Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Resolutions 2015 - Reading

As part of my resolutions for the New Year, I have some books in mind to read.

I've already started a number of books - just need to get back to them or finish them:

Urodivoi: Holy Fools by Catherine Doherty
Consider the Ravens: On Contemporary Hermit Life by Paul and Karen Fredette
Bad Religion: How We Became A Nation of Heretics by Ross Douthat
The Divine Comedy by Dante
In the First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I'll be sampling some mystery stories, certainly, though I'm not sure yet which ones.

I need to read at least one Franciscan book. I'm leaning toward Father Daniel Horan's Francis of Assisi and the Future of Faith

Others I'm considering reading:

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (I've seen so many of the movies)

Two rereads in the pile (after many years):

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

There will also be assorted magazines, especially haiku related.

I'm sure more books will surface.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Year is almost done - what should I resolve?

The year nears its end.

Goodbye 2014.

I didn't accomplish many of the things I thought I would. But I still have a job. I still have a wife. I did write and publish some poems. I did continue to play music at Church. Some changes I'd been pushing for did come about at Church (though I don't know if I played a role in any of it, even indirectly).

So what for next year?

I'm mulling a few things. Most center around being a better Catholic Franciscan and a better teacher. I'd add being a better husband, but some of that will be covered in the Catholic Franciscan area.

I also really need to work on my writing.

Getting my weight down would be good.

And reading more good books.

I'll post my official "resolutions" later.

New Year's Eve -
scattering resolutions
like confetti

Pax et bonum

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Beard

 photo beard14_zps65c2fe05.jpg

So here it is, two days after Christmas, and I'm still sporting my Santa beard. Some parts of it are about 4 inches long - short by Duck Dynasty standards perhaps, but still far longer than what's considered fashionable. 

I look in the mirror whenever I wander into the bathroom and wonder: To trim, or not to trim? 

Do I let my Santa flag fly, perhaps even get longer and enter into Solzhenitsyn and Whitman territory? Or do I cut it back to a more socially acceptable length?

Long fits the Franciscan mold - at least the Capuchin/Franciscan Friars of the Renewal sort.

But I must also face teaching in school that emphasizes professionalism in practice and appearance.

Of a divided mind at the moment.

Pax et bonum

Friday, December 26, 2014

Pope Francis's 2014 Urbi et Orbi message

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Christmas!

Jesus, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, is born for us, born in Bethlehem of a Virgin, fulfilling the ancient prophecies. The Virgin’s name is Mary, the wife of Joseph.

Humble people, full of hope in the goodness of God, are those who welcome Jesus and recognize him. And so the Holy Spirit enlightened the shepherds of Bethlehem, who hastened to the grotto and adored the Child. Then the Spirit led the elderly and humble couple Simeon and Anna into the temple of Jerusalem, and they recognized in Jesus the Messiah. "My eyes have seen your salvation", Simeon exclaimed, "the salvation prepared by God in the sight of all peoples" (Lk 2:30).

Yes, brothers and sisters, Jesus is the salvation for every person and for every people!

Today I ask him, the Saviour of the world, to look upon our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria, who for too long now have suffered the effects of ongoing conflict, and who, together with those belonging to other ethnic and religious groups, are suffering a brutal persecution. May Christmas bring them hope, as indeed also to the many displaced persons, exiles and refugees, children, adults and elderly, from this region and from the whole world. May indifference be changed into closeness and rejection into hospitality, so that all who now are suffering may receive the necessary humanitarian help to overcome the rigours of winter, return to their countries and live with dignity. May the Lord open hearts to trust, and may he bestow his peace upon the whole Middle East, beginning with the land blessed by his birth, thereby sustaining the efforts of those committed effectively to dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.

May Jesus, Saviour of the world, protect all who suffer in Ukraine, and grant that their beloved land may overcome tensions, conquer hatred and violence, and set out on a new journey of fraternity and reconciliation.

May Christ the Saviour give peace to Nigeria, where [even in these hours] more blood is being shed and too many people are unjustly deprived of their possessions, held as hostages or killed. I invoke peace also on the other parts of the African continent, thinking especially of Libya, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and various regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I beseech all who have political responsibility to commit themselves through dialogue to overcoming differences and to building a lasting, fraternal coexistence.

May Jesus save the vast numbers of children who are victims of violence, made objects of trade and trafficking, or forced to become soldiers; children, so many abused children. May he give comfort to the families of the children killed in Pakistan last week. May he be close to all who suffer from illness, especially the victims of the Ebola epidemic, above all in Liberia, in Sierra Leone and in Guinea. As I thank all who are courageously dedicated to assisting the sick and their family members, I once more make an urgent appeal that the necessary assistance and treatment be provided.

The Child Jesus. My thoughts turn to all those children today who are killed and ill-treated, be they infants killed in the womb, deprived of that generous love of their parents and then buried in the egoism of a culture that does not love life; be they children displaced due to war and persecution, abused and taken advantage of before our very eyes and our complicit silence. I think also of those infants massacred in bomb attacks, also those where the Son of God was born. Even today, their impotent silence cries out under the sword of so many Herods. On their blood stands the shadow of contemporary Herods. Truly there are so many tears this Christmas, together with the tears of the Infant Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Holy Spirit today enlighten our hearts, that we may recognize in the Infant Jesus, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, the salvation given by God to each one of us, to each man and woman and to all the peoples of the earth. May the power of Christ, which brings freedom and service, be felt in so many hearts afflicted by war, persecution and slavery. May this divine power, by its meekness, take away the hardness of heart of so many men and women immersed in worldliness and indifference, the globalization of indifference. May his redeeming strength transform arms into ploughshares, destruction into creativity, hatred into love and tenderness. Then we will be able to cry out with joy: "Our eyes have seen your salvation".

With these thoughts I wish you all a Happy Christmas!

Pax et bonum

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Viking Christmas

Now that I know I have Viking blood - percentagewise, second only to the Irish in me - I've been wondering about Viking/Norse Christmas traditions.

My brief reading so far points to a number of Christmas traditions that may have horned-hat origins.

The wreath may have grown out of the "sunwheel" - a burning wheel intended to help entice the sun to return. But that link is tenuous,.

The Yule log is a Viking tradition, though. So is decorating evergreen trees. The Vikings also had myths about mistletoe - though as far as I can tell none of them involve kissing. too bad.

One tradition that's not necessarily Christmas related per se is drinking mead. That they did drink mead is a fact, as is the fact that I like a glass of mead. So one of my traditions is to toast Christmas with a glass of honey wine.


Pax et bonum

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Father Paul Freemesser Goes Home

I learned that Father Paul Freemesser, who in retirement resided in my parish and assisted there, died December 23 at age 81.

Father Kraus had mentioned at morning Mass December 22 that he'd returned Sunday night to find Father Freemesser very sick. Father Freemesser was taken to the hospital, and we could tell from the way Father Kraus was talking it was serious.

Father Freemesser had a long list of parish assignments. He was also a military chaplain - he had the requisite booming voice! I first met him in the 1970s when I was a seminarian. He was stationed in an inner-city parish at the time, and a group of us seminarians visited him to check out his ministry there.

God be with his family.

Thank you Father for all your service.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"Happy Holidays" - Bah, Humbug!

I received a fundraising letter today from an organization run by an order of women religious - one of the ones that like to ride buses. The organization does good work among the local poor. I've donated to them for years.

But this letter hit a nerve.

The letter begins "Happy Holidays." The "holiday season" gets mentioned a couple of times in the letter, but there's no mention of Christmas. Not once.

My first thought was that they seem ashamed to proclaim the Gospel.

Now it could be they'll argue the letter was designed to appeal to an ecumenical audience. But does that mean they place getting money above proclaiming their Catholic identity?

It doesn't sit well with me.

As I said, I've given to this organization before. I won't this year - the money will go to a Catholic organization doing similar work.

As for next year, we'll see.

Pax et bonum

Monday, December 22, 2014

Santa Claus days dwindle

 Santa season is almost over - and for me, basically over.

Unless I get a last-minute call, I'm done.

This year has been strange due to the loss of the mall gig. The private ones were nice, but not as steady, and certainly far fewer. Knowing that I won't have the the mall next season either, I can promote for next year earlier and, hopefully, get more gigs. I think I'm a good Santa - I certainly get positive feedback.

If the private gigs grow in number, maybe I won't return to the mall - or at least do fewer gigs there. The two years out will certainly knock me down in terms of seniority. I may not get much choice when it comes ot shifts.

As for this year, one last bit of sadness: I won't be the last Santa at the mall on Christmas Eve for the first time in nine years.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Torture is incompatible with Catholic teachings

I've seen folks trying to defend the use of torture - I view euphemisms like "enhanced interrogation techniques" as akin to referring to abortion as "reproductive health," or unborn children as "products of conception."

I am saddened when I see the politically motivated trying to justify it. But I am appalled when I see  religious folks trying to justify it, especially Catholic ones.

Catholic teachings are clear: Torture is unacceptable.

"Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity." - Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2297

And the methods used by the U.S. were torture. Not as vicious and some methods used by others, but still torture.

 Pax et bonum

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Beekeeper's Apprentice - Good, but ...

I just finished The Beekeeper's Apprentice: or, On the Segregation of the Queen by Laurie King. I was attracted by the title, given my current interest in bees. And it's a YA book on a number of recommended lists, so it's something my students might read. Then I discovered it was a mystery, and it involved Sherlock Holmes, and I knew I had to read it.

The premise is that a 15-year-old orphan by the name of Mary Russell has moved on to a farm in Sussex where she meets her beekeeping neighbor, who it turns out is the semi-retired Sherlock Holmes. But in addition to his beekeeping, he writes criminology studies, conducts experiments, and apparently still does some occasional detective work.

Holmes finds the brilliant Mary to be in some ways a female counterpart to himself - and he begins to teach her his detecting knowledge and skills. Hence, his apprentice.

There's much to recommend it. The characters are interesting. Many of the Sherlockian favorite secondary characters show up in one form or another. There are some mysteries to solve.

I was enjoying it, but ... it seems to go on too long. The earlier half of the book was by far the most interesting. And I figured out who was behind the crimes long before the end - and even the hidden identity of that person. So the ending seemed anti-climactic. I read the last few chapters in part just to finish reading the book.

Plus, the ending suggested the future directions for the series (this is the first novel in that series) and the characters. I checked; my fears were confirmed about what was going to happen..

Bottom line: Worth a read, but it left me with no desire to read more in the series.

Pax et bonum