Monday, December 29, 2008

Thoughts on life in general, using generalities (generally)

It's fascinating how one can be captivated by the future-hope for better times may have been the single driving factor which guaranteed the outcome of this most recent Presidential election. The same can be said of the majority of the elections which now find their place in the pages of history.

For so long I have lived in neglect of the present to embrace my thoughts and plans which were wrapped around some sort of notion of an ideal future. The perfect job, the perfect home, both materially and in the immaterial matter so often forgotten by modern sages who empty their hearts to "increase" their "minds".

I say this with restrained lament, because it is inevitable that the trainee looks to the future. The one who is on the road wants to consider their destination, but at the same time the sights along the way can be obscured by such forward-thinking. That forward thinking which only sets goals and considers them is of course the most backwards way of all, because it leaves out what could be enjoyed--the great trip of life.

My mind screams, "Oh well--So much for thinking of how I could have had a better time during my training"-it's neither here nor there in this new world where I have what could be considered by many accounts (perhaps all but the accounts of the wisest) a dream job. What is striking about my new found situation is that I was so used to the world of wondering about the future that I almost feel more inept than ever. What is to be done with my time, now that there is none of this soul-searching about what career I should go into? I can only imagine how the newly retired person feels, excepting those poor souls whose careers were more slavery than craftsmanship.

So yes, generally speaking, things are so amazingly great in my life I can scarcely utter an appropriate form of thanks to God for the changes that I see on a daily basis...and yet it feels like life is too eerily quiet. Am I in a lull before a new storm? The trough of a wave that is about to throw me to the stars? The world around me tells me that the storms are quite wild in this the 21st century, but I may be among those who are spared, right? (crickets) It makes me hope that at some point the quiet will be a source of some semblance of solace, and not cause for concern. It makes me hope for the future, in a new way, that my future is spent in the present, and that life where the thoughts only on the future are, you guessed it, past.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

christmas messages

From two bishops, one the head of the US council of catholic bishops, the other from Hong Kong.

Thanks, Fr. Dwight, for the head's up!

Monday, December 22, 2008

a great and timely video--i love the message!

Loving Chesterton more....

Yes, dear cynic, it is possible for me to love him more. I'm reading a biography of G.K. Chesterton by Joseph Pearce, and this story about an experience between one journalist who interviewed his wife Frances blew me away. She knew him so well, and had a great comment about our world. I can only assume how much we've degraded since the time of the interview, which was 101 years ago.

The message about his quip about how it's worth doing things even if done badly is so amazing. I need to sing more, is the conclusion......and you, what do you need to do badly?

‘The best thing your husband ever wrote,’ so I began, ‘was that “if a thing is worth doing at all –“’

‘It is worth doing badly,’ replied Mrs. Chesterton. ‘I know it well, because I have opened debates on the point and got everyone to agree. Look at children playing with paints,’ she continued, ‘and you will realise the truth of the paradox. Music and dancing and singing have all been banished from our lives because we are all afraid to do things badly.’

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Twitch Upon The Thread

" The moment men cease to pull against the Catholic Church they feel a tug toward it. The moment to cease to shout it down they begin to listen to it with pleasure. The moment they try to be fair to it they begin to be fond of it. But when that affection has passed a certain point it begins to take on the tragic and menacing grandeur of a great love affair."

From Evelyn Waugh's book 'A Twitch Upon The Thread', which is based on a fascinating quip by G.K. Chesterton in the Father Brown stories.

I am so astounded by how true this quote has been in my own life, both personally and in many friends and other fine folks I've met. I'm also so thankful that this is true.

On that note, today's O Antiphon resonates quite well with my heart on this matter.

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I call your bluff

I read this article this morning, vis a vis Fr. Dwight Longenecker's blog.
Fr. Dwight is one of the few married priests in the Roman Catholic Church,
having been an Anglican priest first. Combine that with his healthy Anglophilia which resonates with my love of Tolkien and Lewis and Chesterton and what is often perceived as dryness or stodginess or some other -ness, I've enjoyed his blog for quite some time.

At any rate, I read that article's pitiful attempt at calling American Christians to task for not celebrating all of the elements of the liturgical season and thought, "Hey man, I call your bluff. Thanks for reminding me of all of the things I can celebrate. Let's bring all of the old celebrations back."

For my part, I'm trying by celebrating Advent, but I want to grow in my appreciation for all of the deep history in celebrating the birth of Our Lord, and His life.

So yeah, let's not take the Mass out of Christmas, but seriously, is that deficiency a basis for not wanting to focus on Christ in this time?

It's true that consistent Protestantism might lead to a full rejection of Christmas trees and December 25th as a special day, but I can say from first-hand experience that trying to do this consistently is an utterly pitiful process. Last year, when I knew that it was inevitable that I'd become Catholic, I looked at this time of year with the first ray of hope that I could embrace the traditions and my faith simultaneously. That was the start of something grand. I still have a lot of the Grinch's attitude in my heart from cynicism and self-righteous notions of consistency, but now that I'm Catholic I think I would much rather see some inconsistency in my Protestant brethren than a world of no Christmas.

With that being said, it's Advent-the time of joyfully awaiting Christmas. Today I hope to incorporate a tradition that the whiny atheist who provoked my thoughts this morning seems to be missing--the O Antiphons. In our 7 last days before Christmas, Advent is especially hopeful, and by praying these seven prayers I hope to see that hope grow in my own soul, and yours as well.

Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end to another, and orderest all things mightily and sweetly, come to teach us the way of prudence!

O Sapientia, quƦ ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiƦ.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

the adventures of tim field (a eucharistic analogy)

Tim Field had waited his whole life for this moment.

His parents would watch him as a young boy whine and protest when they would try to use the television as a babysitter. He just would not sit still. Their "forward thinking" led them to try to make everything in life educational, even these moments of detached parenting. And so when the video player showed bright images set to the tune of classical music, it just didn't do anything for him.
Frustrated, they tried the one thing they thought they'd never expose to their child, gun violence. From one simple episode of G.I. Joe began a life-long dream of being an enforcer. Tim Field had just finished high school, but he spent the time in Boy Scouts and had been an Explorer Scout for 5 months. Accompanying police officers on duty was a dream come true-it felt like this would be a dream come true if he could actually make it through academy.

Maybe it was because his mom had been robbed at gunpoint, he didn't know. He'd leave that to the pop psychologists to prattle about.

What mattered most was today, for today Tim Field would begin his first exercise that involved a gun. The infamous target practice, where you do not merely stand from afar and try to hit targets as close as possible. No, instead he would run and duck and do all the sort of amazing twirls and whirls to clear a perimeter of any suspects. Amidst all of this were, he knew, the off-targets he'd need to avoid. The moving target that was not a target, such as an old lady or a little kid, could not be shot at. But he knew that this mock-up was dark and full of shadows. It made sense, for after all that's how the real world is.

So Tim Field breathed deep as it was his turn to go through the maze. He'd been debriefed, but he knew that he had to do well.

The world of cardboard instantly morphed into the realm of bricks and mortar, as he checked to his left and right. There was some noise above him on the right, and though they were merely machines, Tim shouted out, "Don't move, this is the police!"

That just made the cracks in the facade fade even further away. The "call-in" had told him that there were 3 suspects of an armed robbery, so he was vigilant. They could come from multiple angles, after all.

He looked closely at the target above and to the right, inching closer to make sure it was a suspect and not someone innocent. He knew that it had motion sensors which would emit a laser at him and "shoot" him if he'd get too close, but he had to be right. As he came around the "car" that was in his way, his view cleared up, and he knew it was a suspect. He fired before the suspect could fire back, and breathed a sigh of relief. But before he could exhale, the set changed from a midnight world of obscurities to a fluorescent glow of artificial daylight.

A voice came over the loudspeakers--"Cadet Field, you have missed the mark. Your first hit was off-target. Look more closely and see what you have done."

The adrenaline levels were still high in his 18 year-old frame, but they slowly ebbed as the mirage of a city street had fallen apart. As he breathed more slowly and listened to the loudspeakers, his perception of the "suspect" had slowly lost the vigor of certainty that first met him seconds before firing.

Yes, the suspect was too large to be a child, but as he looked the frown and grimace of what would look like a nefarious no-gooder turned into the wrinkles of an old man. More importantly, what was so clearly a pistol to his hawk-like eyes on the prowl transformed into a clunky metallic case, clutched closely to his chest. His suspect was no suspect, after all.

Ashamed, but having learned his lesson, Tim cried out, "Sergeant O'Neil, I'm so sorry. I was too quick on the trigger. But this was my first time, and I know that if I hesitate a bit more to be sure of who my suspect is, I'll never make that mistake again."

As he looked behind him, Sergeant O'Neil had left the control room where the loudspeakers and was walking toward Tim Field.

"You sure are right you won't make that mistake again. You are under arrest for 3rd degree murder. It's really a shame Field. I thought you'd make a great cop. Come to find out, you're a killer."

Handcuffs grated against his wrists, and Tim Field was led away.

Now, what you're thinking right now is most likely verbatim what was going through Tim's mind. Tim had been raised by parents who stayed away from thinking about violence and guns and the ways of the world as they pertain to crime. They had no idea that a law had been enacted which stated that those people who acted upon a stage where people were symbolized by cardboard cutouts were responsible to treat those symbols with the same austerity and respect as would be given to real people. And if they were not fictitious, this law would be irrelevant. However, since they are my own creations, they are as valid as butter and beer.

But why do I choose to take you through this thought experiment of a world where cops are punished for murder when they shoot at cardboard? And, if it's not clear, maybe I should answer how this is is related to the Eucharist.

Let me take you to the words of Paul the Apostle, and let's see if I can shed some light on this.

Paul writes in the 11th Chapter of 1 Corinthians:

23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.27Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.

What strikes me about the way that my non-Catholic Christian friends look at the Eucharist is that they would produce a world where Tim Field's arrest made sense. The Eucharist would be a mere symbol of an important reality, and while only representing the truth of Our Lord's Body and Blood, we who enter into the drama of this sacrament would be guilty if we failed to live up to the majesty of the call of the occasion. Like Tim, if we missed the mark for what the right use of the symbols were, we would fall short to the point of being guilty of the reality represented by the symbols. The cardboard wasn't actually an old man, but in the logical scheme presented before us, shooting the cardboard would be like shooting an old man. Likewise, if the bread and wine are merely bread and wine, Paul would call us guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord for abuse of bread and wine.

Which leads me to say this, in conclusion--the punishment does not fit the crime.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

happy tuesday!

lather, rinse, repeat (the sounding joy)

Oh, the wonders of His love. We sing or contemplate or overlook the phrases that have been written so many years ago to acknowledge a birth that is even older than those songs, but is there monotony? Only if the wonders are not truly wonderful. But, (and this is a big but), if those wonders are unceasingly growing in grandeur and scope, the simplest song, the lamest limerick, based upon these truths, will make one shudder with fear over how faintly the first feelings grasped the truths that are contained within those truths. And it is to that I raise my glass of Advent toasts and say "Dear God, I am so sorry for parsing lines without a heart. I wish I could look to the simplest song and realize how much your love lives in these little thoughts that are made to remind me of what you did in leaving your exalted estate, and joining my own rather wretched wreck of an existence." There is no reason for such condescension save a great love. For that love, I am ever in debt, and at the same time, always the richest man on earth.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Friday, December 5, 2008