Saturday, December 31, 2011

This Blog is Evolving

When I began this blog, I was looking at it as a way to record my journey as a Secular Franciscan in formation. As of July 9, 2011, I've been a professed Secular Franciscan.

Alleluia.

I used to have another personal blog, an older one that was often political in nature, and, to be honest, sometimes argumentative and less than charitable. I toned it down as I grew in my Franciscan vocation, but, as noted in other posts, I easily fall into the argumentative mode.

There's nothing wrong with discussing and debating issues. Indeed, many of those issues need to be addressed and confronted. But they have to be dealt with in a loving way more in keeping with my Franciscan vocation.

I closed that old blog due to a new job in which I have a very public face (after consulting with my new supervisor).

I kept this and a couple of other group blogs open (with permission). But I also distanced myself in several ways, changing the "name" that appears on my posts.

I've been thinking about some of the issues I've addressed in the past. Abortion. The Death Penalty. Unjust War. Social and Economic Justice. The Arts, and the Role of the Christian Artist. Church Practices. Morality. These topics still need to be addressed. So I've decided to begin to do so in this blog. But I will attempt to do so in a Franciscan style - raising issues, but always with love and charity. That means avoiding the sarcasm, the snide comments, the arrogant mocking tone to which I've been prone in the past.

I will sometimes fall short. But I hope that the Holy Spirit and Father Francis will provide frequent reminders to get me back on track.

Pax et bonum

More Books!

Once again, relatives and friends gifted me with books this Christmas.

The kind of gifts I always appreciate.

Some of the books are ones I've indicated in not always subtle ways that I want. This year, for example there was one particular book that I really wanted. When a catalog from a well-known Catholic publisher arrived, I searched through it until I found the title, folded the catalog open to the right page, circled the book several times, and sang some Christmas carols with an earnest smile.

I got that book.

Other times people give me books based upon my particular interests. St. Francis of Assisi (of course), Chesterton, poetry, and Dickens are among the interests addressed this year.

Some people knowing my quirky sense of humor give me books they think I will find amusing. This year, a relative who moved to Utah, a state that, to be honest, has never been of the slightest interest to me, although I do like Marie Osmond's version of a Hugo Ball Dada poem, sent me a book about Utah curiosities. I've already discovered one story in it about a woman who uses cow pies - yes, those "pies" - to make clocks, and picture and mirror frames.

A keeper.

The books end up either next to my bed in the pile of books to be read, or outside the "reading room."

This year's additions:

The Road to Assisi: The Essential Biography of St. Francis by Paul Sabatier. Chesterton's biography is the essential one, in my opinion, but this modern examination of his life looks like it has much to offer. It's also a book I'd indicated interest in. Someone was listening.

In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G. K. Chesterton. Circles and Christmas Carols do work.

Surpassing Pleasure by John Slater. A contemporary Cistercian poet: I can't wait to test those verbal waters.

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot. I'd actually read many of these poems long ago and enjoyed them, so it's wonderful to have them before me again. Plus, it's nice to be reminded that Eliot didn't always write as if he had spiritual heartburn.

How to Do Everything (From the Man Who Should Know) by Red Green. Red Green is a Canadian comedian who is an acquired taste, and a taste that I acquired long ago.

The Man Who Invented Christmas by Les Standiford. A book that examines how Dickens helped to save Christmas from those who would downplay the celebration of it, and, in the process, apparently saved his own career. I've always loved Dickens and his Christmas tales, so this should be an intriguing read.

Utah Curiosities by Brandon Griggs. Cow pies. Need I say more?

Much reading to do.

Of course, in keeping with my policy - I have far too many books - that means weeding out 14 books from my current horde. Hmmm.

Pax et bonum

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Grumbling

One of my many faults is that I tend to be argumentative. I have been known to pick fights, and to bait others. When I argue, I sometimes use sarcasm and harsh words. I tend not to let go once I've started, dragging online debates over several days, and wasting time when I should be focused on family, or or, or prayer, dwelling on my next "incisive" point.

And grumbling about something my "foe" said or wrote.

This was brought home to me again recently through Facebook.

One of my "Friends" (i.e. I know him, but we've never really been close) - is quite literally a Friend - a Quaker. He is also married to a Catholic, attended Catholic schools, and even worked for Catholic organizations, so he has some insight into the faith and, sadly, its flaws.

Alas, he likes to point out those flaws, and the issues with which he disagrees (women's ordination and so-called same-sex marriage, for example. He also has Friends who are even harsher in their attacks on the Church.

I've been caught up on occasion in arguing about some of the points he and others raise.

He said a couple of things recently that bothered me. I briefly responded, and he responded to my response at length. I knew if I continued I would have to similarly respond at length.

But the other morning I found myself dwelling on what I would write - while at Mass. Once again arguing was getting in the way of focusing on God's great sacrificial gift, something that's happened to me too often.

I resolved not to get caught up in yet another argument in which, given my track record, I was likely to be less than Franciscan (or Christian) in my words and thoughts.

I "unfriended" him. Not out of anger, but out of awareness of my own tendencies and sinfulness.

Beyond my own proclivities, this is a danger to which I think many of us who surf the Internet can fall prey. It's too easy to say things through a keyboard that we might never say to the person's face.

It's too easy to label someone a foe, and to forget he is a brother.

And that he is Christ.

Pax et bonum

Monday, December 26, 2011

Santa has a dream


This past season at the mall - and out - has been an interesting one.

This season I was able to be natural-bearded for the first time.

A young couple became engaged, with the young lady sitting on Santa's lap at the time.

A family with a sense of humor a staged a "protest" - with Santa joining in. (Above)

I was able to help at the Veteran's Outreach Center Christmas Party. And this Wednesday I'll be stopping by a group home for a post-Christmas visit (Santa works up until the Feast of the Epiphany!).

I was featured on the front page of a local paper.

It got me to thinking about the future.

Might it be possible to contact some local advertisers and get some work with them? After all, I can be a natural-bearded Santa for them now. They will be doing their ads in the summer and fall - - before the mall season - and in the summer I'll be off school, so it might be possible to pick up some work. I was asked if I do private parties. Not yet, but could I? More income.

I was also thinking that I should try next season to expand my volunteering. Perhaps the local health/neighborhood centers run by the Sisters of Mercy or the Sisters of St. Joseph to give folks in the city a chance for some visits and photos with Santa without traveling out to the malls or spending lots of money?

Given the local market, it's probably unlikely I could generate enough income to quit my day job for many years yet, but this could be my retirement job. I figure, God willing and my knees holding up, I could do this for about 20 more years, including ten after I can retire. Maybe even longer?

And if I can generate contacts outside the immediate area, maybe I can go at it more full-time sooner?

And what if I used my writing to generate more Santa tales and so sell those? Hmm.

It's a dream. But it's a nice one.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas indeed


The last few days have been joyful ones.

Friday night we went to a family Mass in a barn! It's an annual Christmas tradition on a farm near here, and a fellow teacher who's been involved for years invited me and my bride.

The barn was not heated - coats, hats, and gloves were the order of the day. There were two sheep in the barn who occasionally joined the singing, and a horse. The cows were just outside the door. The Christmas music was folksy - guitars and and a mandolin. The priest joined the musicians for a bluegrass/folk jam after the Mass.

It was wonderful. Maybe a new Christmas tradition for me.

Christmas Eve Day I did 8 hours as Santa's helper at the Mall, for the first time natural-bearded. A steady stream of people. It went smoothly and except for a slight discomfort from sitting for so long, enjoyable. I also found out that an interview I did with a local paper did get published and there I was on the front page with a large picture of me in costume talking to two children. Nice.

Last night, I was semi-awake for once and had a pleasant meal with bride, one daughter, and dad- and brother-in-law.

This morning, Christmas Day!, I was up three hours ahead of everyone else - typical of this early riser - and had some time for reading and thinking. Then opening some gifts, which included much Franciscan and Chestertonian. Ah.

Mass was joyful, and the cantor was wonderful. Her singing raised my spirits even more.

In laws return this afternoon, as will daughter 2. The rejoicing continues.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A small Christmas verse


With ox and ass and manger and hay
St. Francis recalled that holy day.
And before that Greccio scene was done
The Father again provided his Son.

Merry Christmas to all!

Pax et bonum

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Mass Haiku


Thanksgiving Day Mass -
a shaft of sunlight stretches
toward the altar

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving Eve.

Pies baked. Squash cooked. Turkey ready to go into the oven tomorrow. Other foods can be prepared after Mass in the morning.

it's a day for family and food - and, yes, football.

But even more, it's a day set aside to give thanks.

Yet for me, it's just one of many such days.

I thank God each day for things like the moon shining down as I walk the dog, the stars twinkling between the clouds, a rabbit on the neighbor's lawn acting as if I can't see him, birds gracefully circling above a field, a squirrel clinging head down tail twitching on a tree, the sound of a child's laughter, the first taste of newly-opened beer, a familiar song on the radio.

Or even just the fact that I am able to enjoy such things.

Thank you, Lord.

Pax et bonum

Friday, November 11, 2011

Tis the season


Last night I attended Santa School. The new company running the Santa program at the mall required all of Santa's helpers to attend. Tips, checking out costumes, signing some documents, etc.



This year, I will be able to be a natural-bearded helper for the first time - the school where I'm teaching now has allowed me to grow my beard out enough.



I'm excited. My first shift is Sunday.

A Mall Santa's Prayer

As I hold each precious child
let me treat each one
with the love and care I'd show
Your most holy Son.



Pax et bonum

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A 40 Days Surprise

I arrived at the Planned Parenthood clinic to do my regular Saturday morning hour for 40 Days for Life, when I got a pleasant surprise.

Usually when I arrive no one is there. I generally spend most of my shift alone. Sometimes, if I'm lucky, a person who is scheduled for the shift after mine arrives early - or someone with a spare moment stops by - and I get to chat and pray with another person.

Today, I arrived to find 8 women finishing a set of Mysteries of the Rosary. They were there from a Catholic study/prayer group. Several of them were first-timers.

Brief introductions, then some of them had to leave. Others stayed and we said the Glorious Mysteries. I love to say the Rosary by myself, but there's something wonderful about saying it with others.

We got a lot of thumbs-up and positive shout-outs from people driving by or going to the vet's across the street.

After the Glorious Mysteries most of the women had to leave, but a college student - a first-timer - remained with me. Turns out she's planning to be a teacher, so we chatted about that. She said it was nice to hear someone talk about teaching positively. I recommended a book to help with classroom management. We talked a little about music - she's planning to be a music teacher and I'm a guitar thumper. We discussed the pro-life cause, being involved in it, and touched on some safety issues. And then we discovered we had a mutual friend, a woman religious whom I knew long before she joined an order and with whom I'd played in church groups, and we talked about her.

The hour passed by quickly. A new group had arrived - praying down the street right in front of the clinic.

We both had to head out. I wished her well.

Those women - and particularly the young ones - give me hope.
Thank you, Lord, for that Saturday morning gift.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, October 22, 2011

40 Days haiku



outside the clinic
a prayer for each child lost
fallen leaves

Pax et bonum

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Maureen Madonia, SFO, Rest in Peace


Maureen Madonia, a gentle woman and a true Franciscan, passed away October 12 after a battle with leukemia.

She was the treasurer of our fraternity. Her husband, Joe, is our formation director.

She was a delightful person to know. She did so many thoughtful, kind acts.

I will miss her.

But the good thing is that I now have another saint I can ask to pray for me.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Haiku Fun

This afternoon I went to the Haiku Poets of Upstate New York meeting. A great group.

They helped me revise a couple of haiku I was working on. I hope to submit those to some magazines. At the least, I'll use them with my writing class to show my students how even "grown-up" poets revise and seek input from others.

We also had some fun.

The presenter gave us a printout with 100 haiku regarded as classics. After we talked about our favorite ones on the printout, he suggested that we write haiku "inspired" by some of them - more than just parodies, but certainly with a bit of of humor.

I wrote two.

Original:

under the vast sky
I have no hat on (Hosai)

Mine:

into the vast sky
the hat no longer
on my head

Original:

beneath the tree
in the soup, in fish salad
cherry blossoms (Basho)

Mine:

on the table
in soup and salad bowls
dog hairs

Okay - my fellow haiku poets found them amusing!

Pax et bonum

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Saturday Morning Sunshine

I didn't make it to the Transitus celebration this week - that lingering cold. It's the first one I've missed since becoming involved with the Secular Franciscans. I have a physical on Monday and I'll bring that and assorted other ongoing ills to the doctor's attention. I may end up with an antibiotic, an inhaler, a recommendation for pain relief for my hands, and maybe even a heart scan of some sort! Ah, age is creeping up on me.

Whenever I feel under the weather I try to remember to offer it up - and to recall St. Francis' own suffering.

Today, though, I feel better. I'll be off to morning Mass, and then to Planned Parenthood for the 40 Days vigil. Work, the Chesterton Conference, and being sick has kept me from getting down there, and I feel like a prayer slacker! The sunshine and warm weather in the forecast today makes it easier to do it today - and I won't get worried glances from my Good Looking One.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Transforming the Culture: Rochester Chesterton Conference.

Dale Ahlquist was on page 8 of his 9 page presentation on "Apocalypse Later" when he realized he did not have page 9 on the lectern. It was in his briefcase in another room.




Never mind.

A couple of quips, and he ran out to retrieve it, turning what could be for many speakers an embarrassing moment into a bit of whimsy and self-deprecating humor.



Typical fare for a Chesterton Conference.

Ahlquist, President of the American Chesterton Society and host of EWTN series on Chesterton, was one of four speakers for the conference. He was joined by Dr. Tom Martin, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Nebraska, Kearney, who spoke on "The Ultimate Test": Joseph Pearce, author of a myriad of books, including ones on Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Shakespeare, and more, who spoke about "Transforming the Culture Through Beauty"; and Kevin O'Brien, actor, writer and director of Theater of the Word Incorporated, who, well, stepped aside and let Hilaire Belloc "Roar Again."



Lots of observations on the culture. Lots of Chesterton. Lots of conversations in between the talks. Lots of books for sale (of course!).


A delightful day.



Pax et bonum

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

All Clear - Good Sailing Ahead

The biopsy came back negative - much to my relief.

The 40 Days kickoff was a success - and I (and they) made it through my inflicting music on them.

So now, school work.

But I do have the Rochester Chesterton conference to look forward to this Saturday, and the Transitus on Monday.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, September 25, 2011

They asked for a song

I was asked to play some music for the 40 Days for Life kickoff this coming Tuesday. I agreed (ulp) then surveyed the scene when it comes to pro-life songs.

There are some nice pieces out there, but I didn't find a lot that were suited to my voice or my style.

So ...

I decided to start off with "Open the Eyes of My Heart" - explaining that so many people on both sides of the issue need to have their hearts and minds opened to God's loving touch.

For my closing song, I hearkened back to the civil rights movement. Since the pro-life movement IS a civil rights movement, I adapted "We shall overcome" with lines like "We'll pray side by side" and We shall stand for life."

In between, I wrote an original song.

I've been calling it "Just a Choice," though that may not stick.

Here are the words:

3 a.m.
Another night
She’s haunted by
A baby’s cry

In the night
No way to hide
From the emptiness
She feels inside

And all those things
she’d believed
she senses now
she’d been deceived


With a choice
she’s now a mother
who will never
hold her child.

He turns the page
He turns away
The words get lost
In what he can’t say

He’d shown support
He’d gone along
Despite a feeling
That it was wrong

He resents the loss
And that on that day
Society said he
really had no say

Without a choice
He’s now a father
Who will never
Hold his child

Interlude –

We were too young
We were afraid
We were too poor
The time was wrong
It was just a choice
It wasn’t human
It was just cells
It wasn’t alive
It couldn’t feel

It was just a choice
It was just a choice
It was just a choice


Safe within
His mother’s womb
But when she chose
It spelled his doom

He tried to flee
When death came near
He tried to scream
No one could hear

Now he rests
In God’s love
He’s forgiven but
Laments from above

Because of choice
They’re now parents
Who will never
Hold their child

Interlude ….

He wasn’t a choice
He was a child
Who now will never
Be held.

(Now if only the cold I have holds off enough for me to have any voice left!)

Pax et bonum

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Franciscan Mirror

A couple of days ago I received the fall issue of the Franciscan Mirror, the newsletter of the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Region (Upstate New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania) of the Secular Franciscan Order.

It's mailed to all SFOs in the region. It's the first issue I've received since professing July 9. In fact, news of the Rochester profession is in the issue, along with a picture of me and the six other people in our area who professed this summer.

It may sound silly, but it made me smile when I found it in the mail. It's another sign that I'm officially an SFO!

I was unable to make it to our fraternity meeting Friday - a bad cold I did not want to share with others - so the newsletter helped me to connect. And when I went to get a haircut today I was able to share about being a Franciscan with the barber. We were talking about deacons, and he said I seemed like someone who could be a deacon and asked if I'd considered it. I said that I'm actually quite happy to be a Franciscan. He asked what I meant and I told him a bit of history about the Secular Franciscan Order and what we do.

It felt good to witness. Thank you, Lord, for giving me that opportunity.

Pax et bonum

Monday, September 19, 2011

It Really Was a Franciscan Mass

I didn't go to the St. Padre Pio Chapel Mass on Sunday to mark the Feast of the holy Franciscan. But my wife did.

It sounds like it was quite a spiritual adventure!

During the Mass, the deacon prepared some incense. He came out of the sacristy, clouds of scented smoke drifting up.

That's when the smoke detectors went off. The Chapel is also equipped with a sound system that bellows "Fire" when something is detected.

Panic.

It took a while before anyone could figure out how to turn it off. Meanwhile, one poor woman, cowering behind the life-sized statue of St. Francis, started it wobbling, raising fears that it might fall.

Alarms off, the Mass continued. It's at that point that the gathered faithful heard the sounds of approaching sirens. Moments later, fully-equipped fire fighters hustled into the Chapel and up to the altar. A priest, a deacon, a choir, a large number of worshipers, and firefighters all mixed together.

I can't help but think Saints Pio and Francis were having a good laugh.

Pax et bonum

Slice and Burn

Yes, it sounds gross. But that's what the dermatologist did.

First, she cut off the offending growth on my face, keeping it for the biopsy. Then she cauterized the spot.

Hate that smell.

So tonight I have a little pain - not bad, really - and a bandage on my face. The site will have to be kept under bandage, with a dab of petroleum jelly, for four days or so as it heals. The biopsy results are due in about two weeks.

But the dermatologist said that the growth did not look like a typical cancer-type growth - though, of course, she couldn't say for sure. Still, that's encouraging.

If it's not cancer, I'm done. If it is cancerous, I have to go back for further excavating.

It is amazing the skill doctors have. I'm lucky to live in a place where I can get something disfiguring removed so easily. (I know, as a Franciscan, perhaps I shouldn't be so vain!)

Pax et bonum

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A weekend of work

One of the joys of being a teacher is that when the bell rings for dismissal, your work continues!

I have four class sets of exams to grade this weekend - about 8 hours worth. And lessons to plan, worksheets to create, a sub plan for the class I miss Monday while I get my biopsy, and an essay to prep for my writing class.

In between, I have to go to Church tonight to set up for Mass tomorrow and to rehearse the music - about two hours, and tomorrow I will play at Mass, then remove all the equipment before the next Mass.

I also have to practice the songs I'm doing for the 40 Days Kick-off Rally (I'm in the process of writing an original song as part of the set!). I also have to send out some news releases about the 40 Days campaign.

Meanwhile, the biopsy is on my mind.

But ... I'm happy!

I got to go to Mass this morning. I got to join fellow pro-lifers in praying outside Planned Parenthood. I got to catch up on some e-mail while getting focused for the work ahead. I Ate a lunch full of veggies from our own garden. I have a job I like. I have some wonderful students and co-workers.

Life is good.

Today is Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis. He rejoiced in his suffering - in his sharing of Christ's suffering. My little distractions and concerns pale in comparison. I offer them up.

And I focus on the joys of this day.

Amen the Amen!

Pax et bonum

Sunday, September 11, 2011

It may be nothing, but ...

A couple of weeks ago a bump on my face started to grow. It's now about four/five times the size it was, and noticeable. Just the thing for the beginning of the school year.

I called my doctor and got an appointment for last Friday.

The physician assistant examined the lesion, and checked my lymph nodes. She referred me to a dermatologist for a biopsy. I got the impression she thought I should schedule it soon.

The dermatologist's office was closed by the time I could call, so I'll have to call on Monday to set up an appointment.

It may be nothing. But I would be lying if I didn't admit I am uneasy.

I could use a few prayers!

Pax et bonum

Monday, September 5, 2011

Back in the classroom again

Tomorrow we have a faculty retreat and preparation time. On Wednesday the students arrive.

I'm back in the classroom again.

Of course, this marks the 11th year in a row now that I've been "back" in the classroom and my 17th first day overall (interrupted by a dozen years as a print journalist).

I am excited, nervous, ready, but not ready.

The last couple of days I've been planning what I would do in each class for the first couple of days, creating some worksheets and puzzles. I also went in to the school to decorate my homeroom. I still have to find a nice image of St. Francis to put up. Or maybe a San Damiano Cross.

In the last couple of days I've also seen in some conservative Catholic websites and blogs reports of a new study that's critical of Catholic schools.

The two-year study from an organization called Cardus - I plead ignorance of who or what that organization is - apparently does not paint a pretty picture of Catholic schools.

According to the study, students who attend Catholic schools, when compared with Catholics who attend public schools, are less likely to believe in moral absolutes, to respect the authority of the Catholic Church, to believe in the infallibility of Scripture, or to condemn premarital sex.

Of course, it's led to my more traditional brothers and sisters lamenting the state of Catholic education, the presence of non-Catholic teachers and students in the schools, and so on and so on.

I'm not trying to challenge or argue with them and their conclusions here. I have no data to counter or respond to their theories and conclusions.

On a positive note, I can say that my school is starting the year with that staff retreat, starts every day with a prayer over the P.A., suggests all teachers start each class with a prayer, has weekly prayer services and Communion services, is developing a program to require all students to be involved is social ministry projects, and much more. My department head and I were talking the other day about trying to get more Bible into the classroom.

As for the non-Catholic students, as one school official said, their parents knew what school they were sending their children to and the Catholic environment there. It's part of the package.

I know that my faith and my Franciscanism will not be hidden. I won't club my students over the head, certainly. I will be sensitive to the beliefs of students of other faiths, and I won't arbitrarily bring faith into class discussions. But I will no longer feel the need to hide my own beliefs - as I had to do at my previous school.

I'm looking forward to that.

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Oops

I was at a planning meeting for our local 40 Days for Life campaign. They were talking about the kick-off rally. Speakers had been asked and agreed to talk, a short video had been selected, a candle-light vigil was discussed, and then ... the subject of some music for the rally came up. One of the planners said, "We have someone here who plays guitar."

They all looked at me.

Oops.

Um, well, ah, I agreed.

If God gave me the ability to play and sing, shouldn't I use it for His work? That's a debate I have with myself all the time. Being in a band or the choir is one thing - I can hide behind the other musicians. But me solo? At my fraternity the possibility of me providing music has been raised. I've just smiled and avoided it so far.

But as for the rally - what do I play??

I kidded that I could rewrite a Lennon tune ("All we are saying, is give life a chance ...").

As I drove home I thought maybe I could try to write a song. I started running through some images and ideas. Nothing gelled, though I did get some line ideas, and a working title: "The Choice."

When I got home I searched online for pro-life songs. None hit me as tunes I could do or would feel comfortable doing. I did see one 40 Days rally with "They'll Know We Are Christians." I suppose if nothing else comes up I might consider that one.

Still mulling, this morning I thought of "Open the Eyes of My Heart" as a possibility. I always liked it, and I have music for it. I practiced it for a few minutes before Mass, transposing it to a more comfortable key for me. It might just work.

At Mass, suddenly I got an idea of what to do with the lines I came up for the original song. Three verses and a bridge. When I came home, I even tested out a bit of music that could go with it. Maybe ...

Assuming I finish the song and it's not too sappy, and I do sing "Open the Eyes of My Heart, I would still probably need a third song.

"Imagine there's no Planned Parenthood ...."

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A question - and a response

At a discussion site, I was asked the following:

Your Morning Mass Thingy--

I never understood the people who go to church merely for the fact that they believe if they do not go then they will go to hell.

I go to hear an informational, maybe uplifing, homily and to listen to the readings.

I usually try and take the message of the week and apply it in my world.

Never do I feel bd when I do not go.

What's your take??

I responded:

I go to Mass not because it's an obligation, or a rule, or a sin if I don't go. I go to be with the one I love and the one who so loved me He created me and was willing to die for me. I WANT to be there, just as I wanted to be with a girlfriend or my wife - only more so! I want to spend time with Him, to thank Him, to talk to Him, just to be with Him. Yes, I can be with Him in the woods, or on a mountainside, or while walking the dog, but Mass is a special time - a "date" of sorts. I go to hear a homily, to be with like-minded people, to feel a sense of community, to sing, true. But even more I go to be with my Lord, and so even a lousy homily, terrible music, irreverent people can't ruin it. I'm with HIm. When I miss Mass, I feel a sense of loss, just I have in the past when away from my family, my wife, my loved ones.

--------

My response was hurried, and perhaps not worded in the best way. Someone said some positive things about it, noting though that it was a bit "over the top."

I replied:

Over the top? Perhaps - but then, don't we celebrate passionate love?

Litany of the Love of God
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us. Christ graciously hear us.
God, the Father of heaven,
Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Ghost,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God,
Have mercy on us.
Thou Who art Infinite Love,
Have mercy on us.
Thou Who didst first love me,
Have mercy on us.
Thou Who commandest me to love Thee,
Have mercy on us.

With all my heart,
I Love Thee, O My God
With all my soul,
I Love Thee, O My God
With all my mind,
I Love Thee, O My God
With all my strength,
I Love Thee, O My God
Above all possessions and honors,
I Love Thee, O My God
Above all pleasures and enjoyments,
I Love Thee, O My God
More than myself, and everything belonging to me,
I Love Thee, O My God
More than all my relatives and friends,
I Love Thee, O My God
More than all men and angels,
I Love Thee, O My God
Above all created things in heaven or on earth,
I Love Thee, O My God
Only for Thyself,
I Love Thee, O My God
Because Thou art the sovereign Good,
I Love Thee, O My God
Because Thou art infinitely worthy of being loved,
I Love Thee, O My God
Because Thou art infinitely perfect,
I Love Thee, O My God
Even hadst Thou not promised me heaven,
I Love Thee, O My God
Even hadst Thou not menaced me with hell,
I Love Thee, O My God
Even shouldst Thou try me by want and misfortune,
I Love Thee, O My God
In wealth and in poverty,
I Love Thee, O My God
In prosperity and in adversity,
I Love Thee, O My God
In health and in sickness,
I Love Thee, O My God
In life and in death,
I Love Thee, O My God
In time and in eternity,
I Love Thee, O My God
In union with that love wherewith all the saints and all the angels love Thee in heaven,
I Love Thee, O My God
In union with that love wherewith the Blessed Virgin Mary loveth Thee,
I Love Thee, O My God
In union with that infinite love wherewith Thou lovest Thyself eternally,
I Love Thee, O My God
My God, Who dost possess in incomprehensible abundance all that is perfect and worthy of love, annihilate in me all guilty, sensual, and undue love for creatures. Kindle in my heart the pure fire of Thy love, so that I may love nothing but Thee or in Thee, until being so entirely consumed by holy love of Thee, I may go to love Thee eternally with the elect in heaven, the country of pure love. Amen.

His Holiness, Pope Pius VI, for private use

And then I cited:


How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. 
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height 
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight 
For the ends of being and ideal grace. 
I love thee to the level of every day's 
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. 
I love thee freely, as men strive for right. 
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise. 
I love thee with the passion put to use 
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith. 
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose 
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath, 
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose, 
I shall but love thee better after death.

Ah, but I only wish I could be conscious of that love every time I go to Mass!

Pax et bonum

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Franciscan Prayer for School




One of the great things about the school where I'll be teaching this year is that we can pray before every class. I'd been looking for a short Franciscan prayer - and then found just what I needed

St. Francis: Prayer Before the Crucifix.

Most High,
glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart.
Give me,
right faith,
sure hope,
and perfect charity.
Fill me with understanding
and knowledge,
that I may carry out
Your holy and true command.
Amen.

The prayer is one St. Francis composed at the foot of the crucifix in the church of San Damiano, where he received the command, "Francis, go and repair my house, which, as you see, is falling completely into ruin."

Father Jack Wintz, O.F.M., includes this prayer in his book, Friar Jack's Favorite Prayers. He notes "each time I pray it, I am more and more convinced that it reveals the authentic heart of St. Francis."

It begins, he observes, not focused on "some dark misery of the soul. Rather it begins focused on the glory and sublime beauty of God."

Father Wintz says he likes the fact Francis asked God to enlighten the darkness of his "heart" rather than "mind," as "heart" seems more the real St. Francis.

"Heart suggests the complexities of human love and the mystery of one's innermost longing - with all its related joys and sorrows."

I like the request that God fill whoever is saying the prayer with the understanding and knowledge needed to carry out His command, which is to reach out to humanity with "perfect charity" - to show others the same kind of love God has shown us.

It seems appropriate to ask for knowledge and understanding in a school prayer - and with a reminder to me as the teacher to show charity for my students!

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ulp Moments

Teacher meetings are next week. Students arrive the following Wednesday. So much reading and prep yet to do!

I met with the former moderator of the school paper today. I'll be taking it over this year. I was concerned that she might not be happy about not moderating it, but she welcomed that.

She had plenty of good advice and suggestions. Great.

But it's going to take some work just getting it off the ground. Knowing she was not going to be moderating it this year, and not knowing what the new moderator would want, she didn't pick the new editors at the end of last year (as is normally done). That means that I have to take a week or so naming editors before we can even start planning issues. There are some good people who were on the paper last year who, hopefully, will want to return. If so, we'll be fine. If not - that's where an "ulp" comes in.

I'm looking at the paper as a long-term project. We'll make some simple improvements this year - getting out one more issue than last year, better photos, for example - then building it up more in the years ahead.

A lot of work.

Pretty exciting!

Pax et bonum

Monday, August 22, 2011

Perceptions


I was taking part in a discussion about Catholic school experiences. My fellow discussers were telling "horror" stories and generally mocking their experiences. I was pointing out all the positive experiences and effects my 12 years of Catholic schooling had given me.

Besides the fact that I as usual became somewhat defensive in my responses (sigh), it also hit me that our differing perceptions were in their own ways true, but that our "truths" were formed by what we chose to remember.

As I put it elsewhere: One thing I've learned is that how we perceive something depends in large part on how we choose to perceive it.

I thought of St. Francis and lepers.

When he was young, he abhorred lepers, as did many people in his society. They were ugly, deformed, diseased. They had open wounds. They were missing body parts. There were often dirty and smelled. They were treated as outcasts, as vile sinners.

But when he learned to look with the eyes of faith, he saw Christ in them. They were beautiful. They were to be loved.

The lepers had not changed. Francis did.

In the same way, saints over the years perceived the beauty in others the world often regarded negatively. Mother Teresa. Catherine Doherty. Dorothy Day. Father Damian. Peter Claver.

I think of so many good people today who run homeless shelters, health clinics, hospices, who work with the physically and mentally and spiritually ill.

These holy people are not blind. They see the sicknesses, the deformities, the sins. But they choose to focus on what is good and beautiful.

They choose to focus on Jesus in others.

I pray that I might find the strength to choose to see what they see.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Spiritual reading - maybe something art related?

I've been doing a lot of school-related reading - I have to finish the summer reading books before I test the students on them in three weeks, after all! It's enjoyable reading, as is the reading of the works we'll be doing in class to start the year.

But I've been missing out on spiritual reading.

I tried some mystical Franciscan poetry, but found it hard to follow after reading all that school related stuff.

I looked on my shelf.

That's when I spotted one of those books I'd been meaning to read, but it got stuck on the shelf between some other books and was overlooked.

The Beauty of Faith: Using Christians Art to Spread the Good News by Jem Sullivan. With a forward by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. And the text of Pope John Paul II's 1999 "Letter to Artists."

Hmm.

It's short. I'll give it a shot. Then dive into something Franciscan.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Archbishop Romero on Peace

Peace is not the product of terror or fear.

Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.

Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.

Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.

Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity.

It is right and it is duty.


-- Archbishop Oscar Romero

Pax et bonum

Shhh

Over the years I have written several blogs - including a couple of group ones.

One of the blogs, my first one, was my main one. That one had more than 2,000 posts stretching back over six years. It included poetry, stories, silliness, music videos, and more. The "more" included views on politics and social issues - sometimes strong views.

I was hired this summer to teach at a school where the students are computer savvy, so I knew it was only a matter of time before they found the blog. I changed some things about it, but I and it could still be found online. So, after talking with my new principal, I retired that blog, and basically blocked it. I have kept the posts there only because there are some that I want to save - but I don't have time before the school year begins to go through more than 2000 to save the ones worth saving. I'm hoping all the things I've done to hide it and block it will be enough to prevent student access.

Then there's this blog.

It's less well known. It's harder to find. My name is not on it. And in this one I don't get into the political/social discussions I did on my other bog. The principal said that the group blogs - one devoted to Chesterton, for example, or one for my Secular Franciscan group, should be no problem. I'm hoping that's the case with this one.

And perhaps it is for the best. I tend to be a contentious person, and sometimes my views are not expressed in the most Franciscan-like ways. Plus, that blog was sometimes a way to show off or even to attack and goad others. Maybe God is using this to help me move away from such things - online, and in daily life.

For now, I will continue to post here on spiritual matters, especially ones focusing on my journey as a Franciscan.

Pax et bonum

Friday, August 19, 2011

Oh yeah?


I'm still working on this Franciscan thing. I like to argue and brag too much. I suspect I won't get it right until I go Home!

Pax et bonum

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Little Flowers of St. Francis, Chapter II

OF BROTHER BERNARD OF QUINTAVALLE, THE FIRST COMPANION OF ST FRANCIS

The first companion of St Francis was Brother Bernard of Assisi, who was converted in the following way: St Francis had not yet taken the religious habit, though he had renounced the world, and had so given himself to penance and mortification that many looked upon him as one out of his mind. He was scoffed at as a madman, was rejected and despised by his relations and by strangers, who threw stones and mud at him when he passed; yet he went on his way, accepting these insults as patiently as if he had been deaf and dumb. Then Bernard of Assisi, one of the richest and most learned nobles of the city, began to consider deeply the conduct of St Francis; how utterly he despised the world, how patiently he suffered injuries, and how his faith remained firm, though he had been for two years an object of contempt and rejected by all. He began to think and say within himself, "It is evident that this brother must have received great graces from God"; and so resolved to invite him to sup and to sleep in his house. St Francis having accepted the invitation, Bernard, who was resolved to contemplate the sanctity of his guest, ordered a bed to be prepared for him in his own room, where a lamp burned all night. Now St Francis, in order to conceal his sanctity, so soon as he entered the room, threw himself upon the bed, pretending to fall asleep. Bernard likewise soon after went to bed, and began to snore as if sleeping soundly. On this, St Francis, thinking that Bernard was really fast asleep, got up and began to pray. Raising his hands and eyes to heaven, he exclaimed with great devotion and fervour, "My God! my God!" at the same time weeping bitterly; and thus he remained on his knees all night, repeating with great love and fervour the words, "My God! my God!" and none others.

And this he did because, being enlightened by the Holy Spirit, he contemplated and admired the divine majesty of God, who deigned to take pity on the perishing world, and to save not only the soul of Francis, his poor little one, but those of many others also through his means. For, being enlightened by the Holy Ghost, he foresaw the great things which God would deign to accomplish through him and through his Order; and considering his insufficiency and unworthiness, he prayed and called upon the Lord, through his power and wisdom, to supply, help and accomplish that which of himself he could not do.

Then Bernard, seeing by the light of the lamp the devout actions of St Francis and the expression of his countenance, and devoutly considering the words he uttered, was touched by the Holy Spirit, and resolved to change his life. Next morning, therefore, he called St Francis, and thus addressed him: "Brother Francis, I am disposed in heart wholly to leave the world, and to obey thee in all things as thou shalt command me." At these words, St Francis rejoiced in spirit and said, "Bernard, a resolution such as thou speakest of is so difficult and so great an act, that we must take counsel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and pray to him that he may be pleased to show us what is his will, and may teach us to follow it. Let us then go together to the Bishop's palace, where we shall find a good priest who will say Mass for us. We will then remain in prayer till the third hour, imploring the Lord to point out to us the way he wishes us to select, and to this intent we will open the Missal three times." And when Bernard answered that he was well pleased with this proposal, they set out together, heard Mass, and after they had remained in prayer till the time fixed, the priest, at the request of St Francis, took up Missal, then, having made the sign of the holy cross, he opened it three times, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The first place which he lit upon was at the answer of Christ to the young man who asked of him the way to perfection: If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell all that thou hast and give to the poor, and come, follow me. The second time he opened at the words which the Saviour addressed to the Apostles when he sent them forth to preach the Word of Truth: Take nothing with you for your journey: neither staff, nor scrip, nor bread, nor money; wishing to teach them thereby to commit the care of their lives to him, and give all their thoughts to the preaching of the Holy Gospel. When the Missal was opened a third time they came upon these words: If any one will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Then St Francis, turning to Bernard, said: "This is the advice that the Lord has given us; go and do as thou hast heard; and blessed be the Lord Jesus Christ who has pointed out to thee the way of his angelic life." Upon this, Bernard went and sold all that he had. Now he was very rich, and with great joy he distributed his wealth to widows, to orphans, to prisoners, to monasteries, to hospitals, and to pilgrims, in all which St Francis assisted him with prudence and fidelity.

Now it happened that a man of the name of Silvester, seeing how St Francis gave so much money to the poor, being urged on by avarice, went to him and said: "Thou didst not pay me enough for the stones I sold thee to repair the church; now that thou hast money, pay me what thou owest." St Francis, much surprised at such a demand, but, according to the precepts of the Scriptures, not wishing to dispute with him, gave it to Silvester, saying that, if he wanted more, he would give it to him. Silvester, being satisfied, returned home; but in the evening of the same day he reflected on his avarice, and on the holiness and the fervour of St Francis. That night also he saw St Francis in a vision, and it seemed to him as if a golden cross came out of his mouth, which reached up to heaven and extended to the extreme east and west. After this vision he gave all he possessed to the poor, for the love of God, and made himself a Brother Minor. He became so holy, and was favoured with such special graces, that he spake with the Lord as a friend speaks with a friend, of which St Francis was often a witness, as we shall see further on. Bernard likewise received from God many graces - he was ravished in contemplation, and St Francis said he was worthy of all reverence, and that he had founded the Order, because he was the first who had abandoned the world, giving all he possessed to the poor of Christ, keeping back nothing for himself; and practising evangelical poverty, placing himself naked in the arms of the Crucified, whom may we all bless eternally. Amen.

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rosary - and religious art

When I say the Rosary, I try to meditate on the Mysteries.

Perhaps meditate is too strong a word for my weak efforts.

I think about them, how I can relate to the experiences and feelings in each mystery, and how they might apply to my life. More often, I simply focus on an image related to the particular Mystery.

Most of the images that come to mind are based on classic paintings and icons. Perhaps my imagination is not rich to come up with images of my own.

It occurred to me that even if focusing on such images is not as deep as meditating on the Mysteries might go, it is still a worthy thing. And it is a worthy thing that would be harder if not for centuries of great religious art. This is argument art education, and for works of art in churches, schools, and our homes.

It is also an argument for the creation of more art. Each generation, each civilization needs good art that can help fire up the imagination and bring the faith to life. Alas, I can't think of too many contemporary pieces that can do this - but that might be to my own limited knowledge.

One area for such creativity is film. The 13th Day is full of rich images. Jesus of Nazareth also comes to mind. (Many people also find The Passion of the Christ inspiring; alas, I find it too violent for my tastes.) There are a few other films I sometimes think of.

I'm sure there are wonderful paintings, sculptures, films, and more out there. I need their beauty and devout passion to help inspire me. I need to seek them out. And maybe I also need to create some images of my own.

Or maybe I need to meditate more deeply!

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A stumble

I was talking on the phone and a former coworker came up. I had learned something questionable about the person. I knew I shouldn't - I consciously thought that I shouldn't, there was no need to share it - but I went ahead and shared it.

My mouth again.

It's all well and good to proclaim myself a professed Secular Franciscan, but I need to learn to act like one.

Lord, help me to resist temptation to talk when I shouldn't.

Pax et bonum

Secular Franciscan Order Prayer for Vocations

NATIONAL PRAYER FOR VOCATIONS
TO THE
SECULAR FRANCISCAN ORDER

O Good and Gracious God,
God of mercy, compassion, generosity,
and love,
As we live our lives today
in the model of St. Francis,
choosing daily to live
the Gospel life,
Help us to help others
hear Your call.
Help us to help others
to recognize their vocation
as a Secular Franciscan
that You have already
planted in their heart.
Help us, so that together
we all may work
to bring the Gospel to life.
Amen!
Marian R. Crosby, SFO
NAFRA Chapter 2010
Scottsdale, AZ Pax et bonum

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It's all about me (the rest of you are wrong!)

In cleaning out some old files, I came across old performance reviews from previous jobs.

Some of them were not good.

Indeed, I left a couple of jobs after bad reviews - usually voluntarily, sometimes not.

I quit my last job in part because of a review I considered unfair. It was my choice to leave, but there was still a bad taste in my mouth.

However, in looking at some of those previous bad reviews, I saw some patterns.

I grumbled defensively in every case about the review being unfair and inaccurate.

Yet some of the things they criticized me for - some of the things I got defensive about - were fair criticisms. I tend to offend with my sense of humor. I tend to come across as arrogant. I tend to be sarcastic. I tend to seem angry and hostile. I tend to have a hard time interacting with others and relating to them.

I've always tried to excuse my words and actions by saying I have an off-beat sense of humor or that I'm reserved. Those traits may be true of me, but I relied on them as excuses rather than trying to change or grow when I could or should.

Now that I'm starting a new job, I'm working on making a conscious effort to watch my words and to interact better with others. I'm trying to smile more and to focus on the positive. I'm trying to bite my tongue when I want to make some smart aleck or critical remark. I'm trying to make time for others, to listen to them and to show them that I care about them.

With God's help, maybe this time I'll get it right!

Pax et bonum

Sunday, July 10, 2011

At the abbey

At the Abbey of the Genesee
between hours
the chapel was mostly dark
and quiet
and empty
except for one monk
engaged in some devotions
our Lord in the tabernacle
and us
praying silently.

But outside
the rustling leaves
the singing birds
the chirping insects
chanted their own
praises
to the Creator.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Profession Day

I made my profession today. I am now officially a Secular Franciscan.

Alleluia!

Pax et bonum

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Seeing Jesus in Others

Next Saturday I will make my profession as a member of the Secular Franciscan Order.

I am excited.

I am unworthy.

To prepare, I went to Confession today.

I've been troubled lately by the usual sins - the weaknesses that Satan uses to disturb my soul and to pry me away from the Lord.

One of those failings is being critical of others. I'm not talking about legitimately (and respectfully) pointing out errors for the purpose of helping others and advancing the Kingdom. I'm talking about all the pettiness, sarcasm, and negativity to which I am prone.

Father had a suggestion: Think of these people I'm criticising as Jesus. See Jesus in them.

I thought of some of the people I'm inclined to criticize. Ironically, one of them is the very priest to whom I was confessing!

Jesus?

Yes, He is indeed in each of these persons, and so when I mock, tear down, cling to ill-feelings, gossip about these others, I am doing it to Jesus.

Sorry Lord. Please, help me to be open to Your Saving Grace as I face these temptations. Help me to be aware that I am not alone.

Help me always to be aware that each person I meet is You.

Pax et bonum

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Evangelization and the Secular Franciscan Order

At our last fraternity meeting, we had a representative of the regional organization.

She had some positive observations. She also suggested that we work at promoting the fraternity to attract more members - and to help more people discover the Secular Franciscan Order and to discern if they have a calling.

Indeed, there may be people who would be attracted, who are called, but have never even heard of the SFO.

After I left the meeting, I thought of my father.

He was a very successful insurance salesman who won awards for the number of policies he sold.

Dad was never "off." He'd chat up people and distribute his card no matter where we were. Many a waitress got a generous tip and his business card when we went out to lunch, for example. Fix his car? You got his business card. Sell him some tools or grass seed? He'd leave a card with you. He'd even mail greeting cards to customers and even prospective customers to help mark significant events - marriages, births, new homes, and so on - just to keep his name before them.

I and my fellow SFOs could learn a lot from him about reaching out to others.

The representative suggested that we leave information about the fraternity in various places. There was even joking about leaving some at dentist offices.

I've been taking her advice. I ran off some of the fraternity's trifold brochures and have been leaving them in churches I visit and the St. Padre Pio Chapel. I'll be taking some to the local Catholic bookstore, and this Saturday I'll give one to each of the persons gathered at Planned Parenthood to pray.

I'll keep on looking for places to leave them.

Pax et bonum

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Franciscan Moment With Brother Rat


My wife is for the birds.

Literally.

She's a member of Audubon.

Our backyard has several feeders and birdhouses. We have to make regular runs to buy 40-pound bags of seeds.

But along with the birds come some other critters.

Squirrels. (For whom I have a certain fondness, so we also feed them!)

Chipmunks. (Not singing, though.)

A woodchuck. A large fellow that makes my dog nervous.

And ...

At least one rat.

He took up residence under the garage, and has been spotted making runs out to seed debris beneath the largest feeder.

My wife refers to him as Rattus rattus. But since he's a brown rat, he's technically Rattus norvegicus. Not that it matters.

He's a rat.

The other guests are welcome. But Brother Rat, while still one of God's creatures, is an uninvited guest.

Besides, he and/or his brothers and sisters got into some books I had stored in the garage.

Now I know Francis was not a big fan of books, but to chew them that way ....

Options:

Poison.

A deadly rat trap.

A capture alive trap.

I opted for the latter.

Yesterday, a chipmunk. I let him go in the yard.

This morning, Rattus norvegicus was in there.

He did not look happy.

After morning Mass, I took him to a nearby park where there's a picnic area and a large often-full dumpster. Mmmmm.

I released the lock on the trap. He leaped out in mid air, hit the grass running, and was gone.

I didn't even get a chance to preach to him!

We'll watch to see is any of his buddies show up under the bird feeder before resetting the trap.

As for Brother Rat, I hope he eats well and has a long happy life.

Just not in our yard.

Pax et bonum

Lift the City - a Franciscan Eucharistic flash mob



This is wonderful!

Pax et bonum

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Franciscan quotation

Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.

~ St. Francis of Assisi

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Prayer by St. Thomas More, SFO

Give me the grace, Good Lord

To set the world at naught. To set the mind firmly on You and not to hang upon the words of men's mouths.

To be content to be solitary. Not to long for worldly pleasures. Little by little utterly to cast off the world and rid my mind of all its business.

Not to long to hear of earthly things, but that the hearing of worldly fancies may be displeasing to me.

Gladly to be thinking of God, piteously to call for His help. To lean into the comfort of God. Busily to labor to love Him.

To know my own vileness and wretchedness. To humble myself under the mighty hand of God. To bewail my sins and, for the purging of them, patiently to suffer adversity.

Gladly to bear my purgatory here. To be joyful in tribulations. To walk the narrow way that leads to life.

To have the last thing in remembrance. To have ever before my eyes my death that is ever at hand. To make death no stranger to me. To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of Hell. To pray for pardon before the judge comes.

To have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me. For His benefits unceasingly to give Him thanks.

To buy the time again that I have lost. To abstain from vain conversations. To shun foolish mirth and gladness. To cut off unnecessary recreations.

Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss at naught, for the winning of Christ.

To think my worst enemies my best friends, for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.

These minds are more to be desired of every man than all the treasures of all the princes and kings, Christian and heathen, were it gathered and laid together all in one heap.

Amen

(Written while a prisoner in the Tower of London)

Pax et bonum

St. Thomas More


Today is the Feast Day of St. Thomas More - martyr, humanist, writer, Chancellor of England for Henry VIII, and Secular Franciscan.

He died rather than accept Henry's attempt to divorce his wife, and then to break from the Catholic Church.

Pax et bonum

Monday, June 20, 2011

St. Francis: Corpus Christi Reflections

Let the entire man be seized with fear;
let the whole world tremble;
let heaven exult when Christ,
the Son of the Living God,
is on the altar in the hands of the priest.

O admirable height and stupendous condescension!
O humble sublimity!
O sublime humility!
that the Lord of the universe,
God and the Son of God,
so humbles Himself that for our salvation
He hides Himself under a morsel of bread.

Consider, brothers, the humility of God
and "pour out your hearts before Him,
and be ye humbled that ye may be exalted by Him.

Do not therefore keep back anything for yourselves
that He may receive you entirely
who gives Himself up
entirely to you.

- From the "Letter to all the Friars

Pax et bonum

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Three Weeks to Profession

The time is drawing near: On July 9, I will be professed.

I feel a sense of relief that the profession formation process is nearing its end - though, of course, formation will continue for the rest of my life. I also feel a sense of unworthiness, knowing how un-Franciscan-like my thoughts, words, and actions can be, and how inconsistent and weak my prayer life is. Room for more growth!

But most of all, I feel joy. I will be part of a world-wide family, a family dedicated to loving and serving the Lord.

After years as a lone child, I now have thousands of brothers and sisters!

Pax et bonum

Monday, May 23, 2011

By their fruits ...

I have three daughters. They've all grown up and moved from home.

They are good, caring young women. They all have jobs - something to be thankful for these days.

But not one of them has remained Catholic. None of them goes to church - any church. They hold views on some issues that go against Catholic teachings.

Only one is married, and she's getting divorced. There are no grandchildren - and there doesn't seem any chances of even one in the near future.

I know that they are adults and so how they live is between them and God. I can't make them believe or go to church.

And I know that they are young and that like many other young people they may eventually return to faith.

But there's still a part of me that looks at my own personal and faith failings and how they affected them. I was not always the best Catholic - I even left the Church for a while. I have not always acted in the most Christian ways. My marriage to their mother failed for a number of reasons, some of them my fault.

Had I been a better role model, had I been a better father and husband, had I acted more proactively, maybe their paths would be different. Maybe.

Or maybe not.

But still, I have to take responsibility for not doing a better job as a father and a spiritual shepherd.

God forgive me.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Social Media Awareness

Luke 12:3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. (Catholic RSV)

A teacher acquaintance of mine had a very nice blog - one that I read regularly and enjoyed. It was clever and funny, and she often had good insights.

She has suspended it for the time being.

From what I gather, the reason she did so was that some parents complained about it in some way. I don't know how many parents actually complained - it could have been just one set of parents - what exactly was the nature of their complaints.

The blog was certainly not controversial - mine is far more so, and mine is tame compared to some I've seen. She did not dwell on political matters or social issues. But maybe she revealed too much about her personal life and her teaching experiences. Perhaps some of her students found it and started reading and commenting on it, breaking down the barrier we teachers are supposed to keep these days between ourselves and our students.

I've heard of teachers who did get in trouble for what they've published on blogs or Facebook or other such sites. They made comments that they would not make in class or posted pictures that were not appropriate.

Teachers have been fired because of such things.

As far as I can tell, none of that was true of my acquaintance's blog. But nevertheless it's now silent.

As teachers, we have to be careful.

But it goes beyond fear for our jobs.

As Christians - and Franciscans - we are called to be exemplary in how we speak and how we act, and to avoid things that can lead us into sin. We should speak out - or write - about the moral issues of the day, but we are called to do so in a loving respectful way.

When it comes to social media, Pope Benedict has urged us to use it, but to it wisely, "to contribute to the satisfaction of the desire for meaning, truth and unity which remain the most profound aspirations of each social being."

Of course, even something is said in a loving respectful - even innocent - way can draw strong responses.

Her experience is a cautionary tale for me.

I've been lucky in that I teach at a Christian school where because of their beliefs the students and their parents do not use social media - and have only limited internet access. Some of my posts on social issues or politics have not been a problem. But if I do go to another school some day, I will have to be more careful and perhaps in some cases use less strong language.

My mouth, my opinionated remarks, and my sense of humor have gotten me in trouble in the past.

As Luke notes above, what we say in the dark may come to light, and even when we think we are whispering in private "chat rooms" we may find our words proclaimed from the housetops (or cited by our employers!).

I hope my acquaintance will be able to blog again some day.

I hope I don't have to stop doing so myself some day.

Friday, March 11, 2011

St. Francis' Lenten Fast


(from The Little Flowers of St. Francis)

HOW ST FRANCIS PASSED THE TIME OF LENT IN AN ISLAND, ON THE LAKE OF PERUGIA, WHERE HE FASTED FORTY DAYS AND FORTY NIGHTS, EATING NO MORE THAN HALF OF ONE LOAF

The true servant of Christ, St Francis, was in certain things like unto a second Christ given to the world for the salvation of souls. Wherefore God the Father willed that in many points he should be conformed to his Son, Jesus Christ, as we have already explained in the calling of his twelve companions, as also in the mystery of the holy stigmata, and in a fast of forty days which he made in the manner following:St Francis, one day of the Carnival, was near the Lake of Perugia, in the house of one of his devout children, with whom he had spent the night, when he was inspired by God to go and pass the time of Lent in an island on the lake. Wherefore St Francis begged his friend, for the love of God, to convey him in his boat to an island uninhabited by man: the which he should do during the night of Ash-Wednesday, so that none might know where he was; and the friend, because of the great devotion he bore to St Francis, agreed to his request, and conveyed him to the said island, St Francis taking with him naught but two small loaves.

When they had reached the island, his friend left him and returned home; the saint earnestly entreating him to reveal to no one where he was, and not to come and fetch him before Holy Thursday; to which he consented.St Francis being left alone, and there being no dwelling in the island in which he could take shelter, entered into a thick part of the wood all overgrown with brambles and other creeping plants, and forming as it were a kind of hut, there he began to pray and enter into the contemplation of divine things. And there he passed the whole of Lent without drinking or eating save half of one of the small loaves he had taken with him, as we learned from his friend who, going to fetch him on Holy Thursday, found one of the loaves untouched and the other only half consumed. It is believed that St Francis ate this half out of reverence for our Blessed Lord, who fasted forty days and forty nights without taking any material food; for by eating this bit of bread he put aside the temptation to vainglory, and yet fasted forty days and forty nights in imitation of the Saviour. In later times God worked many miracles, through the merits of the saint, on the spot where St Francis had fasted so wonderfully, on which account people began to build houses and dwell there, and little by little a town rose up, with a convent called the Convent of the Isle; and to this day the inhabitants of that town hold in great respect and great devotion the spot in which St Francis passed the time of Lent.

(What an example: To eat a little just to avoid vainglory. How often I feel compelled to call attention to myself for lesser deeds.)

Pax et bonum

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Formation: Final readings

I finished the last formal formation lesson - a discussion of the importance of Jesus and following His example for Franciscians, and, of course, Christians as a whole. There was a wonderful excerpt from Chesterton's life of St. Francis as part of it.

We will talk about it next Friday. Then I will rejoin the main meetings for the ongoing formation the Fraternity is undergoing (looking at the writings of St. Francis and St. Clare).

It will be nice not to have to separate from the rest of the group every other meeting.

Profession is still set for July 9. Alleluia! (I can say that for three more days, then Lent begins!)

Pax et bonum

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Profession - July 9

The profession day has been tentatively set: July 9. Alleluia!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Profession - perhaps in August

At last night's formation session, the formation director for my Secular Franciscan Order fraternity noted that we had just one more lesson to go - we will do it in March.

Then he said that a final profession ceremony will likely be held for our area this summer, based on when the Franciscan priest who celebrates the profession Mass and services here is available (he has to come up from New York City). There are several candidates from the other local fraternity ready for profession, and it seems my fraternity thinks I'm ready. Generally, the professions here are held in August.

I am ... excited, reflective.

I have been working for this day for several years now with the SFOs, and I have a life-long attachment to Franciscan beliefs and spirituality. I have been searching for so long for a spiritual path, a way to grow, and, to be honest, a check on my more lazy, selfish, sinful side.

But at the same time I feel so unworthy. I don't mean that in the "Hey, look at me acting all humble" way.

I really do feel that my prayer life is not as strong as it should be.

That I too often give in to the temptations that nip at my soul.

That I'm prone to be non-Franciscan in the my words and thoughts. Harsh. Sarcastic. Judgmental.

And I fear that when people look at things I do and say they will remark in incredulity, "He's a Franciscan?"

Profession is not an end, of course. It doesn't mean one is a finished product. It's just one more step in the ongoing process of spiritual growth.

That won't end until I stand before God.

Pax et bonum

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mary

As part of formation, I read some material about Mary.

Francis was strongly devoted to Mary. He chose her as the Patroness and Advocate of the Franciscan Order.

To be honest, Mary was always a stumbling block for me. I accepted that she was the Mother of Jesus. I had no problem believing in the Virgin Birth, nor in honoring her for her willingness to sacrifice and to be the Blessed Mother of Jesus.

But I always had questions about the idea of her perpetual virginity. Why could she and Joseph not have had children after Jesus was born? What was wrong with accepting that Mary and Joseph could have sex?

I was also not a big fan of Marian apparitions. They struck me as like what I saw at Charismatic prayer meetings: Spiritually inspired, but often linked to a certain kind of emotionalism that was alien to my Scotch/Irish nature.

Then there were the doctrines of her Immaculate Conception - why could she not be just like us? - and the Assumption. I could accept that she was assumed into heaven; it had happened before. But to make it an infallible teaching? It didn't seem to me to be necessary. And a pig-headed part of me did not like being TOLD I had to believe something.

My doubts about Mary were among the reasons I strayed from the Church.

Even when I returned, I accepted the Marian teachings largely as a matter of faith: Good and holy people who are far wiser than I accepted these teachings, therefore I accepted them. I even grew to love the Rosary and some of the Marian prayers.

But a part of me never warmed up to the teachings.

It's still an area where I need to grow.

St. Francis, pray for me.

Mary, pray for me.

Paxc et bonum

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Formation Nearing End?

I am currently studying the materials for two of the final three sessions linked with Candidacy. We will be talking about those two sections next week.

After that, there's just one more session.

And then? I don't know. Will there be a profession ceremony for the two local Fraternities this summer? Will the Fraternity feel that I am indeed ready? Do I?

The Session 10 materials have got me thinking. They focus on "Public Profession."

The materials point out that profession is more than a matter of personal piety. It is a public commitment to witness the Franciscan way of life.

I certainly continually fall short when it comes to that way of life. I'm contentious, prone to sharp word and judgement, self-indulgent. My prayer life continues to be spotty, inconsistent.

Is this what a professed Franciscan should be like?

Would someone meeting me recognize me as a Franciscan?

Of course, even professing is not an end. It's part of the ongoing process of growth. A professed Franciscan must continue to study and pray and grow.

No resting on one's brown robe!

I renew my commitment to continue growing.

Daily prayer. Daily Scripture reading. Spiritual reading. Taking care that every word, every look, every action is guided by Christ's love.

Maybe I will eventually be worthy of being called a Franciscan.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Two Salutations from St. Francis

Last night at our fraternity meeting we read two prayers by St. Francis: The Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and The Salutation of the Virtues.

We had a lively discussion trying to figure out some of the parts of these prayers, and what precisely St. Francis meant in some passages.

Why did he end a prayer to Mary with a salute to the virtues?

Why did he pair the virtues that he did: Wisdom and Simplicity, Poverty and Humility, Charity and Obedience?

One observation I made is that he was a poet, not a theologian, so "reason" is not always the best approach to what he wrote.

But I did wonder what he meant by "carnal fear"?

Fear of temptations of the flesh? Fear for one's physical life that keeps one from fully committing to the adventure and danger of faith?

Still mulling that over.

The Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Hail, O Lady, Holy Queen,
Mary, holy Mother of God:
you are the Virgin made Church
chosen by the most Holy Father in heaven
whom He consecrated with His most holy beloved Son
and with the Holy Spirit the Paraclete,
in whom there was and is all fullness of grace and every good.

Hail His Palace!
Hail His Tabernacle!
Hail His Dwelling!
Hail His Robe!
Hail His Servant!
Hail His Mother!

And hail all you holy virtues
Which are poured into the hearts of the faithful
through the grace and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit,
that from being unbelievers,
you may make them faithful to God.


The Salutation of the Virtues

Hail, Queen Wisdom, may the Lord protect you
with your sister, holy pure Simplicity.

Lady, holy Poverty, may the Lord protect you
with your sister, holy Humility.

Lady, holy Charity, may the Lord protect you
with your sister, holy Obedience.

O most holy Virtues, may the Lord protect all of you,
from Whom you come and proceed.

There is surely no one in the entire world
who can possess any one of you
unless he dies first.

Whoever possesses one of you
and does not offend the others,
possesses all.

And each one destroys vices and sins.

Holy Wisdom destroys
Satan and all his subtlety.
Pure holy Simplicity destroys
all the wisdom of this world
and the wisdom of the body.

Holy Poverty destroys
the desire of riches
and avarice
and the cares of this world.
Holy Humility destroys
pride
and all the people who are in the world
and all the things that belong to the world.

Holy Charity destroys
every temptation of the devil and of the flesh
and every carnal fear.
Holy Obedience destroys
every wish of the body and of the flesh
and binds its mortified body
to obedience of the Spirit
and to obedience of one's brother
and the person who possesses her is subject and submissive
to all persons in the world
and not to man only
but even to all beasts and wild animals
so that they may do whatever they want with him
inasmuch as it has been given to them from above by the Lord.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Blessed Pope John XXIII saves me from books

The Good Looking One and I went out to the Catholic bookstore in Spencerport yesterday.

I stumbled across at least five books that in the past I would have been tempted to buy. And a couple of DVDs. But since last summer I've had a new rule in place: For every book I buy, I have to get rid of two that I already own.

Too many books. Not in keeping with Franciscan poverty.

Heck, I don't even have a enough room to put them all out on shelves anyway.

So ... I left the bookstore without purchasing anything.

I helped to counter the temptation to buy by thinking of all the books I had at home that I had not finished, or even started. I thought in particular of Blessed Pope John XXIII - maybe inspired by the recent news concerning Pope John Paul II's impending beatification.

Last night I got out our copy of the DVD about Blessed Pope John XXIII (the one starring Ed Asner), and my copy of John XXIII: The Official Biography by Mario Benigni and Goffroedo Zanchi. He was, of course, a lover of knowledge and books himself.

We made it as far as his election as Pope before bed beckoned.

In the book, I picked up where I had left off: When he was a seminarian, ages 17-19.

His prayer life even at that young age tweaked my 55-year-old conscience. His struggles with pride sounded familiar.

I was particularly struck by his battle with trying to draw attention to himself by showing off his knowledge.

"He hints (in Journal of a Soul) that he used words and clever phrases out of a secret desire to flaunt his knowledge and to make known, whether directly or indirectly, that he had studied."

Just like me. How often do I make sure I insert some joke or comment just to make sure the other people know how much I know?

I need to learn to hold my tongue and follow the humble example of Blessed Pope John XXIII - another pope I hope to see declared a Saint in my lifetime.

Pax et bonum