Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Fasting Suggestions

We all have our favorite things from which we abstain during Lent. My parish priest will probably "give up" chocolate; some people will use this as another opportunity to quit smoking; others ban the use of television. For me, it will involve my best cooking decision by not going out to eat.

If you are looking for a last-minute idea, I have a few suggestions.

I found the following article at a local office of Catholic Charities. Going on the premise "nature abhors a vacuum", it offers up (no pun intended) a wealth of things upon which to sacrifice and to replace that void:

FASTING AND FEASTING

Lent should be more than a time of fasting. It should also be a joyous season of feasting. Lent is a time to fast from certain things and to feast on others. It is a season in which we should--
Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling within them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of all life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that polute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; feast on divine order.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; feast on non-resistance.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal Truth.
Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; feast on verities that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.
Fast from thought that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that undergirds.

William Arthur Ward
As we strive to live holier lives, these are things to treasure in our own hearts.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Five Great Lessons

Aesop would be proud. Again, from my e-mail box:

It's Not What You Know

During my second month of nursing school, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the question until I read the last one: "What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?"

Surely, this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired, and in her 50s; but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank.

Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. "Absolutely," said the professor. "In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say 'hello'."

I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

Pickup In The Rain

One night, at 11:30 PM, an older African-American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car.

A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance, and put her into a taxicab. She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him.

Seven days went by and a knock came on the man's door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached:
Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband's bedside just before he passed away. God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.

Sincerely, Mrs. Nat King Cole

Always Remember Those Who Serve

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him.

"How much is an ice cream sundae?" he asked.

"Fifty cents," replied the waitress.

The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it. "Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?" he inquired.

By now, more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient. "Thirty-five cents," she brusquely replied.

The little boy again counted his coins. "I'll have the plain ice cream," he said.

The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table, and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier, and left.

When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies. You see, he couldn't have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.

The Obstacles In Our Path

In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock.

Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded.

After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.

The peasant learned what many of us never understand: Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

Giving When It Counts

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness.

The doctor explained the situation to her little brother and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, "Yes; I'll do it if it will save her."

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, "Will I start to die right away?" Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

You see, after all, understanding and attitude are everything.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Envelope, Please

It's official.

Here are the winners of the 2006 Catholic Blog Awards. Congratulations to all the nominees as well.

I did notice some of those who were nominated did post some "get out the vote" pieces. There was even a 'blogger who returned from his hiatus to do a little creative campaigning.

A fedora doff to Jeff LeBlanc, whose herculean effort makes this all possible.

The quality of 'blogs out there is impressive, as the Curt Jester notes in his review. Perhaps, one day, this "infinitesimal corner of the universe" will meet the standards set.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Habemus Cardinale

Today His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI has named those who will be confered with the title of Cardinal.

Amy Welborn at Open Book has the best links to this story.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Mistaken Identity?

Found--Another lame, religious-themed joke:

St. Mark has been guarding the Pearly Gates for a long time, waiting for St. Peter to return to his post. With no relief in sight, Jesus takes pity on him and takes his place.

While He is there, an old man arrives.

"Welcome to Heaven," says Jesus. "Tell me a bit about yourself."

"Well," says the old man, "when I was alive, I was a carpenter. I had a son. For a while he was a carpenter too, helping about the shop; but, he left home. Made quite a name for himself for a while; but, they killed him."

Jesus stared searchingly at the old man. "Father?" he asked.

The old man stared back. "Pinocchio?!"

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Woman And The Fork

Another meditative story sent to me a long time ago:

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and given three months to live. So, as she was getting her things in order, she contacted her Rabbi and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and in what outfit she wanted to be buried.

When everything was in order, the Rabbi prepared to leave. The young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her. "There's one more thing," she said excitedly.

"What's that?" came the Rabbi's reply.

"This is very important," the young woman continued. "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand."

The Rabbi stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say. "That surprises you, doesn't it?" the young woman asked.

"Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the Rabbi.

The young woman explained, "My grandmother once told me this story. Ever since, I have always done that. I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and who are in need of encouragement.

"In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming, like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful and with substance!

"So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand. I want them to wonder, 'What's with the fork?' Then I want you to tell them, 'Keep your fork; the best is yet to come.'"

The Rabbi's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral, people were walking by the young woman's casket. They saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over the Rabbi heard the question, "What's with the fork?" And over and over he smiled.

During his message, the Rabbi told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He told them about the fork and what it symbolized to her. He told them how he could not stop thinking about the fork and they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. He was right.

So, the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you ever so gently the best is yet to come.

And keep your fork!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Polls Are Open

The 2006 Catholic Blog Awards are now awaiting your votes.

You may vote once every 24 hours.

Check it out.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Cupid's Assistant

I will freely admit it. I am a hopeful, incurable romantic. Although currently single, young, and free (and having a choice in two of those three adjectives), I have had occasion to bring out the side of me that will spoil someone. Valentine's Day 1994 was my most memorable and enjoyable celebration. That day, I had my hand in four gifts to various people.

With A Song In My Heart

I was a member of a chamber choir as a grad student. I suggested to the rest of the group to give our director a dozen red roses. They were presented to her at a noon concert, just before we sang "My Love Is Like A Red Rose". I wound up paying for the lion's share of it, despite the fact it was suppose to be a "group effort".

"Houston, Do You Copy?"

At the time, I had been corresponding with a single mom living in Houston, Texas for nine months. We had met in person a couple of weeks before Christmas, a four-day weekend getting to know each other better. For this day, I had wired a floral bouquet, sent a card, and later that night called her. But, the relationship went downhill after that and ended five months later.

Lesson learned: Romance cannot be used to paper over differences.

Oh, Canada

Meanwhile, there was a lady from Montreal, Quebec with whom I had experienced the feeling of "falling in love". Hard. Head. Over. Heels. As subtly as I could, I tried to get her attention--her birthday, Christmas, and at Easter the most heart-felt letter I have ever written. As President and Founder of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Stuffed Animals, I gave her a teddy bear, a card, and introductory letter from the Society describing how to properly care for her new charge. Despite all my efforts during the school year, there was no connection. She still haunts my being (in a good way).

"Do You Want To Know A Secret?"


I had a graduate assisantship in the Music Library and was considered a part of the staff of the main building. They had a "Secret Valentine's Week" among those who were interested. I drew the name of a 50-year old female member of the staff.

During the week prior to February 14, as an exercise in creativity. I did the following:
Monday--Sent her a homemade coupon good for a "Free Compliment" (with no expiration date and unlimited use).
Tuesday--Sent her a pencil with a eraser-sized teddy bear on the end. An attached note read, "Loving is the 'write' thing to do."
Wednesday--Sent her a handmade bookmark for all those romance novels she reads (which she actually did, as I came to discover).
Thursday--Sent her a handmade card. "Q. Want to find true love? A. See 1 Corinthians 13."
Friday--Sent her a can of tennis balls. The note attached read, "Let this be the only thing where love means nothing."
The party to reveal our identities was that Monday morning. I asked to go first. I walked into the room wearing my tux, drawing a few "oohs" from the rest of the women there. (Since this was concert dress for the performance at noon, I had an alibi.) She was pointed out to me, whereupon I sang to her "Let Me Call You Sweetheart". On the last line of the song, I knelt and presented her with a vase containing one red, one white, and one pink rose. For my efforts, I received a hug from her and a paperweight as a prize for being the most creative "Secret Valentine".

Imagine if I could do this for one woman.

But, then again, I believe everyday should be Valentine's Day.

God's Valentine's Day Card

"For God so lo-
V
ed the world, that He g-
A
ve His on-
L
y begott-
En So-
N,
T
hat whosever believeth
In Him should
Not perish, but have
Everlasting life."

John 3:16

Monday, February 13, 2006

New "Rite"

Jeff Miller, the Curt Jester, must have all his Valentine's day plans finalized.

How else could he have the time to come up with something this wickedly funny.

A week after the Gospel reading about Christ curing a demonic possession.

Timing is everything.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

"Que Soy Era Immaculada Conceptiou"

So did the Blessed Virgin Mary say to St. Bernadette Soubirous on the Feast of the Annunication in 1858. This was the 16th. of 18 appearances the Mother of God made to this young woman from February 11 to July 16 of that year.

Courtesy of Catholic Online, the story can be found here.

The following prayer is from the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate:
Blessed, most pure Virgin, you chose to manifest yourself shining with life, sweetness and beauty, in the Grotto fo Lourdes.

Obtain for me, O loving Mother, this special request (mention request).

Our Lady of Lourdes, Mother of Christ, pray for me. Obtain from your Divine Son my special request if it be God's will.

Amen.
Ora pro nobis.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Plan 1-A

So, how is my job search progressing?

"Ask me no questions; I'll tell you no lies."

While not quite giving up on the employment outlook, I have started to give more focus to where my heart seems to be leading me.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the other alternative to finding work is to return to school and chase my dream. To that end, today I mailed two pieces of correspondance which should complete the application process to schools which have been on my short list for quite a while. I have filed application forms, asked for recommendations from former professors, and sent transcripts, statements of intent, and other papers to support my application. I will need to re-take the GRE General Test, but I hope my prior record as a graduate student will buy the time I need to take care of that.

My "final four" and the program I would be studying, if accepted:
University of Iowa; Iowa City, IA--Master of Music: Choral Conducting
University of Connecticut; Storrs, CT--Master of Music: Choral Conducting
San Jose State University; San Jose, CA--Master of Music: Choral Conducting
University of Notre Dame; Notre Dame, IN--Master of Sacred Music (Choral Emphasis)
Why I chose these programs, and the pros and cons for each, will make good fodder for future posts.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Pun(dant)

The following were sent to me a long time ago. I have made some minor edits to them. These are so bad you have to wonder why I kept them:

1. Two vultures board an airplane. Each was carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at them and says, "I'm sorry, gentlemen; only one carrion per passenger allowed."

2. Two boll weevils grew up in South Carolina. One went to Hollywood and became a famous actor. The other stayed behind in the cotton fields and never amounted to much. The second one, naturally, became known as the lesser of two weevils.

3. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly; but when they lit a fire in the craft, it sank. This proves once again you can't have your kayak and heat it, too.

4. A three-legged dog walks into a saloon in the Old West. He slides up to the bar and announces, "I'm looking for the man who shot my paw."

5. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? He wanted to transcend dental medication.

6. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse.

"But why?" they asked, as they moved off.

"Because," he said, "I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer."

7. A woman has twins and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named Ahmal. The other goes to a family in Spain; they name him Juan.

Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she says to her husband, "I wish I had a picture of Ahmal as well."

Her husband responds, "They're twins! If you've seen Juan, you've seen Ahmal."

8. A monistary was behind on their belfry payments. They decided to open a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair.

He asked the good fathers to close down. They would not.

He went back later and begged the friars to close. They ignored him.

So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to "persuade" them to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he'd be back if they didn't close up shop. Terrified, they finally did.

The moral of the story? Hugh, and only Hugh, can prevent florist friars.

9. Mahatma Gandhi, as you may or may not know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail. With his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him a super callused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

10. There was this 'blogger who posted ten different puns, hoping at least one of the puns would make his readers laugh. Unfortunately, no pun in ten did.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Lackings

As I am sure you have noticed, lots of entries since Christmas have been lacking in substance. (Or perhaps all of them?) I think I have stumbled against a problem newbies like me have.

Every since I read this, I have to admit my interest has been waning as well. And I have much more pressing issues than spending the time in front of a keyboard. The last thing I have ever wanted this to be is a boring chore, which it seem it has become right now.

I am still working on answering this question. This 'blog just doesn't have a theme. In more ways than one, posts have been more "off the top of my head". Very little rhyme, almost no reason.

That is why I asked not to be nominated in my last post. I wish to be doing quality work; right now, I am not. While there will always be some parallel posting (meaning someone else is commenting on the same theme/idea/story), I need to work at not being a "copycat" and develop some originality.

Here I have to be careful. Desiderata says it perfectly, "If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself." I cannot compete with the likes of Mark Shea, Amy Welborn, Jimmy Akin, and the others who make a living as a professional writer. People to admire, aspire, and emulate--yes. I also have to remember they have been at their craft for a long, long time.

Which gets back to the first rule of writing: write about what you know. Which means bring your interests into the mix. Which means get interested in life. And it is, if you allow oneself to be child-like rather than childish.

So, like a runner hitting the proverbial "wall", here's hoping I can regain my breath and stride.