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