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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Taking up your cross

Take up your cross the savior said
If you would my disciple be;
take up your cross with willing heart
and humbly follow after me.

There are lots of things I love about Catholic liturgical worship done well. Simply put, when I walk into a real live Catholic church, I know what I am there to do.

I am there to praise and worship God.  (not to be entertained, not to "get something out of it", not to get turned on blah blah blah...)

But I am also drawn up into a mystery which begins, quite emphatically, at a instrument of torture and this causes me some pause.

Think about it.  If you walk into the Smithsonian, or the Louvre, in France or any metropolitan art gallery, you are probably going to encounter a lot of pleasant and thought provoking scenery, right?  Pretty roses, fruits in bowls, geometrical abstracts, folks and nudes captured in various contortions and poses.  Contrast this to what you encounter at a Roman Catholic Church.  Sure, you will see loveliness in the "conventional sense" but there is something that predominates Catholic art and liturgy and that is the enigma that suffering.

We went across town to St. Thomas the Apostle this week.  It's funny how I discover new things when I change up routine.  For instance, I really loved the fact that the cantor canted from the ambo; that the altar boys knelt about the altar during eucharistic prayers, that there are still women wearing mantillas and covering themselves appropriately (and I don't just mean their heads).  But another old discovery emerged for me yet again and it was this enigmatic concept of suffering and the cross. My eyes were drawn to the crucifix and to the stations of the cross that were all around me. Why is this a beautiful thought?  How is suffering and the ugliness of pain somehow making it into art?  Are we masochists?  Why do Catholics seemingly glorify the concept of suffering in their worship? I think one of the most vivid reasons why is because it is a mystery that forces us to consider a deeper reality.

Secular society tells us that life should be easy, comfortable, convenient, unburdensome,"beautiful" and bulked-up with pleasure. As consumers we can be captivated by images of easy money, quick fixes, interest-free loans, free sex, convenience stores, leisure pursuits, speed dating, super-sized everything.  Hedonism on steroids.  The annihiliation of elderliness and the botoxification of any form of decay. (A new virulent strain of age-ism by the way). As though if we ignore it, it will go away!  All the gain, none of the pain.  All the glory, none of the consequences.  All of the surface, none of the depth.  We can be fooled into worshipping at the altar of an external facade while our internal 'pearls' are cast to the swine and the dogs.  The current divorce rate, abortion statistics, and political climate tend to back this up. (And don't even get me started on viagra).

Take up your cross?  This is a deeper reality. We know that suffering for suffering sake is vain,  foolish martyrdom or cruelty. It might as well have it's own classification in the DSM-IV. That is not what the church depicts in her art and on her walls.  No.  Rather, the suffering points up the more problematic concept of pain that most of us would chose to avoid on any given day of the week.  Trouble in my marriage means I have a responsibility to look deeper into the mystery of self sacrifice and my own selfishness. Trouble in my personal life or finances might mean that I need to take a long, hard look at my priorities and do some rearranging.  Trouble with my health might mean that I may need to embrace the cross of suffering and be a present-day "Simeon"; using the suffering as a means of redemption; as a means of salvation for myself and for others. Trouble in my family may mean that I need to apply my efforts towards prayer and surrender or action towards harmony rather than escape and avoidance. Trouble is the lighthouse of opportunity.

But the world sends us a different message.  The world tells us things should be easy. That we have rights to people, places and as much convenience as our elastic stomachs can tolerate.  We have permission to exploit any resource so long as it makes us happy and helps us define our relativistic truth.  This is an oily un-reality. It's not even a good fairy tale. This is a lie.

Most psychotherapy is built upon this premise by the way. Self actualize at all costs.

The church tells us the Truth:  life is hard.  We have a path to follow....the early Church's nickname was The Way.  The way to joy is (sorry) pain. The way to happiness is (sorry) sorrow. The way to crown is (sorry) cross.  The way to glory is (sorry) death.  But like I said...suffering for suffering sake is just cruelty...just a giant pointless hairshirt.  So what's the rub?  This is why we don't go to church at the Smithsonian but in places named St. John the Baptist, St. Thomas, St. Joan of Arc, or St. Mary.  Because our sorrow is turned into something by way of an Extraordinary Example:  Jesus Christ. Through His Cross and resurrection he has set us free.  This is our deeper sacramental reality...God uses some material thing and transforms into something absolutely beautiful.  He "loaves and fishes" it into something new; and if he hasn't done that for you in this temporal reality, He will do it for you in the next.  I don't know about you but I'll take 70+ years of bad road to parasail in God's glorious eternity.  You betcha.

So next time you walk into a church and see the nails, the weeping women, the corpus, the crown of thorns, the blood, sweat and tears-- remember your reality.  God gets it.  He really does. He went before us in suffering to show us the way through it, not around it. The reason it is hard to embrace our suffering is because someone's been lying to us for a very long time. Maybe we've been buying it. This entry (through the narrow gate of the church door) is our reminder that there is a Truth, the solid food of spiritual maturity.

The Truth...not just an abstract concept.  A Person.  Grab His hand. And then you can take up your cross.

Take up your cross and follow Christ,
Nor think till death to lay it down;
For only those who bear the cross
May hope to wear the glorious crown.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Apps on the Altar?

Italian Priest Develops App to Celebrate Mass With iPad

ROME -- An Italian priest has developed an application that will let priests celebrate Mass with an iPad on the altar instead of the regular Roman missal.

The Rev. Paolo Padrini, a consultant with the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said Friday the free application will be launched in July in English, French, Spanish, Italian and Latin.

Two years ago, Padrini developed the iBreviary, an application that brought the book of daily prayers used by priests onto iPhones. To date, some 200,000 people have downloaded the application, he said.

The iPad application is similar but also contains the complete missal -- containing all that is said and sung during Mass throughout the liturgical year. Upgrades are expected to feature audio as well as commentaries and suggestions for homilies as well as musical accompaniment, he said.

"Paper books will never disappear," he said in a phone interview from his home parish in Tortona, in Italy's northern Piemonte region. But at the same time "we shouldn't be scandalized that on altars there are these instruments in support of prayer."

Padrini, 36, said he expected priests who have to travel a lot for work would find the application most useful, noting that he recently had to celebrate Mass in a small parish where the missal was "a small book, a bit dirty, old."

"If I had had my iPad with me, it would've been better than this old, tiny book," he said.

Pope Benedict XVI, a classical music lover who was reportedly given an iPod in 2006, has sought to reach out to young people through new media: the Vatican has a regularly updated presence on You Tube and Facebook. Based on the success of the iBreviary, Padriniwas recruited by the Vatican to oversee its youth outreach program in the new media,

He stressed that the iPad application, like the iBreviary, was launched at his own instigation and with his own money and is not an official Vatican initiative. Vatican officials have previously praised the iBreviary as a novel way of evangelizing.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Liars and Tigers and Bears, Oh my...

Let us all bow our heads for a moment of silent gratitude for the closure of the 7th Avenue Abortion Clinic (aka, green avocado building) we have been praying to Close….


Yes, it is true: Green avocado eye-sore Abortuary has closed its doors. 4417 North 7th Avenue, phoenix, AZ is a force to be reckoned with no longer, thanks in large part to your prayers and the stalwart dedication of the sidewalk counselors and prayer warriors of the pro-life community that consistently said: GO AWAY.

“Ding dong! The wicked witch is dead!!”

Well, not quite.

Enter Stage Left:
Glendale Health Center, 5771 Eugie, Glendale, AZ. What’s that scripture passage that mentions how after one has swept the house clean and 7 more demons return who are meaner and uglier than the ones cast out? (Luke 11:26) ….

Rumor has it that said clinic and others trending like them are having to supersize in order for the new Obamacare legislation to pick up the tab on their “healthcare” services. This would also explain why they have to offer more “normal” services like well-woman exams. Apparently the small potatoes clinics simply don’t reach a large enough target to warrant government assistance in baby killing, if this rumor is true. Please bear in mind that pregnant women do not show up at these clinics to hear the fetal heartbeat or check on the condition of their baby. They show up at Planned Phood clinics to terminate their childs’ lives.

The Lucan scripture cautions us to persevere by not only hearing the word of God; we must also keep it…which I think means live it, act on it, cultivate it in our world. Now, more than ever, we need to reach the dark corners, the abortion mills and all those who continue to spread the Great Myth that women somehow need abortion so that they can be free from the consequences of their actions.

Q: And just how can two worldviews (Pro-life and pro-death) that are diametrically opposed to each other have the same goal:

We have been in the Glendale community for more than 30 years,” says Bryan Howard, CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona. “With this new location, we will be able to offer more to the community. Prevention and staying educated are the two things that can help individuals have a lifetime of health.”

A: Because one is lying to you.
see the full PP press release here

Prevention of abortion and staying educated about the culture of life are really the two things that can help individuals have a lifetime of health. We actually must be among the living to benefit from this gift. We cannot discount the life of the unborn child in order suit Mr. Howard’s dream.

Okay, chalk up a little victory for the gippers here but remember back to what happened to Dorothy after the wicked witch was dead? She had to visit the Emerald City, meet the ‘wizard’, complete many missions, deal with interesting friends and eventually find her core mission—that home is a place far, far, from here over yonder rainbow. No, we are not in Kansas anymore…but we are still on the journey. Let’s start praying for Bryan Howard (AZ Planned Phood CEO) and all of the misguided docs, staff and workers. Let us pray for their conversion. Let us pray for the babies and the moms and dads who’s minds are currently clouded but not indefinitely closed to the blessings of life. Let us pray for the prevention of all abortions and things contrary to life and for the education of the masses so that we may truly know what is good, beautiful and true.

Onward and Upward. (There’s no place like home.)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Carrots, Eggs and Coffee Beans

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.

Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, "Tell me what you see."

"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.

Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma the daughter then asked, "What does it mean, mother?"

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its insides became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

"Which are you?" she asked her daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

This Enchantment Doesn't Cost Anything...

Translation to song at the end of the vid is:
I want to live like this with the sun on my face, and I sing happily, gracefully. I want to live like this, with the air of the mountains, because this enchantment doesn't cost anything.