Saturday, October 31, 2009


The late 19th century French composer Camille Saint-Saens produced a marvelous piece for violin and orchestra titled “Danse Macabre.” It has ghostly sounds in it, as well as the imitation of skeletons dancing.

Later on, he would write an orchestral piece called “Carnival of the Animals.” In it he mimics the sounds of all kinds of characters found in nature: lions, donkeys, swans, tortoises, elephants… It is a delight. One ‘character,’ though is named “Old Fossils.” Here Saint-Saens has fun with himself. He takes a theme from his “Danse Macabre” (the one imitating a skeleton dancing) and plays it as if on a ‘xylophone’ made of the rib-cage of a dinosaur (an ‘old fossil’—get it?).

In a Halloween spirit, then, I offer a performance (slightly edited) of “Danse Macabre.” See if and where you discover the ghosts and skeletons.

And for good measure, here is the section "Fossils" from "Carnival of the Animals," with the additional Ogden Nash verses declaimed with remarkable aplomb by Sir Roger Moore.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Let’s try to ignore the nonsense that suggests Halloween is an invention of the Catholic Church to promote demon worship. Let’s consider instead respect for those “who have gone before us, marked with the sign of Faith…” (as Eucharistic Prayer #1 puts it).

An ancient custom of respect for the dead can be seen in the practice of the Roman refrigerium. It was a banquet held on the anniversary of the day of departure of the deceased, and it was one to which the deceased was invited and thought to participate. One way of their taking part was by means of a tube from ground-level to that of the coffin—in this pipe was poured a libation of wine. Prayers were then offered and a meal was enjoyed.

Can you see the small step from this custom to that of honoring the martyrs at their tombs on the anniversaries of their ‘birth into eternal life’? Can you see how the annual refrigerium could easily have led to a commemorative celebration of Eucharist for a martyr (and in times of persecution fortunately be mistaken for a refrigerium? Can you see how needing to celebrate at/on the tomb of the martyr would lead to the placing of a relic in all altars where the Eucharist would be celebrated?

A famous Latin epitaph declares: Quod fuimus, estis; quod sumus, vos eritis [“What we were, you now are; what we are, you will be.”] It’s a reminder of our own mortality. And insofar as we believe the passage from physical to eternal life parallels that from pre-natal existence to birth, then we can salute those who have gone before us and ask them, if possible, to ‘pave the way’ for us.

For myself, my family in Chicago never celebrated Nov. 2 in a special way: once my brother, only 6 months old, died, every Sunday after Mass we made a visit to the cemetery, to place flowers, to trim up a bit, and to offer prayers, always concluding (with our conviction that as an innocent he was in eternal bliss)—“Little Paulie, pray for us.” My own “Day of the Dead” takes place in the summer when I’m able to get back up to Chicago to perform the same rituals of love at the graves of my grandparents, my parents, and my baby brother.

They are gone on a journey, and we here know nothing (in the empirical sense) about it. Our Faith tells us what the destination is, but we still know nothing of the voyage. And so we remember. And we celebrate. And we pray, as we do again in Eucharistic Prayer #1, that they will be in locum refrigerii, lucis et pacis [in a place of refreshment/refrigerium, light and peace].

If some folks want to call this voodoo, pagan or demon-worship, so be it. But I don’t think it is. And I don’t think you, either…

Thursday, October 29, 2009


A man who arranged for Christians to be executed… --became a preacher
A man who fathered a child by a live-in companion… --became a bishop
A man who lusted for glory in battle and the conquests of women… --founded a religious order
A man whose military ego was so great he refused to surrender a castle when greatly outnumbered… --founded a religious order
A man whose goal as a priest was to be chaplain to the aristocracy and live in wealth & comfort…
--founded a religious order
A prostitute… --became a nun

These are some of the heroes we celebrate on the Solemnity of All Saints, this year occurring on “fall back” Sunday. You might have some fun guessing who these folk are—some are obvious, and others are less so.

Do we think we are fit more for the commemoration of all the dead (All Souls Day) on Monday? Perhaps we do. Perhaps others who actually belong in the ‘communion of saints’ are some we would have thought could not ‘pass muster.’ At the end of his most recent book, Have a Little Faith, Mitch Albom has a character make the following comment, in the course of a conversation about a reformed addict now an inner-city preacher:

“…maybe he ain’t the way you think a pastor should be.
…But it’s not me against the other guy. It’s God measuring you against you.
Maybe all you get are chances to do good, and what little bad you do ain’t much bad at all. But because God has put you in the position where you can always do good, when you do something bad—it’s like you let God down.
And maybe people who only get chances to do bad, always around bad things, like us, when they finally make something good of it, God’s happy.”

And what was preacher Henry saying that made such an impact?

“When [people from back when who knew me] hear I’m the pastor of a church, all of a sudden, it’s like ‘I know you gettin’ paid, boy…I know you.’ …’No,’ I say. ‘You knew me. …you don’t know the person that I’m trying to become. …’You are not your past!’”

If we can believe these excerpts, then we can become saints, too. What good do we have a chance to do? What past would we like to escape and grow from? The folks at the beginning of this post did this; why not us?

If we say YES to Jesus, we’ll not have it easy, but we’ll be on the right path. Like the sign in front of a church said: “When the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of your future.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Everyone reading this particular verse from chapter 13 of St. Mark’s Gospel understands this to mean a reference to the End. Probably it is. But let me offer an alternative interpretation.

The depictions of the Crucifixion and Descent from the Cross in the early 14th century by artists like Giotto, the Lorenzetti brothers, and Cimabue (most of these highlighted in the “Lower Basilica” of San Francesco in Assisi, though more of Giotto’s are also in the “Arena Chapel” in Padua) show angels lamenting the sufferings and death of their Lord. Their sorrows are extraordinary, especially in the works by Cimabue and Pietro Lorenzetti. But why should they so lament, if the Lord was to rise again in three days? This is more than sorrow for the suffering; it is a hint that they did not know the future. [I owe this insight to Sr. Wendy Beckett.]

Where might these artists have come to such theological conclusions (if indeed they were their conclusions)? Perhaps it was from the sense shown us by some of the greatest theologians of the first centuries of the Church.

They suggested that the Incarnation and the Atonement were able to be “pulled off,” so to speak, because of the tremendous secret God kept hidden until the proper moment. From St. Ignatius of Antioch forward, this idea of the “hidden counsels of God” had great attraction. The notion was that if Satan had known what would happen to his realm after the Crucifixion, he would never have labored to see the Son of God slain. Melito of Sardis is especially attractive on this point in his celebrated “Homily on the Pasch.” In effect, Christ says to those ‘spirits and souls of the just’—“I made it; I’m here! Let’s go—the bars are smashed, the gates are open—we’re going home!” And if this is the case with the Atonement, then all the more would the devil have been dismayed by the fact of the Incarnation—another “well-kept secret,” according to St. Ignatius of Antioch. For after all, this was the beginning of the End, for him.

What an incredible thought—the ultimate “surprise re-birthday party” for us! And so, the words of Jesus quoted above refer to the end, after all: but a joyous beginning for us.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


St. Jude as we all know is the patron of “hopeless cases.” It’s interesting that the eve of his feast, and the feast itself, contained an historical “hopeless case” that worked out.

In the year 312, outnumbered 4 to 1, the army of Constantine camped some miles north of Rome. Wondering what to do and how things would turn out, he had a vision on the 27th of October, repeated that night in a dream: the appearance of a Chi-Rho emblem in the sun, with the words (in Greek) en tautô nika (we are perhaps more familiar with it in its Latin form, In hoc signo vinces).

The next day, the 28th, even though out-numbered, Constantine’s army won a victory over his rival, Maxentius; the battle of Saxa Ruba is better known to us today as the battle of the Milvian Bridge.

Needless to say, it was a turning point in western history. It led to the legalization of Christianity (and all other cults), granting freedom of worship. It led to the Council of Nicaea, summoned by Constantine and presided by him (even though he was not yet baptized!) to resolve the theological issue of the nature of the person of Christ. It led to the building of the new capital of the Eastern Empire, Constantinople (leaving the Bishop of Rome de facto in charge of the Western Empire). It led to the building of the great basilicas of St. John Lateran, St. Paul’s, St. Peter’s, and San Lorenzo in Rome, as well as the basilica of the Incarnation in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

All this, because a man chose to believe a vision.


Of all the Twelve Apostles, of which ones do we know anything about their post-Resurrection careers as preachers? This means basically the New Testament excluding the Gospels. The answer: Peter, James and John. Of Apostles like Thomas or Philip or Andrew or Matthew, we have stories in the Gospels in which they are ‘featured,’ but beyond that we have nothing.

Think, too, of those of the Twelve of whom we know nothing beyond their names even taking the Gospels into account—of these, surely Simon and Jude must be included. Jude asks a question in the ‘Farewell Discourse’ of the Fourth Gospel; Simon is said to have been “a Zealot.” That’s it.

Yet the remembrance of “The Twelve” was so important and so powerful in the early Christian mind that we cannot do without them. Paul refers to them collectively (I Corinthians 15:5) as having seen the risen Lord; and the numerological symbolism of the “twelve” in the Book of Revelation clearly refers to the Apostles as a kind of fulfillment of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (even as Jesus is described as thinking—Matthew 19:28).

So a person can be critically important and at the same time unremembered in any specific way. Does this disappoint us, or does it offer us a consolation in our own faith-walk?

We don’t have to be celebrated or famous in order to be important as active members of the Body of Christ. We have to ‘bloom where we are planted,’ and bloom with whatever blossoms (or seeds, or fruits, or grains) are our nature. What matters simply is our fidelity

In our Journeysongs we have the hymn “God, We Praise You” (sung to the wonderful melody called Nettleton). Its second verse contains the lines True apostles, faithful prophets/ Saints who set their world ablaze/ Martyrs, once unknown, unheeded/ Join one growing song of praise. How sad to think of anyone offering his or her life for our Lord, then being “unknown, unheeded”! Yet if that martyr is in fact taking part in the “one growing song of praise” around the heavenly throne, who cares?

In the long run, we all have one destiny—to be remembered by the One who can never forget. Everything else is small potatoes. Thank you, Ss. Simon and Jude, for being patrons of the “unknown, unheeded” yet important ones who follow the Lord in life and death: quietly, anonymously, humbly, truly.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I have just examined perhaps 8 on-line reports on Scott Lee Zulfer, who has pleaded guilty to 69 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child and 11 additional charges of ongoing sexual abuse over a 3 year period. He has been sentenced to 80 life sentences. The man is from Texas.

I have recounted virtually all I can learn about this case from reading the on-line reports.

Now, should I conclude that Mr. Zulfer, as a Texan, has exhibited behavior "typical of Texans"? If I could learn his trade or place of employment (no article I read mentioned this), would I be justified in thinking that all such employees are likely also child abusers?

Is there a reason why this is not on front pages of news services across the country?

If the perpetrator were a Catholic priest, where and how would this reporting have been done?


Today’s meditation in Magnificat comes from British author Caryll Houselander. In part she writes:
From the universe we learn that God is infinite… From such things as insects, little frogs, mice, and flowers, we learn that to us he is something else. He is Father, brother, child, and friend!
If you ever had a little green tree frog and watched him puffing out with a pomposity worthy of a dragon before croaking, you must have guessed that there is a tender smile on our heavenly Father’s face, that he likes to laugh and he laughs with us; the frog will teach your heart more than all the books of theology in the world.

This is the kind of theology we all need to learn. Beyond this, if God laughs with us, would it not be wonderful if (this is the insight of writer Gerald May) we might actually make some choices in life that would cause our heavenly Father to smile, to laugh, to say "Way to go—I love it!"
It is in the little things that we best discover God, and it is in those things that we best respond to and honor God. St. Therese (the ‘Little Flower’) knew this with her ‘Little Way.’ St. Ignatius knew this when his Spiritual Exercises were designed to lead folks to ‘find God in all things.’ It’s where we can best (if we are open) confront, contemplate and experience the mystery of creation. William Blake put it like this:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

Understanding the small and seeing the connections leads us to affirm the greatness of life, as the story of the man in the Middle Ages, a stonemason, who was asked what he was doing. Others gave answers like “I am pouring lead for stained glass,” or “I am making arches,” or “I am designing a floor mosaic.” He simply said, “I am building a cathedral.”

The mystery here is a mystery of beauty and order—to see a complex mathematical series represented in the curvature of a seashell; to marvel at the idea that no two snowflakes are exactly alike in design (or, for that matter, no two fingerprints); to celebrate the fact that mathematical equations of our own creation can actually describe the rhythm and movement of the universe; to think that light broken down gives us the joy of color, while light ‘gathered together’ and focused gives us the power and intensity of lasers; to think that a wafer and sip of wine are the Body and Blood of our Savior, the price and vehicle of our redemption.

God is truly in the details (as God is, everywhere else as well). What a joy it is to be open to the discovery and to recognize the divine Voice in the crash of the surf or the whispers and songs of a forest after dusk; to see that glorious paintbrush in the sunrises and sunsets (or thunderstorms) of our days; to perceive God’s hand and pen in the pages of a prayer-book.

The Master of the Universe is also our playmate. Can our minds ever get around such a concept?

Friday, October 23, 2009


I have read a number of commentaries in newspapers and on-line that have been grossly uninformed (deliberately so, it almost seems) about the Catholic Church. This is so much the case that if one were to rely on them to understand the recent announcement about the welcoming of Anglicans, one would almost need to reverse every statement made in order to get at the truth.

A case in point is the insistence that the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was kept in the dark about this decision and that it was sprung on an unsuspecting Anglican Communion. But if this is the case, how is it that on the same morning that the announcement of this new protocol was made on the Vatican's web-site, there was also a letter jointly signed by the Catholic Cardinal-Archbishop of Westminster and the Archbishop of Canterbury? Their letter affirmed both that this decision would not impede ecumenical dialogue, and that it was in many ways the result of the fruit of the previous 40 years of dialogue between these two churches.
To write and sign off on a joint letter on a topic of which one was "in the dark" would have been an amazing accomplishment!

How this will play out in the long run in the relations between the Catholic Church and the Worldwide Anglican Communion remains to be seen. But we can pray that at least the reporting about these events will be based in fact and not fancy (or bigotry).

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Celebration, as I have suggested, has food/drink at its essence. It must also have music.

Music can be as simple as a refrain chanted to a rhythmic beat; it can be as complex as a Mahler symphony. It can be as basic as “Happy Birthday To You” or (God help us) “Ninety-Nine Bottles Of Beer On The Wall.” It can be a lone voice singing a Kaddish, or the legendary choir of a thousand voices belting out “Hallelujah” from Messiah. It might be the bird song of Olivier Messiaen, or the song birds of my back yard.

As the spiritual says, I want to hear “music in the air.” I want the affirmation that there must be a God somewhere. Why should music be able to make this guarantee?

Perhaps it is because music is a ‘language’ that translates more easily than any other between cultures, civilizations, races. We get the beat, we hear the harmonies, we take pleasure in the beauty of the melodic lines. We fall in love.

Music at weddings and funerals, at birthday parties and anniversaries, is not ‘window dressing’ but something essential: if we haven’t sung, the celebration isn’t really complete. We don’t have arguments for this—we feel it viscerally. Being ‘non-rational,’ music is therefore able to express our feelings, our emotions, far more deeply than words. Easter Sunday can do without a homily, but it better not do without “Jesus Christ Is Ris’n Today.” No one, not even a “C & E Christian,” wants to do without “Silent Night” or “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

There are folks who do not like to sing, usually because they think that they cannot, but I am willing to bet there are very, very few who do not wish they could sing (to their standards, anyway).

I sing much of the Sunday Eucharist, including the Eucharistic Prayer. People say they like it; why would they, unless music elevates their hearts and makes them more open to prayer?

This is the power of the art of sound—it nourishes the heart just as food & drink nourish the body. They are how and where we meet God.


I am participating in the North American Forum on the Catechumenate’s 3-day workshop, hosted here at Our Savior in our newly-refurbished Jennings Hall. A discussion question we just had:
“When you moved to a new place, what made you feel welcome/not welcome?”

We had special “sharing-partners” for this (and for other) questions. What is the bottom line? When we were either taken out to a restaurant or invited into someone’s home to share a meal, we felt very welcomed. And so there you have it: food/drink wins again.

There is a sense of ‘communion’ in a shared meal that Jesus understood. It’s why He ate with Pharisees, with tax collectors & prostitutes, with those who were down and out. He made them feel welcome—He made them feel like they belonged. From the earliest times of His public ministry, then, Jesus was laying the groundwork for the theology both of ‘communion’ and of the ‘Mystical Body.’

Meals are the essence of celebrations and of remembrances. It might be a baptism or a confirmation, it might be a wedding or a funeral, it might be an ordination or a graduation—food and drink are a part of what ‘we have to do.’ We eat while remembering the past, while celebrating the present, while anticipating the future. It’s more than the simple fact that our bodies require fuel to survive—our souls require the sharing. There is probably no other action that can be shared by friends that is so incarnational. A delivery pizza shared is better than a 4-course meal eaten alone…

I suspect that football’s sole justification for existence is the enabling of tailgate parties.

Sharing a box of buttered popcorn legitimates going to the movies.

OK, I’m pushing it! But for how many of us would our “Top Ten Memories” have a majority of them dealing with food and drink? I know mine would. And I believe Jesus’ would, too. That’s why when He instituted the Eucharist He said, “When you do this, do it in remembrance of Me” (not ‘if,’ but ‘when’).

Music is “a whole ‘nother story,” as they say. We sang today a bit of a spiritual, “Over My Head, I Hear Music In The Air.” If you will type the title of this song into your browser you’ll find (#2 in the search listing) Kathleen Battle singing it. Give yourselves a treat. I’ll write about music and communion a little later.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


In the news coverage over the announcement of an Apostolic Constitution that will enable members of the Worldwide Anglican Communion who so desire to come into full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving important dimensions of their Anglican worship and spirituality, there have been a number of insinuations that the Catholic Church is “going fishing,” so to speak. An article posted yesterday on AT&T’s web-site home page in fact was titled “Vatican seeks to lure disaffected Anglicans” (emphasis mine). This article stated that the announcement is “designed to entice,” making it clear that the authors see something sinister: they even describe the process by which the decision to welcome Anglicans was made as “…reached in secret by a small cadre of Vatican officials.” If this doesn’t have the odors of The Da Vinci Code wafting all over it, nothing does.

If, as the AT&T article suggests, the intention of the Catholic Church is to appeal to “traditionalists opposed to women priests, openly gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions,” clearly the authors think that such traditionalists are out of what is (or ought to be, from their point of view) the mainstream of Christian belief and practice.

But in the long run, “converts” (the term is mis-applied in such cases, but it has become the standard way of speaking) always make the move from one Christian denomination to another because they see a greater sense of fullness elsewhere, or they see their own beliefs rejected by their own denomination.

Back in the 19th century, John Henry Newman entered into full communion with the Catholic Church because he was convinced 1. that sacramental life and the apostolic succession of the bishops were crucial components in the True Church, and 2. the Church of England was downplaying these components to the point of their virtual disappearance from practical church life, at least as Newman saw it. The so-called “Affair of the ‘Jerusalem Bishopric,’” which in many ways for Newman was the straw on the camel’s back, effectively said that bishops were really nothing more than political/social presences. He was devastated, and he ultimately became a Catholic. Similarly, some few years later, the “Gorham Decision” declared that Anglicans have no obligation to believe that the Sacrament of Baptism actually effects anything in the soul of the person (‘baptismal regeneration’ became an optional belief). Among many others, Henry Manning joined the Catholic Church and became the first head of the re-established Catholic hierarchy in England (as Cardinal-Archbishop of Westminster).

The similarities between the 19th and the 20th/21st century situations are clear, even if the former issues were more “doctrinal” and the latter are more “moral/practical.” In both cases, serious and sincere Christians perceive that their particular denomination is losing focus. There comes a point for such people when the focus is blurred to the extent that there is no vision left. Then they find themselves needing to make a choice, for the sake of their spiritual welfare.

There is no sense of ‘poaching’ or ‘cannibalizing’ or ‘going fishing’ here. No one in the Catholic Church is asking members of the Worldwide Anglican Communion to “come on over.” But if they choose to knock on the door, the door will be opened.

On a related note, the same AT&T web-site article suggests that some disaffected Anglicans may “oppose the ruling that married Anglicans cannot become Catholic bishops.” Among the many mistakes and over-simplifications and blatant biases present in this article, it should be pointed out that the proposed Apostolic Constitution will not be making “a ruling,” as though members of the Curia were sitting up one night and deciding, “We’ll let them have A and B, but we won’t let them have C.” This is simply not the case.

The Catholic Church is involved (in fact, irrevocably committed, in the words of Pope John Paul II) to ecumenical dialogue, and this includes with the Orthodox Eastern Churches. From very early on, both the Western and Eastern wings of the Church recognized that bishops should be unmarried, even when priests could have wives. Given this current practice, what was stated is nothing more than observing of a standard much older than the 16th century Reformation. In any event, since in fact a married priest can act as the “personal ordinary” of this new protocol, it means he will de facto have the authority of a bishop.

There is another (obvious) lesson to be learned here: do NOT, under any circumstances, rely on the so-called ‘secular media’ for accurate reporting on any religious affairs, especially on a web-site. Go to a trusted source. Web-sites, popular news magazines, wire services, and so on simply do not have staff with sufficient expertise in the technicalities of theology (nor, too often, in the facts of history) to be dependable. A word to the wise—or in this case, perhaps, preaching to the choir?!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

the "welcome home" to anglicans

Perhaps you have heard about the announcement of the creation of an Apostolic Constitution from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved by Pope Benedict, which will offer a structure (rather like the 'personal prelature' enjoyed by Opus Dei, or the military ordinariates for chaplains) by which Anglicans/Episcopalians can come to full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving liturgical and spiritual dimensions of Anglican worship/praxis that are important to them.

I take it that this will ultimately mean the formation of what will be the equivalent of the ‘uniate’ Eastern Rite Catholics.

This is a step beyond the ‘Pro-vicariate of St. Augustine [of Canterbury]’ of 1982, the protocol set up by Pope John Paul II, by which Anglican/Episcopalian ministers who were married were given permission to be re-ordained and practice as Catholic priests while being married. This never happened, of course, for the Anglican converts of the mid-19th century, unless you were celibate anyway [which is why John Henry Newman could ultimately become 'Cardinal Newman'] or a widower [like Cardinal Manning, first head of the re-established Catholic hierarchy in England]. You you know we have 2 such priests in the Mobile Archdiocese—Leo Weisshar and Bry Shields; there is at least one in the Birmingham Diocese—Richard Donohoe.

This is a curious situation for many Lutherans in America, in terms of church stucture. Some years ago the Episcopalians and Lutherans of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) signed an agreement of 'full communion,' Called to Common Mission (CCM). What is the relationship of the ELCA to this new Apostolic Constitution (should there ever be a Lutheran congregation or minister wishing the same kind of consideration)? Would they be welcome under the same conditions, given they are in a 'full communion' relationship?

So many questions...

Monday, October 19, 2009

coming to terms, part II

The Gospel of this past weekend is an awesome challenge, no more so than the story, last week, of the rich (young) man. What is the Gospel, what is it worth, who is Jesus really, and is fame/glory really that important in the big picture?

I recall the words of Jesus Christ Superstar, singing in reply to Simon the Zealot: "Neither you, Simon, nor the 50,000, nor the Romans, nor the Jews
Nor Judas, nor the Twelve, nor the priests, nor the scribes
Nor doomed Jerusalem itself
Understand what power is, understand what glory is, understand at all...
To conquer death you only have to die, only have to die."

I think, sometimes, that being on the right and left of the Lord when He enters into His glory would actually mean being one of the 2 'thieves' crucified with Him on Golgotha. It's how He entered into glory--are we sure we want to follow, after all?

"Dying" takes all kinds of forms: for me, perhaps: giving up my books & CDs; giving up affection; giving up comfort. If asked this, as the rich (young) man was asked, would my response have been any different? Would I not have skulked away, disappointed with myself and yet unable to say YES to the Lord's call?

I want to follow Him; I want to be His. In honesty, though, I want other things, too (perhaps--as I kid myself--not more than, but along with, the Lord): recognition perhaps summarizes all of them, and ego is at their root. This is finally what St. Augustine called 'pride,' the original "Original Sin." The other things I might worry about are really 2nd-string compared to recognition, to ego.

So I ask the same question St. Peter asked: "What's in it for us?" And I'm ready to be angry when others ask for [or get] more than I think they deserve.

So: what do I need to be stripped of in order to be more docile to the call of Christ? What do I need to let go of? What do I need have have ripped out of my grasp?

Can I say yes to Him? "They say unto Him, 'We are able.'"...

coming to terms

"They say unto Him, 'We are able.'"

These words from this past weekend's Gospel provided John Henry Newman (then Vicar of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford, Fellow of Oriel College, and leader of the Tractarian Movement in the Church of England) with all the inspiration he needed to preach one of the greatest sermons in the English language: "The Ventures of Faith." One of his "Parochial and Plain Sermons," it is easily accessed online by doing a search on "The Ventures of Faith/John Henry Newman." It is worth the 30 seconds of search and perhaps 20 minutes of reading to be inspired.
Newman knew the importance of communication of thoughts, feelings, ideas; he was capable of communicating them with the utmost clarity and conviction. Though pamphlets and publications were the main--even sole--means of 'mass communication' in the 19th century, it's hard to think that he would have been reluctant to embrace the new media of the 21st century, including blogs, e-mails, and the sundry other forms of internet-based dialogue. So I hope my 'maiden voyage' into blogging appropriately embraces my hero and fellow-Orielense, and celebrates the many possibilities of the 'new evangelization' encouraged by the popes from Paul VI through Benedict XVI.

More will come...