Friday, April 30, 2010

Man Becomes Beautiful

The great cannot exist without those of humble condition, nor can those of humble condition exist without the great. Always it is the harmonious working together of its various parts that insures the well-being of the whole. – From a letter to the Corinthians by Saint Clement, pope.

We last considered the definition of beauty, in creation, in Scripture, and in God. I was particularly moved by the description of the beauty of Jesus, and that it cannot be dissected, looked at piece by piece, without losing the whole picture of beauty. The above reading, from this morning’s Office of Readings, reminded me of that wholeness, which consists of each and every piece, all fitting together in a thing of beauty.

I also wrote last time of what a great day I had on that particular day. You might note that I did no writing yesterday – for it was far from a great day. From choosing to miss time in adoration to a contentious meeting to a day of high blood pressure to my friend again going to the emergency room, it was far from a pleasant day. It suitably ended in the evening when I was putting mom to bed and she indicated with great urgency that “I have to go”. As I helped her to the porta-potty, she did – on my foot. While she apologized with much anxiety, it seemed a most fitting end to my day.

But it wasn’t the end. I decided to make a stop at the local adoration chapel, and spent some time in quiet with my God. I had started the day with mass, and ended in His presence again. The day seemed to have gone full circle, but I looked at it with the prior day, which was so wonderful, and I realized that they seemed to fit together: some bad, some good. I was reminded that this too, is part of the beauty of creation, the beauty of each one of our lives, the harmonious working together of its various parts that ensures the well-being of the whole.

A man grows in holiness his whole life, becoming a thing of beauty. As Blessed Columba Marmion so wonderfully described the Divine Plan of God (ref Heaven on January 5, 2010) in his book Christ, the Life of the Soul, we are called to a “participation in the Divine life brought by Jesus Christ.” We are truly meant to be members of his body. And in this wholeness, us and him, the whole Body of Christ, is the beauty of creation, its purpose and end. And within this, the pieces are all necessary. Apart, these pieces may seem useless, even ugly, but without all of them the beauty is not complete. That is the way it is meant to be.

I recently read another blog about someone fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays. That is a way of the early Church. I did that for a while in my life, but then fell away. Now some could say that such a fasting is not a necessary thing, or even that it is a bad thing, and indeed for some it may be so. But for some, it is a choice at sacrifice, something we so rarely do. It is one thing to accept the good and the bad in our lives equally, but it is another to choose to accept a difficulty, a sacrifice. In truth, most of us relish the good in our lives, and drop to our knees whenever bad appears – “Take this away from us, Lord.” But as we’ve read above, this good and bad, they go together in making the whole. Strip one or the other away, and the beauty of the whole is diminished. No life is all good, nor all bad, and a life totally without one or the other would be considered a strange thing, certainly not a thing of beauty.

I think the idea of choosing a sacrifice is a good thing. Now I know there will be bad things in my life, and I can accept them if I am strong enough, but I think it would be a better thing if I choose some of them, choose some difficulties. After all, that is what Jesus did. I think it would please Him if I also chose some difficulty, asking of course if this would please Him, but I think it would. I think it would please Him to know that I chose some pain, no matter how small, to unite myself with the sufferings He chose.

I think this choosing to link my life to his, now, as it shall be in the end, could be a very useful part of my growing in holiness, of becoming more like him – until we are one. I only wish I could do this throughout my day, in all the little things. My contentious meeting yesterday morning was only contentious because it was not going the way I wanted it to, I wanted it to. It was a “me against them” feeling. And so, in retrospect, how was this a furthering of holiness for us all, a bringing together of all of us in the body of Christ? No, it was my doing MY will, and not seeking the will of the maker, nor respecting the holiness in each of his creatures. A good thing was sought to be done, but I acted as if only I knew the way to do it. And I had a headache the rest of the day. Perhaps that was a fitting balance to the beauty of the day, for certainly I created a bit of ugliness. I have many talents and abilities, and even if more than others, still, it is not me who is to lead all others. We are all to fit together in a bigger plan, and even in the smaller pieces of that plan.

Pride was the first sin of the angels, and it is the first sin of many men. We may accept that we are part of the Body of Christ, but we think we are the all important hand, which grabs and assembles most everything else, and can move bodies weaker than ours. And we forget the little pieces, like the elbow joint, without which the arm would fall off, and the hand be useless. All the pieces, the rich, the poor, the black, the white, the tall, the short, the old and the young – all are needed to make creation a thing of beauty. And all men together, eternally united with Jesus, are the ultimate thing of beauty.

Happy are those who love you,
and happy those who rejoice in your prosperity.
Happy are all the men who shall grieve over you,
over all your chastisements.
For they shall rejoice in you
as they behold all your joy forever
- - Tobit 13

Use my eyes, O God, to see the beauty of this world you have made.
Use my mouth to speak lovingly to those all around me.
Use my heart to express love to all of your creation.
Use my hands to touch your creation with respect and delight.
Use my mind to let go of my painful, clinging ways.
Use my whole being as a place where you can live and be loved.
And thank you for making each of us your ‘favored one.’”

- - Surrendering Our Stress (p60) by Joan Guntzelman

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

God's Beauty

It is a beautiful spring morn in Michigan. The moon was full last night; the sky is totally blue this morning. If you can’t see the beauty of God in his creation this day, you must be blind.

I picked out my largest vase and went out into the yard. (After I fed the neighbor’s barking dogs a few Milkbones – again) I cut a large amount of white hyacinths and daffodils, added them to the vase and put them on the kitchen table. The house now smells marvelous -- no, glorious, and I feel the same way.

Yesterday my seriously ill friend, whom I have mentioned before, fell and was taken to the emergency room. My usual Tuesday afternoon of bringing her the Eucharist and sharing in her life, and letting her sharing in mine, was canceled. Heavy praying was called for, and late in the day she called me to say she was back in her apartment. Her deteriorating knee gave way, and she fell hard to the floor – undoubtedly adding to her many bruises from the various medical procedures done to her on a regular basis. So, I told her, your heart is almost gone, now your knee is almost gone, and the good Lord knows your brain was gone long ago – there’s not much left, lady! She laughed and laughed, and I was glad. I was glad I could bring some joy to her life, even for a few moments.

God is good.

Last night at adoration I finished a beautiful book I have been reading, on beauty! The Evidential Power of Beauty, by Thomas Dubay, S.M., explains how science and theology meet, and explains it very well, and powerfully. At some points, the descriptions almost make you cry at the beauty of God and his work. And coincidentally, or perhaps not so (God, you old fox!), I was reading a book on the beauty of scripture called Covenant and Communion, the Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI, by Scott Hahn. Both books explain how science, reason, and faith/theology meet, throughout all of creation and scripture. I thought I’d like to share just a few quotes with you from the first book.

You can recognize truth by its beauty and simplicity -- Richard Feynman, Nobel laureate in physics

Albert Einstein was perceptive enough to marvel at the simple but astounding fact that our universe is comprehensible, that is, that our minds can make intelligible connections with it. … This marvel, of course, would be impossible in a chance universe. … but we are so accustomed to the fact that we fail to be astonished by it. If reality were nothing but the cohesion of random particles senselessly flying through space, it would neither have nor need an explanation. … Things having no sense cannot make sense.

Once a person admits that the universe makes sense, that it is comprehensible, that there are overwhelming beauties in it, he logically must be a theist. It is not accidental that the only consistent atheism is that of men like Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre, men who held that reality is absurd. Their atheism is called existential absurdity, for on their non-God premise everything is literally senseless, for there is no one to give sense or meaning.

In writing about the Beauty of Sanctity: Newman once observed, while teaching at Oxford University, that worldly people commonly make the fatal error of assuming that they have the capacity and right to judge religious truth without a preparation of their hearts by virtuous living. This is like a tone-deaf critic claiming to pass judgment on a Mozart concerto or symphony.

Despite goodwill, people who love the Scriptures can make two tragic mistakes. One is the attitude that “the Bible alone is enough for me; I do not need the Church to understand it.” … The other mistake is the impoverishment of current biblical studies and systematic theology that occurs when patristic literature is bypassed.
This is one of the ties to the second book I referenced, and Benedict’s emphasis on Faith AND Reason as being required to interpret Scripture, not just reason alone.

The Spirit concretizes beauty in the Church through her Magisterium, the divinely commissioned teaching office. Just as a symphony orchestra cannot play music in the abstract and therefore demands that there be a composer of its score, so it also requires that there be a conductor who interprets that score and assures a unity among the many musicians. Should a small group of violinists, indeed, even one of them, decide to disregard either Mozart’s composition or the maestro (because “we know better.”), beauty becomes ugliness. … Once it is solidly established that God has spoken through the prophets in the Old Testament and his very own Son in the New, it makes complete sense that he would protect his precious revelation from mutilation and distortion through commissioning teachers whom he himself guarantees against error. Infallibility in a sharply confined office is completely sensible to anyone who takes a divine revelation seriously. Beauty is precious and calls for protection.

In writing about the beauty of God: The divine radiance and loveliness are so endless beyond anything we can imagine or experience that revelation chooses a special term to speak of it … glory. The (glory) of Jesus will not be seen if he is dissected, if the viewer tries to pick and choose some aspect of the Lord divorced from his whole person. Every element in him calls for the other. If one essential element should be broken off, all the proportions will be distorted and falsified. It is here that the problem of heresy has its roots: ‘haeresis’, the selective disjoining of parts.

If someone fails to appreciate the sculpture of Michelangelo or the music of Mozart, this is more a judgment about him than about the work of art. Seeing the Christ form is dependent upon our capacity to perceive natural beauty. … They who are unimpressed with revelation and the Lord of it all, are the least likely to ask themselves what should be the obvious question: “Am I spiritually and morally underdeveloped, immature, mediocre … or worse?” Personal excellence does bestow vision.

What sort of obscuring impediments do people construct before the eyes of their minds that they more or less culpably fail to see and consequently are incapable of being impressed? What so clouds their sight that they remain unmoved and indifferent before the stunning figure of the Lord in human form? 1)One screen is a hyperactive work ethic that by choice rules out the contemplative dimension of any serious pursuit of God – when people are so self-convinced that the world needs their accomplishments more than their sanctity and prayer depth. 2)A second screen is being wedded to one’s own ideas and preferences: what I want to think and do, what I like rather than what the truth is.3)A third screen is taking umbrage at the defects and sins of other Christians, whether they are leaders in the community or the common faithful…. This screen is parisaical: “These others are sinners, but I am not.” You find the critic himself immersed in television rather than reading the lives of the saints. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that he simply does not want to see. 4)We may mention a final screen: a pleasure-centered lifestyle. By definition a hedonist is not interested in what is “true, honest, pure, admirable, decent, virtuous or worthy of praise,”
– (Phil 4:8)

Because commending a work of art is always a tribute to the artist, beauty is always a song about God.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I Want Everything!

I remember a scene from an old Our Gang movie. The kids were at a picnic, I think, and there was a large table of food and a woman at the head taking orders. She asked each of the kids as they approached: “What would you like?” She then made the sandwich or prepared the plate for them. When the little fat kid reached the head of the line, however, he responded to her question with: “I want everything.”

I think all of us are in many ways like the little fat kid, we want it all.

I was, and you probably were also, taught that I can have anything I want in this country – all I have to do is go out and earn it. And I set about in my life diligently doing just that, but as I got what I wanted, I always seemed to want more. It’s a point I’ve touched on in previous blogs; how can an income of $20,000 or $25,000 a year in this country be a poverty level income? We’ve redefined what it means to be poor in this country, raising everyone’s expectations, even those of the poor people. And unfortunately, (and I hate to bring this up, but I can’t help myself) it seems while I learned that I could have anything I earned, some are now preaching in this country that you can have anything you want. And for some, they want everything.

This morning at my small men’s group a speaker told us about his evangelization ministry. He feels called by the Holy Spirit to go out and proclaim the Word of God in public. He mentioned how he sometimes changed his approaches, seeking to reach more people. I wondered aloud how his expectations compared with God’s – perhaps he was only supposed to reach one person. That is the point I want to leave with you today.

I think there is a conflict within each of us who try to be Godly people: how much do I listen to and try to do the Will of God versus how much do I make use of the talents He gave me, to their maximum benefits. Him doing things versus me doing things; am I focused too much on one or the other; where is the balance? What type of consolations or recognition do I expect in return, something which says I am doing a good job? In response I suggest to you: Do Not Be Anxious.

In deciding what to do, first seek God’s Will, use your talents to decide how best to implement what you perceive His will to be, and then say a small prayer: My Jesus, I Trust in You. And then you do your best, and trust that He will do His. Certainly our intentions count for something, even if our results turn out to be nothing. And we need to look at things this way in all aspects of our life. We need to trust that He is doing His part; we cannot be overly worried that things aren’t perfect, as we would define perfect. We can’t constantly want and expect everything. Even Jesus wanted to convert the world, but he did it one person at a time. He wanted to heal everyone, but he didn’t heal cities, he healed individuals. He wanted big results, but he was content to let the Holy Spirit play a lead role in making that happen. He came to earth not to be perfect in the works of a God, but to be perfect in the works of a man.

Why do we sometimes expect more of ourselves?

So, be the best worker you can be; be the best husband/wife you can be; be the best father/mother, the best son/daughter, and then do not worry about your results. Yes, being the best means using all the talents you were given, including your human reasoning, to make yourself better. But don’t expect perfection. Your boss will sometimes criticize your work – your company may fail; your spouse may not speak to you for something you did; your child may lock himself in his room; and your parent may punish you unjustly --- they just don’t understand the situation; they don’t know the good you were trying to do. Accept these things; you won’t be perfect, neither will they.

Don’t want everything; be content with the many blessings you have. I’m content with knowing you.

P.S. As I was to post this, I read an interesting post from a young man about to enter the Capuchin order of monks. His latest post reflecting on what HIS journey means is very insightful; perhaps you may like it also: Be Thou My Vision

Monday, April 26, 2010

Choose Spring

Orig: 05/02/09

Last weekend was wonderful for me, and I wanted to share some thoughts, if you have the time. And despite the fact that I STILL can’t bear to open my IRA statements, my yard has about a 1000 hours of work needed to get it in shape for the summer (or fall, depending on when I get done :--) ), and Ford sales were ONLY down 30% -- I still feel the carryover joy from last weekend.

And I’d like you to have some, too.

Choose Spring

“It’s hard to admire the beauty of the swamp when you’re up to your ass in alligators.”

I don’t know why I remembered that old saw, but it’s kind of how I felt going into last weekend. There were lots of things to worry about – serious things – and some I feared might bite ME in the a.. . But then the weekend came.

My three nieces flew across the country just to spend a weekend with mom on her birthday. And mom was in rare form. To my surprise, and theirs, she recognized each one immediately and even some facts about their families. And there were many hours of laughter, good food (way too much), good conversation, and good wine (way too much of that, too.). And there were many tears of happiness. Happiness for the good times, not the bad. For the good health, not the bad. For the time together, not the soon-to-be-parting.

And the weather warmed and the flowers on the trees bloomed. Even the earth seemed happy.

There is so much to worry about in life. Things often seem so cold and dark, especially now. But even the coldest winter and darkest night will come to a Spring morning. We are not, as in the Tales of Narnia (by C.S. Lewis), in an eternal winter. But sometimes, by our attitude, we might choose to be.

This last weekend, I saw the beauty of Spring outside, and the beauty of Spring inside. The Spring outside inevitably happened, but we CHOSE the Spring inside. My nieces flew across the country, left their safety (risked Swine Flu!! :--) ), and left their families (Egads! -- in the care of their husbands!!), to see their grandma for perhaps a last time. And there could have been much sadness in some memories which could have been spoken, but they chose happiness. And Springtime arrived in mom’s house. And tears of happiness flowed.

Sometimes it seems that we are bound up by the sadness in our past, the worries about the present, and the fears about the future. We can’t forget or ignore those things; they sometimes come upon us unbid in the night. But like my nieces, we need to get on a plane, and fly somewhere else in our mind. Forget about that boss who fired you, the spouse who left you, the parent who didn’t love you – these were people or times which acted on you, you didn’t make them all happen. Forget about the present economy, the risks to your employment, even that stupid red light on the dash which never seems to go out. And forget about the future of your country, your company, and even your 401k. The past is the past; you’ve learned some things from it. The present I know you are doing your best about, and the big things of the future are beyond your control. But you can choose to bring Spring inside your heart, your home, and even your job, today. You can choose.

So go home and hug your kids; go play that round of golf – and don’t keep score; go to a pond and feed the ducks; go to a church and sit in silence with God. And remember the good things you are blessed with. Before you can make today better – for you, for your family, for your job, for yourself, before you can make ANY impact on tomorrow, and before you can face some bad things which started in the past, you need to change yourself -- today. You need to find some measure of happiness in your life. Now! You deserve it. I know. I chose you for a friend, and despite the fact we don’t see eye-to-eye on – well, you know what I mean :--) -- I still think you are a pretty great person. Why don’t you think so? Or why do you so easily forget that.

May you find, my friend, the courage to choose to start a Springtime in your life. Look outside yourself; look inside yourself. I’ve seen both, and you are beautiful!

(What?! You think I choose bums for friends?? No way, my friend. No way!)

Peace and Blessings to you this day!

2010 P.S.:
Things change. My nieces just left to go home after celebrating their grandma's 92nd birthday this weekend with me and her. My IRA is in positive territory; Ford stock made me a lot this year, and I hired someone to help with my yardwork. And it wasn't the niece's last visit to grandma -- and as I write this, the sun is shining. The advice I first wrote last year is confirmed so wonderfully this year: Choose Spring! God IS good.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sexual Abuse & The Church

Sgt. Joe Friday of the old television series Dragnet often dealt with women very anxious over recent crimes. To calm them down and get the truth out, he routinely remarked: “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.” I think that intermixed with the hysteria over sexual abuse within the Catholic Church today someone needs to calm people down and get the WHOLE truth out, just the facts. And I have asked some well-known authors to do just that, to get the facts out. To date they have not responded to my request, and perhaps they never will – they are busy people, it is a big job, and they may have other priorities, but I feel very strongly that there is someone who will eventually tell the whole story, and tell all the facts. It is a story which is needed by mankind now, not to get a better view of the Catholic Church or “evil” priests, but for mankind to get a better view of itself.

Someone lays a belt on a table asks: “What is that for?” Most people would say to hold up their pants, but there might be some who, beaten often as children, might say it was to hurt people. Same fact; different answers. Talking to only one or the other, you may get a distorted view as to the purpose of a belt, versus its possible uses. My own youth had such a distortion in it. I never played with any type of toy guns, or toy soldiers. It was forbidden. As I grew up I learned that my dad had been one of a handful of soldiers from his company to come home from WWII; he had had enough of guns in his life. I came to understand his view of guns, but mine forever has a slight taint to it, an inclination to think that guns are bad – but of course that is not their purpose, what they are for. To understand some facts, you need to get broader views, and context. I believe the story of sexual abuse and the Catholic Church has had some facts laid on the table, but I don’t think the whole story has been told of what happened and why. And, perhaps more importantly, how we should view these events today.

This week a high-ranking church official offered to resign because he had slapped some boys thirty years ago. Some in society were branding him “evil” for doing this. Ridiculous!! If this were a punishable offense, then all the religious and lay people teaching in my elementary and high schools, all the parents of children there, and all their hundreds of thousands of alumni need to be in jail for tolerating and encouraging such “evils”. I still recall some of the pains I felt then, but today I know, believe, and understand the deserved punishment and shame which should go along with actions which disobey the rules – both legal and moral. And I am a better man, and the world a better place, for that wisdom.

Below is the letter I sent to some writers. If you know of anyone who would dig out the facts and publish the truth in these matters, I think the world be better place.

Do You Have Another Book In You?

I don’t think the press is getting the full story. In fact, I’m not sure it ever has throughout the years of pursuing priestly scandals and lawsuits. I think there may be a story there which needs to be told.

“Priests prey on kids”, “Extend liability laws (– only for these crimes, only for the Catholic Church)”, and “We must protect our kids”. Kids, priests, Catholic Church. What is missing here? Of all the thousands of cases brought forth, of kids being molested, isn’t it odd that no parent knew it was going on? Of all the thousands of cases, isn’t it odd that no parent reported it to the police department?

I strongly suspect that in the era of free love, free sex, in the 60’s and 70’s that virtually all young people in our society were caught up in the emotions of the time, including religious, secular, governmental, and political groups. I wonder what is the rate of sex crimes in other religious groups, in schools, in parental incest, in cults – then and now. I suspect there was a large spike. I wonder of the parents who found out their kids were molested, how many agreed a proper action was transferring the priest, forgiving his sins, and getting him counseling – I wonder how many major psychologists and educators thought this was the proper solution. I wonder how many of the parents who found out their kids were molested called the police, and the police and parents agreed – and perhaps major law firms agreed – that legal action was not appropriate, after all it was a church. What I’m getting at, was the cover-up perhaps not a crime of the priest and certain bishops of the Catholic Church, but rather a conspiracy of police, parents, lawyers, sociologists, priests and church – and if so, why are no parents being prosecuted, no police being sued, no lawyers being disbarred. Not deep enough pockets? I wonder the background of the legal firms pursuing these lawsuits, are they specialists in finding deep pockets?

I’m not thinking a book needs to be written absolving priests or the Church of anything, I am thinking that the whole story needs to be told.

I originally began thinking about this aspect of the story when I read a local newspaper story about a brewing problem in our local school district. A black member of the school board was protesting that a black history class was going to be offered, which was largely prepared by and to be taught by a white teacher. The black person said that the white person could not adequately teach the course. I opined to the local newspaper that what was the name of the course? If it was a history course, history is facts. It is not views of one side of an historical event or the other. Ideally, from my point of view, it goes lightly on the views of the historical personages or else the history course easily becomes a political course – and I KNOW for a fact how weak current high school graduates are in knowledge of history facts. I noted that if it is a black culture course, then perhaps a black person would be better to view black views of history then, and evolving to now. If it really was a black history course, then regardless of black views then or white views then, these were historical facts which should be taught by any competent historian, who knows the facts, white or black. After my letter hit the paper, some comments were made and the controversy died down.

I think something similar has gone on, unchallenged, with the sex abuse controversy. One side is presenting “facts” of history with current viewpoints, not the viewpoints of the times.

One more example: Glenn Beck showed a tape recently of a gathering at Madison Square Garden in 1939. A full house. A major political rally. It was the American Nazi Party. In 1939, Nazi’s were a social cause that many believed in, but looking back now, it was an evil one. But that’s not what was thought in the late 1930’s by many Americans.

So, sir, do you have a book in you on this topic?


Vocation Sunday

I learned that today was declared by the Catholic Church, and Pope Benedict XVI, to be a day for prayers for vocations.

I think a lot of people get confused by that term, vocations, perhaps especially Catholics. Vocations have to do with our life’s work – whether a religious life or a non-religious life. Certainly not everyone is called to have a religious life vocation. Our parish priest today, Fr. Ed Fride, spoke on this topic very well, and I think it is worth taking ten minutes of your time to listen to his words. Fr. Ed, a convert himself, speaks to our parish which has dozens of young people currently pursuing vocations for religious life, and hundreds of people pursuing vocations for married or single life – and taking their pursuit very seriously. Fr. Ed explains very well the importance of the vocation decision, and the lifelong commitment it involves. It is not just a one-day affair, where a priest or a couple make vows in front of God.

This is a link to Christ The King parish’s website from which Sunday homilies can be downloaded. In a few days you should be able to see the homily from April 25, 2010. It was a good one.

Christ The King Website:

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What Should I Do? Why?

Some men have written that the one question which defines mankind is: Why? “Why” is the question which causes mankind to seek out the largest, most distant worlds, and peer down into the smallest. Looking with ever more powerful telescopes and microscopes, man seeks to answer why everything is the way it is. Many say it is a never-ending journey of man, his eternal quest for knowledge, his ultimate evolution. To them I ask: Why?

A man does not start out his life asking “why”. As a baby, his earliest question is an unvoiced “What should I do?” What should I do if I’m hungry; then the baby learns to cry and later to say: “I’m hungry”. What should I do to get attention, to get love, or not be alone; then the baby learns that crying gets this, but then it learns that many, many other things also achieve this, from a smile, the word “up”, and then later still, the subtle actions that make others want to do things for us, to love us. It is one of the earliest discoveries, man realizing he can control his environment: by his actions, he can change what he does or doesn’t like.

Of course these things I described are not unique to man. A dog can do them. It asks (in a language we’ve never learned to translate) “What should I do?” Then it learns it is to fetch the ball. If it likes that (because of the smiles and hugs afterward), it learns to pick up a ball and drop it at his master’s feet – and the master will throw the ball. So, the dog also can learn to control his environment. Both man and dog begin to learn by asking in some manner “what should I do”, and use their senses to take in the answers – what they see, hear, smell, taste or touch, and from these they gain knowledge. Many “wise” men say that animals, including man, ONLY gain knowledge from these senses; there is no other way. Only men among the animals, however, begin to ask another question, they take the knowledge they’ve gained, consider it, and begin to ask “why”. In seeking and gaining answers to “why”, man turns knowledge into wisdom. Here man does what no dog can do.

“Why” is a good question for man to ask; it puts him above animals and enables his dominion of natural things. In asking why, man has found that material things have rules, and following those rules he can control the world around him. No longer content with putting the ball at the master’s fee to cajole him to toss it, man can in effect now say “Toss that ball or I’ll bite your leg off; throw it or I will destroy you.” Answers to the question “why” are good things, they are knowledge and knowledge gives man wisdom and with it power -- but power can be abused.

From the earliest asking of “what should I do”, a humble servant-like question, many men have grown up and chosen to ask only the question “why”, because “why” gives them power, and some men crave it. It can be addictive. But some why-askers would deny that: “If I can do something, why shouldn’t I? Isn’t that evolution, survival of the fittest? If I, through my “wisdom” have learned I have power, am I not then the “fittest of men?” Why shouldn’t I do what you (in your petty ignorance) call abuse of power? I am the greatest with my wisdom; I define power! Why not?!

Why not, indeed. This is the situation of much of the world right now, with leaders asking “why not” to their desired actions, and only accepting an answer from someone demonstrably more powerful. But wait a moment, we said man with his wisdom moved above animals, but isn’t this definition of the greatest among men, the ones with the most power, the same as the definition for any other animal? Is this what man should use his wisdom for, the wisdom which puts him above animals, is its best use to put us back at the animal level again? Where are we at? Is man really no different than animals? Is man at his heart just an animal?

“Where are we at” is a good question. I think, at the moment, where some men are at is a pause in their “evolution”, their growing in wisdom. It’s kind of like the child who discovers birthdays, with cakes and presents, and says: “Hey, this is great! I want every day to be my birthday!” Now someone wiser might say that is silly, but what if the child “had the power”? What if he could demand: Every day IS my birthday! This is where many men are at, in their wisdom. They think that if other kids have fun and like giving them gifts and eating cake, everyone is happy. Why not everyday my birthday? They are not wise enough, and perhaps not their friends either, to know that the other kids cannot keep giving gifts forever, nor can they only eat cake forever. Bad things will happen, but they don’t understand that.

In man’s becoming wiser to the rules of nature and how he can use them, man has forgotten that despite all the power this gives him, he is still part of nature. The rules apply to him also, and just knowing them doesn’t exclude him from them. And in this, despite all his “wisdom”, man has no power. He cannot change the rules of nature. (And strangely, despite his great “wisdom”, here he doesn’t ask: why?)

One of the most basic rules of nature, as man has discovered, is that actions cause reactions, and reactions have a cause. Always. It’s a rule of nature. A rock doesn’t move itself; something causes it to move. Every movement is caused by something else.

Another rule of nature is that evolution is a survival of the fittest, or looked at another way, the constant betterment of nature – although no one quite knows why it evolves toward better versus worse, or for that matter, what is the “best” it is evolving toward. What is nature, and man, evolving toward? Now there are a few (thankfully few) men who think that this is it – we HAVE evolved to the “best”; man is in control of any of his further evolution. To which most of the rest of us respond: THIS is … IT?? THIS is as good as it gets? (Good grief, Charlie Brown! Where is Lucy’s Advice for Five Cents booth? I think I’m going insane!)

I think man’s problems today can be very much alleviated if he would look at those two basic rules he has discovered, and apply them to himself: His movement (like any other movement) is caused by something, and it is causing him to move/evolve in a good direction. Consider those two things. Think! We’re back at our first question: something wants to move us, and it will be good. Well then, “What should I do?” is the right question to ask. Where should I move to, this good direction you wish to move me? If we see it as a rule, that we are being moved for a good and the only thing which stops this good is my free will – I could choose to do something not good – then why wouldn’t I in my wisdom not choose to do the “not good” thing, but instead just let the good thing intended, intended by the rules, happen? Why would I want to stop this “evolution” for my good?

At its heart, the answer to why I would choose a bad thing is pride. I don’t like that I didn’t make the rules, and I can’t change them. As I found that I could control nature, I wanted to control the rules, largely because I found great happiness when I controlled SOME things. I like the results I created – I liked being like a god. I created my happiness. But while we are very pleased that we know many rules of nature, we forgot the answer to one of our “why” questions. “Why is nature evolving to something better?” We don’t know.

That lack of wisdom causes some men to say “We’re there; this is the end.” These people are like the children who discover that birthdays are a wonderful thing, and because they don’t understand that many more wonderful things await them, they want to stop right there: birthdays for everyone, forever! If they only realized what wonderful things await them if they would grow up. Oh, in order to grow up there will be growing pains, no doubt, but that is part of the rules also! Things were made that way, that by trials they become strengthened, become even better.

This is where we are really at in our personal evolution, my friends, on the path – and we can’t stop; we can’t change the rules. Some think we are at a birthday party and want to stay there; some are going through growing pains. Each in his “wisdom” asks himself “why” and decides what to do about it, acting as mini-gods – I am in control; I will do something about this. But we forget we are just beings in nature, living under rules we cannot control. We ask ourselves “why” and decide to act, when we should never have stopped asking our earliest question “what should I do?”

When we were young, we asked “what should I do” of someone more powerful than us. As we grew older, in our pride we thought we were most powerful and only asked that question of ourselves. We forgot the rules, which never changed. We are not in total control. Everything we do is in reaction to something else. All those somethings are directing us toward a good, albeit one we don’t understand. Why would we not focus all our efforts at asking or understanding the answer to the question “what should I do?”

Why, indeed. I don’t have the answer that that particular “why”, but I think it includes a consideration of “to whom” we are asking that most basic question? To whom are we asking “what should I do”, ourselves or the one who acts so that we could react? Ourselves, or the one who acts only to make us better? Ourselves, or the one who knows the ultimate good we are moving towards, the one who MADE the rules?

As you move through life, do you ask more often “why”, or do you ask “what should I do?” Who are you asking? Are you content with “this is as good as it gets?”

I don’t know about you, my friends, but I agree with the saying “It’s hard to be humble.” Still, I do want the answer to MY ultimate “why’s”, and so I am not too proud to get down on my knees, and, humbly, to ask: “What should I do … Lord?” Asked of the right person, that question will get me all the answers I need, lead me to the ultimate of my evolution, and answer all of my whys. All of them.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Where is Your Legacy?

This has been a difficult week. Hearing from friends and neighbors, it appears I am not alone in that evaluation. I've had some medical issues and been visiting the emergency room again -- it is NOT cool when they start knowing you on sight. Hopefully things will be cleared up with a procedure tomorrow. I hired a neighbor to cut my grass this summer, although certainly the Lord knows I need the exercise, but he needs the money -- out of work and a mom dying of cancer. Relative to exercise, my treadmill was read the last rites this week by the repairman, and it will not rise again.

My (God's??) ideas on writing some things seems to be stymied this week, but I just can't get it out of my head -- but I do have confidence He'll work things out one way or another. And finally, tragically, I have to report some really sad news: Christmas is officially over in my house. I took down the tree in anticipation of my nieces coming to stay with me this weekend for their gramma's birthday on Sunday. It's a sad thing to end that reminder of Christmas, but a joy at the same time -- they won't be harassing their uncle all weekend.

Meanwhile, I found this note I had sent to friends before I began this blog. It is worthwhile considering, in light of all of the things happening in our lives -- good and bad.

Orig: 11/29/07

Where is Your Legacy?

You... are a letter from Christ,... not on tablets of stone but on... human hearts. - 2Cor 3:3

We celebrated my parent's birthday by hosting a dinner for them with family and church members. During the reception, guests told how their lives had been touched by the gospel as shared by my parents. It was a gospel, these friends said, that was revealed by my parents' love, compassion, and generosity much more than through mere words.

As I listened to the heartwarming, sometimes tearful, remarks, I thought how great a treasure it is for any of us to know we have impacted another life! When it comes to lifetime achievements, the ones that will endure will not be the financial or material accomplishments but the living memorials -- men, women, and children whose lives are better because of what we have done. Maybe we taught someone to read or showed a neighbor how to grow things. Maybe we held someone who was broken with grief; maybe we showed others how to laugh at themselves. One way or another, we showed people our love. That's what the apostle Paul was saying to the Corinthians: you are my living legacy.

Where is your legacy? Will it be written only on a tombstone -- or on the hearts of men and women?

Lord Jesus, I want to leave a legacy that will not pass away. I want to lay up treasures in heaven where they will never become rusty.

Between Sundays Thursday, Week 26 - Shawn Craig

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Don't get me wrong: I don't claim to be any special friend of God, or at least not more of his friend than you are. Still, at times I know he is very close to me, and sometimes I hear not his voice, but am compelled to voice my feelings. Most often they do have application to me -- and then I know how good he is to me; he is with me. On rarer occasions I feel compelled to write things which do not seem to be for me, but for specific others.

I looked in my history of notes sent, and today found this one, which I had sent to a particular person, at a particular time. I trust God made good use of it. I'll re-print it here, as I have done other words from my past. Perhaps it may be of value to you, also.

Orig: 04/11/09


Rise with me, my child:

I went into the darkness
To find my first children Adam and Eve,
Now my earthly parents,
To bring them home with me to Eden.
Not the earthly Eden they knew,
But my eternal place of beauty.
I made them in my likeness;
Now they are one with me.
And I look forward to the day
When you also, shall join us.

For now, rise, my beloved daughter.
My earthly crucifixion is over.
I am the Beauty beyond.
You have more pain to bear,
But I shall bear it with you.
Your journey home is not over,
But I will travel with you,
And shall show you many of the joys
I always meant for you to see.

Don’t worry about the stumbles;
I shall catch you.
How many times you fell in the past,
But I made the pains go away.
Did you forget?

Fear not, my beloved one,
For I am with you always,
Even unto the end of time.
Come, let us continue our journey.
I shall light your way.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Call to Confession

I think God sometimes calls us to confession, or at least he sometimes does to me. It seems like He … well, let me just give you an example which came to mind this morning.

Sis was still alive, although fighting her cancer, when I visited her one Thanksgiving week about 5 years ago. I got up early one morning while there and went to mass and stayed afterwards to read the Office. It didn’t go unnoticed by me that the gospel that day spoke of confession, and then so did the daily readings which I read alone in the quiet of the church. While contemplating them, an un-confessed sin of mine came to mind – or was it really a sin? I remember that I had debated in my mind about whether the sin was just one of those many little imperfections of mine, or was it something more serious. But my musings that morning didn’t seem to clear things up in my mind, and I left the church with some lingering doubts.

Later, back at the hotel I stayed at when visiting sis, I had breakfast and turned on my computer to check on how things were going back at the office. This was something I felt compelled to do whenever I traveled, because you know, the company might well fold in my “critical” absence. (Perhaps it’s deranged thinking like that which helps explain why I am so easily confused about sin. :-) ) At any rate, I dashed a short note to a friend at work about my musings and my “sin”, and the “coincidental” readings about confession that morning. (Sheesh! Looking back, I was confessing to her, but not God!) Although she was a Protestant, she wrote back rather strongly: “Listen to God! Go to confession.” I chuckled at her reply and responded back: “Okay, I’ll look into it the next morning,” when I again go to mass.

Well, to be honest, I forgot all about the exchange the next day, as I went to mass and then again enjoyed the quiet afterwards. This time I had brought a book by one of the saints to read and meditate upon after mass, when all of a sudden there in the words, there it was again: “you need to confess!” Good grief, I get it already! Alright Lord, I said aloud in the empty church, if there is a priest available as I leave this church today, I’ll ask to go to confession.

About a half hour later I walked out, thinking about what to have for breakfast when there, in the entranceway of the church, stood a priest. He was one I had never seen before in this church which I was visiting. His unexpected presence caught me unawares, and I paused in surprise for only a second, but it was enough. He sensed me, turned, and asked: “Can I help you?”

I asked him to hear my confession, if he had the time. He said: “Of course!” He then led me to his office in an area of the church I had never seen before, and let me have a couple of quiet minutes to collect my thoughts, and then I blurted out all that was troubling me, including sis’ cancer fight. Afterwards he said, “I know just the right penance for you. I want you to go back into the church and read and meditate on, um … let me see here … ah, here it is: Matthew 6:25.”

I laughed out loud, very loud, startling him. The Lord has such a sense of humor at times. “Yes, Father, I think I’ll be able to do that. It is my favorite passage in the whole bible. My own copy is heavily marked there. It starts out: ‘Do not be anxious.’”

God is so good to me. I hope you can appreciate the grace God gave me that day, the knowledge that in my prayers, and in my trials, he would not leave me alone. He wanted my confession that day so that he and I could be as close as we could be. In confession, we could talk things out, and there would be no more misunderstandings between us. He would always be there as my best friend.

Such consolations are yours to be had also, my friends, if you but listen to his call, as I did. He is there. Like for me, he does wait for you to respond. You don’t have to jump when he calls. Like me, you can wait and think things over. He won’t give up. He’ll still be there. And perhaps when you and he speak he’ll give you something to laugh at, through your tears, as he did me. He makes all things right.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Giving -- or Taking?

This site is not intended to be a forum for my views on anything, only my thoughts on those things which cause me anxiety, and examples of how God has shown me peace. Unfortunately, some of the things which sometime cause me anxiety are events of this country, and its future. This is my topic, my anxiety today.

Within the definition of love that I recognize, love is our giving away of gifts which we have been given by our Creator – and all of our gifts are ultimately from Him. Can it also be love to give away what we have taken? Is Robin Hood someone to look up to? Are the majority of our neighbors really like the evil king, who we must steal from so we can give to the poor? Is this story of Sherwood Forest fiction, or a gospel?

As we have seen in recent years, in America we can try to give everyone a house. We can give everyone free education. And now we plan to give everyone free medical care. We can give these things to everyone, and it appears we will. We are told all have “a right” to these things, and certainly to the ones receiving them, these seem good things. But where did these things we give away come from, and by doing these actions, are we really showing love for our neighbor? They seem to be good things for him, are they? These seem to be good ends; does it matter how we get there? I think some examples might help clarify our thinking on those questions.

Let’s start with our intentions. The Extreme Makeover Home Edition television show is an example of Americans giving houses for free to needy people. We cry at the beauty and generosity of it. It all seems most wonderful. Our intentions seem pure. But the show’s producers are now finding, however, that many recipients are being forced to give up their “free” homes – they could not afford to maintain them, or in some cases lacked the wisdom to be financially responsible with them – immediately taking out huge mortgages (“free” loans) which they could not pay back. We have helped other Americans to do similar things, buying homes when banks offered them “free” loans (no money down), but then finding the people could not afford to pay the loans back. They’ve found out the gifts and loans weren’t really free. We intended to do a good thing, but now many fingers are pointing around in all directions – who did this evil thing, to now take these homes away from these nice people? Try as you might to point elsewhere, but in the end WE did this “evil” thing Americans, we did.

We heard the cry of the poor, and we wanted to help them; it seemed a good thing. We forgot, however, (or no longer believed) that “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.” We wanted to act as gods, doling out generosity. We forgot the adage: “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach him to fish and he eats every day.” We thought we could keep giving and giving, taking from some and giving to others, endlessly. In our desire to love our neighbor, we forgot what love really is. It is not love to give a 5-year old a car, nor a poor man a huge house, especially one taken from someone else. This is only our vanity, our desire to be praised for our good intentions. Given everything, and never given the blessing of earning it creates nothing but greed in a man, and a desire for even more. It’s only when we are wanting that we are satisfied with less, and that we are thankful for what we have been given. We may have had good desires, but we did no good thing.

Look at others who have been given riches, look at Hollywood idols and millionaires. Do you see great happiness there? No, I submit to you that far from our ideas of creating happiness when we give things freely, instead we create sadness. How did we get to this point, where what we value seems so valueless? I think we’ve touched on it here, in this blog, many times in the past. We got lost in the mirror, when we totally looked to ourselves to figure out happiness. When we looked to ourselves, we saw our own greed, envy, pride, and all the other capital sins. Things WE want, and to the degree we can, we wanted to give them to everyone. We thought we were doing a good thing, but we were projecting our sins onto others – and this will not result in their happiness, any more than ours.

In looking to ourselves for answers, we forgot to look to God. We forgot the commandments to love. Love isn’t seeing our vices in the mirror and wanting others to want the same thing. Love is not teaching others how to take, but how to give. Love IS giving, like the story of teaching to fish, giving what is truly needed by our neighbor, needed to make their lives, lives of value, and teaching them to make a difference in the world by reaching out to help their neighbor help others. Love is not taking and giving, it is giving from what we have been given.

And what about the needs of the truly poor? I read about them tonight:
For He shall save the poor when they cry
and the needy who are helpless.
He will have pity on the weak
and save the lives of the poor.
From oppression He will rescue their lives.

Psalm 72 12:14

First note, HE will save them, not us. Second take note of who he will save: “the needy who are helpless” and “the weak” and those oppressed. Is that who we are saving with all the gifts we wish to bestow on America’s people? And what of those who pay for “our” generosity, the tremendous costs today and in the future? There is a word for those whom we commit to do the work we consider essential, who MUST help us do “good” works, whether they want to or not. The word is slavery. And despite what their masters may say to them, to a slave, slavery is NOT “for your own good.” It is stealing what God has given them.

God did not place us here on earth to accomplish His good will by making others do it. He did not create us to be masters; he created us to be servants. How easily we have confused and justified ourselves. We sometimes believe that by accomplishing a good end we are doing a good thing, but even God did not dictate good ends for us. He would not be so arrogant! He gave us freedom to choose. In America today so many people think that they, and only they, know the truth of God’s will. It seems sad to me, however, that they so rarely ask his opinion on the matter, nor look to his example.

He did not make man for other men to take care of him. This is not the love he spoke of when he said “Love your neighbor.” Jesus came and died on the cross to show us that life will have pains, but that Glory can come out of them. He opened the gates of heaven; he did not push man through, to try to force him to have happiness.

Neither should we.

One final thought: As I finished writing these words, my admonishments to others for not hearing the Lord (as if only I did), I read this in my Morning Prayers:
Teach us, good Lord, to serve the need of others,
Help us to give and not to count the cost.
Unite us for we are all born as brothers;
Defeat our Babel with your Pentecost

In all humility, what more words need be said. Amen.

Lord, on this day which we celebrate the birthday of your servant, Benedict XVI, have mercy on him and be with him, as he carries his cross.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Life is hard. We have toils and troubles – and even terrors – that we can do nothing about. Others give us “great” advice, often ending with: “Well, all you can do is pray.” We know they are friends and trying to help us, but they just don’t understand us and what we are feeling – and we can’t really put it into words. And it is doubly hard if they are the ones causing our pains, and they don’t know why.

This quote is often attributed to Einstein: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. Spoken like a true scientist, but also spoken like a man of faith, for Einstein believed in God, even if he found it difficult to trust in Him. With his great intellect, Einstein believed he could solve any problem, and sometimes looked to other men for ideas, but only to inspire him solve the problems he faced. He really didn’t trust the work of other scientists because he believed he knew more than they did. He died never finding the answer to his biggest scientific problem, finding the “Universal Theory of Everything”, which would relate together all the known theories of matter, like electromagnetism, thermodynamics, relativity, and quantum physics. Perhaps his judgments of other men’s relative scientific intelligence were true – although it seems arrogant to me. In his judgments about God, however, I believe Einstein was, by his own definition, insane. He trusted himself over and over again, and never got a different result.

I gave some examples in recent days of my trust in God. I wrote of Peace, Prayer, and how God answered my prayers, how indeed he seemed to work miracles for my mom. I know there are other explanations for her cure. I know you may be saying: “Well, if there was a reason for it, then it wasn’t a miracle.” Perhaps. When when I saw the changes in mom, I went out searching the internet for why this happened, and what I could do to help her. There were a number of reasons for what happened, what caused it, and what I might do to prevent it again – maybe.

Perhaps you are right and her cure was not a miracle, but can you prove that to me? If the chaos happens again to her, will YOU tell me how to make it stop? Gather all the data you want and bring in the best doctors, will YOU guarantee results? Don’t you see? The miracle I wrote about was not in her, it was in ME. I actually believed and lived that U.S. motto: I trusted in God. The miracle was the peace I found in response to my prayers. I felt God’s presence. Now this time I saw mom’s healing, but at other times I may not. This time my pains promptly ended, at other times they may never end. But regardless, I can bear those pains much easier; I can find peace. I am not alone. Someone does understand. He really understands my pain and sorrow. It gives me great peace to talk to Him about them because of my trust in Him.

I said how difficult it is to trust other men; it is counter to our instincts. But we also have an instinct for God, his existence and his love. Even Einstein felt it. And unlike other men, God can help. By my witnessing to my trust in these words, I hope to open your eyes and hearts to your instincts. I can’t fix anything wrong in your life. You are right to not trust me or anyone else, not with your life. We don’t really understand what you need – not for sure. All we have is our experiences, our understandings, and that they might apply to you. But YOU can fix your life. If you could bring yourself to do something different, to trust in God, the being who you CAN trust your life to – He created it – then I know you will see miracles even as I did. People will tell you good things which happen are not miracles. But you’ll know, you’ll KNOW, the miracle in the peace you find. Perhaps you’ll see no great changes in the problems in your life; look at the example of Job – things got worse. But if you have faith, God will figure out how to make good out of the worse -- that also happened to Job. Faith and Trust in God comes from first choosing to believe in God, and that he knows solutions you’ll never figure out. He IS God, not you, not me. That’s the first thing you need to believe.

If you get nothing else from these pitiful writings, get that: you can choose to have faith. (He gave you free will too, you know. :- )) ) It’s not insane to trust in God. What is insane is to do what you’ve been doing, trusting in no man for help, but trusting in yourself over and over and over again – and expecting different results. Sometimes we can’t help ourselves. From the sadness in some of his writings, it appears Einstein never learned that truth.

All of us are living a life in a way estranged from other people. We know OF them, but we really don’t know them. We ASSUME we know what they do and why, but we are not them. We don’t know some of the instincts they are feeling, the instincts that they feel to save themselves, basic instincts similar to our own. We feel we must be the one to save our lives, to end our pains – and they feel the same things. So they often act in ways we perceive as hateful to us, and they look at us and see the same thing. We want to find the solutions, ourselves. Similar to Einstein, we are all searching for the “Universal Theory of Everything,” – not about matter, but everything about our life. Why our pain, why others pain, why others don’t understand ours, or we theirs. A universal theory that would explain all reasons for our being this way. It’s a theory that we are not smart enough to figure out alone. It is arrogance to think so. And if we keep trying to do that, it is insanity.

God knows the reasons for everything. Perhaps it is time we all start to look to Him for answers, and then Trust because He IS God, we may not always understand His actions in our life, but in Faith and Trust we can choose to accept them. And then we will find the miracle of peace in our lives. Einstein’s definition of insanity started with OUR doing things over and over again. We started out this meditation saying that our life is hard and there are some things that WE can do nothing about and other men can’t help us because they don’t understand us – but God, God can help, because he DOES understand. He really does.

Lord God, I choose to trust in you. When my road seems mired or rocky, help me find a path forward. When a steep wall appears before me, help me find the footholds to climb it. When strong winds, freezing sleet, or walls of dust obscure my way, take my hand and guide me. But please, dear Lord, if it is your will, also let my path go through fragrant fields of flowers, through cool shallow streams, through glorious sunrises and peaceful sunsets. Give me consolations to offset my pains. Let me know that you are with me.

Even if I can’t yet imagine the beautiful fields, the calm streams, the beautiful skies as I walk through my personal valley of death, know dear Lord, that I now pledge my trust in You. I WILL to have faith. I WILL to walk through the darkness. I trust that if I can go on, and hold out my hand, You will be there. Please, dear Lord, guide my footsteps. I trust in You.

In You will I find my peace. You promised; I believe. It would be insane not to.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Divine Mercy

I’ve had many thoughts in the past about forgiveness, and read many others’ reflections. Some said you cannot forgive another man unless he first seeks forgiveness from you. That view seems to be borne out in Matthew 18. But I dispute that argument, recently made in an article in Touchstone magazine (by someone much more scholarly than I, I’m afraid), because Matthew 18 never specifically says the words “you cannot forgive.” I feel some yearning in my heart to say that you CAN forgive, even if the sinner does not seek forgiveness. Tonight, I read some further support for my feelings, and made more sense, for me, of God’s Divine Mercy.

Because you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievance you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you. Over all these virtues, put on love. … Christ’s peace must reign in your heart. (Col 3)

I asked myself: As the Lord has forgiven you – just how is that? It does not say anything here about him waiting for me to first ask for forgiveness. It says As the Lord has forgiven, so you are to forgive whatever grievance you have against one another. So then, I don’t need confession, my sins are forgiven? And no one needs ask forgiveness of me, but I am to forgive them anyway?? Is that what this means? I’m confused. Something isn’t right in my thinking.

Ah, in contemplating these questions, my mind has cleared. How as the Lord forgiven me?? He has forgiven the sin of Adam and my sins through Justice, but with Love. He has forgiven us the great and just eternal recompense due for sin: our eternal separation from God. He opened the gates of heaven by his forgiveness, by his great love, and ended our separation. This is his Divine Mercy.

If a man betrays his spouse by having an affair with another woman, we can certainly empathize with the wife who says: “I hear you begging for my forgiveness, husband, and I DO forgive you. But in my heart, I can never love you again in the way I once did.” We can understand how hurt she must feel about the great betrayal. This is the type of betrayal and forgiveness Paul is speaking about in Colossians. Like the wife scorned, like the father of the Prodigal son, God had a deep hurt because of man’s rejection of him and his holiness, but Christ’s sacrifice satisfied that hurt. God the Father once said to man in effect: “I can forgive you, but I can never love you again.” But Christ by his death changed that to “I CAN forgive you, and I will always love you.”

The sinner still needs to seek forgiveness of God, but he can now ask in confidence because he knows the Father always stands ready to love him – just as before. In effect, the Father says: I sent my Son among men, not to sin as they did, but to make atonement for those sins. Throughout the Old Testament, God often threatened destruction of his sinful people, and even the whole world. Prophets offered sacrifices and begged for his mercy, over and over again. To man, God seemed like the spurned wife and responded: I see your sin offerings and you are forgiven, but I will never love you again in the way I once did. Then came His Son, who offered the supreme sacrifice for atonement, his life. Then man’s relationship with the Father changed. The Father said: To My Son I could not say “I will never love You the same”, for he is in me, and I in him. To say to him I cannot love you would be to deny my very self. With Jesus’ offering, the Father said: never again. Never again will I take back my love from man.

It is fitting that we meditate on this today, Divine Mercy Sunday. Today we celebrate God’s never-ending, never-limited mercy, his Divine Mercy – Justice tempered with Love. This is what Jesus did for us. Man offended God’s holiness; we were so unworthy to EVER be able to atone for that. Ever. Then came Jesus: Through my Son’s sacrifice, I forgave all men; I told them I will always love them. And further, I sent them the gift of my Holy Spirit, my own Love, to them, to be with them always. My love to man shall be everlasting. My mercy shall be everlasting. My Justice for man’s sin is cleansed by Love, with the pure love of the Trinity.

This is the forgiveness the Father gave us by the sacrifice of His Son: His eternal Love, the Trinity. Heaven is open to us, and it will never be closed. This was his covenant with us, his Divine Mercy. We could never have atoned for our offending his holiness, but he, through his Son, could. And this is the example he gave us on forgiveness: we CAN forgive someone who has offended us, even if he does not ask for our forgiveness. Like God, we can choose forgiveness through mercy, ready to love the other man, whenever he ready to turn to us to accept that love. It was a deep hurt God forgave; it’s deep hurts we must forgive.

For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Because you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievance you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you

May Christ’s peace reign in your hearts, my friends, this day and always. Do not be anxious. : - ))

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


This blog is written by someone who sometimes has his blood pressure rise. Yesterday morning I took heavy doses of the meds I hadn't touched in months. The day was ... well, it was something.

Rather than trying to categorize it, I'll just print here the email I sent out this morning to a few prayer warriors I know. Yesterday I had written to them saying I, and my mom, needed prayers. Yesterday was a bad day:

What can I say?

After a night of talking in her sleep all night, yesterday mom woke unable to speak intelligently. She didn’t know that her arms were to go into her dressing gown sleeves. She didn’t know how to put in her denture. She held her glasses in her hands, not knowing what they were for.

For breakfast, she slowly ate two small bits of pound cake, and holding the coffee cup in both hands, took a single sip. Then it fell and spilled over her. A second cup had similar results. After laying a third – half-only – cup on the table next to her, she touched the cup, and put her fingers in her mouth. Then she lifted the paper plate with cubes of pound cake to her mouth, and tried to drink it as it spilled all over her lap. When I wrote on the small white board to communicate with her (she can’t hear), she stared off, not understanding that she was to read, much less what was written. When I turned on her favorite television shows, her eyes wandered around the room; her mouth hung open. Nothing of the jumbles she voiced was understood by me, except a rare mention of the first syllable of my name.

I called two doctors and three nurses over the next 4-6 hours. All agreed she had suffered a stroke, describing to me details that I couldn’t understand. But all agreed it was very likely not to be reversed. Mom touched a few bites of lunch, but did not eat. At dinner, she slowly ate two pieces of food, then she picked up the glass containing jello, a favorite of hers, and tried to drink it. She couldn’t hold the spoon, and so I slowly fed her small bits of jello, poking at her mouth to open, as you would a baby. She looked confused, and rarely spoke.

I decided that I would call the people from hospice. She had been in a in-home hospice program for over a year, but then they said she had so stabilized that they had to drop her from the program. They said to call if anything changed. I think this qualified. I gave mom a small bit of a tranquelizing medicationyesterday evening, so she might get a good nights sleep. I expected today would be a busy one with doctors visits.

This morning I prayed for guidance and courage and help – thank you Fr. John for having the adoration chapel open --, and went to mass. I felt His presence. I went to mom’s house. Her live-in caregiver back from holiday said that mom had talked for the first 4 or 5 hours of the night, then finally went quiet. We waited. At 10AM I heard stirrings and went in to her room. She opened her eyes and said “’morning”.

We got her dressed and got her the usual breakfast, coffee and cake. She spoke to both of us, and talked to the birds in the feeder on the front window. She was back to the level of dementia she has had for many years. The caregiver was amazed, but said: “Maybe God wants her to outlive both of us.” What happened all day yesterday, and what happened during the night?

I don’t know, but God is good. Thank you for your prayers.

Attached is a picture of mom I took on Easter Sunday morn, and the lamb cake I bought for her – well, and for me too.)

Sunday, April 4, 2010


There! That's a good title for a post on Easter day.

Sometimes I fear I am too serious in my blog posts. Even the blog title, Do Not Be Anxious, reads almost like a serious command. While I do want to give peace to any readers, peace is not the same thing as joy. Peace calms anxieties; joy isn't calm at all, it is uplifting, dancing, happiness -- a peace on skis, moving rapidly through our landscape of life.

I think what I write is needed, else why would I feel compelled sometimes to see things and write things as I do. While truly often I gain peace myself first and foremost from my thoughts, I also do often gain joy. I hope in some small measure, even one person finds peace (and praise God, Joy!) in what I write. But on this day, I'd like to make a more focused attempt at joy.

So I'll refer you to someone else who writes of it better than I. Please consider reading this wonderful post before you would consider reading my less joyful words.

Peace -- and Joy! -- to you this Easter day.

P.S. Can any blogging guru tell me how to embed that link?


He is risen! He is risen, indeed!!

I had time this morning to read and reflect on this day, Easter, and what went on so many years ago, and what goes on today. Today, despite the joyous occasion, our minds wander. We are troubled. The good news of over 2000 years ago is intermixed in our minds with the troubling news of today. Some people today – even some Catholic people – look to the Holy Father not to celebrate this greatest of events, but to speak of today’s events. They look for him not to bow down to God, but to bow in humility this day to men.

Thinking on these things, I reflected on the readings of yesterday, Holy Saturday, when the events celebrated on Easter began:

SECOND READING – From an ancient homily on Holy Saturday
Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles in fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

I am you God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.

For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

This is the day we celebrate God’s forgiveness of man. No one was ever sinned against more, and forgave more. Starting with Adam, he opened the gates of heaven to all who have offended him. This is the greatest day of forgiveness ever! How dare ANY man seek to use this day, of all days, to ask – or even demand – that any man seek HIS forgiveness. How dare any man demand more than even God did. There is only one forgiveness to be remember, celebrated this day. Man’s sins against man are nothing compared to man’s sins against God.

Peace be to you, my brothers and sisters. On this of all days, peace be to you. For some of you, that peace comes with great difficulty. But I submit to you that if on this day you harbor ill will to your brother, if you live this day without peace, then you may never find it in this life. If your brother came today and bowed down to you seeking forgiveness, tomorrow would you forget your anger? Would you really forgive him? If he paid you millions of dollars in reparation, would you be satisfied? If offended by the Church or a Church member, would the pope himself kneeling before you satisfy your troubled soul? Is that the lack of peace you feel this day?

Men have always offended other men. Whether forgiveness was asked – or given – it often mattered not. Among men, that is the way of things. Fights, rage, wars, deaths, all come about because of men’s sins against each other. And generations later, many still cannot forgive. It is no different for men today as it was yesterday. We cannot understand or accept the words of forgiveness in Matthew, chapters 5 and 18, where we are told it matters not who offended who, but that YOU are the one to seek reconciliation with your brother.

I ask you to again read the words assumed of Jesus to Adam in the words above. This is the forgiveness he gave to Adam, to all men, to us. This is the forgiveness that matters, for all eternity. Let us this day not think that our forgiveness is more important. Peace be to you, my brothers and sisters, for This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.

Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, Grant us Peace.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cultural Reflections

Holy Thursday was a great night for me. I caught a couple hours nap that afternoon, and another before I went to church. I was rested and fully alert as I entered the improvised chapel, where Jesus stood on the altar. And he and I had some good conversations.

I took along a few of my favorite books, although ones I had not glanced at in years. (My favorites are defined as those with heavy underlines, or dashes in the margins to indicate “WOW!” It’s my own sort of shorthand.) On Thursday, I just read the underlines again, and reflected on their meaning. One of the most interesting reads was Life of Christ, by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. With a copyright of 1958, I’m not sure when I last read it, and I was surprised how it was appropriate then, when I last read it, and now. I found lots of my “Wows”. I’ll include some excerpts for your consideration and meditation:

There are only two philosophies of life. One is first the feast, then the hangover; the other first the fast, then the feast.

What is forgotten is that sin is not the worst thing in the world. The worst thing is the denial of sin. If I am blind and deny there is any such thing as light, I shall never see. If I am deaf and deny sound, I shall never hear. And if I deny there is sin, I make forgiveness impossible.

Which will be the first to find Christ with the Cross? The totalitarian states who have the Cross without Love, or the Western world which has love – so often erotic – without sacrifice? We do not know. But we do know that at the end of time, when the great conflict between the forces of good and evil takes place, Satan will appear without the Cross, as the Great Philanthropist and Social Reformer to become the final temptation of mankind.

And the above quotes are just from the Preface!!

We need a Christ Who will restore moral indignation, Who will make us hate evil with a passionate intensity, and love goodness to a point where we can drink death like water.

The people enslaved under the Roman yoke were seeking deliverance; hence they felt that any prophetic of the ancient Josue would have something to do with politics. (My comment in the margin: Even today many expect a political deliverance from poverty, but Jesus showed that a spiritual deliverance from sin is most important.)

The big cities are sometimes thought to contain all the wisdom, while the little towns are looked upon as backward and unprogressive. Christ chose the insignificant Bethlehem for the glory of His birth; the ridiculed Nazareth for His youth; but the glorious, cosmopolitan Jerusalem for the ignominy of His death.

The only way anyone can ever prove love is by making an act of choice.

The first temptation of Our Blessed Lord was to become a kind of social reformer, and to give bread to the multitudes in the wilderness who could find nothing there but stones. The vision of social amelioration without spiritual regeneration has constituted a temptation to which many important men in history have succumbed completely. But to Him, this would not be adequate service of the Father; there are deeper needs in men than crushed wheat; and there are greater joys than the full stomach. … Our Lord was not denying that men must be fed, or that social justice must be preached; but He was asserting that these things are not first. … (to Satan): You would have Me begin with security instead of ending with it; you would have Me bring outer abundance instead of inner holiness…. If I give bread alone, then man is no more than an animal, and dogs might as well come first to My banquet. Those who believe in Me must hold to that faith, even when they are starved and weak; even when they are imprisoned and scourged. … I am not a social worker who has never been hungry himself, but One who says ‘I reject any plan which promises to make men richer without making them holier.’

The Sermon on the Mount is so much at variance with all that our world holds dear that the world will crucify anyone who tries to live up to its values. Because Christ preached them, He had to die. Calvary was the price He paid for the Sermon on the Mount. Only mediocrity survives. Those who call black black, and white white, are sentenced for intolerance. Only the grays survive.

I hope these few quotes give you something to think on this weekend, my friends.

Happy Easter. He is Risen!!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Dark Night

Orig: 04/09/09

I want to share with you one final Lenten thought – (well two, if you want to read the attachment I wrote last night).

This morning I read the paper – ugh!! It made even the breakfast I was eating taste bad. After I went home, I relaxed and tried to get in a better mood – when suddenly a thought came to me that I hadn’t had in probably 20 years or more: Easter Lamb cake. And I picked up the phone book and began calling bakeries. The nearest one having the cake was about 10 miles away, so I began driving.

Easter Lamb cake is a yellow-batter cake, shaped like a lamb and covered in white – powdered sugar or frosting. As a kid, I remember taking the cake to church, along with other foods, to be blessed on Holy Saturday, and then eaten Easter Sunday morning. We usually fasted from sweets during Lent – ok, sometimes perhaps the fast was only for the Easter weekend – but as kids we were aware of our sacrifice. Then, Easter Sunday morning, as we had coffee and a piece of the cake for breakfast, we were reminded of the Lamb, now all covered in white, and what it all meant. And because of our fast, the lamb tasted sooooo sweet. So sweet. Like the horrible suffering of Good Friday passed to the sweet happiness of that first Easter Sunday. I thought of all those things as I was driving. And in the car I had on a CD of Andrea Bocelli singing Sacred Arias. If you have never heard a glorious tenor voice singing Latin hymns in a church, you are missing a major lesson in how to love God. As a child, and in the car this morning, when I heard singing like this, I knew the singing was not entertainment, but one man giving beautiful praise to God, and I marveled at his love. And so as I sat at every stop light on my way to the bakery I looked over at the person in the next car talking on their cell phone, and if they would have looked at me, they would have seen me crying, just like I did when I heard those beautiful hymns as a child.

What a wonderful morning I had.

The morning had started out sad, even irritating, but it only took one nice thought to change all that. So, you Michiganders, stop now and take a moment to look outside at the bright sun and clear blue sky. Smile! Doesn’t God love us so? And if it’s raining where you’re at, look at the plants with their green buds; beauty is coming! Even if you are going through some tough times right now, with your 401k, with your spouse, with your kids, even with your God – you can change that almost immediately by thinking of the good things we have been blessed with in the past. And now? Now is the time that never stops, keeps on changing. And one good day in the not distant future you may stop and think of THIS day, but you will not dwell on it, except to briefly marvel at how something which seemed so bad can quickly pass. And like Easter Sunday, life can – and will – be glorious.

Have faith.

The Dark Night

A friend told me that when she contemplated the First Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary, The Agony in the Garden, she felt it the saddest and most troubling of the all mysteries. Jesus, praying alone, terror and agony facing him, thinking of the possibility of His rejecting it still, to say no to the coming pain and death, and yet knowing he could not. It IS sad and troubling. He sweats blood in his agony. Surely this was a most terrible time for Him. My friend and I agreed this might be worse than physical pains, that once you set your mind to accept it even the pains of the scourging or the crucifixion might be bearable – some saints have proven to be up to accepting a similar fate. But I disagree with her that the Agony in the Garden was the worst part of Jesus’ Passion.

I view the Crowning of Thorns to be worse. Oh not the pains of the crowning, but all the rest that happened in conjunction with it, late that first Holy Thursday night. Even in the garden, Jesus had known human comfort was nearby, at his call. He could go and get a hug. But later that Thursday night, he was alone with his torturers, and alone with his mind. There was pain and discomfort with the thorns, no doubt, but he also must have thought about what was to happen in the morning. And he had much time to think about it. Alone. No hugs possible this night. He might have distracted himself from the next day by thinking of the past. He’d want to remember the good things, but I’m sure a grim reality crushed his soul. The one to whom he had entrusted the keys of the kingdom betrayed him, even though he had given him warning. The others never even got that close after the garden. They ran. And what of the adoring crowds on Palm Sunday? They yelled “crucify him”. All the miracles, all the explanations, all the examples he gave -- would anyone remember them? Would anyone remember him? Was his life and all his efforts just a waste? Did anyone care? Were the soldiers who mocked him with the crown to be the summary of his memory – a joke? I think it was there in the dungeon that Jesus cried in his soul, not in the garden, or even at the pillar. And they were not tears because of the physical pain. They were tears of darkness. Of being totally alone. Totally forgotten. Even if he knew in his heart that that wasn’t true, the Father promised him so, still, looking around him in the darkness, the physical surroundings must have been overwhelming. And it made him very sad. To me, this is the worst pain.

Alone; I can understand that feeling.

I now stay up through the night on Holy Thursdays. I think of those going through their own dark nights now. They know of God’s call, and they commit to it – and then hear nothing. Alone. It’s hard for them to find solace in the glory and heaven that is to come, when you feel the deep emotional pains now. I pray for them.

And as I remember Jesus on this Holy Thursday night, his passion and aloneness, I tell him I’m here. I won’t forget him, what he’s going through. He’s not alone. I remember. It’s not much, but I pray it gives him some small solace.

And I try to remember that, when I go through my own dark nights, He returns the favor.

And when those days come to you, my friend, when all you want to do is cry, remember: You are not alone.

P.S. You might want to glance at the meditation on the Sorrowful Mysteries I posted earlier, should you be looking for some appropriate thoughts for tonight.