Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Why I Shovel Snow

I live in Western New York. Every winter we get a couple of snowstorms, sometimes with significant snowfalls. After every storm, I go out and shovel the driveway. If there's enough snow, I use a small electric snowblower my daughters gave me for Christmas a few years back.

Every time I go out to shovel, my wife frets. I'm an older fellow, and she worries I will have a heart attack. She keeps pushing me to hire aplowing service.

I know she's motivated in part by love for me. I also know that she's a worrier - she almost always assumes the worst will happen. 

Me? I'm stubborn.

The issue came up Monday. We got a storm with more than a foot of snow - some estimates run to 18 inches. So I dutifully went out to shovel and snowblow; she took the picture above as I did so, and posted it on social media.

Here posting led to a joking exchange with a friend, and the issue of hiring a plowing servce cme up (he gets his driveway plowed)i. They both noted my Scottish heritage and among the reasons I refuse to hire a plowing service - she talking about the snow-covered Highlands, he suggesting the alleged frugality of the Scottish.


There are many reasons why I prefer to shovel and not to hire - and none of them have anything to do with frugality.

Here's a few reasons:. 

1. I lead a relatively sedentary life. Shoveling snow, mowing the lawn (another activity that raises the wife's eyebrow) and long daily walks with the dog are my chief forms of exercise. 
2. I view shoveling snow as a "manly" activity. In a society intent on emasculating men, I consider attempts to get me to stop as part of that emasculation, and my continuing to shovel as a kind of "barbaric yawp"!  
3. I'm on the older side. But as long as I can shovel,  I will do so. Hiring someone to plow (or mow),  will signal that I have officially become old. 
4. Pride (see 3)
5. I'm independent. I don't like relying on others to do things that I'm perfectly capable of doing. So when the car breaks down, or my tooth hurts, or the roof leaks, I'll seek out professionals. But shoveling snow? Bah. I can do that.  
6. I'm a cranky contrarian. Telling me to do something - especially if you do so repeatedly - inspires me not to comply. (I respond better when something is suggested once, valid reasons are given, and then I'm left alone to think about it.)
7. I use the time shoveling (or mowing or walking) to think, to pray, to work on something I'm writing, to take in nature, etc.
8. As the frind suggested: I like it. I enjoy it. I relish it. I take pleasure in it. I dig it (literally).So telling me not to do it is telling me to stop doing something that brings joy to my life.

What next? Give up popcorn? Beer? Haiku and clerihews? The Buffalo Bills??? 

Okay, so it does save money. But that's just a secondary benefit . 

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, January 18, 2022



Saint Charles of Sezze

Saint Charles of Sezze

Charles thought that God was calling him to be a missionary in India, but he never got there. God had something better for this 17th-century successor to Brother Juniper.

Born in Sezze, southeast of Rome, Charles was inspired by the lives of Salvator Horta and Paschal Baylon to become a Franciscan; he did that in 1635. Charles tells us in his autobiography, “Our Lord put in my heart a determination to become a lay brother with a great desire to be poor and to beg alms for his love.”

Charles served as cook, porter, sacristan, gardener and beggar at various friaries in Italy. In some ways, he was “an accident waiting to happen.” He once started a huge fire in the kitchen when the oil in which he was frying onions burst into flames.

One story shows how thoroughly Charles adopted the spirit of Saint Francis. The superior ordered Charles—then porter—to give food only to traveling friars who came to the door. Charles obeyed this direction; simultaneously the alms to the friars decreased. Charles convinced the superior the two facts were related. When the friars resumed giving goods to all who asked at the door, alms to the friars increased also.

At the direction of his confessor, Charles wrote his autobiography, The Grandeurs of the Mercies of God. He also wrote several other spiritual books. He made good use of his various spiritual directors throughout the years; they helped him discern which of Charles’ ideas or ambitions were from God. Charles himself was sought out for spiritual advice. The dying Pope Clement IX called Charles to his bedside for a blessing.

Charles had a firm sense of God’s providence. Father Severino Gori has said, “By word and example he recalled in all the need of pursuing only that which is eternal” (Leonard Perotti, St. Charles of Sezze: An Autobiography, page 215).

He died at San Francesco a Ripa in Rome and was buried there. Pope John XXIII canonized him in 1959.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Saint Berard and Compainions

Saint Berard and Companions

Preaching the gospel is often dangerous work. Leaving one’s homeland and adjusting to new cultures, governments and languages is difficult enough; but martyrdom caps all the other sacrifices.

In 1219, with the blessing of Saint Francis, Berard left Italy with Peter, Adjute, Accurs, Odo and Vitalis to preach in Morocco. En route in Spain, Vitalis became sick and commanded the other friars to continue their mission without him.

They tried preaching in Seville, then in Muslim hands, but made no converts. They went on to Morocco where they preached in the marketplace. The friars were immediately apprehended and ordered to leave the country; they refused. When they began preaching again, an exasperated sultan ordered them executed. After enduring severe beatings and declining various bribes to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ, the friars were beheaded by the sultan himself on January 16, 1220.

These were the first Franciscan martyrs. When Francis heard of their deaths, he exclaimed, “Now I can truly say that I have five Friars Minor!” Their relics were brought to Portugal where they prompted a young Augustinian canon to join the Franciscans and set off for Morocco the next year. That young man was Anthony of Padua. These five martyrs were canonized in 1481.

- From Franciscan Media

Pax et bonum

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Last Things (McInerny)

The library didn't have the Tony Hillerman mystery I was seeking, but then I spotted Last Things by Ralph McInerny. I had read some McInerny Father Dowling mysteries years ago and remembered enjoying them, so I thought I'd give this one a read.

It was a workman-like mystery, certainly better than some I've read. But given the really good mystery writers I'd been reading - like Hillerman or Margaret Coel -  not top tier. There were too many stereotyped characters and situations, too many of the typical conservative criticisms of the direction the Church has take. Once the victim was revealed, I immediately figured out the killer nearly a hundred pages before the end. And the ending, by the way, was a bit too pat. 

I'll read more McInerny. Maybe there are better books by him - perhaps some of the earlier ones in case this one was a matter of getting into a rut. And Father Dowling is still an interesting character.

Pax et bonum

Monday, January 10, 2022

Latest Reads

Just over a week into the new year I already have three books under my belt - all mysteries.

Two were by Sherlock Holmes tales by Arthur Conan Doyle - The Sign of Four and The Valley of Fear. The third was a Tony Hillerman, The Ghostway.

The Sign of Four was promoted by a friend as the best of the Holmes novellas. It does add details about Holmes - such as Toby and the Baker Street Irregulars. And it introduces Mary, the future Mrs' Watson. It was okay -  I still like The Hound of the Baskervilles better. Plus, this one displaces the kind of racist attitudes shown by the upper classes in England in the late Nineteenth Century, and that left me uncomfortable.

The Valley of Fear seemed like two stories lumped together. The mystery part wat the firt half of the novella, and, to be honest, I guess the main "surprise" in the first couple of chapters. There were a few details I did not guess, but I was right about the most important things. The second part of the book is the back story that helped to explain some elements of the mystery part. I found that part of the novella well-written and far more interesting than the mystery. 

As for The Ghostway, typical Hillerman. Well-written and interesting. I like the character of Chee: intelligent, determined, willing to take risks, and sometimes making bad decisions. 

I like the Hillerman far more than I did the Doyles.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Saint Angela of Folino

Some saints show marks of holiness very early. Not Angela! Born of a leading family in Foligno, Italy, she became immersed in the quest for wealth and social position. As a wife and mother, she continued this life of distraction.

Around the age of 40, she recognized the emptiness of her life and sought God’s help in the Sacrament of Penance. Her Franciscan confessor helped Angela to seek God’s pardon for her previous life and to dedicate herself to prayer and the works of charity.

Shortly after her conversion, her husband and children died. Selling most of her possessions, she entered the Secular Franciscan Order. She was alternately absorbed by meditating on the crucified Christ and by serving the poor of Foligno as a nurse and beggar for their needs. Other women joined her in a religious community.

At her confessor’s advice, Angela wrote her Book of Visions and Instructions. In it she recalls some of the temptations she suffered after her conversion; she also expresses her thanks to God for the Incarnation of Jesus. This book and her life earned for Angela the title “Teacher of Theologians.” She was beatified in 1693, and canonized in 2013.

- From Franciscan Media

Pax et bonum