Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The flesh is weak

This morning before leaving for Mass I flipped on the television.

The movie Shakespeare in Love was on. I enjoyed the movie when it came out, but I knew there were problematic scenes of lovemaking and partial nudity.

Sure enough, one of those scenes came up. I guessed it was coming, thought I should turn it off, but didn't. I rationalized that I wanted to see if they would edit it, but, to be honest, I hoped they wouldn't.

I'm weak that way.

The scene came up. They may have edited it, but it was still enough. Too much.

I went off to say a rosary in the adoration chapel at church before Mass, but the scene kept popping into my head. I even found thoughts popping into my head like, "It wasn't that bad. It's natural. It's art. You're married."

But I know myself, and I know the way my mind works.

St. Francis struggled with such temptations. I don't know if I need to roll in thorn bushes or snow as I've heard he did, but I do need to be aware of my weakness in this area.

Perhaps others can view such scenes without harm, but I can't. I need to practice greater discipline of my eyes. Maybe I just nee to avoid any films or shows like that.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Formation Update (2): Accepting vs. "believing"

There was something else I talked about at the formation meeting: Believing not because I believe, but because I accept the authority of the Church.

I admitted that there were certain teachings of the Church that I had questioned for many years. I could not get my head around them. I convinced myself that they were not really necessary to the Christian faith.

Wandering down that path eventually led me out of the Church.

My exodus did not last long, fortunately. There was too much that the Church offered that I did believe to be true, that I knew I needed.

So I came back. And as for those beliefs I had a hard time believing, I said the Church teaches them, the Church has the Holy Spirit guiding it, and has had the Holy Spirit guiding it for 2,000 years, so as a son of the Church I humbly accept those beliefs.

I mentioned the story of Rochester's first Bishop, Bernard McQuaid. He took part in Vatican I. He argued against the doctrine of papal infallibility that the Council was considering. But when the Council declared it a doctrine of the Church, Bishop McQuaid stopped speaking against it. He simply said the Church teaches it, therefore I accept it.

I'm still at that point on some teachings. I read more about them. I study them. I pray about them. I try to grow. It's gotten better, but there are still some things I accept because the Church teaches them.

Pax et bonum

Formation update

I continued formation at last night's meeting. We talked about those I consider "lepers" (see my November 13 entry) and my halting quest for a spiritual director.

My formation director was not able to help direct me to a potential director. We both lamented the fact that there are no Franciscans about - it will be nice if they would return to the diocese at some point to set up a house.

He did say it was possible to have a director with who one chatted by phone - or even e-mail.

Now there's a thought. I read the blogs of a few Franciscan priests. One of them, perhaps? Or contacting someone like the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal?

I pointed out that I do need a director to help keep me from wandering off in to treacherous theological waters, as I have in the past (one of the reasons why I could not pursue the diaconate, in fact), and to keep me honest. I am too good at saying what people want to hear (my dad was a great insurance salesman!) I need a director who is knowledgeable, not easily fooled, and firm: One who is not afraid to give me a good, swift spiritual kick.

As for formation, by January I will have complete all the material in the Period of Inquiry. That means I might become an official Candidate in January or February. Alleluia!

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Coffee for Jesus

This morning we got our first coating of snow. Nothing really bad, but by the time I cleaned off the cars - my wife's back has been bothering her, so I didn't want her to do her own car - I realized I would be too late for the 6:25 morning Mass at a church on my way to work.

I decided instead to spend a few minutes at my own church's perpetual adoration chapel.

When I got to the church, the parking lot had not been plowed. I had to circle the long way to get in because I was afraid I might miss the driveway near the chapel and drive on the lawn.

The chapel was dark. Sadly, although it is open 24 hours, it is often empty of anyone offering prayers.

When I walked in, I spotted a man sprawled across the chairs, obviously sleeping. He immediately sat up and mumbled something about waiting for McDonald's to open (there's a McDonald's restaurant just down the road).

I figured he was a lost soul, maybe a homeless man, who had sought a warm place out of the snow. He continued to sit there.

I sat and said a few prayers. But I also kept thinking about him. He didn't seem dangerous, but you never know. Did he have a place to go? I thought McDonald's was already open to serve the morning commuters. Should I offer him a ride as I was going that way? Would that be a dangerous thing to do? Might he have a weapon?

Then I wondered what Francis would do. Was this Jesus sitting there?

After about 15 minutes I had to leave. I asked him what time McDonald's opened. He said 6. I told him it was already 6:45, and asked if he would like a ride.

He said yeah. We got in my car. He started telling me a story about his car being hit and towed by a company on the other side of town. I asked why he ended up in my neck of the woods then; he just continued his spiel. He said he lived in a town in the next county and hadn't been able to get in touch with any friends from there to come and pick him up.

Having volunteered in homeless shelters and done stories on street people, I waited for the other shoe to drop.

Sure enough, as soon as we got to the McDonald's he asked if I had any money to spare. I said I never gave money - I knew too often it went for drugs and alcohol - but I offered to go in and buy him a cup of coffee to warm up.

As we walked in, another fellow with the look of a street person greeted him familiarly. I was even more convinced that he was just scamming. I bought him some coffee and left.

As I drove away I thought that perhaps I should have gotten him something to eat, too. Francis would have. I felt guilty about judging him. Even if he was scamming me, he probably could have used some food.

I didn't turn around. I had a long way to go to get to work.

I have a long way to go when it comes to being a Franciscan as well.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, December 6, 2009

13th Day - four thumbs up!

The Good-Looking-One and I watched The 13th Day last night. It deserves all the praise it is receiving.

It is a well-crafted film, shot creatively and artistically. The use of black and white - and the selective use of color when Mary appears - the overlapping of images, the framing of shots all jumped out at us.

We both want to watch it again.

I'd love to stage a screening at our parish!

Pax et bonum

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Prayer life not up to snuff

In looking at my prayer life lately, there are some good things going on. But not enough.

I try to get to morning Mass most days. I sometimes miss - oversleeping one day this past week, for example. I can't go this morning because of a commitment at church. Okay.

But another time I took longer than expected working on a test for school - a test I could have finished the night before.

And when I do get to Mass, I am often distracted, thinking about school, or something I have to do later, or something I said or wrote or someone else said or wrote. I have to keep pulling myself back.

I say the rosary every day. Same mind wandering as at Mass, unfortunately. And some days I put it off until the end of the day, and while trying to say it in bed start falling asleep in the middle of it.

I do some spiritual reading. I read a bit of the Bible most days. But Bible reading should be a daily thing, and I need to do more spiritual reading. Much more.

I'm not being hard on myself. I'm being honest. I'm lazy about praying and my spiritual life. I cut back on blogging to give more time to it, but it's still not what it should be.

Isn't God worth the effort?

Pax et bonum