Sunday, August 30, 2015

Gospel haiku

On twitter, I encountered Matt Gutting, who writes what he calls "Gospel haiku." The haiku are like so many of the other subject haiku  - carku, catku, Red Neck haiku, etc. - they are not true haiku in the classic sense, but that does not mean they are not poetry.

Some of Gutting's efforts -

John told off Herod;
His wife had the Baptist killed.
Such courage, in me?

Five foolish virgins,
Buying oil, missed the Bridegroom:
Are my flasks empty?

"You must be prepared:
He will come, unexpected."
Help me stay awake!  

He also writes Hobbit Haiku and Summa Haiku.

Inspired by his Gospel Haiku, I've started trying my hand:

Doers of the word
and not only hearers is
what we're called to be

(based on today's readings)

Peter joins the Lord
walking upon the water
gets sinking feeling

Let's see if I can keep this up. Heck, I've written more than 200 slug haiku!

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Avoid bottled water (A concern for Franciscans and all people of faith)

I submitted the following for our Fraternity newsletter -

Pope Francis has called us all to respect the environment. He even set aside September 1 as “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.”
As Franciscans, we have a special concern for all of creation.

One of the simple, practical ways to help protect creation is to stop buying and using bottled water.
There are many reasons to avoid bottled water.

First, the bottles are produced from petroleum. The production and transportation of bottled water consumes millions of gallons of oil annually. In addition, it has been estimated that it takes 2,000 times the energy to produce bottled water than it does to produce a comparable amount of tap water.
Although many of us try to recycle, the truth is that not everyone can do so or does, and not all those bottles can be recycled anyway. As a result, billions of pounds of plastic bottles are added to landfills each year.

Depending on the quality of the bottles, many plastic bottles leech chemicals into the water they contain. Those chemicals have been linked to all sorts of disorders, including cancer, diabetes, weight gain, and infertility. Plus, government regulations that cover municipal water do not cover bottled water. Tests of bottled water have sometimes shown that bottled water actually contains more pollutants than does municipal water.
Bottled water is sometimes just tap municipal water that may have – though not always - gone through an extra step of filtering,  but then is sold for many times the actual cost of the water.  For us in Rochester, this seems especially unnecessary as our tap water has been judged as among the best in the country.

Some of that bottled water comes from companies based in drought regions – such as California – thus helping to add to the droughts.  In some places, the companies throw their economic weight around to make sure they get more of the water to sell, depleting the supply for the local residents.
What can we do?

If concerned about water quality, buy a water filter for your tap, or buy one of those pitchers that can filter. It’s actually cheaper than buying bottled water. Use a recyclable container for carrying your water; just fill it from your tap or filter unit.
This is just one way we can cherish Sister Water and to show our concern for the rest of creation that St. Francis so loved.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Bias at the "Democrat and Chronicle"?

There have been complaints about the coverage - or lack thereof - in local media of the protests at Planned Parenthood August 22. In particular, people have complained about the lack of coverage by our local daily newspaper, the Democrat and Chronicle.
When the newspaper was contacted, one person reported that he was told since the newspaper covered another protest at Planned Parenthood in July, there was no need to cover the more recent protest. 
Never mind that there have been a number of developments and revelations in the Planned Parenthood story since those July protests, or that the protests were organized by different groups and targeted different Planned Parenthood offices.
Never mind that the newspaper again and again covers repeated rallies/protests/marches focused on other issues.
This latest incident reminded me of the situation of the annual Good Friday Stations of the Cross for Life. The event has a consistent ethic of life focus, and so it addresses a number of life issues – economic justice, euthanasia, prisons, the death penalty, etc. But admittedly it does have a clear emphasis on abortion. It draws 150-200 participants every year.
When the newspaper has been contacted, spokespeople have given a number of reasons why the event was not cover THAT year. One of their most common claims was that they were not notified in time, but a number of march organizers and supporters pointed to numerous e-mails, notices, etc. well before the event.

The other main reason given is that there are a variety of marches on that day, and so coverage is rotated to be fair.

It is true that there other marches. There have been several large – comparable in size to the Life one – ecumenical marches in the City of Rochester, smaller ecumenical marches in a local suburb, several parish organized Stations, and an economic justice march organized by several social/economic justice inclined Catholic groups. I have no objection to their getting coverage, by the way; all are worthy efforts.

I decided to use the newspaper’s own online database to check frequency of coverage of the various Stations/marches on that day. I counted as coverage articles about an event, mention of an event in an article covering activities that day, or standalone photos.

If the newspaper’s claim is true, there should be an equitable distribution of coverage.

Between 2001 and 2015, the large city-based ecumenical marches (100 - 300 participants) got covered six times.

The smallest of the marches, the Catholic economic justice one, typically with 20-25 participants, got covered 4 times – consecutively no less (2002-05).

The suburban ecumenical march got covered twice, with 60 and 150 participants respectively.

The city Catholic parishes’ marches (no numbers given, but small size implied) got covered twice.

And the Life march, with, remember, 150-200 participants every year, got covered once – a single sentence in a broader article about one of the city ecumenical marches.

Rotating coverage? Fair coverage?
Unless I missed any articles/photos, the evidence counters such claims.

In fact, it suggests an anti-prolife bias.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, August 22, 2015

No Fraternity Office

Our Fraternity Council met yesterday, and per my desire, I was not nominated for any office in the Fraternity, other than Council.

In asking if I'd reconsider for Vice Minister, a couple of people said it did not involve a lot of work, but I noted that work was not the reason I did not want to serve in that or any other office. Indeed, I pointed out that I had volunteered to read ahead and prepare study questions for the new formation book we will be using this year.

Later, the Good Looking One asked why I did not want to be in a Fraternity office.

Several reasons.

First, I am not very Franciscan, at least not in comparison with many others in the Fraternity. I tend to be argumentative, confrontational, sarcastic, resentful, and so on - all sorts of internal violence. I am also incredibly impatient - and that sometimes comes across in my words and actions toward other people in the Fraternity. I need to get my own house in order before I become an example or model for others.

Second, my spiritual life is largely surface and inconsistent. I go through the motions, but I haven't advanced much beyond externals. And beneath that surface is a lazy, sinful nature.

Third, my ego would like an office.

Fourthly, I am not a people person, especially in comparison with many of the good folks in the Fraternity. There are times when I don't even like to be around people - I have avoided places or activities simply because there are a lot of people.

Those are my four main reasons.

A more twisted reason for not wanting to be Vice Minister was when I was on the Library Board I was elected Vice President, then the President died mid year and I was suddenly the President. I served out his term, got reelected, and hated it the entire time. I don't want to take the chance of anything happening to our current and likely to be reelected Minister, who is not in the best of health!

I am content to be useful - to unlock and open doors, to help people into the building for meetings, to run errands, to provide music. As I had joked, if one of the offices was Porter or Doorkeeper, I'd be willing to serve in that position.

All this means is a reprieve for three years. Maybe I'll be better prepared or more spiritually mature at the time of the next election.

Pax et bonum

Friday, August 21, 2015

So, what's wrong with this blog

I was thinking about  that competition for Catholic blogs. This blog wouldn't have a chance even if nominated, so I'm not bent out of shape over that.

But it got me thinking about the nature of this bog.

Or lack thereof.

Beyond the infrequency of posts, I think that's one of the problems with this blog - it has no
"nature," no character, no consistency. Sometimes it's a diary. Sometimes it's funny. Sometimes it deals with issues. Sometimes it's political.

The blogs that make it have a clear focus, a clear voice. This blog does not.

My old blog was closer to having that character. It was not the most popular blog - but it did generate discussion and debate, and drew five times more visitors. I stopped that blog because I was afraid that it would cause problems at work - and started this one with greater anonymity (so the visitor drop made sense!). But that older blog also had a more sarcastic, combative edge, and as a Franciscan I was trying to get away from that.

I just haven't found my Franciscan voice yet.

Sort of parallels my writing inconsistency - I'm a poet. No, I'm a playwright. No, I should write fiction. What about horror? Oooo, mysteries.

So maybe my problem is partly due to me not knowing who I really am.

Hey, you're 60. Figure it out!

And here we have one of my diary type posts.


Pax et bonum

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

More on the Fraternity (Added content)

Well, I got the call. A message on the machine.

I've been suggested for either Secretary or Vice Minister in the upcoming elections. I don't know if I'm still suggested for Council - only those offices were mentioned.

Still mulling.

Secretary? Given my disorganized ways?

Vice Minister? Knowing the Minister will likely be up for her second term, and thus given the two-term limit would mean there's a good chance I'd be up for Minister in three years?


I did not call back. We have a Council meeting Friday.

Still mulling.

Later ...

Got an e-mail after the call. Part of it read:

"Have you been thinking about the other nominations?
Vice minister, treasurer,secretary,
Counseled ."

I responded:

"My basic attitude has not changed.
There are better people for each of the offices than I - especially when it comes to our current Secretary and Vice Minister. There are people within the Fraternity who have the practical skills and the spiritual depth.
My preference would be to hold no office - unless we could come up with a "Porter" or "Doorkeeper" position!
That said, I will abide by whatever the Spirit and the Fraternity decide."

To which she gave a response that sounded like maybe they wouldn't nominate me - or just have me as the required second candidate put up to make the election of the main candidate legit.

Hey - maybe it worked! 

Pax et bonum

Monday, August 17, 2015

Grateful for Gratitude

I have been looking for a spiritual director off and on for several years. I haven’t found any one I’ve clicked with yet – I keep looking. 

One of the potential directors was a good woman I had known from a parish I used to attend. We had a good conversation, though I did not find myself ready for her “happy” approach – I use “happy” not as a dig at her, but because I can’t think of a better word. Her approach would certainly work for some people – it just did not click with me.

One of the things she suggested was keeping a gratitude journal. Each day I was supposed to record at least one thing I was grateful about. I tried, but I couldn’t keep it up – a commentary more on me than on the method. I tend to be critical, to focus on what’s wrong rather than what’s right.

But lately, I have been doing just what she suggested. Each day for the past few weeks I tried to make the first original post I make on Twitter or Facebook be a statement about something I’m grateful for.

In looking back, I see some patterns.

--- Some of the comments clearly arise from happy moments while walking the dog and
encounters with the beauties of the world.

I'm grateful for being able to begin my day by walking the dog after a couple of days away.

I am grateful I live where I can walk my dog in the early morning hours in safety.

I'm grateful for the glow of a streetlight at the corner.

I'm grateful for the sight of a dog with its head out the window of a passing car.

I'm grateful for the neighbor's dogs who greet me at the fence whenever they see me.

I'm grateful every time my dog greets me with at the door with her tail wagging.

I am grateful for the pre-dawn songs of birds

I'm grateful for fresh flowers from our garden arranged in a vase.

I'm grateful for fresh vegetables from our garden.

Big on dogs!

--- Some arise from people I encounter or who have affected my life.

I'm grateful for personable waitresses.

I'm grateful for smiling grocery store clerks.

I am grateful for organized people.

I'm grateful for the people who developed aspirin.

I am grateful for the opportunity to spend a day praying with fellow Secular Franciscans.

--- Some of my posts are based on good and holy people – and people working to help others.

I am grateful for the models Saints provide us.

I'm grateful for all the people who work and volunteer in pregnancy and legitimate health centers.

I'm grateful for all the pro-lifers who will rally today outside Planned Parenthoods.

I'm grateful for the love and courage of those who are willing to risk - and sometimes even lose - their lives for the sake of others.

I'm grateful for the example of Venerable Solanus Casey, who went home 58 years ago yesterday.

--- Some are based on the talents of others.

I am grateful for folksingers sharing their songs and getting us to sing along.

I'm grateful for a wonderful free Dady Brothers folk concert on the lakeshore on a warm summer evening.

I am grateful for the early country rock religious music of John Michael Talbot.

--- Some are focused on life’s little pleasures

I'm grateful for a cool morning breeze after a stuffy night.

I'm grateful for warm showers.

I’m grateful for rum raisin ice cream.

I'm grateful I belong to a religion that does not forbid coffee, diet cola, or alcohol!

I am grateful for a small glass of good, dark beer before bed.

I'm grateful for the first smell of coffee in the morning.

I'm grateful the clouds parted to reveal the "blue moon."

I am grateful for sunrises over July cornfields.

I'm grateful for opportunities to reconnect with old friends.

I'm grateful I live in an area where there are nearby daily Masses available.

--- And then there’s the silly.

I'm grateful my wife never got any tattoos.

I'm grateful for imaginary friends because I know they'll always be there when I need them.

Yes, there’s a lot to be grateful for. If I keep expressing gratitude maybe I’ll develop a more happy, peaceful view of life and all of God’s gifts - and focus less on what’s wrong with the world or in my life.

Maybe now I can appreciate that spiritual director I was not ready for a few years back.

Worth considering.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Friday, August 14, 2015

Best blog

So there's this contest to name the best Catholic Websites and blogs. I looked at some of the nominees for blog. I then looked at some of my most recent entries.

Not encouraging.

Heck, I'd lose to my old blog.

My posting is irregular. The quality of the posts is inconsistent. There's no sense of identity for the blog.

What to do about that?

Spend less time on Twitter/Facebook? Post more regularly. Get back that edge I used to have? Bring back the old blog?


But I did nominate myself for Best Social Media Presence for my twitter Account - Franciscan Poet.

I might even get a few votes!

My ego is boundless!

Pax et bonum

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Franciscan Day of Recollection

On The Feast of St. Clare, my Fraternity held a Day of Recollection at the St. Padre Pio Chapel.

The day included a video about St. Clare, ample time for private prayer, sharing sessions, a Mass, a Divine Mercy Chaplet, and a Litany of St. Clare.

It was a wonderful day. I felt spiritually refreshed. I forgot about the blues I've been grumbling about, and instead focused on God and my Franciscan vocation. I even got to play for the Mass.

Gwen and Betty put it together, and they did a good job.

I need more such days!

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Here come the blues

Yep, it's that time of the year again.

Summer is coming to an end, and so school looms.

I normally get a bit out of sorts at this time. Routine, students, papers, administrators, paperwork overshadow the final days of August. The reclusive - and admittedly lazy - me begins to get uneasy.

Still, I usually look forward to seeing the students again.

But this year, my favorite course, one I was very successful at, has been taken from me. As a lure for a new teacher? Because of the stress and work load I struggled with last year? Because people made assumptions that weren't true, but couldn't be persuaded that they were wrong? I don't know.

But basically I don't want to go back. Really. If I had another reasonable offer, I'd give notice.

I had a dream that says a lot. I went into my classroom. My large desk had been replaced by a smaller one. The shelves behind my desk where I stored folders and papers were gone. The things I'd had on the shelves, and on and in the desk, were in boxes on the floor. My plants - from my father's wake and funeral - were gone. It was as if I was being kicked out. That's how I felt. The dream woke me up, and I couldn't get back to sleep.

I feel angry, bitter, embarrassed, anxious. I keep praying. I keep trying to turn to role models. But all the negativity still festers. And I feel the blues coming on.

Lord, be with me.

Pax et bonum

Friday, August 7, 2015

Republican Debates: Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio were the winners

There were two Republican debates yesterday - with the 17 presidential candidates split between them, with 7 at the earlier one, and the top 10 (according to the polls) at the later one.

I'm a long-time supporter of Mike Huckabee. He did well during the later debate. But I think Marco Rubio clearly won that debate. Both had some great lines. Both came out strong for life.

Various pundits say Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich did well. I don't agree with them entirely.  I thought Cruz came across as kind of creepy, and Kasich's gay marriage response, while popular - and even understandable - raised some questions in my mind, though I do appreciate his social justice focus. Carson seems like a wonderful, intelligent person, but did not come across as presidential. Walker held his own.

Others were okay, but I think Rand Paul and Donald Trump really hurt their campaigns - and their chances. I also think Jeb Bush and Christ Christie didn't help their chances.

During the earlier debate, Carly Fiorina was the clear winner. Great lines, sharp, displayed knowledge. I think she really opened a few eyes, and likely put herself into the top tier. I also liked Bobby Jindal, though he was a distant second. I hope Fiorina moves up to the main stage next time. I don't know if Jindal will be around to do so, but would welcome it.

None of the others at the early debate impressed me at all.

At this point, I still like Huckabee or Rubio for President. I could see Fiorina for Vice President. I'd also vote for Walker or Kasich.

But that's a long way away.

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

If Nominated, I will not ... ?

We have Fraternity elections coming up. I am currently a Councilor. I agreed to that back in 2012 because I was the person with the key to the church building for my parish where we meet, so I had to be at the meetings anyway.

Otherwise, I would have turned the office down.

When they contacted me for nominee suggestions for the upcoming elections I gave a couple of possible slates, and said I would be willing to continue as a Councilor - I'm still the person with the key! - but really wasn't interested in anything else.

One of the people who is running the nominating process contacted me yesterday. She said after surveying other Fraternity members I had been suggested for every single office! And she asked me to pray about it.

My first thought is, boy, I sure must have fooled the other members of the Fraternity. Maybe my beard impressed them.

I don't want any office, period. As I noted, I agreed to be a Councilor only because I had the key to the building. I am too disorganized to be the Secretary. I don't really want to be the Formation Director - it would mean missing parts of the meetings, and there are two people who have been trained in formation.

As for Vice Minister or Minister - I've only been professed 4 years, and, to be honest, I lack the patience those offices require.

I could see Treasurer - I'm good with numbers and it's something I can do behind the scenes. But there is a women who is not currently in any office who would like to be Treasurer, and I'd love to see her desire to be involved honored.

Councilor. I'd prefer to stick with that. I like doing all the service tasks - opening the door, turning on the heat when needed, cleaning up, greeting people at the door and helping those who need it. A porter - like Venerable Solanus Casey.

Can I be elected Porter? Alas, it's not one of the Fraternity offices.

But Father Casey also humbly did whatever he was asked to do, without argument or complaining. I'm trying to do that with my job situation. Should I just say to the nominating committee whatever the Holy Spirit and the Fraternity wills?

Pax et bonum

Saturday, August 1, 2015

August 1 - turning the corner

I can't speak for other teachers, but August 1 is often the date I turn the corner on summer.

July, I could put off school related things, be on vacation. But August 1 has me starting to think about what I need to do to prepare for the year.

There are those books I need to read or reread - especially for the new courses. I have four courses this year - one of which I've never taught, two I haven't taught in a while.

There are materials I need to gather. What essays, poems, stories will I have my writing workshop students read as examples? What versions of classic myths might serve my world literature students better? What native American poetry can I add to supplement the Native American pieces in the text? When do I meet with the students for the clubs I moderate?

And then there's Harper Lee's new book sitting next to my bed, waiting, taunting. But, I've been putting it off - Atticus is a bigot????

Plenty to do.

I'm trying to keep positive - I lost my favorite course in part because the principal needed a lure for a new teacher he wanted to hire. Given my tendency to be sarcastic, snarky, I have to be careful what I say. I've been going into the school to water the plants in my room and clean out more old worksheets and papers - including sadly packing up everything related to that course - at times when I know the principal won't be around, just in case. It's been hard to look forward to the year with enthusiasm.

Yeah, I know, not very Franciscan. I've been reading about Venerable Solanus Casey to find a model and inspiration for my words and actions!

Venerable Solanus, pray for me.

Pax et bonum