Friday, September 28, 2012

QOTD - Sacraments, How to Change the World

Ever thought the last time you went to confession could change the world? Think again:
The sacraments are defining moments for Christians - and for the world. - Fr. Kurt Stasiak, OSB
Seven Sacraments Altarpiece by Rogier van der Weyden
Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

QOTD - Flee to Mercy

The proclamation of Divine Mercy pre-St. Faustina:
Do not fear that you cannot fulfill the Law; flee to mercy. - St. Augustine of Hippo

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

QOTD - What is History?

 We studied it in grammar school and high school. Never did we ask its nature content with only knowing its accidents. So, what is history?
History is not simply a fixed progression toward what is better, but rather an event of freedom, and even a struggle between freedoms. - Bl. John Paul II

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Absolute Necessity of Awkwardness

To Genevieve and Katie, Who Have Watched Me Learn This

There is much that is lacking in our culture in  the way of acesticism. It is not that we are utterly devoid of discipline. It's just that our discipline seems always directed toward the most marginal and mediocre of things. A man who 'works out' develops large biceps so that, when he sits around in his cubicle, it might feel a little less empty. A stuggling family eats Raman noddles and buys their clothes at Goodwill so that all the children can have iPhones. A soccer mom limits her food intake, not simply to prevent obesity, but so that she might feel sexy in the sequins panties that her husband bought her. Chesterton was fond of saying that it is not the vices, but the virtues, that were let loose to wreak havoc when the Post Christian era began. Thus we see the old forms of fasting and renunciation haven't disappeared; they just no longer correspond to charity. We still forgo food and beat our bodies into submission; its just that we no longer expect earth and heaven as our reward, but merely the worldly.

Being born into such a situation, it might seem odd that I suggest a reexamination of an obscure form of acesiticism, so obscure in fact that I think hagiologists are the only ones who ever wrote on it. If all the world is mistaken about the nature of self-discipline, why on earth should I waste my time with this ambigious point? Would it not be better to stick to the main issue: the radical loss of meaning in discipline? Perhaps, but (praise God) there are much better writers that can handle that battle. I am obscure, and so that the author may be comensurate with his subject matter, I will keep to reflecting on points of seeming obscurity.
In all the great saints, there was an acesiticism of humility that I can only call the radical call to awkwardness. We read about it in the mendicants mostly, though it is easier to put in proper context when we look at the more recent Saints. It can be seen when Boniface cut down the oak, when Patrick lit the bonfire, when Teresa took off her shoes and danced in the middle of meal time. Therese betrayed it when she snuck into the male monastery while on pilgrimage, and Athanasius displayed it when he jumped out of hiding to stop Constantine's chariot and argue with the Emperor. JP II was notorious for it, sneaking away in the middle of meeting and meals only to be found lying prostrate before the tabernacle---kissing men, women and children full out on the face in St. Peter's square---doodling out poetry when he got bored during sessions of the Second Vatican Council. Aquinas was caught talking to the crucifix. Pier Gorigio interrupted conversation to say rosaries. Mother Teresa walked out of committee meetings when she found out how much their bottled water had cost. And the list goes on. The point is that all of these saints knew the great secret of humility and kindness: that we must risk seeming rude and vulgar. "We must defy convention if only to keep the commandments." (GKC, once more) We must learn what God has always known: that every act of love is at risk of being interpreted as an infringement on freedom and, thus, an act of annoyance.

Now somewhere along the way, our culture made awkwardness the ultimate mortal sin. We have invoked these great disciplines of ours, the schedules, the diets, the exercise routines, the penny-pinching, all in the name of avoiding discomfort. The man at the gym never breaths a word of humility. The family on the tight budget never questions the necessity of wireless technology. The woman haphazardly starving herself never stops to think if her husband should be looking at more than her thinner thighs. At the end of the day, all of these disciplines bring them further from, not closer to, the type of humility that Francis enjoyed or Don Bosco exuded when they spent all their time with animals and children. Saints were always faulted for the 'awkwardness' that such a lifestyle created. But the secret that all the Saints knew was that the greatest joys in life begin when we call into question our own limited assumptions and priorities. "There is nothing like pain and discomfort to plant the flag of heaven behind enemy walls."(CSL, this time) Sheer happiness can never give us such a perspective, for sheer happiness is all too small a feeling. There must be an element of embarrassment or our humility is insincere. There most be that moment when it all seems wrong in order for us to know that it is truly right. The problem, as far as I can tell, with our silly Chicken Soup for the Soul discipline is not that it lacks effort, but that it lacks something of this authentic embarrassment. We look for disciplines that will bring us happy sex lives, better pleasures, stronger contentment, stable relationships, etc. We should look for the discipline that would risk all that in order to bring us back to ourselves and the Other. It is a discipline that constantly bets anything in order to gain everything. And that kind of bet is always embarrassing.

One final note before I leave you to assess your own asceticism of awkwardness; it is not enough to simply defy convention. It is not enough to be counter-cultural, eccentric, and thus enticing. Even the pagans have done the same. I hang out with many artists and eccentrics who, for all their oddness, are no closer to the Kingdom of Heaven. What I have discovered, what I so wish to see more of in the lives of my brothers and sisters, and what I am dying to find more often in my own life, is that radical humility in which I am utterly embarrassed, rolling-on-the-floor-of-my-mind-laughing-at-myself-embarrassed, and then Love comes rushing in and gathers me up. This asceticism of awkwardness should not only make Christians stand out: it should make them give up. Surrender. Make a gift of themselves. Man only discovers himself through a sincere gift of self. A sincere gift of self requires a great deal of confusion and blushing. We are told that our bodies are washed in the blood of the Lamb, and I have often wondered if we see something of that crimson when our cheeks turn red.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

QOTD - The Church Will Withstand All Persecution

Being that today is the Memorial of the Korean Martyrs. It seemed good to quote one of them.
Dearest brothers and sisters: when he was in the world, the Lord Jesus bore countless sorrows and by his own passion and death founded the Church; now he gives it increase through the sufferings of the faithful. No matter how fiercely the powers of this world oppress and oppose the Church, they will never bring it down. Ever since his ascension and from the time of the apostles to the present, the Lord Jesus has made his Church grow even in the midst of tribulation. - St. Andrew Kim Taegôn

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

QOTD - Sin and the Church

The Church, in fact, cannot act differently toward men than did her Redeemer. - Pope Paul VI
When people see 'the Church' acting contrary to her Redeemer that is, in fact, not the Church acting but one of her members stained by a original sin. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

QOTD - Divine Intoxication

In its ascent, love, without losing order, loses measure and finds intoxication. - Jan von Ruysbroeck 
The Ecstasy of St. Theresa by Giovanni Bernini
In all things we desire to, at least in nascent form, arrive at completeness, whether that being completing a task or being completely drunk. Our society is all or nothing, or apathy all around. We ascend mountains or the corporate ladder; either way it is measurable. The ascent of Divine Love, though, is like diving into the depths of space. It may seem measurable but relationally it loses all measurement, and that is where true intoxication (i.e. completion) occurs.

Monday, September 17, 2012

QOTD - For What He Is Man is Precious

In the economy that we are in coupled with the culture that we live it's always good to remember:
A man is more precious for what he is that what he has. - Gaudium et Spes
Courtesy of Bandini

Sunday, September 16, 2012

QOTD - God Attracts Us

On this day of rest, rest in this:
It is only because God, in His love, attracts us that we find the strength in our turn to join him. - Blaise Arminjon, SJ
Visiting the poor, illustration from 'Le Magasin Pittoresque', Paris, 1844 by Karl Girardet

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Evernote Smart Notebook, Where New and Old Media Unify

As you might have found in another post, I am a great believer in handwriting. Handwriting is a much more intellect intensive activity than typing. It challenges and extends the brain more. I requires greater manual dexterity, and, when done well, is much more beautiful than typing.

For my ordination registry (yes, they exist thanks to Aquinas and More), I asked for many notebooks with which to take down those things that I thought important, whether it be blog ideas, notes from meetings, homily preparation, or notes for other projects I have going on. I love notebooks as much as I do pens. It might be because you need one for the other.

With notebooks, we run into a problem, with which people have suffered since their inception, their searchability. Notebooks, even well organized ones, take awhile to be searched. You have to flip page by page to complete your search. Many people, being jaded by such an ancient form of searching, have given up on notebooks and turn to word processors or to programs such as Evernote.

I love Evernote. It is a cloud notebook with, if your willing to pay, an infinite amount of storage. I keep many notes within my synced apps on phone, iPad, and desktop that allow me, at anytime, to return to them. For awhile the app replaced the Moleskine that had been in my back pocket. There was just one difficulty. I couldn't write on it. Eventually there was an update that allowed for that, but writing on a screen and writing in a notebook are vastly different in experience. One is novel and therefore, for a short while, holds the attention of this person, but the other is cathartic and retains at least a great perceived permanence to the words being written.
(via )

I few weeks ago I heard rumblings about Moleskine and Evernote teaming up for a special kind of notebook that would sync to Evernote. Well it is here, and guys and girls I must tell you. I'm excited. It provides the best of both words the permanence of ink on paper with the searchability of the digital type.

Moleskine has designed the notebook to be read via Evernote programing through a photograph in the iOS app (soon for Android users). These photographs become whole Evernotes and enter into the fully searchable data system of Evernote.

This is where new media and old media collide and inform each other.

Once I get one hopefully I can post some of my writing and thought on here like I've seen one blogger do.

QOTD - Common Good and the Character of Citizens

John Wanamaker Citizen
taken by Smallbones
 The common good must include concern for the character of citizens. - J. Brian Benestad
Relativism has so ingrained itself in our government that this seems contrary to the American government's understanding of itself.

Friday, September 14, 2012

QOTD - Baptism, God's Most Beautiful Gift

Just in case you haven't thought about your baptism in awhile.
Baptism is God's most beautiful and magnificent gift ... We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God's Lordship. - St. Gregory of Nazianzus

Thursday, September 13, 2012

QOTD - Continuity and Renewal, Conservative and Progressive

In effect, continuity and renewal are a proof of the perennial value of the teaching of the Church. - Bl. John Paul II
People often speak within the Church about conservative and progressive. The Church is both, but without the political connotations. It remains perennially in continuity with the Apostles and their successors both in government and in teaching. However, it is forever renewing and progressing in its evangelical mission, which requires reaching people in their own situation. This allows for a deepening of understanding of the teaching of the Church which Bl. John Henry Newman called the development of doctrine, but it also pushes forward those who proclaim the good news of the saving mystery of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

QOTD - The Paschal Mystery Can Only Be Received

We cannot bring about the Paschal Mystery for ourselves; as the mystery of death and resurrection, by it's very nature it can only be received. - Josef Cardinal Ratzinger

Lord, help us to receive from you the cross you will for us. That through that reception we my rise to newness of life.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

QOTD - Rest in the Lord

Some might already be looking back to this past summer's vacations. Well:
To rest in the Lord and to see his joy is like a banquet, and full of gladness and tranquility. - St Ambrose

Monday, September 10, 2012

QOTD - Gradualism

After much though, we will return somewhat to the roots of this blog. Quotes. We will begin having a quote of the day. We won't stick to any particular genre (although it will be coming from what we are reading). So here is the first QOTD for Reverenced Reading:

Gradualism is the pervading modus operandi of our times. My peers’ pressure is subtle but relentless. Who can hold it back? - Angus Graham, The Father's Tale by Michael O'Brien

P.S. We, of course, will be continuing to write new content about books and things we read from books and movies about books and the occasional other fancy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Integral J.R.R. Tolkien

'I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin. Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of though and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell. 
'Naked I was sent back - for a brief time, until my task is done. And naked I lay upon the mountain-top. The tower behind was crumbled into dust, the window gone; the ruined star was choked with burned and broken stone. I was alone. forgotten, without escape upon the hard horn of the world. There I lay staring upward, while the stars wheeled over, and each day was a long as a lofe-age of earth. Faint to my ears came the gathered rumour of all lands: the springing and the dying, the song and the weeping, and the slow everlasting groan of overburdened stone. And so at the last Gwaihir the Windlord found me again, and he took me up and bore me away.
 '"Ever am I fated to be your burden, friend at need," I said
'"A burden you have been," he answered, "but not so now. Light as a swan's feather in my claw you are. The sun shines through you. Indeed I do not think you need me any more: were I to let you fall, you would float upon the wind."
I wish I could claim this writing as my own. We are taken in a realm that is beyond sense while simultaneously being hyper sensory. Am I in a dream? Or is this real? It sounds sort of like Scripture until Saxon-like name appears.

This is the writing of one J.R.R. Tolkien. To the fan-boy, the first paragraph will sound familiar. It is Gandalf speaking of his defeat of the Balrog from Khazad-Dûm in The Two Towers.

(via )
In his magnum opus, Tolkien left us something rich and complex. It is not merely an imitable fantasy story nor merely the perfect story to translate into motion picture. It is a myth and myths are powerful. They contain within them much more than mere words and stories and lessons. They contain and communicate Truth.

The excerpt above is my example. Among the mysterious syntax and hazy description comes forth something almost other worldly. For the mind seeking Truth, "naked I was sent back …" has a familiar ring to it. "Do we return to our mother's womb?" Nicodemus asked. "You must be born again of water and the spirt."

"The tower behind was crumbled into dust, the window gone; the ruined star was choked with burned and broken stone." Babel had been destroyed. The veil in the Temple was torn in two. The Light of the world was place in a new tomb hewn from rock.

Tolkien forcibly communicated that he had no intention of writing a 'Catholic' novel, or so I here from many sources. While having never reading those words from his pen, I can see why he would be so adamant. That being said, he did write a Catholic novel - not because it was intended to be one, but because he was Catholic. "Nominal" was not in his religious vocabulary. He was singularly dedicated  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He lived that dedication as a father, as a professor, as philologist, and as a writer. When you dedicate yourself to one thing, that one thing permeates all other parts of your life. "I desire that they may all be one as You and I are one." Integrality.

What we have to learn from Tolkien is that to be Catholic is to allow Christ to permeate our entire existence, from breathing to washing the dishes to filling TP reports to calculating the amount of fuel needed for a rover to arrive at the planet Mars.

'"A burden you have been," he answered, "but not so now. Light as a swan's feather in my claw you are. The sun shines through you.