Friday, November 30, 2012
I got the most recent issue of Our Sunday Visitor and read with interest an article about Father Joseph Marquis and the St. Nicholas Institute he created.
Father Marquis founded the Institute in response to Pope Benedict XVI's Year of Faith - though he has been active as a Santa for more than 40 years. Indeed, he's been inducted into the Santa Claus Hall of Fame.
From the site:
Open to the same Spirit who animated the life of the original "Santa Claus", the St. Nicholas Institute offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity for the integrated formation of professionals who will bring the person of St. Nicholas of Myra to life in our day.
The St. Nicholas Institute is a multi-day seminar designed to empower faith-filled candidates with the tools needed to convincingly portray both St. Nicholas and the "elfin" Santa Claus in a wide variety of venues; whether religious or secular.
Nicholas as Our Model
Inspired by the selfless life of St. Nicholas of Myra, and the noble traditions associated with him, we seek to affirm the dignity of all persons as unique, unrepeatable gifts from God as we embody the joy and peace that flows from the Babe born in Bethlehem.
Openness to the "Christmas Spirit"
Since the "Christmas Spirit" and the Holy Spirit are one in the same, we continually pray that we may be open to the very Selfsame Source that animated the life of the original "Santa Claus"; St. Nicholas.
As spiritual successors of St. Nicholas, we exercise a special compassion for: the poor (material or spiritual poverty), the orphaned, the sick, the marginalized and the forgotten.
Love for Children
Whether dressed in the guise of the benevolent bishop from Myra or a fur clad "elf", we will treat each and every child (and "the young at heart") with the same integrity, sensitivity and unconditional love that characterize "jolly old St. Nicholas".
Living our Core Values says: "Christmas"
There's plenty to explore at the site for lovers of Santa/St. Nicholas (including this Santa's helper).
Pax et bonum
A friend sent me the following prayer.
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment when the Son of God was born of the most pure virgin in Bethlehem at midnight, in piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe O my God, to hear my prayers and grant my desires, through the merits of our savior Jesus Christ and of his virgin mother. Amen.
I've seen the prayer called the St. Andrew Christmas Prayer, the St. Andrew Advent Prayer, and the St. Andrew Novena . According to the devotion, one is supposed to recite the prayer fifteen times a day from the Feast of St. Andrew (November 30) until Christmas, and if one does, one will obtain what one has been praying for.
I like devotions that help us focus on God, and prayers like this can help one's soul. I think the actual praying is far more important than the "favor" one is seeking to obtain. It's too easy to get caught up in focusing on the getting, and prayers then become more like superstitious actions.
But I will say the prayer between now and Christmas as it is something my Fraternity is doing. And I will say it while praying for something that is close to my heart. But I'm not looking forward to it suddenly happening December 26 the way I want it to happen. If and when and how it comes about is up to God.
I'm also interested in their prayer because St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. I have a fondness for things Scottish - except haggis!
Pax et bonum
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
The Good Looking One and I, with brother-in-law, saw Stephen Spielberg's Lincoln last weekend.
Incredible acting, costumes, sets, and so on. I can see multiple Academy Award nominations - Picture, director, actor, supporting actor and actress, screenplay, and more. I suspect the movie will win a few.
Daniel Day-Lewis certainly has to be the front runner for best actor. His speaking voice and world-weary walk for Lincoln were brilliant. But he also brought Lincon's sense of humor and political savvy to life.
Go see it. It's one of the best movies I've seen in years.
Pax et bonum
Saturday, November 24, 2012
A dozen of us gathered across the street from Planned Parenthood this morning for the weekly prayers. Rosary. Divine Mercy Chaplet. A few other assorted prayers.
I had to wear gloves as I fingered my beads.
And across the street: The office was closed.
I offered thanksgiving that no baby would die there today. No women would be harmed.
But cars continued to drive by. People continued to look - sometimes first at us, then at the office.
It occurred to me that even though the office was closed, we were still witnessing. Not to the women - but to the people driving by, some of whom may have used the blood-tainted services of that office - or who might be tempted to some day. Some of whom may have suffered the pain of abortion, or who may have been deluded by the contraceptive and over-sexualized mentality that afflicts our society.
And then I realized that we were witnessing to the culture, showing that there is a counter view to that poison which filters into minds and hearts and souls from so many other sources in our society.
We are called to witness in all we do and say.
I pray that I might be a worthy witness.
Pax et bonum
Friday, November 23, 2012
It gets better every year.
Black Friday. Love the sound of that.
Black as death. Black as sin. Black as hell.
It's all just part of the plan ever since Adam and Eve. Tempt the weak links. Cull the herd. Draw them in with goodies.
Except now ipods, laptops, plasma televisions, clothes.
Take a bite.
I can't beat that Christmas story - kid, angels, shepherds, stable, Wise Guys. Damn, that's good writing.
So go back door (my specialty). Bury it in conspicuous consumption. Stretch it out until it loses meaning. Cheapen it until it loses sacredness. Start the ads in September. Get Santa in the mall ever earlier. Drive Nativity scenes out of public places.
Like a good con, get their eyes off Jesus. Merry Christmas becomes Happy Holidays. Replace St. Nicholas with a fat, jolly fake Santa Claus.
And then there's Black Friday. Celebrate greed and self-centerdness. Get them out of the house and away from their families. It was great when I got them to open the stores before dawn on Friday. Long lines waiting to worship. Ah, but now, opening on Thanksgiving Day. Draw them away from family even earlier. Divide and conquer. Maybe even get them irritated and agitated and violent.
Oh, and get them to say it's a family tradition. We stand in line in the cold with family members, or at least the ones who have been seduced. And thousands of others.
A family tradition. Right, just like Baal and all those babies.
Next year, maybe I can convince them to open the stores even earlier on Thanksgiving.
Or on Christmas.
Black Friday. Genius.
Pax et bonum
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
I'm currently reading Father Robert Wild's book on Chesterton, The Tumbler of God: Chesterton as Mystic.
Father Wild, who's part of the Madonna House community up in Canada, contends that Chesterton was a mystic, though of a different sort. (No surprise there!)
I'll get into his book in another post. What it did for me today was remind me of a moment I experienced many years ago.
It was back in the 1970s. I was in college. I was also part of Charismatic prayer groups.
The Charismatic Renewal was an unusual thing for me to be involved with. I'm so thought and control oriented; the emotionalism and the willingness to let oneself go that were part of the Renewal would seem not to be my style. But the Renewal was something that helped me at the time, and I did have some experiences, including once even speaking in tongues!
One night I had an even more profound experience.
I was in the college seminary. There was a small group of charismatics in the seminary, but because the movement was viewed with suspicion by some of the seminary administrators, we were not allowed to have regular prayer meetings in the seminary building. So we'd wander over to the campus, and pray on the lawn or on the athletic fields.
After one prayer session with the group, I felt energized. Instead of going back to the seminary, I walked around the campus, continuing to pray. I was walking across a lawn on a part of the campus where there was a row of trees along a roadway. I suddenly had a strange feeling, and when I looked at the trees I saw not only the trees, but also a light. It wasn't bright; it was more misty, like a luminous fog. It seemed to flow between the trees. Then it seemed to flow across the lawn, and finally into me. I realized that it wasn't a matter of it moving toward me, though. The light was already there, present in me and the trees and everything around me. What changed was that I was finally aware of it.
In that moment, it seemed as if I was linked to the trees, the air, the grass. The light was what linked us. I had the feeling that what I was experiencing was God - His creative force, His love, His Spirit, something that flowed through all creation and made us one not with each other, but with Him.
I know my words are not quite right. I've never found the way to clearly explain what I experienced. But it was real, and it filled me with a sense of love, of joy, of belonging, of being cared for. For a moment, I lost my sense of separateness and of self. I was not in control.
It passed quickly. I have never experienced anything even remotely like it since.
A mystical experience? Or a taste of what a mystical experience might be like? I don't know. I don't know if I ever will experience anything like it again. I don't know if I will ever be that open again.
Part of me would welcome such a moment again. Another part of me fears it - and that might be what is preventing me from even having a chance of experiencing such a moment again. Unless maybe God decides to break through my defences.
I leave that to the Lord.
But I hope I do taste that sense of being part of something more than myself again.
Pax et bonum
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
You kind of knew this was coming. I remembered when he attended that invalid ordination, and thought this was going to happen eventually.
Catholic News | Maryknoller Dismissed from Priesthood | American Catholic
Pax et bonum
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Today is a special day for Secular Franciscans. It's the feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a woman who so loved the poor and suffering that she became the patroness of Catholic charities and of the Secular Franciscan Order.
She was the daughter of the King of Hungary. At 14, Elizabeth she married Louis of Thuringia. It was apparently a loving marriage, and they had three children. But at the same time, she had a Franciscan friar as her spiritual director, and in addition to her duties as wife and mother she was devoted to prayer, sacrifice and service to the poor and sick.
Her husband died in the Crusades. Because she spent so much to help the poor, the young widow was thrown out of the palace by her late husband's family, but she was later allowed to return.
In 1228 she joined the Secular Franciscan Order, and spent the rest of her life caring for the poor in a hospital which she founded in honor of St. Francis. In 1231, she died just before her 24th birthday in 1231, and she was canonized just four years later.
St. Elizabeth, pray for us.
Pax et bonum
Friday, November 16, 2012
At the recent Bishops' gathering, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said,
"The work of our Conference during the coming year includes reflections on re-embracing Friday as a particular day of penance, including the possible re-institution of abstinence on all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent."
Now my understanding is that while the bishops earlier relaxed the rules about not eating meat on Fridays, it was with the idea that Catholics would substitute some other penitential practice. The last part of that got lost in the shuffle, though, and Catholics for the most part ate meat - and did nothing to replace abstinence.
I'm guilty of not doing anything else, I have to admit. Of course, I've also been a vegetarian for many years.
So if they bring back abstinence, what should vegetarians like me do?
Maybe coffee would be a worthy thing to sacrifice!
Pax et bonum
We met with the business manager at the parish and got the paperwork. As of January 4, my fraternity will begin meeting at my parish - St. Theodore's.
The parish is in an easy-to-get-to location (unlike our current meeting site), and is handicap accessible (again, unlike our current site). Plus, being in a parish gives us more recruiting potential, not only in the parish, but among the parishes nearby. The business manager mentioned posting something in the bulletin.
This is good.
I am to be the "keeper of the key." Sounds like something out of a game! All it really means is the parish will entrust me with the key, so I'll have to show up early, unlock the necessary doors, and turn on the lights and heat, and then make sure everything is locked up or turned off after the meeting.
The minister also talked about the need for a spiritual assistant. We don't have one, and we need one. The Council would like to get a priest or deacon, but none are available at this time or on short notice. Lay people can be assistants, though, and I said I'd be interested in finding out more about what it entails in terms of training and study if it comes to that - given my background. The minister seemed excited. But as a newbie - less than two years professed - I don't think I really qualify at this point.
I think I'll just stick to the keys.
Pax et bonum
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
There's some political optimists trying to get a new pro-life pro-Catholic values political party going, the American Solidarity Party.
I'm not ready to jump in and get involved, but at least I'll keep an eye on them. They have a facebook page - for those who are into that. (Check us out on our facebook page and facebook group)
Pax et bonum
Monday, November 12, 2012
I'm part of a group starting to plan a Catholic theater conference next year. This is part of the efforts to change the culture - and good theater is one way to do it.
PERFORMING OUR FAITH: THE GIFT OF CATHOLIC THEATRE
Pax et bonum
July 3-7, 2013 at Notre Dame Retreat House, Canandaigua, New York
Live theater is a powerful tool for proclaiming the Gospel—stirring mind and heart with the inspiration and energy to overcome spiritual obstacles and acting as a light in the darkness.
PERFORMING OUR FAITH brings together people from around the country who are involved in and support theatre as ministry. This five-day retreat/conference offers an opportunity for actors, playwrights, producers, and patrons to spend time in prayerful reflection and fellowship, with the aim of networking, celebrating, and building an awareness of how theatre can help us share our faith. PERFORMING OUR FAITH participants will enjoy a staged reading of a winning one-act play and develop plans for future gatherings and a festival of Catholic theatre. Please join us!
For more information, email email@example.com.
Six hours. That's how long my first shift was.
As usual, I avoided eating too much or drinking almost anything the morning before. No bathroom breaks.
The number of visitors as not great. Many gaps. A number of people commented that they never expected us to start this early, so they had not dressed the kids up for photos. A few came just to see how the kids would react, planning to return at a later date. Good idea.
One girl asked a number of skepticism-tinged questions - belief wavering or gone? - then called me a liar.
One family did show up with daughters all dressed up, then complained that my beard was too short and neat! (Look at my fraternity photo from Saturday to see how long my beard is.) My supervisor said she'd worked with shorter-bearded fellows, and there was nothing wrong with my beard.
Next shift is next Sunday.
Pax et bonum
Saturday, November 10, 2012
At Planned Parenthood today at our regular Saturday prayer gathering, I was joined by two people from the other local Franciscan fraternity, then one of the candidates from my own fraternity, and finally by a member of our fraternity who had been sick and hadn't been able to make our fraternity meetings for a couple of months (I gave him a hug).
I kidded that we were turning this prayer vigil into a Franciscan event.
After the prayers, I had a chat with the two people from the other fraternity - a husband a wife who professed along with me in 2010. Their elections are Monday night, and he's up for Formation Director, and she for Councilor. I laughed. The local fraternities are trying to get us "younger folks" involved. All three of us acknowledged that we felt too new for leadership positions - I said I was still a rookie - but if God is calling us, so be it.
We also talked about the fact that our two fraternities are relatively healthy at this point - we had 18 of our 25 professed at our election meeting last night - and that we were lucky considering how many fraternities are suffering from lack of members and even closing. My own fraternity has three people in formation at the moment. And when we move to a new site soon (hopefully January) we will be in a parish setting where we might be able to attract more people. (A parish staff member even said I could write something for the bulletin about the Secular Franciscan Order.)
Their fraternity is starting a new social ministry program, assisting a program that provides food and other items for folks in a low-income section of our city. My fraternity has links to a pregnancy center, donating food and infant clothing. Social ministry is part of our Franciscan vocation. I'd love to see more, but these efforts are a good start.
Pax et bonum
At our November 9 meeting, the Glory of the Most High Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order elected a new council.
Minister: Carolyn Barth
Vice Minister: Elizabeth Annechino
Secretary: Marilyn Gawlick
Treasurer: Tom Hoffend
Formation Director: Joe Madonia
Councilor: Donna White
Councilor: Lee Strong (that hairy looking Santa wannabe)
We'll serve for the next three years.
May God guide us all in all that we do.
Pax et bonum
Friday, November 9, 2012
I wasn't sure of the exact site of the meeting, but the collection of white-bearded men sitting on a bench outside a door was a dead giveaway!
We entered the meeting site, and were promptly informed that Santa was arriving at the mall tomorrow! The helper who would be arriving had been informed, but none of the rest of us.
I'd expected a week's notice. I needed to get some supplies and to dig out my kit (check the makeup for my beard, polish my boots, make sure my belt and cap are ready, etc.)
I'll have to get everything ready tomorrow.
My first shift is Sunday at noon!
Pax et bonum
Tonight the fraternity elections I mentioned previously took place.
I had been dreading the idea that given the age of the fraternity that I might be asked to serve in some office. I wanted to focus instead on growing spiritually. As some of my political posts suggest, I'm not very Franciscan-like at times.
I had not put my name in for any of the offices - and I was hoping that no one else had submitted my name. At the last meeting, the names of the likely new officers had been mentioned. I was not among them. Phew.
But before tonight's meeting the woman who had been put forward as minister approached me. She asked if I'd be willing to serve as a councilor. I said yes. I got the impression that this had been discussed by the officers.
After some prayers, the voting started. The names of the previously-named candidates were put forward. But since there had to be a vote, the regional person asked if there were any other candidates people wanted to name so there would be a choice. When they got to the Secretary position, someone named me. I was uncertain what to do for a moment, but I declined, thinking that I was going to be nominated later for a councilor position anyway.
When we got to the councilor nominations, someone immediately named a very outgoing woman. The former minster and the new minister looked at each other, then said they'd already asked someone, though I'm not sure how many people heard them. The new minister immediately put my name in. And then, someone named a third candidate - a respected long-time member of the fraternity.
I chuckled. Me vs. an outgoing woman and a long-time member. Maybe I'd get my wish!
At that point, the regional minister pointed out that given the number of officers we really needed two people as councilors to provide an odd number for voting. So we were going to select two councilors.
Ulp. But I still had hope.
Voting took place. Then the counting of the ballots.
For a while, the other two were ahead.
And then ... a late surge.
I got the most votes. I was elected as a councilor. So was the long-time member.
Francis and God must have chuckled. Thought you'd escaped, eh?
Pax et bonum
When I turned 18 (many decades ago!) and registered to vote, I registered as a Democrat. I was not just a member of the party: I worked on campaigns, I was a member of a city Democratic committee, I was even asked to run for office as a Democrat (I chose not to).
But over the years, my own thinking on a number of issues matured and developed. It wasn't a matter of switching positions on these issues. It was more a matter of coming to a deeper understanding of them and their interconnectedness.
At the same time, I watched the Democratic Party move further and further away from my core beliefs and Catholic teachings on a number of issues. I remained in the party, hoping to be a positive force to bring it back to its senses. I even helped to create a state chapter of Democrats for Life. But the party's drift continued, and I saw practicing Catholics, pro-lifers, and Democrats for Life being exploited and marginalized.
Finally, I gave up on the Democratic Party.
A Republican candidate came along a few years back, and to help with his campaign I registered as a Republican. I had no illusions about that party; our Republican Congressman, a Catholic, was pro-choice. And the party seriously considered the pro-choice, pro-homosexual marriage Rudy Giuliani as a plausible presidential candidate. Moreover, the focus of the party was on economic, not social issues. But at least in that party I saw some folks who shared my values. Not enough to make me a true Republican, however.
The Republican candidate I was supporting lost. After just one year as a Republican, I registered as a member of the tiny Right to Life Party. The party is so small - indeed, is basically defunct - that it doesn't even have a line on the ballot, so I'm considered a "blank" or independent.
This past week's election marks another change. With such clear choices, the American people chose a Presidential candidate who is totally out of line with my beliefs and, I don't mean to sound over-dramatic, is, I think, a threat to Christian/Catholic churches. But it wasn't just at the Presidential level that I saw threats. So many candidates with views out of sync with basic Catholic beliefs were elected, initiatives were passed that conflict with Catholic teachings. Even the Republican Party is now considering shifting its positions to remain politically viable.
I saw the way things are going in this nation. Tuesday, I gave up on the political process.
I recognize that politics is simply a reflection of the culture, of our society as a whole. It is only when our culture is changed that the parties will change.
So I realize that the real work has to focus on the culture, not political parties.
I'll continue to speak out. I'll continue to vote. I may support some candidates down the road.
But I have no faith in the political process any more.
I must live in the world, but not be of the world.
I'm not a Democrat./ I'm not a Republican.
I'm a Catholic.
Now if I could only get my name off all those political party mailing - give-us-money - lists!
Pax et bonum
Thursday, November 8, 2012
I've now seen some of the exit polling from the election.
Despite his extremist position on abortion, despite his support for embryonic stem cell research, despite his dispensing tax dollars to help pay for abortions, despite his support for Planned Parenthood, despite his attack on conscience rights in the form of the HHS Mandate, despite his support for so-called same sex marriage, President Obama received 50 percent of the Catholic vote while Mitt Romney received 48 percent.
Of course, that figure includes people who identified themselves as Catholics, which means it includes those who openly contradict Church teachings (like Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Andrew Cuomo), and those who don't go to church or practice the faith in any active way.
On the other hand, one poll of Catholics those who go to church weekly, and thus presumably are more actively involved in the their faith, showed that those practicing Catholics supported Romney over Obama 57-42.
That's nice, but I have to wonder about those 42 percent who voted for Obama. Were they not paying attention? Do they just show up to Church out of habit, and similarly vote Democratic out of habit? Do they pick and chose church rules and still consider themselves "good Catholics?"
I can't judge their souls - that's God's job.
But I do suspect that any Catholic who voted for Obama either does not understand Catholic teachings and how they should apply to our political and daily lives, or else doesn't really care about the Catholic faith.
Pax et bonum
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Back in 1972 I woke with a sick feeling the morning after Richard Nixon got re-elected.
I awoke this morning with a similar feeling.
I can't fathom how, given President Obama's attacks on life and religious liberty he could have won. Catholics and people who claim to be pro-life must have voted for him. Did they not understand? Were they not paying attention?
If even just the Catholics had paid attention he should have gotten millions fewer votes. I haven't seen any exit polls yet about the Catholic vote, but I bet he got a lot of them - even of the regular church goers.
Romney was a less than ideal candidate, but given the choice he was the more tolerable.
Obviously the voters of this nation did not agree.
I also note than millions of few people voted in 2012 than in 2008. Did the overwhelming negativity of this year's campaigns and the poor quality of the candidates keep some people away? I don't know.
This election convinced me that I need to focus lesson being a part of this world and instead on serving God's kingdom. I'll still vote. I'll still speak up. I'll still pay attention. I'll still try to educate people about Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry. I'll continue to pray.
But, to be honest, I have less hope for our country and our society than I did just two days ago.
We all lost.
One other note. Back in 1972, I was aware of the rumblings about Watergate. When my father - a Nixon supporter - greeted me the morning after the election, I said, "He won't last the term." I had an inkling that the investigation would bring him down, of at least a strong hope that it would, and it did.
I wish I could say the same thing this time around. It would be some comfort.
Pax et bonum
Saturday, November 3, 2012
At school - classroom is being used so I can't get to the other journals for a few minutes.
At the Fishers of Men session this morning, we were talking about some of the harder, more provocative things Jesus said. I mentioned the fact that some of his followers left Him - especially when he talked about eating His flesh and drinking His blood.
But then I wondered out loud: What happened to those people?
Did they come back - like Peter?
Did they watch and linger on the fringe of the new movement but never came back?
Did they return to the Jewish - or whatever - faith they had been part of and remain there?
Did some of them become angry and openly oppose Christianity - maybe even helping with the persecution of it?
Did some of them get lost and give up on faith or religion?
There seems to be a potential story in there somewhere!
Pax et bonum
5:42 a.m. - that's when I start typing this.
I'll be jumping in the shower in a few minutes. At. 7 I have to be at St. Pius Church for Fishers of Men, the men's group to which I belong. We'll be viewing part of Father Baron's Catholicism series (about Jesus today) and talking about the video and Jesus in our lives and how we as men act as followers of Jesus.
At 8:30, morning Mass after the meeting.
A stop home, then off to Planned Parenthood for our weekly Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, and assorted other prayers. Some of us will have signs from the recent HHS rally - Vote Life!
Then off to school where 60 student journals await grading (first quarter grades are due Thursday- ulp!).
A stop home at 3:30, then off to the local high school where my school is playing for the Section V girls' volleyball title at 4. The team made it all the way to the state finals last year, so hopes are high.
After the game (and the win?) home for dinner, then to the stack of papers waiting for grading. I'll hack away at them well into the evening.
Sunday - Mass - then back to school to finish the journals. After that, more papers to grade. And several classes to prep for. (Sorry Bills - I may have the radio on in the background, but I can't watch you this weekend.)
Lots of work. Lord, give me energy! Or at least keep my eyes open (I nodded off at school Friday while grading a paper in the English office!)
5:55. Hit publish, then into the shower with thee lad!
Pax et bonum