Monday, November 26, 2012

Sudden Monday - The Morning Light

I won't be able to do this every Monday but today is one of those days I can. Ryan Charles Trussel of Ora et Labora et Zombies fame has started something in the vein of Jennifer Fulwiler's 7 Quick Takes. He calls it Sudden Monday. He invites the courageous writer in all of us to write a small piece of flash fiction and connect it back to him so without further ado.

The Morning Light

To say that it is bright is really unnecessary, although it has encroached on my well deserved and much desired darkness. It remains constant and yet, in the haze, seems to dispel something. What that something is has yet to be determined because, well, determining things are not an available ability at this current juncture.

Amber is the color, which reminds of an ale I had not too long ago. To give a date or time of how long ago requires for me to make something definitive, and I'm definitely not ready for definitive. Nonetheless, that color is intoxicating in and of itself. It begins to elicit in me motion. It draws me; attracts me. I can smell it. No, no, I can't smell it. Although if I could, I'm sure its odor would be pleasant for such a color cannot create stench.

This amber becomes a lens with which to see shadows and shapes, not like trees. I know trees. They smell. No, the shapes have angles, right and isosceles. Despite they're shape and angle,  definition remains beyond grasp. What is in grasp is that darkness is slowly slipping away receding like the shoreline in low tide making a promise to come back but not saying when.

Do I let it slip away? I do love this darkness. It is devoid of responsibility. It is not within the limits of the necessary cogitation of human interaction. It is safe.

But this sweet smelling color is calling me. I can hear it clear as a bell ringing the knell of some joyous occasion. It's lens now provides definition. Angles and shapes become things instead of ideas.

Awake from sleep. Arise, for a new day dawns.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

More Thoughts on Prayer and Sleep (or, Looking for a Distraction from Thanksgiving stuff?)

Union with Christ's death/sleep is essential to union with His life. For what is the purpose of the spiritual life other than to love, to be united with Jesus? This union IS our vocation. discerning this union is discerning our vocation. being formed into this union is being formed into this vocation.  If union with Christ is the motive and fruit of all our actions, there can be no question of the effectiveness of our prayer life, of our spiritual growth, and, yes, of the sincerity of our religious devotion. Of course, no one gets it perfect, but, at the same time, we all know that each prayer, each sacrifice and each breath brings us closer to such perfection when we move in Christ's grace. Keep Christ always before your mind and heart, and you cannot fail.

Yet even this simple mantra lacks something. In fact, it lacks something essential for lovers and Christians alike: knowledge of presence. Yes, we might admit, keeping the idea of God before me is a good practice, but where's the fun, fruit and point in it if I don't experience Him in the giving of myself to Him? It is one thing for the lover to be there, sitting quietly looking at me. It's another thing entirely to know what that gaze communicates, to experience in it all its meaning and content. And I need that meaning and content just to carry on. It is here that we come to a particularly sticky problem. Prayer can never promise us complete satisfaction. The loving gaze we look for will not always be returned. If there is one thing that all of the various spiritual masters do agree on, it's that we must come to prayer expecting nothing, at least nothing in particular. If our spiritual life is to have any real focus, if it is to do anything different to change us, transform us and turn us into the types of people Christ wants us to be, we must come to it expecting only that God wants us to be there and not that we ourselves will always want to be there. This advice is nothing new. It can be found in the heart of every spiritual work that you read (and not just every Christian spiritual work). However it is here at its most dismal that the Christian spiritual message (indeed the whole Christian spiritual life) shifts a great truth into focus. In fact it is the greatest truth that the Christian religion has to offer us in this life and it is the only thing that truly makes the Christian religion unique.

Many religions tell us  that we must find inner peace or come to an inner harmony or learn to forgive ourselves for the sake of others, but also, all preach an Omnipotent God (or Being or Force) who can rule over us and use us in this particular state of passivity to do his will. They focus on a spiritual discipline in prayer that runs far too close to the utilitarian ideals we have already condemned. In contrast, it is only the Christian religion that offers the bruising and startling fact of her own creed which states that the baptized Christians vocation is based on an imitate encounter with not only an omnipotent God but also a weak and powerless human being.

We are told that in our baptism we died with Christ; we are told that in our baptism we also rise with him; and we're told that in our prayer we gained, a communion a constant communion with this dying and rising. Yet, as with any good love story, the best thing is left unsaid. It is taken for granted when you're told that we must imitate Christ who is already in possession of us through this dying and rising. But by faith in him we are more than just imitating his actions; we're also moving out of his very Love. This type of love is so unlike anything found in any other place, offered by any other system, described by any other faith. For the Christian is called to a radical vocation and baptism, a vocation that I will attempt to describe in a few short words.

It is no new thing for religion to claim that man gropes for God in the dark, and some religions claim the man is even been able to find him. However, it is the Christian religion that claims that on that uncanny Passover evening in the garden of Gethsemane we can see a God groping for Man in the dark. Everything from the betrayal of Judas to the denial of Peter to the trial before Caiaphas, to the hours spent alone in the cell in to the minutes of torture at the pillar in the courtyard show us a God that was groping for us just as much, nay even more, than we we are willing to look for him. In this mystery of the passion of Christ, which through the sacrament of baptism forms the foundation of the Christian spiritual life and vocation, the Christian sees mirrored in his own life the greatest love story ever told. The greatness of this love story does not arise simply from a passionate, painful and wonderful love. It is great because it describes the greatest of lovers. The actors in this drama are not just man and woman; they're not just God and man, but they're God-Man, us and God. There is something in the very syntax of the previous sentence that reveals a great truth. In this great story of the passion and in the great emotion of baptism man finds himself sandwiched between God and God. The Confines of his vocation are found in the very act of being pulled into the role of the Godhead, of being drawn into the very life of the Trinity. When the Son cries out to the Father in obedience, man himself finds himself crying out; and by some strange miracle of death and water, he hears his own voice echo between the walls of the inner tabernacle of God's love, the Son's human voice resounding, piercing through man and reaching the Father. So powerful and incomprehensible is this calling, the calling of the Son to the Father, that man must in a certain sense, falls back asleep in order to be re-created. Our Faith was born in the almost faithlessness of God. Our love was born when it seemed all love, even God's love, had failed.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

QOTD - Are You Prepared for Marriage?

As I have begun preparing couples for marriage, I have found that when they live together the preparation instantly becomes more difficult for them because they live a lie as a truth. Marriage prep began way before they entered my office. It began in their homes and continued in their dorms and in the apartments.

Society’s interest in preparing young men and women for marriage also suffers when the media presents as a mercantile plaything the holy act of intimacy that is proper to the sacred bond of marriage. - Bishop Paul Loverde of the diocese of Arlington, TX

Saturday, November 10, 2012

What Do I Need to Know to Discern?

This is a selection from a longer work on prayer and discernment. It reflects on the question "How much do we need to know in order to discern our vocation?"
When it comes time for God to fulfill Adam and give him the greatest grace yet, he doesn't leave him conscious for it. Maybe it is because Adam had already been so disappointed by all the gifts that he had seen while awake. Maybe it is because God is one of  those cheesy parents who force their kids to close their eyes before they pull out a birthday gift from behind their back. Or maybe, just maybe, it is because God's graces are more valuable than sight and experience can ever reveal, though not so incomprehensible that sight and sound can't make them apprehensive. 
Here it would be important to point out the distinction between apprehensive and comprehensive knowledge. It's a distinction that is rarely mentioned in normal conversation, but it is terribly important, especially in the grace-knowledge relationship. To comprehend something is to understand it through-and-through, to know it in its deepest essence. When teachers talk of  reading comprehension, when lawyers talk of  comprehension of  the law, when politicians claim (falsely) that they can comprehend the economic situation, when scientists  claim (often truly) that they can comprehend a phenomena, they all mean this sort of knowledge. It's a knowledge characterized by knowing the black and white, the ins-and-outs. It not only means that we know the thing itself, but that, using this knowledge, we can then predict exactly what will happen when we apply it. This type of  knowledge can only be applied to purely objective situations. However, we can never know God, or even each other for that matter, with a purely objective knowledge. In personal relationships, we are given a subjective knowledge of  the other, a partial (but still real!) knowledge of  the other. When they go to give us something of  themselves, our knowledge about them increases, but in a qualitatively different  way. In fact, as long as we try to comprehend (Latin for "to seize" or "grab") others, we are never in a position to receive them as a gift. Just as a wrapped present can only be received with apprehensive knowledge, the wrapping paper obscuring the full nature of  the gift, so too must we receive each other, and God, as dignified subjects. The lack of  comprehension in no way decreases the nature of  the gift. In fact, by making it personal through apprehension, our knowledge is lifted to a higher plane, one in which the person who we know is a being beyond our grasp but still within full sight of  our vision. 
So before entrusting Adam with his first purely creaturely personal relationship, God makes sure that Adam is unconscious ("casts a deep sleep") when He pulls woman from man's side. And like a kid on Christmas morning, Adam wakes up to find a gift waiting for him. Only, this gift isn't some plastic action figure or Barbie doll, but a living, breathing and beautiful woman. This moment is so moving, that the author of  Genesis has Adam recite the world's first love poetry: 
"This one at last is bone of  my bones 
and flesh of  my flesh. 
She shall be called 'woman' for out of  
man she has been taken." 
There's a lot more from this passage
(Not too bad for Man's first try at romantic verse. I can just picture a Lion King-esque scene with Adam rapping out this poem and all the animals of the Savanna making cool African sounding riffs in the background.)

There's a lot more from this passage that needs to be discussed. For our immediate purposes, however, I would simply like to point out that Adam did not need to be conscious when Eve was  being made, even though the process was quite an intimate one. This is how God handled the first gift giving.  It is a standard He will set from this point forward. Whether its the Hebrew slaves asleep as the angel of  death passes over, or Samuel asleep in the temple before receiving his vocation, or Jonah in the belly of  the whale, or Jacob asleep at the base of  Jacobs ladder or Joseph asleep when he is told the marry Mary, Scripture makes it overwhelmingly clear that God makes a habit of  dispensing both graces and vocations while people are asleep.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Discernment of Spirits

It takes me forever to read a spiritual reading book. Forever. A year or two forever. The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living by Timothy Gallagher, OMV was one of those books. It is one of the few books recommended me by my spiritual director (mostly because I take so long to read them).

Now from the cover of the book, I would have discounted the work almost wholesale as something that was connected with the horrible parts of 70's Jesuit spirituality. It has reviews by people whom I never heard and who I would be less likely to trust. But, this is one where you can't judge a book by its cover. I trusted my spiritual director to continue past the less than desirable exterior.

Fr. Gallagher, who apparently teaches about the Ignatian Rules of Discernment around the world, spends his words and thoughts on giving practical guidance to the spiritual life through the text of the 14 Rules of Discernment St. Ignatius of Loyola spells out in his Spiritual Exercises. These words and thoughts are put forth in a colloquial style, like he was giving a retreat on these fourteen points. He uses stories and examples to bring to light, in relatable ways, the truths of these rules and how to apply them to the normal everyday humdrum Jane Doe spiritual life (not sure why I used Jane Doe).

I must say I gained an incredible amount of insight in how to notice what is going on in my interior life through what he outlines in this book. Have you ever wondered why you react the way you do in a certain situation? Do you notice movements in your spiritual life like the peaks and valleys of waves moving toward the coast of the unknown? This is the book for you.

He explains what spiritual consolation is and what spiritual desolation is and how we need to deal with it. These rules are hard and fast and super helpful, and Fr. Gallagher is able to communicate them in such a way as to allow the spiritual novice or spiritual athlete to grow in their understanding of their spiritual life.

I have and will recommend this book to anyone needing a greater understanding of the spiritual life.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


So I haven't been writing a whole lot in this space as of late. Although there are many excuses I can and will give, I personally accept none of them. I took up this blog as part of my mission as a Christian. Now that I am a priest, it has taken a while for me to reorganize and refocus this particular part of my mission. Priesthood, like parenthood, has many demands on its time. I am continually inspired by parents of many children who still are able to be prolific in their writing.

Being that I have been out of the habit of writing (other than with homilies) I felt I needed a jump start, a way I could get a little rocket boost to propel me back into the writing which I so enjoy, where I find rest (the biggest attraction), and that can also be a means for evangelization (which is always on my heart). I have heard over the past few years from different corners of the info feed that is my time on the internet of something called NaNoWriMo. This immediately conjured for me images of rhinos listening to tiny iPods and had little other importance other than an inside joke with myself. Needless to say I didn't pay much attention to it. As November moved closer to being actualized, I began to see small snippets about NaNoWriMo in the days before, well, today. Now normally I don't shave during the Man Month of November, which really means I don't trim my beard as often. I decided due to the aforementioned desires NaNoWriMo would be the little rocket boost to propel me back into creativity.

For those who are still thinking of rhino's and iPod's NaNoWriMo means National Novel Writing Month, or sometimes called November. People from all around the country decide that in one month they will write a rough draft on a novel that has been floating around in their overstimulated underused brains. The goal: write 50,000 words in 30 days towards the completion of a rough draft of a novel.

Now being that I'm Catholic. I decided the rules didn't apply to me. I don't have a novel idea, or rather, an idea for a novel. What I do have is a blog (thank you for reading), a promise to write for another blog (I'm super excited about fulfilling that promise), a new parish website that goes live next week in which I will be writing on the documents of the Second Vatican Council for the Year of Faith, and an unfinished short story in the vein of Father Brown and Sherlock Holmes with an American, New Orleans variant. Amongst those I will have ample opportunity to write 50,000 words. The novel will have to wait and I will not 'win' per se because there will be little cohesion to the topics about which I will be writing.

I'm also glad that I am not alone in this endeavor. I have connected with a local group of NaNoWriMo's here in New Orleans, two of which are serendipitously parishioners. I will also be supporting and getting support from two friends, Erica who writes for Writers Read and Readers Write and Emmy who writes for Journey of a Catholic Nerd Writer.

I will take all the support I can get from you. Feel free to drop me an encouraging tweet @colonel4God or even an email at