I hope you all have a very Happy Easter
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
I feel posting should be limited this week, in observance of Holy Week. So this may be it until next Sunday or Monday. I've struggled a lot in my mind over this past weekend if anything at all would be appropriate to write about, or if I should just be silent. Silence is many times better than anything actually said in words, either spoken or written; we could use more of it both in the Church and in the world. I guess part of my difficulty stems from being a convert to the Church; as a Presbyterian, I never had any real experience of Lent, or Easter, for that matter. After Christmas, there was a period of three or four months with nothing special, then it was Easter; one day, that was it. I can't imagine that now, but am still acclimating myself to a proper observance of Lent after all these years.
The thought that keeps coming back to me is the monastic life and how Lent mirrors it, at least loosely. During the Lenten season, Catholics are urged to do more in the areas of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Engaging in these activities helps us, indeed makes it almost unavoidable for us, to be mindful of spending time in silence, in seeking conversion and that we are doing these things to follow ancient practices of the Church, given to us for our benefit; we grow in obedience to Tradition that helps form the treasury of the Church. These things reflect silence, conversatio (or reform of life) and obedience which are the vows of the Benedictine monk.
It also occurs to me that, just as the Camaldolese life, with its eremitic elements, imposes another dimension of prayer, silence and solitude onto the life of a Benedictine monk, so does Holy Week bring another dimension to our, by now, routine Lenten observance -- It steps it up a notch with more time in prayer and solitude, greater abstinence and penance, and reminds us that we are doing these things as a final preparation for the joyous celebration of Easter that is now immanent.
I'd like this short post to serve as a quick reminder of the added dimension of devotion we're invited to this week, and urge you to take some time to be mindful of the significance of the events we are invited to relive this Holy Week.
I wish you all a very Holy and Blessed Triduum.
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Since Pope Francis' election last week, the reaction in Catholic blogs has been remarkable, schizophrenic even, totally split between two extreme alternatives. The first is total, complete, unquestioning adoration with nothing but good to say about the man. The other is total, complete, unquestioning condemnation of him laden with forebodings of gloom and doom with no possible good coming from his selection. Those taking this view see Francis as a man of dubious intentions, at best.
I have just one thing to say to all this, SNAP OUT OF IT! It's time for everyone to take a couple of deep breaths and chill.
I mean, can one man, at the same time, be both the savior of the Church a Marxist Leninist partisan out to destroy her? How can that be? I think the truth, while weighing more to the good side, must be somewhere in the middle.
Let's remember that Francis is a human being. The pope, it's true, is the spiritual leader of the Church, the heir to Peter's Chair, and, in certain very limited circumstances, gifted with a certain infallibility concerning matters of faith and morals. Still, he's a human being, and outside those circumstances, fallible and error prone.
It seems to me the wise thing for everyone is to, as we used to say in Nam, hide and watch. Let's sit back and allow events to play out. Prayer mightn't be a bad idea either, whichever side you find yourself on. Before making rash judgments, let's give the man some time to show what he's about.
Our Holy Father seems determined to lead by example, to make some much needed changes in the hierarchy, and, in other ways, bring some new life into the Church. He’ll make mistakes along the way, he may not do everything you or I would like to see him do, but I think he's on the right track. Whatever he does, though, he'll most likely neither be the salvation of the Church nor the instrument of its destruction. Remember, the fate of the Church, the Body of Christ, isn't up to him. It's up to God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
My own take on our new Holy Father? I'm not sure I like the way he has so thoroughly shunned the symbols of papal authority, the mozetta, the gold pectoral cross, etc. He is, after all, the man who occupies the seat of Peter, he isn't just one of the boys among all the bishops, he’s the Bishop of Rome, Supreme Pontiff. The symbols of the office aren't about the man, the symbols aren't meant to honor the person but the office, which has a certain dignity of its own which should be maintained. On the other hand, I think Francis sees the Church in trouble because she has become disconnected from the faithful in ways that need to be addressed. He has rightly chosen to change that by reaching out, making the Church more open and transparent, rather than turning the Church in on itself and pretending the problems will go away, which would be devastating. It’s not an easy task, he’s chosen own way to deal with it and should be given a chance to make it work.
In any case, it would be best for all concerned if everyone just sat down, put their feet up and relaxed, it's all good. The Spirit guarantees it.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
I wanted to write a post comparing the two most recent popes, Benedict and Francis. I hoped it would be clear and concise and cogent. Instead it came off sounding like some pompous bullshit and was anything but concise or cogent. Really, all I wanted to say is that the similarities and contrasts between the two men are remarkable, but the important thing is the one common denominator: each is his own way occupied the same chair of Peter, as have 264 other men in the last two millennia.
That isn’t just a job, after all; it’s a continuation of the ministry Peter received directly from Jesus himself. So, one man displays humility by giving up what might seem to many to be some sort of earthly power and the other takes it up, only to exercise the office in a very different way; same office, the same divine ministry, just a different style. I also find it remarkable that both men were accused of being war criminals of one sort or another upon taking up the office. Can that just be a coincidence? Or, are the same forces that opposed Benedict the same ones, however unimaginative they are, that oppose Francis now? It’s tough to think those kinds of things are just coincidences; like they say on the cop shows, I don’t believe in coincidences.
Through it all, we have the Church, the same Church that began when the Caesar ruled Rome. Where is Caesar now? I think that’s remarkable; the same Church that began way back then still commands the world’s attention today, almost unavoidably. It’s hard not to recognize the significance of the thing.
Saturday, March 16, 2013
The Church has been around for an awfully long time, 2,000 years. To give you some perspective, Martin Luther began his movement only 500 or so years ago. Yet, as old as the Church is, it’s never inappropriate to think the more things change, the more things stay the same. We've seen that played out in remarkable ways in the time since Pope Benedict's abdication announcement.
Two Humble Popes. When Pope Francis was elected, and ever since, everyone's remarked about his sense of humility. Out on the balcony, Francis asked everyone in the crowd, and those watching, to pray for him and to bless him, and bowed his head to receive their blessings. The next day, he went and picked up his bags and paid his bill at the hotel where he'd been staying, taking a car from the equivalent of the Vatican motor pool. He has seemingly eschewed the more formal attire of Benedict for the simple white cassock.
It seems people have forgotten how many commentators remarked, correctly on Benedict's implicit humility shown in his decision to leave the papal office. He showed that, at heart, he was willing to listen to God's voice and allow that voice to lead him wherever God willed. It was an expression of perfect submission to God's will that anyone who could be open enough to see would understand.
Jesus said that the first would be last and the last would be first. We've seen, in the last month or so, two humble Christian men put that axiom into solid, easy to understand action for the entire world to see, granted in very different ways, but still easily seen and understood. They showed themselves to be real teachers and bearers of Christ's message in doing so and we all should be humbled by their example.
Still Able to Surprise. As I said above, the Church is 2,000 years old, yet she's still able to surprise and cause the world to sit back and take notice. Benedict's abdication was certainly a surprise, totally unexpected, yet he was unafraid to break with Tradition and do what he believed to be the right thing. His action showed the Church's (eternal) perspective on worldly affairs and the right relationship between God and man. He didn't cling to power like some CEO or world leader but willingly gave it all up when the time had come.
Father Jorge, as Cardinal Brogolio likes to be known, was about the last man anyone expected to elected pope. He was older than people thought appropriate, he was doctrinally conservative, which the left side of the aisle thought disqualified him, and he had been passed over the last time around. By worldly standards, he didn't have a chance. But the cardinals were listening, not to the worldly types on Twitter, but to the Spirit which appears in the form of a dove and gave the Church a great gift. Surprise!
On top of that, Cardinal Brogolio made yet another break with Tradition and chose to be known as Francis, a name never used before, signaling to the world that it was time to renew and rebuild the Church, just when the world was beginning to write her off as hopelessly out of date, unable to adapt to the new world order.
War Criminals? I find the reaction of those in the liberal media, both Catholic and secular, to both popes remarkable alike. First, there was ample evidence of dismay that the Church once again went with a pope who happened to take her teachings seriously. In both cases, there was dismay and a subtle tsk, tsking, at the display of reactionary spirit by a bunch of doddering old men unable and unwilling to keep up with current trends in society. They were demanding the Church change to fit their human ideas, instead of doing things in the proper order and seeking the Lord in true and humble repentance and conversion.
More seriously, unnamed, and undocumented, sources popped up in both cases claiming that each man was guilty of war crimes, maybe even atrocities. In Benedict's case, he was accused of being a Nazi, in Francis' case, he's now accused of being a traitor during Argentina's "dirty war" in the early 1980's. It seems the world is ready to use any weapon, any charge, true or not to discredit anyone who would lead the campaign against it. In both cases, of course, the effort will be fruitless.
So, we have two popes, each man very different from the other, leading by example and teaching what it means to be humble, showing the world that the Church is still capable of surprise and still able to withstand the worst sort of attacks the world can throw at her. What was it Jesus said about the gates of Hell not prevailing against her? We've seen the truth of that, in spades, over the last month or so.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
First and foremost, please pray that, as the Conclave begins, the Holy Spirit is heard in the deliberations of the Cardinals. I'm not overly worried or concerned about this election; for some reason I'm confident the selection will be the right one for the Church.
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Making the first halting, stumbling, fumbling progress on the mystery novel. I have to learn to work in a new way, one very different from the way accounting work proceeds. There is no easily defined, quantifiable end result just waiting for me to get there, no specific spreadsheet to construct with specific information desired, no specific financial report to be produced. And the timeframe is quite different, we're not talking projects completed in a day or a few days, we're talking maybe months, maybe even a year. There is a desired end result, the production of a finished novel, but what that novel will look like, or when it's done, I don't know yet. I expect one or two false starts and also to end up heading down a few blind alleys.
My first steps are on the overall concept of the book and, something I enjoy greatly, starting to develop some idea of the characters, main and otherwise. I hope they turn out memorably.
I also learned this morning that I'm going to work in some funny bits; it won't be deadly serious (pardon the pun). The characters told me that. No, really!
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One surprise this morning is the weather; it was supposed to be nice this week, a little cool today, but no precip forecast until maybe the weekend or early next week. It's more than just cool today, it's kind of cold and it has snowed and rained some, enough that the roof of my car parked out front was close to white, as was the back deck. I like surprises.
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As you might expect, I'm spending some regular time each day reading mysteries, to get an idea of what's expected in the genre. It's fine with me because I enjoy reading them anyway. But now, I'm reading more analytically than I used to, not just for enjoyment, but to try to see how they’re put together. I find that interesting and informative. The book I'm reading now is A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton, her first in a series. I'm trying not to let all this activity take away from the book I finally settled on for Lenten reading, Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI, a wonderful book.
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Just learned that black smoke was seen outside the Sistine, so I guess we'll have to wait until tomorrow or the next day to see what happens.
Saturday, March 9, 2013
I’ve retired. I thought the reality of retiring had sunk in a long time ago, but I'm not sure it has yet. Not that I would change anything, I wouldn't; I'm quite happy not to have to follow someone else’s schedule, and I'm extraordinarily happy to 1) not be defined by a job, 2) have time to do some truly important things.
Like what, you may ask?
I plan to do more reading and some writing; I’ve been noodling some ideas for a mystery series, and might try my hand at some poetry. I’ll be posting here a little more regularly; I’ve set the initial goal of once a week, every Saturday, starting today. Also, I want to venture out to other parts of Colorado and take of pictures of all the beauty in my adopted state, a lot of which I haven’t had time to see yet. There’s a lot of things I want to do, including having a beer now and then and just sitting and watching all the hustle and bustle of the world going on all around me. John Lennon got it right.
That’s the key. Usually, the first thing anyone said to me when I told them of my impending retirement was, "What do you plan to do?" As if I had to do something to be a real person or to be happy. It seemed that many people, when they think of being retired and living a life without the daily busyness would be meaningless, empty. My constant rejoinder, offered with a laugh, soto voce, to cushion the blow as it were, was "As little as freaking possible." They all thought I was joking, I wasn't, I was deadly serious. All the busyness, with little play time, I've put in over the last 40 years wasn't my real life, I think my real life is just now beginning. I don’t think this big change in routine is going to be easy, there’s going to be challenges ahead, it’ll be hard work. But, I think, it’ll be the real work I’ve been itching to do for as long as I’ve been on this earth. I’m ready to get started.