Sunday, September 30, 2007

Lost and Found in Leaves of Green

"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....." So sang William Blake, the English poet and essayist, quite some time ago in a work called the Auguries of Innocence. And so sang I just yesterday on a little walk between meetings, on the road between St. Isaac Jogues parish and the Valley Forge Middle School. It was just about sunset.

I've been running around like a nut for the last two or three weeks, between teaching, speaking, meeting, refinancing the house, "retreating" and trying to be present when I'm in the presence of my beloved wife. (She is amazingly patient and supportive, by the way, when I'm juggling five things).

I was preparing for a talk and getting some prayer time with Jesus at the little adoration chapel at St. Isaac's yesterday after school. I realized it was best to stay out west, since I was meeting the guys at Dave's at 6:30 for dinner and our monthly touching base (MDG!).

That's when God's light broke in again, into the duststorm of my noise and haste. First the light streaming from His Son in the Eucharist in that little chapel, and then through the rays of the other sun, the sacramental sign of the True Son.

I was about to get into the car and head to Dave's, when the smell of September hit me; that rich, acorn-kinda leafy warm grass smell. You know what I'm talkin' 'bout. I looked up and saw in the distance a tall cluster of white pines, like huge sentinels waving a farewell salute to the setting sun. They were washed in golden light. They rocked and swayed in a strong evening wind. I let the car keys slip from my fingers, back into my pocket, and walked slowly towards the trees. On the way, I just inhaled, exhaled, and watched the wind have its way with the pines. What a dance.

I moved into the stand of trees and was caught by the leaves of a smaller tree, deciduous and brilliant, with the sun just behind her. Like a burning bush, green with hope, it let the sun shine through it and I could see, just inches before my face, the tiny veins and the clusters of cells and the great dance of molecules, like flames flaring up in the natural furnace of photosynthesis. Right before me the tree was being fed, recharged, rekindled, replenished by the last pouring out of heat and fire from the cup of tbe sun. And so was I.

It struck me that I need to recall the simplicity of the walk and the gaze and the wonder of the moment, especially in these busy back to school days. Ten minutes wasted, spilled out, let go of, open hands to the Son, can rekindle, refresh, and recharge me. I just have to keep the leaves of my days open to face Him, to let Him pour out fire and heat into an empty cup. Isn't this what the life of grace is all about?

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Common Nonsense with Fr. Cliff Ermatinger

Whoops.... In the busyness of last week, I failed to post the content of last week's radio show! I had a fantastic talk (and the time flew by) with Fr. Cliff Ermatinger, a priest of the Legionaries of Christ, and author of a book called Common Nonsense. Here's the write up below, and the link to purchase the book is found here.

Common Nonsense By Cliff Ermatinger: Are you tired of those trite sound bytes that you know are wrong but can't say why? This book equips you to not only rebut the nonsensical but to win others for those truths that ensure a happy life. This is a wonderful tool for study groups.

ISBN Number : 1-933271-08-6

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Priest Eats Haggis

I think I've mentioned somewhere in this blog one of my favorite podcasts, the Daily Breakfast. It's a collection of thoughts and experiences, random stuff from computers to movies, Harry Potter to holiness, all from a Catholic priest in the Netherlands, Fr. Roderick. He's just started a new video podcast detailing trips he's made throughout the world, his latest being Scotland (a country I'm deeply indebted to, as it gave me my grandmother, and was the land where my grandparents first met!). In this video, Fr. Roderick tastes a traditional sampling of haggis: sheep's heart, liver and lungs, mixed with oatmeal and spices... Mmmm, yummy! I love Fr. Roderick!! Do yourself a favor and subscribe to his podcasts here at www.sqpn.com!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

One Act of Love and You're In

Today's Gospel was from Luke 8:19-21. Short and sweet and a real kick in the soul: "The mother of Jesus and his brothers came to him but were unable to join him because of the crowd. He was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you.” He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” The relationship were invited into with God in the flesh (Jesus) sinks even deeper than just the flesh, right to the core of the person. Mary was the closest to Jesus, physically AND spiritually. This isn't a dig on the part of her Son. He's just pulling back the veil, drawing us deeper into the Holy of Holies, to tell us that now God is healing us and inviting us to a union with Him that is beyond our wildest dreams. An all it takes to enter in is an act of the will, a conscious choice, a leap of love. In the immortal words of Van Halen, "Might's well jump!"

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I Would Die For That

I put up a Facebook page this summer (thanks Fr. Roderick, neat idea!) and in seeing some of the entries there from friends, I stumbled onto this video. It's instantly become the heart-song for Rebecca and I as we continue to carry this cross of infertility and daily feel the pangs of hunger for little ones to share this life with. So here's Kellie Coffey, and her very moving song "I Would Die for That." We don't necessarily agree with all of the means by which some of the couples in the video go about beginning a family, but without a doubt we feel their pain. God bless all who struggle to begin a family, longing for the day when our arms are full of His Treasured Gifts.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cursillo: I Have No Idea... Sort Of...

OK. This image is a little creepy. But I didn't make it up. I'm going to meet it this weekend, "face to face." Uh.... Let me explain. As a teacher at Malvern, and hopefully soon a leader and mentor for the students when they go on their senior retreat, I've been invited to go on a Cursillo Retreat for adults this weekend. Now I've been on lots of retreats in my life. I love 'em! I love having the chance to squander time with God, walk the fields, sit in chapel and just BE, read good spiritual reading, eat good retreat house food, sleep in beds that are a foot shorter than I am tall. I love getting refreshed by the reminder that, indeed, all shall be well. To know again that when my life is a question mark, Jesus is the answer. But from the little splinters and shards of hearsay, from what I know of Cursillo retreats and have gleaned from random conversations and stuff over the years, I think this weekend will be .... different. THE FOLLOWING MAY OR MAY NOT BE TRUE.... OR FALSE (in other words, this is all I know of this mysterious movement of faith in the Catholic Church) 1. Cursillo is a mysterious movement of faith in the Catholic Church. 2. There is a rainbow involved, sometimes streaming from a rooster's backside, and today I've discovered, often amassing itself into a slightly creepy smiley face. 3. Anyone who has gone on Cursillo is sworn to secrecy about what actually DOES happen, under penalty of "death by smiley face." 4. Everyone claps alot. 5. Everyone is REALLY happy. 6. You must bring an umbrella (this has been conveyed to me like 4 times already) 7. You don't really sleep (this frightens me) 8. You walk away changed, affirmed, blessed, happy, and... mysteriously quiet about how that all came to pass. So these are just some of the pictures in my head of what this weekend holds in store for me. When it's all over, I'll be sure to blog about it and tell you what REALLY happened. I think. Maybe... YIKES.... I gotta go grab my umbrella.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Weekend That Wasn't

Summer may not officially be over (Sept 21 is it?), but as far as I can see, it's Fall. And it's busy. Why do we (OK me) have to DO so much when Fall drops in on us? Feeling guilty from that leisurely Summer? Who knows. It's here though.

In the immortal words of M.C. Hammer, "Ring that bell, school's in."

And so we move to the weekend that wasn't:

- Friday night I had my first adjunct teacher meeting at Immaculata University (I started teaching Marriage and Family to undergrads this semester, and I'm lovin' it). But a Friday night meeting from 6 to 8pm? Oiy!

- Then Saturday was a 9am talk for the Men's Prayer Group at St. Mary Magdalene's. Man that was fun. Over 15 men, praying, singing deep and strong, sharing faith, and then I led us in a reflection on the Theology of the Body. Whoa, the faith and the insights shared by these veterans of the Church was inspiring.

- Next it was off to Malvern Retreat Center for lunch and a talk to give on the same theme, TOB, for the Men of Malvern Retreat League.

- Finally to St. Pius X parish to speak briefly at the 5:15 Mass for an upcoming seminar on the Theology of the Body. Seeing a theme here, eh?

- Today, I'm back to speak at ALL the masses here at Pius to promote the TOB seminar (it starts Oct. 4!)

- This afternoon after the 12pm Mass, I have to head to Malvern Prep for a Meet the Parents day, and run the moms and dads through a mini review of what I'm teaching their boys this year in theology.

- Tonight will close with a reception from 5 to 7pm at the O'Neill Center for parents and faculty.

- And tomorrow is Monday.

- Oiy.

- Calgon, take me away....

Now in one sense, I write all this because it's ridiculous. What am I smoking? But also I'm happy to say that God is moving it all. I left the men at St. Mary Magdalene yesterday morning feeling humbled and blown away by the reality that I am doing this, leading, teaching, praying with people, getting to "the heart of things."

Me! A nerdy kid from New Jersey. Everything is a grace. All of this is a privilege.

I'm gonna slow down. Promise. But it's weekends like this that remind me how fortunate I feel, how grateful I am just to live, to be a teacher, to have been invited to bring souls into the deep, to have been captured first by the net of love and the beauty of God and Life and Everything in Between. I just have to remember to come up for air now and again! Maybe when the next season of the Office airs?


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Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld

Sunday Joy - The King of Glory Dance

I know, it's random..... but it's also FUNNY. Didn't David dance before the Ark? I wonder if he had such sweet moves?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Catholics and the Face of the Internet

My radio guest this week was Brian Barcaro from 4Marks and CatholicMatch.com. Brian is the co-founder of Acolyte, LLC an Internet software development and Management Company. Through is work with Acolyte Brian was also involved with the co-founding of 4marks.com a social networking platform for Catholics as well as CatholicMatch.com the largest online singles community for Catholics.

Our topic was Catholics and Social Networking. We looked at popular websites like Facebook and MySpace, spoke of the advantages and disadvantages of this technology, and also cited Church documents on the use of the internet as a powerful and positive tool for humanity. Brian is available to talk to families and large groups on the pros and cons of today’s technology through the 4Marks website on topics like...

"Understanding a MySpace Culture"
"The Internet & the Church "

"Real Teachers in a Virtual World"

"Does love exist online?"



RESOURCES TO FIND AT 4MARKS.COM

If you are interested in having Brian speak, please contact Dan Flaherty at 888.605.3977x6 or dan@goacolyte.com



CHURCH SOURCES WE CITED

"The Internet causes billions of images to appear on millions of computer monitors around the planet. From this galaxy of sight and sound will the face of Christ emerge and the voice of Christ be heard? For it is only when his face is seen and his voice heard that the world will know the glad tidings of our redemption. This is the purpose of evangelization. And this is what will make the Internet a genuinely human space, for if there is no room for Christ, there is no room for man." - Pope John Paul II, Message for the 36th World Communications Day

“Man’s genius has with God’s help produced marvelous technical inventions from creation, especially in our times. The Church, our mother, is particularly interested in those which directly touch man’s spirit and which have opened up new avenues of easy communication of all kinds of news, of ideas and orientations.” - Pope Paul VI, Inter Mirifica
OTHER SOURCES

The Church and the Internet
Ethics in the Internet, 2002

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Creepy and Yet... Miraculous

Last week I stepped out the front door to clear away the spider webs for Rebecca before her journey to the bus stop (chivalry is not dead!). We have some massive shrubs that grow opposite our front steps, and the little buggers love to build these high tension lines from bush to railing. They faithfully appear each morning to try and keep her from her daily duty, but like Frodo and Sam armed with the fiery blade of Sting, we make our way through their silken cords! Ah Elbereth gilthoniel!

But one morning last week, there was a clear path. No webs. Hmmm, curious. What are they up to? So off she went to the bus and I headed out the back door to our car to make the scenic route through to Chester County and historic Malvern Prep. But lo! Stretching and glistening in the early morning light, covering half of the entrance to the garage and completely covering my access to the car door was a MASSIVE web. I'm talking Shelob web here. And perched right in the middle of the web, like a ruby set in stone, was Gigantor the Spider, Spawn of the Shadows, the Ungoliant of Backyard Undergrowth.

After I got over the initial shock and awe, I was mesmerized. I watched as she stepped out and continued spinning her dark dreams, but as I entered into the beauty of this little bugger I saw them now more as cords of light, intricate patterns that were like tiny geometric miracles, engineering enigmas! Wow. It was with mixed emotions that I axed the web with a newspaper. Hey, I gotta get to work here!

The next morning.... there she was again, with her cathedral of silken beauty, built in a day.

I thought of us, toiling and spinning our little dreams in our little lives. I don't know about you, but when the newspaper of life sweeps my plans away, I'm not always up and early the next morning working on a new project. So here's to spiders! To their enterprise, their industry, their perseverance. and their patience!

I wish I had half their guts.... or abdomens.... I guess...

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Mother Teresa and the Three Paths of Prayer

Our radio show this week celebrated Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and centered on the 3 traditional paths of prayer in the Catholic Church (the Purgative Way, the Illuminative Way, and the Unitive Way). Below you'll find some resources:

ON MOTHER TERESA, PRAYERS, THOUGHTS, AND MORE
americancatholic.org

ON THE EARLY YEARS OF MOTHER TERESA
ewtn.org

ON THE PATHS OF PRAYER
The song we played for the Purgative Way was Welcome Home by Shaun Groves

The song for the Illuminative Way was If You Want Me To by Ginny Owens

The song for the Unitive Way was All Things New by Watermark

MISSION MOMENT
Today it is fashionable to talk about the poor. Unfortunately it is not fashionable to talk with them….. The poor are Christ Himself.
- Mother Teresa


MOTHER TERESA'S DAILY PRAYER
DEAR JESUS, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy spirit and love. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others.


MOTHER TERESA'S LAST PRAYER

I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus, one-to-one, you and Jesus alone. We may spend time in chapel - but have you seen with the eyes of your soul how He looks at you with love? Do you really know the living Jesus - not from books but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? Ask for the grace; He is longing to give it. Until you can hear Jesus in the silence of your own heart, you will never be able to hear Him saying "I thirst" in the hearts of the poor. Never give up this daily intimate contact with Jesus as the real living person - not just the idea. How can we last even one day without hearing Jesus say "I love you"? Impossible. Our soul needs that as much as the body needs to breathe the air. If not, prayer is dead - meditation, only thinking. Jesus wants you each to hear Him speaking in the silence of your heart. Be careful of all that can block that personal contact with the living Jesus. The devil may try to use the hurts of life, and sometimes our own mistakes - to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you, is really cleaving to you. This is a danger for all of us. And so sad, because it is completely the opposite of what Jesus is really wanting, waiting to tell you. Not only that He loves you, but even more - He longs for you. He misses you when you don't come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don't feel worthy. When not accepted by others, even by yourself sometimes - He is the One Who always accepts you. Only believe - you are precious to Him.

Bring all you are suffering to His feet-only open your heart to be loved by Him as you are.
He will do the rest.

- MOTHER TERESA, 1910-1997

Music Shared

Thanks for sharing this one Frances. A real beauty.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

For All That We Let In...

I was driving home from a workshop a few weeks ago, a warm summer's eve, listening to music on the radio... thinking of Rebecca, and of our lives, and of our cross and of the gaping hole in our hearts that longs to be filled with little ones to share this wonderful life with, when the music I was listening to, like an undertow, took me out into the deep. I don't mean music from the generic pop stations that buzzes incessantly and fizzles out in a few weeks, like those little midges that swirl into your ears and have a half life of two weeks. I mean hand-carved acoustic poetry. Heart-crafted words, polished smooth by poets sitting in their cabins or spilling words on napkins in small town diners, fast while the fire of inspiration is hottest. I love music from the souls who are mostly unplugged. I'll take their word over a snappy electrolized and endlessly repetitive refrain any day! There are songs that can really slip below the radar and get me thinking. Usually anything from Greg Brown (Ella Mae or Hey Baby Hey.... oooh those are sweet), or Carrie Newcomer, so rich with imagery that they just break down the busyness of the day and the flurry of thoughts and distractions. Pretty much anything from Dave Wilcox, of course. The South African a capella Ladysmith Black Mambazo. And I just discovered Judy Collins..... I know, a little late in the day for that one. We need music like this. They're not mindless distractions, but mindful attractions to things we must face every day. Choices to be made, turns taken, fears to overcome. Just as we should make an examination of conscience each night, looking over the day and what actions or omissions may have thrown shadows over His Light, so I think we should do an examination of our ipods, our iTunes, Zunes, and CD collections; whatever houses the music we live by. How much of it moves you, as opposed to gets you moving? I know we need both. But are there at least a few melodies that take you to those places you need to go, now? Would you mind sharing them? Here's a few of mine: - How Did You Find Me Here, Dave Wilcox - In the Garden, Van Morrison - I Know You by Heart, Eva Cassidy - Leaving Home, John Williams (Superman soundtrack) - The Riddle, Five for Fighting - Hold On, Carrie Newcomer - One Love, Cheryl Wheeler - Valentine's Day, Bruce Springsteen - For All that We Let In, Indigo Girls - Check it Out, John Cougar Mellancamp - Hearts and Bones, Paul Simon - Love Your Neighbor, Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Soul Meets Body

If they knew how big they’d become on the music scene, lead singer Ben Gibbard of the band “Death Cab for Cutie” once confessed, they woul...