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Archives for March 2007

St. John Climacus

(525-605 A.D.) From his life, written by Daniel, a monk of Raithu, soon after his death, and from his own works. See Bulteau, Hist. Monast. d’Orient, and d’Andilly, or rather his nephew, Le Maitre, in his life prefixed to the French translation of his works. See also Jos. Assemani, in Cal. Univ. ad 30 Martii, t. vi. p. 213.

St John, generally distinguished by the appellation of Climacus, from his excellent book entitled Climax, or the Ladder to Perfection, was born about the year 525, probably in Palestine. By his extraordinary progress in the arts and sciences he obtained very young the surname of the Scholastic. But at sixteen years of age he renounced all the advantages which the world promised him to dedicate himself to God in a religious state, in 547. He retired to Mount Sinai, which, from the time of the disciples of St. Anthony and St. Hilarion, had been always peopled by holy men, who, in imitation of Moses, when he received the law on that mountain, lived in the perpetual contemplation of heavenly things. Our novice, fearing the danger of dissipation and relaxation to which numerous communities are generally more exposed than others, chose not to live in the great monastery on the summit, but in an hermitage on the descent of the mountain, under the discipline of Martyrius, an holy ancient anchoret. By silence he curbed the insolent itch of talking about everything, an ordinary vice in learned men, but usually a mark of pride and self-sufficiency. By perfect humility and obedience he banished the dangerous desire of self-complacency in his actions. He never contradicted, never disputed with anyone. So perfect was his submission that he seemed to have no self-will. He undertook to sail through the deep sea of this mortal life securely, under the direction of a prudent guide, and shunned those rocks which he could not have escaped, had he presumed to steer alone, as he tells us.1 From the visible mountain he raised his heart, without interruption, in all his actions, to God, who is invisible; and, attentive to all the motions of his grace, studied only to do his will. Four years he spent in the trial of his own strength, and in learning the obligations of his state, before he made his religious profession, which was in the twentieth year of his age. In his writings he severely condemns engagements made by persons too young, or before a sufficient probation. By fervent prayer and fasting he prepared himself for the solemn consecration of himself to God, that the most intense fervour might make his holocaust the more perfect; and from that moment he seemed to be renewed in spirit; and his master admired the strides with which, like a mighty giant, the young disciple advanced daily more and more towards God, by self-denial, obedience, humility, and the uninterrupted exercises of divine love and prayer.

In the year 560, and the thirty-fifth of his age, he lost Martyrius by death; having then spent nineteen years in that place in penance and holy contemplation. By the advice of a prudent director, he then embraced an eremitical life in a plain called Thole, near the foot of Mount Sinai. His cell was five miles from the church, probably the same which had been built a little before, by order of the Emperor Justinian, for the use of the monks at the bottom of this mountain, in honour of the Blessed Virgin, as Procopius mentions.2 Thither he went every Saturday and Sunday to assist, with all the other anchorets and monks of that desert, at the holy office and at the celebration of the divine mysteries, when they all communicated. His diet was very sparing, though, to shun ostentation and the danger of vainglory, he ate of everything that was allowed among the monks of Egypt, who universally abstained from flesh, fish, &c. Prayer was his principal employment; and he practiced what he earnestly recommends to all Christians, that in all their actions, thoughts, and words they should keep themselves with great fervour in the presence of God, and direct all they do to his holy will.3 By habitual contemplation he acquired an extraordinary purity of heart, and such a facility of lovingly beholding God in all his works that this practice seemed in him a second nature. Thus he accompanied his studies with perpetual prayer. He assiduously read the holy scriptures and fathers, and was one of the most learned doctors of the church. But, to preserve the treasure of humility, he concealed, as much as possible, both his natural and acquired talents, and the extraordinary graces with which the Holy Ghost enriched his soul. By this secrecy he fled from the danger of vainglory, which, like a leech, sticks to our best actions and, sucking from them its nourishment, robs us of their fruit. As if this cell had not been sufficiently remote from the eyes of men, St. John frequently retired into a neighbouring cavern which he had made in the rock, where no one could come to disturb his devotions or interrupt his tears. So ardent were his charity and compunction, that his eyes seemed two fountains, which scarce ever ceased to flow; and his continual sighs and groans to heaven, under the weight of the miseries inseparable from his moral pilgrimage, were not to be equaled by the vehemency of the cries of those who suffer from knives and fire. Overcome by importunities, he admitted a holy anchoret named Moyses to live with him as his disciple.

God bestowed on St. John an extraordinary grace of healing the spiritual disorders of souls. Among others, a monk called Isaac was brought almost to the brink of despair by most violent temptations of the flesh. He addressed himself to St. John, who perceived by his tears how much he underwent from that conflict and struggle which he felt within himself. The servant of God commended his faith, and said, “My son, let us have recourse to God by prayer.” They accordingly prostrated themselves together on the ground in fervent supplication for a deliverance, and from that time the infernal serpent left Isaac in peace. Many others resorted to St. John for spiritual advice; but the devil excited some to jealousy, who censured him as one who, out of vanity, lost much time in unprofitable discourse. The saint took this accusation, which was a mere calumny, in good part, and as a charitable admonition; he therefore imposed on himself a rigorous silence for near a twelvemonth. This, his humility and modesty, so much astonished his calumniators that they joined the rest of the monks in beseeching him to reassume his former function of giving charitable advice to all that resorted to him for it, and not to bury that talent of science which he had received for the benefit of many. He who knew not what it was to contradict others, with the same humility and deference again opened his mouth to instruct his neighbour in the rules of perfect virtue, in which office, such was the reputation of his wisdom and experience, that he was regarded as another Moses in that holy place.

St. John was now seventy-five years old, and had spent forty of them in his hermitage, when, in the year 600, he was unanimously chosen Abbot of Mount Sinai, and superior-general of all the monks and hermits in that country. Soon after he was raised to this dignity, the people of Palestine and Arabia, in the time of a great drought and famine, made their application to him as to another Elias, begging him to intercede with God in their behalf. The saint failed not, with great earnestness, to recommend their distress to the Father of mercies, and his prayer was immediately recompensed with abundant rains. St. Gregory the Great, who then sat in St. Peter’s chair, wrote to our holy abbot,4 recommending himself to his prayers, and sent him beds, with other furniture and money, for his hospital, for the use of pilgrims near Mount Sinai. John, who had used his utmost endeavours to decline the pastoral charge when he saw it laid upon him, neglected no means which might promote the sanctification of all those who were entrusted to his care. That posterity might receive some share in the benefit of his holy instructions, John, the learned and virtuous Abbot of Raithu, a monastery situate towards the Red Sea, entreated him by that obedience he had ever practiced, even with regard to his inferiors, that he would draw up the most necessary rules by which fervent souls might arrive at Christian perfection. The saint answered him that nothing but extreme humility could have moved him to write to so miserable a sinner, destitute of every sort of virtue; but that he received his commands with respect, though far above his strength, never considering his own insufficiency. Wherefore, apprehensive of falling into death by disobedience, he took up his pen in haste, with great eagerness mixed with fear, and set himself to draw some imperfect outlines, as an unskillful painter, leaving them to receive from him, as a great master, the finishing strokes. This produced the excellent work which he called “Climax; or, the Ladder of religious Perfection.” This book, being written in sentences, almost in the manner of aphorisms, abounds more in sense than words. A certain majestic simplicity- an inexpressible unction and spirit of humility, joined with conciseness and perspicuity-very much enhance the value of this performance; but its chief merit consists in the sublime sentiments and perfect description of all Christian virtues which it contains. The author confirms his precepts by several edifying examples, as of obedience and penance.5 In describing a monastery of three hundred and thirty monks which he had visited near Alexandria, in Egypt, he mentions one of the principal citizens of that city, named Isidore, who, petitioning to be admitted into the house, said to the abbot, “As iron is in the hands of the smith, so am I in your hands.” The abbot ordered him to remain without the gate, and to prostrate himself at the feet of everyone that passed by, begging their prayers for his soul struck with a leprosy. Thus he passed seven years in profound humility and patience. He told St. John that, during the first year, he always considered himself as a slave condemned for his sins, and sustained violent conflicts; the second year he passed in tranquillity and confidence; and the third with relish and pleasure in his humiliations. So great was his virtue that the abbot determined to present him to the bishop in order to be promoted to the priesthood, but the humility of the holy penitent prevented the execution of that design; for, having begged at least a respite, he died within ten days. St. John could not help admiring the cook of this numerous community, who seemed always recollected, and generally bathed in tears amidst his continual occupation, and asked him by what means he nourished so perfect a spirit of compunction, in the midst of such a dissipating laborious employment. He said that serving the monks, he represented to himself that he was serving not men, but God in his servants; and that the fire he always had before his eyes reminded him of that fire which will burn souls for all eternity. The moving description which our author gives of the monastery of penitents called the Prison, above a mile from the former, hath been already abridged in our language. John the Sabaite told our saint, as of a third person, that seeing himself respected in his monastery, he considered that this was not the way to satisfy for his sins; wherefore, with the leave of his abbot, he repaired to a severe monastery in Pontus, and after three years saw in a dream a schedule of his debts, to the amount in appearance of one hundred pounds of gold, of which only ten were cancelled. He therefore repeated often to himself, “Poor Antiochus, thou hast still a great debt to satisfy.” After passing other thirteen years in contempt and the most fervent practices of penance, he deserved to see in a vision his whole debt blotted out. Another monk, in a grievous fit of illness, fell into a trance, in which he lay as if he had been dead for the space of an hour; but, recovering, he shut himself up in a cell, and lived a recluse twelve years, almost continually weeping, in the perpetual meditation of death. When he was near death, his brethren could only extort from him these words of edification, “He who hath death always before his eyes will never sin.” John, Abbot of Raithu, explained this book of our saint by judicious comments, which are also extant. We have likewise a letter of St. John Climacus to the same person concerning the duties of a pastor, in which he exhorts him in correcting others to temper severity with mildness, and encourages him zealously to fulfil the obligations of his charge; for nothing is greater or more acceptable to God than to offer him the sacrifice of rational souls sanctified by penance and charity.

St. John sighed continually under the weight of his dignity during the four years that he governed the monks of Mount Sinai; and as he had taken upon him that burden with fear and reluctance, he with joy found means to resign the same a little before his death. Heavenly contemplation, and the continual exercise of divine love and praise, were his delight and comfort in his earthly pilgrimage: and in this imitation of the functions of the blessed spirits in heaven he placeth the essence of the monastic state.6 In his excellent maxims concerning the gift of holy tears, the fruit of charity,7 we seem to behold a lively portraiture of his most pure soul. He died in his hermitage on the 30th day of March, in 605, being fourscore years old. His spiritual son, George, who had succeeded him in the abbacy, earnestly begged of God that he might not be separated from his dear master and guide; and followed him by a happy death within a few days. On several Greek commentaries on St. John Climacus’s ladder, see Montfaucon, Biblioth. Coisliana, pp. 305, 306.

St. John Climacus, speaking of the excellence and the effects of charity, does it with a feeling and energy worthy of such a subject: “A mother,” says he,8 “feels less pleasure when she folds within her arms the dear infant whom she nourishes with her own milk than the true child of charity does when united as he incessantly is, to his God, and folded as it were in the arms of his heavenly Father.9—Charity operates in some persons so as to carry them almost entirely out of themselves. It illuminates others, and fills them with such sentiments of joy, that they cannot help crying out: The Lord is my helper and my protector: in him hath my heart confided, and I have been helped And my flesh hath flourished again, and with my will I will give praise to him.10 This joy which they feel in their hearts, is reflected on their countenances; and when once God has united, or, as we may say, incorporated them with his charity, he displays in their exterior, as in the reflection of a mirror, the brightness and serenity of their souls: even as Moses, being honored with a sight of God, was encompassed round by his glory.” St. John Climacus composed the following prayer to obtain the gift of charity: “My God, I pretend to nothing upon this earth, except to be so firmly united to you by prayer that to be separated from you may be impossible; let others desire riches and glory; for my part, I desire but one thing, and that is, to be inseparably united to you, and to place in you alone all my hopes of happiness and repose.” (Taken from Vol. III of “The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints” by the Rev. Alban Butler, the 1864 edition published by D. & J. Sadlier, & Company)

courtesy of EWTN

The Usual Suspects

Two By W.B. Yeats

Crazy Jane on God

That lover of a night
Came when he would,
Went in the dawning light
Whether I would or no;
Men come, men go:
All things remain in God.

Banners choke the sky;
Men-at-arms tread;
Armoured horses neigh
In the narrow pass:
All things remain in God.

Before their eyes a house
That from childhood stood
Uninhabited, ruinous,
Suddenly lit up
From door to top:
All things remain in God.

I had wild Jack for a lover;
Though like a road men pass over
My body makes no moan
But sings on:
All things remain in God.

A Woman Young and Old

If I make the lashes dark
And the eyes more bright
And the lips more scarlet,
Or ask if all be right
From mirror after mirror,
No vanity’s displayed:
I’m looking for the face I had
Before the world was made.

What if I look upon a man
As though upon my beloved,
And my blood be cold the while
And my heart unmoved?
Why should he think me cruel
Or that he is betrayed?
I’d have him love the thing that was
Before the world was made.

Bono on Miracles and meitheal

“Fifty years ago this week, the idea of Europe was set to paper, on a continent unsettled but past the worst of the postwar period. The air was clear of sulfur if not spleen. Ireland was a small rock in the North Atlantic made relevant only by its cultural totems and ever increasing diaspora. In Berlin a chasm was opening up between East and West–the partition of lives, fortunes and fates. In the global struggle between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., between freedom and totalitarianism, Europe was the fault line and the front line. Old Europe was being rebuilt to fight the next war: a battle not just of ideologies but also, very possibly, of nuclear arsenals. It was not a moment for dreaming–more like one for digging a basement and ordering a year’s supply of tinned soup.

And yet this was the moment the New Europe was born.”

from Time magazine

Søren Says

When it is the duty to love the men we see, then one must first and foremost give up all fanciful and extravagant ideas about a dream world where the object of love is to be sought and found; that is, one must become sober, win actuality and truth by finding and continuing in the world of actuality as the task assigned to one.

~ Works of Love

From the YouTube Music Archives XXXIV: Vicious, Live in Paris

Okay, the deal is that I’ve got a $#i!^oa% of work to do and I just don’t want to do it. So at no extra cost to you, here is an entirely awesome video of ‘Vicious’, in which a wine and who-knows-what-else besotted Lou does a pretty decent imitation or maybe interpretation of Mick Jagger, except he’s better. It was originally on the album Transformer, which also had the awesomely incredible songs Satellite of Love (with another amateur music video, this one pretty worthless – well, maybe not, as I just watched a couple more seconds of it and these two girls get that free-spirited thing across pretty well) and the seminal Walk on the Wild Side. I’m not even sure what “seminal” means, but somehow it seems to fit. And if you haven’t bothered with the other homemade videos, this one really is a must-see-powerpoint-presentation of what seems to me to be a bunch of different New Yorkers caught in the act of being New Yorkers.

Vicious / You hit me with a flower / You do it every hour / Ohh, baby youre so vicious / Vicious / You want me to hit you with a stick / But all Ive gots a guitar pick / Huh… baby youre so vicious / When I watch you come / I just want to run far away / Youre not the kind of person / Around whom I want to stay / When I see you comin down the street / I step on your hands and I mangle your feet / Youre not the kind of person that I wanna meet / Oh, baby, youre so vicious / Vicious / You hit me with a flower / You do it every hour / Ohh, baby youre so vicious / Vicious / Hey, why dont you swallow razor blades / You must think Im some kinda gay blade / But baby, youre so vicious / When I watch you comin / I just have to run / Youre not good and you certainly arent very much fun / When I see you walkin down the street / I step on your hand and I mangle your feet / Youre not the kind of person that I even wanna meet / cause youre so vicious / Vicious / Vicious…

Satellites gone / Up to the skies / Thing like that drive me / Out of my mind / I watched it for a little while / I like to watch things on tv / Satellite of love / Satellite of love / Satellite of love / Satellite of / Satellites gone / Way up to mars / Soon it will be filled / With parking cars / I watch it for a little while / I love to watch things on tv / Satellite of love / Satellite of love / Satellite of love / Satellite of / Ive been told that youve been bold / With harry, mark and john / Monday, tuesday, wednesday to thursday / With harry, mark and john / Satellites gone / Up to the skies / Thing like that drive me / Out of my mind / I watched it for a little while / I love to watch things on tv / Satellite of love / Satellite of love / Satellite of love / Satellite of / Satellite of love / Satellite of love / Satellite of love / Satellite of love / Satellite of love / Satellite of love

Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo / Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo / Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo / Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo / (doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo) / (doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo) / (doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo) / (doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo) / (doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo) / (doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo) / (doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo) / (doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo) / (doo)

From the YouTube Music Archives XXXIII: I’ll Be Your Mirror

From that same, most influential record, this time with Nico singing instead of Lou. Best. Song. Ever. I also like this new genre of homespun music videos posted on YouTube, and this one is a particularly fine example. Basically, we’re watching some random video taken on the road by someone tripping through Chile. I just saved myself a couple thousand dollars by watching it is sort of the way I like to see it.

I’ll be your mirror / Reflect what you are, in case you dont know / I’ll be the wind, the rain and the sunset / The light on your door to show that youre home / When you think the night has seen your mind / That inside youre twisted and unkind / Let me stand to show that you are blind / Please put down your hands / cause I see you / I find it hard to believe you dont know / The beauty that you are / But if you dont let me be your eyes / A hand in your darkness, so you wont be afraid / When you think the night has seen your mind / That inside youre twisted and unkind / Let me stand to show that you are blind / Please put down your hands / cause I see you / I’ll be your mirror …

From the YouTube Music Archives XXXII: Sunday Morning

It may not be Sunday morning, but it’s still a great song. From “the most influential record of the late 20th century”, The Velvet Underground and Nico. Written by Lou Reed. And while he may not have been deaf, rumors persist that he was strung out on heroin when he composed the songs on this album. Rumors that are somewhat substantiated by the title of the most well known song on the album, “Heroin”.

Sunday morning, praise the dawning / I’ve got a restless feeling by my side / Early dawning, Sunday morning / It’s just the wasted years so close behind / Watch out, the world’s behind you / There’s always someone around you who will call / It’s nothing at all / Sunday morning and I’m falling / I’ve got a feeling I don’t want to know / Early dawning, Sunday morning / It’s all the streets you crossed, not so long ago / Watch out, the world’s behind you / There’s always someone around you who will call / It’s nothing at all / Sunday morning

Names!

http://korrektivpress.com/2007/03/760/

From the YouTube Music Archives XXXI: Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 16 in F major

Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 16 in F major (Opus 135) was written in 1826 and was the last substantial work he finished. Only the last movement of the Quartet Op. 130, written as a replacement for the Große Fuge, was written later. It was premiered by the Schuppanzigh Quartet in March 1828.

Under the introductory slow chords in the last movement Beethoven wrote in the manuscript “Muss es sein?” (Must it be?) to which he responds, with the faster main theme of the movement, “Es muss sein!” (It must be!). The whole movement is headed “Der schwer gefaßte Entschluß” (The Difficult Decision). ~ wikipedia

When listening to the last compositions of Beethoven, it’s always worth keeping in mind that he was stone deaf when he wrote them. Here is the entire work as performed by the Hagen Quartet:

1. Allegretto
2. Vivace
3. Lento assai, cantante e tranquillo
4. “Der schwer gefaßte Entschluß:” Grave — Allegro — Grave ma non troppo tratto — Allegro

St. Toribio Alfonso de Mogrovejo

Bishop and defender of the rights of the native Indians in Peru, Born in Mayorga, Spain, he studied law and became a lawyer and then professor at Salamanca, receiving appointment-despite being a layman-as chief judge of the court of Inquisition at Granada under King Philip II of Spain. The king subsequently appointed him in 1580 to the post of archbishop of Lima, Peru. After receiving ordination and then consecration, he arrived in Peru in 1581 and soon demonstrated a deep zeal to reform the archdiocese and a determination to do all in his power to aid the poor and defend the rights of the Indians who were then suffering severely under Spanish occupation. He founded schools, churches, hospitals, and the first seminary in the New World. To assist his pastoral work among the Indians, he also mastered several Indian dialects. He was canonized in 1726.
~ catholic.org

The real Big Dance.

http://korrektivpress.com/2007/03/754/

A fellow named Jared Bridges says: “Percy’s grasp of the internal observation is unparalleled. If you’ve never read him, you should.” And I say, Amen to that. And everyone at Korrektiv says: Amen!

http://korrektivpress.com/2007/03/752/

Someone named Daniel comments — pretty perceptively, I’d say — on Walker Percy’s The Message in the Bottle.

http://korrektivpress.com/2007/03/751/

In the Garden (Bob Dylan, 1980)

Many Happy Returns of the Day

Happy birthday to Tiffany and Mirjana and John!

Mass Report, Continued

A few weeks ago I reported on a surprise mystical mass-going experience I had recently had. I had an experience where it seemed to me the Holy Spirit was swirling around what I had previously tagged in my mental catalog of parishes as a den of heresy and post-postmodern mediocrity and spiritual dearth. The kind of place which is probably the norm these days and which the poor, longsuffering, half-assed-but-sensible Catholic with even a modicum of a formation in geometry and theology (to paraphrase Ignatius J. Reilly, the protagonist of A Confederacy of Dunces) suffers in order to participate in the glorious but obscured reality of Christ present there.

Having set out in a state of skepticism and doubt, I found when I arrived that the place was strangely alive to me. It wasn’t just a matter — as is so often the case — of suffering the obstacle course of readings from the less-than-wonderful NAB, a bad homily, and emasculated, watery hymns, in order to get to the glorious mystery of the Eucharist (like a drowning man grabbing hold of a life preserver, having fallen into a raw-sewage-infested sea; OK, I’m exaggerating here, but…). Something was different. The Holy Spirit, maybe, was brooding over the bent world of this little funnel-shaped parish and effecting a change. Or maybe it was the Holy Spirit smacking me — judgmental, half-assed, lazy sod of a bad Catholic — upside the head. In any case, Praise be to God.

Now three more weeks and three more Masses have transpired, and I continue the sequel of my Lenten reportage. (I haven’t gone yet today, which will be a fourth Mass, Laetare Sunday, assuming a brick doesn’t fall on my head and prevent me from going to the 5pm Chant Mass at the local Jesuit chapel, another den of heresy and idiocy being gradually reclaimed for truth and sanity.)

First Sunday of Lent: I went back to my supposed home parish. I’ve no recollection of the homily or the readings, but one thing the priest did tickled the funny-bone of my faith. At the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest recites the doxology — “Through Him, with Him, and in Him, etc.” — and the congregation replies: “Amen.” This is sometimes referred to as “the great Amen” but, this Sunday, ours was mumbled out in a fashion that was far from anything that could be called great (and, really, can you blame us?). The priest immediately fired back: “What?!” Wherein we gave it another shot. “Amen!” A little better.

Following the Mass, I shook hands with the priest and told him about my wife being laid up in the hospital with pregnancy complications. He recoiled a bit, as if he didn’t really want to know. And I thought back to when, about a year ago, she’d had a miscarriage, and I had told this same priest about it right at this same spot in front of the church after Mass one Sunday and he replied, “That’s private.” To give him credit, he did offer to pray for her. This time, he asked if there was anything he could do, I said, “Well, if you’re making the rounds at the hospital, you could drop in on her.” He had me write down her room number, which I did, and he said he would drop by on Tuesday. But he never showed. I can chalk this all up to human frailty. I’m not holding it against Fr. B_______ personally, but … well, yes, it contributes to my overall disappointment with the majority of Catholic clergy I’ve encountered in my 12 years as a Catholic. If I were a better Catholic I’d be praying constantly for an increase in the vitality and faith of these hard-pressed foot soldiers for the Lord, which I sometimes do, but more often I just look on with a feeling of bafflement and befuddlement. What went wrong? Let me reiterate, I’m not asking for something extraordinary of the priests in my life. But if they were plugged into the sacraments and the tradition (and isn’t it reasonable to expect them to be) then the extraordinary divine life will shine through their ordinariness. Maybe I’m deaf, dumb and blind, but I rarely see it. So, what went wrong?

Second Sunday of Lent: I returned to the funnel-shaped parish of my previous report, near the hospital where my pregnant wife lies bedridden. This time a different priest was there. The slightly twitchy priest (with the divine light shining through) was replaced by a short, stalky, old guy who reminded me of Andy Rooney. Fr. Rooney preached the homily in what struck me as a 1950s style of shallow smugness (Lord, forgive my uncharitableness, but that was my impression). The subject of his homily was the problem of “mountaintop experiences” and the need to come down from the mountain. A good third of the homily was taken up with a reading of “one of my favorite poems” which was supposed to illustrate a mountaintop experience. The poem was long, but here’s a sample:

The weed before me was dying or dead.
Not vibrant of colors, orange, yellow or red.
But I knew I must take it, or he might never leave.
So I reached for the flower, and replied, “Just what I need.”

But instead of him placing the flower in my hand,
He held it midair without reason or plan.
It was then that I noticed for the very first time
That weed-toting boy could not see: he was blind.

I heard my voice quiver, tears shone like the sun
As I thanked him for picking the very best one.
“You’re welcome,” he smiled, and then ran off to play,
Unaware of the impact he’d had on my day.

You can find the entire thing online, here. I (again uncharitably, but I can’t help it, Lord, have mercy!) reflected that maybe we should distinguish between a mountaintop experience and a Hallmark experience. When he lifted the Host and said, “through him, with him …” I sighed out in relief my perplexed Amen. Hallelujah, we made it.

Third Sunday of Lent: Abandoned the bedridden wife and traveled south with my daughter to visit the grandparents for the weekend. The priest at the Mass I attended this time was about 150 years old and reminded me of Darth Vader’s boss in The Empire Strikes Back. One foot in the grave. I seriously wondered if he was going to make it through the Mass. Nearly blind, he had memorized the gospel reading and gave it his own spin. In the parable of the fig tree, the tender of the tree proposed to the owner that he should “fiddle with it” for another season before giving up on it. I liked that. (“Holy Spirit, please fiddle with me until I’m right. Amen.”) The homily meandered around — landing briefly on the subject of how kids today are too readily diagnosed with ADHD, when what is really needed is a good rap on the knuckles like he used to get from the nuns when he was a kid — but returning periodically to the theme of how we need to pay attention to how we are eating and the importance of families dining together. I listened in rapt fascination, glancing up at the massive and quite striking crucifix and the wooden beams above my head and wondering.

From the YouTube Music Archives XXVIII: the Pogues

I’m too drunk to bother writing a bunch of blather to go along with the music here, so I’ll just go straight to a list of some of my favorite songs by the Pogues:The Irish Rover with the Dubliners; If I Should Fall from Grace with God; Fairytale Of New York; Fairytale of New York, live; I Fought the Law with Joe Strummer; Dirty Old Town, and my favorite, Pair of Brown Eyes in a video that was banned when it first came out in 1988.