Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Cries of The Innocents

True story: many centuries ago, an interloper king learned that a rightful heir to the throne had been born. He only learned this because some mystics from a far country happened into his palace one day, asking to see the future king, whose birth they had perceived through the signs of astronomy.

The king, inwardly outraged and frightened, played it cool for the mystics and said he knew not of this new king but asked them to let him know when they found him so he too could pay him homage. His plan was, of course, to slay the infant to further secure his grip on the throne.

The mystics, however, being very wise men, discerned his true intent and did not report back to the king once they found the baby. This further outraged him, and he did a horrible thing: he ordered that all infant males in the whole region be slain. He sent his soldiers out from town to town, village to village, farm to farm, on this gruesome mission of self-preservation.

What a horrible job for those poor soldiers... they were used to facing armed men in open combat, fighting skillfully for king and country. Instead they were ordered to butcher helpless infants, snatching them from their screaming mothers' arms when possible, or running both of them through if she held on too tight. Dozens of babies were slain in that terrible winter.

Like I said, this is a true story.

The coming of Jesus into the world, the very sign of hope, peace, and the love of God, was accompanied by the death of an unknown number of innocent babies, and the bitter mourning of their families. News of the massacre must have reached Joseph and Mary, who had been warned by an angel and fled Bethlehem before King Herod could unleash his wrath. How strange they must have felt upon hearing of it: to be told you were to bear and raise the promised Savior of the world, and to have him whisked away from a premature death... I cannot imagine that they didn't question what kind of loving God would allow such a tragedy as part of his master plan of salvation.

Today, we have fairly firm numbers telling us how many babies are killed in Canada each year.


We lose more people to abortion than we do to any other cause of death.

Don't mistake me: I'm not anti-choice. I'm pro-life. Life is a greater cause than "choice." That's the trump card here, people.

We've got to wake up: this is an evil, evil menace upon our society, upon our world, and we keep saying that we support a woman's right to make her own decisions, that it's between her and her God/doctor. That's a ridiculous argument. Innocent lives are being taken every day - an average of one every six minutes (and that's just in Canada). We sit by and call it choice, because we have to. There is no other reasonable way to accept this genocide in our culture, after all. "It can't be human," we tell ourselves. "That would be just too unthinkable."

I truly hope and pray that Canada wakes up from this nightmare, for it's making it hard for me to sleep.
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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thrust

This is a call to action for all my Winnipeg & area readers.

Many of you have responded to the Perpetual Adoration appeal at Holy Cross Church, and I've been blown away at how much love for God you have; ALL of the time slots left necessarily vacant by various adorers' Christmas vacations etc have been filled!

So you can't fool me - I know your love for Jesus is strong.

Catholics & other Christians in Winnipeg will soon have another opportunity to send another thrust of prayers heavenward, and to prove to the rest of North America that we are as winter-tough as our reputation makes us out to be.

You may have heard of the 40 Days For Life campaigns in various cities across Canada & the US recently. This is a 40 day prayer vigil and a silent protest held outside an abortuary. Our brothers and sisters in Ottawa completed their vigil a few weeks ago. Read what Campaign Life Coalition had to say about it:

In total, 750 people helped hold a 960-hour continuous vigil in front of the Morgentaler abortuary on Bank Street in Ottawa, helping change the hearts of hundreds of men and women and literally saving the lives of at least three babies. Organizers say that they may continue the vigils in some form beyond the 40 Days for Life. More 40 Days for Life are being planned for 2009 to help mark the 40th year of legal abortion in Canada.

So I encourage you to visit & bookmark Winnipeg's own blog - 40dayswinnipeg.blogspot.com - to learn about and sign up for Winnipeg's own 40 day initiative which will happen over Lent in this liturgical year. There is more information there, and also some videos which will give you an idea of what to expect.

To be completely honest, I often hesitate to get involved in pro-life initiatives like this. It seems so much to be pointless, wasted effort. The tide of abortions in this country seems like it will keep rising; the pendulum keeps swinging more and more to one side, in defiance of the very laws of space and motion which would require it eventually to lose its momentum and come back to the centre where we'd have a chance to stop it.

And I also know that were I to confront the blunt reality of the horror of abortion, I would be a wreck. In order to get through the day, I have to be somewhat willfully ignorant of the fact that babies are being ripped apart legally a mere ten-minute drive from my home.

But this is a worthy initiative, as it puts more focus on the prayer and fasting solution to this crisis than the media-gathering politician-shaming tactics we're all so used to.

Please give your prayer attention to this vigil and ask the Lord if he would like you to participate in it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On Peace

Perhaps the busyness of my readers' own schedules in this time of year has somewhat diminished how much you've noticed my own lack of recent blog posts.

But I do have something that's been on my heart to share for a few weeks. This is a meditation which the Lord guided me through while in his presence in the Holy Cross chapel during my time of adoration.

He asked me to meditate on the prophesied title of Jesus as "the Prince of Peace." Specifically, he asked me why he is not the King of Peace instead.

It occurred to me that the responsibilities of a prince in a kingdom are the important ones, which are not urgent enough to need the attention of the King. The prince is also the heir to the throne, and what he does as prince should be forming him to be a wise and kind King. Peace thus considered has a temporary and transitory nature, yet remains absolutely necessary.

Looking into Scripture, I also discerned that peace is described or discussed in the following contexts:
  • To provide us with a chance to continue worshipping God in this life
  • As a reward for holiness
  • A gift given to those who rejoice, trust God, and pray
  • Received along with forgiveness and salvation
  • Comes without cost; nothing else is conditional on it - but it is conditional on many things, not the least of which is faith
  • If you focus on your body in this world, you are focused on dying. But if you focus on the things of the spirit, you are focusing on life and peace
  • As a fruit of the Holy Spirit
I have thus learned that peace is given to us, whether it be the mere absence of geopolitical conflict, or as the fruit of a life centered on internal holiness, and it intended to give us an opportunity to advance the Gospel. It is a means, not an end.

Peace is pregnant with purpose, and those of us who have it and squander it are fools and will be judged harshly. And if we squander it, we will also lose it, for it is the fruit of holy living, which directs us to evangelize and thus sustains itself.

Think about this whenever your priest says, "The peace of the Lord be with you all." Think about this when you hear of the angels singing to the shepherds, "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth!" Think about this when you hear the words of Jesus, "Peace I leave you, my peace I give you." When you read St. Paul's greetings to the faithful in the various churches in his epistles (found in chapter 1, verses 2-4 of almost every one of his letters), wishing them grace and peace in the Lord Jesus, ask yourself - why do Christ and his Church urge peace upon us so frequently and consistently?

Peace as we know it on earth does not exist in heaven. Peace is the God-given ability to interrupt the stress of mortal living to accomplish something. It is a blank canvas, and God expects a painting from us. In heaven there will be no need for peace, in the same way that we won't need gold - they are both elemental components of heaven. But both can be used on earth to further the Kingdom of God - and both can be squandered on earth.

So I ask you the same question the Lord asked me: What are you going to do with your peace this Christmas? Obtaining peace is the beginning of your journey with him. To what next step is he calling you?
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Friday, December 05, 2008

My Energy Spots

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops had a meeting on Nov 27 with the leadership of the Canadian Religious Conference, of whom I've written before.

From the account they list on their website, the purpose of the annual visit was "to help foster good relations between the Bishops and women and men religious in Canada." They discussed recent major events in the life of the Church, and also (quite vaguely put) "discussion on questions involving justice, peace and mission, as well as possible areas for engagement."

I have a lot of reservations about the CRC. I suspect they don't speak for many of their members and that most reputable religious communities within Canada steer clear of them. It seems that the CRC's main focus is on the dated causes of the leftists of a generation ago, and the bastard offspring of those causes today. For instance, one of their recent quarterly bulletins was entitled "Living a Politics of Communion and an Economics of Solidarity." I'm not sure what that means, but I think it has something to do with finding my energy spots and showing them to the Earth Community.

This 4-page document is interspersed with quotes from various sources. You would expect a group that is an association of the leaders of the major Orders of priests, monks and nuns across Canada to, I don't know, quote from some Catholics.

Instead, they quote from:
  • Rainer Maria Rilke - an early 20th Century German poet whose mother dressed him like a girl, and who had a life-long affair with a married woman
  • Hafiz - a 14th Century Muslim poet
  • Dorothée Soelle - a modern, divorced German theologian who coined the term "Christofacist" to describe fundamental Christians, and whose second marriage was to a former Benedictine monk
  • David Korten - an modern American who is advocating a transition from current social and political infrastructures towards an Earth Community
  • Mary Grey - a modern British ecofeminist who receives positive reviews from other ecofeminists
  • Catherine Mowry LaCugna - yet another modern feminist theologian, she is the first of the bunch who is concretely identified as Catholic, but whose concept of the Trinity strays from Church teaching. Richard McBrien has a lot of good things to say about her, which should dissuade any serious Catholic.
  • Martin Luther King - he did a lot of commendable things, but definitely not Catholic
These are the people that the leaders of our religious communities deem worthy of forming their members and consequently us, the laity.

Someday, someday I just know that our Bishops will firmly admonish the CRC that the two core justice issues of our time are NOT "poverty and climate change."

Just not today.

O Lord, heal our Church!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Political Solution

OK, I've seen enough nonsense, so here's my prediction with the present political situation.

Actually, scratch that - instead of a prediction, let me talk about what should happen.

First, Harper should stick to his guns with the whole scrapping of the federal funding for the parties based on their share of the popular vote. It was a good idea, and ideologically it's right where the Conservative Party should be. He grabbed at the pig and tried to pull it away from the trough, but it kicked him in the crotch. He's gotta suck it up, grab that damn pig, and go make bacon.

Second, Harper has an easy answer to the Schmo-alition's charge that it's fair game for them to ask the Governor General for permission to form the government, based on the fact that he made the same request to the GG when the Martin minority government was defeated. Answer: "Uh, she said no, guys." Let's go back to the polls. I don't care how much it costs. We'll still have been campaigning for less time than the Americans were in the last four years.

Third, once Harper wins his majority by reminding voters just how selfish and short-sighted the Libs & NDP were, he has to amend the Elections Act to redefine a federal political party as one which runs in enough ridings to be able to form a majority government. The Greens and the Pot Party would qualify (like anybody cares), but the Bloc wouldn't. Meaning that we'd no longer have to watch the debacle of separatist MPs sitting in our national Parliament and getting in the way of the nation's business.

There. I've had my say.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Come!

On November 30, with the beginning of Advent, Holy Cross Church here in Winnipeg is embarking on a very special journey.

Led by our pastor, Fr. Martin Bradbury, we are establishing what we Catholics know as "Perpetual Adoration."

This means that in a special chapel, we will always have somebody praying before the Lord in the Holy Eucharist.

For the past couple of months, we have successfully held an hour-long Adoration service on Friday nights, specially tuned for families. The turnout has consistently been at least forty people, sometimes more. And it's growing.

Every other time we have tried to organize this or be a part of it in another parish - at one point even the Archbishop of St. Boniface considered hosting it in his private chapel - it has dwindled away for the lack of a willing pastor or for insufficient numbers of devotees.

So I challenge all my Catholic friends in the Winnipeg area: sign up. And don't just say, "I'll just fit in at whatever time you need." What we need is for you to pick one hour per week - more if possible - and commit to it. If you can't make it for that hour, find a replacement.

The rewards of this constant prayer in our parish, in our diocese, in our city, and in our country and even our world will be unbelievable. Guaranteed. And even better, you get to spend your own quiet time with Jesus. No telephone interrupting you, no TV to watch, no Facebook pokes to send. YOU AND JESUS.

We've been saying as a faith community over the past years that we want this. Well, now's the time people. To quote the American president-elect (but in better English), "We are the ones for whom we have been waiting." Sign up. Devote your hour. Pray hard. But most of all, be with Jesus. It's an incredible experience.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Highlights of The American Election Coverage

For me, these were some of my most memorable moments of the Obama victory lap.

  • Seeing CBC's Neil McDonald fantasize over what would happen if the crowd outside The Whitehouse stormed the gate and ripped W limb from limb.
  • Hearing the lady who sang The Star Spangled Banner for Obama get the words wrong - FOUR TIMES
  • Seeing the joy drip from the face of Peter Mansbridge as he praised Obama for being "remarkable." Yes, I can think of some remarks.
  • Hearing Neil McDonald (him again!), after investigating whether or not the crowd at The Whitehouse fence was hostile, relay that in fact they were just very excited and not dangerous. A bunch of university students dormed nearby, he reported, had got on "their text message machines" and sent message after message to each other to converge at The Whitehouse.
  • How the crowd shots at McCain's headquarters were all closeups of somber faces, shown side-by-side of the Obama crowd wide-pan.
  • Oprah without makeup
  • Jesse Jackson's change of heart
The next four years should make conservative blogging fun again!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Well Said

After the Ottawa Senators' 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Oct 27, which saw Sens tough guy Chris Neil and Sabres counterpart Adam Mair get game misconduct penalties for fighting with 1:48 left to play, Mair apparently tried to get to the Senators' locker room to continue the 'discussion.'

He was stopped before he got there by Senators Luke Richardson and Jarkko Ruutu, and - this kills me - vice president of communications Phil Legault.

I bet that's not in the job description.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

"Politics"

Politics is a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson which has remarkable bearing on our times, especially for our American friends:

We move, the wheel must always move,
Nor always on the plain,
And if we move to such a goal
As Wisdom hopes to gain,
Then you that drive, and know your Craft,
Will firmly hold the rein,
Nor lend an ear to random cries,
Or you may drive in vain,
For some cry "Quick" and some cry "Slow,"
But while the hills remain,
Up hill "Too-slow" will need the whip,
Down hill "Too-quick" the chain.

Reading and interpreting deep poetry such as this can be a difficult task, and it is highly dependent upon the life circumstances of the person reading it. For myself, I see this as a caution to those who would seek to lead a nation to be of firm resolve on every action taken. It is a call for integrity of the will. Any politician must have a destination in mind (this means something tangible, achievable, and measurable), and he must have a clear vision of what it will take to get there, so that when the crowd starts to shout its own directions he is able to shout them down with a greater wisdom. This is the heart and soul of what a mandate is. He should be able to say to the people, "You have selected me to lead you based upon what I articulated to you as where I think this country needs to go. I told you it would be a difficult journey but that the destination would be worthwhile. Now, shut up, please, and let me lead. I know what I'm doing."

In my lifetime, the only leader I have seen try to implement a clear mandate is George W. Bush with the war on terrorism. Our Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has been stumbling since day one in office, despite how much I like some of the reforms he has put into place. We don't know what his destination is; I don't think he does either. He's treading water, but is unwittingly being moved by the current to its own concept of a destination (which as currents go, usually involves a waterfall, or at least a nasty course of rapids).

I haven't paid enough attention to the messages of the American presidential candidate to know what their proposed destinations are, but I have definitely observed that McCain's ability to stand up to the crowd dwarfs Obama's. So far, Obama has turned his back on every long-term personal relationship in his life that contained any political risk. Say what you will about the man's unpleasant friends (Ayers & Wright come immediately to mind) but when he cuts his ties with them to save his own political neck after decades of friendship, that is the mark of a man with no backbone.

Like David Warren, were I able to vote in this American election, it would undoubtedly be for McCain. I have much more confidence in him as the one who "will firmly hold the rein."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fromageville

I got a little creative with the cheese I prepared for our Sunday Brunch today, and created a mini-cityscape.

PUN ALERT...

Note especially the marble construction.

Caption Contest: Sunday Brunch Edition

Many of you know that the highlight of my week is hosting a crowd for our famous Sunday Brunch.

Today, Bill helped out with the prep work a bit, and I do believe that this photo deserves your loving attempts at capturing his thoughts.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Yay! Representation!

The first time I voted for the winning candidate in my federal riding was in 1993. I was living in Moose Jaw, going to Aldersgate College, and voted Reform for Allan Kerpan. That was the first time I voted. I followed that up with a vote for Roy Bailey in the next election.

Before the next election, I moved to Ottawa and lived Ottawa Centre, which in its 14 elections had elected a Conservative candidate a total of one time, and that only in a by-election after a popular incumbent retired in 1978. Seven months later that Tory incumbent was defeated by the Liberal candidate by a mere 1,030 votes (a 5.5% point margin).

So this small-town Saskatchewan boy moved into one of the most left-leaning ridings in Canada, and in futility voted for the Canadian Alliance candidate, David Brown. I volunteered with his campaign, did phone polling, knocked on doors, and when he finally hung his head in defeat, I swiped one of his election signs for posterity's sake.

Then I moved to St. Boniface in Winnipeg, and was somewhat disheartened to discover I had entered another haven of the Left. Raymond Simard had inherited the riding from Ron Duhamel, who had been sent to the Senate, and Ken Cooper unsuccessfully opposed him in the last two elections. The last election, though, was a close contest - closer than Simard enjoyed, I'm sure:

2004/06/28
SIMARD, Raymond parliamentarian 17,989 Lib
COOPER, Ken manager 11,956 C

2006/01/23
SIMARD, Raymond parliamentarian 16,417 Lib
COOPER, Ken manager 14,893 C


I still have Ken Cooper's lawn sign too.

Thankfully, tonight the Conservatives have slain the Liberal giant here, via the person of Shelly Glover.

So for the first time in nearly ten years, the party for which I voted has taken power in my riding.

I'm so keeping that lawn sign.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

I Want To Meet The Guy...


...who actions warranted this safety label.

I'm sure it would be a fascinating conversation.
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A Nice Drive

I had to take a trip up to Gimli for work today, and was so amazed at the fall colours that I stopped for a few pics.

Enlarge & enjoy.


It's (Probably & Finally) A Boy!

We had our ultrasound appointment this morning and asked to see what gender the baby is.

Either our fifth* girl has a tiny stump of a leg between her two good legs, or else my Y chromosome finally figured out how to get through the zona striata.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go buy a Tonka.

* sixth

Monday, October 06, 2008

Deconstruction of a News Report

My morning alarm is set to the local CBC Radio station, because I don't like listening to tinny music through it, I always try to avoid listening to commercials, and the REH REH REH REH of the alarm scrapes against my soul like God's fingernails on some infernal chalkboard. That leaves CBC Radio.

The news report to which I awoke had all the grab of a "gotcha" moment against one of the local Conservative candidates for the federal election, Trevor Kennard. He used to play football with the local CFL club, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

I can't find the report online, so I will paraphrase it from memory.

Conservative candidate for Winnipeg South Centre, Trevor Kennard, is at the heart of a new controversy. A letter has emerged which he wrote to his school division after a public meeting in 1999. In it he accuses the school division of being more concerned with social engineering and pandering to minority interests than proper education. (At this point the story grabbed my interest; I'm waiting anxiously for the scandalous remarks.) Nobody at the meeting remembers Kennard specifically, but one attendee remembers meeting one man who "radiated hatred and homophobia." (Ah, so it's a homosexual thing... but no mention of what Kennard himself radiated. There's got to be more... do go on.) Kennard wrote that he insists the school board reverse the changes to the curriculum, even threatening to pull his children out of the school system and place them in private school. (Oh, the horror!) The school board chair indicated that she was proud that they did not reverse the changes, and that Kennard was upset that his letter was made a matter of the public record. The CBC has repeatedly tried, unsuccessfully, to reach Kennard for comment.

That is it.

Seriously, that was it. The most offensive thing they quoted was that he might - gasp - send his kids to private school.

Now maybe there is really something offensive in that letter; but since they quoted nothing else from it, I can't say. But if there were, I see no reason why the CBC wouldn't have made it their central storyline instead of this feigned outrage that somebody would dare to place demands on how his children are educated by a publicly funded institution.

I send my kids to private school, and I sit on its board, specifically so I can help pull the strings behind the scenes and ensure I'm comfortable with the direction the curriculum is pointing them. Any parent with serious objections to the anti-Christian messages taught in our public schools would do no less.

So my main question in this whole debate, which goes directly to the heart of Mr. Kennard's character, is did he make good his threat and remove his kids from the school when the board refused to budge? That's how I'd determine my vote. He made a promise - did he keep it?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

No You Can't

I'm getting rather annoyed at this Barack Obama character down south. He talks about "change you can believe in," which not only ends in a preposition but is a statement that expects the reader to take it at face value. He offers no proof that his type of change is any different from anybody else's version of change. Plus, is there change I can't believe in? Change is change after all: the altering of one state into another. If change happens, believing in it or not doesn't matter.

He also runs on the assumption that change is good, for its own sake. Bah. That's like saying driving is good, or walking is good. Perhaps those activities can lead to good results, but perhaps they can lead to bad results. Who would dare maintain that it's good to drive to the house right next door to you? Who would maintain that it's good to walk off a pier? You can't talk about change without having some ultimate goal in mind, and I'm quite certain that Obama has no goals worth pursuing. Forget this "rebuild our image in the eyes of the world" nonsense - what is he really proposing that can appeal to the sense of urgency I have for society's ills?

Apparently, he's proposing this:




h/t: SoCon or Bust
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Friday, September 26, 2008

Here I Am

In case it hasn't become obvious to everybody that reads my blog (it's only become obvious to me recently), I am putting more focus on my storytelling practice blog, The World On The Bus, than I am on Convert Man right now.

I will be putting a new post on the bus blog five times a week - one for each day I ride the bus - so if you're simply hungry for some Doogie-script, there's your meal ticket. I don't know for how long I'll have my focus on that blog, but I hope to return soon to a simpler rhythm of life that gives me time to do both blogs more regularly.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Caption Contest - Election Edition

Here's the latest installment in my caption contests!


I won't even use up the obvious ones. Drop your captions in the comments.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Politics 101

I shook my head when I read this Canwest news article on the acceptance of the four major Canadian political parties of a fifth to the pre-election debates on Oct 1 & 2. Initially the Conservatives and the NDP opposed the Greens' presence in the debates.

Personally, I'm a fan of the idea. I hope the Greens get a lot of votes, but not enough to win any seats. They should help split up the enviro-left vote a bit, and our united Conservatives will be able to slide up the right side into a majority government.

But this snippet contains a sparkling gem of the truth of politics - your opponents will find something bad to say about you, no matter what you do:

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe, who has maintained he never objected to [Green Party leader Elizabeth] May's participation, pounced on the reversal by accusing Harper of being a flip-flopper.

"It's not the first time he's changed his mind," said Duceppe. "We said very clearly we had no problem being there if Madame May was there but we wanted Mr. Harper to be there also."


Let's try to understand the reasoning here.

  1. The Conservatives oppose the Greens coming to the debate.
  2. The Bloc thinks the Greens should come to the debate.
  3. It's safe to presume the Bloc regards those as wrong who disagree with their position. Otherwise, why have a debate, if not to expose the error of the other party and the accuracy of your own party's position?
  4. Therefore, the Bloc thought it was wrong for the Conservatives to object to the Greens' presence.
  5. Also therefore, when the Conservatives agreed to let the Greens come, the Bloc should have responded with thankfulness that the Tories had come to their senses.
  6. Instead, the Bloc accuses the Tories of changing their mind.
You just can't win in politics. "You're wrong!" "OK, I change my mind. Now we agree on the issue." "You're a flip-flopper!"
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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Go To Confession

The Large Hadron Collider is the most expensive civil scientific experiment ever conducted. Its purpose is to learn more about the elemental properties of matter through close observation of the conditions that scientists believe existed right after the Big Bang. The machine covers 27 kilometers in France.

It's way too technical for me, but what I understand of it is that two beams of protons will be whipped at each other at near light-speed. When they collide, it's supposed to create what everybody is referring to as "mini black holes" which will have amazing physical properties.

It was turned on today, and the basic initial tests went well (which means they know the protons move in the right directions). The first actual collisions will probably occur early next week.

Some people are saying that creating a gravity well, even a "mini" one, is a bad thing. There's a slight chance that the planet will get schlorped into oblivion, like a mosquito next to a shop-vac hose. Or, thanks to the quirks of Einstein's theory of relativity, we might survive it just fine from our own perspective, even though to the rest of the universe it will have looked like we vanished. Or maybe nothing will happen and some cool new scientific discoveries will be made. Who knows?

But I do plan on going for confession this week.
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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Um... Nancy...

Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is a self-styled Catholic. Note my choice of words: "self-styled." For she has done what I consider repulsive as one who was drawn to the whole truth of the Catholic Church: she has picked up a cafeteria tray and selected from the Church the factoids she finds appealing, and ignored the items she finds hard to swallow.

Most recently, she has made a statement during an interview on MSNBC's Meet The Press that displayed either her appalling lack of knowledge of Church teaching, or else a bold, smoothed-over intent to deceive the uninformed voter. Here's an excerpt which details her response to the question Tom Brokaw posed of when life begins:

REP. PELOSI: I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And Senator--St. Augustine said at three months. We don't know. The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose. Roe v. Wade talks about very clear definitions of when the child--first trimester, certain considerations; second trimester; not so third trimester. There's very clear distinctions. This isn't about abortion on demand, it's about a careful, careful consideration of all factors and--to--that a woman has to make with her doctor and her god. And so I don't think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins. As I say, the Catholic Church for centuries has been discussing this, and there are those who've decided...

MR. BROKAW: The Catholic Church at the moment feels very strongly that it...

REP. PELOSI: I understand that.

MR. BROKAW: ...begins at the point of conception.

REP. PELOSI: I understand. And this is like maybe 50 years or something like that. So again, over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy.

Naturally, this has Catholic bloggers, myself included, up in arms. Thanks to my anonymous tipster who sent me this response from Fr. Jonathan Morris. Fr. Morris makes some good points, but I think he missed a crucial point when he argued against Pelosi's reference to St. Augustine by way of antiquity (emphasis added):

Nancy Pelosi... has now come to agree with a 4th century theologian’s take on human embryology, that pre-born things aren’t human babies (with the right to continue living) because of their supposed incapacity for sensation (St. Augustine’s antiquated argument).... Pelosi has decided to accept the view of an African theologian who lived 1,600 years ago.

This is a flawed argument because the distance of a statement from the present time is immaterial to its degree of truth. G.K. Chesterton famously quipped, "I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday. " There is no expiration date on truth. Progress is not measured by time, but by proximity to a destination or a goal. It would be more accurate to say that St. Augustine's view, assuming we take Pelosi's word for its authenticity, is inconsistent with Catholic teaching.

The American bishops have also picked up on her statement, and they are responding en masse to clarify that the Church has taught since the first century that abortion is evil, which was a position contrary to that promulgated by the Roman Empire at the time. Ms. Pelosi's own bishop, Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco, is the most recent one to respond, by inviting her "into a conversation with me about these matters. It is my obligation to teach forthrightly and to shepherd caringly, and that is my intent."

Good for you, Your Grace. It's about time. I pray she accepts your invitation.

Jean Sizes

I bought a new pair of Wranglers the other day.

I love Wrangler blue jeans. They're comfortable, inexpensive, and durable. I used to buy them at Wal-Mart, but they stopped selling them a while ago, so on my last trip to Wal-Mart when I happened to need jeans at the same time, I bought some Levis.

Ugh. They are terrible. They are simultaneously too loose and too tight. The belt loop placement is completely illogical - a single loop in the middle at the back, instead of two or three at even intervals to keep the belt from buckling (BA DA boom) over the lip of the waist.

I was a Zellers when I found my beloved Wranglers again, and I'm wearing them as I type this. Mmmmm. Sweet comfort.

But in looking at the selections at both stores, I can't figure out for the life of me why jean makers have the different fits in all different sizes. Specifically, I can't figure out why they think that a guy with a 52" waist wants a tight fit jean. I know exactly why a 30" waist might appreciate a tight fit - if you've got it, flaunt it. But I think they would save themselves some cash if they made all men's jeans 40" and above as relaxed or loose fits. And it would be a service to the public too; among the last things I want to see is an obese man in tight denim.

At least that would be somewhat better than spandex.

But only barely.

Killing Christ

Every now and again we hear that so-and-so is a racist bigot because he accuses the Jews of killing Christ. I was thinking about this today while on the bus [shameless plug!] and it occurred to me that were somebody to make that argument from a Christian perspective, it would probably be the single most hypocritical - not to mention inaccurate - thing a Christian could do.

There are three reasons why.

  1. Jesus was killed by the Romans. It's true that the Jewish authorities who were afraid of what he might do to their positions of esteem cajoled, manipulated, and persuaded the Romans to enact a death penalty, as they had no legal right to do so themselves under the terms of the Roman occupation of ancient Palestine. But the Romans ultimately bear this accusation upon themselves; our very own creed says "He was crucified under Pontius Pilate" who was the Roman authority at that time and place. From a strictly legal perspective, the buck stops there.
  2. I killed Jesus. The single fact that I must accept before coming to peace with God is that Jesus took upon himself the punishment for my sins. Scripture tells us that the price of sin is death, and the gift of God is eternal life. The only way for me to win eternal life is to accept this amazing gift of God, and to allow him to take my sin and shame and die with it on the cross. God transfers my guilt to his unguiltable spirit, and in dying he eradicates it from existence.
  3. This leads to the third point: if Jesus did not come to eradicate my sin by paying the price that only he could afford, I would be forever damned. So I say thank you to whomever is responsible for causing the literal, physical death of Jesus, be he Roman, Jew, or my old self - for without that divine death I could never know immortal life.
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Monday, August 25, 2008

Yippee!

I was catching up on my online banking tonight and noticed something odd about my mortgage:


I got all excited... but that date looked suspicious. Technically, it's accurate, as I didn't have a mortgage in 1999.

So I phoned them, and Natalie was very helpful. She told me that they bring their servers down for maintenance every night, and the first thing it takes offline is mortgages.

And here I thought I had won a contest. Oh well.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The World On The Bus

I'm doing an experiment. I don't know for how long, or what it will create, but I feel bound to continue. In my travels on the city bus, I've noticed that if one is actually taking in the world as it passes by, there exist countless stories to be told.

So I've set up a new sister-blog to this one, called "The World On The Bus." Check it out from time to time; the link is in my sidebar.
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Sunday, August 17, 2008

For My American Readers

If you haven't yet made up your mind between Obama and McCain, get over to Catholic Dads and watch the two short videos asking each candidate, "At what point does a baby get human rights?"

Their answers are enlightening. One is crystal clear; the other is muddled, noncommittal, and confusing. Care to guess who's is which?
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Winnipeggers Project

Hey - all you who live in Winnipeg! Want to participate in a community project?

Amanda Gurney, a local artist, is painting 366 portraits, one for everybody with a birthday this year. She needs volunteers.

Visit her project's website to see if your birthday is still available and to volunteer.
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Friday, August 15, 2008

The Beauty of Vulgarity

I chanced across an obscure quote from a 50 year-old book while at work, and I liked the quote so much I bought the book. Here's the quote:

The true biologist deals with life, with teeming boisterous life, and learns something from it, learns that the first rule of life is living.

It's from John Steinbeck's The Log from the Sea of Cortez, originally published in 1958. It's the narrative tale of a biological expedition he led to the gulf off the Baja Peninsula's east coast.

His style is that of a truth-lover, a scientist smitten with the whole of creation, and a crafty wordsmith rolled up into one. The following quote sounded to me like something Christopher West would say:

A man we know once long ago worked for a wealthy family in a country place. One morning one of the cows had a calf. The children of the house went down with him to watch her. It was a good normal birth, a perfect presentation, and the cow needed no help. The children asked questions and he answered them. And when the emerged head cleared through the sac, the little black muzzle appeared, and the first breath was drawn, the children were fascinated and awed. And this was the time for their mother to come screaming down on the vulgarity of the letting the children see the birth. This 'vulgarity' had given them a sense of wonder at the structure of life, while the mother's propriety and gentility supplanted that feeling with dirtiness. If the reader of this book is 'genteel', then this is a very vulgar book, because the animals in a tide pool have two major preoccupations: first, survival, and second, reproduction. They reproduce all over the place.

In many ways Steinbeck's comments ring true today, and resonate loudly, I feel, with John Paul II's teaching on sexuality: it's not something dirty or crude or a necessary evil. It's a glorious, beautiful gift God has given us, and for more than mere procreating - for proclaiming his analogical love for us through a physical expression of the deepest passion we can muster, and then by letting us know his love is deeper. There is no shame in sex when it's partaken of in the context of God's plan for our lives.
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Facebook Was Worth It!


Oh, gee, everybody, learn a little culture - he's only my all-time favorite musician.


Dawn's party was cool too.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fun At The Theatre

I just got back from The Dark Knight at the local film house and have some thoughts.

Not on the movie per se; better minds have discerned the grains of eternal truth shrouded in this film's cloak of allegory. My musings are on the movie-going experience.

The first bit of fun is always planning which movie I want to see, and when I want to see it. I enjoy action, comedy, and anything with Ben Stiller in it. Sadly, Tropic Thunder is not yet out. So Batman won out over the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (by quite a large margin), as I do enjoy DC Comics and any good superhero story.

Next I look at when it plays. In my city, movies generally start at one of two times: 8:00 or 10:00. Naturally, 9:00 is for me the best time to see a movie, considering getting home from work, eating, tucking the kids in bed, and chillin' with the wife (who likes neither action, comedy, nor Ben Stiller). There is some leeway in these starting times; I can see it at 7:50 or 10:05, depending on where I go and how far I want to travel.

Then comes the difficult task of choosing a movie-going companion. Since our kids aren't yet self-babysitters, we either need to hire help, call up one of our "Sure, I'll babysit for free at the last minute" people (that list keeps getting smaller and smaller), or one of us stays home. Tonight, it's her turn to stay home.

I enjoy solitude. My wife enjoys... well, not solitude, and she can't quite seem to grasp how I can see a movie by myself. When Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace came out several years ago, I went to see it on opening day (not at 12:01 AM like the hard-core nerds, but at 4:00 PM like an old post-nerd) and I went by myself. I've observed that people tend to have a one-space-away-from-me comfort zone, so that when two pairs of strangers sit in the same row in the theatre, they'll always leave one seat empty between them.

That's my spot. I got in to see The Phantom Menace in a premium seat about 5 minutes before the show started on opening day this way. That's one of the many benefits of solo excursions. If I had gone with my wife or a friend, we would have been standing around idly in the aisles, gazing dumbly into the audience, hoping that two empty seats would suddenly converge.

But still she tries to convince me to take a buddy along with me. That's one of the problems with the 10:00 show: while it's not too late for me, it's too late for the other members of my social circle. Plus, I really just want to go alone. Eventually she gives up and shoos me out the door.

One of the benefits to the 10:00 show is that the parking lot is usually much more empty at that hour. As I pull in to my spot only a quick jaunt from the main theatre doors, I observe the one sight I despise the most in a parking lot: a gaggle of young men, adorned in droopy garb and hats as crooked as Richard Nixon. They're sitting in Asia's interpretation of a sporty car, pumping loud house music. I've got a theory about this type of person: the rhythmic pounding of the bass, reverberating through his very being, reminds him on a deeply psychic level of the sound of his mother's heart beating while he was in the womb, and it is paradoxically comforting as it tears his eardrums apart. These poor guys really just want their mommies.

I ignore them and hasten through the falling rain into the movie complex. At my theatre of choice, two employees are staffing the ticket counter, and off to the side are half a dozen automated ticket kiosks. The ticket you get from either terminal is the same, and yet there's always a line twenty people deep at the ticket counter, while the machines sit unused to the side. I can't grasp why. If you're paying cash or with a gift certificate, you need to talk to a person, OK, I get that. But if you're putting it on your bank card or a credit card, it's much faster to use the kiosk. You can even pre-order your food there so you don't have to pay again at the concession line.

So I head straight for the machines and get my ticket and my food ticket with no wait. I elect for a dish of nachos and a Coke, and make my way towards the food counter.

I notice right away that there are two lines: one with about ten people waiting, and another with two people waiting. So I head for the shorter one. Then a second employee comes and opens up her till to speed things along. The long line doesn't notice her, so the person right in front of me jumps in first. Fine by me: now I only have to wait for one person, and she's almost done.

Soon Keri greets me and inaudibly asks me what I'll have. She's slouching, her shoulders are sagging, and her long stringy hair is falling out from beneath her uniform cap. I hand her my pre-printed order. Thankfully, I can see that there is just one tray of nachos left under the heating lamp behind her. The trays come with nachos in the middle and two empty sockets in opposite corners for condiments. "Do you want two salsas, two cheeses, or a salsa and a cheese?" she drones.

Easy answer. "Two cheeses please."

"How many jalepeno peppers do you want?"

"Zero." My blunt answer evokes no reaction from her.

At this point, I see that the lady beside me, the one who skipped out of my line for the new line, has also ordered nachos and her server is taking my tray of nachos out from under the heat lamp for her. Grrr. But wait... they've got more. Keri unenthusiastically plods out of sight, then a moment later emerges with a large aluminium tray with 5 more nacho mini-trays on it. She has a long way to maneuver to get back, and has to pass by at least four other people in the cramped quarters behind the counter. Somehow she manages not to spill, and sets the tray down on her confined workspace next to the heat lamp. She takes off two mini-trays and delicately slides them under the lamp, then two more, and finally the last one. "Why would she put it away?" I think to myself. "She has to get it ready for me, doesn't she?"

Instead Keri picks up the empty aluminium tray and plods back around the corner to where it originated. I see them do this at Tim Horton's too, when they pour the last of the coffee from the pot into my cup - instead of giving you your coffee, they make you wait while they get another pot brewing. I guess it makes sense in a foresightful kind of way: if the theatre kept serving food with empty trays sitting up front, things would get awfully cluttered. And Tim Horton's would soon run out of brewed coffee altogether if they kept serving people when a pot got emptied.

She returns and picks up a tray of nachos from under the heat lamp. She ladles gooey melted processed cheese into one side, then the other, while merrily chatting with a coworker. Good - she remembered my order.

Then she lifts a ladle from another bucket, and before I know it there are jalepeno peppers - and the brine in which they were soaking - on my nachos. I almost protest but the movie's starting, and at her pace I'm not confident I'll get in before the halfway mark if she had to start over. So I bite my tongue. Then she scoops up more peppers, and more, and more... five scoops of them (and their brine) in total. Finally she hands it to me with my Coke and, grabbing a straw and some napkins, I rush to Door # 1 where The Dark Knight awaits.

As I round the corner and scope out the crowd, I see that the theatre's pretty full, even at this hour. Being a tallish guy I usually like to sit in the first row of the second section, where there is a wide landing separating the upper and lower decks of the seats - this way I can stretch out my legs. True to my plan, I find an empty seat with plenty of leg room and settle in to enjoy the show.

The nachoes are stale, unnaturally warm, and soggy from the jalepeno brine. The peppers themselves had been soaking so long that they had lost all flavour, so even when I accidentally scooped one up and injested it, I wouldn't have known had I not felt the texture of it with my tongue. And I highly suspect that not one cow was involved in the production of my cheese; in all probability several candle remnants were melted down and had some colour and salt added.

After the movie ends, I head outside for the virtually vacant parking lot. It's raining even harder than it was before, so I pull up the hood on my sweatshirt to shelter me as I walk to my van. It occurs to me that with my my hooded sweatshirt and jeans that don't go up as high as they should (but not for lack of trying), I could pass for a 20-something kid heading back to his souped-up Honda Civic, except that I don't have a gaggle of clones with me.

It's late, and I'm tired. I turn up the music in the van as I drive home, ostensibly to stay awake. But really, I just want my mommy.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Nice Try

Picture this: some loser with a cable TV show dares a friend to fly a "Mohammed sucks" banner behind an airplane over a densely populated city just to see how offended people get.

Based on the reactions you've seen in the news to previous offensive actions against Islam, can you predict how many human rights complaints will be filed against the pilot, the cable show host, and the network on which it aired?

Too many to count, I'm sure.

OK, you've got me: this never happened (or if it did somewhere, I've yet to learn of it).

But this did happen:


So Vancouver resident and Christian believer Dean Skoryeko has filed a human rights complaint. It all started with TV shock-jocks Kenneth Hotz and Spencer Rice, of the idiotic "Kenny vs. Spenny" show. The show's format has them compete against each other in various stupid contests weekly, like who can endure the most electricity, or who can light the most blue angels. In this particular installment, the contest was to offend the most people.

Here's the funny part.

Originally, Hotz wanted to fly a banner saying "Heil Hitler," or more tamely, "Guys are stupid." But the airplane owners thought that was crossing a line and refused. "Jesus sucks" is, as you know, far less offensive. Especially when the airplane company buys the lie that he was actually talking about his Hispanic friend hay-ZOOS. And when asked how he would respond to a Christian actually taking offense, Hotz put on his theology professor's cap:

I think that Christians have been persecuted throughout history and they’re very good at defending themselves and a true Christian would turn the other cheek. I’ve studied the Bible a lot, I’ve done religious studies. So, I think for true Christians, it would only increase their faith.
But wait, wait... it gets funnier.

Hotz clearly states that the goal of this week's episode is to see "who can piss off the most people." But when the National Post blogger (ibid) started to turn up the heat, Hotz said, " I really hope nobody takes offense." That almost sounds like remorse.

But I'm not offended. Like Hotz says, Christians are used to this kind of stuff; Jesus himself promised us it would happen, and told us to rejoice in it. Pardon me while I have a flashback to junior high... OK, I'm done.

The point Skoryeko is making with his human rights complaint is that "that the human-rights system applies double standards, favouring only minority interests." Blogger Ezra Levant, no stranger to being pulled in front of the human rights commissions himself, theorizes:

...he wants his case to be thrown out, so that he can prove what we all know to be true. In Canada's human rights industry, only certain political and religious views are protected from hurt feelings -- and Christians aren't one of them.

It's not even like insulting Jesus is daring anymore. It's like trying to insult somebody by saying, "Your mother wears army boots." We Christians have become so desensitized to sacrilege in our society that we're rather numb to it, unless it's really creative.

And even then, I won't dispute the right of people to damn themselves to Hell if they so choose. It breaks my heart to see it though. When I see slogans like "My body, my choice" spray-painted on a memorial to the unborn outside a church, I feel saddened for the poor, hurt soul who was so out of touch with her pain that she lashed out in anger at the one place to which she could turn for genuine help. But I can't change how she feels; that's a job for the Holy Spirit.

The proper response of the Christian in the face of scorn or persecution is to pray for our tormentors. But that requires a heart filled with God's love. To receive his love, we must open ourselves up to his grace and drink him in (easy to say, hard to do).

So while I empathize with Mr. Skoryeko and fully understand why he'd want to make this point about Canada's human rights abuses, the better response would be to pray for Kenny and Spenny. Remember:

For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Senselessness and Grace

By now the world is well aware of the horrible murder committed against Tim McLean by Vince Weiguang Li on a Greyhound bus, about an hour from where I live.

From all accounts, it was an unprovoked, random attack.

What baffles me is why it has become such a hot topic of conversation. Everywhere you go, every global news site you visit: everybody wants to talk about how horrific it is.

Why is that?

Gruesome crimes happen all the time. Perhaps this one stands out because it was so public, with so many stunned witnesses. But to me the most disturbing thing is that it was a completely passionless crime. The killer had no grievance against the victim that we know of. They were complete strangers. What can happen in a man's mind to cause him to lash out so randomly, so calmly, and with such horrific intensity?

A likely culprit is mental illness. I'm also sure that I'm not the only person of faith who wonders if the occult or some manifestation of the forces of darkness played a part. But whatever the cause, the most frightening part of the story for me is that the killer is human, just like me.

The ancient Roman playwright Terence observed, "I am a man: I hold that nothing human is alien to me." Or to put it another way: "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

For as insanely wicked as this murder was, if I am really honest with myself, I am forced to admit that I know I have the capacity for the same evil acts. I am a human being; I can fall into any sin, I can succumb to any temptation I face, I can horrify an entire world with my deeds.

But by the same token: I am a human being; I can rise above any sin, I can overcome any temptation I face, I can inspire an entire world with my deeds.

This profound truth applies to us all. This is how God has designed us - to be capable of incredible villainy, and to be capable of great acts of selfless love. This is why I have hope. No matter how far gone I think I am, I have it within myself to turn on a dime with a single act of will (multiple times, if necessary, which it is), and to surrender my life to the loving Creator who has a plan for sublime joy for each of us - even someone as deeply disturbed as Mr. Li.

The best part is that God himself gives me strength to make this turn, and to hold the course once I make it. And there is no limit on renewal; any time I fall, he will restore me to his presence, if I only seek him out with a sincere heart. All I have to do is echo the obedient words of Mary, the mother of Jesus: "Let is be done unto me according to your word."

Or more simply, "Yes."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Another Caption Contest!


Some ideas to get you started:
  • "Mommy, this popsicle tastes funny."
  • "I am not watching too many princess movies!"
  • "Please not that symbol... please not that symbol..."

Friday, July 25, 2008

Dear Anonymous

Thank you.

That was a very grand gesture.

You know who you are.

Birthday

Hey everyone... we're having an "open surprise party" for Dawn on August 1. Feel free to show up at our house anytime after 7:00 PM.

An "open" surprise party means that she is aware of it and helping to plan it.

What's more... I love this woman so much that I even signed up for Facebook to help promote her party.

Love conquers all.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

We Love Our Pope

At the closing Mass for Sydney's World Youth Day, Zenit.org reports Australian cardinal Archbishop George Pell had the following comments:

Addressing the Pope, the prelate thanked him for having made World Youth Day an "ordinary part" of the Church's life.

"Your Holiness, the World Youth Days were the invention of Pope John Paul the Great," Cardinal Pell recalled. "The World Youth Day in Cologne was already announced before your election. You decided to continue the World Youth Days and to hold this one in Sydney. We are profoundly grateful for this decision, indicating that the World Youth Days do not belong to one pope, or even one generation, but are now an ordinary part of the life of the Church. The John Paul II generation, young and old alike, is proud to be faithful sons and daughters of Pope Benedict."

At this, the Holy Father raised his hands and the crowd erupted into cheers.


That brought tears to my eyes when I read it.

We don't love our Pope because he is some fad-of-the-week rock star. We love him because he represents for us Christ, the ultimate servant, giving up his life for the Church. This cheer was not intended for the person of Joseph Ratzinger aka Benedict XVI, but extends deep into the mystical connection between Christ and his body, touching the very face of Jesus.

The 400,000 youth in attendance recognize the eternal promise of Christ as made manifest in the papal role. Their cheers for Benedict are an effect of their love for God, and of their receptiveness to God's love for them.

These World Youth Days are going to change the world; just wait and see. In fifty years, I warrant that nearly every Church leader will be able to point back to his experience at one or more WYD event as a turning point in his faith.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Blessings

As my family grows and grows, it is occurring to me more and more that I'm not really the one making all this new life happen.

Nor is my wife. I'm not speaking about the biology here. I'm talking about the creation of a new, living soul who would not have existed but for our openness to life.

Some years ago I was talking to my paternal grandmother, who had seven children. I thanked her for her openness, as I truly enjoy knowing my aunts, uncles, and cousins who would not have existed without the choices she made. Her marriage to my grandfather fell apart after their children were grown, and I also thanked her sticking it out with him for as long as she did. I didn't know him well, but my understanding is that he was somewhat of a brute, although he mellowed somewhat in his last years.

She told me that if she had gotten to know him better before marrying him, she never would have gone through with it.

Of course, the ramifications of that near-decision would have been significant throughout the cascading generations, culminating in - GASP - no Convert Man blog! But we can't undo our past, and I confessed that while I understood her sentiment, I was nevertheless happy that things had worked out the way they did. I enjoy existing, after all. Me, my brothers and sister, my cousins, my uncles, my aunts, my parents, my kids, my nieces and nephews... probably close to 80 individual people would not have come to draw breath had she had made a different choice.

How mysterious are the ways of God! For he orchestrates our lives and guides us to his perfect will, and continually adapts his plans for us when we stray from his original revised tweaked reconfigured adjusted plans for us, over and over again.

So here I am - with four kids drawing breath, one little saint in Heaven, and one percolating in the grand decanter that is my wife's womb - wondering how it all comes to be. As my blessings increase, I marvel in them. Each life that God sends my way is a solemn charge, and I am so very weak in so many things, yet he obviously knows I'm capable because he keeps sending me more blessings.

Lord, give me your wisdom and your strength!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Spirited Away

For those of you unfamiliar with what's known as "The Charismatic Renewal" let me explain something to you. It may sound odd, and it really is odd, even when you experience it.

Occasionally, when in deep prayer, the Holy Spirit may come upon you in such a manner as to render you incapable of controlling your physical body. Most often this results in a collapse to the ground, but most groups that pray for such experiences within their communion will ensure that one or two sturdy young men are situated behind you, to "catch" you and let you down slowly.

Sometimes spontaneous laughter or healing tears may occur, sometimes it's just a quiet period of rest. Having such an experience requires you to surrender to it; God never just "takes over." He requests permission to give you an experience of intimacy with him, and you are psychically free to deny it or snap yourself out of it at any time. The ancient Church knows this type of phenomenon as a form of ecstasy (not chemically induced!); today it's known as resting in the Spirit. In my Protestant days they called it "being slain in the Spirit." I never experienced it until a few years ago, well into my Catholic life.

Regardless of the term you use, it is a real experience. It's powerful, and yet tender; intimate, and yet frightening. I've never felt the love of God more strongly than in those moments.

Enter Matt Lincoln of Knoxville, Tennessee. He was in exactly this type of prayer meeting at Lakewind Church, and "was so consumed by the spirit of God that he fell and hit his head."

Because nobody was there to catch him, he is now suing the church for "$2.5 million for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering." James Taranto of the Opinion Journal's Best of the Web Today quips that the church is absolved of responsibility because it was an act of God.

Yes, we all know that Americans are sue-happy. But this is worse than normal.

Somebody from this type of faith community should be above such petty antics. Yes, he was hurt, and yes, he had to have surgery, and yes, he missed work, but I highly doubt it was all quite that expensive. It's that nasty "pain and suffering" clause.

He's a Christian. He should know better than to reject pain and suffering. I dare not judge him, but I can't help but wonder... was God's intent for him to sue the church?

Suffering is something else on which the ancient Church has much to say. For a heartier read, check out Pope John Paul II's encyclical Salvifici Doloris on the Christian meaning of human suffering.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Outwit?

If you're a fan of the TV series Survivor, this may be a bit repetitive, but bear with me as I set up this scenario for the uninitiated.

Last season featured the "fans" vs the "favorites" - the two starting tribes were composed of some of the show's biggest fans - real Survivor nerds whose heads were filled with trivia and presumptive strategy - and some of the show's most beloved (and hated) participants from previous seasons. For a whole roundup of the season, go here. But I with to talk about one incident in particular: the gullible decision of Erik, one of the fans. A scrawny 20-something ice cream vendor with a great poof of hair, Erik charmed us viewers with his boyish innocence.


As the show was nearing its climactic end, Erik found himself the sole fan remaining among four favorites: Cirie, Natalie, Amanda, and Parvati: one gangly, naive boy against four seasoned , devious women. But he shocked them when he won the immunity challenge that day, meaning that he would be guaranteed a spot in the "final four" unless he did something... stupid.

Ahem.

Erik, knowing for a while the girls were gunning to vote him off the island, had previously panicked and had tried to forge last-minute alliances with every single one of them, unsuccessfully trying to pit them one against another. The girls were all on to him, and let him know that they didn't trust him and had lost all respect for him. In a clever move, Cirie suggested to the other women that if they told him he could earn back their respect by voluntarily giving up his immunity at the upcoming vote, he might fall for it.

And fall for it he did. He gave up his immunity, hoping against hope that it was the right decision, and the women cast him off.

Now for the segue... Stephane Dion is in Alberta these days, trying to convince the hard-core conservatives out there that his environmental proposals are a good idea. He refers back to his days as a Unity fighter back in the Chretien cabinet, and tries to connect some very fuzzy dots:

"We have a united Canada, a Canada built on clarity and mutual respect. We did it with the courage, the determination, of a cowboy from Calgary," Dion told Liberal party supporters yesterday. [Is he talking about Joe Clark?]

With environmental concerns high in Canadians' minds, Alberta is now the focus of so much political attention, and Dion said his plan is the only one that can repair the "damaged" reputation of the oil-producing province that is responsible for one-third of the country's greenhouse gas emissions.

"To me, it's important for the world to know how much Albertans care about the environment, how much you are green and you want to do the right thing," he said.

"I can't accept that your reputation is damaged, as it is now."


Gosh, thanks Stephane. But would you please stop waving that pocket watch in my face?

This reminds me of Erik because Stephane is saying that Alberta's reputation is damaged because of all that carbon and the only way for them to recover the respect of the nation is to submit voluntarily to massive taxes on the industry. Cirie spoke the same lie to Erik: nobody trusts you anymore - in fact, we all hate you very much - so make yourself vulnerable and trust us.

Dion does not speak of the natural consequences of this hypothetical act of submission, which would be the stifling of the oil industry in Alberta (not to mention the rest of Canada) and the mass exodus of all its skilled labourers, professionals and youth (kinda like what's been happening to Newfoundland the last few decades, up until recently when they began developing their own offshore oil).

His plan is to remove the tax burden from the people and place it upon the carbon industries instead. Sounds good, right? Rob Peter to pay Paul. Different source, but same overall recipient ... a Liberal government. Heh - I'm still trying to forget what the last ones did.

Do you think industry will just sit idly by and let itself be taxed into oblivion? Or will they shift south, across the U.S. border, where the oil is just as abundant and the economic environment much more welcoming? Then the beloved Canadian oil worker will be out of a job.

Don't fall for it, Alberta. Take a lesson from Erik. Keep your economic "immunity" and vote Stephane off the island instead.

The True North Insecure and Timid

Why is this even newsworthy? Apparently Google didn't edit their homepage logo to celebrate Canada Day on July 1.

Apparently it's a snub.

They've tweaked their logo every year since 2001, except for 2003. Which means... six times. Canada's been around for 141 years, and Google has "only" noticed us six times - but Google's only been doing their "Doodles" for nine years. Sure, when they've done it in the past I've been amused by their take on Canadiana, much as their celebrations of the the 50th anniversary of Lego or the birth of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were also fun to see. There's lots more.

But come on, Canada! So what if Google didn't care about us this year? Are we really that insecure about our national identity that we care what other Google thinks about us?

Perhaps I'm just desensitized to the whole "being ignored" thing. After all, what did Google display for the election of Pope Benedict XVI? If we Catholics can accept being ignored by the world, why can't Canadians in general?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Just In Time

I don't remember having the skill-set necessary to perform this task adequately while I was still at Convergys... apparently I left at the right time:

About 300 employees at Convergys call centre in south Winnipeg were evacuated about 5 p.m. [Jun 28 evening] after a bomb threat was phoned in.

Emergency crews were called to the building at 14 Fultz Blvd. after Convergys received a threatening phone call from an external line.

Staff waited across the street for more than an hour as police and managers swept the building. [emphasis added]



Saturday, June 28, 2008

Open Letter: HRC

[An open letter to Msgr. Mario Paquette, P.H., General Secretary, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops]

Msgr. Paquette,

I am somewhat dismayed that the Bishops' Conference has not spoken up on the recent controversy on Canada's federal and provincial human rights commissions. Freedom of speech, press, and religion are all under threat from the radical agendas these commissions facilitate.

There are several prominent cases, such as the complaints against author Mark Steyn, MacLean's Magazine, Ezra Levant, and recently Stephen Boisson, a Protestant minister in Alberta. Even Bishop Fred Henry has been the victim of an HRC assault.

The means these commissions use stand in stark contrast to the legislative and judicial foundations on which our country was founded - there is no due process, no right to a speedy trial, no truth as defense, and no obligation to display harm done. The accuser's legal costs are covered by the state, whereas the accused person must pay all his own bills. The process can go on for years before the HRC invariably pronounces guilt and imposes fines, public apologies, and even recanting of deeply held beliefs.

As one familiar with the history of the early Church, I must wonder... how long do we have before they start burning us at the stake?

I know the Conference frequently speaks out on social issues, such as the recent letter to the G8 leaders reminding them of their responsibilities for the poor and to care for the planet.

The issue with our abusive Human Rights Commissions is, in my opinion, far larger in its implications for humanity and Christianity than environmental or social concerns. I encourage the Conference to speak out with all due haste, requesting the respective governments to tear down the HRCs, or at the very least, retool them so they incorporate the same basic legal practices that our real courts do.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Manliness

Today I fixed my dishwasher.

The heating element on the bottom was sheared right in two, and the machine took over three hours to finish what it, in its crippled state, considered a "cleaning" cycle. So I ordered a new element from Sears. It arrived today, and when I got home the first thing I did was install it. HAR! I am SO manly! I didn't even procrastinate!

It is the pride of men everywhere to be able to fix things.

I also re-attached the head of a princess doll today.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to glue a mug back together.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

"Are You Not a Bishop?"

Zenit.org is covering the International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec quite extensively, and they included a talk by Bishop Louis Tagle of the Philippines. In it he tells a story of a life-changing event:

One Saturday morning [...] I saw a woman selling fruit and vegetables in a corner. She was one of those who went to Sunday Mass regularly. It was only 10 in the morning but she was already closing her store. So I asked her the reason. She told me, 'I belong to a prayer group. We have a big assembly this afternoon. Some tasks were assigned to me. So I want to be there early.'

Upon hearing this, the pragmatic side of me surfaced. I responded, 'The Lord will understand if you extend your working hours. You have a family to support. [...] I am sure the Lord will understand.'

With a smile, she said, 'But Bishop, the Lord has been faithful to me. [...] We may not be rich but we have enough to live by. Why will I fear?' Then looking at me tenderly, she said, 'Are you not a bishop? Are you not supposed to be encouraging me in faith?'

I was quite embarrassed. But for me it was an experience of spiritual worship. I, the religiously and culturally accepted presence of God, was revealed to be a faltering representation of God.

All too often I encounter priests and bishops who haven't learned that lesson, and continue to hold the faithful to a low standard of spirituality. I've mentioned before that often when I ask a priest to help me grow in holiness, his response is, "Don't bother, you're fine." I can understand that they have witnessed countless people over the years who have absolutely no faith at all, so when they encounter people who attend Mass weekly they are amply satisfied. But there is so much more to our faith than just "showing up."

But in those moments when priests try to talk me down, have I ever had the courage to say what I think? This woman took the risk of offending the bishop by letting him know that she held a higher standard for herself (and for him) than he did, and he grew from it.

So I extend the challenge to myself and to my readers: the next time you encounter a priest or bishop whose words leave you feeling discouraged in your faith, issue a gentle rebuke in the fraternal love of Christ. Ask him to have a higher standard for you, and not to grow weary or discouraged at the lack of faith around him.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Wheels on the Bus

In an effort to save some money (I've yet to be convinced of the positive environmental effects) I've started riding the bus to and from work.

It's a unique experience; full of surprises. For one, the movies are wrong: bus riders do NOT sing "The Wheels On The Bus" or "Hail To The Bus Driver" as they merrily commute. No, instead they just sit there with sad little looks on their faces. Most of them hide their eyes behind sunglasses, even when it's cloudy, or bury their noses in books, or block out attempts at conversation by sticking earbuds in their ears. And judging from the bass rhythm which seeps out, they're not listening to "The Wheels On The Bus."

I, too, am guilty of plugging my ears with the tunes I've placed on my newly purchased iPod Shuffle. But I've made a concerted effort to remove my sunglasses when I'm not facing the sun.

For those of you who don't take the bus, there is an unwritten seating protocol once you board. If there is one other passenger on the bus and he's in a 2 person bench, it's very bad form (unless you know the person) to sit in the other seat on that bench. Instead, you are expected to uphold a certain symmetry by sitting on the opposite side of the bus an approximately equidistant (fig. 1) measurement from the back of the bus as the other passenger is from the front of the bus, or vice versa.

When the bus is more full but some benches are still empty, you should always leave an empty bench in between you and the next person in front of you (fig.2). This is because your comfort zone, or personal body space, is based on what you see in front of you. Additionally, this sends a message to the other passengers, "I don't want to be here any more than you do, so let's just agree to leave each other alone and hope this ends soon." It is irrelevant that your choice of seat intrudes upon the same personal body space of the person behind you; at this point as a bus gains passengers, there is no alternative. Body space will be intruded upon; it is only a matter of time now.

Now, we start to reach the area of most concern: the seats are mostly full, and strangers have to start to double up. You can see it on the faces of people as they board a near-capacity bus: "Who's not going to talk to me? Who's safe? Who looks too intimidating or is likely to smell funny?" They scan the other passengers and make a decision.

Once you've made a decision, it's unacceptable to change your mind, unless one of the following conditions is met:
  • You see somebody you know, seated alone, and move to sit with that person
  • An entire 2-person bench opens up
Only in these two circumstances are you absolved from your duty to remain your seat-buddy's traveling companion. If you misjudged and picked a smelly person, too bad. You have to tough it out.

I must emit some kind of uninviting aura, and I'm not sure how to feel about it. For inevitably, the new passengers on the bus will sit with anybody else before they resign to the only available seat left and sit with me (fig.3).


Buses are great places to find masters of body language. If somebody seated in a window seat wishes to disembark but is blocked by his seat buddy, all he has to do is put his book away, fold up his newspaper, cap his beverage, adjust his coat, or some other subtle sign indicating, "I'm ready to end the charade of community and take my leave from this dismal conveyance." The supreme masters can do it with a slight tilt of the head; the occasional-riders have to the pull the 'stop request' cord, even if it's already been pulled. You know a total newbie when he turns to you, takes his earbuds out, and uses words to the effect of, "Excuse me please, this is my stop."

Whatever the method, once you've indicated that you need to leave, you are usually on a bus so crowded that people are standing in the aisles (fig.4). The horde responds quite adeptly to a passenger making his way to an exit; it's a grand demonstration of a collective, although silent, sigh of relief: "Thank goodness! One less person to tolerate."

Yes, taking the bus is a real adventure in sociology and psychology.

Plus, I can listen to a whole lot of music.