Friday, October 28, 2005

Fun and Seriousness

I recently applied for a managerial position at work and didn't make the cut. There were over 50 applicants, and I made it to the top 20 or so, but no further. That's fine - I'm not angry or anything; I know the competition was tough, and we've had a lot of sub-managers like me waiting for promotion opportunities for about a year.

I just came back from a meeting with one of the bigwigs who makes the decisions, in an attempt to get some feedback into what I can do to improve my chances the next time around. He said that I didn't do anything wrong in the interview process per se, and that there was nothing that I missed doing, but that there were so many qualified applicants that my own stellar light was eclipsed by some of the blue giants around me (my metaphor, not his).

The one point he made that stuck with me was that while I'm very approachable and easy to talk to (which he stressed is a good thing), that can sometimes come across as a guy who doesn't take things seriously enough.

In his book Heretics, G.K. Chesterton said "the two qualities of fun and seriousness have nothing whatever to do with each other, they are no more comparable than black and triangular." Meaning you can be both, and not in a state of contradiction.

I strive to be competent and easy-going - I get my work done, and smile while doing it. From what I'm learning about the professional world, that's a rare thing; most managers work inefficiently and grumble about it (not in my workplace, of course!). They are neither fun nor serious.

So the newest item on my "growth plan" is to continue working hard with a smile, but also to make the fruits of my labours obvious. This means taking on some more high-profile projects, and ensuring my direct managers are aware of my efforts.

I think that's a very Catholic approach to work; I have no problem telling my boss about the things I'm doing to improve the workplace. I don't see that as Pride, but rather Humility. A proud person misrepresents his place in the universe - either by too much or too little. A humble person knows exactly where he stands in relation to God, man, and nature, and has no qualms about proclaiming it or keeping it quiet.

For too long I've kept it quiet, which is both career-limiting, and a form of pride. From here on, I will be a very noticable black triangle.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


He changed his layout! Panic!

Oh, wait, nobody reads this.

Testing, 1-2-3... hello, internet? Hello?

How very proud of me, to think the internet cares about my humble blog.
Why Canada has had a Bad Year

In the past year, Canada has legitimized gay state-marriage. Our closest semblance to a conservative party was betrayed by a high-ranking member who crossed the floor to join the corrupt governing party, just in time to save it from a confidence vote that came down to a single member's swing vote. Our socialist party entered an unholy union with the minority government as well, in exchange for a socialist spending spree. And a conservative-minded independent member of Parliament voted with the government to save it from the confidence vote. Our government has been plagued with financial scandals and patronage appointments that, if we were a small African country, would have prompted the Americans to liberate us by now.

It's been a bad year for morality in Canada, and I think I know why.

We went for a whole year without hockey.

Seriously, I think I'm on to something here.

At all hockey games with Canadian teams participating, our national anthem is sung.

Part of the lyrics say, "God keep our land glorious and free." This is, technically, a prayer.

Normally, millions of Canadians, in the arenas and watching at home, will sing the anthem.

Millions of Canadians, last year, did not pray for God to protect Canada.

Thank God hockey's back!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Dear Uncle Diogenes...

...from the Off the Record blog at has lamented that paganism is making a comeback in British prisons. An understandable lament.

And yet, my beloved Gilbert Keith Chesterton noted, with some excitement, "Neo-pagans have sometimes forgotten, when they set out to do everything the old pagans did, that the final thing the old pagans did was to get christened."

That excites me too. It's only a matter of time now folks; Western society is getting back on the historical track that led them to embrace Christianity in the first place.

Like I said before, shampoo, rinse, repeat.

Friday, October 21, 2005

What kind of Catholic are you?

from an online quiz, link below...

You scored as New Catholic. The years following the Second Vatican Council was a time of collapse of the Catholic faith and its traditions. But you are a young person who has rediscovered this lost faith, probably due to the evangelization of Pope John Paul II. You are enthusiastic, refreshing, and somewhat traditional, and you may be considering a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. You reject relativism and the decline in society that you see among your peers. You are seen as being good for the Church.

A possible problem is that you may have a too narrow a view of orthodoxy, and anyway, you are still a youth and not yet mature in your faith.

New Catholic


Radical Catholic


Traditional Catholic


Neo-Conservative Catholic


Evangelical Catholic


Lukewarm Catholic


Liberal Catholic


What is your style of American Catholicism?
created with

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I'm Growing Up

It's true. I'm growing up. I'm closer to my 31st birthday than my 30th, and am finding myself thrust by God into various positions of importance that require sober thought and a professional demeanor.

I'm on the school board, and have suddenly become the Chair of the Personnel Committee. Which means I decide what teachers to hire/not hire. And I decided last night between two very qualified candidates; making one's day (that was fun!), and crushing one's hopes (that wasn't fun.)

It seems that from here on, my path through life will abruptly and drastically affect the lives of those I have no direct connection to. The effect of a ripple caused by a new teacher dripping into the pond of school cannot be predicted.

So yes, I'm growing up. I have to assume accountability for big things now, not just the little things that are relatively easy to control like my soul and my family. Now my decisions affect large portions of society.

Still, as Christ said, "The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones." (Luke 16:10) I've tried to be trustworthy and faithful in all I've been given charge of so far, and who am I to utter complaints about growth when Christ says, "Time for more!"

I'm an easygoing fella; I like to relax. I like my free time; I like to sit and stare at my wife in wonder, I like to play dolls with my little girls (as much as I'd prefer to play trucks!), I like to play games with my friends, I like to read and write. I like my comfort zone - it's quite... comfortable. But life happens, and I gotta keep up.

So as I heed this call to growth Lord, and embark on the boring stuff that adults have to do, give me the spiritual vitamins and minerals to make my bones and muscles strong.

Friday, October 14, 2005

"God, deliver me from sullen saints." - St. Theresa of Avila

Tomorrow we celebrate the life and death of this renowned Doctor of the Church. I don't pretend to be an expert on her or any of the saints, but she is one of my favorites.

I like her so much because of her humanity; when her food tasted good, she ate it with zeal, and was known to stand on her head and giggle at the upside-down world. At the same time, she was a profound mystic, prone to overwhelming illness and visions of glory.

My Protestant understanding of "saint" was just somebody who was saved. And I'll even continue to use the term in that sense, provided the "s" is lowercase.

But a Saint, to the Catholic understanding, is someone who the Church has determined beyond the shadow of a doubt is spending eternity in the presence of God. That's why the archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael have the title.

That's not to say that everybody that clears the pearly gates is declared a saint; in the litany of saints we ask "all holy men and women" to (insert music here) pra-ay for us. We can't possibly canonize everybody, as we aren't always given the knowledge.

The cries of "Santo Subito!" in St. Peter's Square at John Paul II's funeral reflect the Church's faith/trust/hope in his holiness, which I don't dispute. But I recall hearing about a holy abbot who died: the monks in his abbey, considering his holiness, waived the traditional three masses said for his soul. He reportedly appeared to them and asked why they didn't have the masses said, as he was waiting for the help to get through Purgatory.

We can never know the inner secrets of the soul of another person. That's why God is our judge, and man can only judge his fellow man imperfectly.

Still, knowing my own faults and secrets so well, I hope to be a Saint someday. I long for the opportunity to intercede for my Christian brethren still bound to their mortal form. I don't really care if I'm officially canonized or not; it's not about the glory. Or at least, not about my glory.

I am not perfect. But I desire absolute holiness, and as I progress from vices to veniality to virtue through the choices in my life I am better able to perceive the fruit of that desire.

Lord, make me hungry for more!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Beauty of Natural Family Planning

My wife and I, as all Catholics ought, spurn manufactured methods of pregnancy prevention.

That means no condoms, no pill, no IUD, no etc, etc, etc.

We are very much disturbed by the negative perspective our society has developed towards generating embryonic life. Really - it bothers us a lot.

We have decided to embrace a difficult yet rewarding method of spacing our children (there are no pro-lifers who object to that!). The Church has approved this method, and before you put another word in there, it's not rhythm. What we follow, as the title of this post indicates, is Natural Family Planning.

NFP tracks the physical signs of a woman's fertility to calculate (down to almost the hour) when she is ovulating. That knowledge can be used to conceive or postpone conception. The science of it is taught in classes available around the world, and summarized quite nicely here, so I won't go into those details of it.

My parents (who are not yet Catholic) once told me that they were using birth control when they were first married, but felt a strong urge from the Lord that they weren't being open to his will in so doing. So they stopped. Then, somehow, their to-be first-born was conceived. My parents were stunned when this product of their very Catholic decision (me) decided to embrace the faith whose teachings encouraged his conception. In other words, I see a grand cosmic connection between my parents' decision to trust God's will for their family, and my tremendous sense of home in the Catholic Church.

Polls have shown that there is no discrepancy between Catholics and the general population in use of birth control. Here's my challenge to any Catholic out there who has never heard of this method: try it! It works better, it's better for your marriage, it's better for your soul. It's also quite nice not to have to fiddle with "equipment" when the passion kicks in. And any health nut will tell you how harmful it is to pump your body full of artificial chemicals.

What kind of man wants his wife to render herself infertile? Infertility, up until the last hundred years or so, was considered a curse and a burden. Now, people go through operations to obtain it. That's a sign of progress, I suppose.

Friday, October 07, 2005

"Meditate on the Meaning of the Rosary"

This was an instruction I received for a recent penance. Today is the Feast of our Lady of the Holy Rosary, so I thought that this would be a good opportunity to put something out there.

My first rosary was mailed to me by my girlfriend (now wife) shortly after I decided to become Catholic. It was one she had made with simple plastic beads and nylon string. It didn't survive the trip; my guess is Canada Post accidentally ran over the envelope with a steam roller.

From then on, my rosaries have come from many different sources. I received some from priests, bought some from Catholic stores, made a few, and my current one was made by a co-worker who makes them for the express purpose of giving them away. He doesn't scrimp on his quality either; he uses semi-precious material like hematite and mother-of-pearl. I put a crucifix on this one that has the Stations of the Cross on the back, and I keep it in my pocket in a rosary pouch (really just a sanctified change purse) to prevent tangling.

But what's the purpose of it? I know prayer is good, and I know it's good to meditate on the mysteries of our faith. But why?

We all know that Adam and Eve were created for perfect communion with God. But they rejected him for the lies of the wicked one, and were unable to face God without shame.

Jesus and Mary, by contrast, were created to be Adam and Eve 2.0, so to speak. The Bible calls Jesus the New Adam; the Church calls Mary the New Eve. Both were conceived without the stain of original sin (if you're a Protestant who objects to that, read this, this, and then submit to this).

And yet while they were created without sin, they could have fallen just as Adam and Eve did. Perfection is thus a fragile yet secure state; it can be easily shattered, but with due vigilance it can remain totally impregnable. Their free will was just as present as mine is. So while it seems on the surface that I, a sinner, could never relate to the lives of Jesus and Mary, they are in truth an absolutely perfect model to live by; an examplary, attainable standard.

What then, is the benefit of meditating on them? We are commanded by St. Paul (see verse 8) to think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and praiseworthy. The definition of meditate means "to focus one's thoughts on."

So when I meditate on the lives of Jesus and Mary, it requires focus. Focus is hard. My job doesn't allow me to focus on something; it requires "multi-tasking" which means that my mind has been trained to focus on a lot of things. But that's an oxymoron; if you're focusing on a lot of things, you're really focusing on none.

In fact, I think the last time I focused on anything was when I put a 1000 piece puzzle together a few months ago. Hobbies, when properly practiced, obtain all of your focus because they are activities that you are genuinely interested in... which implies that a lack of focus on my rosary is due to a lack of genuine interest in it.

That somewhat alarms me.

So how do I generate interest in it? I'm sure that keeping on praying it won't do it, although I don't plan to stop.

Maybe if I look at the things that I do think on, and then apply my problem-fixing-formula...

  1. Find the absolute... focus on the holy
  2. Where am I in relation to it?... focus is on about 10% holy, 85% neutral, 5% unholy
  3. Get to the absolute... I think I'll work on the unholy stuff first.
What is the source of my unholy meditation? TV, and my imagination. Specifically, improper utilization of the procreative gift. Someone once told me the best way to remove bad imagery from your mind is to memorize Scripture; it's seriously the only thing that's been demonstrated to erase the part of the brain that records pornography.

Been a while since I've memorized some Scripture.

It's true what they say about Catholics vs. Protestants: Catholics don't read the Bible near as much. It's partly because Holy Scripture isn't the core "meat and potatoes" of the faith; that's the Sacraments. But meat and potatoes are no good without some veggies... and I'm a big believer in consuming all the spiritual food groups.

So it's settled... to help me delve more eagerly into the Rosary, I will memorize more Scripture.

Who have thought I'd ever utter words like that?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A Very Special Day

Today, October 5th, is important to me for a lot of reasons.

First of all, it's my mother's birthday - happy birthday Mom! I love you!

Second, it's the day that hockey returns! Go Sens Go! Let me just say right now, at the beginning of the season, that I've been an Ottawa Senators fan every since I started liking hockey, and I've stuck with them through all their rough years and playoff choking. This is our year, baby. Leafs fans, get out your Kleenex!

Ahem. Calming down now...

Third, we celebrate St. Luigi Scrosoppi today. Check out this snippet on his canonization from the archives at

Doctors in 1996 had given up hope for Peter Changu Shitima, an AIDS patient from Zambia.

The young catechist was suffering from neuritis, an inflammation of the nerves. He often felt cold and exhausted and had troubling hearing and seeing.

HIV-positive, his prospects were not good. "We believed he was in the terminal phase," Dr. Pete du Toit later testified.

But Changu did not give up hope. He and the Catholic community of Oudtshoorn, South Africa, where he lived, started praying for the intercession of Blessed Luigi Scrosoppi, of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. Changu was a student with the Oratory in Oudtshoorn.

The prayers worked: Changu had what his doctors called a miraculous recovery.

... Father John Newton Johnson, the Oratory's superior, later wrote in the minutes of the canonization process, the domain of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, that Changu "began to feel faint and complained that he was tired. I thought it was simply exhaustion. Then we thought it might be a severe cold or influenza. Then the process accelerated. Dr. Pete du Toit told us that we should take him to the hospital."

Du Toit, a South African, declared for the process of canonization that "daily Dr. Johannes Le Roux, my assistant, and I, took care of Peter Changu Shitima when he entered hospital on June 8, until August 14, 1996. This can be verified by the hospital notes. ... We believed he was in the terminal phase and, given the opinion that there was nothing to be done medically to cure him, I consulted Dr. Foster, who examined him once and concluded that he was a terminal patient."

"Then we all agreed to send him to Zambia so that he could spend his last days with his family," du Toit's testimony continues. "He understood that he was about to die."

Changu, who by now could scarcely lift his legs and had developed a serious form of peripheral neuritis, recalled: "Before going into hospital, I did not take it seriously, I thought I would recover. Then, once in hospital, I felt the impact."

"When the doctor told me what I had, I was destroyed," he said. "But I thought the only thing I could do was to pray and ask God for strength. I prayed to Luigi Scrosoppi and I told him that I would either die or be cured through his intercession, if it was the Lord's will."

The Catholic community of Oudtshoorn, near Capetown, also began to pray to Blessed Scrosoppi [1804-1884] on Changu's behalf.

On the night of Oct. 9, 1996, Changu went to bed as normal. During the night he dreamed of Scrosoppi. The next morning Changu woke up feeling extraordinarily well.

"I got up and went to work immediately in the parish," he later said during the canonization process. "I was hungry, and I walked until I arrived in a village that was quite far away."

Hoping to return as soon as possible to Oudtshoorn, Changu sent a letter to Father Johnson, the superior at the Oratory, to tell him he was cured.

The doctors Le Roux and du Toit, both non-Catholics who had extensive experience in cases of AIDS patients, did not hesitate to use the term "miracle" in describing Changu's recovery.

Le Roux said: "He was a terminal patient and, in a couple of months, he was cured. If there was another reason, totally different from neuritis, then a person could be cured. However, not only did he have neuritis, he had lost some 22 kilos, suffered from fever and other dysfunctions. The blood analysis shows that he is still positive with the HIV virus, but, in my opinion, it is a miracle. We thought he was going to die and, to be honest, he is very well now."

Du Toit made this statement: "Months later, someone told me Changu was better. I told myself this was impossible. I was astounded. I thought it was a mistake. When he returned, I asked him to come for examinations. I made blood analyses again in February and March after his return. I was astounded. Changu had been cured of the disease, of the neuritis that was killing him, because of AIDS. I cannot explain this scientifically."

The doctor concluded: "Changu is an authentic example of a miraculous cure."

I believe in the communion of saints - that great cloud of witnesses - what company to be in!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Quality vs. Quantity

More and more I'm hearing journalists "concerned" about diminishing numbers of priests in Catholic churches throughout the First World.

  • MSNBC, Apr/05: "Still, despite [Pope John Paul II's] widespread appeal, he could not ease one of the church's most urgent problems: the shortage of priests."
  • USA Today, Nov/04: "Today there are fewer parishes and fewer priests than in 1990 and fewer of the nation's 65 million Catholics in those pews. And there's no sign of return."
  • NCR, Oct/03: " 2010 the number of active diocesan clergy (just over 15,000) will be less than [America's] 19,000 parishes."
  •, Jun/00: "In 1999, more U.S. priests died than were ordained."
And then there are comments such as this, from an email (originating from a bishop) regarding the then-impending ban on accepting homosexuals into seminary [obtained by blogger Diogenes at Catholic World News - but I have no idea how...]:

"MY intention would be simply to ask the question what he intends doing with those priests, bishops (possibly 'like me') and cardinals (and I might as well put in popes) who are gay."

I've quoted one of the more polite snippets from the bishop's comments. He is responding here to an email from a priest, who had commented on the coming document:

...surprise, surprise, it bans homosexuals from entry into religious life or the taking of Orders - what other horrors they contemplate against about 75% of the clergy I shudder to contemplate."

It breaks my heart to think that there are any priests, bishops, or cardinals who openly flaunt the teachings of the Church in this manner. It also breaks my heart to know that there are priests and upwards who think that three-quarters of their clerical brethren are just as depraved as they are.

I know my priest is a good one - he's Polish, and was confirmed, taught, and ordained by Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow - perhaps you've heard of him?

And I've met plenty of incredible priests; particularly those associated with the Companions of the Cross in Ottawa, where I fully embraced Catholicism.

Companions of the Cross Logo

It's the emergence of communities like this one that reassure me that God hasn't given up on his Church. Each year, the Companions have to turn away applicants to the seminary due to lack of space.

What a problem to have, eh?

It's gonna take a while to replace our clergy who have been ensnared in their liberation, and I can wait. The good news with our "priest shortage" is that we also seem to have a "faithful shortage" - since most people who associate themselves with the Catholic Church are completely ignorant of all the theology that distinguishes us from Honest Joe's Used Evangelical Church down the street.

In all humility, I'll now quote a thought that came into my head during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament one night many years ago:

This body, this blood, it is the heart of this church. When the wind and waves whip away all that does not matter, you will see this sacred heart clung to with fervor and peace by a faithful few.

And I'm also comforted by the words of our beloved Benedict, taken from the homily of the Mass which opened the 11th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, on the theme of the Eucharist: "God waits for us. He wants us to love Him: Should not such a call touch our hearts? Precisely in this hour, in which we celebrate the Eucharist, in which we open the Synod on the Eucharist, He comes to meet us, He comes to meet me. Will he find a response?"

I pray that he does.