Sunday, May 30, 2010

Offering it up

A couple of weeks ago ago, my Brown Scapular broke. A few days later, we stopped at the local Catholic shop and while there I bought a new one. It's slightly larger than the one I'd had before, and shorter, so it rides higher under my shirt.

My wife had it blessed last week, and I put it on.

It itches. A lot.

At first, I considered not wearing it. I kept it on, though.

Then yesterday we were in the gift shop at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, N.Y. - a shrine dedicated to the North American Martyrs, and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha.

They had a nice selection of scapulars. I thought about buying one.

But then I thought about some of the disciplines engaged in by holy people of the past - including St. Francis and Blessed Kateri. Among those practices was the wearing of hair shirts.

It occurred to me that in a way, this itchy scapular is like a mini hair shirt!

I've decided to keep wearing it and to offer up the minor irritation.

It's the least I can do considering the suffering Jesus went through for me.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Possessed by possessions (Book 'em)

At my formation session at our last fraternity meeting we talked about poverty. One part of that discussion was about having too much.

When it comes to me, books was one of the things that came up.

I just own too many of them. I once counted and found I had more than 2,000 books - and that was more than a decade ago.

Books are good, but like so many other good things, in excess they can hold us back. They are possessions that can possess us.

At least in my case they can.

Now that doesn't mean I should stop buying books - if they are books that I can really use. But I have books packed in boxes that I haven't looked at since we moved here into this smaller house 16 years ago! (My old house had enough room to have most of them out - I actually had a "library" room.)

So I'm adopting a rough rule of thumb: If I buy a book, I have to get rid of two other books. Maybe I'll give some to other people. Or maybe I'll donate them to the library for their book sales to help them raise money.

And to reduce the clutter in my life.

Pax et bonum

Wearing the Tau

After posting previously about wearing my Tau necklace in public - a sign of my membership in the Secular Franciscan Order (albeit, just as a candidate at this point) - I have been trying to wear my cross when I can (and when I remember!)

At work, where I can't wear it in the open, I wear it under my shirt or sweater.

Outside of work, I try to keep it out in view.

It's a public witness. So far, though, no one has asked or said anything. I have seen a few eyes stray to the cross, but that's about it. Maybe its mere presence is enough.

But this morning I discovered another purpose.

I stopped at a coffee shop after morning Mass to pick up coffees and treats for my wife and me. I was wearing my cross.

As I turned to leave, I spotted an attractive young women at a table. Being a normal male, I glanced at her.

She looked at me. I got the impression she was looking at my cross. (I'm an overweight middle-aged guy, after all.)

My glance was quick and harmless - not a stare or an ogle - but the thought occurred to me as I walked to my car: I was in my actions a public witness, and in wearing the tau, I was a public representative of the SFOs.

I thought of priests and how careful they have to be in all they do and say in public.

Maybe this will help me to remember that all my actions, gestures, and words send a message to others.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sigh - Satan tosses one my way

We all face temptations. All of them can harm us, but we are often susceptible to some more than others.

My weak spots involve the flesh.

I had been doing well for a while, but the other night my wife was watching a movie I had never seen. I wandered in to sit and read. I kept glancing up, though.

The movie dealt with various kinds of carnal behavior, sometimes with humor, but also with violence. And then there appeared the requisite gratuitous nudity.

I left the room.

But the next day, some of the images and lines kept popping into my head.

As I was driving. As I trying to say my rosary.

I tried my old standby prayer to battle thoughts: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Repeated over and over.

It would work for that moment, but the images would come back.

I was reminded of the story of two Zen Buddhist monks.

They came to a ford of a stream that was running high, and the current was strong and frightening looking. An attractive young lady was standing at the ford, looking nervous. She clearly was afraid to cross, but had an important reason to go across.

Without a word, the older of the two monks lifted her in his arms and waded across the stream, and placed her safely on the far bank. The younger monk looked shocked at this action, but kept his silence for quite some number of miles as they continued their journey. Finally, he blurted out, "You know that it is against the rules of our order to have any contact with women. How could you do that?"

The older monk replied, "I put her down when I reached the other side of the river. You, on the other hand, have been carrying her this whole way."

I suppose some people can watch such movies - though, to be honest, from what I saw there was little of redeeming value in the film (the Bishops rated it Morally Offensive) - but given my own weaknesses, I can't . I have to be careful what I watch, what I read, and what I listen to.

I am a sinner.

Those stories of St. Francis battling temptation by rolling in snow or even thorn bushes make sense to me!

Pax et bonum.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Public Witness?

Today the Good Looking One and I were going out to pick up some bird seed and to stop for lunch.

As I got ready, I picked up the Tau Cross I received when I became a Candidate. I debated whether or not to wear it where it could be seen.

Part of the debate is because of a report we had at our last meeting. That report said Secular Franciscans need to "evangelize" more, need to promote the Secular Franciscan Order more. At my locla fraternity we certainly could use more new members: I'm the only Candidate.

There was talk of maybe placing an ad in the Catholic newspaper, or perhaps sending out bulletin announcements. Meanwhile, I'm meeting this afternoon to help launch a blog for our locla fraternity as one way to do this. I've also begun to think of a Facebook account to help get our local fraternity some more public presence.

But then there is the Tau.

Do I wear it in public as a public witness (except at work, where it would not be allowed)? If I'm a member of an order, shouldn't I be like members of other orders - priests, brothers, women religious - who wear distinctive garb or symbols as a public witness to their vocation?

I chose not to wear it. I need to talk to some other members of the fraternity. I also seek others' input.

Pax et bonum