Friday, August 31, 2018

Thursday, August 30, 2018

"We Wish We Had No Noses" (a poetic fragment)



"We Wish We Had No Noses" (a poetic fragment)
by JJ 8/30/2018

Anger, it's true, anger
is there.
And other sensations yet unknown,
beyond the edge,
beneath the crust,
of this foot pounded hard shell of earth.

There is a slow poison
punched deep in the skin,
an anesthetic cancer
weaving through spaces of nerves,
imitating normal life.

Slowly, we get used to it.

But then the way is interrupted
by erupting fire shots from the ground.

Strike shocks ear drums,
strains, spins eyes in circles.
We watch pieces of flesh ripped, burned,
scattered in the field,
stinking in the air. We wish
we had no noses.

Anger is there, and sorrow is rain
falling harder and harder
as evening makes

a world of mud lakes.
Now every step slips
in sewers of soft sludge
or kicks open fissures of lightning
hidden under rocks.

Can these old bones

in this child soul
learn to walk again?


*********************************************************

Note on one thematic aspect expressed in the words above: Sometimes in life, you feel like you're in a place full of hidden landmines that keep exploding (literally or metaphorically). That's one of the images (by no means the only one) that enters into the texture of this "poetic fragment."

The image of landmines works within a complex of other themes and impressions grasped through experience, imaginative empathy, and other perceptions and resources. These inspire and shape the 'creative intuition' that guides the practical work of crafting words into a poem (with varying degrees of success).

My initial title for this work was "Landmine," but I chose instead another title--a more concrete and subjective image with more subtlety, that is also suggestive of other interrelated themes that came together in the writing process.

Poetry is never simply argument or narrative (even when it also carries out and/or contributes to these generally prosaic tasks). It flows from an intuition expressed in language that probes reality and provokes insight, aesthetic connection, and sometimes astonishment.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Cross

Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross. (Image from the Stations of the Cross at our parish church.)


Sunday, August 26, 2018

WELCOME TO THE REVOLUTION?

This is an abstract work that has been developing over the past few months. Now is as good a time as any to be finished with it and to introduce it here. The accompanying title is the question, "WELCOME TO THE REVOLUTION?"

I have no interpretation to offer for this piece.

I have been studying the genesis and development of the brutal revolutions of the twentieth century, including their original grievances (which were often fueled by the great evils of prior regimes), their psychological and sociological dynamics, and their ghastly, horrific consequences.

The context out of which I crafted this artwork includes a conviction that I find verified in history again and again, that revolution is not the answer.

A passionate desire for legitimately needed reform that does not attend to justice, equity, realism, and respect for every human person will inevitably be co-opted by ideological violence and manipulated to the latter's own distorted ends.

Revolution is the spiral of violence further intensified, expanded to even more monstrous proportions, and set ablaze. As Dostoevsky said, it is "Fire in the minds of men."

Before we realize it, we become strangers to one another, tearing one another apart.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

"You Are My Refuge..."


"With my voice I cry to the Lord;
with my voice I make supplication to the Lord.
I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him.
                  
"When my spirit is faint,
you know my way.

"I cry to you, O Lord;
I say, ‘You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.’
Give heed to my cry,
for I am brought very low."

~Psalm 142:1-3, 5-6

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Jesus is God Drawn Close To Our Wounded Humanity

We live in a world of immense suffering.

We all know how hard it is to deal with acute, immediately perceptible instances of suffering—instances of physical, mental, and/or emotional pain. It's hard enough to hear the stories of other people. And usually we want at least to be distracted, as much as possible, from our own pains. What we feel intensely is the need for relief, and we are grateful for anyone and anything that can give us some real help.

But the whole reality of suffering is deeper than the external struggles that engage so many of us.

People don't suffer "equally" (certainly not on every level or at any given time). But everyone suffers in this world, and everyone's suffering is uniquely their own.

At some point, everyone has distinct and profound experiences that can be at least partially articulated, that indicate the brokenness and incompleteness of their life: something that has disappointed or hurt them; someone who has betrayed them or manipulated them; something that does not measure up to a once-cherished hope; some kind of health issues; some catastrophic events or tragic losses; some family or friends who have let them down, abandoned them, misunderstood them; some limitation that inhibits their freedom; some burden that tires them; some hunger that is never satisfied....

People usually accommodate themselves to reduced expectations about life, especially as they get older. How else could one get through the day? Sometimes, however, one can still catch an echo of a cry of pain, that deep and mysterious pain at the heart of every human life. Life is, in some measure, always something that has to be endured.

Why is this? Most broadly, it's because we live in a radically broken universe. We suffer because of sin: original sin, our own personal sins, and the sins of the world. But why has God permitted so much sin and so much suffering?

God doesn't give a theoretical, intellectually satisfying answer to the depths of this agonizing question. He does something much greater. He comes to dwell with us in this broken world, and bears all our sufferings and sins out of love, thereby transforming the meaning of suffering.

Because of this, we do not suffer alone. We suffer in Jesus Christ, who is God’s love made personal and particular for each one of us.

Jesus is God drawn close to our wounded humanity, so close that He takes it upon Himself—not only in some “general” way, but in a way that encompasses each one of us. Jesus is the intimate companion of each and every human person, even those who do not know Him. He knows each one of us; He unites Himself (He—God the Eternal Son of the Father) to my humanity and to your humanity; He dwells with us and suffers with us in order to raise us up to a share in His life with the Father in the Holy Spirit.

He knows “who I am” and who He wills me to be. He knows the secret of why I was created. He knows my sins. He knows how to heal me of them, how to draw me to Himself, how to make me the “adopted son” that I am meant to be in Him for all eternity.

And so my joys and sufferings too (which He permits) are taken up into His infinitely wise, uniquely crafted, and tender love through which He shapes my life and leads me to my destiny.

How little I really understand about my “destiny.” How little I understand about the “eternal life” which means belonging to Him forever. We must remember every day that God is with us and that He draws us toward our true identity, which is to reflect His eternal glory in that unique way that corresponds to each of us as a person created in His image and likeness—a reflection that we do not yet understand but that He sees and knows.

We ought to dwell upon this and call it frequently to mind. Those little prayers throughout the day are worth so much: "Jesus, I love you." "Jesus, I trust in you." "Come, Holy Spirit." God, help me!" No matter the storms and the fury; the depths of our lives are not solitude. We are never alone.

At the heart of life, of every moment of life, the merciful God who is infinite, unconquerable love accompanies us, gives Himself to us, and asks us to open our hearts to receive Him.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Salve Regina

Here is the Virgin of Guadalupe on a postcard looking "down" upon me from the shelf next to my bed. I really, really need her to take care of me.

Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, Mother of Jesus our Lord and King, Mother Mary... help me.


Tuesday, August 21, 2018

I'm Gonna LOSE CONTROL!

I'm afraid that I'm losing control of life.

I am too highly sensitive a person. Pathologically sensitive, perhaps... hmm, I don't know. My human "shock absorbers" wore out a long time ago, so every bump goes right to the spine. And even in the best of times the road is really bumpy.

Lately, it's been like driving right through the middle of a war.

Maybe it's just my pride. I don't want to "lose control." It's humiliating. It exposes the hypocrisy of all my efforts to impress people, to pass myself off as a "deep person," and to hide all the failures and the utter mediocrity of my character.

Of course, there's also a little bit of common sense, and more (I hope) of a sense of responsibility to the small group of human beings in this world who have been entrusted to me in some concrete, consistent way (wife, parents, kids, brother, a few friends, and that mysterious "neighbor" who always turns up all over the place every day, whom I'm commanded to love).

I feel like I need to stay in control!

Or, rather, I feel like I need at least the illusion of "control" to keep from panicking. I have experienced the chaos of life inside my own head when it's out of control. I can't imagine going back to that kind of chaos.

I don't think that's going to happen again. I pray it doesn't happen again.

But right now, too much is crashing into me from too many places. I can't "handle it," at least not in the conventional sense that one is expected to handle things.

I also can't stop it from coming and continuing to pile on. But that may not be so bad after all. I'm being pushed (again) to "lose control" in the sense of letting go of my expectation that I can control reality—that I possess within myself the power to determine and measure the meaning of my own life.

But if I "lose control," who will take over in my place?

If I don't control the meaning of my life, then who does? Other people? Is the value of my life determined by those who "take control," those who manipulate minds with ideologies, those who have power in this world? This is an existential problem, which means it's a question that really punches me in the guts, and not just me.

This is one of the reasons why people are afraid to admit their vulnerability even to themselves, much less reveal it to others. If we are vulnerable, if we are weak, how can we protect ourselves from being defined (and perhaps used and discarded) by those who grasp hold of power?

I don't know if we can protect ourselves, ultimately, from being misused and humiliated by those who boast of their power and want to do violence to us. But we have to try to remember that—however overwhelming it may be—our vulnerability does not define us either. And no ideology or clique or group or anyone can take it upon themselves to be the measure of the meaning and dignity of a human person. The powers of this world have their limits, and therefore oppression has its limits.

For "the Lord hears the cry of the poor..."

God defines and controls the meaning of my life. He doesn't manipulate me. He is not some great and distant super-power, like the mafia boss of the universe, imposing a scheme on me that is alien to myself.

God is my Creator; He is the guarantor of my inviolable dignity, even when I am absolutely helpless.
God is Love. He has come to share my life, to share my weakness, to bear the afflictions that others impose on me (and even the ones that I impose on myself!).

"Losing control" means learning to trust more fully that Jesus Christ is "in control." When I say, "Jesus, I trust in you," I say it as a prayer. And sometimes it's a dark difficult prayer—a prayer that in a certain sense says, "Jesus I am afraid. I do not know how to trust. Give me the grace to trust in you."

It is after all grace, the gift of God's love, that saves, heals, and transforms our lives beyond our own power or anything else in this world.

Jesus really is in control, and He gives meaning to my life. He is greater than my pride and all my sins. He is with me and working within me even in my neuropathology, obsessions, oversensitivity, weakness, sickness, whatever. He is here, Jesus Himself.

Jesus is my hope. This is true even when the bombs are blowing up everywhere and my nerves are stretched beyond breaking and I don't feel His presence or even reflect on it because my mind is entirely taken up in the task of just trying to BREATHE....

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Crime and Punishment: "I am the Murderer!"

From the cover of a recent Russian edition.
Today I shall present and comment briefly upon two scenes from Dostoevsky's enduring masterpiece Crime and Punishment.

I am fascinated by a trio of characters (one of whom has only a minor role in the story) and how the drama of guilt, suffering, justice, and compassion plays out between them.

Personal guilt is a deep focus of the novel, but a peculiar and extreme character—Nikolay—enters in as one of the figures who represents (here in an exaggerated and unorthodox manner that is rich in poetic shock value) the sense of the universality of human sinfulness and the redeeming value of suffering. Other figures in the novel (e.g. Sonya) are more important for this theme, but Nikolay's short role has a crucial place in the story.

The scenario that connects these characters is difficult to sketch out for those who don't already know the book. Really, if anyone hasn't read this book yet, they should read it. Those who have read it should read it again.

Briefly, the police detective Porfiry Petrovitch is conducting a murder investigation which leads him into a battle of wits with the grim, idealistic proto-Nietzschean Γœbermensch-wannabe university student Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov.

Porfiry has a scheme to try to prompt Raskolnikov into some kind of "slip" that would reveal his involvement in the crime, and he is about to spring it when one of the house painters who was also at the murder scene, Nikolay, bursts into the room....

...............................................................................................................................

Nikolay suddenly knelt down.

“What’s the matter?” cried Porfiry, surprised.

“I am guilty! Mine is the sin! I am the murderer,” Nikolay articulated suddenly, rather breathless, but speaking fairly loudly.

For ten seconds there was silence as though all had been struck dumb; even the warder stepped back, mechanically retreated to the door, and stood immovable.

“What is it?” cried Porfiry Petrovitch, recovering from his momentary stupefaction.

“I… am the murderer,” repeated Nikolay, after a brief pause.

“What… you… what… whom did you kill?” Porfiry Petrovitch was obviously bewildered.

Nikolay again was silent for a moment.

“Alyona Ivanovna and her sister Lizaveta Ivanovna, I… killed… with an axe. Darkness came over me,” he added suddenly, and was again silent.
..................................................................................................................

Some time later on, Porfiry Petrovitch meets Raskolnikov for an "open conversation" in which he discloses his own conviction about what really happened that night, about why Nikolay was taking the blame for something he did not do, and about who actually killed the two old women with an axe and what his real motivations were. Porfiry has no proof for his explanation. But he believes that the real murderer still has a conscience....

...................................................................................................................
Porfiry is speaking: “Do you know, Rodion Romanovitch, the force of the word ‘suffering’ among some of these people! It’s not a question of suffering for someone’s benefit, but simply, ‘one must suffer.’ If they suffer at the hands of the authorities, so much the better.

"In my time there was a very meek and mild prisoner who spent a whole year in prison always reading his Bible on the stove at night and he read himself crazy, and so crazy, do you know, that one day, apropos of nothing, he seized a brick and flung it at the governor; though he had done him no harm. And the way he threw it too: aimed it a yard on one side on purpose, for fear of hurting him. Well, we know what happens to a prisoner who assaults an officer with a weapon. So 'he took his suffering.'

"So I suspect now that Nikolay wants to take his suffering or something of the sort. I know it for certain from facts, indeed. Only he doesn’t know that I know. What, you don’t admit that there are such fantastic people among the peasants? Lots of them....

[Porfiry Petrovitch goes on to articulate all the holes and contradictions in Nikolay's strange fabricated 'confession,' showing clearly that the house painter couldn't have been the murderer. Rather, Nikolay was a religious enthusiast who wanted to 'take his suffering.']

"No, Rodion Romanovitch, Nikolay doesn’t come in! This is a fantastic, gloomy business, a modern case, an incident of today when the heart of man is troubled, when the phrase is quoted that blood 'renews,' when comfort is preached as the aim of life. Here we have bookish dreams, a heart unhinged by theories.


"Here we see resolution in the first stage, but resolution of a special kind: he resolved to do it like jumping over a precipice or from a bell tower and his legs shook as he went to the crime. He forgot to shut the door after him, and murdered two people for a theory. He committed the murder and couldn’t take the money, and what he did manage to snatch up he hid under a stone.

"It wasn’t enough for him to suffer agony behind the door while they battered at the door and rung the bell, no, he had to go to the empty lodging, half delirious, to recall the bell-ringing, he wanted to feel the cold shiver over again…. Well, that we grant, was through illness, but consider this: he is a murderer, but looks upon himself as an honest man, despises others, poses as injured innocence. No, that’s not the work of a Nikolay, my dear Rodion Romanovitch!"

All that had been said before had sounded so like a recantation that these words were too great a shock. Raskolnikov shuddered as though he had been stabbed.

"Then… who then… is the murderer?" he asked in a breathless voice, unable to restrain himself.

Porfiry Petrovitch sank back in his chair, as though he were amazed at the question.

"Who is the murderer?" he repeated, as though unable to believe his ears. "Why, you, Rodion Romanovitch! You are the murderer," he added, almost in a whisper, in a voice of genuine conviction.

Raskolnikov leapt from the sofa, stood up for a few seconds and sat down again without uttering a word. His face twitched convulsively.

"Your lip is twitching just as it did before," Porfiry Petrovitch observed almost sympathetically. "You’ve been misunderstanding me, I think, Rodion Romanovitch," he added after a brief pause, "that’s why you are so surprised. I came on purpose to tell you everything and deal openly with you."

"It was not I murdered her," Raskolnikov whispered like a frightened child caught in the act.

"No, it was you, you Rodion Romanovitch, and no one else," Porfiry whispered sternly, with conviction.


................................................................................................................


I have read Crime and Punishment many times (more than I can count). The first time I read it was my Senior year of High School. I was 18 years old and going through my own crisis of growing up and faith and pride and (I now realize) mental illness. It left me with a vivid impression, one that seems exaggerated and strange and extreme, certainly, but which was not entirely lacking in truth, at least in the sense that poetry can communicate something of the great and awful mystery of things.

All I can say is that when I finished the book, I said to myself, "I am the murderer!"

I could not escape the powerful impression that I had just looked into a mirror and had seen my own sins, my own guilt, my own inescapable need for "all of it" to come out into the open, and for me to embark upon a path of humility, conversion, and penance.

"I am guilty! Mine is the sin! I am the murderer!"

But along with this dreadful impression, there was something else that struck me, something that was more powerful even though it felt more remote at the time: the possibility of forgiveness. Hope.

For I knew that I would not be making this journey alone.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Turn and Be Converted From All Your Crimes


"Turn and be converted from all your crimes,
that they may be no cause of guilt for you.
Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed,
and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.
Why should you die, O house of Israel?
For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,
says the Lord God. Return and live!"

(Ezekiel 18:30-32).

The Lord says:
"Whom did you dread and fear,
that you told lies,
And me you did not remember
nor take to heart?
Am I to keep silent and conceal,
while you show no fear of me?

I will proclaim your justice
and your works;
but they shall not help you.

When you cry out,
let your collection of idols save you.
All these the wind shall carry off,
a mere breath shall bear them away;
But whoever takes refuge in me shall inherit the land,
and possess my holy mountain.

For thus says the high and lofty One,
the One who dwells forever, whose name is holy:
I dwell in a high and holy place,
but also with the contrite and lowly of spirit,
To revive the spirit of the lowly,
to revive the heart of the crushed"

(Isaiah 57:11-13, 15).

"A clean heart create for me, O God;
and a steadfast spirit renew within me"
(Psalm 51:12).

Thursday, August 16, 2018

"Remember..." by JJ

What do I have here? Another poem? Something like that, I suppose.
I might be putting together lyrics for a song.

If anyone has any ideas about music for it, let me know.

[Text and design (c) 2018 by John Janaro, all rights reserved.]

"Remember..." by John Janaro


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Church Today: Is There Anyone We Can Trust?

Today has been a difficult day for many Catholic Christians in the USA. Above all it is difficult for those who have been reminded by yesterday's Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report of the sexual abuse and related sufferings they have endured at the hands of members of the Church's clergy and hierarchy.

The horror of it is staggering, unimaginable. The victims deserve justice. And they desperately need healing.

And we are all reminded once again that the treasure of Christ is held (as it always has been) in immensely fragile earthen vessels. Some remolding and purification can be sought through penance, humility, and prayer—not merely as appropriate external postures but above all as the expression of profound contrition (sorrow) that entails genuine conversion of hearts, an appropriate and concrete assumption of responsibility, and a real reparation for sin and its destructiveness. Thus we may hope that the dioceses that make up the Catholic Church in the USA can be shaped by God's infinite mercy into more faithful and trustworthy ecclesial realities.

But so many of us may find ourselves tempted by an oppressive anxiety that wants to draw us away from our hope in Jesus Christ, and to focus on ourselves and our own preoccupations. After all, who can we trust in the Church? Who will keep us focused on Him, and lead us to Him through this Church made up of people who are at least as sinful, ignorant, and cowardly as we are?

There are many doctrinal and theological ways to address these questions, but one approach has a unique personal richness. Indeed, it's interesting that these anxious questions about trust are relevant precisely to the person in the Church and the event of history that we celebrate today. Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother, has been drawn up, "assumed" in her entire spiritual and bodily reality, into the Kingdom, the resurrected life, the beginning of the New Creation.

Mary, "Immaculate," without sin from the beginning. Mary, "Panagia," the All-Holy one. Mary, living in the fullness of glory, soul and body, with Jesus and entirely dependent on Him, and with the Church, in all the intimacy of her person as Virgin Mother of God.

And through the total embrace of her motherhood she is also present with each one of us, in the Church and beyond the Church—present with every human person.

Mary is really and truly our Mother.

We can too easily "forget" about Mary. Thank God, she is such a good mother that she never forgets about us. Her heart has an immense supernatural ardor for us, and immense wisdom to impart to us. And she has been gifted with the particular secret of who each of us is called to be.

It's very important, in these troubled times, for all of us to know that alongside Jesus there is one person in the Church who will never fail us.  It's especially important for those who have been wounded deeply by men entrusted with the ministry of the Gospel.

Mary is a real, living, glorified person, and—just as she was entirely free from the distortion of sin in her historical life—so also (and even more) her perfection is total, radical, and complete in her glorified life. She loves us and she is absolutely reliable, trustworthy, and mysteriously (but really) close to each one of us. We have all been entrusted to her care, and she will never let us down.

We need to draw closer to her. She brings Jesus and us together in all the impenetrable details of life. God was born of a woman, and then He gave that woman to us. She is our Mother.

Say it: "Mary is our mother. Mary is my mother. I am loved."

She is a good mother. Let's all just go to her and be children. Let's go to her especially with whatever wounds we have. Mary sees all our wounds inside the wounds of her Son (which doesn't take away from the fact that they are truly "our" wounds, our crippled emotions, our anxiety, our questions, our sufferings).

When all we see and feel around us are walls pressing in and our minds are spiraling down a bottomless hole, we can always cry out to her, cry the incomprehensible pain, cry from our hunger and need, cry like little babies.

She hears us.

Of course, Jesus never abandons us. Mary's love is entirely engendered by the supernatural sanctifying gift of Him who alone is Lord of the cosmos and history. Mary's motherhood is the fruit of Jesus's love—for her and for each of us.

Jesus accompanies us with Mary and through Mary, so that her maternal tenderness can reach us even in the darkest places. Mary's motherhood, with its special quality that makes human space for the nurturing of every person in his or her uniqueness, finds us as orphans and makes us anew as brothers and sisters of Jesus.

Everything begins with Mary: reform in the Church, reform of our hearts, conversion, reparation, forgiveness, healing, freedom from addictions, freedom from the endless spiral of sexual abuse and all forms of violence, freedom from sin, freedom to be persons living in communion with God and with one another. Everything begins with Mary! She is that "lowly servant" of the Lord who always says "yes" to Him. She proclaims Him as the One who "lifts up the poor" and "fills the hungry with good things."

The poor and the hungry have always sought her. We too, in the technologically sophisticated, materially rich American church of 2018, must acknowledge that we are desperately poor and hungry. We must recognize that we are her children, and we must cry out to her in our need.

For many centuries, this cry has taken an especially efficacious form as a prayer inspired by the Gospel of Luke. We need to learn how to say these words anew with childlike trust and boundless hope:

Hail Mary, full of grace.
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women.
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us, sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.

When we are lost, hurt, alone, violated, betrayed, ignored, or trapped in some other impossible way, Mary takes us in her arms—arms that we can trust—and carries us. She doesn't necessarily "solve" all the complicated aspects of our problems (not right away, at least).

But she carries us and cares for us with a gentle, attentive, strong solicitude. She loves us in our brokenness, wherever we are, and she takes us into her healing ways, her measure of time, and her patience.

She will teach us how to walk and how to grow strong with the strength that comes from knowing that we are loved, and that we do not need to be afraid.

Mary, merciful and loving Mother, help us!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

For Maximilian Kolbe: An Old Poem By a Young Man

This is a poem I wrote nearly 30 years ago, to commemorate the great love of Saint Maximilian Kolbe. He offered his own life in exchange for another prisoner in a reprisal execution in Auschwitz, and died in the "starvation bunker" on August 14, 1941.

August 14th
I am the guardian
unworthy
of the flesh and blood that I command.
I stand
extended
from world's edge to windowless walls,
the quarry-block place markers 
around my becoming-all-things.
I am a mother's graceful, sweet breath
dissolving
like fine, penetrating mist
against your broken, burned skin.
I am the witness
stepping out of place
away
beyond the trembling assembly 
of bony finger-clutched this-moment,
toward the timeless returning unto dust of you
and you
and you.
Forward!
step forward...
                           ...out of place
for I am
your sacrifice.


—August 14, 1989

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Things That Are 'Brewing'

As my wild partying Summer continues, Eileen and I got over to the (relatively) new Front Royal Brewery on Main Street for a meal and some live music and—of course—some true local brew.πŸ˜‰πŸΊ
.
.
This is the Milk Stout, which has a nice distinctive flavor. If you're like me and want your Stouts to hammer your taste buds with that precise booyah! flavor that "most-people-DON'T-LIKE," you might miss the delightful subtleties of this smooth but distinguished beer. Give it a chance!🎡🍻

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Hey Y'all, August is Still Summer!



Here's my annual "Rant"—which is comic really, because I know this is just the way it is, and we've been doing it every year, and I also did this routine for years as a teacher, so...πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‰

πŸŒ…...BUT STILL, it's 90-sumthin degrees in the early part ofπŸ’§πŸ’₯LANGUID DOG-DAY AUGUSTπŸ’₯πŸ’§and we're all running here and there getting ready for... SCHOOL?πŸπŸ“š✏

Seriously??😨
"Dear America, this is just... strange. Shorten the school year, or something. It's still Summer.πŸ„⛳πŸŠπŸ’€Is there anybody (students, teachers, admins, bureaucrats) who WOULD NOT WANT more vacation?🌻There's got to be a better way!"
Can't we all just take August off and go to the beach?🌴😎 #InMyDreams

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Abyss of These Days

        Silhouette of Christina Grimmie (1994-2016). Still frame from video for Stay With Me.

The Abyss of These Days

Another of these days has come.
Regular like moons they come
to mark the margin at the edge
where time plunges into a sudden gaping abyss.
It is the end, the unknown;
the implacable, all-consuming fire;
or something else,
beyond the abyss of these days.

All around me are sights and sounds,
glowing icons of life. They hold
eyes, breath, hanging hair,
swift fingers, a voice
all gathered to intense focus
by agile awareness of mind and heart, as if
a new world is about to be created.

All held in glowing visions.
Are they dreams or beginnings?

When these marked days dawn,
my ears awaken to ringing bells.
Such song as I have never known,
as though I could fly and soar on the drafts of its resonant air.

But then, a swift thunder cracks the whole sky open,
and in the oxygen-abandoned atmosphere a silence falls.
It carries me down,
and buries me in its dark soil...
a silence full of memory.
An aching silence of waiting.

And I am made deaf by stark silence boring holes through my head.
I am losing my mind in these days, these centuries,
these aeons of waiting in cold black earth without a sound.

These days are so long that I forget what I am waiting for.

But your face...I remember your face, your singular face.
I cannot forget the face that made me feel the shape of my own soul.
That face stirs a sweet fierce pain inside me,
a force deeper in me than my own life
that squeezes my heart inside my chest.

And I remember that I am only fragments of myself
waiting to be put together,
waiting for eyes that can see your face,
waiting to dance and sing in the bright fires
beyond the abyss of these days.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Edith Stein and the "Here-and-Now" of Salvation

On August 9 we remember Edith Stein, twentieth century philosopher who journeyed from her Jewish roots through atheism to the encounter with Jesus Christ in His Church that proved decisive for her life.

In the Carmelite monastery, as Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, she became a theologian, a mystic, and above all a great lover of God.

In Auschwitz, on August 9, 1942, she became a martyr out of love for Jesus and in solidarity with her own people, and His.


For all her extraordinary heroism, Edith Stein knew that the fundamental transformation and renewal of life in Jesus Christ is a mystery inserted into our ordinary daily lives:


Sunday, August 5, 2018

Dolores O'Riordan and the Pope: A Striking Moment

Various YouTube channels devoted to The Cranberries have uploaded some fascinating and often previously unknown videos in recent months, as an ongoing tribute to Dolores O'Riordan, the late lead singer of the famous Irish music group who died at the beginning of this year.

I just watched a short clip of Dolores and her family meeting Pope John Paul II (from JPII's condition, I'd estimate this took place in the early 2000s). The video looks like it was originally broadcast on Irish television news. The picture above on the left is a screenshot I took from the video—a "still image" that vividly portrays the very brief but striking moment when they were face to face.

The glance they shared is scarcely noticeable in the continuous stream of the video. But as I see it here in the "paused half-second" of a picture, it moves me to pray more ardently for the eternal rest of her poor soul.

Dear Dolores! Whatever brought your troubled life to an end, I hope that in those last moments you remembered the love of the God who knows all your suffering, weakness, failures, mental disorders, addictions, whatever difficulty. I hope you found peace in the forgiving embrace of that Love.

The video, only 30 seconds long, can be found here: VIDEO

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Firm Foundation of Every Thing

The Collect prayer for the current liturgical week is especially rich.

It is an abundant source for meditation on our life in this world and its relation to the One who has made us for Himself.

The good things of this world pass away. They cannot fulfill us if we try to possess them and dominate them by our own power. But we can "use" these good things rightly as signs of the wisdom and love of God, as gifts from God that lead us to Him.

Every taste of goodness, every authentic value, every beauty has its source in Him and finds its enduring fulfillment in Him. Without Him nothing has firm foundation, and only in relation to Him do things communicate their real meaning. The truth of all things reminds us of our destiny.

O God, protector of those who hope in you,
without whom nothing has firm foundation,

nothing is holy,
bestow in abundance your mercy upon us
and grant that, with you as our ruler and guide,
we may use the good things that pass
in such a way as to hold fast even now
to those that ever endure.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Path of Conversion and Healing

The life of faith is a struggle, an ongoing task, an experience of learning to love in a true, Christian way.

It grows from a renewed encounter with Christ into a fuller and more thorough conversion away from the tendency of selfishness and toward the cultivated dispositions of sincere self-giving.

The Holy Spirit works within us to heal us (each according to our own history, circumstances, and unique personal vocation), to free us from ways of "loving" that are stunted by the ambivalence of our wounded humanity, by our selfish tendency to reduce other persons to mere "things," by our craving to amplify and impose on reality our distorted perceptions of self and others.

The Christian life is a path of conversion from an egocentric posture to an ever deepening habit of authentic charity--an attitude of mind and heart that truly loves God as He is in Himself, and that truly loves other persons for who they are in themselves, i.e. children of God and brothers and sisters redeemed by Jesus and called to share in His inheritance.

Our Christian vocation takes concrete shape in the Lord's call of love, addressed to us each day, which draws us into communion with Him in silence and prayer, in adoration, thanksgiving, and hope in His mercy. The same call of love permeates all aspects of our lives and human relationships: in our families, in work and social environments, in various responsibilities, in the joys of life, in play, in the beauty of things.

God shapes our lives in such a way as to draw us along the path of loving Him and loving others. Our sufferings, too, are permitted and find their "place" within this particular plan of healing and transforming love that our Father has for each of us as unique persons, embraced in His infinite wisdom.

In answering the call of the vocation to charity, we must have great trust in Jesus our Savior, for without Him we can do nothing. But He is with us, working in our lives and teaching us through His Spirit how to grow in genuine self-giving love.

We must not become discouraged by the apparent persistence of our imperfections, selfish tendencies, and fragility, but continue to work toward cooperating with God's grace and moving forward on the path of love that He opens in front of us.