Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Mayo Jar And Two Cups Of Coffee

I receive from people some stories which are inspirational and/or thought-provoking. I have a collection of them and will post them from time to time. This particular story was in was in my parish bulletin today. With some minor editing, here it is:

A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When class began, he wordlessly picked up a large, empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it right to the top with rocks about two inches in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

Next, the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. The students laughed. He asked his students again if the jar was full. They agreed that yes, it was.

The professor then picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded unanimously with a yes.

Finally, the professor produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things - God, your family, your partner, your health, your children, your friends - things so important to you that if it were lost, you would be nearly destroyed.

"The pebbles are the other things in life that matter, but on a smaller scale. The pebbles represent things like your job, your house, your car.

"The sand is everything else. The small stuff.

"If you put the sand or the pebbles into the jar first, there is no room for the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your energy and time on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are truly most important.

"Pay attention to the things that are critical in your life. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party, and fix the disposal.

"Take care of the rocks first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just pebbles and sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Great Divide?

Peggy Noonan writes a very interesting op-ed piece in the on-line Wall Street Journal.

The Anchoress adds her thoughts.

"Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth."

Loretto Fallout

Mrs. Wynette Sills, the mother of Loretto Catholic HS (Sacramento, CA) student Katelyn Sills, has been banned from the campus by the school's administration.

Katelyn breaks the news.

(Fedora Doff to Rick Lugari, who has a post on the same subject.)

Continuing East/West Dialogue

It was John Paul II's hope. It is one of Benedict XVI's missions. It is the prayer of Jesus.

"...that all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I am in you;..." (John 17:21a)

An update on the relationship between Rome and Moscow.

Hail, Mary

From Catholic Exchange, a great web portal, comes this reflection about the Mother of God as a model of how we are to live our lives in Faith.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Reach Out And Touch

I have a confession to make.

My name is Ron and I am a hug-a-holic.

(Chorus of people: Hi, Ron.)

And in a society and culture that places way too much emphasis on both ends of the sexuality spectrum (out-and-out hedonism on the left, sterile puritanical attitudes on the right), where John Paul II's "Theology of the Body" provides a spiritual anchor (virtue is in the middle), we really aren't very comfortable with expressions of physical affection (when appropriate).

"Skin hunger" is what the phenomena is labeled. Some people will claim it's as needed as air, food, and water. We've seen the studies related to neo-natals who do better when nurses touch them. I remember reading a story about a child who wanted an embrace from his mother just because "I need a God with skin on." And who doesn't know what Elmo's favorite thing to do is?

I have had to learn how to be affectionate, mindful of what my limits are within the 6th and 9th Commandments and the boundaries of others. It is an ongoing process. But I have become more comfortable in giving and receiving hugs. (And, if you haven't noticed, most of the time you can't give one without getting one.)

And how powerful can touch be? Anybody remember the Gospel story of a woman with a hemorrhage? It could be, literally, life-changing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

"A Child Shall Lead Them"

Her name is Katelyn Sills. She is a student at Loretto Catholic High School, Sacramento, CA, an all-girls' school.

At the moment, I don't think she has to worry about being in Purgatory. Right now, she is going through Hell.

This is what caused the firestorm. I'll let her tell her side of the story. And then, do what I did--offer her your support.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Meme: Post 23, Verse 5

The Curt Jester has tagged me with this meme.

The rules are as follows:
1. Go into your archives.
2. Find your 23rd post.
3. Post the fifth sentence (or closest to it).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
5. Tag five other people to do the same thing.
And how ironic that my 23rd post is a link back to Jeff:
Check out this post.
(I only had two sentences, so that was the closest to the fifth.)

To any 'bloggers who visit me, feel free to be tagged.

Meme: 7x7

Krush is a 'blogger from the Pittsburgh, PA area. Head over heels in love and recently married, she is an inspiration to me in how to "make lemonade out of lemons." I met her the same way I met Anastasia. (And, yes, that story will be told.)

Krush has tagged me with a meme for the first time (sorry it took so long to reply)--

7 things I plan to do before I die:
1. Earn a doctoral degree.
2. Find and marry my "soulmate".
3. Learn to play the piano.
4. Direct choirs/teach at the collegiate/university level.
5. Become a published composer.
6. Learn to ballroom dance.
7. Improve my computer skills.

7 things I can do:
1. Sing.
2. Drive a car with manual transmission.
3. Run.
4. Think.
5. Pray.
6. Care.
7. Continue to learn.

7 things I cannot do:
1. Paint/draw/sketch (I never had any talent in that direction).
2. Say "no" when needed.
3. Work with my hands.
4. Quit on me.
5. Get things done quickly.
6. Tolerate my stupidity.
7. Ask for help when needed.

7 things that attract me to the opposite sex:
I am going to stay away from the physical aspects which appeal to me and, instead, focus on the interior traits to which I am drawn.
1. A spiritual/religious orientation.
2. A beautiful mind (intelligence).
3. A playful, child-like attitude.
4. A more extroverted approach to life.
5. A romantic mind-set.
6. An affectionate nature.
7. An optimistic outlook.

7 things that I say most often:
1. The Morning Offering.
2. Grace Before Meals ("Bless me, O Lord,....).
3. Indeed.
4. Really.
5. Hi.
6. Please.
7. Thank you.

7 celebrity crushes (in no particular order):

1. Nicole Kidman
2. Maria Carey
3. Tyra Banks
4. Halle Berry
5. Jennifer Garner
6. Jessica Alba
7. Demi Moore

7 people I want to do this:
Unfortunately, this meme stops with me. Being a new 'blogger, I don't have a lot of contacts who I think would be interested in this exercise. If there are readers who are interested, please do so in the combox.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Passionless Sermons

Archbishop Wilton Gregory, the former head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told a meeting of the world's bishops that Catholics increasingly expect better homilies from priests at Sunday Mass.

"Ritual precision alone will not bring back those who do not attend Sunday Mass," he said. (Source.)
I want to be fed in both Word and Sacrament. Yes, I need to do my part in being properly docile. That means I have to be catechised. I can do much on my own, but the first place to look and hear is the ambo. Both doctrinal and pastoral applications, please.

Another Tutoral

Domenico Bettinelli, Jr. has another post on "how to build a better 'blog."

BTW, please go over and congratulate both his wife (a 'blogger in her own right) and him. They are expecting their first child in May.

A Good Shepherd

Kudos to the Most Reverend Nicola De Angelis, the Bishop of Petersbourough, ON, for taking action to insure the Faithful under his care are getting the Truth.

The release explains that the Catholic Church, "like any other organization possesses rules and expectations that are necessary for membership," and that priests freely take on the responsibility of "teaching the entire deposit of the Catholic faith in the name of the Church and not his own feelings or points of view."
Story courtesy of LifeSiteNews.com.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Resume Recount

The job search progresses at its usual snail's pace. Once again, the church music positions are holding the most promise. I had a phone interview with a Catholic church Monday and have one scheduled with a Presbyterian church for Sunday. Two other Catholic churches have called and inquired about my availability. Finally, a Methodist church has contacted me and will start their screening of candidates at the end of the month. Possibilities; but, when it comes to employment, I never count my chickens before they hatch. (N.B.--While I would prefer to work in and for a Catholic church, my directing experiences have been with Protestant choirs. As long as I can fit in and they don't even think about converting me, I am OK with it. That way, I can just focus on the music.)

A columnist for a financial advice website is in the same boat. His last column offers some tips on how to create a career.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Church As Hobby

Part of my personality likes formality, rules, ritual, order, ceremony, rites, pagentry. I really don't know why; perhaps the draw is that these are my guideposts leading to God. Having never assisted at a Tridentine Latin Mass in my life, I think I would be attracted to the pomp and circumstance. But, I also don't like show for the sake of show. Make it meaningful, make it reverent, make it appropriate.

So, in the great liturgical debates about what is appropriate within the Mass, what should our attitude be? Anthony Esolen provides a frame of reference:

Our Holy Father, Benedict XVI, reminds us always that the Church is something we receive as a gift. It is not a human work but God's work, and only insofar as we unite ourselves to it can it be said, through God's grace, to be our work, too. Only then can we claim that our work in the Church does indeed have merit, not because it is ours, but because it is the work of Christ alive within us (Gal 2:20). Even the work of worship we must see as a gift of God's grace, lest any man should boast; and if any should be inclined to boast, says Paul, "Let him boast in the Lord" (1 Cor 1:31)....

So when our good Pope Benedict sets his sights on the liturgy, on making sure that Mass is reverent and its celebrators obedient, regardless of the cries of hobbyist or lobbyist, my heart will be with that sinner who wanders into church one day. I don't know what his name is--Adam, I suspect it is, like mine. The man may be sin-laden, desperate, crying out for something not of man's invention, real healing for his all-too-painful evil, not a shrug and a pat on the back. He seeks a Savior, not a hobby-partner; for his hobbies are all smothered with the stale old smell of his own will. He longs to lay that will at the feet of One worthy to obey--and who sets man free by obedience. Instead he finds silliness, narcissism, self-indulgence: a hobby all over again, and no interesting one at that. His head clears; no Savior there. He leaves. The hobbyists will not miss him.

Benedict will. (Source.)

The entire article speak well of what happens when "dabbling in a hobby" is not done for the right reason.

(Fedora Doff to MJA of Southern Appeal.)

(UPDATE: Additional paragraph added 10/19/05.)

Monday, October 17, 2005

Lost And Found

The satirical mind of Jeff Miller, aka The Curt Jester, is up to his usual high standards of wit and wisdom. Check out this post.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Tutorial

Domenico Bettinelli, Jr. is the editor of Catholic World Report, an international Catholic news magazine, and the host of his own 'blog. This post is exactly the kind of thing a beginning 'blogger like me can use.

Building Community

Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster (London, UK), seems to have a wonderful understanding of what a problem pluralism is and its solution.

Part of his homily from October 7:

Where there is no vision, the people perish. We find that easier to believe of the Middle Ages, in a Christian society where everyone believed in divine wisdom, and where everybody agreed about where such wisdom might be found; but what about a society in which there is not just one vision, but many, and where those visions often seem to contradict and cancel out each other?

Ours is [a] more complicated and pluralist world than Edward the Confessor's. These days one in four Londoners is born abroad, and into diverse faiths. Ours is a social melting-pot where people of different races, different cultures, different religions and people of no religion at all must build a common life together. Has the vision represented by the tomb of Edward anything to say to such a world?

You cannot solve the difficulties created by the existence of a multitude of visions for society by trying to create a society emptied of vision altogether. An utterly secular society, which turns its back on transcendent value, and governs itself by sheer pragmatism and the lowest common denominator, can never be a home for human beings worthy of that name.

Wisdom is not private; morality is not private; the holiness of life is not private. We have to find ways to make the public fabric of our society, our laws, our civic institutions, the texture and quality of the life we live together, reflect more than just the values of the global market. They must reflect wisdom and love and justice. They must defend the God-given dignity of all. They must look out, above all, for the poorest and most vulnerable, lest the strong be left to walk on them. These are not pragmatic matters.

The city of man or the City of God. Which shall we choose?

(Text of the homily here and here.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Down Under Discussion?

Although it seems those in the USA are the loudest in calling for "change" in the nature of our ministerial priesthood, there are others as well.

Since it takes two to have a discussion, here is the rebuttal.

(Fedora Doff to Rick Lugari for the post which has the article.)

Friday, October 07, 2005

Hardly Working

My last post at least explains my absence. I also promised an explanation. Here is the story.

Let me take you back to May 2003. At that time I was working for a family-owned wholesale magazine distributor in the return department. A new warehouse supervisor took over and instituted a new procedure for handling the returns which involved taking the bundles of materials out of a large, portable container, stacking them on the floor, then getting the returns ready for crediting back to customers' accounts. The stacking things on the floor was the extra step which was not done before. I saw it as an unnecessary step; the productivity reports proved otherwise. I didn't follow this procedure at all; I was having trouble keeping up as it was. But, being the loyal team player, I did my best to accommodate the change.

Then things started happening to me physically. With the extra handling of materials, my body wasn't adapting. While I was running one day in mid-June, I injured my left calf muscle and re-aggravated it two weeks later. It was an injury caused by fatigue, the result of the extra lifting and carrying. At the beginning of July, I pulled a portion of my left bicep. These mishaps were mild compared to what was building.

In mid-July, I started to notice my right elbow was aching on a daily basis. I was attributing that to the extra work load and thought I just needed to build up arm strength. My thinking was wrong. Two month later, in mid-September, the pain had gotten worse and was causing problems in my forearm due to the muscles getting pulled. My employer sent me to a doctor for a evaluation. I had developed tendonitis, also known as "tennis elbow". Two weeks of therapy and lighter work duty were prescribed. I seemed to have made a recovery after that and continued with the lifting exercises, as well as doing my job.

The lifting continued until mid-December, when it seemed I was at a point of diminishing returns with the therapy. It was then I stopped. Two months later, in mid-February 2004, the pain in the elbow and forearm came back, plus now I was feeling numbness in the ring and end fingers on my right hand. Back to the doctor; this time two week of doing absolutely nothing with a follow-up examination at the end of it. At that exam, on February 26, the damage was done. I was diagnosed with a mild but permanent case of tendonitis. The restrictions place on activities by the doctor meant not only could I no longer work for my employer, but that any kind of job involving manual labor was now out of the question.

How ironic that the date of the exam was the day before Ash Wednesday of 2004. It has seemed it has been Lent for me ever since. I was placed on worker's compensation; and with the help of two people assigned to my case, I began looking for new work.

The job search essentially divided into two categories as it evolved. One was church choir jobs. The other was anything within my restrictions. The church choir jobs were the more promising leads. I went out to Bellingham, Washington over Memorial Day for an interview, had a phone interview with a church in a small town east of Lansing, Michigan, had other interviews in the region (Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin) and inquired about others from coast to coast. The "miscellaneous" category stuck to the local area, as I lost the car I had in a small accident in mid-December 2003. Focusing on retail sales and administrative positions, the pickings were rather slim.

The bottom line to all of it though is I am still unemployed. As to the church choir jobs, they never did pan out; one church in Iowa took five months to make a decision after the interview (because they were going through some internal concerns). People were hesitant to even look at me and kept asking me what my plans were. Most of my applications were sent to churches near enough where there were grad schools with a choral conducting program that interested me. (Was God in the details?) When I mentioned this to people, I think it scared them. As to the other jobs, I rarely got interviews. Over-qualified? Over-educated? My history of underemployment (meaning my work experience has been nothing but entry-level positions and no promotions)? I have not an answer.

While I was looking for work, there was still in the back of my mind going back to grad school. (That thought is still there.) It may have taken away from the focus I needed to put in more effort in looking for work. But while I was in the worker's comp program, I was dedicated to finding a job first and then getting back to school.

As the job search progressed, results and effort were diminishing while the disappointments and frustration were increasing. The labor market here is tight; my restrictions made it even moreso. I was starting to get discouraged with the lack of prospects, much less interviews.

At the beginning of 2005, I was told by one of the people assisting me that my worker's comp benefits may be coming to an end. In February, I received a letter from the insurance company stating they would cease with benefits in May, which did happen. I then filed for unemployment insurance very soon afterwards. It has been now almost five months and I have not received any decision as to whether or not I am eligible, due to the worker's comp claim being part of the problem. I haven't pushed very hard for resolution; perhaps I need to become a "pest".

And how have I been surviving without any income? My last employer had a profit-sharing plan, which I have cashed out. I also had two weeks vacation pay from them. And, thank God, the ace up my financial sleeve is still there. I am still able to do as much sports officiating as I can; the cash flow helping me meet expenses when they arise.

That is the cloud which hangs over my head at the moment. It is causing me, even more than ever, to question why things are the way they are in my life. Yes, a full blown mid-life crisis. Way too much self-doubt and wondering. My "dark night of the soul". And I seek no pity. It's just where I am.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

MIA?

And where have I been? As I said before, "Life is what happens when you make plans to 'blog." And I have a job which needs more of my attention right now. I won't allow 'blogging to be a distraction.

My job at the moment is to find a job for me. I am looking for work. I have been since February 2004.

Long story. Later.