Monday, October 31, 2005

I'm pretty surprised about this --

You are Psalms
You are Psalms.

Which book of the Bible are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

I'd have thought I'd be a James or something.
I think you'll enjoy this Christianity Today interview with Douglas Gresham, stepson of C.S. Lewis.

The Music of Angels

Saturday, October 29, 2005. Sacred Heart Cathedral, Raleigh, North Carolina.

I attended the Vigil Mass at the Cathedral, my first time there. Msgr. Hadden was the celebrant, and he actually sang portions of the Mass in a lovely tenor voice -- wish he'd sung the whole thing. But the congregational music, the psalm, hymns, responses, were badly overseen by a Romantic-style piano-player who doesn't understand chant and who took everything at a sleepy tempo. In addition, there was the ubiquitous dreaded Haugen-Haas presence that I find not only distracting but downright profane.

Two hours later, those same walls echoed with the glorious music of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina -- music fit for the angels -- as the NC Master Chorale Chamber Choir performed a selection of sacred works in the Cathedral.

The program began with the exquisite Missa Papae Marcelli (Pope Marcellus Mass), followed by Henryk Gorecki's "Totus Tuus," and a very modern but surprisingly gorgeous setting of three poems of e.e. cummings by Eric Whitacre.

I sat near the piano, in the present-day choir section (the lovely choir loft being nearly abandoned) and gazed across the Sanctuary to the Tabernacle where the Lord in the Eucharist lay reposed: "You have to suffer so much ugliness from week to week... isn't it lovely You can be celebrated with such music here tonight?"

I like to think He was very pleased indeed.

Friday, October 28, 2005

From the "Uh-huh, and What Did I Tell You?" Files

Exxon has reported record earnings for the third quarter of this year.

Well, DUH! Our gas prices have doubled in recent months and show no signs whatsoever of returning to a reasonable rate in the foreseeable future. My little economy car is now costing me the whopping sum of $40 per week to operate, with my two requisite trips to Raleigh; formerly I could do two trips and a little local driving on $25.

They've got us over the proverbial barrel -- the oil barrel, that is. What can ordinary citizens do that the Government won't?

I mean, I love President Bush -- I voted for the man, and I fully support him on the war on terror; he told us September 11, 2001, exactly what we'd be facing, and he was right. But his economic policies are killing me -- !

Yes, it's my birthday --

Forty-Eight today. As my ex-brother-in-law Al would say, "I'm forty-eight years old, I'll soon be fifty!" Thanks, Linda! for the birthday wishes. I don't have any expectations for today, but I have plans for tomorrow. I'm ushering for a Chamber Choir concert tomorrow and going out for dinner and laughter with friends before and after. And yesterday I treated myself to a makeover at one of our local department stores. Yum!

Thursday, October 27, 2005


One Hundred Posts. I never imagined, when Randy got me doing this in late April, just a scant six months ago, that I'd last for a whole ONE HUNDRED posts. I sure as shootin' never dreamed that anyone other than a few close and ridiculously loyal friends would ever bother reading my blog.

Y'all are fantastic. I don't have a guest book -- how about dropping a comment in lieu of signing the traditional guest book?

I've got WCPE playing in the background -- wine and hors d'ouvres on the table. Make yourself at home.

And God bless you all!

Chorale News and Reflections

I just got off the phone from ordering my chorale outfit; it's starting to get more and more real to me that I'm actually singing with this phenomenally wonderful group.

Tuesday night we recorded a demo of a new composition entitled "Here Stands in Honored Glory," by Donald B. Miller. This is a very nice choral piece based on the inscription of the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetary, and it is going to be marketed, I understand, to be performed at funerals and patriotic events for servicemen, veterans, and others; proceeds from the sale of the sheet music and the CD are going to benefit the widows and orphans of those courageous men and women who have given their lives in the war against terrorism. I'm proud to have been part of this project.

Don and his wife were present Tuesday evening for the recording session, a lovely couple, so warm and gracious. I arrived at our rehearsal venue at the same time they did, so we struck up a conversation before I found out why they were there. Don autographed my copy of the score, and I'll be framing it ... probably next week.

The recording was a lot of fun. We were squeezed like sardines in the sanctuary of the church where we rehearse, and I had the great thrill of sitting right beside the tenor section. Tenors were pouring out of the choir pews and sitting on the floor, right by my feet -- ah, bliss! And when we sang, I found it was actually easier for me to hit my pitches with the other voice part beside me. hmmm... I'll have to think on that one a bit.

The really cool thing was, after each take, the sound man, after a moment of silence, could be heard saying "Wow." We had a small brass ensemble playing with us, you see, and a tympani -- and after the first take he actually had to ask the chorale to back off a bit, we were overpowering the brass! Oh, what a good laugh we all had over that. And the First Trumpet stood up and said, "Impossible!" as if he were truly indignant -- but of course he was joking with us. It was a lovely experience.

I'll be posting info about how to order the CD single as soon as it's available -- and I'll try to figure out how to post a sound file here on the blog, even a short excerpt. Don't hold your breath, though.

Messiah rehearsals continue apace. The hardest thing for me, so far, is that Al wants to lighten up the melismas a bit by varying the emphasis on certain notes. Ordinarily, 16th notes are counted in a very rigid ONE-ee-And-a-TWO-ee-And-a... But Al wants us ... well, to scat the runs! Like a jazz arrangement, almost -- YA-da-da-YA-da-da-YA-da... It actually works! The emphasis falls according to the movement of pitch instead of a rigid four-count, and the effect (when we get it right! -- you'd be amazed how hard a habit it is to develop, those alternate rhythms!) is to lighten the long runs considerably, making them dance rather than plod.

I'm having a blast! I only wish you could all come and join us!

Okay -- This is post #99, I'm going to go now and post my obligatory 100-post party.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Gotta Love this Woman!

Can there really have been a time, even when I was an evangelical, when I didn't love Mother Angelica? Even weakened after a debilitating stroke, she's still strong-minded, feisty and -- God bless her! -- passionate for the Truth of the Magisterium --

even when it means offending a certain American Cardinal...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Anne Rice finds God?

I've never, ever read a work by Anne Rice. As someone prone to "moods" (read: depression), I am far too suggestable to read certain genres of literature. I've made a serious point of avoiding the work of Rice, Stephen King, and other wildly popular writers whose characters fall into the demonic or the psychotic.

So it was with great shock and delight I found a news link that says Anne Rice is about to publish her first religious novel. Out of Egypt is a fictionalized/speculative account of the life of Christ as a young boy, and it is said to reflect Rice's return to the Catholic Church.

According to MSNBC, a series of deep personal crises -- including the death of her husband of more than 40 years and her own serious illnesses -- has led Rice to rediscover a deeply-rooted Catholic faith of her childhood. She expects an outpouring of outrage from her long-time fans of the vampire and "soft-core S&M" novels she's written for decades --

I, for one, applaud the change and eagerly await the opportunity to read my first novel by Anne Rice. May God bless her and direct all her steps!


If you love classical music, WCPE is a fantastic listener-supported radio station that offers full internet streaming in a variety of formats. Fortunately, I live near two of their translators, so I can listen just about everywhere I go! -- In fact, my car radio is preset: 1: Raleigh 2: Aberdeen 3: Foxfire Village. As I migrate from one signal area to another, I just push buttons.

This week they're observing the Fall Fund-Raiser, but they're still playing a lot of great music.

And on Sunday mornings they have several hours of glorious sacred music. It really helps support my mindset as I prepare for Mass.


Oh, I'm getting old(er)!

Turning 48 in less than a week -- which isn't so bad. After all, I'm enjoying my forties a heckuva lot, a WHOLE heckuva lot more than I ever enjoyed my twenties.

But sometimes I pick up on little clues that things aren't working quite like they once did. I've picked up an old hobby, needlework, and suddenly I discover I have to use a little... extra help... seeing. I'm in bifocals as it is, and now I've found I have to use an additional magnifier in order to see -- to thread my needle, to even find the little holes in the fabric!

It's a nice little magnifier, hangs on a cord around my neck and props on my chest (okay, on "the shelf") so I can enjoy its benefits hands-free and constantly. It makes both pattern and fabric (oh! and the eye of the needle!) much easier to find. But I'm rather distressed because I have a sneaking feeling it won't be long before I'm needing the silly thing to even read!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Flannel Sheets and Christmas Music

It's FALL -- temps dipping into the 40s and 30s at night, highs only in the 50s in the day. Time to indulge in one of the great sensual pleasures of life -- FLANNEL SHEETS! and my great personal favorite, a red flannel popover from the Vermont Country Store. The Vermont Country Store is the place to find flannel sheets, too.

And with chilly weather, out comes the Christmas Music. I've been listening to Messiah for a while, but now I can really indulge. I've been listening today to Manheim Steamroller.

Add a cup of Earl Grey tea and a bowl of homemade veg soup... Ahhhhh, bliss!

Saturday, October 22, 2005


Y'all have GOT to go see the new Wallace and Gromit movie. Imperative! I don't know how long it's been since I've laughed so hard and at so long a stretch. Peter Sellis (known as Norman Clegg in BBC's longest-running comedy, "Last of the Summer Wine") provides the delightful voice for Wallace and the transformed rabbit, and Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes show a completely delicious comic twist to their talents as the voices of Lady Campanula Tottington and Victor Quartermaine. Fans of "Are You Being Served?" will immediately recognize Nicholas Smith (Mr. Rumbold - "Old Jug Ears") as the voice of the vicar.

The claymation is clever, the characterizations are brilliant, the plot is cheesy (giggle, for those already familiar with Wallace and Gromit) and the humor is so subtle and sophisticated... note the wording on the box in which Wallace is clothed at the end of the movie.

You won't regret going, honest!

Shiny sink!

Blame Linda for this one; she thinks it's funny.

I posted about flying with FlyLady.Net a couple weeks ago (and here's the logo. I've emailed a request for permission to post, and not gotten a reply; if they tell me "no" I'll come back and delete the thing) -- well... got a call last night, a friend's coming through from out of town this afternoon and taking me out to lunch -- and all I had to do to get the house ready was to run the vacuum (Bubba left me the feathery remains of a bird scattered all over the living room this morning) and swipe down the front bathroom. My kitchen sink is EMPTY, the drain is tucked up under the counter, and all the surfaces are shined! I even took the trash out and set it in my can to await transport to the dump on Tuesday!

I'm so proud of me! Now I'm going to go do some needlework while I wait!

Now -- where's the smelling salts for those of you who've known me for a while? Hmmm?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Update on prayer requests

I thought you might like to know what's going on with the people in my prayer request list, to the right, there.

I've taken Bill off -- he's still uncomfortable, but he's weaning himself off the heavy-duty pain meds, walking -- very excited about the Astros making it to the World Series. I'm sure he'd be glad for continuing prayers, but I think the worst of the crunch has passed.

Ed's mending, still having to be very cautious and treat that knee with lots of TLC. Last word I got from him, he's hobbling about with a walker; the cane allows too much weight and stress on it.

Mary Ann hasn't sent me a more recent update since her trip to Duke, but she's got a long fight ahead of her. The chemo wasn't as effective as it should have been, and the medicine she was taking to counteract the sickness from the chemo wasn't working at all. Still she's up early every morning, sending her email friends wonderful meditations. Let me know if you'd like me to forward some to you.

Then there is Elwood, who is dad of my buddy Steve; Elwood is having a growth removed on Monday, and having formerly had cancer this is kind of distressing for him and for his family.

Baby Abi is the most recent addition to my prayer list. She's a newborn, and some of her tests from the heel-sticking medical people do to new babies came back abnormal. Her Gran emails me to tell me it turns out she's got thyroid problems, the sort that can be treated with medication, which is a huge relief to the family. Her big sister is also going to have to be tested, just to play it safe.

See what your prayers can accomplish? Again, HUGE thanks to Randy for adding these to the blog template. And thank YOU ALL for your participation in this ministry!
Happy Birthday to my beautiful younger daugher, Sarah, who was born at about 7:19 p.m., Monday, October 20, 1981.

My existence is justified when I think of you.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

hmmm... that wasn't so bad...

I popped in the System Recover disks about midnight last night, and this morning everything looks just plumb hunkey-dorey! It has been disheartening to start at the beginning, spending more than an hour re-installing my internet stuff and trying to decide just what I need on here to be really happy... but it works! I can SEE! Even my laptop screen looks pretty decent!

Ahhh... I was afraid of missing this for days and days, and it seems I won't have to.

YEA!!! (doin' the "Happy Dance!")

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I seem to be fading FAST

Okay -- I'm getting a message that my problem is an error with my display driver. It's getting harder and harder to do what I need to do on the computer -- in fact, tonight I had to connect the monitor from my pc (which is in the shop with a hardware problem) because I can't get any image to show up on my laptop screen.

This is terribly frustrating, because I'm very dependent on my computer, with one down and the other acting as if it's on its last leg... PLUS... on the recommendation of a friend who wanted, at the time, to be able to webcam and Skype with me from the Funny Farm as we had grown accustomed to doing from Raleigh, I recently got connected with a DSL server and I HATE to pay for service I can't use and if I cancel the DSL I have to pay a $100 penalty on TOP of the $200 or so I had to pay for equipment just a couple months ago... (and we never DID webcam or Skype... go figure! Ya spend the big bucks to make the fellers happy, and what do they do but change their minds! Sheesh!)

So here I am... trying to use Yahoo Instant Messenger tonight and all I could see on my end was cybernetic salad, funny lines in the typing screen --

So I'm going to try running my System Restore disk now on the recommendation of another friend.. Fingers crossed!
Weird, weird, weird. And exceedingly frustrating!

not gone YET

The computer is still booting me up in Safe Mode. I'm going to pull out the System Restore CD later today and see if that works... Worst case scenario? I'll be looking for TWO computer hard drives, one for the pc, one for the notebook. What a bummer!

Thanks for sticking with me

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

An unwanted vacation

More computer trouble! My pc is in the shop with a hard drive problem, and now my poor little laptop is not wanting to crank up, either. She's operating in "Safe Mode" (which might well be a good lesson for a great many of us "bear-ish" people) and I don't know what to expect from this. If I don't post for a while -- don't forget me, do please pray for me! and I'll post whenever and wherever I can...if I have to visit the public library in order to do it!

God bless you!

Monday, October 17, 2005

A profound prayer

I'd give this an attribution if I could trace it. Thanks to Linda for the forward!

(Non-Catholics, this is a litany, which means certain response lines, like "Lord, Jesus, free me!" are repeated after every line, even if they're not repeated in print -- i.e., "... loved ..... Lord Jesus, free me!")


Jesus, meek and humble of heart! Hear me!
From the desire of being:
esteemed..... Lord, Jesus, free me!

From the fear of being:
humbled..... Lord, Jesus, free me!

From resenting that my opinion is not followed,.....
Lord, Jesus, free me!

That others:
will be loved more than I,..... Lord Jesus make this my prayer!
will be more esteemed than I.....
will increase in the opinion of the world while I diminish.....
will be chosen while I am set aside.....
will be praised while I am overlooked.....
will be preferred to me in everything.....

Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, though you were God, you humbled yourself to the extreme of dying on a cross, to set an enduring example to the shame of my arrogance and vanity. Help me to learn your example and put it into practice so that, by humbling myself in accordance with my lowliness here on earth, you can lift me up to rejoice in you forever in heaven.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Nuclear deja vu!

Oh, gosh. When I was a kid, this sort of information was disseminated broadly, and I spent literally hours looking at it, imagining what it would be like to have to live in our basement in case the Russians blasted us. Now we're in danger from radical Islamic groups, and the information is a little modernized, but it's essentially still the same. Look here.

So... I crashed. Now what?

Back in the summer I started an intensely personal little work called "Part Two" which was intended for an audience of one. It was actually a love letter, and now it will never be finished.

I began the work: It's frightening, loving someone, falling in love. I really believed I was done with the whole business, as penance and perhaps earthly purgatory for past sins and utter stupidity. I was blissfully travelling down my perceived straight life-road when it dipped to reveal S-curves and hairpins so suddenly at my feet I had no time to brake to check my speed. Can I navigate this stretch of road? or will I crash?

Well, I crashed, and it has been a pretty bad smash-up. A very ugly sight, in fact. The details aren't important; the point is, I'm going to recover. It hurts like oral surgery without benefit of anesthesia (polite way of saying hurts like bloody hell!), but... I'm tough, I can take it!

Yeah, right, and donkeys fly. The past two weeks I've been in a right state, grieving and holding tightly to the hands of friends who love us both, afraid to let go for fear the ground is going to swallow me up alive, wailing "WHY???...."

So, if I'm not going to entertain you with all the gruesome details, why am I blogging about it at all?

So I can publicly affirm my hope in the goodness of God.

I learned during my first divorce that there is nothing that can happen to us that God won't use for our greater good and for His greater glory. I believe it with all my heart, I believe I'm going to see that good coming out of this disapointment. I believe the time is going to come sooner than later when I can thank Him for everything about the situation.

In fact, I already have a lot to be grateful for: my circle of friends has grown through him (I hope they will continue to be my friends!), and my sense of my own worth is ever so much greater than it was before he came into my life. All in all, I wouldn't have missed the adventure for all the world. I wish it had been handled differently -- but even that will be turned into a blessing, somehow.

God's blessings and His redemptive mercy -- both for him and for me.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The real serenity prayer

We all know the Serenity Prayer, right? If you've ever been to an AA or AlAnon meeting, you are introduced to this right off.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

No -- not yet, "amen." Reinhold Niebuhr began his prayer with those lines, and here is the rest. Enjoy meditating on this, the unknown portion of this wonderful prayer:

...Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
the sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with you forever in the next.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

from the Redneck Snigger and Snort file:

I found myself behind a Cadillac Escalade this morning between the funny farm and Pinehurst. Somehow the idea of the epitome of big, expensive luxury cars does not reconcile with trucks. I mean, honestly, can you imagine this scenario (written in dialect)?

(Scene: a cow pasture, complete with grazing Whiteface cattle, cow pies visible in the foreground. It is mid-day, and two hot, sweaty, filthy dirty men are standing by a stand of wire fencing, wiping their faces with red bandana handkerchiefs.)
Man 1: "Hey, Diddy, whadya wont me t' do with this-here leftover roll of wire?"
Man 2: "Aw, well, Junior, we gotta go get a load o'manure before we go home -- yer mama's been after me t'fertilize her roses. Just throw all that stuff on t' the back o' the Caddy, there."

How much do you reckon Cadillac would pay me to work their ad campaign?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

How many cooking knives does one woman need???

I've long joked that I have one outstanding domestic quality: I live in a house. I've never been very tidy or organized, or in fact even known what needs to be done when where or how -- the result of growing up in a household that is the stuff of news items. Literally -- there was a path through the living room from the door to the hall to the couch to the television; the rest of the floor was covered in old newspapers and magazines, paper coffee cups, books, empty kleenex boxes... junk. Often the clutter had to be moved from the chair so we could sit down (it just got set on the floor on top of the other clutter). I don't remember my mother ever cleaning up our home or running the vacuum ... I have a faint memory of seeing her at the ironing board.

I always swore! I was going to be a better housekeeper than my mother. I've been successful, too -- of course, it doesn't take much to meet that standard! But I've long felt, too, that there had to be more... if only I could find out how to go about knowing what that "more" actually was.

Well, I'm happy to tell the entire world that my house is shaping up wonderfully thanks to Marla and the Crew at FLYlady. I've Boogied over 200 pounds of CLUTTER from my house in the past month, giving away to neighbors and Goodwill and hauling what isn't good enough to share to the dump. My laundry is caught up, supper is in the crockpot, and if someone knocked on my front door right now, the only thing I'd have to shift in order to have a fully grand living room is my sweater (which I'm about to put back on anyway -- it's chilly today!)

This week's Zone is the Kitchen. Today I pulled out a silverware drawer that has needed attention for a long time -- and discovered I own 1 chef's knife, 3 butcher knives, 5 knives that I think are for filleting (I got them at a box in my sister-in-law's yard sale), 6 paring knives, a bread knife, another serrated knife, and some half-dozen steak knives I never use. I have put all but one of each style in a box to go to a friend who often butchers his own meat.

This is kinda fun, ya know?

and another favorite poem...

...discovered during the same period of my life is Tennyson's "Ulysses." This is based, of course, as you can discern from the title, on Homer's Odyssey, in which the hero-king, Odysseus, goes to fight in the Trojan wars and by the whims of the gods is delayed for some 20 years from returning to his home. I discovered this poem while I was a student at Guilford College -- five wonderful years of self-discovery and awakening to the wide world -- it's no wonder this poem felt for me very much like a banner, a battle-flag.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vest the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers;
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breath were life. Life piled on life
Were all to little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle-
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me-
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads- you and I are old;
Old age had yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in the old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal-temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A Millay favorite

Back in the late 80s I found at a Friends of the Library sale a thin little volume -- autographed! -- of poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Sadly, it is one of the treasures I parted with before the divorce, when his drinking was out of control, when money was tight and treasures were imagined expendable. Online today I found one of my favorite poems, which meant a great deal to me in those days when I was recovering from my first divorce -- and means even more today (I particularly like the imagery of Friendship better than bread):

To A Friend Estranged From Me

Now goes under, and I watch go under, the sun
That will not rise again.
Today has seen the setting, in your eyes, cold and senseless as the sea,
Of friendship better than bread, and of bright charity
That lifts man a little above the beasts that run.
That this could be!
That I should live to see
Most vulgar Pride, that stale obstreperous clown,
So fitted out with purple robe and crown
To stand among his betters! Face to face
With outraged me in this once holy place,
Where Wisdom was a favoured guest and hunted
Truth was harbored out of danger,
He bulks enthroned, a lewd, an insupportable stranger!

I would have sworn, indeed I swore it:
The hills may shift, the waters may decline,
Winter may twist the stem from the twig that bore it,
But never your love from me, your hand from mine.

Now goes under the sun, and I watch it go under,
Farewell, sweet light, great wonder!
You, too, farewell, -- but fare not well enough to dream
You have done wisely to invite the night before the darkness came.


and every other literary and artistic representation of pigs, currently being held hostage by Muslims in the Western World (see here)

Look, folks, if you find offense in the cultural and literary icons of a nation... STAY HOME. (And I hope with all my heart that Mahbubur Rahman is thoroughly beaten in his next election bid.)

See Lost Budgie and Relapsed Catholic for more information.

WHOA! GREAT Catholic Media Portal

Gotta look at this! Good work, Joao! and thanks for the link!

Monday, October 10, 2005

The "Conversion Handbook" and lectio divina

The "Handbook" is, of course, the Bible.

I cheered when I saw recently that the Holy Father has issued a statement urging Catholics to devote themselves to the private reading of the Scriptures. There's long been a myth that the Church actively discourages and even prohibits such reading. What the Church refutes is private interpretation of the Scriptures -- not the reading of them!

In fact, in recommending the Bible to the Faithful, Benedict referred to a very ancient practice of meditating upon the Scriptures called lectio divina. In monastic communities since ancient times, the readings of sacred works -- the Scriptures usually, but also other religious writings, like the Church Fathers -- are observed during mealtimes. A lector is appointed to read aloud to the community. After the reading, there is a period of silence where the reading is meditated upon... mentally digested, if you'll pardon the obvious and bad pun.

Look here for some wonderful resources on this rich way of discovering the Scriptures.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

I'm a BEAR!

You Are A: Bear Cub!

bear cubBears are strong and independent creatures who roam in the forest in search of food. Bears are usually gentle, but anger one and be prepared for their full fury! You won't back down from a fight -- a classic attribute of bears. Intelligent and resourceful, though lazy at times, you are a fascinating creature of the wild.

You were almost a: Pony or a Puppy
You are least like a: Duckling or a ParakeetWhat Cute Animal Are You?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The necessity of true conversion

Most people immediately recognize the vows associated with religious life: poverty, chastity and obedience. It's surprising to discover that the vows of the Benedictine order (and orders derived from the Rule of Benedict, such as the Cistercians) are different. The first vow a Benedictine takes is of obedience, but the other two are startling: one is to the stability of the community, the other is of conversio -- translated loosely as "conversion of manners" or "conversion of one's behavior."

As a Protestant, I thought of conversion as a beginning and an end all at once. One accepted Christ as Savior and Lord, experiencing the New Birth; the rest would follow without need of deliberation or effort on my part, as a baby naturally and without deliberate choice progresses through stages of infancy to creeping about on all fours to standing, walking, running, learning to climb....

That's a good starting point, but it's not enough. We aren't talking about simple physical maturation in the religious life, but of this other, abstract dimension of emotion and spirit, and those are matters that we have to choose to bring into submission to Christ.

A man might be in the habit of loose and careless sexual behavior prior to his accepting Christ. When he comes to Christ, he knows that sex outside marriage is wrong, so he resolves to follow Christ in a chaste life. But that decision is not enough. He is habituated to certain pleasures and behaviors, perhaps to the point that they have become compulsions. He craves the intimacy and the pleasure he derived from his relationships. It becomes an obsessive craving for him -- not unlike, I suppose, the cravings I've been told a recovering alcoholic faces. What is he to do? Simply give up and give in, trusting "grace" to force God to turn a blind eye to what he himself knows is sin and offensive to God?

If I am long accustomed to thinking I know it all, and feeling arrogant pride in my quick mind, or in my various abilities, then when I come against a superior at work who wants a task approached in a way that is contrary to my own perception in the matter... If I have become habituated in any sin -- pride and self-sufficiency, a too-long indulged quick and violent temper, sloth, love of luxury and carnal (not necessarily sexual) gratification, love of idleness, inordinate desire for things beyond my reasonable reach... -- then am I allowed to continue to wallow in these sins?

St. Paul said absolutely not! We are not to "sin, so that grace may abound." That is the way to death and damnation. Instead, we are to pursue the life of holiness.

St. Paul used a compelling metaphor to describe this process, of the athlete training for a competition, then running his race. An athlete doesn't get a gold medal for stepping out onto the track, and we don't win the Kingdom of Heaven simply because we become Christians on some semi-intellectual level. The athlete -- and the Christian -- make a life commitment to disciplines and habits that go utterly against our basic human nature, in order to achieve a goal. The athlete adopts a lifestyle that goes against every assumption non-athletes consider "normal," a lifestyle we would consider unnatural in order to fully prepare his body and his mind for achieving his ambition of winning the prizes associated with his chosen sport.

So the Christian is compelled, if indeed we are Christians, to re-order our lives in unnatural ways to train for Heaven. We get up early to pray before undertaking the day's labors, when it would be quite natural to sleep in. We plan our meals based on principles of stewardship rather than the natural considerations of pleasure and status. We deal with even the most difficult people in our lives in the principles taught by Christ to His disciples, with Charity as our focal rule, when the natural tendency would be impatience, criticism, and temper. We unnaturally deprive ourselves of superficial gratification in order to devote ourselves to reaching the level of excellence we are called -- and as bold and brash as it still seems to me, I'll say it:

We are called to be Saints.

And a saint is not merely a camp follower or a "groupie" of a church or a pastor or even of Christ Himself; a saint is someone who has achieved a high degree of holiness, of Christlikeness in his or her life. The Scriptures distinguish between believers and saints. Believers are on the track: saints have demonstrably won the prize. Not everyone competitor wins the prize, Paul reminds us.

That's why it appeals so strongly to me, after some 48 years of self-indulgent living that has brought only frustration and failure, to look at an Order that acknowledges openly that the "natural" life is diametrically opposed to the victorious Christian life. I need to be converted -- changed over from my old ways of thinking and living to ways that are fully consistent and reflective of God's.

The Rule of Benedict, Chapter 4

The Instruments of Good Works

(1) In the first place to love the Lord God with the whole heart, the whole soul, the whole strength...
(2) Then, one's neighbor as one's self (cf Mt 22:37-39; Mk 12:30-31; Lk 10:27).
(3) Then, not to kill...
(4) Not to commit adultery...
(5) Not to steal...
(6) Not to covet (cf Rom 13:9).
(7) Not to bear false witness (cf Mt 19:18; Mk 10:19; Lk 18:20).
(8) To honor all men (cf 1 Pt 2:17).
(9) And what one would not have done to himself, not to do to another (cf Tob 4:16; Mt 7:12; Lk 6:31).
(10) To deny one's self in order to follow Christ (cf Mt 16:24; Lk 9:23).
(11) To chastise the body (cf 1 Cor 9:27).
(12) Not to seek after pleasures.
(13) To love fasting.
(14) To relieve the poor.
(15) To clothe the naked...
(16) To visit the sick (cf Mt 25:36).
(17) To bury the dead.
(18) To help in trouble.
(19) To console the sorrowing.
(20) To hold one's self aloof from worldly ways.
(21) To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.
(22) Not to give way to anger.
(23) Not to foster a desire for revenge.
(24) Not to entertain deceit in the heart.
(25) Not to make a false peace.
(26) Not to forsake charity.
(27) Not to swear, lest perchance one swear falsely.
(28) To speak the truth with heart and tongue.
(29) Not to return evil for evil (cf 1 Thes 5:15; 1 Pt 3:9).
(30) To do no injury, yea, even patiently to bear the injury done us.
(31) To love one's enemies (cf Mt 5:44; Lk 6:27).
(32) Not to curse them that curse us, but rather to bless them.
(33) To bear persecution for justice sake (cf Mt 5:10).
(34) Not to be proud...
(35) Not to be given to wine (cf Ti 1:7; 1 Tm 3:3).
(36) Not to be a great eater.
(37) Not to be drowsy.
(38) Not to be slothful (cf Rom 12:11).
(39) Not to be a murmurer.
(40) Not to be a detractor.
(41) To put one's trust in God.
(42) To refer what good one sees in himself, not to self, but to God.
(43) But as to any evil in himself, let him be convinced that it is his own and charge it to himself.
(44) To fear the day of judgment.
(45) To be in dread of hell.
(46) To desire eternal life with all spiritual longing.
(47) To keep death before one's eyes daily.
(48) To keep a constant watch over the actions of our life.
(49) To hold as certain that God sees us everywhere.
(50) To dash at once against Christ the evil thoughts which rise in one's heart.
(51) And to disclose them to our spiritual father.
(52) To guard one's tongue against bad and wicked speech.
(53) Not to love much speaking.
(54) Not to speak useless words and such as provoke laughter.
(55) Not to love much or boisterous laughter.
(56) To listen willingly to holy reading.
(57) To apply one's self often to prayer.
(58) To confess one's past sins to God daily in prayer with sighs and tears, and to amend them for the future.
(59) Not to fulfil the desires of the flesh (cf Gal 5:16).
(60) To hate one's own will.
(61) To obey the commands of the Abbot in all things, even though he himself (which Heaven forbid) act otherwise, mindful of that precept of the Lord: "What they say, do ye; what they do, do ye not" (Mt 23:3).
(62) Not to desire to be called holy before one is; but to be holy first, that one may be truly so called.
(63) To fulfil daily the commandments of God by works.
(64) To love chastity.
(65) To hate no one.
(66) Not to be jealous; not to entertain envy.
(67) Not to love strife.
(68) Not to love pride.
(69) To honor the aged.
(70) To love the younger.
(71) To pray for one's enemies in the love of Christ.
(72) To make peace with an adversary before the setting of the sun.
(73) And never to despair of God's mercy.

Behold, these are the instruments of the spiritual art, which, if they have been applied without ceasing day and night and approved on judgment day, will merit for us from the Lord that reward which He hath promised: "The eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him" (1 Cor 2:9). But the workshop in which we perform all these works with diligence is the enclosure of the monastery, and stability in the community.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Contemplating Religious Life

The religious life traditionally is used to describe the life of a religious (in this case a noun, not an adjective), a monk or a nun or sister, a "professional," if you will. After a bitter disapointment recently, I started thinking, I ought to just join a convent! I've always had an immense admiration for women who consecrate their lives to God, foregoing the comforts of marriage and family life to life fully for Him. Their lives run a widely diverse range of service, from the active service of rescue work Mother Teresa of Calcutta made famous, or to teaching and nursing, to the cloistered (fully separated from the world) and devoted to prayer.

So I started looking at the internet at religious orders. Most have an age limit of 35... I passed that a LONG time ago! LOL -- I'll be 48 in three weeks! -- but several very appealing orders have age restrictions as high as 60. This is in both active and contemplative orders.

But the more I think about uprooting completely, disposing of my home and furnishings, relocating to another part of the country (if not the world!)... starting as a complete and total novice at the age of near-50 (and likely would be past my fiftieth by the time I could be admitted)... I feel rather strongly dissuaded from even trying.

Fortunately, there are options, it's not strictly a matter of all or nothing, convent or fully secular life. There are opportunities for lay men and women to affiliate with religious orders as laypeople, take certain limited vows, and to remain in the world as a lay member of the order. The Franciscans and the Carmelites have what they call Third Order affiliations; the Benedictines have a program called oblation.

The word oblate comes from the Latin, meaning "offering," and that is just what we are called to do: to offer ourselves fully to God, to live as His called people, in His service, in the world.

The vows a Third Order or oblate takes are of daily prayer, acts of Christian piety, and participation in an affiliate group, in addition to specific emphases of the particular order. There's a Third Order Carmelite group up in Raleigh, and a Benedictine Abbey which has a strong oblate program over in Charlotte. I think this is going to be the best avenue I have of achieving what I want in my Christian life.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Gentle Rains

Tropical Storm Tammy is blessing our region with some wonderful and much-needed rain today. Bubba woke me up again this morning, this time about quarter til four, and I heard the rain on the roof and realized I'd left the garden shed (also my writing shed) standing wide open. I went out and shut the doors during a lovely break in the early sporadic showers that were just starting to move into the area.

It reminds me that early and late rains feature heavily in the prophecies surrounding the outpouring of God's spirit before and during the terrible Chastisements that fall upon the land during the Last Days. I got a bellyfull of bad eschatology (Last Days theology) during my years as an evangelical, and I have to admit that I haven't even attempted to second-guess the Church as regards the end of time as we know it, beyond knowing that the Church has major doctines on the Four Last Things, which are Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.

I think we need to be reading the signs and realizing that God is standing at the threshold of administering a great Judgment. Natural and man-made disasters are besetting us at an alarming rate, and like the sign of the woman taken by birth pangs, these incidents are increasing in frequency and intensity. Our nation is taken up in the Culture of Death, we are being fed immorality and being desensitized to sin and carnality that decent people of even a generation ago could recognize and be duly shocked by. We're seeing the day prophesied by Isaiah, in which black has become white and white, black, in the popular lexicon.

Our Lord gave us the signs and warnings of the end of the age so that we could be duly alert and diligent when the time came. Of course, it's true that any one of us could be facing Him in our own final judgment before the sun rises again tomorrow, finding unexpected Death in any number of ways. But more than likely, the vast majority of us will live for more than just tonight, and we owe it to ourselves, to God, and to our fellow men who are floundering in sin and darkness, to be about our business of rescuing souls from ultimate perishing.

A new feature

If you'll kindly look to the right-hand side of this page to the sidebar there, you'll notice that, under my photo and the Contributors list, there's a new little section for prayer requests. I am always so surprised by the number of people who look in on this blog, and the amazing range of locations you all originate from, I thought you could help me pray for some people I care about who are in need of a bit extra support just now.

Bill and Ed are both recovering from their respective surgeries. I've talked with both, and they are mending despite physical discomfort; however, that physical discomfort can be extreme.

Mary Ann has an appointment at Duke coming up. She is on her second round of chemo -- sooner than she was supposed to have been because the cancer has spread to her lymph nodes. The chemo has made her very ill, and the medication that is supposed to counter the illness has not been effective... all in all, her local doctor is at the limits of his expertise and is sending her to Duke.

Thanks to Randy for setting this up for me, thanks to you all for your prayers for my friends. If you would like for me to post a need, you are welcome to email me at; please put "Blog" somewhere in your subject bar.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Simple Living -- when people you know make a difference

I know where I'll be at 6:00 this evening -- watching NC Public Television and a new evening show they're airing, called "Simple Living." The co-creators of this program are Wanda Urbanska and her husband, Frank Levering, of Levering Orchard near Ararat, Virginia.

I knew Frank's parents, a lovely, deep, wise couple named Sam and Miriam Levering, back in the days when I was a Quaker. Sam and Miriam were architects of the Law of the Seas Treaty and my first intelligent introduction to political activism.

Now, I am, and always have been an unapologetic one-issue voter, and that one issue is the right to life, opposing abortion and euthenasia in all its forms and guises. Some of my friends think my approach is terribly narrow and naive, but it seems to me that the other issues -- the socioeconomic issues -- really are the other side of the same coin, and that when we can acknowledge that human life is more valuable than any bird or beast on the Endangered Species list, and only when that occurs, then we will as a matter of natural consequence become more sensitive to the necessity of work with dignity and decent wages and of the protection of the environmental resources upon which we are all so desparately dependent. But for many years, the other issues didn't register much interest with me at all. It was through my acquaintance with Sam and Miriam that I saw that all these issues are part of a fabric of responsible, reverent living.

So, now Wanda has her own television show, and I'm enjoying perusing her website, and I recommend both to you, as well.