Monday, May 31, 2010

Thanks to Neil Young (Music for Mondays)

Neil Young is in town! Neil Young is in town! That was what the sign on the Civic Auditorium said last Thursday night. It's always big news when a big name comes to a small town. Not like I could go to the show or anything. My wife was hosting her book club meeting and although baby-sitting duty would kick me and the kids out of the house, I'm not quite ready to take them to a rock concert. I took them go-karting instead.

But I wanted to go to the show. So I did the next best thing. I hunted around for Neil Young songs on You Tube and started posting them on my Facebook page. See, I've always liked some of his songs, even when Ronnie Van Zant from Lynyrd Skynyrd  told me that I shouldn't like him. Sorry, I couldn't do that Ronnie, because Cinnamon Girl rocks, man. (I can't believe my wife has never heard of it. Sheeeeeeesh!)

Because of the Liturgical Year

I've been a Catholic my whole life, and yet I always have more to understand about our faith. Yesterday during Mass, for instance, was the first time in my 47 years I understood why Trinity Sunday falls when it does during the Liturgical Year. I have not always been a faithful Catholic, so I have denied myself the lessons the Liturgical Year teaches. It exists to help us understand the dogmas of our faith.

In my twenties, I attended Mass erratically. While it was a blessing, I kept returning to the Church, one of the many problems with irregular Mass attendance is, we don't "get" the whole picture. I visited a family member in South Carolina one weekend when I was 26 and—lo and behold—discovered it was Trinity Sunday. I remember thinking, Oh, that's interesting. But the day felt random. I didn't understand why it fell when it did.

To Remember the Fallen

This is a special Memorial Day edition of the YIM Catholic Community Prayer Intentions List.  In the United States, Monday, May 31st is a federal holiday. On this day we honor those who have given their lives while serving in the armed forces of our country during armed conflicts.

As the resident Marine on the blog, writing this post is a duty I must fulfill. Truthfully, I didn't want to write it. But then I started remembering two Marines who died in an accident that almost killed me. Their names are Sergeant Armando Avila, and Sergeant Michael Vasquez.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

For Thoughts Like These on Trinity Sunday

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. I have no doubt that my friend Wu Li, SJ was exposed to the Athanasian Creed. Because Wu could not have written the orthodox poems below without having understood the Mystery of the Triune God. Wu wasn't just parroting something he had heard from his Jesuit catechists either.

Like all great poets, Wu parsed the words of the creed and reduced them down in a manner that leaves us better able to understand the Mystery of God in Three Persons. I know it helps me anyway. And if I haven't yet convinced you that Wu Li is a master poet, then let me step up to the plate again and share with you two more poems from his series Singing of the Source and Course of Holy Church. Be prepared for a grand-slam home run.

Friday, May 28, 2010

For Your YIMC Friday Night at the Movies

It's the Friday before a long weekend here in the U.S.A. which means it's time for me to break out a Friday night movie.  Remember those movies I was posting during Lent? I had a great time doing them. I hope you enjoyed them too.

When I went to Mass during lunch today, they had posters up for a viewing of this in the Parish hall on June 16th. Confession time again (never ending for me it seems!), I 've never, ever seen this movie. And from what I hear, that is my loss. Eight Academy Awards?! Dude, what rock have you been living under?

Because God Makes Me Secure

I "met" Ricky Jones earlier this week after he responded to a guest post on the universality of the Church. Meredith Cummings' post talked about how, as a white woman and a convert, she grew to understand the Church is not just for Hispanics. Her post spoke to Ricky, who is an African-American man married to a Latina. Ricky, also a convert, designs websites for Catholics.  He  is an advanced student at the Instituto de Formación Bíblica, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Guest post by Ricky Jones
I wasn’t born Catholic nor have I been a Catholic for very long. I was baptized about two years ago. Like most people, I never thought I did wrong, or that I was a sinner. I didn’t even know what sin was. Until the age of 23, no one ever had taught me anything about God. All I knew was that some people believed that He created us and that if we don’t do His will, we’re going to go to hell. I met my girlfriend, Johana, five and a half years ago in Phoenix, and thanks to her and her family, if not God Himself, I began to learn about God.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Because Immanuel Is His Name

The other day I wrote a post about how small an amount of time I am committing to Our Lord. The number I came up with was shockingly small. Given the years I wandered in the wilderness, the number probably has a couple of more zeros to the right of the decimal point. But that is in the past.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Song of the Mystic (A Few Words for Wednesday)

I know of Father Abram J. Ryan (1838-1886) because he was once the pastor of the parish where I usually attend daily mass. Each day I walk by a historic marker that tells the story of this "poet, patriot, priest." The thing is, he was a Confederate loyalist, which makes him a rebel patriot.  Thankfully, the rebels lost the war. But even the Confederate troops needed a chaplain, and that is how Father Ryan served.

Father Ryan is best know for writing the poem Conquered Banner which, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, was "read or sung in every Southern household, and thus became the apotheosis of the 'Lost Cause.'" Lost causes are good and all, but I prefer the following poem by Father Ryan instead. It is simple, beautiful, and evokes the theme of solitude, silence, and prayer.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

YIMC Book Club Meeting Alert!

Mark your calendars YIMC Book Club members, because it's time for us to take up the runner-up in the poll which C.S. Lewis won last time. What, you had forgotten? No worries, I will keep you up to date. I'm talking about The Great Heresies by Hilaire Belloc.

Now, before you all mutiny and go whining about how it's summer-time and school is out etc.,etc., do me a favor. Save the complaining for another time. Sheesh, it's starting to sound like my household around here with all my children reminding me that school is over!  Adult lesson #1: School may be over, but life doesn't go on vacation.

Because 0.89% of My Time is Not Enough

Sometimes it's dangerous putting a calculator into my hands. I can come up with some pretty wild ideas. This past Sunday, when visiting a different parish while on a trip to Georgia, the priest mentioned in his homily that if we only think about being Christians once a week during mass, then we are only giving Our Lord 52 hours a year, or only 2.167 days out of 365. Gulp! That's nothing.

Monday, May 24, 2010

It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing (Music for Mondays)

Tis is the season of school music concerts. Our oldest son, an eighth grader,  loves playing the upright bass in his middle school jazz band. As a parent, I find it  such a joy to watch 25 awkward middle school students, most of them boys, transform into confident jazz drummers, saxophone players, trumpeters and bassists. Much of what they play is swing music, a form of jazz music that became popular in the 1930s. The music, has fans worldwide, speaks to the sheer exuberance for life  we can feel when we begin to count our blessings.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Because the Church is Universal

Guest post by Meredith Cummings
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”   (Acts of the Apostles 2: 4).

I grew up in Southern Colorado in a small town that was more or less half white and half Hispanic. Common white names were Smith, Jones or Anderson. Common Hispanic names included Trujillo, Archuleta or Garcia. My parents taught me that there was no difference between us. We all attended school together, played together, hung out together, went to prom together. We all learned to speak Spanish in school, so again, no real differences. Except … although no one said anything, and I never thought to ask, it seemed to me, one big difference loomed over us.

Because the Holy Spirit is the Soul of the Church

Today is Pentecost Sunday, the day we commemorate the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Life.  In the Paulist published book entitled Light of the Cross in the Twentieth Century,  the following passage is attributed to Monsignor Louis Gaston de Ségur and describes in beautiful detail the scene that played out on the first Pentecost that we read of today in the second chapter of the book of Acts.

These thoughts of Monseigneur de Ségur help me better understand the fact that the Holy Spirit is indeed the Soul of the Catholic Church.  As many of our children receive the Sacrament of Confirmation this week, let us reflect on these truths on this great day.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Because the Mass is the Mass

The beloved Carmelite Chapel at our local mall is undergoing a makeover after 50 years in business. Since late winter, it has moved temporarily and now sits in an abandoned retail shell beside Toys 'R Us, opposite Nordstrom's. The temporary chapel (left) is not exactly a visual inspiration. Not knowing just where the oldest chapel in an American mall had been moved, I went in search of it this morning because I wanted to go to confession before a weekend retreat.

Friday, May 21, 2010

For All the Saints: Christopher Magallanes and Companions, Martyrs

Today the Church commemorates the lives and deaths of 22 parish priests, along with three lay Catholics, who were killed between 1915 and 1937 in Mexico because they professed the Catholic faith. These martyrs were all active members of the Cristeros Movement, which rose up against the Mexican government's persecution of Catholics. The Church has confirmed these men as saints: Pope John Paul II canonized them in 2000.

It is humbling to reflect on these men and to wonder whether we would be willing to give our lives for our faith.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Because I Worry

Ever wake up in the middle of the night with the conviction that anything that possibly can go wrong with your life will? This week I had one of those moments. Nothing bad had happened. I was in the middle of an ordinary week of teacher training, grocery shopping, laundry, and parenting our two sons. Blame it on the drizzle outside, but suddenly small concerns in every facet of my life—in the parenting, professional, and financial departments—rose together and came crashing down on me in a big wave of anxiety about 1 a.m. Wednesday. My faith gives me a way to cope when angst ambushes me: prayer.

Dateline China: Because We Are One Body

I met Maria Holland here at YIM Catholic when she commented on one of my posts about a Lenten hymn attributed to Gregory the Great.  She is attending Xiamen University in the city of that same name.  It is a city on the East Coast of the People's Republic of China. Due east, and directly across the Taiwan Strait, lies the island nation Taiwan. Having recently written several posts about painting master and poet Wu Li,  I must have China on my mind. So I checked in with "our correspondent in Xiamen" and ran across this post that gives us a slice of life in the Catholic Church in China. Continue to check in on Maria at her blog Adventuring Towards... (see sidebar).

Guest post by Maria Holland
This morning, I went to Zhangzhou for Bishop Cai’s first Mass in his hometown. We lined up outside the church in the rain to greet him as he stepped out of the car, all dressed up in his new bishop duds.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

“Lamentable” (A Few Words for Wednesday)

My friend Webster is working on a project with a rapidly approaching deadline. So I gave him the day off from "poetry duty." Well, that's one reason I wrote this post.  The other reason is I have found a new friend named Wu Li, SJ.  I introduced him to you in a post last Sunday.

This isn't the first time I've been befriended by a Catholic who is no longer with us.  The first time it happened, it was my buddy Blaise Pascal shaking me awake. Once he got my attention, he was like Mariano Rivera and his splitter. Like Mariano, he has only one pitch, but it is unhittable. So I stopped trying to beat him, and figured I would just run away. But Blaise wouldn't allow it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Because We Need To Let Go With Compassion

Allison writes: Meredith and I met in Raleigh, North Carolina, when Greg and I were engaged and Meredith and her husband were newly married. All of us were, at the time, working journalists. Our families have grown and moved since then, but we have kept in touch for nearly 20 years. Meredith and her husband now are raising their three children in Noblesville, Indiana. 

Guest post by Meredith Cummings
Thursday didn’t begin well. I  looked at my eighth-grade son’s online grades before he left for school and then failed to hold my frustration at him in check. There he stood, head down, shame on his face, as I let him have it with my angry words. I managed a “Have a good day,” before he left, but I didn’t mean it, and he knew it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Because Lena Horne Found Solace in the Church

Once I read that her funeral was to be held in a Roman Catholic Church, I kept reading obituaries of Lena Horne, hoping to find clues to her own faith journey. Ms. Horne, an African-American who broke racial barriers in the entertainment industry, died last week at age 92. I never did find an article explaining how this amazing civil rights activist and entertainer chose to have her funeral in a Catholic Church, but here is what I could glean. I pray that her enchanting voice is joining the chorus of angels in eternity.

The Silver-Bullet Selection (Music for Monday)

Over the past seven days Allison, Webster, and I have been delivering the goods for you (we hope!). From Dali to de Sales, Angels to training wheels, "Praise" and friendships, contrarian attitudes and awe-inspiring art and verse.  As I say from time to time, Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh—We're bushed!

The over-riding theme in this past week's readings from the Gospel of John has been caritas, or Christian love. We learned of the new commandment, "Love one another as I love you."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

For the Art and Poetry of Wu Li, SJ (1632-1718)

Remember me and the pleasure I get from finding things out about our faith and sharing them with you? Well, Webster calls me Mister Google around these parts. But after this find, maybe it should be Doctor Google. You be the judge.

A week or so ago I had seen an article featured on New Advent about Catholics moving beyond Belloc and Chesterton and other European authors to get a fuller sense of Catholicism's universality. It set me to thinking and hunting for some Catholic literature originating from other cultures. In doing so, I stumbled upon the story of a Chinese painting master and poet named Wu Li.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Because We Need To Lose the Training Wheels

A visiting priest offered an interesting metaphor during his homily for the Feast of the Ascension at our parish. He said that when Christ ascended, He took the training wheels off the Apostles' bicycles. He let them know that it was time to ride on their own. He promised to send a helper to them, and ten days later the Holy Spirit descended to guide the apostles, and the rest of us. Christ's ascension tells us that we can ascend to heaven the way he did, if we follow His teachings. Today, He needs us to complete His work here on earth, with the Holy Spirit as our guide.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Because I’m a Contrarian

My wife can tell you that I am wired differently than most people. I tend to go against the crowd. Webster wrote a post a while back called Because I am Usually Howling with the Mob. Not me. I tend to avoid mobs, crowds, and popular opinion.

I worked for Merrill Lynch briefly out of college. I did so because I confused "investing" with "selling investments for a living." Successful investors often avoid crowds too. They are called "contrarians." Successful purveyors of investment products, on the other hand, are usually about being popular, well liked people. Many (not all) of them are bogged down in that quagmire of alliances that Webster speaks about in his latest post (fear, lies, and power anyone?).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Because the Quality of Friendship is Just Different

We learn by contrasts, brass beside gold. Two years along, I am still learning what it is to be a Catholic, but one thing is clear: I have never known such friendships. Within the past week, I have been confronted with a "friendship" from years past, one based on power, fear, and lies. This week, I also have had numerous encounters with Catholic friends. What a difference!

Because We Might Be Entertaining Angels

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a schoolmate of our fifth grader, a conversation that reminded me how blessed we are that God is always with us.

This boy, let's call him Michael, lives with his mother and brother in a small apartment in our neighborhood. When I pick my son and his pals up from school I usually give Michael a lift home, too. At first, I felt funny about giving him a ride home. I never had met or talked to his mother. But Michael reassured me that his mother had told him he could catch rides with any friends' parents. Plus, I felt he was safer with us in my van than walking two miles home alone. Yesterday I learned how very loved this child is.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

“Praise” (A Few Words for Wednesday)

I searched all evening for a poem with which to celebrate the Ascension. I found nothing worth publishing. But deep into the last chapter of a book I am writing about Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston (which is making my posts here both few and far between), I find myself thinking every day about science and faith, about intelligent design, and even about the AIDS virus. And so, wouldn't you know it, I came across a poem that blends all of these themes. It is by R.S. Thomas (1913–2000) (left), and it is called simply “Praise.”

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Because St. Francis de Sales Can Help Me Do Laundry

This is not our laundry room. Our most unlovely laundry room is in our cellar.

Of all the aspects of being a mother that I cherish, laundry isn't one of them. My patient, loving husband washes and dries nearly all the family laundry. The laundry I then fold makes it into baskets that I carry to the first-floor family room, or, if I am feeling particularly ambitious, to the second-floor hallway. We generally pull clean clothes from the piles in the baskets. Obviously, I am a lazy laundress. But over this Mother's Day weekend,  reading St. Francis de Sales gave me a burst of inspiration.

Thanks to Salvador Dalí

Until recently, all I knew about Salvador Dalí was that he created this painting. I have seen it—smaller than I expected—many times at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. I hadn't realized that Dali, known for weird surrealist paintings such has this one, had reverted to Catholicism in midlife. Born on this day in Catalonia, Spain, he had been raised Catholic but had turned to atheism as a young adult. He painted this picture, The Persistence of Memory, when he was 27 and in the full embrace of atheism. Even then, however, he was contemplating how time is a fluid concept, something anyone who believes that God exists beyond space and time has mulled.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Thanks to Our Lady (Music for Mondays)

This post is by Allison Salerno.
I'd guess that Mary, the poor unmarried Jewish teenager who 2,000 years ago agreed to bear the Son of God at considerable personal risk, is the most famous woman who ever lived. Certainly, she is the most remarkable. We Catholics dedicate the month of May to her - not because we worship her or think she gives us salvation. We honor Mary because she is in heaven, reigns as its queen, and can pray for us. Always, she leads us to her son.

So it's no surprise that Catholics throughout the ages have sung songs dedicated to Our Lady, who is the mother of us all. I thought it would be fun to share a few. (Along with a photo of a work by contemporary sculptor Enrique de la Vega.)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Thanks to Our Mothers: Past, Present, and Future

This Sunday in the United States we celebrate our mothers.  Webster, Allison, and I wish a Happy Mothers Day to all of you.  Mom, we couldn't have done it without you!

The portrait here is by Mary Cassatt and is entitled Breakfast in Bed. I have fond memories of being cuddled by my mother and of seeing my wife cuddle my children like this as well. And I found these thoughts on the importance of motherhood from one of our favorite Catholic authors. Once again, G.K. Chesterton hits the nail right on the head.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Because Here in Nashville, God Is With Us in Our Deepest Need

Guest post by Julie Cragon

Nashville has pulled together as a family. This is due, in no small part, to the prayers of the faith-filled and the Holy Spirit working through our hands and feet.

Last Saturday, I sat in this very spot at
St. Mary's Bookstore and worried as creeks and drains began to fill due to the heavy amounts of rain. By late in the day, we were hearing of families pumping out basements due to flooding. Soon, stories of flooded basements turned into stories of moving furniture from first to second floors, which became stories of evacuations and boat rescues and then stories of total losses and even deaths.

Friday, May 7, 2010

To Redeem My Past

If Catholicism were only about getting into heaven, then it would be only about the future. I'm sure there are skeptics who look at our faith this way, as a means of racking up brownie points for the afterlife. In fact, however, I chose to become a Catholic mostly for what it does for my present. It changes my life, day by day. It makes me happier, here and now. What I didn't know then, and what has taken two years to begin to understand is, being a Catholic also changes my past.

Because We Need to Count Our Days

Whenever I take our younger son to the barber shop, I'm reminded of time's passage and the prayer of Moses in Psalm 90: "Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart."  Something about this barber shop, which I have been taking our sons to for a decade now, makes me reflect on the unfolding of time. I took Lucky for a haircut last weekend. What a privilege it is to watch our children grow up.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Because I Can Always Go to Mass

Drink too much last night? You can go to Mass this morning. Argue stupidly with your spouse about matters that seem trivial in the new day's light? Christ awaits you in the Eucharist. Thrashing over a problematic relationship or a financial problem? Somewhere right now a priest is saying Mass. Pinwheeling through life without a clear sense of direction at work, at home, in love or friendship? The church door is unlocked somewhere near you, and Mass is about to begin.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Because We Must Love One Another

At the end of our lives, what will matter? Spanish mystic and Doctor of the Church St. John of the Cross tells us, "In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone." But what is love?

“The Habit of Perfection” (A Few Words for Wednesday)

Twice in the past week I said or wrote something deeply embarrassing—hurtful words about someone else that I have regretted with a stab in the heart. The first time was with someone very close to me. The second was in a recent post. In the first case, my embarrassment led to a reconciliation with the person involved: we have never been closer. It is too early to predict what will happen in the second case, but I'm praying about it. Meanwhile, I've taken a vow of silence.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Introducing the YIM Catholic Bookshelf

Back in January, I wrote a post named Because of the Pleasure of Finding Things Out, a title I borrowed from a book written by physicist Richard Feynman. The photo you see here accompanied that post. As I wrote then, finding things out about Catholicism is a pleasure for me.

It was probably late 2007 when I discovered Google Books.  There you will find previews of books, what they call "snippet views" or "limited previews" that have a clock running on them (I guess?) and missing pages. But there is also a category called "full view." I really liked that because I could read the whole book for free! 

Monday, May 3, 2010

It's Only Rock and Roll II (Music for Mondays)

Happy Monday people! It's raining in my neck of the woods, how about yours? I've come up with 5 religious (or near religious songs) that did well on the charts. They still sound good today too and always make me think of the divine. Some more than others for sure and maybe none of them for you. Either way, if nothing else, they may help you see that the divine is always at work and still breaks in upon the secular just to remind us of that fact.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Because of May Crownings

We Catholics dedicate the month of May to Mary, who is the Queen of Heaven and Earth. Today at noon, for the first time in my 47 years, I participated in a May Crowning.

We Catholics do not worship Mary; we ask her to pray for us. To those who did not know her destiny, Mary probably seemed like an ordinary teenager when she became the Mother of God. And yet, Mary was the most extraordinary woman who ever lived. How wonderful that our Church cherishes the unique role she played in bearing and raising the Son of God and the Savior of our world. She kept her faith all the way to the foot of her son's cross.

To Keep My Mind Open, My Heart Too

There are Catholics and there are Catholics. I don't mean conservatives and liberals, or Dominicans and Jesuits. I'm talking about Catholics who remain open to experience, because in that experience they may find beauty, they may even find Christ—and Catholics who are closed to experience, because they're right enough as they are, thank you very much. I had a vivid demonstration of the difference yesterday, when our men's group welcomed four members of Communion and Liberation (CL) from Boston and Cambridge.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

For All That is Seen and Unseen

I adore swimming in the ocean but I'm not fond of the beaches I must traverse to do so. I don't like walking over the sand. And when I finish swimming, I don't like the feeling of wet sand on my toes and legs. So maybe that's why during a family vacation I hurried along the rocks and pebbles on Sunset Beach, New Jersey, to return to the family van. Thank God that Lucky, our then nine-year-old son, stopped me because he wanted to beach comb.

For All the Saints: Joseph the Worker

Writing is not physically demanding, but try doing it every day for three or four hours. The first thing you have to accomplish is to put your body in the chair. (There are other saltier words for body.) Then you have to move your fingers, despite interference from your brain. One of my remedies for this laziness (which some glorify as "writer's block") is to read a prayer to St. Joseph each morning before I begin. It hangs over my writing desk.