1. They probably are good looking- Chick-fil-A employees are a step above the rest in the fast food industry, and this doesn’t exclude looks. 2. They are selfless- They are trained to put the…
I am slowly reading a fascinating book by Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. titled THE MIND THAT IS CATHOLIC: Philosophical and Political Essays. I would willingly share it with anyone, but shyness prevents me from doing that. You see, I’ve filled it with notes and highlights and stuff like that. It would destroy for the next reader what is really a delightful time with a wonderful thinker. It’s probably not in Barnes and Noble, but you can get it from Amazon. Isn’t anything that ever was available from Amazon?
You see, the reading of it is slow for me because of what he writes about, and the way he writes about it. It’s a book, as are a number of other books, that I tell myself I should have read fifty years ago. Then, I hadn’t the time. Now, though, is the time for me, for most folks, to be reading it. Now I can, at last, understand the point(s) he’s interested in making, the argument he presents.
And, every once in a while he’ll give his reader some little delight to think about. Call it soul candy; an idea he presents, a question he asks, a view he points out that, were we together walking along some quiet path, meandering beside a river, would require a pause, a long look, a smile of recognition and deep understanding. Sometimes, I think, it really requires a fist pump and a loud shout! But, that’s not for books, eh? I’ll stick with the understanding, the smile
I’ve been smiling all morning, all day after reading this paragraph not too long after waking:
“Is what happens to the universe closer to games than it is to the working of machines? What would this similarity between game and universe imply? C.S. Lewis used the happy image of the “Great Dance” to describe what goes on the universe when it finally reaches its purpose. It is a “beatific vision,” but is also an overflow in being, in human being. What seems to be necessity may be closer to “doing something again” just for the delight of it. This latter experience was the great image that Chesterton used of the sun rising each morning. We may think that it is necessary and therefore uninteresting. Chesterton remarked that natural laws may well be more like a child wanting to be thrown into the air again and again simply because it was delightful.”
This is from page 242 in the book, well into an essay entitled “Mysticism, Political Philosophy and Play”. “How lovely, this, ” I said aloud to the empty room, just as the sun was streaming through the window; just as one of its beams was turning fully a third of the green glass vase which held the flowers I bought my wife, just as it was turning it gold.
And, as I ran for my camera to take a photo, I thought no machine, no random series of events, no mindless pattern of accidents (can there be such a thing as a “pattern” of accidents?) does something like that. My thinking has continued all day like this. Surely if it is a game there must be rules. We, the only rational beings must have some way of knowing them; a teacher, a coach, a rule book? Surely a game cannot make itself. And on and on, until the end, the victory party.
Schall’s next paragraph is just as much fun:
“Behind such images is the great theological truth that the world need not be, but is (emphasis added). This unnecessity brings us to the further question of the reason we have finite, intelligent being in a vast but finite universe. Is what is (emphasis in the original) ultimately there to be beheld? “Celebrations,” Aristotle said, “are for successful achievement, either of body or soul.” That is to say celebrations are left to be begun when all else is done, when we have won. Is it not remarkable that the fascination of the game, when we do not know its conclusion, ends in celebration when we do know how it turns out? This is the arena of the “Great Dance.” The definition of God is “I am who am.” Only this existence can explain the “Great Dance.”
He made the Game. He made the Rules. He made..no..He IS the celebration when the Game is over. The one that never, never ends.
We have just finished our breakfast. It is nearly 11 AM, but, we breakfast late on Sunday mornings; though we are always up early. The alarm awakens us at 5:30 AM. That is because we are the music makers at the 8:00AM Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church across the river in Hudson, NH.
There were a few more than 100 parishioners at Mass this morning. That is the first time since Easter, seven weeks ago, that there have been that many people in attendance; and this on a rain threatening morning. I was surprised, pleasantly surprised.
Mass ended, and the church was empty, as it usually is except for one or two, most of whom stay to chat; but a few who will kneel in the pew to whisper a private prayer of need or thanksgiving. There was one man left as we came downstairs from the choir loft and walked, past the pew he was in with his little daughter, down the aisle to receive Communion. As he left he genuflected and blessed himself, and helped his little girl do the same. He was the one person to do that whom I saw.
And so I told him what I thought. “That was wonderful,” I said. And it was, literally, an act full of wonder, thankfulness and praise; rightful, just and helpful toward salvation as the old formula has it. He smiled at me. So did the little girl.
On the way home we stopped to purchase a birthday card for someone, and a First Communion card for someone else…and a bouquet of flowers for my wife. The road leading to Dunkin Donuts, across the street from the Rite-Aid where we bought the cards,was backed up to the intersection with cars waiting to get in line for the drive through window, or to enter the place itself. The parking lot did not have an empty space.
As we drove back in the direction of home we saw that the same conditions existed at the Mc Donald’s a few hundred feet down the road on the other side; long lines waiting for a cheese Mc Muffin and a coffee; a filled to overflowing parking lot.
I said to Mariellen, “I suppose this is where one goes now instead of to church on a Sunday morning.” And I wondered how the preaching was, “You want fries with that? You want that up-sized?” I wonder now whether or not there was any genuflecting in either place.
It has started to rain gently, and may continue for the rest of the day.
In the current issue of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, the lead editorial’s headline/title is THE MASTER’S VOICE: Our Choice Is Obedience or Jesus as Anti-Christ. Its author is Anthony Esolen who regularly appears in that publication and some others. He thinks and writes well, and strongly, and bluntly. I like to think of him as a kind of fighter, a melding of Sugar Ray Robinson and Rocky Graziano, or maybe Marciano; he’s that graceful and powerful. Sometimes his power punches and points are so quick and deftly made that his opponent may not know he’s been knocked off his feet until he wakes up in the dressing room a half hour later. This article is like that, I thought as I read it this morning, just a little while ago; as I read it and thought about “Coffee And” on a Sunday morning.
Esolen’s point, I think, is that there is a new odium Christi, a new kind of hatred of Christ different from the hatred, more like fear to me, the hatred of Christ which denied the wonders he worked and his divinity and turned him into little more than some sort of Nobel Peace Prize winner; one of any number of Hammarskjolds, or Obamas, who want to give the world hope and help it to change. The new “odium Christi” is directed at ridding us of the Jesus of rules and wonders, the one who had things to say about “bad conduct” and “sin”, and whose ministers and priests were (and the few left who are) so controlling. He is ” a Jesus of the Subjunctive Mood who would say what we want him to say, were he alive, which he is not. He is not the Jesus who did say what he said and who still says it.”
This new odium Christi gives us a Jesus who might be more like a life style coach. He’s not a teacher. He’s certainly not a savior and definitely not God, who really isn’t necessary any more, don’t you know. Why? Why are God, Jesus and the rules and the preaching out? Well because all of that is merely a guilt trip, a downer and sours the stomach for a coffee on Sunday morning.
Who needs being in church on a rainy morning seven weeks after Easter, a day which is only meant for chocolate bunnies, on Mother’s Day to boot, when Dunks is open and they’re practically giving away Mocha Frappe Moolattas with a shot of caramel essence and a half pint of mint flavored whipped creme on top.
Esolen includes in his piece three examples of , emm, someone who might once have had a problem with what used to be called serious or habitual, or, gasp, mortal sins. Jesus the Anti-Christ is silent as a statue, a painting, a flower.
That’s the way we want him.
And, of course, we can get religious feelings listening to something like this. What’s the difference, right? It’s as good as church!
It’s a little after 6:00PM. The sun shines brightly I am home after attending a first communion celebration. Ask me about it some day.
WHAT THE TITMOUSE SAID
It was no black raven hovering there
Whose little wings beat the air,
Whose little beak opened and shut
As if to speak important words.
His dark black cap, his milk white breast,
His golden flanks; of all the rest
His steady eye holding me
‘Til I saw what he’d have me see.
Time passes… strangely it does not.
I am all that I have ever been and what
I will ever be folded in this seed of me;
Green, great, strong limbed as the tree
And fallen to the ground and rotted, dead.
For all that though I will live through that “end”
To rise, ascend in final irony.
Enfolded now in plainest mystery.
For Love lives Who gives life to me. Creation
Like a bird flies toward adoration.
The clock on the wall in the big room downstairs has just tolled the hour. “Is has gone 6 in the morning”, it might be said in Ireland, that lovely soft land where it is almost mid day, now. I opened my eyes about a half hour ago to the shadow of a tree stitched in curtain of mist, lace within silk; and now, their dark trunks like black stone pillars, the silent ruins of some ancient race feel the risen sun banishing shadow, the wispy hints of cool night, into the cloudless sky.
Across the narrow green carpet of meadow at the back of the house, peeking over the brow of the hill, a squad of jonquils raises their yellow heads to survey mist rising and light falling. They are the brightest I’ve seen them yet. Looking at them I imagine them scouts of the coming day, heroes of light.
I see the river now as its own slim cover of silken gray mist is lifted. And I imagine the budding trees away upon hills filled with small creatures and, perhaps, bright flowers in broad meadows, neat lawns. I see sleepy children in their warm beds, fathers on the way to work and mothers in their deshabille sitting by the window sipping coffee, waiting. It wouldn’t have taken much I realize for someone, here dozens of centuries ago, to see in what has happened the forms of sprites and gods, of spirits whose job it was to move the mist and light the day, and leave an offering of thanks for the gift of life, light and such easy loveliness. This is Easter, though, and I know better.
My own reverie here has no sound accompanying it other than the clock on the wall and the soft birds singing in the thinning mist. Everything else is still.
This is the break of day. One can hardly hear it.
It is Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter, a ponderous and clumsy name for a lovely soft day. Still Easter’s light floods the day. That’s all that matters.
I just finished reading the story of one of our saints, Saint Peter Armengol, who started out as the son of a king, became a bandit and wound up a monk. There is more to the story than that, of course, and if you follow the link, you will find great parallels between St. Peter and today, because, you see, he spent much time ransoming captive Christians from their Muslim kidnappers and slave masters. There were religious congregations founded for just that purpose, and, as the story goes, not a few of the Muslims became Christians because of the grace of their contacts with men like St. Peter Armengol.
It was the very kind of “work” that St. Francis of Assisi wanted to do. One of the things he said, which is very appropriate for today, I think, is this little bit about the kind of men we shouldn’t be: If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.
Since I’m talking about saints today, here’s another thing one of them gives us: “Nothing seems tiresome or painful when you are working for a Master who pays well; who rewards even a cup of cold water given for love of Him.” St. Dominic Savio.
The morning’s getting on, and strong sunlight fills the room. Still outside this window not a leaf stirs, but I see now the deep red of blossom buds on the old crab apple just a few feet away. It would make a lovely tapestry.
With that thought in mind I’ll leave now, and go downstairs to brew another cup of coffee, and sit, and watch the squad of jonquils at the brow of the hill, and watch the river behind flow down to the sea.
Not much more than that is needed.
I very distinctly remember the first time I heard this piece of music. I was sitting in class at Manhattan College in September of 1961, a Freshman in their School of Arts and Science. The class was required of all incoming freshmen, Fine Arts. And this was one of the first pieces of music we listened to. By the time the day was over I had acquired two things: a record player and an LP with this one it.
I cannot read music. All I can do is listen.
On The Pleasures of A Sleepless Night, Poison Ivy,
5:30am, April 3, 2016
On such a morning as I would rather
Not have happen, cold, tired, I sit looking
Out and see the wood behind the house
Snaking up in silhouetted agony
Toward a dull blue tinged monotonous gray sky.
Cruel, wind bent black limbs twisting from black earth,
This wood lacks only a beast or two on the hillside
Where lost, afraid, frantic souls may wander.
In the dim globe’s glow from my back porch
A pitiful bit of snow in frenzied whirl,
Vortex of white, cold and lonely, falls
To unyielding wood, splatters blank windows
Dying away a useless skim of sweat
On the nail fixed measured weather grayed decking.
There is no color; none anywhere but
The tiny crocus in rows beside; just
Showing green yesterday in warm sunlight.
Pity them. Pity, too, the daffodils
Whose buds’ bore yellow promise, bright delight
By snow splashed way from hill to river bank,
Steep trick leading to that cold stream waiting
In vain for the sun today. It won’t show.
I pray they prove their toughness by day’s end.
It is April after all, you know. Should
We expect anything else of this month
So much like its rough rude twin September
At the year’s other end when rudeness is
The rule? Yes, by God! This is Spring! Banish
This snow and all this snow untimely brings.
The unleaved trees need no winds, no roaring
Against the promise of soon sweeter days.
Let all this come back some bright, some ruddy
Tart apple afternoon, sun low’ring west
Towards winter’s snows when we are well ready
In September, a month made for it. Yes!
April 3, 2016
It’s a brown day today. A cool mist hangs over the world, at least in my neighborhood. Were the trees now in bud, leafed fully out, their limbs would be moaning, bowing under the burden of all the water they’d had poured over them since about seven P.M. last night. I was awakened once or twice during the night with a fury of rain beating on the roof and windows, a flood pouring through the downspout; and all this without high winds and the storms moans and roarings through the trees that high winds always bring. Just now a short burst of a shower has beat like a million small fists against the window in the room where I’m sitting typing. I can see the little birds huddled close to the tree trunks in the lee of the brief fit the rain’s having. And, I feel a bit sorry for them, though, I guess, they don’t know as I would know, the misery of being caught in a cold, soaking rain.
There’s the burden of consciousness; well one of them, anyway. I could write a book about some of the others, but, that’s already been done. As a matter of fact, it’s probably been done too much. This day itself has a lot to say about that, I think.
It’s Good Friday today. Mariellen, my beloved wife, just told me that there’s a hard boiled egg in the fridge if I want to eat something, but I’m not hungry. Funny as this may sound, I don’t think I will be hungry at all today. Though I don’t feel ill. Enough of my friends are ill if it makes any difference. And, if I get hungry I’ll do what a Catholic kid’s supposed to do, “offer it up”, just like the nuns told us to do all those decades ago. I may have ruined it a bit, what good the offering may bring to the world around , by mentioning this to you who read. The point of it all is to do it without letting anyone know it, anyone but God, of course. Let whatever happens, whatever might happen be between me and Him.
Why then did I mention it? I really don’t know beyond occasionally wondering whether or not there are still folks who remember, and remembering still do things like that; silly little things; grains of sand which become mountains.
And, how can that matter beside what was done on this day a little less than 2,000 years ago? Lots of folks, perhaps most of them, would laugh at my hunger making any difference anywhere in the Great Boarding House of the Universe. Let ’em. I believe Sister Mary Holy Picture’s words as if they came from the mouth of God Himself. Which, not to put too fine a point on it, they did.
She, and a million women like her came and went in their black robes, and men, too, and now lie in the wet earth prayed for, to be sure, but anonymous to be more sure, and silent. Unmourned here. In another place, blessed. There’s a lesson there, I suppose, and books have been written.
Today, perhaps, they won’t be read. And what they did, what they said, what they taught, what they believes in? Like the birds, silent, huddling in the cold rain… The door home is being opened.
Here is a poem I wrote this morning while I have been thinking things like that.
To Be Famous at Home
“God Is Not Famous Here!”
Reading a thick, black book of scholarship
I thought of misperception, false impression,
Fancy, fashion, the attitudes they breed,
And truth, lost, outgrown or thrown away.
No slave of fashion am I, nor can I be.
My children, first of all, would not let me.
I am a humble man. So says my good
Friend to all we meet going on our way.
This truth embarrasses me nonetheless.
I would never appear in public on my town’s main street
In my vested suit (did I own one)like some TV star;
Without a tie and rather whitened teeth.
Causing folks to stare, gape, amazed as I strode by
A cut above them, wearing fame’s mantle.
I would hide were it in any way true.
The truth is, the worst truth, they wouldn’t care;
Murmuring among themselves cruelties,
Disbelief and mockeries, the common
Jealousies, blind refusals to believe.
I could play a lofty man, Olympian,
Only when alone in some strange place
Where none will ever recognize my face
I’d wear worn old tweeds, faded dungarees
Perhaps with hand sewn patches at the knees.
And until I spoke..unless..none would know.
There I’d give out discreet bits of mercy
I would have made with my own hands, ribboned
With the truth about the world the poor know
Who only own the sky, the river’s wide
Wild run down to the ocean deep and blue
And their tired eyes, bruised hearts, aching feet.
I have almost finished this thick black book
Whose bibliography’s a book itself
While rich men, rich women run everywhere
Pleading for support and help from everyone.
While rich men and women speak their rich words
Promising the brown brink eastward will dawn
The best day seen because they’ll make it so.
Light will shine on us, light we call our own.
Sun once risen will never more go down.
Millions chase them, eat, drink their promises.
Across the wide land one walks nearly alone
Who has the world again, and again, gone
Round with the same gifts to give quietly
On a bright day or a brown day. To all
Whom he may meet he softly speaks, sweetly
Smiles the dawn and the stars at night and peace
That surpasses all our understanding.
At this time of year, when at least here wakes
New life; today, in fact, we will kill him,
Have killed him over, and over whose truth
We can’t believe. They say, “It’s just not true!”
They say, “‘Isn’t he the carpenter’s son?”
March 25, 2016
One Minute Meditations
Don’t be afraid of death. Accept it from now on, generously… when God wills it, where God wills it, as God wills it. Don’t doubt what I say: it will come in the moment, in the place and in the way that are best: sent by your Father-God. Welcome be our sister death!
Scripture Verse of the Day
This God–his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
Life in Christ: Catechism #2186
Those Christians who have leisure should be mindful of their brethren who have the same needs and the same rights, yet cannot rest from work because of poverty and misery. Sunday is traditionally consecrated by Christian piety to good works and humble service of the sick, the infirm, and the elderly. Christians will also sanctify Sunday by devoting time and care to their families and relatives, often difficult to do on other days of the week. Sunday is a time for reflection, silence, cultivation of the mind, and meditation which furthers the growth of the Christian interior life.
The language is Latin.
I don’t know enough about the many folk among my friends who are not Catholic to know if they follow what we call the Liturgical Calendar, where Catholics in all places “keep time”, march to a different drum so to speak. (Well, I hope they still do.) We have filled it with the seasons and days that help us remember the men and women who went before, the events and happenings which have occurred to help us realize both the reality of this particular moment, and the real meaning of all moments; who we are in the world, and where the world is in creation.
So, today is marked on the liturgical calendar as the Tuesday of Holy Week. It has no special name beyond that; but that is enough to remind me, and many others, still, I hope, that we are in the midst of echoing an event that shattered the world. I have often wondered, since the record of this week in history is silent about events between Palm Sunday’s procession and Holy Thursday’s opening act on the Passion, what today must have been like in Jerusalem on Tuesday of the First Holy Week. Where did they go those first three days after Palm Sunday. Until that supper in the Upper Room? What did they do? What did He do?
Who would know at all what today was/is but for the calendar I refer to above. Most of the world is ignorant. Somewhere it rains. Somewhere blazing heat beats down. People in one place are just getting up. People in another place have begun their preparations for a quiet night. Babies are born. Old folks die. Wars continue.
Tuesday of Holy Week, 2016, will pass unnoticed, unremarked, I suppose; just another Tuesday. Why? Do we no longer care? I cannot think so, but the evidence points to that.
It is a bright and beautiful day, and I was reading a book earlier this morning written by Joseph Ratzinger, who may be one day Saint Benedict XVI. This book, but one of the many he has written, is called “Christianity and the Clash of Cultures”. A thin thing; a good reader could probably get through it in a few hours.
His book argues that we, most folks, have indeed forgotten. That has come about because, what we have now is “a Christianity and a theology that reduce the core of the message of Jesus, that is, the “kingdom of God” to the “values of the kingdom”, identifying these values with the great slogans of political moralism while at the same time proclaiming that these slogans are the synthesis of the religions. In this way they forget God, although it is precisely he who is both the subject and the cause of the kingdom. All that remains in the place of God are the big words (and values) that are open to any kind of abuse.” (Ratzinger: “Christianity, etc.” Ignatius Press, p.29)
Everyone has values. Just ask them.
They’re like undershirts, or better yet “tschotskes”. One needn’t wear them, even the “true” ones but, sometimes, they look nice and make you feel better when you tell folks you have them. Folks sometime say, “Those were my values then. I’ve changed” They’re fungible.
Would you die for your values? See what I mean?
There are fewer and fewer folk who “believe”, fewer and fewer folk who can give one a reason for believing. And, the number of them who can give a theological reason for their belief has, I’ll bet a ham sandwich, diminished to the vanishing point.
The last part’s not necessary, though, is it? Certainly the men who followed Jesus around Jerusalem on the first Tuesday of the first Holy Week could not have given a “theological” reason for their faith, the one which was the cause of all their deaths but one. At least not until their experience forty five days from today in that crowded room in Jerusalem all those years ago. They died then not for anything like values. I mean, while one can find the value in burning a little incense to Caesar, what is the value in suffering That Man’s death? They died for Truth
Anyway, I thought I’d share this with you on a sunny Tuesday, part of that week which changed everything; a hidden, quiet, modest, humble day, like the fellow who wrote the book I’m reading. The most valuable week, that led to the most Valuable Day ever.
Bare Ruined Choirs
Reflections from the Saints
The Creed is the spiritual seal, our heart’s meditation and an ever-present guardian; it is, unquestionably, the treasure of our soul.
One Minute Meditations
Days on retreat. Recollection in order to know God, to know yourself and thus to make progress. A necessary time for discovering where and how you should change your life. What should I do? What should I avoid?
Scripture Verse of the Day
Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.
I awoke today to a pure Irish day, a fine, soft day all quiet and pure with bells ringing in a slim breeze, and the song of small birds on the air, and my soft bed beneath my old bones; soft as the womb that held me before I was a child, a boy and man, and while I was merely the promise my own father told me I was when Hope was everything; a promise the world’s own Father made to him, and to every mother, too.
The sky isn’t blue yet, but it will be. It will be as blue as a little child’s eyes, and the sun swinging along on its way to the West again will be smiling warmly.
The sun hasn’t broken through the blue gray cover of clouds, a cover like a silk sheet on the world, but it will, golden like the eye of an egg on the plate in the morning
I awoke today singing inside. It’s a song, I think the world sang the day it was born. A song still being sung in the wind and through the waters, from the clouds to the waves.
My heart’s filled with music my heart was born to hear.
My head’s filled with the words of the music I was singing; a song of Creation and the Lord of all Who created Creation, and Who keeps it going out of pure love for all of us, the best of His creation. Keeps it for us here in our playground and our palace, our toy and our Home; our long walk with Him, and our Destination in Him who promised never to leave us alone.
And, here are the words to the songs in my head this morning:
The Print of His Finger
The print of His finger on all that we see,
Strong Voice in the thunder, soft Whisper through trees.
His breath through black storms above fiercely broiling.
His arms wild waves cross wide world ever hurling.
God’s with the stars, bright, ancient and moving
Through fires of time and space, all combining.
One Will of creation, One firmness of purpose
Done without us and for us by Love all before us.
And this, the second:
I Saw God’s Face
I saw God’s face in a flower’s new bloom,
His promise in its sealed brother bud
Which, while I watched, opened wide
And beauty broke, and beauty broke
Through misery’s mists before my eyes.
Nothing more than form and hue;
Nothing less, though, it seemed, would do
To show me clear the Face of God
In this small thing in my little yard.
And all the world within contained,
Resolved, restored, reborn, explained.
Here are several “thoughts” for the day:
If I am worthy, I am ready to give up my life, without hesitation and most willingly, for Christ’s name.
More should be asked of you, because you can give more and you should give more. Think about it.
For the great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad.
For all their wars are merry
And all their songs are sad