heads of those mean grown ups on his dirt-bike, my eyes were like saucers. I dreamt about flying across the moon on my sweet Huffy Pro-Thunder BMX Bandit with the star rims for weeks!

Where am I going with this one? Excellent question!
I'm not sure yet....

I'd like to leave the cap off on this one for awhile; open, like the sky itself. Part of me doesn't want to bring closure to these dreams! Adults are good at putting lids on things, limitations, caps and ceilings. Being realistic and stuff.... Boo hiss! Wonder leaves it wide open.

Remember C.S. Lewis's quote about desire. If there's a longing in the heart, there must be a locus in the world for it (or perhaps Another World yet to come). Jesus ascended into Heaven, Mary was assumed body and soul. Am I that crazy in my own longing for flight? There are stories of saints levitating... sailing up to the rafters of a Church after receiving Communion, or even hearing the names of Jesus and Mary! In the immortal words of my niece Ella.... "What 'da!?"

Why is our culture filled at the moment with so many movies about super heroes or supernatural beings that have amazing powers? We give them the gifts we wish we had. From Neo to the X-Men, Superman to Ironman. The animals don't dream like this! Why are we not satisfied?

QUICK ANSWER: The animals are home here, we are not. In a certain sense, it's our home away from home. More accurately, we're exiled. The stuff of eternity is in us, and earth can't contain it.

Now I'm not saying we should try and fly, or levitate for that matter. St. Teresa of Avila, one of the Church's greatest "superheroines" (aka mystics), once hinted that she would rather have one normal experience to a thousand mystical experiences any day. She thought it too distracting for others I suppose, and the gift of her mystical experiences became a burden when people came for the show rather than for Jesus. That's humility!

And the flight of St. Joseph of Cupertino? Where did that power come from? LOVE. It comes unbidden, it fills us up like helium. Maybe I was trying too hard as a kid. Flight is not something we can master or muster at our own bidding. It's a natural byproduct of Love. Love is the fuel.

"Love lifts us up where we belong, where the eagles fly on a mountain high..."

I'll trail off with a rather lengthy word from the MAN.... Clive Staples:

We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words — to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves — that, though we cannot, yet these projections can, enjoy in themselves that beauty, grace, and power of which Nature is the image. That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods. They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can't. They tell us that "beauty born of murmuring sound" will pass into human face; but it won't. Or not yet. For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendor of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.

- C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Give it Up for the Ewoks!!

I could NOT stop smiling at this ... absolutely hilarious! Thanks to Father Roderick over at www.sqpn.com!

Sun and Shade

When I was a kid, we used to play a game called "Sun and Shade." It was only possible on those extraordinary summer days when school was out, the clouds were high, and the wind was strong.

The game consisted of a race from a shady patch in the neighborhood (point A) to another shady patch (point B) up the hill. You could move anywhere, run in any direction, as long as your feet were touching shade. Under trees, shrubs, the shadow of a mailbox, a car, a trash can.... all were like stepping stones on the way to the coveted Goal. If you ever stepped into the Light, you were "fried," and back to the Starting Place you ran.

My favorite part of the game was when a massive bank of cloud would race across the face of the sun, and a half dozen kids would bolt like mad up the hill before the shade fell over us again; screaming, arms flailing, laughing, leaping up to land at the last second into the shady patch of a tree when the sun came out again. Ah, youth!

Let's Get Spiritual

Now if you are like me, you wouldn't mind a little experience of the Divine once in a while (or how about every second?) as we make our Monday to Friday runs from the Shade into the Sun of a weekend. By experience of the Divine, I mean a glimmer of eternity in time, a sense of peace even in the midst of tragedy, or a strong dose of Warm Love, the kind Van the Man sings about:

Look at the ivy on that old clinging wall. Look at the flowers and the green grass so tall. It's not a matter of when push comes to shove. It's just an hour on the wings of a dove... Its just warm love... And its ever present everywhere... That warm love.
- Van Morrison

Now mind you, I'm not talking about gooey "religious feelings" - it's a heightened awareness of the Sacrament of the Present Moment. In the old spiritual classic of Brother Lawrence, it's the Practice of the Presence of God. For us kids growing up on 'ole Jefferson Street, even the Sun and Shade invited us into the Dance, into the vision that the Universe was made superfluously, for us, for FUN. It's meant to be as transparent as stained glass. That's the definition of a sacrament. A visible sign that houses a spiritual reality. Maybe that's why the saints were so crazy, so happy, even in the Shade of Suffering; the cold darkness seemingly devoid of the Sun. They praised even there, oftentimes especially there! They knew, in the immortal words of that little redhead Annie, that the Sun "would come out tomorrow" - or at least eventually...

So look at the ivy on that old clinging wall, look at the flowers and the green grass so tall. Look at the suffering with its power to shape. It's all Warm Love... and it's ever present everywhere.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Poem for Pentecost

"This is a beautiful time, this last age, the age of the Holy Spirit. This is the long-awaited day of His reign in our souls through grace. He is crying to every soul that is walled: Open to Me, My spouse, My sister. And once inside, He is calling again: Come to Me here in this secret place. Oh, hear Him tonight crying all over the world a last summons of love to a dying race.

Acres we are to be gathered for God: He would pour out His measureless morning upon divinized lands, bought by blood, to their Purchaser given. Oh, hear Him within you speaking this infinite love, moving like some divine and audible leaven, lifting the sky of the soul with expansions of light, shaping new heights and new depths, and, at your stir of assent, spreading the mountains with flame, filling the hollows with Heaven."

- Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit (Jessica Powers)

"If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze."

- St. Catherine of Siena

Saturday, May 10, 2008

New Podcast Up! East Meets West! The Church Breathes with Both Lungs

My interview was with Fr. Paul Mouawad, pastor of St. Sharbel Maronite Church, Newtown Square, PA. We spoke of the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church, the history of the Maronite Catholic Church dating all the way back to the 4th century, and of the relationship of East and West today. Father speaks the Our Father in the liturgical language of the Maronites; Aramaic-Syriac, and sings a prayer in that ancient tongue. It's a wonderful history lesson and one that is very timely, as our own Cardinal Rigali will welcome the Patriarch of Lebanon, His Eminence and Beatitude Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir, to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia this May 16. During his visit, the Maronite Patriarch will be honoured at a Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. All are welcome to attend!

Get the podcast here!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Our Hope

If you think about it, we don't have to look too far to see on the faces of our fellow human beings a profoundly simple truth. When properly understood, it's a truth that can really liberate us and start some deep healing. The truth is: we are living in a state of exile.

... But certainly there was an Eden on this very unhappy earth. We all long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with the sense of 'exile.'
- J.R.R. Tolkien


Separation, death, divorce, heartache... We've all tasted this bitter cup. Drive down a few blocks in any forgotten corner of a city, spend some time in a bus station or a DMV. Listen to the news ANY time of day. Look at our movies, so many of which seem soaked in blood and lust. We're crippled by our fallen condition, and we look up and wonder if there is any way out. "It is what it is" we mumble.

Oftentimes, we are removed, distant, doubtful, cynical. Has life turned out the way we dreamed it would, playing in the school yard, with our little crushes, and our wonder and awe at the smallest butterfly or bug making its way along the path? What happened to that sense of home, of happiness, of seeing the universe as a big playground with God as our Daddy always smiling at us? Our experiences have weathered us, soaked us with the sense of homelessness.

"We are on the wrong side of the door" in the words of C.S. Lewis. This side of the wardrobe is dingy, drab, and seems more often just a bundle of old coats and mothballs. Nothing so new and dazzlingly clear as Narnia's cold ice castles and verdant, emerald fields full of dryads and centaurs. We're we just delusional children? Unrealistic? Naive to think that the universe was made in music? Foolish to think we could ever get back inside? Go home again?

Well, if this were all there is... why would we even ask those questions?

Last Thursday was the feast of a homecoming. A return of biblical proportions... Jesus ascended, was lifted up, soared up up and away... out of this mess and back Home! Now He "sits at the right hand of the Father" (that's biblical for an intimate share in the Power and Love of the One) and now.... we have a way in.

No longer exiles, we have a Man inside! This next truth is almost too much to swallow, so drink a glass of grace to help it go down easier..... THERE IS A HUMAN BODY IN HEAVEN (two in fact!)

Jesus and Mary, with their whole selves; arms and legs, hearts and bones, eyes and ears, breathing somehow that air of Deep Heaven, and looking out somehow with immortal eyes! They are IN. Is this insane or what?! And they, like sentinels, stand at the "Door" of that Undiscovered Country and wait for us, their children, who can and should believe that the fairy tales are much nearer the truth than we ever thought possible...

"The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility.... in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved....
- St. Paul, Romans 8:16-24

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Two Deep

My deep thought for a Tuesday morning: What if everything is here, now?

Heaven, Hell, God, angels, demons, saints, loved ones, a battlefield, shouts of victory, the seemingly "dead" who have left us grieving, the answers to the questions of every human heart, the hidden meaning of suffering, the reason for it all?

What if it were simply a thin veil that separated you and me from all of That?

How would you live, walk, breathe in the air of today if you could see It? If you could pierce that veil with your eyes, see the Shapes of the Answers moving about in a Great Dance that made everything here in this Room so much clearer, brighter, even joyful, like the giddy surge of the heart on Christmas morning when you were seven years old and the whole universe seemed like a Big Present just for you.

What if it still is, just for you?

"At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known."
- 1 Corinthians 13:13

I've heard faith called wishful thinking, theology just pie in the sky intellectualizing. Belief an opiate for the people. But to me this seems to come from a one-eyed view of the world, one that limits our "depth-perception" and ultimately leaves the heart dry and thirsty.

"To me the meanest flower that blows can give thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears."
- William Wordsworth

Why?

C.S. Lewis said the best explanation for the feelings that you feel and the cravings of your heart that can find no completion or absolute fulfillment in this world is.... you are made for Another World. This sentence rings truer than anything for me, in all my years of longing, through all my years of study, through the experiences I've had or borne through the lives of others near and far in this messed up human family. This one truth rings clear as silver. There is More.

"I want eternity. I was made for greater things."
- St. Stanislaus Kostka

This word was spoken by a young Polish nobleman who had all that money could buy, and yet was not satisfied. He gave it all up for a faith in the Unseen, and he was fulfilled, like countless others. And he was given a view of that Unseen Love finally. Love took on a human face and the veil was lifted.

So I think we should live today as if the veil were pulled back. As if all that is "seen and unseen" is visible and woven into one great tapestry. May we see Love behind every atom, eye, and blade of grass, every word, whisper and walk of life. It's preparation.... it's Heaven all the way to Heaven, as St. Catherine said. It's the Practice of the Presence of God... and

"The best is yet to come."

- Van Morrison

Monday, May 05, 2008

Automated Confessionals?

Here's a ridiculous and very funny video... and yes, I'm stalling. It's been so busy I need time for some real meat and potatoes posts! In the meantime, ponder the potential of... AUTOMATED CONFESSIONALS! "Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin. All hope consists in confession. In confession there is a chance for mercy. Believe it firmly. Do not doubt, do not hesitate, never despair of the mercy of God. Hope and have confidence in confession." - St. Isidore of Seville "God gave Himself to you: give yourself to God." - Blessed Robert Southwell

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