Sunday, April 30, 2006

True, True, True #7

Steve Kellmeyer has a good read up on his site about a talk he recently gave on the culture of death: specifically on his prediction of the coming onslaught of euthanasia. He ends with the line, "America, you aborted your children. Now your children will abort you."


Yeah, you know, it's true.

He opines that Almighty Mammon will be what drives the demographic nightmare he predicts. But I would differ with that slightly; sure, money will be a factor, but the love of money comes from greed, and greed comes from selfishness. Selfishness is what caused original sin, when you really think about it. In speaking of Original Sin, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that " preferred himself to God...."

Selfishness is nothing new, but something has caused the people of this era to put themselves first to an extreme that I don't believe history has ever documented before. Our materialistic worldview is dependent on indulgence, and sacrifice doesn't make you feel good. That's why the world will never understand Lent.

Modern Christians, too, have really lost touch with what it means to give something up. With the world constantly yammering at us to do what we want to do, it's very difficult to put others first. I'd bet that's what causes so many families - including Christian ones - to fall apart today.

I recall one of our local bishops speaking at a youth event and talking about a couple whose marriage he presided over. He said from his knowledge of the two, he knew that each of them was used always to getting his/her own way. That would change, he also knew, when the first child came along. An infant is perfect in its selfishness; the mother and father must literally attend to its every need. That work requires immense sacrifice on the part of the parents, and the sacramental marriage vows are intended to strengthen the bond between husband and wife so they can remain committed to each other during those stressful times.

But in a society where marriage vows are only valid if you still want them to be, marriages crumble and children's needs go unmet. There is so much pain and hurt coming down the pipe from the seeds our permissive culture has sown!

Perhaps the solution we come up with for those individuals, instead of counseling and healing, will be euthanasia.

Oh, Lord, where are we headed? Heal this land!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Democracy in Action

Everybody, please cast your ballot in this important vote.

And, to put on my banana republic dictator's hat, I'm going to tell you who to vote for too.

Go Sens Go!

Monday, April 24, 2006

5o Per Cent Plus One

A while ago I had a flash of inspiration to examine what exactly Christ expects of me. I jotted it down on a notepad, and only noticed it again today.

What I wrote was "absolute best, or top 10?"

Am I trying to live out my life to the fullest? Am I ready to accept all that God has for me, and all that he requests of me?

Or am I content with just getting by? Am I content with being just barely holy enough?

Sadly, I must confess that, inasmuch as many of my sins are due to direct action, my spiritual sloth is probably the one thing that holds me down the most.

For several years I've felt like God will want me to enter politics someday, and that I will go out of a sense of duty and obedience. I'll go because nobody else will, and somebody will have to.

Yet the other day I heard the voice of God asking me, "Do you want to be an effective politician and do a lot of good for this country, or would you rather be a saint?"

The allure of fame & power weighs rather unequally against the ongoing servitude of sainthood; the latter is the better road to take. But the road to sainthood involves too much sacrifice to be possible for one who is content merely to "get by."

So what of it? The call to perfect surrender is as loud and clear as it's ever been, yet I waffle.

Today I was going through an old book I picked up at Aldersgate College several years back. It's the biography of WWI fighter pilot and Protestant missionary Fenton Hall, who succumbed to illness while trying to spread the Gospel in Brazil back in the early 1920's. Based largely on his journals, it reads like a story of a naïve young man who hadn't been through any real growth experiences. But there is an eagerness and zeal that can't be hidden, especially when talks about his relationship with God. The following statement jumped out at me:

I have sometimes a sort of fear, "Well, if I surrender everything I know to Him, I won't have anything left to surrender!" (Speaking, of course, about things spiritual, points in which we find ourselves not surrendered, or suspect that we are not altogether surrendered.) But somehow there always seems to be something new to give Him, and when you get into the habit of it there's nothing so joyful as hauling out some skulking Agag [cf I Sam. 15:32] and hewing him in pieces before the Lord (it sounds a bit bloodthirsty, but I'm sure Samuel enjoyed it - even if Agag didn't!) Well, anyhow, these "Agags" have nothing to be said for them. They are a bad old crew. Many of them are very moral and respectable Agags. Some of them are very laudable and pious Agags. But all of them are kings of Amalek - Amalek, the flesh, the first enemy that attacks God's people when they escape from Egypt!

Fenton Hall, Pioneer and Hero - 1925

Time and time again I have surrendered all to Jesus, but it must not be working, because I have to keep doing it.

We are called to surrender all, not just the bad stuff. We are called to give Christ our talents in addition to our hurts. Nothing good we do does any good for God without his commission on it. Imagine Jonah saying, "I'll go west, and evangelize America instead." We all know how that turned out.

St. Theresa of Avila said, "We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can - namely, surrender our will and fulfill God's will in us. "

So once again I renew my surrender. I surrender especially the part of me that is too lazy to get up for morning prayer. The part that is too lazy to stay up for evening prayer. The part of me that has been carrying a beautiful rosary for four months but has only fingered its beads thrice.

I surrender my desire to get into heaven by the skin of my calloused ass. Lord, challenge me again. Send a storm; rock my boat.

And have the whale ready.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

I Could Do a Million of These

But I'll stop now. :)
If You've Ever Wanted to Scramble the Letters:

Either borrow a key from somebody on the parish council or...

...try this site out.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Help Wanted

My wife loves to do scrapbooking, so much so that she has holed up in hotel room with a bunch of other scrapbooking ladies for the weekend. It's her first time going to the annual gathering of the group, and she's expecting to get a lot done and have a lot of fun.

So that leaves me alone with the kids for the weekend.



(With the kids.)

Regarding my fight against pornographic internet temptations, this, if I am not diligent, could lead to trouble.

Naturally, I'm not planning on leaping into this mortal sin. During the day the kids keep me more than occupied, and the Stanley Cup playoffs are on (yay Sens, 4-1 over Tampa tonight!), and I've rented a couple of (non-pornographic) movies to help fill the time.

I'm also doing about 17 loads of laundry, and will be do putting a big dent in the mess in the kitchen too. "The devil finds work for idle hands," as they say.

But since this habitual sin can find its way into my heart at any time, I'm asking for your prayers on this late late evening of Easter Friday. Don't be afraid to email me for an accountability check too, as that's helped before.

You know, maybe there's something to this concept... are there other men out there who would benefit from an online accountabilty check like this?

If so, plunk it in the comments or email me (see sidebar) and I'll look into starting a sister blog for that very purpose.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

This Just In #4*

In Winnipeg today, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced his government's intention to "raise the age of consent for sexual relations between children and adults from 14 to 16 years of age."

The announcement stunned advocates for more tolerance in relationship definitions, such as the Toronto-based Partnership for Evolving Diversity Organization. PEDO spokesperson Kaitlyn McKenzie, 14, accused the Conservative minority government of discrimination against couples of perennial diversity. Her relationship with partner Richard Smith-Hansen, 53, would be deemed illegal by the change in law.

"I love him!" she stated, "and he loves me! You don't understand me! Nobody understands our love!"

McKenzie's mother Jerilyn was also worried by the pending legislation. "I don't get why this is such a big deal," she said, contacted on her phone while out of province. "Kaitlyn's father found a younger woman many years ago, and apparently he's a lot happier now, the pig. Besides, Richard gives her the attention I don't have time for; he postively dotes on her."

Mr. Smith-Hansen could not be reached for comment himself, as his wife kept answering the phone.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

This Is The Day The Lord Has Made

Let us rejoice and be exceedingly glad!

Sure, the Senators didn't beat the Leafs last night, but due to the quirks of the other games played last night, the Leafs cannot now make the playoffs. So that's always a nice feeling for a rabid Sens fan like myself.

My wife went out this morning and picked up some THC (Tim Horton's Coffee) and some Timbits.

My girls are exceedingly cute in their Easter dresses, and you can bet they know it. They waltzed into our room this morning and sang the Allelulia for us, having waited all of Lent to do so.

We keep a handheld electronic poker game in our bathroom, and as I played it this morning, I was dealt - for the first time ever, in real or fake poker - a straight flush, Ace through 5 of diamonds.

Christ has risen. All is right with the world. All that is wrong with the world has been defeated. All is right with the world!

If the Leafs had through some mathematical impossibility eliminated the Senators from the playoffs last night, all would still be right with the world.

If my wife had put salt in my coffee (a prank I played on her quite recently), all would be right with the world.

If my girls had stumbled into our room still in their pajamas, singing "New York, New York," all would be right with the world.

If I had been dealt Ace through 4 of diamonds and an 8 of clubs, all would be right with the world.

For Christ has risen. The dawn from on high has broken upon us. I have been saved from my sin!




Saturday, April 15, 2006

Black Sabbath

What must it have been like for the disciples as they awoke this morning? For Peter, eyes crusty with dried tears? For John, having to get up and take care of his new Mother?

They must have been thinking, "Is this it? Is life just going to keep on going? Was this whole thing a tragedy, a farce? Have we been following a madman with delusions of godhood? Have the Romans set us straight?

Luke 23:56 says "Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment." That's as much as we know. What a dark day that must have been!

What was it like for Mary that first Holy Saturday? She had a keener understanding of Jesus' mission than anybody else, but still she was overcome with sorrow. Did she know he would rise again?

And what must the wicked one have been thinking? Was he hung over from the high of his hideous victory? Was he throwing a party? Or did he smell a trap? Was he afraid? Did he know what Jesus was planning on doing when he descended to the dead?

And for Jesus himself: what was it like to enter Hades and to free the holy dead? Did King David dance before him? Did Moses and Elijah joke with him, "Long time no see!" Did Adam and Eve rejoice and fall prostrate at the restoration of their souls? Was Paradise sparked into existence by the joy of the redeemed? Did the sudden renewed intimacy of man and God reunite the spirit of the incarnate God with his body again?

This day of doubt must have been agony for the followers of Jesus. We have an advantage in 2006 because we know what happens next. But to know the joy they felt when they met the risen Lord, we must know the despair they felt when they saw the shrouded form of Christ's body vanish into darkness as the stone was rolled into place.

We must try to understand how they coped with the fact that the sun still rose the next day.

Friday, April 14, 2006

On an Unreligious Note

Yeesh, did everybody die today?

I like to fix things. Whether it be the sagging picnic table, a skinned knee, an underperforming coworker, or my marriage, I take pride in identifying the sources of problems and implementing workable solutions.

Look at how God addressed the problem of sin. He longs for us to be intimate with him, so much that it literally kills him when he is faced with our rejection and our hate.

I speak this in the first person, but you'll find it applies to you as well: I was a commoner in the crowd when Pontius Pilate asked if he should release Jesus or Barabbas, and I asked for Barabbas. "Crucify the Nazarene!" I demanded.

I was a soldier who punched Jesus in the gut while he was blindfolded, and I mocked him, "Prophesy! Who was it that struck you?" I laughed at him, I spit on him, I made him bleed with my cruelty.

I was a passerby on the road past Golgotha who saw this "King of the Jews" hanging with criminals, and I couldn't restrain a smirk.

I denied him three times, and wept bitterly.

I betrayed him. With a kiss.

There was no evil done to the Son of God that I did not participate in. I killed Jesus. All of us who have sinned have openly rejected the incarnate God, and have put him to death in an attempt to assuage our guilty consciences.

This is not some anonymous hot dog vendor we have scorned - this is God, the Creator of Life, the awesome, powerful, terrifying Yahweh.

Psalm 46 says (v. 9-11, NAB):

Come! behold the deeds of the Lord,
the astounding things he has wrought on earth:
He has stopped wars to the end of the earth:
the bow he breaks; he splinters the spears;
he burns the shields with fire.
Desist! and confess that I am God,
exalted among the nations, exalted upon the earth.

Other translations end by saying, "Be still, and know that I am God."

When we think of "being still and knowing that he is God," we are usually prompted to think of a quiet, mystical connection to him, yet the Psalmist here is hammering in the fact of a God of violence and anger, and we are clearly to be stunned into silence and divine awareness by the exhibition of his sheer power.

It's more of a "shut up and listen" than anything.

Yet today, Good Friday, God directs that violence and anger at himself; at his own incarnate begetting. God had failed to keep our attention for any length of time by sending prophets, so he knew he had to throw a divine wrench in the machine of humanity's self-destruction.

Jesus has incurred the wrath of God, and because God is Love, he has triumphed over it.

That's what the crucifixion was about: God is telling Creation to drop everything and take note of him. The sky blackens. The earth splits. The dead arise. The veil is torn. Mankind just got slapped out of its madness by the sacrificial love of Christ.

God has addressed the problem of sin. He never stopped longing for intimacy with us, even while we were torturing him. He knew it was our weakness that prevented that intimacy, and he knew how to make it work again. We were broken, and he has fixed us.

He has fixed me. He still loves me!


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

All Flesh Shall See the Salvation of God

Great news! Martin Havlat is back in the Senators' lineup, after missing four months due to shoulder surgery. His first game back will be against the Leafs on Holy Saturday.

As I'll be at the Easter Vigil, I'm not going to see it. I could skip the vigil, as I'm going on Easter morning too...

A friend from work, who hates the Leafs as much as I do, offered for me to go over to his place and watch the game on his BIG SCREEN TV!

This is starting to get tempting.

"Come on Jesus, you must be hungry. Turn those stones to bread, and eat up!" Remember who said that?

Next I'll bet my friend wins a massive cheese platter (I love cheese) and says we can eat it together while we watch the game. He'll probably have some Coke too.

I read some St. Gregory Nazianzen from the Liturgy of the Hours today:

We must sacrifice ourselves to God, each day and in everything we do, accepting all that happens to us for the sake of the Word, imitating his passion by our sufferings, and honoring his blood by shedding our own. We must be ready to be crucified.

Believe it or not, giving up watching this game is a big sacrifice for me. But not too big. I must remind myself of the joy to be found in the Easter Vigil; of the supremacy of Christ in all things. Hockey won't matter in heaven. But we all have our worldly attachments; is not Lent a time to rend those things away, if even for a season?

If even for an evening?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Oddly Enough

In our congregation this morning, when we heard the long Gospel reading of the Passion of Jesus, we didn't erupt in rage at the "lies" told about Judas' betrayal. Yeah, that Gospel of Judas is really gonna shake up the foundation of Christianity. At least, for the Sola Scriptura crowd who can't come up with a reason not to include it in the canon.

And have I ever got a dilemma. My beloved Ottawa Senators are playing the insidious Toronto Maple Leafs this Saturday, which today I suddenly realized is Holy Saturday. I'll be at the Easter Vigil.

This is a big sacrifice for me. We have farmer vision (an antenna) instead of cable TV, and are forced to watch Leafs games every Saturday night because the CBC bigwigs from Hockey Night In Canada think that's what the rest of Canada wants to see. For the later game, the CBC will rotate coverage among the three western Canadian teams. So they only way I can watch my Sens play is if they're playing Toronto (or less often, the Canucks, Oilers, or Flames).

Thus this Saturday is my last chance to catch the Sens in regular season action before the playoffs. And I'll be at the Easter Vigil.

Oh well. At least it won't be in the playoffs. But I'll still be missing at least one game while on TEC for the May long weekend.

Plus, sacrifice is part of Lent, even in its last moments.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Smiling Saints

I was checking out today's saints at Catholic Forum and was delighted to see the grinning visage of St. Julia Brilliart.

Her picture made a smile burst onto my face, like a star going supernova. I showed the picture to a friend, who also erupted in laughter. You can see the joviality and lightness of spirit in St. Julia's eyes, and you can tell there's something behind the surface that makes it genuine.

That's what I love about the saints. They are proclaimed holy due to one abiding fact: their closeness to God. And anybody who is close to God cannot but help be overcome with a constant glee, even in the face of suffering, of which St. Julia knew plenty.

One of the bishops of her time, Mgr. De Broglie of Ghent, said "she saved more souls by her inner life of union with God than by her outward apostolate." Now that's a profound statement. To have one's relationship with God be a more effective catalyst for conversion than one's good works is the true indicator of holiness.

That's what I'm aiming for in my life. All my works could very well be in vain. When this internet fad fades away, my blog will be forgotten, so I put little hope in it touching the lives of too many people. And even if my own union with God bears no fruit in the lives of others, it will still draw me to my saviour, and there is no greater reward than being in his presence.

It's more than enough to keep a perpetual smile on my face.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Angry as a Hatter

This is probably the first post I'm ever writing without a specific point to make or bean to spill. I will be letting the thoughts flow like a newly sprung river. Who knows where it'll lead?

It has been becoming more and more clear to me lately that I am an angry person. I'm not sure why. It's been there for a while.

I don't throw tantrums, there are no holes in my walls, and I stopped beating my wife before I met her.

I'm not sure what caused this anger. My parents recall me bringing home a picture I had drawn in kindergarten of a meat grinder with all my classmates' names being put into the chute at the top, and being dispensed out the bottom as individual letters. What on earth would make a 5 year old kid draw that?

Either I'm willfully forgetting some hidden trauma, or I'm a dormant psychopath, or my dad's reputation as a strict teacher in the school earned me some dislike.

I think it's that last one. Over the next few years, I learned to expect a certain type of reaction from my schoolmates, and then I carried that expectation with me when I switched schools. So all the way up into junior high I carried the expectation that I couldn't have real friends, and my schoolmates accommodated me quite nicely.

Then my parents wisely moved me to a private Christian school. There were only 30 students there, K-12, and thus there were only a handful in my age group. In fact, my closest friend from that school is the one who got married last week.

My time in that school was, I think, a very healing time for me socially. But it was also the time that I received the most destructive of my anti-Catholic education.

Later, after I found the Truth that had been lied against
(aka, became Roman Catholic), I was very angry at the liars. Perhaps it isn't fair to call them "liars" as a liar knows his statement is false, and I'm quite certain these people believed what they told me. Perhaps my current anger is directed at their sloppy zeal.

Perhaps I'm angry at myself for buying it all those years. It took me 10 years to realize that Jack Chick is wrong. The arguments are so shallow, so circular! "Catholics worship Mary! Catholics think you have to earn your salvation! Catholics think that a dead man's toenail carries spiritual power!"

Wrong, wrong, wrong. And anybody with a grade six reading level can find out otherwise. Anybody with eyes can see otherwise. Anybody with ears can hear otherwise.

So I'm angry at wrongheadedness. I'm angry at Jack Chick-isms. I'm angry at sheep stupider than the other sheep they denounce.

That's hard anger to get rid of. This is part of why I blog: to turn that anger into a somewhat more sophisticated zeal, trying to show those caught in the same web of lies that there is a Truth being hidden from them.

If you're a Protestant reading this and you want more information on why a born-again Christian would embrace Rome, read this first. It's where I started. If you really understand what it says, you won't be a Protestant for long. So tread carefully.

Then for the rest of my story, read this. I hope to finish off a more up to date version of my conversion story, but this one will do for now.

And don't be afraid to email me or leave comments.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Ice Whine

My faith has been shaken to the core [that is sarcasm, thank you very much] with the latest scientific theory that Jesus didn't walk on the water of the Sea of Galilee, but rather on ice formed from "salty springs along its western shore that produce plumes of dense water, thermally isolating areas that could freeze even if the entire lake did not."

Just so I'm sure I understand... science wants us to believe that walking - apparently without difficulty - on floating chunks of slippery ice, is somehow less miraculous than mere walking on water.

And apparently the ever-dimwitted disciples didn't clue in, "Oh, man, we thought you were walking on water. Little optical illusion thing going on there, but we get it now."

There is a general misconception about what miracles are, among the world and the faithful too. We have been so edumacated that there are scientific laws that govern the way things function, that we have lost sight of the omnipresent hand of God.

For instance: we are taught that the force of gravity is what causes objects of mass to attract objects of lesser mass, which in the case of the wet-footed Jesus, would naturally cause him to sink to the seabed. Then our Sunday School teachers tell us that when Jesus walked on the water, he was suspending the laws of nature to demonstrate his power.

That sounds about right, eh?


G.K. Chesterton opened my eyes in Orthodoxy when he opined:

The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.

What this means is that God takes such delight in his creation that he literally sustains it moment by moment. As such, every thing that science tells us will inevitably re-happen only re-happens because God directly causes it to, for the sheer pleasure of the art of creation.

So when Jesus walked on water or ice or sand or grass or thin air, each moment itself was miraculous. Same with when I walk on the face of the earth and do not spontaneously shoot off into space, or am not suddenly swallowed up into the abyss.

Once you think about God being exactly that active in his creation, it becomes quite difficult to doubt his love for us, for man is the crown jewel in his universe; we are his favorite. If he spends so much time making daisies, would he not long even more for us to know him? "Are not you of much more value than they?"

Monday, April 03, 2006

Home, Home, and Home

A friend got married back in my hometown of Estevan, Saskatchewan on April 1. I packed up the family and drove 5 hours to be there, and just barely made it.

Then we drove up to Regina to see my new nephew and my brother and sister-in-law. Cute little guy, he is (my nephew, not my brother).

Driving back to my new home in Winnipeg today, my 5 year old daughter said, while still under Saskatchewan skies, "Daddy, I love this land."

So do I. A few years ago I collected some Saskatchewan dirt in a jar, and I now have it placed prominently in my office.

Something about one's home turf inspires reflection. The above picture is of the tree I used to sit under while on recess breaks in Junior High. The school was torn down recently, hence the landscaping difficulties in the background. That tree was my private chapel. I would pull out my pocket New Testament With Psalms and Proverbs and tap into the psalmist's anguish and his zeal. That tree saw me grow physically and spiritually... and it seems bigger too.

My old home visited, my new home returned to. My future home...?

What do Pope John Paul II and Obi Wan Kenobi have in common? "Strike me down, and I will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine."

My beloved Papa is in my future home right now, sitting under a tree. But not just any tree. I made a deal with him - the same deal I made with my grandparents and with my little miscarried Rachel Liberty a few years ago: "Meet me under the Tree of Life."

So the four of them are sitting there, getting to know each other, basking in the love of Jesus, and worshipping him while they pray for me. Wow. I'm sure that every now and then St. Benedict pops by to see how their intercession is going.

Everybody sing together now: "All holy men and women...."