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Monday, April 30, 2007

Seek, and ye shall find

"As far back as I can remember I asked questions about 'life' - why we're here and where we're going. [snip] [God] put us here to ask, to try to find out the best way possible to live with our neighbors. Of course, you can go through a life not asking, and that's the tragedy: so many lives lived in moral blindness."
Dorothy Day, A Radical Devotion, pgs 23-24

I've been wondering a lot lately why some people don't seem to question anything. They coast through life, engaging in the status quo never stepping outside the norm because "that's just how it is" and never wondering why it is. I've always been a thinker. Questions were the first things out of my mouth. I wanted to understand everything and ponder their meanings, whether it be from a child's perspective, the all knowing teenage mind or from my current lowly standpoint. I can remember trying to argue points with my father because I had just learned the *truth* on MTV or the latest issue of Mother Jones. I can write off my blunders now as youthful brashness or rebellion, but yet I think of those around me who still lap up what the media and society puts out for them the way a dog happily licks up antifreeze, unaware of the deadly consequences of such a sweet elixir. How many voters never get beyond the sound bites on CNN or MSNBC in selecting their candidate? And in the same vein, how many people slave away for a corporate overseer 40 or more hours a week because that's what they've been conditioned to believe is the American dream? Working for yourself and being self reliant is a foolish dream; how can you afford a flat screen and two new SUVs with out the glamorous job that keeps you from your family 5 days a week? Such folk would rather think inside the box because outside those four safe corners is uncertainty. I believe most of society would prefer to have their information fed to them and have all the thinking done for them, it's easier and usually makes us feel good about ourselves. When we start thinking about things around us and why they are the way they are, our thoughts tend to turn to God and our purpose here. And if you spend any amount of time studying and really contemplating God's plan for us, you'd realize how far off the mark society and mainstream media is and you'd have to reexamine everything in your life. Whoa Nelly! Why not stop right there and just pick up the latest paperback self-help book on the NY Times bestseller list and reaffirm your self esteem. Unfortunately, there is only one book that God expects us to pick up and it's not a popular selection for most liberals. People who allow themselves to be catechized by society without taking charge for their own, and their family's, spiritual formation will follow the status quo straight into an unpleasant eternity. It's a basic Baltimore Catechism lesson; to gain the happiness of heaven, we must know, love and serve God in this world. *Know* is the key word here. You cannot know God if you live solely amongst men and earthly desires. We were given higher intelligence to aspire to higher things. If you haven't, question things around you. Why do you do what you do every day? Do you enjoy it? Is it getting you closer to your heavenly reward? Do you know what will? There are answers to life's questions. Stop keeping up with the Jones and start setting some new Christ centered priorities.
"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" Mathew 7:7

Friday, April 27, 2007

"We are here to bear witness to our Lord."

"Many young people have come here and worked with us, and they tell us after a while that they have learned a lot and are grateful to us, but they disagree with us on various matters - our pacifism, our opposition to the death penalty, our interest in small communities, and our opposition to the coercive power of the state. You people are impractical, they tell us, nice idealists, but not headed anywhere big and important. They are right. We are impractical, as one of us put it, as impractical as Calvary. There is no point in trying to make us into something we are not. We are not another Community Fund group, anxious to help people with some bread and butter and a cup of coffee or tea. We feed the hungry, yes; we try to shelter the homeless and give them clothes, if we have some, but there is a strong faith and work; we pray. If an outsider who comes to visit doesn't pay attention to our praying and what that means, they he'll miss the whole point of things.
We are here to bear witness to our Lord. We are here to follow His lead. We are here to celebrate Him through these works of mercy. We are here, I repeat, to follow His lead - to oppose war and the murder of our fellow human beings, to reach out to all we see and meet. We are not here to prove that our technique of working with the poor is useful, or to prove that we are able to be effective humanitarians. That's what one visitor told me we are, effective humanitarians. Then he added what he thought was his ultimate compliment. He told me that there's a lot that city and state and federal agencies could learn from us, that we have excellent relationships with our patrons, that we have become efficient and reach our target population quite well, and that we work with a minimum of friction and red-tape. I was supposed to be impressed and grateful.
I don't mean to sound as ungrateful as I just did. It is interesting how we find a target for our frustrations. That man became one form. I turned him into a representation of all the government bureaucrats and of all the agnostic reformers want to get the poor off the streets and into various programs and projects funded by the Congress of the United State of America. [snip] He told me once - joking, but he was serious, also - that if he could ever become secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, he would try to abolish poverty in America. I asked him why he wanted to do that. He recited all the statistics he knew, and they did sound awful, but I had the feeling he wasn't thinking of any particular poor person, but of all those numbers and percentages.
I told him there were lots of numbers and percentages that I didn't know, but I was sure that when poverty is abolished in America there will still be plenty of poverty. And the question will be, What kind of poverty has one embraced; spiritual poverty, or a voluntary poverty meant to help one avoid spiritual poverty? He looked at me as if he was having trouble with my talk, and I could see why. I wasn't being as helpful to him as I might have been. I was using him, I later realized. After you've heard a lot of people tell you that you're part of a cute little experiment that has no real meaning for the tough real world out there, you being to act a little cute yourself - as if you're in some trance that makes you useless - or you begin to look at your accusers with a jaundiced eye and ask yourself who in the world they are, and what in the world are they accomplishing with their various legislative victories, their big offices, and their massive appropriations."
Dorothy Day, pg 97-98 'Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion'

Monday, April 23, 2007

"The Church is my home."

While visiting relatives along the shores of Lake Ontario, I finally picked up my second hand copy of 'Dorothy Day, A Radical Devotion,' by Robert Coles. Despite having read one other biography and Day's autobiography, I am engaged by 'A Radical Devotion' because of all the fabulous quotes Coles was lucky enough to obtain and pass along in this book. The journalist in me would love to sit down and listen to the original interview tapes and read over the pages of hand written notes compiled by Coles in the early 1970's. There are passages in the book where I believe Coles tries to fit Day into a preconceived mold, however, he admits most of his own leanings early on and does not hesitate to provide quotations from Day that may contradict his earlier notions. As an orthodox Catholic, I feel at times I understand Day's words better than Coles. Where he sometimes has lingering questions, I am satisfied and pleased with the direction Day had lead the conversation. By the time the two met, Day was a seasoned journalist and interview subject (perhaps sometime media darling) and she remains mindful of her words throughout. There would be no Barbara Walter style surprise sobs during these interviews (at least not in anything I've read so far.) Day lived outside popular classifications; liberal, conservative, anarchist, radical, well-educated, down to earth. She encompassed all of these much to the chagrin of those who would like to pin her down. She articulates her points expertly and exactly and has no time to mince words with those who would like to spin her phrases to suit their own agenda. I would like to pass along some interesting quotes I come across in the book and then eventually review the book once I complete it. Enjoy and pick up a copy if you are able.
"I didn't ever see myself as posing a challenge to church authority. I was a Catholic then, and I am one now, and I hope and pray I die one. I have not wanted to challenge the church, not on any of its doctrinal positions. I try to be loyal to the church-to its teachings, its ideals. I love the church with all my heart and soul. I never go inside a church without thanking God Almighty for giving me a home. The church is my home, and I don't want to be homeless. I may work with the homeless, but I have had no desire to join their ranks."
Day quote, A.R.D pg 82

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"His whole way of life was revolutionary."

I'll be away for a few days. Enjoy until next time.

"All this morning the words have been in my mind, "What you have done to the least of these, my brethren, you have done to me." How hard and terrible a thing is the Christian religion, which teaches us that those who take the sword will die by the sword, that we must forgive our enemies, who are to be found in "our own household," Jesus Christ said.

We call ourselves Christian, we citizens of the United States, the majority of us, but no one would ever know us as Christians. Reflect on the life of Jesus who came to call sinners, who was born in poverty, who lived as a worker for thirty years. He was an itinerant teacher, walking the roads of Palestine, who hungered and thirsted and was fatigued to the point of exhaustion, who was tempted in all things like us but He did not sin, because He was also God. As the apostles said, we are called to be other-Christs, we are called to put off the old man and put on Christ, we are told to see Christ in our brother. Hard sayings and who can understand it. Only the Spirit can teach us. It is some comfort to remember those further words, when Christ himself died because His whole way of life was revolutionary. —He spoke them from the torture in which He hung, nailed as He was to a cross—"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." And He also said to the thief dying by His side, "This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise."

By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, September 1971, 1.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A new stranger

Be sure to check out the new link to Stranger in a Strange Land. Some of the art on there is awesome, although I'm totally intimidated by the 'current reads' list. This guy/gal can't possibly have children. I could handle, maybe one of those books (over the course of a year) in the wee bit of time around naps and bedtime. Good stuff though. I'll be updating my Amazon wish list.

Why We Bear Arms

The recent tragedy at Virgina Tech has stirred up the ongoing debate on "the right to bear arms." The White House doesn't want to discuss the issue now, because the of fresh wounds, which I agree with to a point, however, people die everyday from gun violence so there will always be those who are mourning. Last time I checked, the number of shooting deaths in Philly for 2007 was about 118. The media is screaming gun control! and foreign countries are condemning us for our barbaric gun culture.
However growing up in a house with a Solider of Fortune Magazine subscriber, NRA member and hunter, I've seen the other side first hand as well. My house was FILLED with guns of all types and calibers and I never once thought of touching them. I can't remember a time when I didn't know the consequence of playing with guns. Even when I received my own rifle at age 11, I never took it out unless I was going to target practice. And despite depressing periods in my life when I was mercilessly picked on and felt unloved, I never considered using a gun on another human.
So why is it today kids immediately turn to guns? Why is murder and suicide such an appealing option to troubled people? Disgruntled employees, broken hearted lovers, bullied kids all turning to guns. Is it the violence that saturates our culture through the media and entertainment industries that inspire people? Is it the lack of faith which leaves people feeling like there's no other option, no one to turn to and nothing to look forward to? Is it a feeling of power one feels when wielding an instrument capable of death?
Without knowing the cause, we can't change the effect. We can regulate and create all sorts of waiting periods but without changing the reasons that motivate people to turn to deadly force, like firearms, we will have little affect on the outcome. But because many of the problems that lead people down this dark path are ignored or condoned by society, I doubt any real solutions will be offered by anyone on Capitol Hill.
Broken homes, premarital sex, lack of faith and greed can lead to gun violence. Kids in gangs will continue to shoot each other regardless of a semi automatic weapons ban because they never grew up with a father figure and now they seek the approval of a gang plus the wealth that a drug dealer position provides them. You find me a gang comprised of those who came from a two parent Christ-centered family. Everyday it seems a man shoots his former girlfriend and/or his children, then kills himself. It's becoming common place. How many of these people are in married relationships? How many of these people entered into the holy sacrament of marriage? Not many if any. And school shootings; whether bullied students acting out or nuts on a rampage these are people who clearly feel there is nothing left to live for and wish to die. Where along the way did they lose faith in God, in His unending love and plan for them? Where along the way did people stop reaching out in charity and concern? But nowadays I guess, it's not cool to witness or even give a damn about someone who's a little different.
So who's to blame? People are always able to rise above their circumstances, however, lack of religious upbringing, peer pressure, abuse and neglect can leave people unable to resist the temptation of the devil. And when these behaviors (single parent homes, cohabitation, rejection of religious morals, etc. ) are endorsed by mainstream society we convince ourselves there has to be another reason for the violence. So we blame guns.
I don't know if gun control is the answer since the lack of control starts before the gun is ever picked up. It's a problem the federal government could only screw up more. It is a problem that can only be solved by those who reach out and love those around them.

"“I’m not going to let you guys fight one another,” I said. “If I have to get in the way, in between you, I will - even if it means that I get hurt.”

Clark shook his head at me and walked away, saying, “You’ll get beat bad if you do that. Don’t do it. It’s not worth it.”

If there was one thing I said right tonight, it was what I said next. “You’re wrong. It is worth it. You are worth it.”

Later Clark apologized. Although things are still tense between the men in the house, at least we survived the night. One day down, an eternity to go. How long will it take us to put away our hatred of one another - our hatred of ourselves? How easily we fight, maim, and kill. Thank God that tonight, we found a different way! Thank God!"

Nate at Lamb & Dragon

The Next Worker Farm?

As you know, my family is working on acquiring a 2.65 parcel to turn into our own homestead/Worker farm thingy. Things look promising, and I'm not a total basket case as I'm wont to do because I've left it with St. Joseph to take care of. Hopefully, he won't hold it against me that I left him buried at a previous residence. (It was totally an accident I swear!)
Anyway, we're having a hard time coming up with a name. So I need suggestions. I like St. Benedict, St. Joseph or anything Marian, however, despite my traditional leanings, I'm not interested in a Latin name.
So if anyone has a catchy farm name, please pass it along. If there's enough interest, I'll even do a poll and let my readers vote on the name. Please leave it in the comments or email it directly to me.
Once the property is officially in our hands, I'll give you all the details, with pictures. Maybe I'll even make the renovation a regular feature, as I'm sure it will give us many moments to reflect upon and question our decision, our sanity and our future.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The rest of the month

Be sure to check out today's feature on Catholic Daily. Information you probably won't hear anywhere else regarding April's liturgical calendar. Yes, there's more going on than just Easter.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The State

""A thousand years are as one day" in the history of the Church, so of course the Church has not gotten very far in the solving of this problem which started with Constantine. Actually if the State, City, and the whole secular world with its "inspector generals" and bureaucracies did not demand our conformity to such insane standards of luxury, Holy Mother the Church would not have to be pleading for funds for schools, and books, and buses, and health and welfare aids. (As St. Hilary wrote a thousand, (or a few days) ago, "The less we ask of Caesar, the less we will have to render to Caesar." This was his commentary on Jesus’ words--"Render to Caesar the things of Caesar and to God the things of God.")

How good it would be to see the Church closer and closer to poverty and the poor; little schools set up on every block, in idle rooms, in empty buildings, with the students themselves helping repair them and getting meanwhile some sense of the joy of manual labor (and the pains of it, too). And idle Church-owned lands given over to the disorderly poor, the unworthy poor, to build up little villages of huts, tepees, log cabins, yes, even outhouses. Which might come to resemble (if a Church of sorts were built in the center) an ancient Irish monastery. Ireland used to be called the land of Saints and Scholars.

Actually, we see some of these attempts today in "communes" all over the country and among the dreamers, the "freaked out." Even the shacks of the farm workers on the lands of the growers could be made into a community of common purpose--"to make the kind of society where it is easier to be good."

Overcoming our enemies is slow work indeed. Loving our enemies is commanded of us by Christ. And I can lie here on my couch on a snowy January afternoon and dream dreams, and write this letter to our readers. But of course our greatest enemy is ourselves, our lethargy, our neglect of those most powerful means--prayer and fasting (and the sacraments)."

"On Pilgrimage - January 1973"
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I prefer to get all my headlines throughout the day via the AP headlines on my Yahoo! page. Sometimes I peruse the headlines on my local newspapers websites. Sunday is the only day of the week when I pick up an actual newspaper and I watch the local news less than once a month anymore.
I used to watch the news every morning and get a daily paper. If I missed a day, I felt left out. Now, I realize, there is little to miss out on. On any given day, the top "news" stories relate to celebrities, bickering politicians, sex or grotesque violence. None of these sensasional headlines reflect events that will in any way impact me. At most, these news stories give people things to gossip about over the water cooler. As a culture, we obsess over the accidental death of a Playboy centerfold or the careless remarks of a radio host. Why do we waste so much of our precious time, energy and resources on such meaningless drivel? Even local papers fill most of their pages with news irrelevant to their local subscribers. We know more about the A-list in Hollywood or NYC than we do about people in our own hometown, as if our neighbors are less important.
We have a major problem with distraction. If we got off our couches, turned off the TVs, closed the newspapers and stood awhile in conversation with our neighbor, we'd learn a lot more valuable information than anything coming over the wire.
And I'm not talking about gossiping; I'm talking about forging friendships and relationships with those in our community. Today, children are still assaulted despite the protection of Meghan's Law. Fifty years ago, a pervert couldn't move into a community and unpack before word spread about who he was. We stay in our own houses and expect to get all the news we need from the media. We're outraged and blame the government when a crime happens in our community.
But the news we need is hardly the news we receive. The end result is a country who wastes their time worrying about American Idol finalists, campaign finances and Oprah's opinion on anything. We put so much effort into discussing or solving these non-existent problems we totally overlook the real problems in our communities. And this fluff is what we use to form opinions, elect officials, make decisions and raise our children on.
In the most recent issue of Crisis, Alice von Hildebrand has a wonderful article, "The Devil's Distraction, A Misplaced Bad Conscience." And while her piece talks specifically about American bishops, the points she makes can be applied here.
"The devil knows that any Christian worth of this name realizes that he is a sinner in need of God's mercy. This is a valid attitude that the father of lies will deflect for his own purpose; to give men (particularly church men) a bad conscience for things they are not responsible for, while closing their eyes to real moral faults that can lead to a severe neglect of their duty as pastors of souls. It is a superb method of leading them into a dead end and making them feel contrite and apologetic for sins they have not committed. This approach has several advantages for evil. First, an imaginary weight of guilt is paralyzing and unbearable because it cannot possibly lead to a valid contrition, which in turn leads to confession and reconciliation. Another is that it closes the eyes of pastors to their real sins of omission and the grave neglect of their primary duties."

So while I'm not talking just about pastors, hopefully you see the connection. The devil distracts us in order to keep us from addressing our real sins. This works on a personal and communal level. What upsets you in the world today? Global warming? Are you buying fancy electric cars, recycling, and writing letters to your congressman? How's your relationship with Christ? Are you working on that or are you too busy? Do you work yourself up into a tizzy over Brittany's latest adventure? Do you gossip about her with your friends and buy tabloids to make yourself feel better for not being a better mother to your own children? "Sure I'm verbally abusive, but hey, I didn't shave my head! Those crazy pop stars!"
It can be hard to focus on our sins and the problems right outside our door. It's easier to let the government, or charities or anybody else deal with the injustice in the world and to focus on the funny, sexy, unusual or morbid. There's certainly enough stimulation to pick from. Take time to turn off the world. Examine your conscience and see what's there. Go to confession and clear it out. Fill your head with prayer, spiritual readings and the scriptures and see if your priorities don't change.

Educational Road trip

If you happen to be in South Jersey this Saturday, or need a reason to be, check out CHAPLET's Catholic homeschool conference. Go here for more information. Hope to see you there.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Fellow blogger support

Please note the changes to Links. Forgotten Saints is now a blog and The Revolution... has become How Can I Keep From Singing. Check them out!
Late Edition: Be sure to also visit the new link for Catholic Daily.

The Long Awaited Prize

Happy Easter Season! I'm back. Through the desert and into the promised land. I've never been so happy to reach Easter Sunday than I am this year. When you put your all into Lent, with as little cheating as possible, your do experience joy come Sunday, regardless of the size of your Easter basket. I think back on my Methodist upbringing and I can't imagine an Easter without the emphasis on Lent. I mean beyond the, "I'm giving up chocolate ice cream, tee hee hee." type of Lent. A Lent focused on penance, fasting and alms giving. A Lent spent meditating on the passion of our Lord. A Holy Week spent at Church. We can't exclaim with joy, 'Christ the Lord is Risen!', if we haven't spent time with Mary at the foot of the cross. There is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday. My protestant upbringing took the corpus from the cross and Easter preparation wasn't called Lent; it consisted of shopping for new clothes, a ham and milk chocolate rabbits. How meaningless it all seems now. How empty. As a child, I thought Christmas was more important than Easter because I got more presents. My religious views were shaped by consumerism. My husband and I try extra hard to make holy days more than occasions for gift giving, but we're looked at as strange because we don't stock up on peanut butter eggs. As if my children miss out on the joy of the season because I stiffed them some Peeps. If we can't convey to children the awesomeness of Christ's resurrection without resorting to candy and trinkets, we've failed.
The trick now though, is to not fall back into old habits; habits I've learned I'm better off without. To not turn from fasting to gluttony, from moderation to excess because 'I deserve it after all I've done.' Like returning to sin is the long awaited prize. I can make do with so much less and be happy, so why not stick to those good habits? The only problem is, it sets the bar that much higher for next Lent. May our Lenten sacrifices, bear great fruit throughout Easter and beyond.
Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
1 Corinthians 5:7-8