Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fire and Reign

There’s good fire, and there’s bad fire. “Our God is a consuming fire” says the Letter to the Hebrews. That’s good fire. Hell is the flipside, the outside of the Heart of God, and it scorches us. That’s bad fire. We’ve all had a taste of both fires, I’m sure. But the Fire we’re made for is the fire in God’s own Heart, the fire we see atop the Sacred Heart of Jesus. When we give ourselves to it, making a gift of our life and leaping out of the pit of selfishness, we dance in the fiery furnace of God’s Love. We burn with the same Passion that filled the dark void in the beginning, that spilled stars and planets and a plethora of forms into being. When we let His Fire burn us, we are purified, made clean, whole, and happy. We are in the Light, so to speak. We are on fire. But when we reject this idea of superfluous, self-giving, self-sacrificing love, we grow cold. Talk of God might in fact singe us, embitter us, and cause us to “simmer” and resent the idea of total self-giving as a bit extreme or even “fanatical.” Jesus said in the gospels that he has come to spread a fire on the earth, and how he longs that it be kindled! Selfishness puts us on the outside of the flame where it reduces us to ashes. Love puts us in the flame, and we are purified like gold. We all discover our passion in life sooner or later, and aren’t they always things that get us outside of our own heads for a change? I think that’s part of the Divine Design, and why God stamped such passion within us. Pope Benedict XVI has written recently that “eros tends to rise “in ecstasy” towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing."(Deus Caritas Est, n.2) “Ascent, renunciation, purification and healing”… Sounds like Lent to me. It’s a season that’s meant to purify our eros, our passion, not stifle it or smother it. It’s meant primarily to be a wholehearted YES, not a list of NOs. It’s a YES to love; the real love that transforms our lusts; lifts them up and redirects them to their proper end. Lent is a journey into God’s Fire.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Sway, the Truth, and the Life

I think when Future Bill looks back on the small number of posts that went up for January and February of 2009, he'll be smiling. Smiling because every long stretch of postless days meant the time was wasted on his family. Yes! Wasted. Spilled out like a precious ointment on the feet of his beloved wife and son! Those were the days of grace; of Grace, and the Boy Wonder to be exact. I've written before about the mysterious powers that a child unlocks in a father's heart, powers that lay dormant like seeds awaiting the water of life. Well, they keep coming. I feel like the Greatest American Hero, Ralph Hinkley. Remember that show? In the series, he was given a "super suit" but lost the Instruction Manual in the desert. The series moved along and Ralph just had to discover how it all worked. Some episodes had him getting the knack of flying down a bit better, one show had him learn how to become invisible. Pretty cool stuff. I've already mastered invisibility.... it's called "peekaboo!" Yes, every day is an adventure, and every day Rebecca and I are absolutely blown away by the mystery of this little boy. We're captivated by his smile, the way his face lights up when we look at him, when I come home from work, when he looks around at Sunday Mass at all the faces, and the stained glass, and the marble columns. And how his eyes flash at the sound of the altar bells when Jesus is coming. A few weeks back, at Mass, I was holding the wee lad, and found myself... swaying. Finally, swaying. Ahead of me, a young couple stood, friends of ours, each holding a child, and swaying. And ahead of them, yet another woman, swaying. Like a forest of trees caught up in a great wind, there we were. Mommies and daddies, caught up in the Wind of the Spirit of Life. For years this sight caused a deep pain in our hearts, and now suddenly, we've entered into the Dance... into the Sway, the Truth, and the Life that God wishes all of us to enjoy. It gives me pause to consider those still waiting, still hoping for the gift of children or of the gift of a spouse to build a life with, and to share a life with too. These are words and experiences to deep for tears. All I can do is hold and treasure this life, appreciating the utter gratuitousness of it all. Everything is a gift, everything is a grace. 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

Mission Moment

I chose this week's Mission Moment from a perhaps little known saint whose bio alone is food for a major motion picture. Here's the quote: Christ said, "I am the Truth"; he did not say "I am the custom." ...and here's the man: St. Toribio Alfonso Mogrovejo ________________________ St. Toribio Alfonso Mogrovejo Archbishop of Lima; b. at Mayorga, León, Spain, 1538; d. near Lima Peru, 23 March 1606. Of noble family and highly educated, he was professor of laws at the University of Salamanca, where his learning and virtue led to his appointment as Grand Inquisitor of Spain by Philip II and, though not of ecclesiastical rank, to his subsequent selection for the Archbishopric of Peru. He received Holy Orders in 1578 and two years later was consecrated bishop. He arrived at Payta, Peru, 600 miles from Lima, on 24 May, 1581. He began his mission work by travelling to Lima on foot, baptizing and teaching the natives. His favourite topic being: "Time is not our own, and we must give a strict account of it." Three times he traversed the eighteen thousand miles of his diocese, generally on foot, defenceless and often alone; exposed to tempests, torrents, deserts, wild beasts, tropical heat, fevers, and savage tribes; baptizing and confirming nearly one half million souls, among them St. Rose of Lima, St. Francis Solano, Blessed Martin of Porres, and Blessed Masias. He built roads, school houses, and chapels innumerable, and many hospitals and convents, and founded the first American seminary at Lima in 1591. He assembled thirteen diocesan synods and three provincial councils. Years before he died, he predicted the day and hour of his death. At Pacasmayo he contracted fever, but continued labouring to the last, arriving at Sana in a dying condition. Dragging himself to the sanctuary he received the Viaticum, expiring shortly after. He was beatified by Innocent XI in 1697 and canonized by Benedict XIII in 1726. His feast is celebrated on 27 April. - from New

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pope Benedict Rebukes Pelosi over Abortion

From Catholic News Agency, Vatican City House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s photo-op with Pope Benedict XVI turned sour when the Pontiff used the 15-minute meeting to reaffirm the teachings of the Catholic Church on the right to life and the duty to protect the unborn. No photo of Nancy Pelosi and the Pope will be forthcoming, since the meeting was closed to reporters and photographers. The two met in a small room in the Vatican just after the Pope's weekly public audience...
"His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church's consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in co-operation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development."
Read the full story here. I wonder what Nancy will be thinking tonight, as she says her prayers and beds down in her Italian B&B, after having been schooled by the Pope himself. I pray that she and her husband Paul rediscover their faith, a faith that reverences human life as the building block of all culture. What a force for good they could be!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

“Where Are You?”

It’s one of the perennial questions we ask ourselves throughout the whole of life, as we live and sweat and work out our salvation, both as individuals and as a human family – “Where am I? Where are we?” We look into the deep pool of our human experience (again, as individuals and as a human family), and we hope that we find an answer in our reflection. We hope that we are where we are “supposed to be.” We hope we are happy, at peace, at home with ourselves. Too often, though, we discover that we are exiles. We are, for all of our efforts at settling down, strangers in a strange land. Nomads…. homo viator – man on the journey. How did it come to this? When we look to the book of Genesis we find the answer, and we discover the golden key to finding our way back home as well. God’s plan from the beginning was that we find our home in His Heart – that we find our peace in His Will. That Will, that Eternal Heart, is the model for every person, every family, and every home; it’s a will and a heart for others, for a community of Love and Communion. A place where there is a vibrant exchange of self-giving that moves always in the perfection of the circle. This Love is the dance, the whirlwind that feeds the Other and at the same time is fed by the Love of that Other. God laid out the blueprint for this Dynamic of Love in the Garden of Eden. To the first man and the first woman, created naked in a garden paradise, He spoke the first commandment – “Be fruitful and multiply!” (Notice the lack of any thou shalt not ’s in this directive, by the way). This command is a joy-filled call to Love as God loves! It has the same ring to our ears as that first word given after a bride and groom pledge their love at the altar – “Kiss the bride!” This call to be fruitful and multiply, to give and receive each other completely as a gift, holds within it the key to the question “Where am I?” The answer is, or should be, I am in You. And you are in me. Isn’t this the last wish of the true Bridegroom before He laid down His love on the altar of the Cross for us? “As the Father has loved me, so I love you. Live on in my love.” Our founding father and mother, Adam and Eve, were invited into this dance of self-giving love. But through fear and mistrust, or pride and a grasping at self-autonomy, they failed to step to that Rhythm, to let go and let God take them up and away. After the fall, Genesis tells us, they cover up in shame the very signs of that self-giving love that God called them too, stamped right into their bodies. And through fear, they hide from God. Times are hard, and suffering comes in varied forms for us all. We wonder where we are, where we've been, where we're going. We often retreat to the shadows in our minds, shadows made darker by the abuse of power around us, or by the failure of love to save us. We question God. "Where are You?" I wonder though if the question is misdirected. Has He moved, or been removed by our lack of faith? In Genesis, the first question God asks our first parents after they betray Him is "Where are You?" It is not for His sake that He asks, for He sees all. God asks the question for them, huddled in the dark, so that they can speak it to themselves and step out into the Light again. "Where am I?" Adam and Eve unveil their fear as a reason for hiding from God. Is it fear that locks us in today? Fear in its many splintered forms? Speak it. Step out and make it known. His mercy pours forth in Genesis 3:15, for He is a Loving Father, and we are promised a Redeemer. What door will open for us today, if we just take the time to ask this question of questions? Perhaps opening up to the question will lead us back into the Answer, into that Circle of Love again, that Garden enclosed? For perfect love casts out all fear... and in love we find our way home.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Put THIS in Your Stimulus Package

I have a great idea for a Stimulus Package that will save us $800 billion dollars. Get this.... It's called the Love Your Neighbor and Quit Being Greedy Action Plan. Here's how it works: - In all of your decisions, don't make profit, expansion, progress, or power the end. Use them as a means to another end...
- and that end is, get this... people. Us. Men and women.
It's a crazy idea, I know, but I got to thinking that the most precious resource, the greatest asset, the golden fire that makes the world go 'round is actually NOT money. It's people and a passion for people - men and women and children, in all of their manifold appearances of poverty, sickness, oppression, beauty, talent, gifts and contributions.
So the fuel to drive this Stimulus Package, whose end would not be spending but the idea of giving for the revitalization of men and women and families who are the living stones that make up businesses, factories, and corporations, would be... Love. Yes, it's a little old school, a little archaic. But give it a whirl and you'll be amazed at how much a little of that love your neighbor stuff can carry you, and carry others.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

What's Inside You?

One filled with joy preaches without preaching.
- Blessed Mother Teresa
Some people are seemingly always happy. Like the Psalmist says, "They have heard no evil news." They float, they roll, they fly, they bear it and wear it well in all manner of circumstances. They actually believe Blessed Julian of Norwich's famous phrase "All shall be well, in all manner of things. All shall be well." Please understand, I don't mean a kind of flaky, out of touch, dilusional happy. I mean content, satisfied, fulfilled; actually possessing a deep peace at their center, regardless of the choppy waves on the surface of things. I think the better word here is JOY. Happiness is too often the effect of happenstance, stuff happening to you. "Hey, it's stopped raining!" "Ooo, a quarter!" "I don't have to pay for my parking?" Real Joy flows more from convictions than it does from conditions. That's why when the saints were suffering in such terrible conditions, they could still smile, be at peace, love. They had conviction. Their hearts were not shallow puddles that could tremble at the slightest atmospheric changes, but rather were deep wells of trust in God. So there it is... a goal to shoot for; to place your pursuit of happiness not in feelings but in the freedom of your will. To begin to construct your conviction that all shall be well. To build the well within, and let God fill that well with His Grace. We'll discover that even as bad as things may feel, they can never again rob us of His Joy.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ...Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." (Rom. 8:35-37)
It's been said that if the joy Christians proclaimed with their lips were shining on their faces, there would be no unbelievers. Well, "peace begins with a smile" (Mother Teresa). So let us "rejoice always.... I say it again, rejoice!" (St. Paul) There's a gloomy world out there that needs some serious silliness and "There's no such thing as a sad saint." (St. Theresa of Avila) Thanks to Cecilia for the video below! The ending just about sums it up!

Blogging Without Obligation

I needed to stumble on this one today. Here follows some sound advice I will henceforth take to heart: "Blogging Without Obligation"
  • Because you shouldn't have to look at your blog like it is a treadmill.
  • Because its okay to just say what you have to say. If that makes for a long post, fine. Short post, fine. Frequent post, fine. Infrequent post, fine.
  • Because its okay to not always be enthralled with the sound of your own typing.
  • Because sometimes less is more.
  • Because only blogging when you feel truly inspired keeps up the integrity of your blog (this one's me favorite ;)
  • Because they are probably not going to inscribe your stat, link and comment numbers on your tombstone.
  • Because for most of us blogging is just a hobby. A way to express yourself and connect with others. You should not have to apologize for lapses in posts. Just take a step back and enjoy life, not everything you do has to be "bloggable".
  • Because if you blog without obligation you will naturally keep your blog around longer, because it won't be a chore. Plus, just think you will be doing your part to eradicate post pollution. One post at a time.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Last Column of Michael Dubruiel

Many of you may have heard of the death of Amy Welborn's husband, Michael, just a few days ago. Amy posted his last column on her blog, written by her late husband the night before he died. The story he relates is so powerful, I encourage everyone to read it. You can find it here. May God continue to bless Amy and her family, and give the warmest of embraces to a faithful son... Michael Dubruiel. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

March Madness

It was early, it was cold, it was just twenty three students from Malvern Prep. A day “off” from classes and away from campus, but this was in exchange for a thirteen hour day that began at 6:30am with Mass, a long drive to the nation’s capital, and ended with us pulling into Malvern Prep after 8:00pm. It was the March for Life in Washington, D.C. It was March Madness. We stood in lines, we stood in the cool shadows of the National Shrine Basilica, with mosaics and sculpted columns swirling up and over us, and before us nearly 4000 people spread out, filling pews and corridors, attending a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Rigali.

And everyone was there for Life; standing tall, young and old, babies in arms, swaying, hands clasped in prayer, hearts and minds wondering what this new presidency would bring. From the train to the trek to the National Mall we marched with a mass of humanity up Capitol Hill. Now the little streams of buses that came from all over the country joined and formed a great river of souls. Thousands upon thousands gathering for the 36th annual March for Life. There was singing, praying, and small talk as we shuffled along. Smiles between strangers from all over the country warmed us up a bit, strangers from every creed and color. But the great madness of this March was that such a strong and vibrant presence was at the same time, invisible. Once again, the secular media was silent when it came to this event, and our numbers were ignored.

We seemed just as hidden as the children in the womb we all wanted to protect and defend; as invisible as the deep pain and grief young mothers and fathers feel after they are pushed and pressured into clinics that promise to “erase” their problems and give them a new start. Climbing the hill flanking the Capitol building, I turned and looked back and saw an ocean of Americans who believed life is a gift always to be received, no matter what the wrappings and trappings that cover its beginning and end. Life is precious. For nearly 20 years in attending this Trail of Tears myself, I’ve looked down that hill, and hoped we could overturn by our presence and prayer the decree that has “sanctioned” the extermination of 50,000,000 unborn children; The law that continues to wound just as many women and men who were told it was their “right” to terminate a so-called unwanted pregnancy. I searched for an account of what we did in the news that evening, and the day after… Nothing.

I looked for an official count on just how many came to Washington D.C that day to speak their minds, to witness to the sacredness of human life from the womb to the tomb. Nothing. Nearly a week later, I discovered the statistic given by the Beltway Police (a neutral group to be sure, and not prone to overestimating): they reported a quarter of a million people in attendance for the March! Where was this fact earlier? Why did I have to find it on some obscure blog and not a major news service? Unbelievable… How is it that a crowd of 250,000 of such diversity in age, ethnicity, and religious belief could be right outside the windows of our nation’s capital and not be seen? Sadly, there was something else that occurred in a hidden way the following day, January 23. This action was also “unseen” by reporters, accomplished in the late afternoon once the presses had cooled.

Our newly elected President signed an order with no fanfare and with no news media in the room. This was a strong contrast to the signings of executive orders earlier in the week. It was an executive order reversing the ban first instituted by President Reagan in 1984, reversing the Mexico City policy, a move that clears the way for the federal government to provide aid to programs that promote or perform abortion overseas. With all that we are going through as a country right now, this is on the list of top priorities? “What a terrible way to begin a new administration, with an abortion business bailout that will exploit women in developing countries for political ends," said Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life Action, the Washington-based organization. "We should not export the tragedy of abortion to other nations, and we certainly shouldn't do so via the hard-earned dollars of American taxpayers," she said. "We're concerned this can only be the tip of the iceberg for President Obama's abortion policy. This should strengthen our resolve," she said. In a letter addressing this move, Cardinal Rigali stated "An administration that wants to reduce abortions should not divert U.S. funds to groups that promote abortions.” 

Despite the frustration of having our voices silenced, our steps covered up and our presence ignored, our small band of brothers from Malvern took solace in the fact that we were there. We gave our witness. And we'll give it again, and again, and again. So let's get fired up, let's lift our heads high again...

  For "the victory of truth is certain!"
- August Rodin

  And we must "Yield thou not to adversity, but press on the more bravely."
- Virgil

This story shall the good man teach his son… From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remembered - We few, we happy few, we band of brothers… 
- Henry V, Shakespeare 

 Violence against even one human being is violence against all. 
- Pope Benedict XVI


 Thanks to the Blue Boar for finding this inspiring collection of clips.... this is one to play again and again when the world's got you down!

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!" ...