Sunday, December 31, 2017

Books Read in 2017

With the end of the year just hours away, it's unlikely I'll finish another book this year. So here is the list for 2017:

Tales of the Greek Heroes by Roger Lancelyn Green
Saint Kateri, Lily of the Mohawks by Matthew and Margaret Bunson
Tales of Ancient Egypt by Roger Lancelyn Green
The Thorny Grace Of It by Brian Doyle
Motherless by Brian J. Gail
Strangers in a Strange Land by Archbishop Charles Chaput
The Miracle of Father Kupaun: Priest, Soldier, and Korean War Hero by Roy Wenzl and Travis Heying
Will Wilder: The Lost Staff of Wonders by Raymond Arroyo
The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter
The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
Crusader King by Susan Peek
I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino
The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
The Living Wood by Louis de Wohl
Keys to the Hearts of Youth by Father Paul P. Avallone, SDB
The Rain in Portugal: Poems by Billy Collins
The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher
The Man Who Met the King by Gerard Goggins
The Weight of All Things by Sandra Benitez
Theophilos by Michael D. O'Brien
Poetry as Prayer: Saint Francis of Assisi by Father Murray Bodo, OFM
The Quiet Light by Louis de Wohl
Silence by Shusaku Endo
The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember by Fred Rogers

24 books. Many are school related - understandable given that I'm teaching some new curriculums.

Tales of the Greek Heroes; Saint Kateri, Lily of the Mohawks; Tales of Ancient Egypt; The Miracle of Father Kupaun: Priest, Soldier, and Korean War Hero; I, Juan de Pareja; The Bronze Bow;
The Light in the Forest; The Magician's Nephew; and The Weight of All Things all were prompted by school needs.

Keys to the Hearts of Youth  was at the advice of my headmaster.

Other books fit in with my decision to read more religiously-oriented literature. Under this category come Crusader King; Will Wilder: The Lost Staff of Wonders; The Thorny Grace Of It; Motherless; The Living Wood ; The Man Who Met the King; Theophilos; The Quiet Light; and Silence.

Then there are the more spiritually oriented books: The Benedict OptionStrangers in a Strange Land; Poetry as Prayer: Saint Francis of Assisi.

And then for the fun (or pleasure) of reading: The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember and The Rain in Portugal: Poems.

I will continue this pattern in the coming year - with maybe a little more poetry in the mix. I want to add some more Franciscan related works as well. Currently nearing the end of The Divine Comedy, for a start - the final 25 Cantos to go!      

With limiting my time on Facebook and Twitter in the coming year I should have more time to read.

Pax et bonum

And the Resolutions Are ...

It's that time: Resolutions for 2018.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I do need to lose weight for reasons of health (and, to be honest, vanity). My goal for the year is 50 pounds. That will entail changing my diet, and getting more exercise.

I will visit an adoration chapel at least once a week, and I will add reading the Bible each day (in addition to the daily Mass readings).

I will cut down on time spent on Twitter and Facebook. I will also avoid snarky, sarcastic, or unnecessarily critical posts and comments.

 I will search for a new spiritual director.

I will practice guitar more so that I can better play for Mass.

I will try to get to a daily Mass before school at least once a week.

I will get a collection of poems ready for publication in a booklet/book.

Pax et bonum

One resolution I am making

Weighed myself this morning for the first time in a couple of months.

As I feared, I gained weight. Lots of weight.

Christmas feasting, treats (candy, cookies, pies) , eggnog, beer, milkshakes, large servings, before-bed snacks and more have all taken their toll.

I'm about 60 pounds overweight. This is the heaviest I've ever been.

I'm in dad country - about the same weight he was when he had a massive stroke at 65.

I'm 62. I didn't smoke the way he did, or eat a lot of meat, but still, the age and the weight and the family history are concerns.

I'd like to be able to weigh myself December 31, 2018, and have at least 50 of those pounds gone. That's based on a reasonable goal of about a pound a week.

That will mean cutting out the unhealthy foods and portions and getting more exercise.

Initially, I may lose a few extra pounds in the first week - that always seems to happen - so I'll keep that in mind. Therefore, my goal by January 28 is losing 5 pounds.

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

I'm a what?

I've been accused of a few things - negatively, of course - because of things I've posted on social media (or supposedly said).

Now, I do post a lot on social media, Facebook and Twitter specifically. I tend to be more political  and snarky/sarcastic on Twitter, but I often post the same/related items on both.

I've been accused of being a Trump supporter (even though I don't belong to his party and didn't vote for him), a homophobe, a Nazi, a hateful angry man, and so on.

So I decided at look at the last few things I've posted on Facebook, or tweeted/retweeted on Twitter.

The last 10 on Facebook:

Blessed Solanus Casey (Catholic Answers)
Catholic Radical Traditionalists (Catholic Answers)
Christmas song (Duck Dynasty)
Christmas song (Duck Dynasty)
A question about a pro-life blog aggregator that may be gone
Humor (Star Wars Lamp)
St. Stephen (Bishop Barron commentary)
Humor (Star Wars Christmas "Toy")
Christmas Message from St. John Bosco Schools' First Graders
Planned Parenthood (Former director criticizes)

Hmm. Maybe not enough of a sample.

10 More from Facebook:

Christmas Greeting (Bishop Barron)
Christmas song (with bagpipes)
Humor (Stanford Nutting Holiday Special)
Merry Christmas Greeting from me
Christmas Song (Innocence Mission)
Humor Song (Chipmunks roasting ...)
David Daleiden Quotation (St. Thomas More Society, pro-life)
LifeNews Criticism of Pro-choice Conservative
Pro-Life Democrat to speak at March for Life
Original Christmas Story (Grumpy Shepherd)

Okay ... Clearly several pro-life-related posts, but lots of Christmas-related or humorous pieces. I don't see a lot of hate so far. Maybe in my comments/responses over the same span?

Happy Birthday greeting
Pointing out that a "new" article was actually three-years-old
Praising It's a Wonderful Life
Response to a CNN host's claim of It's a Wonderful Life being sexist
Liking a family Christmas picture
Posting a Christmas-related Science Fiction poem
A Christmas greeting to a friend
A St. Nicholas clerihew
A critical response to a post about how to be a Christian man
Paolo Uccello clerihew
A response to a book critical of Pope Francis
Humor (mildly satirical) in response to a friend's post
Mildly satirical response to a friend's comment about Hollywood
Condolences for a friend's loss of a pet
A response to an article about the homeless (who need shelter during this season)
Noting that a posted "news article" may not be real
Speculation about possibly trimming my Santa-length beard
Liking another person's poem

A bit more satire - but still I don't see much hate there.

Let's see what's over on Twitter in the same span - Tweets and Replies:

Solanus Casey (Catholic Answers)
Radical Traditionalists (Catholic Answers)
Satirical response to a CNN report (Trump caught golfing)
Humorous response to a Representative's claim that a woman may have been racist
Retweet of a person's positive comment about prayer
"Kennedy" on a Fox show leading me to change the channel
Retweet of a Live Action post about Planned Parenthood
Retweet of praise for a female African pro-life activist
A comment that someone would make a questionable MSNBC host
Question about the apparent suspending of a pro-life article aggregator
Friendly response to someone's comment about the cold temperatures
Posting one of a late-poet's poems
Noting that an article being used to attack group is actually 3-years old
Response to comment about how poor movies are faring this year
LifeNews article related to Planned Parenthood
Comment about diversity in music at church (Silent Night played on guitar)
LifeNews article related to ultrasound images upsetting prochoicers
A Christmas greeting from me
St. Nicholas clerihew
Christmas Song from Innocence Mission
Paolo Uccello clerihew
Cartoon about the song "Mary Did You Know?"
Response to humorous Tweet about giving up coffee
Affirming response to Tweet about overuse of the word "brave"
Retweet of criticism of Cory Booker Tweet
Humorous response to friend's Tweet about a Christmas song pun
Criticism of a Cory Book inappropriate Tweet
Saying I didn't appreciate a Tweet unnecessarily critical of Pope Francis
Satirical response to a NY Times article about inappropriate activity at a company
Bible verse in response to a question about a Papal statement
A comment about reading a full Papal statement to see what he really said
A mildly critical comment about the Vatican nativity scene that did not work
A critical comment about a misguided "impeachment" Tweet
Raising the issue of possibly trimming my Santa-length beard
A response to a Tweet asking if adults use libraries any more (I do)
Retweeting an African woman's critical response to Father Martin's comment about Africans and homosexuality
Retweeting a positive story about Cardinal Burke responding to a homosexual priest
LifeNews article critical of the pro-choice position of a conservative commentator
Pro-life Democrat to speak at March for Life
The Grumpy Shepherd (original Christmas story)

So ... definitely pro-life - maybe pro-choicers consider that "hate." Sometimes satirical, maybe even mildly sarcastic, and a bit of a stickler. But I don't see racism, Nazism, homophobia, hate, etc. Not a lot there about Trump, either.

Of course, this is just a few days' worth, and it is during the Christmas season. But I don't see the evidence.

I remember someone saying to a friend after actually listening to me that I seem to have mellowed. The friend pointed out that I hadn't changed at all. My spin is that perhaps the person was actually listening to me for the first time rather than basing her judgment of me on what others claim about me, or on her own preconceptions of what I think, say, and do.

Meanwhile, what I draw from this little exercise is that perhaps I spend too much time on Facebook and Twitter!

Pax et bonum

A Blessed Model of Humility | Catholic Answers

Comments about Blessed Solanus Casey.

A Blessed Model of Humility | Catholic Answers

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Uccello clerihew

Paolo Uccello
was a cautious fellow.
Asked his opinion, the answer he'd always give,
is, "It's all a matter of perspective."
(FYI - He was an Italian artist noted for his study and use of perspective in his art.)

Pax et bonum

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Getting to be resolution time ...

Every year many people make resolutions, including me.

To lose weight. To exercise more. To spend more time with family or friends. To quit some bad habit like smoking or drinking. And so on.

Mine have overlapped - like losing weight. But I've also had some about praying more and doing more spiritual reading.

Some have worked. I have begun to read more spiritual works. I have added some prayers.

I haven't lost the weight, though!

I'm mulling some of those again for the coming year.

I do need to lose about 50 pounds.

I need to add even more spiritual reading. I have been reading more spiritual fiction and non-fiction, and I now do the daily readings, but I'd like to add more Bible reading.

I do pray every day, but not enough. One thing I'd like to add is a weekly visit to the adoration chapel. I'd actually talked about this with my former spiritual director (he had to stop due to illness).

I need to find a new spiritual director.

I need to practice guitar more so that I can better play for Mass.

A morning Mass is available near my school that I can get to and still be in my homeroom in plenty of time before students arrive. I'd like to add at least one morning Mass each week.

I'd like to spend less time on social media, and to be less snarky.

One area where I really need to step up my game is for my Franciscan fraternity. I need to do more to help the fraternity to grow, and to help sustain it. Elections are coming up this year, and I plan to say if I'm wanted I'll let my name get placed in nomination (I'm currently on the Council). One thing I have done is compiled a list of birthdays of fraternity members, and I'll start sending them cards to help promote a sense of welcoming and family. I also need to read more Franciscan documents, and to take advantage to workshops and training. Not sure what else to do yet.

Still mulling resolutions - have a week to settle on what ones.

Which means it was all right for me to have that donut I just ate, right? (wink)

I think I'll shower now, and head off to the perpetual adoration chapel at my church.

Pax et bonum

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Grumpy Shepherd: A Christmas Tale

      A long time ago in the little town of Bethlehem, there lived a shepherd named Benjamin.

     Benjamin lived in a pretty house on the edge of Bethlehem. But he was rarely at home. He spent most of his time alone in the hills taking care of his flock of sheep.

     That was fine with Benjamin. For you see,  he didn’t trust anyone.

     When he went to the market, he always counted his change two or three times to make sure the merchants hadn’t cheated him.

      When he was with his flock, he always hired a watchman to watch his house. Then he hired a watchman to watch the other watchman.

       And when the shepherds around Bethlehem gathered in the hills to talk and tell jokes and sing songs, Benjamin never joined them. He was afraid some of the other shepherds might try to steal his sheep.

      Most of all, Benjamin didn’t trust children. He thought they were always trying to sneak into his yard to steal fruit from his trees. Whenever he saw children come close to his yard, he’d shake his fist and yell, “Go away. Stay away from my trees!”

     So it was easy to understand why everyone in Bethlehem called him Benjamin, the grumpy shepherd.

     Now while Benjamin may have seemed completely cold and hard-hearted, he really wasn’t. There were two things in the world that he loved very dearly.

     First, he loved  his fruit trees.

     His father had planted them when Benjamin was a small boy. Together, they had tended and watered the trees. They had watched with pride as the trees grew tall and full of sweet figs, dates, and apples. When Benjamin’s father went into the hills to tend his flock, he always left the trees in Benjamin’s care. And when Benjamin grew old enough to help with the flock, he and his father would bring fruit from the trees to eat. Even now, long after his father was dead and the flock had become his, Benjamin still brought cakes made of dates and figs to eat while watching his sheep. As he would eat, he would remember his father. Then the fruit would taste even sweeter.

     But as much as he loved his trees, Benjamin loved his sheep even more.

     He would do anything for his sheep. He always searched out the freshest grass for them. He only took them to pastures where there were no cliffs or holes for them to fall into. He would stay awake all night to make sure they were safe from wild animals and thieves. If one of his sheep fell sick, he would stay with it, keeping it warm and comfortable.

      Benjamin knew so much about the care of sheep that the other shepherds would come to ask his advice – even if he was grumpy when he gave it.

      Now Benjamin lived at a time when a strange star appeared in the sky above Bethlehem. It glowed brighter and brighter every night.

     One night when the star seemed to burn as bright as the sun, the other shepherds came over to where Benjamin was watching his sheep.

     “Benjamin,” one of them said, “have you ever seen a star like this?”

     “No,” Benjamin replied, looking up at the sky. “In all my life I’ve never seen such a star.”

     Another shepherd pointed to the valley below.

     “It seems to be shining down on that stable,” the shepherd said. “Maybe we should go down to see what is there.”

     “No,” Benjamin said quickly.  “If we leave our sheep wild animals or thieves may come.”

     The other shepherds nodded their heads.

      At that moment, a stranger stood among them. The shepherds fell down and covered themselves. They knew in their hearts he was no ordinary man. He was an angel.

       “Fear not,” the angel said gently,  “for I have come to give you great news. On this day the Messiah, the savior, is born right here in the city of David. And this shall be a sign to you. You will find him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

      Suddenly, the air filled with angels. They began to sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.”

      And just as suddenly as they’d come, the angels were gone.

     Benjamin stood up.

     “Come,” he said, “let us see the Messiah.”

     The other shepherds followed Benjamin down the hill to the stable. When they came to the entrance, they had to stoop low to get in. Inside, the stable was full of animals, all standing quietly. In the center of the room were a man and a woman, and in front of them, a baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger.

      Benjamin looked at the woman. Never had he seen a face so calm, so beautiful.

      Then he looked at the baby, and the baby looked at him. He felt as if the baby was looking right at his heart. He felt all the distrust and hardness around his heart melt way.

       Benjamin fell to his knees. The other shepherds joined him.

       In his heart, Benjamin heard the song of the angels again. Glory to God in the highest. Peace to his people on earth.

       Benjamin did not know how long he knelt. But after a time, he suddenly remembered where he was. He stood up and smiled at the man and the woman.

       “Thank you for letting us be here,” he said to them.

       He looked around the stable. He could see that they had only just arrived. Their bundles were still tied. And he saw no food.

       Benjamin reached into his pouch and took out the bread and the fig cakes he had brought for his own meal. He held them out to the man.

       “This will hold you until the morning,” Benjamin said. “Until you can go to the market.”

       The man thanked him, and Benjamin looked at the woman. She smiled.

       Then he looked at the baby. The song started in Benjamin’s heart again.

       The shepherds left the stable and hurried back to their flocks.

       Benjamin spent the rest of the night on the hill above the stable, keeping an eye on it and on his beloved sheep. All the while, the song filled his heart.

       From that day forward, Benjamin was a changed man. He no longer mistrusted others. He would gather with the other shepherds and laugh and sing louder than anyone else.

       And when he was home, he would invite the children over. They would play games and sing songs. And Benjamin always shared with them fresh fruit from his trees.

       Soon, everyone in Bethlehem loved Benjamin. They even had a new name for him.

       He was Benjamin, the good shepherd.

Pax et bonum

Prayer for Secular Franciscan Order 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 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!

(Composed by Marian R. Crosby, OFS, at the 2010 NAFRA Chapter, Scottsdale, AZ)

Pax et bonum

From Pope Francis's Christmas Address to the Curia

I began our meeting by speaking of Christmas as the Feast of Faith. I would like to conclude, though, by pointing out that Christmas reminds us that a faith that does not trouble us is a troubled faith. A faith that does not make us grow is a faith that needs to grow. A faith that does not raise questions is a faith that has to be questioned. A faith that does not rouse us is a faith that needs to be roused. A faith that does not shake us is a faith that needs to be shaken. Indeed, a faith which is only intellectual or lukewarm is only a notion of faith. It can become real once it touches our heart, our soul, our spirit and our whole being. Once it allows God to be born and reborn in the manger of our heart. Once we let the star of Bethlehem guide us to the place where the Son of God lies, not among Kings and riches, but among the poor and humble.

- From Pope Francis's 2017 Christmas Address to the Curia.

Pax et bonum

Thursday, December 21, 2017

St. Francis's Christmas Gift (with and assist from God!)

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

Pax et bonum

Show of Hands "Roots" -- We need roots!

A tribute to the cultural roots we need to celebrate, cherish, and preserve.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Love will end abortion

Some 70-80 of us gathered in the snow and cold to pray for an end to abortion as part of the Love Will End Abortion rally December 16.

We lined both sides of the street outside the main Planned Parenthood in Rochester, N.Y. 

We sang and prayed and listened to a variety of speakers.

People were fired up and inspired.

Love will indeed end abortion!

Pax et bonum

Merry Christmas 2017 - John Michael Talbot

Pax et bonum

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Ho! Ho! Ho!

At the parish Breakfast with Santa 2017!

Pax et bonum

Christmas overindulgence is a symptom

I remember Christmas specials when I was a child. As a family we'd gather in front of the television with popcorn, Christmas cookies, and so on to watch Charlie Brown, the Grinch, Rudolph, Mr. Magoo's version of A Christmas Carol, It's a Wonderful Life, the variety shows of Bing Crosby and Andy Williams and others.

Those show were broadcast only once during the Christmas season, so we'd look forward to them, plan our schedules around them, and savor them as we watched.

They were indeed "special."

But with the arrival and spread of cable and multiple networks, the old favorites began being shown again and again and again. Now, some are even shown in 24-hour marathons. 

Sadly, those specials have become not-so-special. Indeed, they have become so familiar they've become, well, boring.

As a fan of Christmas, I lament what has happened. But even more, I see it as symptomatic of what has become common in our culture.

We have so many things that used to be special and precious that are now banal and almost meaningless due to overindulgence. I remember, for example, when a trip to a drive-in/fast food diner for fish and fries or a burger and fries was an event. Now some people go to those places on a daily basis - to the detriment of their budgets and their waistlines.

We have to keep pushing for more and more as we try to satisfy a longing for something that is special and meaningful - and we grow more and more dissatisfied. This is true of movies and television shows and food, and, sadly, of relationships.

It would be nice if those special things were special again, instead of just more of the same.

Pax et bonum

Monday, December 4, 2017

More Clerihews in Gilbert

I just got the latest Gilbert and was pleased to see six of my clerihews in it:

G. K. Chesterton
would sometimes sit in the sun.
His wife appreciated the cool glade
his shadow made.
There was a side of J.R.R. Tolkien
that was seldom seen.
When he was by himself
he'd sometimes dress as an elf.
gave most Trojan foes the willies.
But Paris said, "He's no big deal.
I just told him to heel."

Irascible St. Jerome
was justly noted for his biblical tome,
but he was upset that no one would look
at his vegetarian cook book.
After that day in Moriah, young Isaac
developed many a nervous tic,
and was tempted to run for his life
whenever Abraham picked up a knife. 
Napoleon Bonaparte 
waited at the Tour de France's start.
He planned to throw a stale baguette
at the Duke of Wellington's bicyclette

Pax et bonum

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Friday, December 1, 2017

Elf on the Shelf - Bah, Humbug!

As a professional Santa, and as a believer in the true Christmas message, I am not a fan of Elf on the Shelf.

The story and the doll seem like a marketing ploy. Yes, I know there are a lot of marketing ploys surrounding the secular celebration of Christmas. If it was only that with the elf, I'd just sigh and move on.

But the spying aspect really bugs me. The elf is being used to frighten, to intimidate the children.

Santa is used that way, too - "If you're not good, Santa won't bring you any presents," or "If you are bad Santa will give you coal." When I hear parents say that it makes my skin crawl. And when they say something like, "If you don't take a picture with Santa, he won't bring you gifts," I get really irked. I hold my tongue, but I want to say to such parents, "You've just put yourself on the naughty list."

But there's just something insidious about making kids believe they are constantly being spied on - and these spies report to Santa.

Spymaster Claus???

Santa is not the CIA!

Are we training the children to accept the government and others watching them constantly? Hmmm.

As for it being a "tradition," come on. It's a manufactured "tradition" that's just a little over a decade old. That's not a tradition. It's just marketing. Yes, being a professional Santa involves marketing - and when I was a mall Santa I was helping to sell photos (I now do Santa gigs for hire, for free, and for non-commercial purposes). But this just seems to go too far.

Bah!. Humbug!

Pax et bonum