Sunday, December 31, 2006

Call Me "Bookey"

I had a great time in Maine. Left this morning at a frosty 19 degrees. Hit north Jersey and it was 54! By the way, why does the Jersey Turnpike ALWAYS back up at exit 8A? Please post your insights because we'd ALL love to know the answer to this mystery!

Seeing my dad, brother, sister-in-law, and the little niece who calls me "Bookey" made a long trip more than worthwhile. Yesterday we wandered in the woods of the 10 acres my brother owns; bundled and thinsulated up to our eyes in fleece. They have the crystal cold gift of 500 feet of stream weaving through those woods. It was still moving in its deeper parts, even in 19 degree air. Smooth rocks and sand the color of tea below, and along the edges where Finnegan the cat followed us, the ice was woven in criss cross patterns, jutting out like a fortress of solitude.

I loved watching my little God-daughter, Ella, at one and a half years old, making her way through the balsam and oak. Of course "Bapa" carried her most of the way (that'd be my dad). Everything is a wonder to Ella; every leaf, stone and swirl of dark water garner a look and a touch and an "ooooohhh." If I got lost in thought myself, she'd call out "Bookey!" My wife is Becca, incidently.

Ella can identify at least a dozen birds by sight. She nailed a mourning dove just by its "mourn"ful cooing! We heard it from a tall fir and she simply said "mornin'."

Young minds are like sponges; think of the sounds, images and stories we let fall from our history that nestle in like leaves in the book of their lives! Crisp and clear as autumn the colors can be brushed on, but just as easily, images that jar, numb or dumb the heart down can be painted in the minds of the little ones. It's a terribly beautiful task, raising the young in this wounded world.

My family are shaping Ella with love and reverence, and we're finding ourselves shaped just the same by her wonder and innocence. Life! What a swift moving stream to ford as another new year begins! And what lies around the bend?

Peace and Blessings for 2007,

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Breakfast Conversation

The famous "Come Spring" diner of mid-coast Maine has switched owners, and my dad will never forgive them. Gone are the deep fried homefries! Gone the heaping six egg omelets! Gone the pancakes that would taper off the edges of a large dinner plate like a tablecloth (they've been minimized to the size of half-dollars, he says).

I thought the "country skillet" breakfast was pretty dang good. Just go easy on the cheese if ever you order it.

There was a funny note on the "new" menu that sparked our breakfast conversation this morning: "The food may be undercooked or raw...."

What the? Which food? All of it?

We questioned the waitress about it, and she said it was a "state thing." Huh? That unleashed a stream of ridiculous extremes; things we thought would be appropriate and helpful in our dumbed down, "do I have to spell it out to cover all my bases so I don't get sued" society.

- On a glass of juice: "Handle with care; Item may be very cold."

- On menus: "Caution; object may cause paper cuts."

- Forks: "Impaling eye with this object could cause blindness."

- On coffee mugs: "Warning; dropping from a height could induce shattering."

These labels are very important, because look at all the pain and confusion caused by their absence! "If I only knew knives slice things when moved in a back and forth motion on a horizontal plane, this never would have happened!"

Maybe we should wear labels too, so people could have a "safe and secure" environment with no surprises?

"Beware, having bad day. Do not offer cheerful greeting."

"Caution, subject has not yet imbibed caffienated liquid. Proceed with care."

"Warning, person may be undercooked or raw...."

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Maine Attraction

Christmas vacation! Woohoo! That's right. Two weeks off for the teachers at a certain private boys school which will remain unnamed due to the jealousy that might ensue!

Only bummer is, Mrs. Donaghy does not have two weeks off. So... I decided to "pop in" on my family up in Maine, unannounced, hah hah! for a two night stay. What's a 600 mile drive when you've got a double CD of Greg Brown, (which lasted until Massachusetts), the best of the Indigo Girls (finished it in New Hampshire), and a 16 part lecture series on Ethics by Dr. Peter Kreeft on audio CD? (still some left for the ride home)

I made it in under 8 hours; no lunch, and no questions asked, capish?

Yup, 8 hours alone in a steel and fiberglass motorized shell hurtling north. I had alot of quiet time. Greg Brown and the Girls do that to you. Their lyrics drop like honey on the heart and you just have to turn off the radio and savor the imagery. Let the thoughts bound up by busyness go free, expand and breathe again.

When I hit the Maine Turnpike, and the pine and the birch trees waved a cold spindly hello, I started thinking to myself, "Oh boy, I hope they're home." I turned onto the newly paved road (darn it) off of route 17 where Dad has his cabin nestled in the tall pines, I formed a "plan." Which was to "sneak up" on him and "surprise".... "him."

It worked perfectly! I drove past the cabin at an inconspicuous and typical Mainer speed, which was about 90. And there was me Da, carting wood from some newly fallen trees to his brush pile. I parked a quarter mile down the road and walked into the woods, in stealth mode. Up he came from the driveway as I threw myself into the frosty undergrowth, blending like a ninja into my surroundings (yeah, right). When he turned back down the hill, after what seemed a LONG time to be squatting in 29 degree woods, I leapt like a stag (well, I crashed like a moose) through the saplings toward the clearing. As he turned around up the hill again, there I was, his first-born, standing on a fallen fir tree like Errol Flynn, without the green tights (did anybody get that allusion?)

He was speechless! We bear-hugged and he bellowed and I love SURPRISES!

So I slept in today, which I rarely do. Now we're off to breakfast at the Come Spring diner. Woohoo! I have to do this more often.

To be continued.... of course, 'cause it's a blog.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

We're relaxing at mom's on this Christmas Eve, and this show comes on. Amazing! Did any one else see this?

"In the 8th Century, near what are now Scotland and England, Benedictine monastic scribes created a Bible that today is one of the longest surviving monumental manuscripts in the Western world.

Nearly 1,300 years later, renowned calligrapher Donald Jackson approached the Benedictine monks of Saint John's University and Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, with his life-long dream: to create the first handwritten, illuminated bible commissioned since the invention of the printing press. The Saint John's Bible uses ancient materials and techniques to create a contemporary masterpiece that brings the Word of God to life for the contemporary world."

Saturday, December 23, 2006

And the Word Became... an Embryo

We heard it a million times when we were young: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" As I was growing up, I wanted to become (correct me if I'm wrong, mom) a fireman, then a jet pilot, a cartoonist, and a Jedi knight. I still want to be a Jedi knight. Mostly, I wanted to have that freedom to do whatever I wanted; to roam the world, to explore, to create, taste and see, experience life in all it's richness, and to see what pattern I could weave as the spool of my years unraveled into the fabric of human history.

But growing in faith, taking this spiritual life (which in essence is the whole life) seriously, I'm discovering that the question is actually backwards. What will I become when I get bigger, older, wiser? St. John the Baptist said it so well in his mantra that should become the soundtrack of our modern lives; "He must increase, I must decrease." Because to such as these "little ones" is given the Kingdom of Heaven. Our Lord Himself said that unless we become as little children, we can't get in! The door to Heaven is "hobbit-sized"!

I believe growing up, in a spiritual sense, means recognizing the fact that we should really be growing smaller. As we mature and become more "independent," we should also advance in our becoming more "dependent" on our Heavenly Father.

This is what happened, in the fullness of time, when God Who is the Fullness of All that Is became the littlest thing in all of creation. When the Word became.... an embryo. When God became utterly and totally dependent on a little Jewish girl's daily diet. When the Maker of the Heavens drew His nutrients from the life-blood of the little virgin Mary. Let 's ponder this one anew, this monumental event in human history, in all of history. Let's build a window on the womb of Mary and peer inside, watching breathlessly as the Word takes on our flesh. As the Body of Jesus is knit together in His Mother's womb. Venite adoremus!

With all of the bigness, the glamour and the greatness of Christmas, let's remember how it all began. In silence, in stillness, and in the dark warmth of a woman's womb. Moving softly, quietly, just beneath the beating heart of Mary, and under the trembling, calloused hand of the carpenter, Joseph, as he touched that first tabernacle in human history and felt the Word stirring, making his first movement and remaking the world.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Great thought from Pope Benedict today, urging us to behold in the little babies the reminder of what Our God has become for us! "The wonder we feel before the enchantment of Christmas is reflected in a certain sense in the wonder that every birth arouses and invites us to recognize the Child Jesus in all children, who are the joy of the Church and the hope of the world." - Pope Benedict XVI To such as these belongs the Kingdom of Heaven! May we imitate their innocence, be as wide-eyed in our wonder at the world, and allow ourselves to be just as unconditionally loved by God as they are loved by us!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Into the Mystic

I'll always remember the moment when I first became a Van Morrison fan. I was maybe 19 years old, home from college and flipping through the channels when a movie called "Immediate Family" came on. I don't know anything about the film (I just looked it up a moment ago to be sure of the title). What struck me was the song playing during a powerful mother/daughter/healing scene. The song was Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic."

There was something magnetic and mystical in that song that made me stop my surfing in mid-click. Maybe it was the slow and steady ryhthm of the guitar, or the line "Hark, now hear the sailors cry, smell the sea and feel the sky." It could've even been the spaces between the words and the music that opened me up to sweet contemplation. Isn't it always the silence, the rest within the notes that moves us most? Whatever it was, it sent me on a journey to the music store, to pick up the Moondance album and a host of Van's other works since then.

"And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home. And when the fog horn blows, I want to hear it. I don't have to fear it."

Into the Mystic led me into the Mystery! The sense of wonder that song stirred up in me was an invitation to ask the deeper questions. It's the sense of wonder and mystery that the modern heart, I believe, longs for more than any material possession or position of power. We want always that open door, that path before us that leads to the More that we are made for. The one who no longer thirsts for answers drowns in his own Narcissian pool.

Getting answers is great, don't get me wrong; it sets us on the path to begin the walk. But those unanswered questions, those mysteries, are what keep us moving, searching, and seeking. Boy did it take me forever to learn that lesson; that life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived.

In last Sunday's gospel, John the Baptist drew people out into the desert. They brought their questions, their ponderings and wonderings. They wanted answers to life's deepest questions. And John gave them solid answers. "What should we do?" He said to them in reply, "Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise." Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He answered them, "Stop collecting more than what is prescribed." Soldiers also asked him, "And what is it that we should do?" He told them, "Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages."

John was short and to the point when it came to those nitty gritty questions. But he openly admitted that he was only paving the way for Something Deeper; his water would yield to fire, his mediation would turn over to the mystical. Enter Jesus.

Jesus doesn't always give us the straight answer. In fact, He rarely does this. In contrast to John, when questions come, Jesus simply invites us into them. "Consider this parable..." He says to the questioner. "Follow me..." He invites the inquisitive.

When two disciples of John's followed Jesus, he turned and said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi, where are you staying?" He said to them,"Come, and you will see."

"Hark, now hear the sailors cry, smell the sea and feel the sky.... Let your soul and spirit fly into the Mystic."

For Frances

Here is the link to a previous post on this beautiful painting of the Annunciation by the African American artist, Henry O. Tanner -

The original is hanging in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (O. Tanner was a native of Philadelphia). It's huge and incredibly moving to stand in front of!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

My Frosty Can Beat Up Your Frosty... Any Day!

Well friends, Christmas fever has once again gripped the nation, and it's hotter than a string of big bulbed Christmas lights from the 70's! I think you'll agree with me in noting that THIS Christmas is going to be bigger, bolder, and brassier than ever! Why? Because of INFLATABLE CHRISTMAS LAWN ART!! (The aforementioned oddities will hitherto be referred to as ICLA's)

Now I don't know if the ICLA's have invaded neighborhoods west of the Mississippi yet, or even across the sea (any reports?) but let me tell YOU.... they are crawling all over the mid-eastern seaboard. Maybe they came from Sweden? IKEA? ICLA? Whatever the case may be, these massive Christmas mutants are taking over! Picture Godzilla with a wreath around his neck! Big, puffy pieces of plastic in yuletide shapes. We've got Santas, Frostys, Elves, and Reindeer.... even the Grinch gets a spot on the lawn!

Sure, they seem kinda cute, but don't be fooled America! Remember the story of the Trojan Horse! Some of these Christmas creatures are bigger than the houses they are "decorating." I'm not kidding. I saw one peeking into the third story of a south Philly rowhome, and he looked HUNGRY.

Thankfully ICLA's can easily be unplugged, or tackled by a 9 year old (which is hilarious to watch). But imagine if these things were intelligent! Think about it, America, for two seconds!

Now this is just my conspiracy theory; it's one among thousands, granted. But I believe the ICLA's are actually filled with a mind-altering gas that has been created by none other than the BIGGIEMAN! (click for previous post on America's most fiendish foe!)

That's right! Unbeknownst to the Kravitz's, their "front yard Frosty" is really puffed up with a deadly toxin that seeps out into the neighborhood, hypnotizing us all into thinking that BIGGER is always better. What happens next? Open your eyes America! Do you remember these gargantuan Grinchs five years ago? Were there any super-sized Santas on your street even four years ago? And look at us now. I feel like a hobbit sometimes just walking to the deli. And some of these ICLA's, especially the reindeer, their eyes just seem to follow you! IT'S DOWNRIGHT CREEPY!

Here's My Battle Plan...

Let's form a resistance movement! We'll call ourselves the POPCIOWAMWOODs! (which of course stands for People Only Putting Candles In Our Windows And Maybe Wreaths On Our Doors).

We'll show that BIGGIEMAN! Bigger is sometimes better, but smaller and simpler is best. Afterall, that's how He came into the world, isn't it?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Gaudete Means "Woohoo!"

This Sunday (the Third Sunday of Advent) has been traditionally referred to as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word for "rejoice" and it comes from the first word that appears in the entrance antiphon for this Sunday's Mass: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near."

I love Gaudete Sunday. It's our B12 shot for the winter. It carries us through the long shadows of these December days and reminds us that the dawn of our salvation is near! REJOICE!

But let's be honest. This is easier said than done. For the reality is, we live in very dark times. The weight of this blanket of fear seems almost too heavy to pull off. "To rejoice always" seems impossible, to even try it seems a little naive. We are surrounded by war, division, family strife, daily stress, and tragic deaths; another shooting took place in one of our schools just three days ago. The senseless violence continues, a rampant disrespect for the person rages on, and our culture continues to gorge itself on illicit sex and material possessions. Our hearts are full of the wrong kind of fuel. And still we continue to pour it in and hope that something, ANYTHING, will give us that spark of joy we long for that will fire up the engines of our soul and get us out of this darkness.

We want to rejoice. We want lasting joy, yet we know not where to look. "Religion? I tried the Church, and it didn't work. It's full of sinners and hypocrites, like me. Service to others? Did it for awhile and I just ran out of gas. People don't even notice! I had joy in my work, but the bureaucracy and the paperwork and the triple-typed memos about the previous memo killed my sense of creativity and zeal!"

But you've seen some who have this joy. They wear it like a diamond. Like a glittering sword it goes before them, cutting through the legions of doubt, fear, and anxiety that seem always to press in on us. So how can I put on this joy and stay in it? When can I settle down and make JOY my zip code and PEACE my mailing address! I gotta get out of this place! The place where worry and fear always get the upper hand!

I'm reminded of a tale from Tolkien's mythology (of course!). In the Silmarillion, at the dawn of creation, there are angelic creatures known as Ainur who are allowed to shape the world according to the Music they sing. Known as the Ainulindalë, it is one of the most moving passages ever written. That the world was made in Music, not music made in the world, is a profoundly powerful truth. Perhaps that's why music is the language that seems to speak JOY the most, bypassing our reasons for fear. It's primal, elemental, ancient. It precedes the Dark Void; in fact, Music is the presence that impregnates it. Music contains the seed of JOY.
All of the Ainur lovingly assist the One God in shaping the beauty of Middle-Earth, it's mountains and valleys, rivers and seas, except one. His name is Melchor.

What the Ainur make holy, Melchor desecrates. What they build up, he tears down. What they fill, he empties. A battle erupts and the Good Ainur try to chain Melchor, as he twists and corrupts all that's good and true. When the War seems to take a turn for the worse, another Ainur, unheard of in Middle-Earth until now, descends into the newly made realm. His name is Tulkas. And here is the image that for me gets to the "heart of things" - he comes laughing into battle. Laughing...

Streaming from eternity with pure, unfiltered, primal, blazing JOY, he comes. It is the shine from the face of Tulkas, beaming with radiant bliss and confidence in the One from Whom he has come, that scatters Melchor and sends him into the outer darkness. This same joy is seen much later in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, in the much loved character of Tom Bombadil.

Now just listen to this Sunday's readings, filled as they are with this same joy, and so desirous for us to open up and drink it in:

"Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! ... The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear..."
- Zephaniah 3:14

"Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
- Philippians 4:4-7

Let's remember that the measure of our joy and peace lies not so much in what we do, but rather in taking in what God has done for us. Joy is receiving the seed of God's own Love into our hearts, then bearing it out in the world. We can truly "rejoice always" in everything inasmuch as we lay our confidence in this.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I Passed By Grace

I passed by Grace the other day
she wanted to talk but I couldn't delay
Stuff to do, calls to make
She knows I'm working for heaven's sake!

So I kicked out some e-mail
I checked off my list
I ran and I ran
with my stomach in a fist

The day moved along
I had a tune in my head
Grace was singing that morning
Not sure what she said

Some words about life
there was water and bread
something simple, so simple
It wouldn't leave my head!

At the end of the day
standing by the gate
She said "Sit for awhile, love
you won't be late."

Rich, full and so fresh
She'd cooked us a meal
But for me the dollar menu
Was the reasonable deal

I hadn't the time
To sit and to sup
I McHurried along
With my bag and large cup

A pre-packaged bundle
And the lines weren't too long
I gulped it right down
Still humming that song

Some words about life
there was water and bread
something simple, so simple
It wouldn't leave my head!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Straight Road

In Tolkien's mythology of Middle-Earth, he writes of a time before the downfall of humanity, when the world was flat. The Valar, angelic beings similar to the gods of Olympus but much more virtuous, were still present in the world. Their home was a paradise known as Tol Eressëa or the Undying Lands. Elves could reach her shores by sailing West into the sunset. After a vain attempt by mankind to seize the Blessed Realm, and immortality, by force (sound familiar?), this heaven was taken away and the World was bent. It took on the globed shape we know today, and mortals who sailed into the West simply circled the planet and eventually ended up back where they began.

For the Elves, however, a way was left open to return to the Undying Lands; it was known as the Straight Road. As if sailing on an invisible bridge, travelers could pass over the rough and mountainous seas and leave the bent world behind them. It was a grace afforded to only a handful of mortals. This was the road taken by the grey ship at the end of the Lord of the Rings. After the fall of Sauron, when peace finally returned to Middle-Earth, the ringbearers Frodo and Bilbo, and eventually Sam, were given the grace to travel the Straight Road themselves, into the West.

I couldn't help thinking of this story last night, when we heard the reading from Luke 3:1-6 at an evening Mass in Broomall. John the Baptist cried out to a fallen race, our bent world, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

It's coming. Our redemption is near at hand! The time when all shall be made well again. When we can stop running in circles, back to the place we started, feeling alone, abandoned, and frustrated by sin; ours and the sin around us. Finally we can take that Straight Road that leads to the Blessed Realm. It is like that invisible bridge, and perhaps some we know are already on it. They seem to travel well over this bent world, with all of it's valleys and hills. The ship that can take us there is the Bark of Peter, the Church. And the water we sail upon is the river of grace that flows straight from God's own life. The source of this grace? He lies in a manger, in the humblest of places. So come, let us adore Him! And find our way back home!

Artwork: The Shores of Valinor by Ted Nasmith
On Tolkien's mythology: Catholic Imagination

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Wrapped For Advent

Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name.
- Baruch 5:1-9

When I was young, I remember visiting with family around the holidays. The house was always full. Crammed with light and heat, food and drink, storytelling, laughing; music playing and televisions blaring. One of the things I loved to do in the middle of this happy chaos was to escape it. Just for a wee bit...

I'd wander, like Walt Whitman, out into the "mystical, moist night air." Out of the front door and into the wintry darkness. The thrill of the chill woke me up, coming out of a bustling and balmy house full of family. Into the darkened streets I'd go, gazing up at the stars, wandering and wondering, in concentric circles, past the quiet houses with their flickering blue lights from the televisions.

And just when the chill of winter began to sink it's teeth into my bones, the circling led me back to the front door of Grandma's house. The warmth of those sights and sounds was a welcome robe to be wrapped in again.I think this is the dynamic of our lives, this coming and going. Exitus, reditus. And one feeds the other as kindling feeds a flame. In company, we often long for solitude. In solitude, we long for community again. The cold dark and the shining stars can stir deeper thoughts in these winter months. And these thoughts warm the mind with memories and insights. The light and warmth by contrast, invite us to go deeper into the wilderness again.

This dynamic is alive in the figure of St. John the Baptist in this Sunday's gospel. John is a wanderer and a wonderer. He draws the comfortable away from their couches. He takes them outside to look up at the stars! To see the mountains in all their beauty. And he tells them things in the wild so they can take them back inside. To ponder them in their hearts.

Everyone comes to see him. We will see him too, this Sunday. What thoughts will the Baptist stir in us? When he calls to us to turn around, repent, and return, will we stay inside, wrapped in the familiar warmth of a safe life? Or will we wrap ourselves in that cloak of justice from God; the one that speaks to our truest, deepest self? The one that allows us to become that person we were always meant to become.

A voice of one crying out in the desert: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." - Luke 3:6

Second Sunday of Advent:
Reading 1 - Bar 5:1-9
Reading II - Phil 1:4-6, 8-11
Gospel - Lk 3:1-6

Friday, December 08, 2006

Two Spiritual Gems from Two Spiritual Giants

On this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, I thought I'd just offer you a couple of thoughts from the Big Boys; St. Anselm (old school) and Bishop Sheen (new school, kind of). Today's celebration means that Mary, who was conceived through the loving embrace of Joachim and Anne, was kept free from original sin or its stain. This is what "immaculate" means: without stain. We believe that God gave her this grace through the redemptive death of Jesus in a pre-emptive way, because of her unique role in the history of salvation. So to Mary our Star and our Hope, thank you for your YES!

O Virgin, by Whose Blessing All Nature is Blessed!

Blessed Lady, sky and stars, earth and rivers, day and night – everything that is subject to the power or use of man – rejoice that through you they are in some sense restored to their lost beauty and are endowed with inexpressible new grace. All creatures were dead, as it were, useless for men or for the praise of God, who made them. The world, contrary to its true destiny, was corrupted and tainted by the acts of men who served idols. Now all creation has been restored to life and rejoices that it is controlled and given splendour by men who believe in God.
- Excerpt from a sermon by St Anselm

A New Beginning
Our human nature was very much like a polluted stream up until the Incarnation. Imagine a ship, for example, sailing in polluted waters. It wishes to sail in clear waters, but without the pollution coming from one into the other. How could the transfer of the ship be made except by a lock? So the ship in the foul waters would be put into a lock where there would be a separation of waters, then the ship would be raised to the level of the unpolluted waters. Now the Immaculate Conception and the virgin birth were that lock. The pollution stopped because there was no union of man and woman. It was simply woman alone who gave a human nature to Christ and began the new humanity.
- Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

An Amazing Resource

An amazing resource for learning more about the Catholic Faith and a Catholic vision of the world. and the Insight Scoop weblog are online resources of Ignatius Press and are meant to assist readers who wish to learn more about the Catholic Church and her teachings, beliefs, practices, and history.

The Insight Scoop web blog features daily commentary from Ignatius Press authors and staff about theological issues, current events in the Catholic Church, and a host of related topics.

The Point Of It All

The Point Of It All by Peter Kreeft

This is a beautiful piece by one of my favorite authors. I just found it at and want to tuck it away for safe keeping!

Enjoy reading it here...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Advent and the Path to Peace

The word Islam has often been translated as peace, similar to the word shalom. The Arabic root for the word Islam, however, gives a fuller understanding; it means surrender or submission. This is the goal of Islam; the surrender and submission of everything to Allah, the One Who is All-Powerful and All-Knowing. Allah, the absolute Master and Ruler of the universe. It's believed that peace will come to the one who completely submits to Him.

There is a clarity and a boldness that comes across in this teaching, especially in our pluralistic society. Our hearts are often dominated by a myriad of forces other than God. Many today crave the inner peace that comes from being focused on One, and the submission of the self under the power of Allah is appealing. To lie prostrate before Allah's power and to give all to Him is seen as a path to deep contentment.

But there is another way to peace, subtle in its distinction, and yet revolutionary in the way it affects our understanding and our relationship with God.

Advent has begun for the Christian world. With this holy season we see revealed a more ancient and unique vision of God and our path to His peace. For Christians, God is also the One Who is All-Powerful and All-Knowing, and He is the absolute Master and Ruler of our lives. But He is also more than this. More than Absolute Power, Wisdom or Dominion, God is the Lover, the Suitor, and the Husband of our hearts. And like a lover, he asks for our hand. Like a Gentleman, he will not force love. He made us for it, but He will not make us do it. Like a poet He seeks to woo our hearts.

So this Great and All Powerful God chose from all eternity to come down into our broken world to tell us of His love. And He sent not just a love letter to His wandering, stumbling bride-to-be, but His very Word in the flesh. Himself, disrobed of glory and now wrapped in rags. At a certain time and in a certain place and to a certain young woman, He lowered Himself. And are we not all there in that quiet room, present too in Mary's heart? Are we not all the unborn children in our Mother's eyes?

The Almighty "littled" Himself before Mary to win her heart; He took off His majesty. He became flesh. And that day, Heaven married earth. What God has joined, no man now can break apart. The Word is made flesh... forever.


This is the scandal of the Incarnation. Some shake their heads at this act of humility as if it were a humiliation. How can this great King put on rags and serve the beggars in the street? What about his high office, his dignity? Oh but it's worse than that! His body is not a set of clothes to be changed when the dirty work is done. Now God in Jesus has taken on a body, Jesus is a body, just as you are your body and not "a ghost in a machine." (Now, by the way, the dirty work is divinized. Just wait until Easter! And then the gift of the Eucharist!!)

This is how Love first knocked on the door of our hearts:
- not in great power to bend us to His Will.
- not demanding prostration but offering an invitation.
- not through forcing our surrender but by offering us a wedding proposal.

So for us, peace comes not as a divine mandate, but in Mary's way. It is an opening up of the mind, heart, and yes the body, to Love.

So this Advent, let us submit ourselves. Let us surrender ourselves, but in the way our little Mary did. For in her, God became one of us, small enough to wrap our arms around. Close enough to embrace. This He wishes to be for us all. This is Love.

So let it be done unto us, according to His Word!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Great Thought from Fr. Cantalamessa Of a woman who is with child it is said that she is "expecting"; the offices of important persons have "waiting rooms." But if we reflect on it, life itself is a waiting room. We get impatient when we have to wait, for a visit, for a practice. But woe to him who is no longer waiting for something. A person who no longer expects anything from life is dead. Life is expectation, but the converse is also true: Expectation is life! - Father Cantalamessa Zenit News Agency 06120101

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Broken and Beautiful

A few weeks ago, family friends came down from NY (the mom was running in the Philadelphia Marathon) and we met them for dinner in the city. A stream of events happened from there that I can only show as fragmented stills, like works in a gallery; some beautiful, others disturbing, as we brushed past them on the way to somewhere else.

The first frame is of a smiling soul, a homeless man who sat outside the Hard Rock Cafe where we met the family for dinner. He asked for money as we passed by, and he started singing "There they go, just a-walkin' down the street! They look good, they look fine, as they walk, down the line!"

Rebecca asked if he'd like something to eat. "A double cheeseburger and an orange soda!" he beamed. We hit the McDonald's on Market and 11th.

Next frame was a cabdriver; his accent thick and lyrical, even though he's been here 27 years! He left Trinidad when he was 7, and now has 4 kids and works a crazy midnight shift. We know all this because Rebecca asked about his family as we drove towards the movie theater. As we paid him and crawled out of the cab at the corner, Rebecca gave him a "God bless" (her standard farewell). He called out the window to us "'Ave a guud life." I think Rebecca's kindness must have been refreshing to him (it always is to me!). How often do we talk to cabdrivers, cashiers and clerks? How many times do we allow the time for a personal, human encounter? As we were walking and he driving away, he pulled over and called to us with a final blast of beautiful advice. "Tr-rust," he said in that rich accent. "Eet's all about tr-rust. If you 'ave it, you 'ave every'ting."

Whoa. These powerful human moments can happen every day. We felt so moved by the simple beauty of this soul; like a prophet he spoke to us a word we needed to hear.

The final frame... We had left the theater (saw Babel; it was raw, moving, mostly sad) and as we made our way up a chilly 2nd Street in the "city of brotherly love," a young, well dressed and deeply intoxicated man crossed the street in front of us. He ran up a few yards ahead of us and mindlessly slapped the cold and calloused hand of a homeless man. Laughing as if he scored a point he shouted "Hey! Homeless guy!" and skipped past him toward us. The dichotomy of these two faces, one broken by life and one breaking it, shocked us. It enraged Rebecca.

"Can you show some respect?" I said to him. Rebecca said "He's a human being!" And there followed a drunken rant from the man, peppered with expletives. There was no sense of reason here. He continued to shout and curse and stagger around, soon joined by two more friends. I took Rebecca's hand and we walked away. We caught up to the man. He was very old, bundled up, and carrying a small bag over his shoulder. His name was George. I said we were sorry about the way the drunk guy treated him, and we asked if he was hungry. "I know a place around the corner, should be open," he whispered.

So we sat with George as he ate half an Italian hoagie at 10:45pm, and stuffed the rest into his bag. He showed us his prize watch (a $5 casio) which was the reason he doesn't stay at the shelters. "They take your stuff. I don' wann'em to take ma' stuff." He spoke of a sister somewhere in NJ, and of the street people he avoids and the kind of which he hopes to find. "Good people, who'll just let you be." He said his boots were steel-tipped; good for working but not for walking. We spoke of the weather, and for George this wasn't small talk. I offered him my fleece vest and he quickly refused. "I got too many clothes on already!" The curious cashier at the deli said they had to close up shop, so we brushed the crumbs off the table and walked down to the corner with this man who had seen more years than both of us combined. A man of quiet strength and a wisdom, I believe, born of suffering. He wished us well, and thanked us. There was a real beauty in George's wrinkled smile and tired eyes.

Of the homeless and the forgotten, the nameless faces we pass on the street, of the hungry poor and the hungry rich, in the malls and on the roads, let us be mindful. Let us be as attentive as to our own souls. For we are one, all of us, broken and beautiful. We are one...

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!" ...