Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Another Countdown


Everybody should know the words by now. Celebrate safely and responsibly.

My wishes for you are for the best, always and all ways.

Happy New Year!

Reflection On This Last Day

Go Forward.

It has been my mantra for the past four years.

The question remains, however.

Have I?

Am I a better person today than I was when I first made this my motto? Have I regressed? Am I treading water?

I realize I can be too introspective and not live life. I am also a firm believer the unexamined life is not worth living. And the phrase "let go and let God" are still merely words to me, despite the personal events of the past few years demanding just that.

People say I have a strong faith. Are they seeing someone who exercises religiosity or whose belief is firmly grounded? More often than not I am more like the rich young man or the Prodigal Son. I wonder sometimes if the words of the tax collector (the basis of the "Jesus Prayer") are even sounding hollow and shallow.

Perhaps, then, I am not moving at all. Paralyzed by fear, despair, and despondency. Seems like I want to feel like I have been victimized. But then, I am reminded of the words of Cassius in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."

Yes, I am extremely hard on myself. Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the comic strip "Peanuts" once said through his wisest character, Linus Van Pelt, "The greatest burden is great potential." Realizing my potential has always been my heaviest cross. Deep down, I know I am not living up to what God created me to be. Have this unfulfilled actuality finally crushed my spirit? Do I really want to quit on God as well as me?

No. Not by a long shot. And, as I remember a letter from a distant relative written almost three decades ago, quitting is not part of my DNA. Nor should it be a part of anyone's:

Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.

Pope John XXIII
Something inside is still alive. Maybe on life-support, but still there. (I think it's called grace.) This is just a time where everything is still being questioned. I just need to learn Jesus Christ is the answer. And believe.

2009 comes. Only God knows what will happen. Only He will bless me as He sees fit. I just need a new pair of eyes.

See you when the calendar page turns.

Breaking The Silence: Part II

When last we left our intrepid wanderer, he was beginning to settle into his new digs.

One inquiring mind was curious:
So, tell us what you are doing in Utah...sounds like a big move for something.
As ABC radio personality Paul Harvey would say, "And now...the rest of the story."

Cha, Cha, Cha, Cha, Changes

While I had mentioned I spent a fortnight here already, three questions were immediately begging to be answered:
  1. Where's the cooler temperatures? (It's been about ten degrees warmer on average here than in Mankato.)
  2. Where's the humidity? (The Metro Salt Lake City area is in a desert.)
  3. Where's the oxygen? (At 4,226 feet above sea level, I had experienced about a 3, 200 foot raise in elevation, thus the thinner air.)
I have adjusted to these new demands on my physical being. The next adjustment was my living arrangements. For the first time in almost a quarter century, I was living with other human beings under the same roof. When your only roommates for so long other than myself was me and I, remembering your P's and Q's becomes a priority. I am making sure I contribute to my upkeep by helping about the household in whatever manner I can. In fact, there is a list of household projects which are being tackled. There is no timetable for their completion; just working on them little by little is the goal.

The biggest change was to my community. This is the first time I have lived outside the states of Iowa and Minnesota. I knew I had a long way to go when I asked after a few days why there were so many ward houses around.

I don't think you are in the Midwest anymore, Ron.

The More Things Change...

The first order of business was to get connected to the high school officiating scene. While I was looking for permanent employment, I was hoping for some cash flow. Luckily for me, rules meetings for football, soccer, and volleyball were held a week after my arrival. I made connections with various officiating association and waited to see what would happen. A week after those meetings, I did my first contests--two girls' soccer matches. (Can you say "lack of conditioning"? I can.) Since then, while I am not as connected as I would like to be, I have had all the games I have wanted and have been able to continue all my registrations.

While I have been welcomed into the officiating community here, I had to conform to their system. First of all, as opposed to getting my own games for the most part, all scheduling is centrally controlled by the local officials' organizations. While they also battle with shortages, their system of rating officials insures the best qualified get placed on the proper games. They also insure training so one can move up the ladder. Secondly, contests, whether varsity or sub-varsity, start at 3:30 PM. It makes it very tough for officials to get there on time, especially those dealing with the traffic nearer to Salt Lake City. Finally, officials are paid using a voucher system or through an electronic payment system, a dramatic departure for someone who was used to being paid at the contest site. Oh, well; just another challenge to my money management skills.

The other connection I made was to the music ministry at my new parish. The first Sunday after my arrival I introduced myself to the Director of Music, who informed me of the first rehearsal of the choir. It is so nice to be able to sing with a formal choir in my own house of worship. I was quickly worked into the rotation of cantors. And what mixed choir doesn't need a good tenor?

Those two constants were welcome. Another wasn't.

...The More They Stay The Same

A Bedouin proverb says, "Change your location; change your luck."

Really?

There is another saying, "If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all."

I don't even have bad luck anymore.

While there have been more opportunities here, the results have been the same. Again, I have been looking at entry-level positions, hoping that my being in the workforce would be to my advantage. Again, nobody seems to be buying what I am selling--me. And I continued to wonder if I was doing the best job promoting me.

I can't say I have been totally unsuccessful. Late in October, 2007 I did accept a position to manage a "payday loan" store, a rather common sight in Utah. Three things, however, worked against me:
  1. This store required two people for it to run smoothly. I was alone.
  2. The administrative end of things--filing, organizing, paperwork--was well behind. While I enjoy doing that kind of work, it didn't seem I was making progress.
  3. It was a business which went against my principles. To me, people who utilize this show a sign of financial desperation. For me, one who has made due with very little income, I have learned to do without; it seems these people don't understand the gravity of their situation. While I understand why they exist, I was having a difficult time setting aside my personal integrity to do the job.
After almost a month of those things, I was literally starting to sour from the inside out. One could smell a vinegary odor from my body. The Monday before Thanksgiving, knowing someone was finally hired as the assistant, I returned to the district manager the key to the store. Another victim of an industry with a high rate of turnover.

Carrying On

While relieved to have left, I wonder what being there did for my self-confidence. Was it a case of learning to do what you love so the money would follow? Would I be ever be able to "just do anything" for a paycheck? It is not willing to compromise, or pride? (Are they one in the same?)

I was so shaken by this, it took a while for me to resume any kind of serious job hunt. Now, with the downturn in the economy and more people seeking fewer open positions, I am doubting even more my ability to market myself. It has always been a struggle for me to give a prospective employer what they want; I'm not so sure I have anything they need.

So, here I am. A week into the nineteenth month of my move here. Grateful to be alive. Very appreciative to have a roof over my head and meals on a consistent basis, thanks to my very gracious hostess. Managing my limited finances as well as ever. Settled, but not rooted.

How ironic I am living in a desert valley. It truly is a time of purification for me. The words of the prophet Jeremiah, spoken to me by a priest during a confession, come to mind:
For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the LORD, and I will change your lot; I will gather you together from all the nations and all the places to which I have banished you, says the LORD, and bring you back to the place from which I have exiled you.

Jeremiah 29:11-14
The status quo is status quo.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas At The Gas Station

Another one of those anonymously written stories which float through the internet. Fedora doff to Catherine Garcia, who forwarded it to me. Content has been edited for clarity.

**********

The old man sat in his gas station on a cold Christmas Eve. He hadn't been anywhere in years since his wife had passed away. He had no decorations, no tree, no lights. It was just another day to him. He didn't hate Christmas, just couldn't find a reason to celebrate. There were no children in his life. His wife was gone.

He was sitting there looking at the snow that had been falling for the last hour and wondering what it was all about when the door opened and a homeless man stepped through. Instead of throwing the man out, George, Old George as he was known by his customers, told the man to come and sit by the space heater and warm up.

"Thank you, but I don't mean to intrude," said the stranger. "I see you're busy. I'll just go"

"Not without something hot in your belly," George turned and opened a wide-mouth thermos and handed it to the stranger. "It ain't much, but it's hot and tasty. Stew. Made it myself. When you're done there's coffee and it's fresh."

Just at that moment he heard the "ding" of the driveway bell. "Excuse me; I'll be right back," George said.

There in the driveway was an old '53 Chevy. Steam was rolling out of the front. The driver was panicked.

"Mister, can you help me?" said the driver with a deep Spanish accent. "My wife is with child and my car is broken."

George opened the hood. It was bad. The block looked cracked from the cold; the car was dead. "You ain't going in this thing," George said as he turned away.

"But, mister. Please, help...." The door of the office closed behind George as he went in. George went to the office wall and got the keys to his old truck, and went back outside. He walked around the building and opened the garage, started the truck and drove it around to where the couple was waiting.

"Here, you can borrow my truck," he said. "She ain't the best thing you ever looked at, but she runs real good."

George helped put the woman in the truck and watched as it sped off into the night. George turned and walked back inside the office.

"Glad I loaned 'em the truck. Their tires were shot too. That ol' truck has brand new tires...." George thought he was talking to the stranger, but the man had gone. The thermos was on the desk, empty, with a used coffee cup beside it.

"Well, at least he got something in his belly," George thought. George went back outside to see if the old Chevy would start. It cranked slowly, but it started. He pulled it into the garage where the truck had been. He thought he would tinker with it for something to do. Christmas Eve meant no customers. He discovered the block hadn't cracked, it was just the bottom hose on the radiator.

"Well, I can fix this," he said to himself. So he put a new one on. "Those tires ain't gonna get 'em through the winter either." He took the snow treads off of his wife's old Lincoln. They were like new and he wasn't going to drive the car.

As he was working he heard a shot being fired. He ran outside and beside a police car an officer lay on the cold ground. Bleeding from the left shoulder, the officer moaned, "Help me." George helped the officer inside as he remembered the training he had received in the Army as a medic. He knew the wound needed attention.

"Pressure to stop the bleeding," he thought. The laundry company had been there that morning and had left clean shop towels. He used those and duct tape to bind the wound.

"Hey, they say duct tape can fix anythin'," he said, trying to make the policeman feel at ease. "Something for pain," George thought. All he had was the pills he used for his back. "These ought to work." He put some water in a cup and gave the policeman the pills.

"You hang in there. I'm going to get you an ambulance." George said, but the phone was dead. "Maybe I can get one of your buddies on that there talk box out in your police car."

He went out only to find that a bullet had gone into the dashboard destroying the two-way radio. He went back in to find the policeman sitting up.

"Thanks," said the officer. "You could have left me there. The guy who shot me is still in the area."

George sat down beside him. 'I would never leave an injured man in the Army and I ain't gonna leave you." George pulled back the bandage to check for bleeding. "Looks worse than what it is. Bullet passed right through 'ya. Good thing it missed the important stuff though. I think with time you're gonna be right as rain."

George got up and poured a cup of coffee. "How do you take it?" he asked.

"None for me," said the officer.

"Oh, yer gonna drink this. Best in the city." Then George added, "Too bad I ain't got no donuts."

The officer laughed and winced at the same time. The front door of the office flew open. In burst a young man with a gun.

"Give me all your cash! Do it now!" the young man yelled. His hand was shaking and George could tell that he had never done anything like this before.

"That's the guy who shot me!" exclaimed the officer.

"Son, why are you doing this?" asked George. "You need to put the cannon away. Somebody else might get hurt."

The young man was confused. "Shut up old man, or I'll shoot you, too. Now give me the cash!" The cop was reaching for his gun.

"Put that thing away," George said to the cop. "We got one too many in here now."

He turned his attention to the young man. "Son, it's Christmas Eve. If you need the money, well then, here. It ain't much but it's all I got. Now put that pee shooter away."

George pulled $150 out of his pocket and handed it to the young man, reaching for the barrel of the gun at the same time. The young man released his grip on the gun, fell to his knees and began to cry.

"I'm not very good at this am I? All I wanted was to buy something for my wife and son," he went on. "I've lost my job. My rent is due. My car got repossessed last week...."

George handed the gun to the cop. "Son, we all get in a bit of squeeze now and then. The road gets hard sometimes, but we make it through the best we can."

He got the young man to his feet, and sat him down on a chair across from the cop. "Sometimes we do stupid things." George handed the young man a cup of coffee. "Being stupid is one of the things that makes us human. Comin' in here with a gun ain't the answer. Now sit there and get warm and we'll sort this thing out."

The young man had stopped crying. He looked over to the cop. "Sorry I shot you. It just went off. I'm sorry, officer."

"Shut up and drink your coffee." the cop said.

George could hear the sounds of sirens outside. A police car and an ambulance skidded to a halt. Two cops came through the door, guns drawn.

"Chuck! You OK?" one of the cops asked the wounded officer.

"Not bad for a guy who took a bullet. How did you find me?"

"GPS locator in the car. Best thing since sliced bread. Who did this?" the other cop asked as he approached the young man.

Chuck answered him, "I don't know. The guy ran off into the dark. Just dropped his gun and ran."

George and the young man both looked puzzled at each other. "That guy works here," the wounded cop continued.

"Yep," George said. "Just hired him this morning. Boy lost his job."

The paramedics came in and loaded Chuck onto the stretcher. The young man leaned over the wounded cop and whispered, "Why?"

Chuck just said, "Merry Christmas, boy. And you too, George, and thanks for everything."

"Well, looks like you got one doozy of a break there. That ought to solve some of your problems." George went into the back room and came out with a box. He pulled out a ring box.

"Here you go. Something for the little woman. I don't think Martha would mind. She said it would come in handy some day."

The young man looked inside to see the biggest diamond ring he ever saw. "I can't take this," said the young man. "It means something to you."

"And now it means something to you," replied George. "I got my memories. That's all I need."

George reached into the box again. A toy airplane, a racing car and a little metal truck appeared next. They were toys that the oil company had left for him to sell. "Here's something for that little man of yours."

The young man began to cry again as he handed back the $150 that the old man had handed him earlier. "And what are you supposed to buy Christmas dinner with? You keep that, too. Count it as part of your first week's pay." George said. "Now git home to your family."

The young man turned with tears streaming down his face. "I'll be here in the morning for work, if that job offer is still good."

"Nope. I'm closed Christmas day," George said. "See ya the day after."

George turned around to find that the stranger had returned. "Where'd you come from? I thought you left."

"I have been here. I have always been here," said the stranger. "You say you don't celebrate Christmas. Why?"

"Well, after my wife passed away I just couldn't see what all the bother was. Puttin' up a tree and all seemed a waste of a good pine tree. Bakin' cookies like I used to with Martha just wasn't the same by myself and besides I was getting a little chubby."

The stranger put his hand on George's shoulder. "But you do celebrate the holiday, George. You gave me food and drink and warmed me when I was cold and hungry. The woman with child will bear a son and he will become a great doctor. The policeman you helped will go on to save 19 people from being killed by terrorists. The young man who tried to rob you will become a rich man and share his wealth with many people.

"That is the spirit of the season and you keep it as good as any man."

George was taken aback by all this stranger had said. "And how do you know all this?" asked the old man.

"Trust me, George. I have the inside track on this sort of thing. And when your days are done you will be with Martha again." The stranger moved toward the door.

"If you will excuse me, George, I have to go now. I have to go home where there is a big celebration planned."

George watched as the man's old leather jacket and his torn pants turned into a white robe. A golden light began to fill the room.

"You see, George, it's My birthday. Merry Christmas."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

2008 Christmas Card


Love in that stable was born
Into our hearts to flow;
Innocent dreaming babe,
Make me thy love to know.

Nativity Carol by John Rutter

May He Who is Love Incarnate bring you abundant blessings today and the coming year. May you know His peace and joy as you abide in His faith, hope, and love.

Merry Christmas!

2008 Christmas Eve Reflection

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:6-7
++++++++++

"There was no room for them in the inn."

For those of you who visit my infinitesimal corner of the universe, you can notice there are times when my musings pose a question. Sometimes the inquiry comes as a direct result of the subject at hand. There are other times, however, when my mind's eye sees something and is able to extrapolate a topic which the reader may or may not have considered.

It is these two verses of the Gospel proclamation from the Midnight Mass of the Feast of the Incarnation which grabbed my attention. It is the phrase I have set aside which provided the inspiration. It is from this where the question arises.

Those who profess to follow Jesus Christ probably ask a variant of this on a regular basis. Tonight, as we celebrate His coming into the world as one like us, it seems a perfect time to ask it again. I pose the question for your contemplation, more as an exhortation rather than an admonition.

How much room at your "inn", your heart, your core of your being, is there for the Christ Child?

I offer some ideas as you ponder this.

Infinite, Eternal Love is here. We, who were made in the image and likeness of God, have that same capacity and potential--to love without limits. Do we even begin to grasp that possibility? While we can be aware of this infinite stature, we also are aware of our finite nature. And so, as the poet Robert Browning wrote, our reach exceeds our grasp.

So is the struggle to reflect the Light and echo the Word. While made "very good," the war within us wages. With the gift of free will, we are allowed to make our lives a choice between good and evil. We have that ability to be truly god-like, as obedient creatures of the Creator.

Sin, both Original and personal, have diminish that ability, much like the moon diminishing the sun during a solar eclipse. It is sin which displaces the room at the inn reserved for Him. In reality, since both are infinite and seeking to fill an infinite place, there can only be room for the One or the other.

The "Jesus Prayer" reminds us of our fallen state. St. John in his first letter also gently reminds us we are still sinners (i.e.--one who sins and is still capable of sin). The Word continually calls us to holiness, to perfection, to sanctity in our thoughts, words, and deeds committed or omitted. Examining our conscience should bring us from knowledge of our selves to Wisdom, striving to go beyond what the rich young man accomplished within the Law to live in Spirit and in Truth.

This is not meant to be an exercise in despondency. It is to acknowledge who we are and Who He is. It is to understand we all fall short of the grace of God. It is to know we need Him, for nothing can take His place, although at times nothing succeeds.

Nothing, however, can take the place of everything. The Alpha and Omega is that true everything. When we realize that, true conversion takes place. Only then can we begin to rid our inns of those things which take the space reserved for Him. Only then can the Light become brighter, for there is nothing which can cause shadows. Only then can the Word be clearly heard, for there is nothing which can cause distortion.

When He first came, there was no room for Him in the inn. He was assigned to a cave, placed in a feeding trough to sleep, surrounded by representatives of the original act of Creation. When He comes for the last time, He will claim all that is His. In between that first and last Christmas, we still will have our Advent. Our lives are that Advent, that time to "prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths" so "all mankind shall see the salvation of our God."

And with that Advent, there will always be Christmas.

There will always be room at the inn.

Hodie Christus natus est.

**********

My other Christmas Eve Reflections for your viewing:

2005
2006
2007

Advent Hymn Request

"Ero Cras" is the answer. Charles Wesley give us the words:
Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.

Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art:
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child, and yet a king,
born to reign in us for ever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.

By thine own eternal Spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all-sufficient merit
raise us to thy glorious throne.
Are you ready?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Preparing The Way (Again)

I have no way of verifying this, but I would venture a guess and say that my posts on the "O Antiphons" are probably my most viewed and well-liked of any of my very humble musings.

For the past three years I have done my very small part in counting down the final days of Advent.

Once again I will present my small gift of meditations on this time of the year to St. Blog's and the world.

I will be adding something and modifying the format this year, but it's more a continuation of what I have done since these were first posted.

Look for them later.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

On Our Way

It begins anew.

Once 40 days long (to mirror Lent), it now starts the Sunday closest to the feast of St. Andrew (November 30).

Four weeks of preparation and anticipation to the beginning of our salvation.

Candles, conifers, and colors.

Purple/violet. Rose/pink.

Let the pilgrimage to Bethlehem commence.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Making It Official


It was October 3, 1863, when the sitting President of the time issued this proclamation:
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.
Lincoln knew and understood. We should as well. Then as now, we are so richly blessed. Let us remember with grateful hearts and minds and voices to be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Canto; Ergo Sum


After St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary, she is my favorite saint.

Catholic Online tells her story.

The 2 Hearts Network offers these prayers.

This poem praises the power of music.

So does the following:
Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory -
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the beloved's bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
I also give you the links to my other posts about this feast day:
Musical Quotes And Thoughts
Quotes About Notes
Quotable On Notes
Pray twice today.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

There My Servant Shall Be

Fedora doff to Catherine Garcia of "Life Behind The Zion Curtain," who e-mailed me this clip she received from a friend. The following note came from the original sender:
Please watch the following video clip -- it is a story of Johnny, the grocery store bagger. It is very short, but it will remind you of why and how we make an impact in what we do. You may even want to share it with others, and I hope you will. It's amazing how one young Down's Syndrome bagger made such a wonderful impact on those customers lucky enough to have Johnny bag their groceries!
"The Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve." (Mark 10:45a)

Friday, November 14, 2008

No FOCA




I have signed the petition.

Please do so as well.

Standing Tall

A priest in South Carolina has informed his flock of the consequences of casting a vote for a known poor-(pro-)choice candidate in the recent election.

Remember, one of the duties of a priest is to educate the faithful. And if the faithful choose to ignore this instruction (WARNING: PDF file), perhaps his letter is warranted.

UPDATE: I have chosen to replace the USCCB's "Faithful Citizenship" with Catholic Answer's "Voter's Guide For Serious Catholic". It seems the bishops' document has a somewhat unfavorable reaction in the 'blogosphere.

Down Under Dysfunction

The Culture of Death had reared its ugly head again. Since it doesn't understand any purpose for suffering, it had decided on its own to eliminate it. And just like the Evil One, it can't see beyond the end of its nose.

She said it was an act of love. Well, the greatest act of love involved suffering. Christ made it redemptive. It now has a purpose.

Why are humans wanting to take the place of God? Ever since Adam and Eve, we still think we know better. Wrong.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

(Muscial) Note Of Achievement

The church choir at St. Olaf sings every first, third, and (when applicable) fifth Sundays in the month. As one of the cantors within the group, I usually know well in advance when I will be leading the congregation; in fact, I will undertake that role tomorrow. As I took a good look at this current month, I realized something. It was exactly 22 years ago tonight, at the Vigil Mass of All Souls Day, that I began my vocation in music ministry.

I was a parishioner at Immaculate Conception Church in Sioux City, Iowa. While the church had a standing choir (I chose not to be a member), during the fall an announcement was made in the parish bulletin asking for people who would like to become song leaders. Their function was to rehearse the Responsorial Psalm and other Mass Parts before the start of the liturgy and assist the congregation in "finding their voice" in singing during Mass. Names and availability were gathered; the beginning of November was chosen to provide a good lead time prior to the coming Advent/Christmas Season. Before Mass began, the Director of Music and Liturgy introduced this new ministry. By the grace of God, I was the very first person to stand at the ambo and carry out my duties.

The goal, then and now, is to personify the adage of St. Augustine, "He who sings prays twice." I can only hope my actions in whatever capacity have been fruitful.

St. Gregory the Great, pray for me.

St. Cecilia, pray for me.

All you heavenly choirs of angels, pray for me.

May I truly give glory to God when I sing.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Belated Odometer Check

Sometime toward the end of October 1, my "infinitesimal corner of the universe" received its 20,000 visitor.

Since Sitemeter only allows me to see the last 100 visits, I do not know who this person is.

But, whoever you are, thank you for your viewing, no matter how brief.

I am encouraged to know people still find this somewhat interesting, despite the dearth of posting.

I do still want to continue.

I will.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Borrowed Sorrows

I was planning on doing a post regarding today's feast day.

Julie D. at Happy Catholic saved me the work.

(She does a much better job than I.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Recalling The Past

It doesn't seem like it was yesterday when I created my first post.

It's been 1,085 yesterdays.

As I mark the beginning of my fourth year in the 'blogosphere, I am blessed to know this infinitesimal corner of the universe still has not been engulfed by the black hole known as the internet.

Because, but for the grace of God, this would be there.

I will keep on keeping on with this.

A few enjoy my musing.

Maybe this coming twelve months there will be more.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More Hallowed Ground

Another memorial recalling the events of this day seven years ago was unveiled this morning.

Another chance to remember.

Another opportunity to continue to petition God that "Thy will be done". With that in mind, here is my list of intentions from the post "Remember Again":
1. The souls of all who died.
2. Those who still mourn.
3. Those who seek a just solution.
4. Forgiveness toward our enemies.
5. Our enemies (didn't Someone command us to do this?).
6. The courage to continue the fight.
7. Peace.
The 'blogosphere will be full of posts about this new Patriots Day. Go visit your favorite 'bloggers and see what they have to say.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

No Icon

Add this to the list of art offensive to Christianity.

What is true, good, or beautiful about this?

The curator claimed it was an act of artistic self-expression.

Sometimes it's better to keep one's thoughts to yourself.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008

"Where She Has Gone..."


The Assumption of the Virgin
Lodovico Caracci

Ora pro nobis, Salve Regina.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Lifting The Veil


The Transfiguration of Christ
by Raphael

The synoptic Gospels narrate this event.

The Law and the Prophets are all focused on the Word.

We should be as well.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The First Jesuit


The Society of Jesus has been my favorite religious order, despite the turmoil and tempests they have caused in the past. I have always admired their academic rigor as part of their formation. In my opinion, they are, in a manner of speaking, the "brain cells" of the Body of Christ.

His "Spiritual Exercises" are not for the faint of soul. I understand it takes a great deal of humility and maturity to apply them. Someday....

His biography is here.

His famous prayer:
Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me. I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough,
and will desire nothing more.
Truly, a soldier for Christ.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Numbers Up

This article might make good the phrase, "A baby is proof God wishes the world to continue."

At least we are close to the replacement rate, if not just under it:
Nelson attributes the 2007 numbers to a "perfect storm" of factors: more immigrants having children, professional women who delayed childbearing until their 40s, and larger numbers of women in their 20s and 30s in the population, keeping the fertility rate high. The average number of births per woman was 2.1 in 2006, the highest since 1971.
And one wonders what those numbers would be like if it were not for the attitude the Culture of Death promotes.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Different Field Of Dreams

You hear of stories like this.

It is good to have open ears, open mind, open hear, and open soul.

Pray for him as well as all in formation.

We still need laborers for the fields.

The Harvest Master will be pleased.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Yet Again

Another year in my life has come and gone.

I'm just starting my 46th. year of life and living.

To be honest, I don't think I am my "age", whatever that means. Despite what I have done to myself, I still have a somewhat youthful approach to my living. I don't feel "old".

I am reminded if you don't get to this day (or any day for that matter), you aren't among the living.

I have much for which to be grateful. I have a roof over my head, an ample supply of food, and the opportunity to continue to "Go Forward".

I need to start acting like it.

God is good all the time.

The best present He gives me is life.

For that, I say, "Amen."

Monday, June 30, 2008

Coaxing

Some of the friends and acquaintances I've made in the virtual world are encouraging me to come out of my shell and reconnect. Kudos especially to Krush at Therapy Failed for using this and this to at least get my attention.

I sense the motivation to write. I do have Part Two of my adventure to 'blog. I want to be back in the good graces of everybody. I want to feel part of the community, in a sense.

When you least expect it, expect it.

(Besides, I can not have a month without a post, can I?)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Questioning Existance

Yes, I am still among the living.

Just a short post to dispel any rumors out there.

Considering it was just a year ago when this happened and started me on my latest adventure.

Right now, no news is no news.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

All We Like Sheep

I enjoy sending greeting cards. I don't send as many as I did in my college days, but I still take the time to find just the right one for my recepients. In this age of the internet, I find the on-line cards to be just as meaningful as their paper bretheren.

While I lean toward one company for my paper cards, I use the on-line cards at American Greetings to stay in touch with those who I have exchanged e-mail addresses. For Easter, I e-mailed this card. Since Julie D. used it for a post, I knew I couldn't pass on the opportunity.

As the Fourth Sunday of Easter is affectionately known as "Good Shepherd Sunday", how appropriate this card is today. The Gospel verse upon which it is based is the one which follows the Gospel Reading for today (John 10:1-10).

Aren't we, at times, like that little lamb? Lost, unsure, scared, trying to find our way to the verdant pasture, stumbling, despairing, doubting, losing hope, tired, weary. How sweet it is when we look up and see our Master waiting to take us in His arms. How joyful we feel when we run to Him. How much peace we have when we are there.

(BTW, if you thought you heard that lamb bleat "Abba" before he gamboled toward Him, then I am not the only one.)

The Lord, indeed, is my Good Shepherd.

I shall not want.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Debut

I have been involved in music ministry in some form since All Souls Day, 1986. I have been a cantor/song leader in the parishes where I resided and have directed Protestant church choirs on and off for about seven years.

At the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Olaf's in Bountiful, I was privileged to chant for the first time in my life the Exultet. I humbly joined all those priests, deacons, and cantors who have intoned this hymn. From my post "To Those In Darkness, Light", I bring in this Easter Sunday with the words expressing the joy of the soul:

++++++++++

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes forever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people!

[My dearest friends,
standing with me in this holy light,
join me in asking God for mercy,
that he may give his unworthy minister
grace to sing his Easter praises.

V. The Lord be with you.
R. And also with you.]
V. Lift up your hearts.
R. We lift them up to the Lord.
V. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R. It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God,
the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam's sin
to our eternal Father!

This is our passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night when first you saved our fathers:
you free the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin
and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night when Jesus Christ
broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?

Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave
you gave away your Son.

O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God
to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be as clear as day;
it will become my light, my joy."

The power of this holy night
dispels all evil, washes guilt away,
restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and we are reconciled with God!

Therefore, heavenly Father, in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church's solemn offering.

Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.

Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!

May the morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on us all,
your Son who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

R. Amen.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Another Merciful Reminder

It starts sometime today.

The Divine Mercy Novina.

The information you need is here.

"...You Yourself Shall Be Pierced With A Sword..."


Stabat mater dolorosa
juxta Crucem lacrimosa,
dum pendebat Filius.

Cuyus animam gementem,
contristatam et dolentem,
pertransivit gladius.

O quam tristis et afflicta
fuit illa benedicta
Mater Unigeniti.

Quae moerebat et dolebat,
Pia Mater cum videbat
Nati poenas incliti.

Quis est homo qui non fleret,
Matrem Christi si videret
in tanto supplicio?

Quis non posset contristari,
Christi Matrem contemplari
dolentem cum Filio?

Pro peccatis suae gentis
vidit Jesum in tormentis
et flagellis subditum.

Vidit suum dulcem natum
moriendo desolatum,
dum emisit spiritum.

Eia Mater, fons amoris,
me sentire vim doloris
fac, ut tecum lugeam.

Fac ut ardeat cor meum
in amando Christum Deum,
ut sibi complaceam.

Sancta mater, istud agas,
crucifixi fige plagas
cordi meo valide.

Tui nati vulnerati,
tam dignati pro me pati,
poenas mecum divide.

Fac me tecum pie flere,
crucifixo condolere,
donec ego vixero.

Iuxta crucem tecum stare,
et me tibi sociare
in planctu desidero.

Virgo virginum praeclara,
mihi iam non sis amara:
fac me tecum plangere.

Fac ut portem Christi mortem,
passionis fac consortem,
et plagas recolere.

Fac me plagis vulnerari,
fac me cruce inebriari,
et cruore Filii.

Flammis ne urar succensus
per te Virgo, sim defensus
in die judicii

Christe, cum sit hinc exire,
da per matrem me venire
ad palmam victoriae.

Quando corpus morietur,
fac ut animae donetur
Paradisi gloria.

Amen.

++++++++++

At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
All His bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had pass'd.

Oh, how sad and sore distress'd
Was that Mother highly blest
Of the sole-begotten One!

Christ above in torment hangs;
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying glorious Son.

Is there one who would not weep,
Whelm'd in miseries so deep
Christ's dear Mother to behold?

Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that Mother's pain untold?

Bruis'd, derided, curs'd, defil'd,
She beheld her tender child
All with bloody scourges rent.

For the sins of His own nation,
Saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent.

O thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above;
Make my heart with thine accord.

Make me feel as thou hast felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ our Lord.

Holy Mother! pierce me through;
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

Let me share with thee His pain,
Who for all my sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with thee,
Mourning Him who mourn'd for me,
All the days that I may live.

By the cross with thee to stay,
There with thee to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of thee to give.

Virgin of all virgins best,
Listen to my fond request
Let me share thy grief divine.

Let me, to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of thine.

Wounded with His every wound,
Steep my soul till it hath swoon'd
In His very blood away.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In His awful Judgment day.

Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
Be Thy Mother my defence,
Be Thy cross my victory.

While my body here decays,
May my soul Thy goodness praise,
Safe in Paradise with Thee.

Amen.

Glibert On Good Friday

G.K. Chesterton has some wonderful thoughts on this day from his book "The Everlasting Man".

Mark Shea has the post for a somber reflection. (Fedora doff.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Pseduo-Holy-Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Oh, wait a minute. The normal feast day is during Holy Week this year. Even though it is an optional memorial, the celebration of the feast was transfered to March 15, so as to not interfere with the somberness (and spiritual preparation) of this week.

So, my greeting is belated.

I wonder how many parties happened last Saturday. Or how many will take place tonight. And have you noticed a series of commercials sponsored by a certain alcoholic beverage company, using the angle of petitioning to make today an official national holiday and interviewing the symbols of other national holidays for their reaction?

It's clever. It also demeans even more the contribution of this bishop.

Remember the shamrock?

As a reminder of how he was totally dedicated to God (as should we be), I link back to my post of two years ago. As he did, so should we cover ourselves with the armor that is Christ.

Erin Go Braugh!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Third Time Around

Once again, I will be re-posting my series of meditations on the "Seven Last Words" which Christ spoke while hanging upon the Cross.

As we enter Holy Week, I hope my readers will continue to find them useful as a point of departure upon their own reflections.

Meet you at Calvary.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Twice As Nice

Domenico and Melanie Bettinelli welcomed another child into their fold yesterday.

Sophia joins another sister, Isabella.

Please read Dom's 'blog for the details.

Melanie's 'blog provides a different perspective.

Congratulations to the entire family!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Descartian Reminder

"Cognito; ergo sum."

Yes, I am still around.

Plenty about which to write.

Finding the time and motivation is another story.

Sometimes the spirit moves you; sometimes you need to move the spirit.

The latter applies.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Illumination

It's official.

Six more weeks of winter.

Let's see, that would put it about March 20.

(What a coincidence that is the Spring equinox.)

But it shouldn't be that surprising the groundhog would see his shadow.

After all, it is the Feast of the Presentation.

The Light of the World has been revealed to the world.

And with all the candles to be blessed today as well, nothing can truly be in the dark.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

1/22/1973 x 35

Another January 22, another Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Dalton anniversary.

Number 35 for those of you keeping score at home.

For those of you wanting to send the appropriate gift for this occasion, the traditional one would consist of coral while the modern approach would be something of jade.

Somehow, I think the pro-lifers would appreciate the irony if the precious green gemstone were sent to them. They have been jaded by the political process of reversing this judicial decision for the past four decades. They can't even get a sincere promise ring from their suitors.

Yet they continue to fight the good fight. Silent No More, Rachel's Vineyard, Priests For Life, Pro-Life Across America. These groups among the many who fight for life. Those among the millions of people who ora et labora for this to end. Picking up this cross every day and carrying it up toward what they hope will be their version of Calvary. Mindful of what Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said in her acceptance speech of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize:
...We are talking of peace. These are things that break peace, but I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing -- direct murder by the mother herself. And we read in the Scripture, for God says very clearly: Even if a mother could forget her child -- I will not forget you -- I have carved you in the palm of my hand. We are carved in the palm of His hand, so close to Him that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God. And that is what strikes me most, the beginning of that sentence, that even if a mother could forget something impossible -- but even if she could forget -- I will not forget you. And today the greatest means -- the greatest destroyer of peace is abortion....
Yes, peace. How can we be at peace when society has "written" into our laws permission to terminate ourselves into extinction? How can we claim to be a rational creature when we have "logically" determined eventually not to exist? How can we exercise the faculty which make us the most unique of creatures when we have chosen death rather than life?

Makes one wonder if God cringes more about giving us reasoning ability rather than free will.

But, yet again, the annual big skirmish has happened. The marches across the country are over. The speeches have been made. Both sides have had their say. Point and counter-point; thrust and parry. In this battle of the Culture War, the bullets may be words but the casualties can be counted.

Still no winner.

Still no prize.

Still no peace.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Checkmate

I learned to play chess when I was seven.

I was ten when he became the undisputed "chairman of the board."

Now, I learn of this.

Seemingly another brilliant mind consumed by itself.

May God have mercy on his soul.