05 August 2011

Abounding Weirdnesses

Around 4.30am I was sipping my coffee and browsing the First Things website.  I landed on a poetry post written by Gabriel Torretta.   Turns out that Mr. Torretta is actually Br. Gabriel, OP!  I was delighted to find another Dominican friar who's interested in modern poetry.  So, I left him a comment in the hope that he might get in contact with me.  

This morning I went into the priory chapel to celebrate Mass.  The Usual Suspects are there. . .and one stranger in an OP habit.  After Mass, we introduce ourselves. . .he's Br. Gabriel!  How weird is that?  We immediately retired to the refectory and commenced a longish discussion of poetry.  

I said to another friar in the house after telling him this story, "See.  Jesus loves poetry too."

Follow HancAquam & Check out my Wish List --------->

Following Christ isn't a theory or a game

NB.  I got to the end of the second page this morning at Mass and discovered nothing but a blank page.   Apparently, the printer just spit out the last page w/o printing anything on it.  I had to improv the ending.  Oh well.  Good thing I love to talk.

18th Week OT (F)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Albert the Great Priory

Jesus has just finished telling his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem where he will suffer and die at the hands of his enemies. Peter, no doubt rocked to his core at this revelation, takes the Lord aside and rebukes him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you." Being a deeply pastoral sort, Jesus turns to Peter and offers to listen to his concerns; gently leads the newly minted facilitator of the disciples through all of the available options, and helps him to express his concerns in a non-confrontational, non-threatening way. Once consoled, Peter smiles and Jesus continues, saying, “Whoever wishes to come after me is invited to explore a wide variety of possible means for doing so and choose the path that best suits his/her felt needs.” All the disciples smile and wander off in different directions in search of how best to actualize his/her individual human potential. We are happy to learn that no one suffered, no one died, and everyone eventually fulfilled all of his/her felt needs. Now, what does Jesus actually say in response to Peter's rebuke? “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do. . . Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. . .” If you've never thought of Jesus as a major buzz-kill, now's the time to start!

We don't want to say that Peter is urging his Master to abandon his mission and create some sort of humanistic, therapy-ish program for achieving inner-peace and enlightenment. But we have to wonder what exactly Peter is thinking when he objects to God's plan for His Christ. Peter knows the Hebrew prophecies concerning the fate of the promised Messiah. He's witnessed the religious and political opposition to his Master's teachings. He's heard the dropped hints and subtle clues that indicate a less than glorious end for Jesus' public ministry. So, what exactly is his problem? Maybe it's just hearing it all said out loud. Maybe it's hearing Jesus himself reveal the ugly details. Or, maybe it's a combination of being handed the keys to the kingdom AND THEN told that his Master is to suffer and die at the hands of their enemies. The combination of authority, responsibility, and the lack of Messianic supervision is enough to rattle anyone! No doubt—Peter doesn't want his teacher to suffer and die, nor does he want the burdens of leading a Messianic movement w/o a Messiah. But it could be the caase that Peter is most afraid for his own skin. He knows that Christ's suffering and death means that his own suffering and death is not far behind. When he rebukes Jesus, what he's really saying is: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to ME!"

Let's ask a difficult question: how much of our daily lives as followers of Christ is spent avoiding the suffering Christ himself suffered? How often do we put down our cross and let it rest against convenient props—props like social justice politics, theological speculation, well-worn and comfortable devotions, intellectual gaming, therapeutic processes, or an old favorite: “just doing a job”? Following after Christ—that is, following him to the Cross in Jerusalem, following him to suffer and love for others—isn't a theory, a therapy, a game, a devotion, a process, or a job. Nor is it a lifestyle or a career. It's a commission, a ministry, a vocation; one that each of us has accepted freely, willingly, perhaps even eagerly. And even though each of us individually has set our feet on this path, we do not travel the path alone. Christ died so that he might be among us always. . .with each of us and with all of us together. With all the authority and responsibility of leading others behind our Christ, there is nothing we should fear and so we can say, “God forbid, Lord! That we should set down our cross.”

Follow HancAquam & Check out my Wish List --------->

Catholic Laity & the New Evangelization

A reminder about tomorrow's (Say, Aug 6th) day-long retreat:

The retreat is open to all. . .come join us!

Follow HancAquam & Check out my Wish List --------->

04 August 2011

Coffee Cup Browsing

More "Have You No Decency" hypocrisy from the Left.

Headline of the Week:  "Giant Rat Kills Predators with Poisonous Hair"  How unwashed do you have to be to produce poisonous hair!?!

The cry room is the worst post-VC2 innovation in church design?  Sorry, Deacon. . .with all due respect. . .THAT prize goes to the "Church in the Round" idiocy. 

Jewish --> Protestant --> Catholic!  A familiar conversion story.

Gov. Christie of NJ appoints a Muslim to the bench.  This strikes me as No Big Deal so long as the judge follows NJ/US law. 

What is it with Democrats and nude pics on the internet?  NB.  pics may not be safe for work.

Kneeling to receive communion?  Why is this still a controversy?  The U.S. bishops and the Holy Father have made it perfectly clear that standing to receive is the norm in the U.S. and kneeling is permitted. Could it be b/c some want their personal preference to be required of everyone?  Nawwwwwww.

Will ObamaCare drive Catholics out of the healthcare business? 

This is how the Feline Revolution will begin. . .

The Zombie-Alien-Robot Vinn Diagram of Human Extinction.  Yea, but Zombies need humans to make more Zombies, so what happens when the Aliens and Robots eliminate all the humans?  Didn't think of that, did you?  I didn't think so!

Follow HancAquam & Check out my Wish List --------->

03 August 2011

Coffee Cup Browsing

Why all the hysterical name-calling from the Lefty Elite?  ". . .their authority is collapsing. And if there is one thing they know deep in their bones, it is that they are entitled to that authority."  Yup, when I considered myself one of the L.E., we were convinced of our intellectual, moral, and political superiority.  We deserved the power we had granted ourselves.

Archbishop Chaput on Church reform: ". . .men and women didn't found the Church, they don't own her, and they have no license to reinvent her.”  

The dictatorship of sentimentalism. . .both ends of the ecclesial theological spectrum are slaves to this Master.

B.O. orders all insurance companies to offer free artificial birth control. . .an order that can be revoked in Jan 2013.

LCWR will forgo discussion in search of the Spirit's will". . .the [sisters] will sit together in silence, discovering what God is calling forth for religious life today. They will have no expectation of a particular insight or result."  Whatcha wanna bet "obedience to the magisterium" isn't going to be the result?

Don't like snakes?  Don't watch this one take a ride on this couple's windshield. 

"You're growing old when your knees buckle and your belt won't."  Great tag-lines.

How to make a bacon-infused cocktail:  "How-to" vids on Youtube.

Follow HancAquam & Check out my Wish List --------->

When a plea for help is met with silence

18th Week OT (W)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Albert the Great Priory

When we set aside any prurient interest we might have in demonic possession and the theatrics of the Hollywood exorcism, we realize that the battle faced by the daughter of the Canaanite woman is rather ordinary. In one way or another, we are all “tormented by a demon.” The reality of evil and its destruction is in no way mitigated by its everydayness, by its banality. In fact, recognizing the prevalence of evil and its familiarity is an excellent way to recognize and claim the same faith that eventually frees the girl from her tormentor. However, while recognizing the prevalence and familiarity of evil, Catholics often make a fatal mistake. We think of the Devil as extraordinary: somehow outside our normal experience. He's an exotic power; a dark, majestic angel; a fierce, nearly all-powerful foe capable of controlling those inclined to habitual sin and overwhelming the innocent. The truth of the matter is much less dramatic. The Devil is a defeated foe. Has been from Day One. Is now. And always will be. Notice Jesus' reaction when he hears the pleas of the Canaanite mother: “. . .he did not say a word in answer to her.” No alarms. No rushing about with sirens blaring. Just silence and waiting. What is he waiting for? A profession of simple trust in God, a declaration of faith. When he hears the mother make her profession, he says, “O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish.” And it is. Her daughter is healed.

Of course, this scene from Matthew's gospel isn't about demonic possession; it's about the catholicity of faith, the universal and fundamental human need to trust in God. When the Canaanite woman begs for help, Jesus replies with silence. His disciples are impatient and contemptuous: “Send her away!” Finally, Jesus responds to the woman with the objection everyone expects from a rabbi when speaking to a Gentile: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. . .It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Now, the question at this point is: does this unclean woman slink away, properly chastised, or does she profess her faith? Jesus waits. The desperate mother cries out (surprisingly? predictably?) a humble trust in God, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Nothing extraordinary, nothing exotic or weird. Just an ordinary woman laying claim to her faith and expressing a mother's love for her child. That's all it takes to heal her daughter. That's all it takes to show the Devil that he is defeated. 

The genius of our Lord's silent waiting in the face of the mother's pleading lies in his knowledge that the woman is faithful despite her uncleanliness. In other words, her status as a Gentile, the fact that she is “outside the flock” in no way alters that which is basic to us all: an abiding, even nagging, desire to love God and proclaim our trust in His care. It may have taken the demonic possession of her daughter to drive her to give voice to that desire, but when driven to it, she makes a public profession and reaps the harvest of her obedience. What she doesn't do is give the Devil more power than he can actually wield, more influence than he is capable of exerting. Even an unspoken, unrealized faith can dwarf the worst that evil can throw at us. . .so long as we do not succumb to despair, to the temptation to surrender to an already defeated enemy. If your pleas for help are met with silence, profess your faith, lay claim to your trust in God's loving-care, and you will be healed even before help arrives.

Follow HancAquam & Check out my Wish List --------->

02 August 2011

Angels, St. John, & St. Augustine

The Angel with the Broken Wing
Dana Gioia

I am the Angel with the Broken Wing,
The one large statue in this quiet room.
The staff finds me too fierce, and so they shut
Faith’s ardor in this air-conditioned tomb.

The docents praise my elegant design
Above the chatter of the gallery.
Perhaps I am a masterpiece of sorts—
The perfect emblem of futility.

Mendoza carved me for a country church.
(His name’s forgotten now except by me.)
I stood beside a gilded altar where
The hopeless offered God their misery.

I heard their women whispering at my feet—
Prayers for the lost, the dying, and the dead.
Their candles stretched my shadow up the wall,
And I became the hunger that they fed.

I broke my left wing in the Revolution
(Even a saint can savor irony)
When troops were sent to vandalize the chapel.
They hit me once—almost apologetically.

For even the godless feel something in a church,
A twinge of hope, fear? Who knows what it is?
A trembling unaccounted by their laws,
An ancient memory they can’t dismiss.

There are so many things I must tell God!
The howling of the dammed can’t reach so high.
But I stand like a dead thing nailed to a perch,
A crippled saint against a painted sky.


Reading Saint John of the Cross
Susan Kelly-DeWitt

How many miles to the border
where all the sky there is
exists for the soul alone?

Where the only breathers
breathing are constructed
from some new electricity
and the flowers are made
indestructible, and messages
from the dead arrive like calm
white birds with a gift?

One more night of spiritual
ice and we might all become
birds, green birds frozen
on a black winter branch.

There is a drumming in the shadows
under leaves: a million eight-eyed
spiders on the march.

The buckeyes beat themselves
half to death against
some lit-from-within screen.


“The Vision of Saint Augustine”
Beverley Bie Brahic

Carpaccio, San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, Venice
You are amazed to find trees in Venice —
To turn a corner into a campo
Where two or three rustling acacias
Spread their halo of leaves
Over two or three red-slatted benches.
It’s as if you had slipped through a curtained doorway
Into a hall full of dull gold scenes
By Carpaccio — a miraculous light —
Though the rio’s still shrouded in a mist
Compounded of water vapour and smog
So it’s not that the sun has come out, it’s
Something to do with the leaves and painting

In the realm of echoes where footsteps
Reverberate endlessly between two walls
And dawn is the chink of a stonemason
At his reparations, disembodied
Voices irresistible as bird calls.
Yes, you’re amazed to find trees in Venice
Shedding their gold leaf onto the pavement
Outside a secondhand bookstore.
It’s like Carpaccio’s little white dog
Wagging his tail at the feet of Saint Augustine
Who is staring out of the window
Looking for the voice of Saint Jerome.

Follow HancAquam & Check out my Wish List --------->

01 August 2011

Grace Notes

Poetry-related posts here at HancAquam are really not all that popular. . .I mean, not like Coffee Bowl Browsing or the occasional liturgical abuse rants. . .and that's OK.

Poetry--especially contemporary poetry--is like a really good blue cheese:  it takes some getting used to and frequent consumption helps.  

Unfortunately, very few contemporary poets write within the western philosophical/theological tradition and even fewer write as public Christians (Dana Gioia, Christian Wiman, Eric Pankey, Fanny Howe, Mary Karr are just a few). 

Fortunately, we have the great Catholic monthly journal, First Things to pick up the slack. 

The poetry editors of First Things have selected the best verse from their publication and collected it in a volume titled, Grace Notes

I encourage you to order a copy ($9.95) for yourself or a poetry lover you know and help support the culture of good Christian verse in the western tradition!

My copy is on the way. . .

Follow HancAquam & Check out my Wish List --------->

31 July 2011

Poetry from First Things

At This Still Point of the Turning World
Marion Montgomery

The winter poplars stand—
Strange masts with spars
Under cold stars.
I shall wait a myriad sail of leaves
In spring rains and winds.
I shall bend in starboards and lees
Still riddling the pilgrim signs
Toward the always mysterious ends.


Richard Wilbur

Give thanks for all things
On the plucked lute, and likewise
The harp of ten strings.
Have the lifted horn
Greatly blare, and pronounce it
Good to have been born.
Lend the breath of life
To the stops of the sweet flute
Or capering fife,
And tell the deep drum
To make, at the right juncture,
Then, in grave relief,
Praise too our sorrows on the
Cello of shared grief.


The Romantic's Prayer
Joseph Awad

Help me to lay aside my glitzy schemes,
My starry ifs, my svelte velleities;
Write off the wasted seasons, the regrets,
The fantasies of fame, the stubborn dreams
Of lotteries won and weeks of sunlit ease
On the Riviera, trips on private jets,
"Adventure and romance," those heady themes!
Help me to treasure simple pieties,
Resolves to which I've always said, "Not yet!"
Let me retrieve the rich, rejected graces,
The chances lost to be with children, wife,
And find fulfillment in the homey places.
Lord, reconcile me with my life.


"I Did Not Come to Call the Righteous"
Julie Stoner

Matthew 9:9–13
We ninety-nine obedient sheep;
we workers hired at dawn’s first peep;
we faithful sons who strive to please,
forsaking prodigalities;
we virgins who take pains to keep
our lamps lit, even in our sleep;
we law-abiding Pharisees;

we wince at gospels such as these.

Follow HancAquam & Check out my Wish List --------->