Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Christmas House... Reloaded

The "CHRISTMAS HOUSE" is an incredible experience. Nestled on a dark street in a quiet little town called Washingtonville, NY, it is Christmas on steroids. And that's just the outside of the house... Every room inside is loaded to the gills with Christmas doodads and whatzits. Classic stuff too; trains, little villages, a hall of thematic trees like the Irish Tree, the Sports Tree, the Penguin Tree, and... the Creepy Singing Tree Which Has Lips and Big Eyes (my personal favorite. I'm not going to explain it to you. Just go! You'll find it downstairs and to the right. Or should I say, it will find you!) Each year, before heading home from NY, my wife, myself, and a bunch of the family make a pilgrimage to this mecca of music and lights. It's open from December 20 to the 30th, from 7pm to 9pm. The CHRISTMAS HOUSE: It's mind-boggling, it's sensory overload! The Palmer family will greet you, dressed all in North Pole attire. And donations are gratefully accepted to help offset the electric bill, which I would guess is somewhere around $139,082 a day! PS - the CHRISTMAS HOUSE happens to be a beautiful family tradition for many in the area and beyond, dedicated to the memory of Christopher Palmer, who LOVED Christmas like crazy, as you'll see. Check out more info here.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Open Up and Say AWE - from the CS&T column "Catholic Currents"

One of my favorite words is... sehnsucht. I realize you probably weren't expecting that one, and you may have trouble even figuring out how to pronounce it. My apologies. Sehnsucht is a German word that captures (and at the same time can not actually capture) that mysterious longing in the human heart for Something More. In a sense, it's a uniquely human word. It describes the human condition. It names us and claims us as the special ones in the galaxy; the ones whose “hearts are restless until they rest in"... well, let's get to that answer in a moment. All of us at some point or another have experienced sehnsucht. Many of us feel it intensely at this time of year. It glimmers in the anticipation of Christmas and it can also elude us as Christmas slips away again. It is the proverbial wind in the hand, moving past us and through us but never remaining too long within us. Sehnsucht is like feeling nostalgia for something you actually never had in the first place, but you believe is still out there waiting for you “just around the river bend.” C.S. Lewis was captivated by the concept of sehnsucht. In The Pilgrim's Regress he provided examples of things that can wrap an image around it, like a suit of clothes around the Invisible Man: "...the smell of a bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World's End, the opening lines of "Kubla Khan", the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves." Music is one of the brightest wrappings to give form to our elusive yearning for meaning in life, and Christmas music doubly so. Chanting choirs, children’s voices, songs we’ve heard for generations, and some new ones that have a spark of longing in them. Even the "Grinchyest" of hearts has a favorite tune. Although I’ve heard Gloria Estefan’s song “Christmas Through Your Eyes” in seasons past, this year it really struck me. I think it’s the presence of our little boy, who’s just over a year old now. We’re looking backwards to our youth and forward through his! Gloria too is captured by the innocence of young eyes and the pure wonder reflected in them. Like an expert spy, the power of her music has slipped past the guards of doubt and cynicism and touched the very core of who we are, all of us, deep down; Children of God.
Till I had you I didn't know That I was missing out Had to grow up and see the world Through different shades of doubt Give me one more chance to dream again One more chance to feel again Through your young heart If only for one day let me try I wanna see Christmas through your eyes
It’s been said that boredom is a relatively new term. The French coined the word ennui to describe that listlessness we see around us, the great shuffling of modern feet through a world that’s being stripped of its inherent transcendence. We’re like the character in the film Joe versus the Volcano, trudging off to work, scraping our shoe against the sidewalk crying out “I’m losing my sole.” But in the wisdom of God, and through the fruitfulness He endowed us with, we have the grace to “feel again through your young heart.” With everything human, however, there must be a choice. We must decide in this walk of life to look up, to resist the gravitational pull of skepticism and mistrust. We must acknowledge the restlessness too, and let the hole in the center of our hearts remain open. Not easy work by any means, especially in this season when we are bombarded with the temptation to cram material, finite things into that hole in the center of our chests. But our hearts will be restless until they rest in God, so Augustine reminds us.
I see the rain, you see the rainbow hiding in the clouds Never afraid to let your love show Won't you show me how Wanna learn how to believe again Find the innocence in me again Through your young heart
I remember a little shard of poetry that says “Two men looked out through prison bars. One saw mud, the other stars.” So where are we in all of this? Are we amazed or dazed? Have we got the wonder, I wonder? As the assault on family, faith, and fertility rages on in our culture, perhaps we’d all do well to heed those street signs that say “Watch Children.” We need to see again, and not just Christmas, but all things through their eyes. For to just such as these is given the Kingdom of Heaven. Do you believe this? Did you know that your heart is the place He wishes to dwell? Let’s make our hearts that manger this year. Let's acknowledge the longing in us by naming Jesus in one of His ancient titles: Desire of the Everlasting Hills. Let’s make room within for the Child in all of us.
Help me find a way, help me try I wanna see Christmas through your eyes

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas to All!

We were so proud of our little drummer boy, who sat for this homemade photo shoot (though truth be told it lasted about 36 seconds.) It's amazing what a hand towel, bathrobe, old belt and bed sheet can do in a fix! Wishing you all a truly blessed and faith-filled season of Light. Thanks for following the Blog!
The way to begin healing the wounds of the world is to treasure the Infant Christ in us; to be not the castle but the cradle of Christ; and, in rocking that cradle to the rhythm of love, to swing the whole world back into the beat of the Music of Eternal Life. - Caryll Houselander

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Night Vision

(In the spirit of "going green" this Christmas, parts of this reflection have been constructed from recycled material)
What a bizarre time this is; the Christmas season. Never is there a period of such polar opposites as there are at this time of year.
All around us we are bombarded with the imperative to consume, collect, grab, and grasp. There are lines of impatient, honking, beeping, cranky souls snaking through the shops and malls all around us. Incredible pressure is laid on people to find this or that gift for this or that niece or nephew, cousin or coworker. It can bring out the absolute worst in people (and let me add, the best).
THE WORST: I watched a woman in her 50s sitting in her car with her elderly mother curse out a car behind her for honking at her... one honk. And it was one of those friendly little honks too. Grandma just kinda slid deeper into her seat, clutching her purse.
When Sunday comes, we roll off to Church and hear just the opposite. "It is better to give than to receive" - "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son..." - "wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger." The radio plays as we whiz through the thousands of cars in the parking lot, like vultures looking for an open space... "Away in a manger, no crib for his bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head." We drive home flustered, past little glowing, plastic nativity scenes of a man and a woman kneeling in the snow, gazing down at a little plastic Child. A whole plastic, glowing mob of souls gathers round the Babe; kings and shepherds, the rich and the poor (and occasionally a big plastic Snowman or the Grinch, which is a whole other story). What do we make of all this? I was out shopping last year, trying to stay focused, trying to recall what we are moving towards in these next couple of days. Standing in a massive line at Borders, with Mr. Cranky Pants on his cell phone behind me, a youth in angst blurted "Merry (expletive) Christmas" to my left, as only a youth in angst can do. I prayed for a great awakening. I prayed the whole glitzy, glamourous scene would vanish, roll back like a stage curtain, and we would all find ourselves kneeling in that cold cave in that backwater town of Bethlehem. Unplugged, unknown, and alone... looking down at a very poor couple who had to find a place to rest their newborn baby... and the only "space" they could find was a feeding trough for animals in a stable. Scandalous.
That would make the news, wouldn't it? Wouldn't that stop us in our tracks? Hmmm, I don't think so. You learn when you go out into the wild, for a campfire, or a night of stargazing, that bright light can take away your night vision. Perhaps we'd do better to unplug ourselves for a little awhile in this season of lights, and maybe we'd get our vision back. We're told to be good consumers, to boost this failing economy. But this consumption of things will no more help our country than it will satisfy our souls. Someone else has come with a better plan for our salvation. He lays in a manger (the word means "to eat") and he is born in Bethlehem, which means literally "house of bread." And he looks at us all, racing about stuffing our stockings and stuffing our trunks with things. And he says, "Take and eat, take and drink; this is my Body, given up for you." We are invited to consume, to eat and by eating become one with the Love that has become our Food. This is the Love that truly satisfies! This is the Feast of Christmas!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Juan Diego, The Walkin' Man

Yes, the strains of James Taylor’s famous tune “Walkin’ Man” came to me as I was reading about our “saint du jour” today, and you’ll soon see why. Juan Diego was born in 1474 in what today is a part of Mexico City, Mexico. He lived a simple life as a weaver, farmer, and worker. He was baptized at the age of 50 by a Franciscan missionary, and so began a faithful “walk” with God each day…15 miles to be exact! Every day, and mind you he was in his fifties at this point, Juan would walk to Mass. 15 miles! He is more famous for the amazing miracles he witnessed at the hands of Heaven; Our Lady appearing to him, the roses the bishop asked for blooming in winter, and the magic of the tilma, a stunning work of art painted by Heaven itself on his burlap clothing (which still exists today, defying all scientific comprehension and study). We’ll hear more on that one this weekend - The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. But in all this, it was still his walk that struck me. The dedication, the patience, the sheer strength of his character, his obvious passion for the Eucharist….. staggering. And when Mary Immaculate called him to his special mission, he called himself a “nobody.” Wow. The next time we attend Mass and are “distracted” or “bored” or feel we’re not “getting anything out of it….” Or we feel it’s too early, or the preaching stinks, or the music stinks…. think of Juan Diego, barefoot, walking 15 miles through desert terrain to stand, to kneel, and to bask in the glow of that Divine Fire of the Eucharist…. The same Fire of Heaven we are invited to taste every morning, in our parish church, chapel, or city church.
St. Juan Diego, humble servant of Heaven, pray for us... give us some of your faith and your fire of love!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Grace is Everywhere

Hello All,
We've shared this invitation/request with a few friends and family already, but we are "sending" it out officially now.
Last year, we lost our precious baby daughter Grace Elizabeth. She was born on January 4 and died the same day, just 10 hours later. The full story of our day with Grace is linked here - Needless to say, those 10 hours, and the 9 months she lived with us in the womb will never be forgotten. To celebrate her short life on earth, and especially her peace and joy now in Heaven, we want to invite you to "seek grace" with us in the signs all around us... literally.
If there was anything that Grace taught us (and there was so much) it was that most blessings in life are unseen, or easily missed, passed by, or even unlooked for. So now, let's look! If at any time you see a "Grace" sign, ie. Grace's Nails, Grace's Deli, Grace's Chapel, please take your photo in front of it (that's key), attach it to an e-mail, and send it to
We are compiling a photo album of Gracie's pics, and we'd love to receive one everyday, until we're old and grey. It will force us to slow down and think of her especially in that moment. Please keep a look out, Grace is everywhere!
Peace and Prayers, Rebecca and Bill

Monday, December 07, 2009


Have you ever been captivated by a word, a phrase, a song? Has it drawn you in? Do you return to those words, that music, again and again? I have books that are weathered, crammed with bookmarks and holy cards, pages dripping with the ink of my notes, and the faded glow of a highlighter. I have songs that if they were still in cassette form, would sound like they were singing underwater! Like a thirsty man, I return to the sweet ambrosia of Jesus, John Paul II, John Mellancamp, Thoreau, Kreeft, Sheen, Morrison, Einstein and others again and again. There are thoughts and ideas, insights and inspirations that do not age. There is Truth and Beauty in our midst, wrapped in immortality as in a robe, shielded from our mortal weakness. They are here to warm us in a post-modern age that has too often stripped life of its transcendent truth and meaning. Today’s saint was one who was so clothed. Ambrose was ambrosia to those around him. He hailed from the 4th century, a bishop and teacher, and his words burned with that eternal fire, and we are forever grateful. Because of his preaching, the great Augustine was converted; he who was a drifter was caught in Ambroses’ stream of inspired words, and the music of the Mass. So what are the thoughts and ideas, insights and inspirations that you have been captivated by? What Truth and Beauty do you return to, especially in these days of holiday hastiness, and the rush of the culture to fill every void of silence, and empty every pocket of substance? Where is the ambrosia that fills you up?

Irish Soul - Liam Clancy and the Passing of an Age

It's with a sad and heavy heart that we see the passing of the Irish troubadour Liam Clancy, last of the Clancy Brothers, who died this past Friday at the age of 74. Liam, with his brothers and Tommy Makem, lifted Ireland's heart high in the folk music revival of the last century, and brought much of Ireland's soul to America. This music fed me for many's the year, and many's the meandering through green fields and woods. Their music hits the heart, and leads the mind into open spaces and forgotten things. The things that shaped a people, and continue to shape them. In our day of glitzy pop music, pyrotechnics, and shock and awe lyrics, the Clancy Brothers are a refreshing blast of salty air from the Irish Sea. Enjoy this classic tune "Red is the Rose" and a real gem; the Brothers being interviewed on a Scottish program, speaking on their art of folk music and the need for the genre now more than ever.

This Week's Mission Moment - December 7

When we leave the holy banquet of Communion, we are as happy as the wise men would have been if they could have carried away the Infant Jesus. St. John Vianney

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fire in the Hole

How gently and lovingly you wake in my heart, where in secret you dwell alone; and in your sweet breathing, filled with good and glory, how tenderly you swell my heart with love. - St. John of the Cross, Living Flame of Love I seriously doubt that God's dream for us, the reason He created us male and female and called us into a life-giving, ecstatic union of soul, mind, and body in a Garden Paradise at the beginning of the human story was so that He could eventually "lord" it over us with a list of oppressive rules and commandments. We were not made for law, we were made for love. However, when it comes to living out our eros, our God-given passion for all that is good, true, and beautiful, it seems many of us don't even equate it with Christianity anymore. We feel that eros is less than holy, and are content with continence not consummation - so we divorce passion from purity and just tough it out, trying to stay clean, in a kind of legalistic contract with God that will keep us on the "Big Guy's" good side. This is a sad existence to say the least; a life lived in quiet desperation. Truth is, we are here in this visible world to make the invisible, incredible love of God manifest! And until we open up heart, mind, and body to the power of Divine Love and let God have His way with us, the Kingdom of God is not within us. The dream of God for humanity is unrealized. Until we learn to break out of the paradigm of niceness, of merely following the rules just enough to stay out of hell, there will be no revolution. God does not want us to be nice. God wants us to be madly in love. "We who have received the grace of believing in Christ, the revealer of the Father and the Savior of the world, have a duty to show to what depths the relationship with Christ can lead. The great mystical tradition of the Church of both East and West has much to say in this regard. It shows how prayer can progress, as a genuine dialogue of love, to the point of rendering the person wholly possessed by the divine Beloved, vibrating at the Spirit's touch, resting filially within the Father's heart..." - Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, 33 Wow. I never heard that one in Sunday School! The pinnacle of our prayer life is possession by the Divine? Amazing! And this is in a letter written not only for cloistered religious, but for all Christians! "It is a journey totally sustained by grace, which nonetheless demands an intense spiritual commitment and is no stranger to painful purifications (the "dark night"). But it leads, in various possible ways, to the ineffable joy experienced by the mystics as "nuptial union". How can we forget here, among the many shining examples, the teachings of Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila?" - Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, 33
The spirituality of Carmel has its roots deep in the Old Testament. In figures like Moses and Elijah, Hosea and Isaiah, we see souls climbing up the holy mountain, not content with living a kind of suburban, comfortable distance from the City of God. These mystics plunge into the Mystery of the Heavenly Jerusalem, and they toss out ropes and life-lines for us to scale the holy mountain too. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Edith Stein... all invite us beyond mere legalism into the Love that fires the heavens.
Carmelite spirituality influenced the work of Pope John Paul II. It's fragrance broke into his heart and he has allowed that odor of sanctity to permeate his letters, addresses, and most especially, deep into his teaching on the Theology of the Body.
Yes, dear brothers and sisters, our Christian communities must become genuine "schools" of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the heart truly "falls in love."
- Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, 33
A famous and very learned Catholic theologian was once asked about the most profound thought he had ever had. He said it was simply "Jesus loves me."
I think I'm just starting to see the real Jesus and to feel His love for me. According to Pope Benedict XVI (God is Love, 10), this Sacred Heart, this Bridegroom, in fact has an eros for us, for me! Sometimes the thought comes like a blast of wind through the old dusty alleyways of my own interior castle; Jesus loves me. I get the sense that He is knocking on more doors than just one. That from the moment that I first let Him in, He's been exploring other rooms; deeper levels of me than I ever knew I had. Jesus comes to love us in every one of them, and always as a gentlemen; He knocks first. I think this love then, elicits our response.
Will I let Him in? And how far? Beyond the foyer, past the pews of our Sunday "obligation?" Right into the tabernacle of His Presence among us? St. Edith Stein, a Carmelite, knew the passion of our God for her heart. She found the flames burning brightest in the Eucharist. She said: "In the heart of Jesus, which was pierced, the kingdom of heaven and the land of earth are bound together. Here is for us the source of life. This heart is the heart of the Triune Divinity, and the center of all human hearts... It draws us to itself with secret power, it conceals us in itself in the Father's bosom and floods us with the Holy Spirit. This heart, it beats for us in a small tabernacle where it remains mysteriously hidden in that still, white host." This heart has become our food! And why? The Carmelite mystics knew why; because this is the very nature of love, to be poured out, to be consumed and to consume! Many of us have grown up hearing that God loves us, but have we heard that God wants to consume us? Be consumed by us? For many of us, I fear, that kind of love doesn't fit with our image of God. Perhaps those old images we have need to be smashed at the base of the holy mountain...
Giving a talk this summer, I was approached by a woman in her late 50's. "I'm really struggling with the image of God as a lover." But this is Who He Is. He is an "eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and He has destined us to share in that exchange." (CCC, 221)
God is More than a Lawgiver, or a Judge, or a Friend.... "Our God is a consuming fire..." (Hebrews 12) He wants to be the Burning Bush at the center of our interior castle. Will you let Him in? Will you give Him your heart?
Originally published on The Publican
Visit the online journal here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Eat, Drink, and Be Thankful!

There are precious few things that slide through the culture untouched by commercialism and glitz and glam. Thanksgiving is one of them. Today is about family, food, being together, and after everything's been prepared, doing nothing.
So let us all be thankful for the gifts that surround us, big and small. God is good... and pass the gravy!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Adult Stem Cells More Promising than Embryonic

Science Proves Adult Stem Cells More Promising than Embryonic, Says Vatican Official Rome, Italy, Nov 22, 2009 (CNA).- "The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, said this week that the work by two scientists has shown adult stem cells to be much more promising for medical treatment than embryonic stem cells. The use of adult stem cells poses no ethical difficulties and has already contributed to advancing treatments for degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's. In an article published by L'Osservatore Romano, the archbishop cited the work of two scientists, James Thomson of the United States and Shinya Yamanaka of Japan. Yamanaka was able to create adult stem cells in rats and later using human skin, which he called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, constituting a significant scientific development...." Read the rest of this EWTN article here:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

She Ain't Heavy, She's My Sister

Feast of St. Agnes of Assisi – Born 1197 – Died 1253 Some people have such a fire in them, such determination, that they cannot be stopped. Like a rock of faith in the midst of a stormy sea, they stand firm and cannot be moved. Sometimes…. literally. St. Agnes was the biological sister of the famous foundress of the Poor Clares, St. Clare. Agnes was Clare's "first" follower. But like anything as bold as discipleship, it met with some resistance. Some felt that Agnes, like her sister Clare, was wasting her life in this devotion to prayer and poverty. When she left home just two weeks after Clare's exodus into the desert of contemplation, the family tried to fetch her back. They had tophysically drag her out of the monastery, but suddenly she became so heavy that several big armed knights could not budge her. The will of the soul made steel of her body, it would seem. When her charming uncle Monaldo tried to strike her, he was temporarily paralyzed. They left Agnes and Clare in peace. Smart move. The Moral? Don't mess with the desires of the heart; don't try to force a soul so uniquely called to fit into your little paradigm of what happiness is. And know this: we need contemplatives like Agnes and Clare in the world. They rest in the eye of the storm in perfect stillness. They draw down graces innumerable by their constant gaze into the Heart of God. We need them, and should never hinder their call into the white hot furnace of silence. "One solitary God-centered, God-intoxicated person can do more to keep God's love alive and His presence felt in the world than a thousand half-hearted, talkative busy people living frightened, fragmented "lives of quiet desperation." - Fr. McNamara

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The End is Here!

How many times have we seen a movie or a TV show with the iconic "crazy" person on a street corner wearing a placard with "The End is Near" scribbled on it? And how many times have we quickly dismissed that person as extreme, ludicrous, ultimately sad? But have you ever gotten the itch that invites you to scratch and see below the surface? What if it was true?
It seems Hollywood has the itch.... really bad. She can't make the budgets big enough for these gloom and doom dramas about the End of All Things, from Armageddon and Deep Impact to The Day After Tomorrow and last weekend's latest installment "2012."
The box office seems to be saying something as well; people love it. People want to see it. It may be out of a morbid desire to see historic landmarks crumple under a 900 foot tsunami, but behind that, I think there's a bit of good 'ole fashioned Catholic spirituality at work.
Memento mori, as the saying goes. "Remember death."
As creepy as it sounds, we're invited to reflect on our death many times throughout the liturgical year. We're actually entering into the season for this right now. Advent is beginning, and it is more than just a glance backwards to the Birth of Jesus two thousand years ago. It's a glance to the future, to the End, when we believe He will return. This story, History, will indeed end... and simultaneously.... begin.
The readings from this week's Mass matched up quite perfectly with the debut of "2012." (I wonder if Hollywood was reading the lectionary?)
Jesus said to his disciples: "In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in the clouds' with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.
- Mark 13:24-32
The twist however is that Christians look to this End with, now get this, joyful expectancy. "Lift up your heads, Scripture tells us, for your redemption is near at hand!" Now this doesn't mean we sit around with hands up high like kids waiting for Daddy to pick them up and take them to his warm chest and carry them home. (Although that sounds like the orans position of prayer and a great way to live to me!) It means we keep our feet on the ground and keep working. And we whistle while we work, too, like little dwarves, keeping the Palace of our hearts clean for the arrival of our King and Queen. St. Francis was once approached by a nervous brother friar, who was a bit stressed about the End and perhaps more so, about his conscience. Francis looked up from the patch of earth he was tending in the garden. "Brother Francis, what if our dear Savior were to return this very day. What would you do!"
"I would keep gardening, until He found me" smiled the saint. Now that's peace.
For the believer, the End is not at some remote or proximate point, not a number like 2012, or 3012 for that matter. The End is... here, now. The Kingdom of God is within you, here, now. It is already, and not yet. All of the world that we see is simply a veil pulled over the Eternal Now where God abides. Why should we be afraid?
Can the unborn child in its dark and watery womb imagine the vibrant life that moves about just past that veil of mommy's flesh? Can it be so near and yet seem so distant? Perhaps our End is closer than we think. Maybe our true birthday is about to begin, as it has for the saints. Their death is remembered as their feast day, their birthday into Eternal Life.
In the meantime, as we close off another liturgical year, and step closer to 2010, 2011, and 2012 (wink wink), let's not panic, let's pray.... and keep smiling, with our heads and hands busy in the garden of this world, preparing a harvest of good deeds and much love for the World to come.

Monday, November 16, 2009

This Week's Mission Moment - November 16, 2009

A world that is "beyond good and evil," in which nothing is either genuinely good or genuinely bad, and no truth, goodness, or beauty are revealed, is a world in which nothing is either intrinsically desirable or detestable. Such a world affords no possibility of seeing and using things as holy, which means to some degree letting them be, because in such a world there can be no holy things. Boredom is therefore the defining condition of a people uniquely in danger of losing their capacity to love, that is, a people uniquely in danger of failing to grasp "the mystery of [its] own being" and losing its very humanity. - Michael Hanby

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Martin of Tours and the Veiled Temple

Today’s saint, Martin of Tours, saw the Man behind the curtain, and it changed his life forever.
He lived and breathed, sweat and struggled on this earth in the 4th century. He was born in Hungary but was raised in Italy, forced into military service at the age of 15. He became a Christian and was baptized at 18. Martin was known to be more of a monk than a soldier. At the age of 23, he made his great leap of faith, refusing a war bonus and making this request of his captain: "I have served you as a soldier; now let me serve Christ.” Newly welcomed into the faith, he saw a beggar on the outskirts of the city. Still in his military garb, moved to compassion, he took out his sword and cut his cloak in two pieces, covering the poor man and, to the scorn of onlookers, awkwardly covering himself in the cold with the other half. That night he had a dream. A man appeared to Martin, clothed with the garment he had torn in two. It was Christ himself. After all of these centuries, the disguise of Jesus remains the same – and the saints can see through it. Like a veil covering the Holy of Holies, Jesus walks among us in the broken, the neglected, the forgotten, the uneducated, the awkward. What will we do before this beautiful face? Turn away, walk to the other side of the street, change the conversation? Or shall we let our prejudices, rash judgments, and fears be torn in half, like the Temple Veil, and reveal Jesus to the world?

Monday, November 09, 2009

This Week's Mission Moment - November 9, 2009

Music, great music, distends the spirit, arouses profound emotions and almost naturally invites us to raise our minds and hearts to God in all situations of human existence, the joyful and the sad. Music can become prayer. - Pope Benedict XVI

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Better Not Bitter - St. Martin de Porres

There’s a patron saint for everything and everyone, you know… African-Americans, Barbers, Hairdressers, Race relations, Social justice. In fact, for all of these, it’s the same saint – Martin of Porres.
"Father unknown" is the cold legal phrase sometimes used on baptismal records. "Half-breed" or "war souvenir" is the cruel name inflicted by those of "pure" blood. Like many others, Martin might have grown to be a bitter man, but he did not. It was said that even as a child he gave his heart and his goods to the poor and despised.” (
Martin was the son of a Panamanian woman, probably black but possibly Native American, and a Spanish man of Lima, Peru. Having inherited his mother’s dark complexion, Martin was not acknowledged by his father until his eighth year. Talk about a “father wound!” After his sister was born, the father abandoned them, and the family grew up locked in deep poverty. But rather than become bitter about his circumstances, Martin became better. He gave his heart to his fellow poor, served as a Dominican helper and later a brother, pouring himself out tirelessly for people’s welfare, both temporal and eternal. What a shame that Martin’s father, consumed with his own image, missed the image of God stamped in the beautiful body and soul of his son Martin. Where is that father now? What choices he must regret and what opportunities are now lost! Or perhaps the prayers of the son turned the heart of the father? May we imitate Martin’s humility, for the humble shall be exalted. And may we not miss in the ordinary, small, and obscure things in life, the mark and the mystery of the Divine.

Monday, November 02, 2009

REPOSTED - A Dream for All Soul's Day

(Hope you don't mind the repeat, but I think of this dream every year on this day!)
In November of 1993, my grandfather died. Over the short time he spent in the hospital, the family was given the grace to come and see him. It was a chance to speak our goodbyes, but Grandpa was speechless. He could see us, his eyes could pierce our own with a sorrow and pleading that I never saw in him before that day, but he could not speak. The stroke had robbed him of words. So we gathered, and prayed. We told him we loved him, and he was given the Anointing of the Sick. In that month of the Holy Souls, my family hoped that he would make his peace with God, that he would be able to trust, to rest. A scapular was placed on the bed post. My father saw Grandpa try to make the Sign of the Cross once or twice, but those frail arms would not obey. Frustrated, locked in silence, this man of the Old Sod who fought in World War II, worked as a welder for over 30 years, raised ten children, and loved his John Wayne movies, gave up his last breath on a Saturday, Our Lady's Day, wearing the scapular. His spirit moved free and strong again over those patchwork fields of Donegal, out into the West, through the thin veil of cloud that divides time and eternity. At the funeral, in a military chapel on a misty morning, a lone piper played Amazing Grace and we wept in our soft, subdued Irish way. We had grown silent too. But it was not uncommon for my grandfather to be silent. Frank was never much of a talker. He was a quiet man of action, total and uninterrupted, as he kept the family going and growing all those years. There are so many stories, and in all of them it seemed Grandpa's silence was the thing that spoke the loudest, in the lessons he taught his children. The year moved on, and many rosaries and masses were offered up in his name, as we prayed he would be in the Father's House. Then, over a year after his death, and the night before Ash Wednesday, Grandpa gave us a word. My Aunt Margaret, the eldest daughter, had a dream... She was in a white kitchen, an empty kitchen it seemed, all bathed in a white light; she couldn't make out any details. There were no appliances, just a sink and a window, and a lone figure stooped over the sink, stirring a cup of coffee. It was Grandpa. When he turned around, Margaret saw his face, young and strong, smiling. He was wearing his Irish sweater. "Daddy, what are you doing here? You look so good." Margaret said in the dream, perplexed, knowing he was dead. "Margaret, I'm all right." And he hugged her close. A few nights later, my aunt was on the phone with Grandma Donaghy. "Ma," she said, "I had a dream the other night. I saw daddy in a kitchen..." "Was he wearing that Irish sweater?" my Grandmother whispered. "Yeah, he was holding..." "A mug of coffee.... stirring it." Margaret's face paled as her mother relayed the very dream she had on the very same night. "Frank," my grandmother said in her dream, "what are you doing here? You look so good." "Nellie, I'm all right." He put his arms around her and the dream ended. There are coincidences, and their are God-incidences. How can two people have the same dream, with the same setting and the same dialogue, miles apart on the same night? This seems to me to be the work of angels, a pulling back of the veil, a gift and a glimmer of that silken web that binds us all and forms the web of being that is suspended above and around us all. For the Mystery of Providence, thank you God! For Your tender care of each of us, thank you Father! I believe Grandpa is home. For those who doubt, no explanation would suffice. For those who believe, no explanation is necessary.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

God "Loves" Me?

Simply saying this three letter word can conjure up different thoughts for different people these days. Thoughts that perhaps are hard to wrap our heads around, let alone our arms: A Bright Light, billowing clouds, a booming disembodied voice, a Force that is distant and yet somehow accessible, or even a kind of Cosmic Grandpa who some say actually hears us through a thing called prayer.
For others today, the word GOD seems small, antiquated, and irrelevant. Hasn't science disproved all that supernatural stuff? "We've evolved as a species and feel it no longer necessary to have a psychological crutch like GOD to get us through this life."
Finally, for others, (and this one perplexes the unbeliever to no end) GOD is as close and intimate and personal as, well, a person. God, they say, is above all a Lover, in fact, and He is crazy about us measly humans! So crazy that He came among us and has now and forevermore, a human face, a human heart! These folks believe Divinity married humanity in Jesus, forever.
Our first experience of God is so important, we either experience Him as the police guard that wants to punish or as Creative Love that awaits. - Pope Benedict XVI
I think in our American culture, so focused on ME that we too often forget about the OTHER, the idea of an objectively real and personal God somehow feels like an affront to our freedom, our reason, and individuality. God? Oh, right. Him again? The Big Landlord? Believing in Him means joining the rank and file and stifling the fun. It means losing your spontaneity and intellectual freedom because every Sunday you have to blindly "pay the rent." Or pay for "fire insurance," as some glibly joke. But this is ridiculously simplistic.
In our deepest being we all know that we were not made for laws. We were made for love.
I think this fear of losing ourselves in a love relationship with God is actually keeping us from true freedom. After all, when we close the door to the transcendent, we fail to become fully human. A caged, clipped bird can forget it was designed to fly.
Humans by nature are religious beings, made for the Infinite, made for the Bottomless Mystery of a God Who loves us. We have a longing for this unending love, truth, and a beauty that does not fade. Need proof? Just listen to your own heart's desires! (or the music of Journey or Foreigner, heh heh). We long to give ourselves to the Infinite, to lose ourselves in Love, but when we close our minds to the idea of it being really real, transcendent, responsive, immanent through grace, then we clip our own wings. Consequently, we discover that we cannot give ourselves fully to anyone.
“Once God is forgotten... the creature itself grows unintelligible.”
- Gaudium et Spes
When we deny or dismiss the Infinite as unreal or irrelevant, we end up eventually stagnating in a pool of boredom. or narcissism, or egocentrism. What is the meaning of life if the source of that Life is dead? We then fall back on ourselves, but without the real power to love, to get beyond ourselves, to transcend. Then we settle on giving part of our hearts but not all, or worse, we go through relationships grasping instead of trusting that love will be given to us.
So where is the truth that will set us free? How can we know if God is real, and really loves me? Read Scripture.
When we're quiet and alone with that book, we can get some pretty deep thoughts. You might even catch a thought like the one Augustine whispered to himself way back in the 4th century when he cracked open the Scriptures. "The deepest desire of my heart is to see another and to be seen by the Other." Is God Love? Is it just Law? Well, ask God. Let Him in, and you'll discover you have an infinite capacity for Him. And if God is truly a Person, a Communion of Persons, in fact, then how else could we actually know Him unless we let Him into the heart? I don't think my way through relationships with people, I don't reason out the issues at stake, mentally prep myself to fall in love. "On September 24, 2009 at precisely 9:37am I will fall in love." No, I reach out and speak words. I open the mind and let down the guard a bit with the one standing before me. I listen, wait, gaze long and let myself be looked upon. That look builds a relationship. Why should this be any different with God?
Prayer can progress, as a genuine dialogue of love, to the point of rendering the person wholly possessed by the divine Beloved, vibrating at the Spirit's touch, resting filially within the Father's heart. This is the lived experience of Christ's promise: "He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."
- Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte 33
Originally published in The Publican

Wanna Be

Do you wanna be happy, whole, integrated, joyful, successful, at peace, part of something amazing, purposeful, powerful, confident, loved, loving, redeemed, relaxed, realized, real? Then you wanna become a saint.
Do you wanna be a person in touch, in truth, inspired, desired, magnetic, magnanimous, moved, and moving? Then you wanna become a saint.
There is only one tragedy in the end - not to have been a saint. - Leon Bloy
So save yourself all the yogi guru self-help hullabaloo. Wholeness is simpler than that - it's found in holiness! Let's cut through all the plaster cast, plastic past, Campbell's Soup Kid lookin' holy card pictures of saints for a moment. What does it really mean to become a saint?
It means to become vulnerable. To be open. To receive all things from the Hand of God in trust and in love. A saint is synonymous with what's sane. A saint is the ultimate realist, for there is nothing more real than the Cross and the Broken Body stretched upon it. And there's no place for vanity. The hollow of the heart is open to the Mystery, the metal of the mind is sharpened by this Truth.... We are small, we are creatures, but we are made for the Infinite, and nothing in this finite world can satisfy us. And our deepest dignity lies in this longing...
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

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Apostles…. The Big Dawgs of the Catholic Faith

The Twelve – they so often adorn facades and rest atop pillars, gilded, massive, epic figures, each Atlases on whose shoulders the Church rests…. or so we grow up imagining. But what do we know, really, about these figures when the dust of millennia settles and we glance back at Sacred Scripture? We know their names. We know they were mostly an “uneducated” lot (though schooled strong in the Book of Nature). We know they didn’t always have a clue what their Master was saying. We know all but one abandoned Him at the moment when He would have needed them most. A pretty shaky foundation for a Church, you might be thinking. But we also know that they came back to Him, and preached His Name from the rooftops, and in every conceivable way they poured themselves out for Him. That’s about it. But isn’t that what it’s all about? The good news is that this shaky foundation has Christ Jesus as the capstone, and through Him the whole structure is held together. The good news is that Simon and Jude and all of the Apostles were madly in love with the God Who had become flesh for us. They cared little about themselves anymore. It was always Jesus. The bad news is… this cornerstone has been rejected. So were all but one of the Apostles (John died in exile in his old age). Jude, whom we celebrate today, was eventually murdered with an ax, and Simon, also celebrated today, was beaten and cut to pieces. Destroyed, just like their Beloved Master. They died for Jesus. What else do we need to know? They were open to God. That’s the key. They were martyred by the world, that’s the lock. They were open to the possibility that God had come in Jesus… They were closed off and shut up by a world that did not want to hear it. A world afraid of the possibility that the Door they opened might lead to Sacrifice, to Suffering, to Real Love, and to Mercy Immeasurable. Too much work for many of us. Simon and Jude lost their lives but found themselves. And they now point us to that Cross-Shaped Door that leads to our true selves, for in Heaven we shall know as we are known. Let us pray that we too can stretch out our arms, clutching nothing, for a chance at winning everything.

Boy with Pumpkin - A Test

Friday, October 23, 2009

Jesus versus Vampires

Just the other day, I was rounding the corner of our church parking lot to head into daily Mass, when a Septa bus drove down the street. On the side of the bus was an ad for a TV series about vampires called "True Blood." There was a smiling, fanged young women lying beside a gruesome, lifeless young man. I thought of our culture’s increasing obsession with death, then turned and entered the church, looking towards the crucifix and the wounds of Christ. Hmmm, I thought, here's the True Blood, isn’t it? I’m “celebrating” another kind of death in the Body of Christ. I couldn't stop thinking that day of the parallels between the two images, both involving great violence. But which image holds real power? It was Jesus versus the Vampires. It seems the media is dripping with the lore of vampires, especially these days just before Halloween. Websites, books, video games… Years ago, we saw the success of TV shows like Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and now the more recent True Blood. There’s also the wildly popular Twilight series now turned movies. So what's the attraction? I think, at the end of the day, it's a twisted desire for the Eucharist.
The proper effect of the Eucharist is the transformation of man into God. 

 - St. Thomas Aquinas
Cloaked beneath the surface of vampire mythology is a desire for eternal life, which I would affirm. We all have an innate desire for Life to continue, to indeed flourish. And in fact, we want even more than that. “I wanna live forever! I wanna learn how to fly… high!” We want to lose ourselves in eternal realities, which are actually attributes of God: Life, Beauty, Truth, Immortality. We want a fountain of youth. We want a feast, the banquet so often imaged in the Bible. But when we’re unwilling to make the sacrifice of our lives in love for that gift (which is the key to all happiness and self-discovery) we degenerate into sacrificing others. Our love that's meant to go out in service is twisted to a lust that folds in and serves only me. Vampires are a greedy bunch. Rather than shed their blood in a total self-gift for others, like Jesus, they selfishly draw the very life-blood out of others. Vampires are not givers, they are takers. But he who grasps at his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake, will find it…. and with it, life everlasting. When it comes to restoring us to that life again, it is Jesus alone who gives us the True Blood, the Divine transfusion that alone can save us.
Originally published in the Catholic Standard and Times

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In Gratitude for the Gift of Down's Syndrome

The number of children born with Down's Syndrome has decreased in recent years. Those families found with such a "defective" pregnancy are encouraged by some doctors to "ease their suffering" by aborting their babies. Rebecca and I were so advised when we learned of our daughter Grace's condition of acrania. But in so doing, in attempting to eradicate "suffering" from our lives or the lives of our children, we destroy the very gifts God has in store for us. Yes, gifts.
Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do.
God always sees a greater good in the things we label bad. He sometimes allows nature to take it's course, and we are invited to move through this wounded world with eyes wide open, and hearts ready for anything.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tough Love - Isaac Jogues and Company

This morning in chapel, I got zapped by one of the prayers we heard. Jesus “put himself into our hands.” Incredible… Talk about becoming vulnerable, dependent, helpless. Didn’t he know the risks involved? Unrequited love, betrayal, indifference, even a scalding hatred that would end in tearing his very flesh from him and hanging him on a cross? Yes, he knew the risks, but he did it anyway. Jesus “put himself into our hands.” Isaac Jogues, John de Brébeuf and Companions Today, we celebrate a group of men – missionaries – who also knew the risks. They came from across the sea with the burning conviction that God had broken into our world, took on a body like us and offered it freely to ransom us from hatred and violence and indifference. But some of the Huron and Iroquois men, men who felt their power and position, their very paradigm of life, challenged by the missionaries, grew violent themselves. They cut off Isaac’s fingers so he couldn’t offer the Mass, they would cut out a man’s tongue so he couldn’t speak a word of the gospel, burned and scalped and brutally beaten... But Isaac and his companions kept preaching with their very bodies, as they moved about the villages…. They said with their very bodies: Peace… Mercy… Love… Forgiveness, in a violent and bloodthirsty region. After much torture and an escape from his captors, St. Isaac actually returned to France, and was hailed as a hero. And then, guess what he did? He “put himself into their hands” again. He returned to North America, to that place of torture, to speak of his love of the God Who was tortured for us.
Two summers ago, I took my nephew Sean on a whirlwind tour of New England, a real vision quest, as a gift for his confirmation. Our first stop… the North American Martyrs Shrine in New York state. There we learned of one of St. Isaac's little practices of evangelization.... carving the Holy Name of Jesus into trees around the little Mohawk village he ministered to. Today the shrine simply tacks on the wooden letters, and they're everywhere! St. Isaac, like a lover, carving his Beloved's name into an old oak. At the southern tip of the Adirondak Mountains, Isaac was brutally killed by the Iroquois League, witnessing to Christ. We stood on that holy ground where these men made their sacrifice. Later, their love bore fruit in the birth of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks... on that very spot. Was it worth the risk? Well, my nephew was moved, and he knows now that faith can make a man out of you. The root of virtue is vir…. Meaning manly, masculine. Sean knows a truth worth dying for, and that Christianity is not a religion for “wimps.” We are made for a tough love, one that is willing to lay down our life for our beloved. May we pray for and receive such courage and trust from the martyrs of North America. Their blood cries out from our own soil… Believe, Trust, Love… and Forgive.

Speaking in Center City, Philadelphia - Mondays, November 2, 9, 16, 23

Introduction to the Theology of the Body
Date(s): Mondays, November 2nd-23th Location: St. John the Evangelist
21 S. 13th St. Philadelphia PA, 19107 Presented By: Bill Donaghy Contact: St. John's Young Adult Community Email: Cost: $65 includes materials
Download Flyer (large file)
St. John's Young Adult Community will host Bill Donaghy, TOB Institute Speaker and Educator, for a unique seminar series this fall. Over four consecutive Mondays in November, Bill will break open the beauty and mystery of Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. Join other young adults in the Philadelphia area and dive deep into depths of the church's teachings on sexuality. Be prepared to discover, maybe for the first time, your heart's deepest desires for love and communion.

Mission Moment of the Week

"Without God the economy is only economy, nature is nothing more than a deposit of material, the family only a contract, life nothing more than a laboratory product, love only chemistry, and development nothing more than a form of growth."
- Archbishop Crepaldi
WHAT IS THE MISSION MOMENT? The Mission Moment began on World Mission Sunday, October 21, 2001. It's a weekly message that inspires, encourages, and challenges its readers to live life in the Presence of God. Sent across the United States and overseas to nearly every continent, it is inspiration for the New Evangelization. Simple truths in small doses! For more inspirational thoughts, visit the complete list of Mission Moments here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The 13th Day

"In a world torn apart by persecution, war and oppression, three children were chosen to offer a message of hope. Based on the memoirs of Sister Lucia Santos and independent eye-witness accounts, The 13th Day dramatizes the incredible true story of three shepherd children from the village of Fatima in Portugal who experienced six apparitions with a Lady from Heaven between May and October 1917, which culminated in the final prophesied miracle.
The lady, who later revealed herself to be the Blessed Virgin Mary, gave a secret to the children told in three parts, from a harrowing vision of hell, to prophetic warnings of future events including the advent and timing of the Second World War, the spread of communism, and the attempted assassination of the Pope. Stylistically beautiful and technically innovative, writer-directors Ian and Dominic Higgins use state-of-the-art digital effects to create stunning images of the visions and the final miracle that have never before been fully realized on screen. This film was shot on location in Portugal and in England."
- from the trailer For more information on The 13th Day visit

Friday, October 09, 2009

Things You Don't Say to Your Wife

As ministers of a sacrament which is constituted by consent and perfected by conjugal union, man and woman are called to express that mysterious "language" of their bodies in all the truth which is proper to it. By means of gestures and reactions, by means of the whole dynamism, reciprocally conditioned, of tension and enjoyment - whose direct source is the body in its masculinity and its femininity, the body in its action and interaction - by means of all this... the person, "speaks." - Pope John Paul II, Theology of the Body address, 1984 The person speaks... but oh, sometimes we wish we hadn't! Words are like arrows shot, once released they cannot return! So think before you fire away. What husbands and wives speak or communicate to each other, in word or in action, should always lead to communion. But sometimes... we slip. And it does just the opposite. Ladies, forgive us our trespasses, for often, we know not what we do! So men, here's a goofy little reminder of the things you don't say to your wives, courtesy of Tim Hawkins. Can the ladies come up with a list of things you shouldn't say to us?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Real Men Pray the Rosary (and Women too!)

On a dusty road in Ireland’s countryside, back in the early years of the 20th century, a man was walking, communing with nature and with God. His fingers whispered through the beads, offering a prayer to the One through the soft repetition of words found in scripture…. “Our Father, Who is in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name….” “Hail Mary, full of grace…” He was stopped by British soldiers. The beads he prayed upon were nearly forced down his throat in an act of bestial bigotry. That man was my great grandfather, William. I can still recall nights when my own father, William, would fall asleep in the chair holding his beads, stressing to us the importance of faith, of the rosary, of meditation on the Passion of Our Lord, and on the mysteries of the Gospels encapsulated in every set of “mysteries.” Every action teaches, every reaction reinforces something for good or ill. Every move of the hand, every slip of the tongue. All the more reason then to train the tongue, and to mold the mind on the pattern of a higher love. That’s the goal of the Rosary…. Today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. For the Catholic, the rosary is the soundtrack of the Gospel, the music of the meditation on the Word of God that keeps us tethered as it were by a string of beads to the life of Jesus and the life Mary in Scripture. May we take a hold of that life-line today, singing again the Song of Mary on the dusty roads we walk… “My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit finds joy in God my Savior!”

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Will the Real Francis Please Kneel Down.

(My friend Brian who runs the "Defending My Beanfield" blog posted this powerful reflection on St. Francis, though he's not sure of the author. Does anyone recognize it? It's a real wake up call for some of us who unknowingly, or knowingly, "sanitize" the saints. "Save us from the birdbath Francis!"
THE REAL FRANCIS There you stand, O prophet of God Placid in the sun-drenched garden And never in the cold dank cave Or bleeding amidst the thorns. There you stand, poised and sanitized Air-brushed with the birds Who once opened their beaks to praise their Maker And then stood silent to hear His Holy Word. Why do you too stay silent Exiled to sacred niche and abandoned Upon some plaster pillar? You who glowed naked ashen upon the barren earth Now need vigil light and fresh white linen? What is the weak reason everyone loves you? And who are you, you little wounded man That everyone crowns your weary wet head with gold? Are you not a lion now made mascot or lapdog? Your bitter life has been made palatable And burlap garb soft to the touch. Marketed for the masses You stand sweet and surreal upon the tattered page. How do you feel being everyone's plastic saint? Pulled this way and that Like puddy shaped and shoved into the mold of many little minds. Everyone: old-timers and new-agers, Left wing liberals and right wing Republicans, Industrious Amish and lazy agnostics, Catholic school kids and Protestant preachers; Yes, the whole lot of us who make up life; Communists, ecologists, vegetarian, veterinarians, silver-haired hippies and bow tied bankers, Everyone owns you as no one knows you. Yet God knows you, you broken tiny man. And you know Him, do you not? Resting in crib or burning on a cross, Hidden behind wafer and wine and Holy Word. So, as you now stand, pale and listless so too my poor soul, far from the sharp thorns and the bright snow Where you found your Christ. Yes, you who stumbled along Assisi's stone streets, And wept while staggering like a drunken man, Speak to me, a sinner, who feasts on rich fare. Speak to me of the poor God - of GOD! Will the real Saint Francis please kneel down?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Flower Power

"I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifice to all ecstasies. To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul."
Thérèse Martin was not a sissy saint. It wasn’t all roses and buttercups for this young women of 19th century France, though the language of early writers, and her own words at times, can seem like sweet saccharine. She was a rock of faith, broken and remade by the reality of suffering. All of her life… from the death of her mother at the tender age of 4, through the fits of delirium, fever, prolonged fainting spells, the ravages of tuberculosis, and in the end a total deprivation of the consolation of the Presence of God, she was faithful. She entered the convent at the age of 15, boldly asking permission from the Pope himself to do so, and spent 9 years in a cloister, working long and hard at domestic chores, to the humdrum daily tick of the clock. Nothing extraordinary, seemingly from the outside. But on the inside she was a powerhouse of prayer and an icon of burning union with God. She taught us how to make the ordinary extraordinary. So take your crazy 4th period class, or that business meeting, or the price of gas, or that cranky baby, or that back pain, or those pesky telemarket’ers today, and smile, and give them up to God. Suffering need not be wasted or in vain, pain can become priceless when offered up for another. Thérèse died in 1897 at the age of 24. She felt the vacuum of atheism in her soul in the closing days of her battle with tuberculosis, but still she held on to her faith and trust in God. Like Mother Teresa in her final days, they each took on the post-modern aftertaste of nihilism, and offered its seemingly meaningless despair up as a sacrifice for souls. That’s flower power, that’s the power of this Rose of Jesus. St. Thérèse, Little Flower of Carmel, pray for us!

The Human Experience - Screening Oct. 8th

Dear Friends in the local Philadelphia area, Please help me to get the word out about a remarkable movie produced by Grass Roots Films called “The Human Experience.” I have mentioned it before on the blog, and still anxiously await its debut on the big screen. It's getting closer! Grassroots produced the Fisher of Men Video that was shown through out the Archdiocese of Philadelphia a few years ago to promote vocations. The films produced by this wonderful ministry (two brothers from Brooklyn, NY began the work) are inspiring, filled with truth, and captivating. In The Human Experience, a group of men in their twenties go on a quest into the world and into the heart of humanity to find what's universal in our human experience. In their quest they find themselves on the streets of New York City, the Coast of Peru, and the African Continent, as well as face to face with the mystery of their own hearts. This film opens up for us the fruit of their quest for this basic and universal human experience - a discovery of our need for the transcendent, for a living relationship with God.
There will be a viewing of this film at Archbishop Carroll High School on October 8, 2009 at 7:00 PM in the auditorium. The planners are asking $10.00 per viewer at the door.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Take a Breath, Take a Break

I'm so busy.
I wish I had more time.
I'm stressed out.
It never ends.
There's always something.
I need a break.
Then take one.
September is a crazy month, I know. It ushers in the busy season for many of us. School's back in, buses are clogging up the morning streets again. Sports, lessons, homework, teaching, grading, running to those meetings that the summer kept at bay, holiday preparations, transitioning the house for the new season, for the coming cold.
But something else in September is present to counteract this hectic pace. Cold crisp air, burning blue skies, leaves afire, the mournful song of geese overhead, the scent of leaves, of wood-fires, sunsets that throb with color, and starry nights. These are invitations to stillness and to watching. And it only takes a moment to breathe them in, to slow down, to drink freely. Each of these encounters has power in them, because they are natural. And Nature is seldom in a hurry.
I was walking to the parking lot after a long and busy day, with the prospects of a long night of grading and planning ahead of me, when I saw this single leaf in a tree on a patch of grass at the corner of the road. I looked at it. I took a deep breath. And behold, it was good.
Let nothing trouble you, let nothing make you afraid. All things pass away. God never changes. Patience obtains everything. God alone is enough.
- Saint Teresa of Avila

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Trio Triumvirum Performs the Agnus Dei

Trio Triumvirum : Agnus Dei from TrioTriumvirum on Vimeo.

I've given talks in the last couple of years for the Archdiocese of New York for the Family Life Office, and the Assistant Director is Christopher Mueller. He's the man on the left. When they say "Don't quit your day job" I think he actually could! What a gift... What a blast of fresh air from behind the curtain of the Holy of Holies! Could you imagine hearing this at your local parish Church just before the Consecration at Mass? I think it would certainly life us up a little beyond ourselves, and we'd perhaps catch a glimpse of what the angels see when the Lamb of God descends upon the altar to feed and heal us with His very Life. About Trio Triumvirum TRIO TRIUMVIRUM is a vocal ensemble made up of three of New York City’s finest male singers - a countertenor and two baritones - who perform sacred music from 13th and 14th century Europe. Music from before Columbus discovered America - who knew it was so fantastic? The trio's goal is musical expression of immediacy, poignancy, breathtaking harmony, and profound beauty.
Visit their MySpace page here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

September Speaks

If conscience is the voice of God in the soul, then Creation is Him singing.
Watch, wait, look long and look deep. Creation is dying again. Listen to Her wisdom.
Watch, wait, look long and look deep. See this mournful train.
September sets the first steps of Her Via Dolorosa.... Creation's road to Calvary.
Watch, wait, look long and look deep. September speaks a dying wish. To Her children in their maddening rush, in their race over roads of stone and in their cages of glass and steel... Listen. Watch. Be still.
For what happens to me, She whispers, must happen to you.
September speaks in muted tones, in dew-wet droplets on fragile webs, shining like jewels. In the burnt edges of leaves in their final hours, in the cold breath over corn past their ripening. Listen, September speaks.
All things pass, all things change, all things die. And those that give their life away to the summons of September, will be born again.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Two Excellent Lectures Coming to the Philadelphia Area

Lecture: HELEN ALVARE, Associate Professor of Law, George Mason University & Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Laity
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2009 ♦ 12:15 P.M.
Lecture: Scholar GEORGE WEIGEL
5th Annual Edith Stein Lecture Series
Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 7:00 p.m.
Alumnae Hall Theater at Immaculata University
** Admission is Free **
Advanced phone registration is recommended
Please RSVP to Bambi Girafalco (610) 647-4400 x3438
or by September 23, 2009

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!" ...