Category Archives: asceticism

_Twin Peaks’_ Maj. Garland Briggs–a sincere Christian in television

WARNING: If you haven’t seen Twin Peaks, and believe spoilers do just that, proceed with caution; if you have never watched and agree with Flannery O’Connor that fiction is better enjoyed when you know what’s going to happen, read on!)
With “Season 3” of Twin Peaks airing, I’ve been reading a lot of websites and just began reviewing the original series/first two seasons.  This will be my fourth viewing of the series since its original run–once on DVD about 15 years ago and on Netflix about 5 years ago, after the Psych tribute episode.
Before the show was “put on indefinite haitus” by ABC–Whovians, Trekkies and Star Wars fans have nothing on Twin Peaks fans in terms of waiting–there was an outline written for season 3.  As with many cult shows that have been continued in comic book and/or novel form, some fans who were comic book writers approached David Lynch about 10 years ago to try and convince him to let them turn that outline into a comic book series.  Lynch famously declared Twin Peaks dead.
Whether he changed his mind or actually intended to surprise everyone for the show’s 25th anniversary (“I’ll see you again in 25 years”), had that comic book been made, we might not have gotten an actual show.  Amazingly, of the characters who were not already killed off, five cast members have either passed away or refused to participate.
Ironically and problematically, two of those five play characters who are immortal: the late Frank Silva, who played the immortal demon BOB, and the living Michael J. Anderson (“Man from Another Place/Dwarf/MIKE’s arm”).  The other actor who passed away (though a Warren Frost, Miguel Ferrer and Catherine E. Coulson died shortly after filming of The Return was completed) was Don S. Davis (1942-2008), who played Maj. Garland Briggs.  A veteran sci-fi actor, he played Capt. William Scully on The X-Files, and IMDB quotes him saying he enjoys playing science fiction characters because it’s one of the few genres where you are still able to have flawless good guys.
Rolling Stone (in an article I just found) lists him as the show’s 8th best character, noting that he is the inversion of its “you can’t tell a book by its cover” theme.  I’ve seen at least two websites (possibly from the same person) calling him not just the greatest character on Twin Peaks but one of the greatest TV characters ever.
The scene that introduces Maj. Briggs is a family dinner.  His son Bobby, Laura Palmer’s “official” boyfriend, has just been released from jail after being held for fighting and for suspicion of being Laura’s murderer.  Family dinners, whether at home or at the homey RR diner, are a recurring motif of the original series (which could be contrasted to the motif of Roadhouse and barroom dinners in the new series/third season).  Whether it’s the Haywards who are set as the model of the loving, wholesome family yet the parents are clueless about their daughters’ lives, and two of the daughters show up only a couple times, the Palmers and their horrible secrets, or the Hornes and their facade of respectability amid mental illness and infidelity, the dinners usually have the same dramatic function as Ewing family dinners on Dallas.
The first time I saw the scene, it seemed like Maj. Briggs was being presented as another example.  Sitting in his USAF uniform, he starts the meal saying grace–the only character who does so, IIRC, though the Haywards go to church.  He then proceeds to calmly but formally lecture his son (“Robert”) on the value of teenage rebelliousness but his job as a father to guide Bobby’s rebelliousness within the standards of society and their family.
Bobby doesn’t speak, leading to a talk about the various meanings of silence.  He pulls out a cigarette, and his father reaches across the table, slapping it out of his mouth.  The cigarette lands in Mrs. Briggs’s meatloaf, and she barely reacts.  Maj. Briggs says that he is very tolerant but has his limits.  Again, at first sight, he seems to be another example of hypocrisy, and a seemingly wholesome family covering up abuse that leads to the child’s reckless behavior.  As time goes on, Maj. Briggs is revealed to be a very different character and becomes by the end of the second season, the show’s moral center.  The first time the show aired, I puzzled in retrospect over that scene.
When I rewatched it the second and third times, I assumed that it was just an early scene before the character had been sufficiently developed.  This time, it struck me as very well-planned.  As Rolling Stone put it, they want us to see him as a seemingly authoritarian and abusive father.  But just as the seemingly loving and gentle Leland Palmer (spoiler alert) was possessed by a demon which drove him to molest and murder his own daughter, the seemingly stern and gruff Maj. Briggs is actually loving and gentle.
In the aforementioned outline for Season 3, the plan had been for Maj. Briggs to become the main hero.  Whether it was resolved quickly or over the season, the plan was that (spoiler alert) Maj. Briggs would go into the Black Lodge and rescue Cooper.  Though Cooper is superficially an innocent, we know that he is gluttonous, lustful and has committed adultery.  When he invades the Black Lodge to rescue his girlfriend, he gets trapped there and replaced by BOB occupying his physical body because of his own sinfulness.  Originally, had Don S. Davis not passed away, Maj. Briggs would have been the only character worthy of facing the Black Lodge without being corrupted, so whether it would have been a long or short storyline, Briggs would have been the one to bring Cooper back.
(Spoiler) On the new show, one of the mysteries is that his decapitated body was found in South Dakota, and, even though he was reported dead in a fire in 1989 (the events of the 1990-91 series all took place fictionally in February and March 1989), he was in his early 40s when he died.   We recently learned on the new show that he had been in another dimension for 25 years–whether it was the Black or White Lodge has yet to be revealed.
Seen through those eyes, as well as the eyes of real world experience, that first scene looks very different.
Maj. Briggs, even though he refers to patience having its limits, does not lose his cool.  His son, already in trouble with the law, does something completely disrespectful.  It is a controlled and calculated gesture.

EDIT: Don’t know why I never noticed this before, Bobby Briggs standing before a huge crucifix/home altar:
Bobby Briggs Crucifix.png

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Vegetables and Grace

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Grace is received according to the mode of the receiver.

So are vegetables.

Some people naturally love vegetables. Most people don’t.

Most people love a few particular vegetables. For me, my favorites are broccoli and spinach, which I’d eat an entire package of on my own if I could but I take Coumadin so I’m only allowed to eat small amounts of them. Ironically, a few months ago I ate a whole bag of broccoli by myself and sent myself to the ER with a clot.

If we don’t have any desire to eat vegetables, we need to have our desires adjusted before we can eat them.

If we grow up eating vegetables, it is easier to love them as an adult. Often, if we grow up eating both, or having our vegetables coated in twinkies, as someone recently suggested, then we are really being taught that vegetables are not desirable.

If we have a desire to eat vegetables but a greater desire to eat junk food, we might eat *some* vegetables but not all the vegetables that are being served to us because we spoiled our dinner by filling up on junk food.

If we fill up completely on junk food, we have no room for vegetables.

So it is with grace.

Our Father in Heaven is offering us a smorgasbord of spiritual vegetables. Our Lady of Victory told St. Catherine Laboure that the precious stones falling from her hands on the Miraculous Medal–the stones which Mel Gibson symbolically has her casting to the earth in The Passion of the Christ, are the graces that go to waste because people aren’t willing to receive them.

Original sin and concupiscence are such that most of us are disinclined to accept His Grace.

Some people are born more naturally receptive to grace.

Some people are born with an inclination to particular graces from God, rather than having a well-balanced spiritual diet, gorge themselves on one kind of grace to the detriment of their overall spiritual life (such as a preference for Scripture or a particular devotion, a scrupulous devotion to COnfession, fasting excessively, doing charitable works without prayer, etc.).

Some people are raised in holy homes and taught to shun the world.

Some people are raised by holy parents who try to teach them the right way, but the enemy sows his seeds of spiritual junk food anyway, and the parents themselves don’t realize the subtle ways they’re teaching that God is second in their lives or that faith is not desirable in itself.

Most people don’t even try to accept God’s grace, and if they try, they get their souls so full of sin that they can’t, and they need to get that out of their systems, one way or the other, before they can take in the graces God is trying to offer them.

“Three Felonies a Day,” Clintons and Irish Travelers

In 2009, an attorney named Harvey Silverglate published a book called Three Felonies a Day that became a kind of a meme or urban legend, that seems sensationalist but is really based on simple facts.  He used to have a website that summarizes his book, but I can’t find it.  First, most federal law does not include the condition of “criminal intent.
The FBI recently said that Hillary Clinton should *not* be prosecuted for “gross negligence” in exposing classified information because she didn’t know any better, yet a Naval servicement is charged with a felony for taking six photos of the inside of a submarine (and potentially going to jail when crewmembers of the same ship did the same and received internal disciplinary actions).

Second, federal law is so pervasive.  One of Silverglate’s examples is the “Honest Services” clause of the mail-and-wire fraud statute, which is so vaguely worded that anyone who calls in sick to go shopping or see a show is guilty of a felony.  Speaking of which, technically using an alias online is wire fraud.
Ever download or record something copyrighted without paying?  Pass off someone else’s work as your own?  How many times does the average person break copyright law?
What about EPA regulations?
Almost anyone involved in education has done something that violates FERPA.  Almost anyone involved in healthcare has violated HIPAA or ACA.
Then there are the stories Silverglate tells us people wandering onto federal property, not realizing it, since there’s so much of it, and being charged with traspassing or theft.

Personally, I think Silverglate’s *three* felonies a day is optimistic.

Another issue Silverglate doesn’t touch on, at least in that context, is the “witch hunt” scenario.  The New England “witch” scare that led to the Salem Trials started with a book by one of the Mathers about “witchcraft” (Catholicism) among Irish and Caribbean slaves.  Now, some “witches” were selling what we’d now call recreational drugs like marijuana and “magic mushrooms.”  Sometimes, they or other witches were the forerunners of Planned Parenthood (the only convicted witch in Virginia history was convicted of selling abortifacients and contraceptives, and pardoned centuries after her execution by Tim Kaine).  Some were practicing voodoo and other pagan religions, but whatever their reasons for being accused, those who were “guity” admitted it, and took deals by “naming names.”  The women they named were mostly innocent, but since they *were* innocent and knew nothing of “witchcraft,” they were prosecuted.

The same happens today with many federal cases, particularly the “War on Drugs”: a criminal keeps his family in the dark about his activities.  When he and his wife or roommate or whomever are arrested, he takes the deal and names his wife or roommate or whomever as knowing about it.  The innocent and ignorant person goes to jail.

And because these laws are so vaguely worded, and so expansive, anyone can be prosecuted for any reason if the government wants to.  Joe Schmoe gets fired or sent to jail for checking his work email at home, but Hillary Clinton is running for president?

Meanwhile, there’s a local story about the indictment of 20 “Irish Travelers” on 45 fraud charges.  I had first heard of Irish Travelers through their popular culture representation, and, being inclined to support an underdog, have had a hard time discerning whether the allegations are accurate.  If you’ve ever heard of “red Irish” versus “black Irish” (a rivalry once depicted on 30 Rock between fictional Jack Donaghy and non fictional Conan O’Brien), or “lact curtain Irish” or “Shanty Irish,” that’s the Travelers.  Whether they’re related to “real gypsies” is disputed.

As disdained as the Irish are in general, the Travelers in Ireland are disdained by the other Irish, as well.  Around here, I find that when non-Catholics hear I’m Catholic, they think I’m a Traveler.  When other Catholics around the state hear I’m from North Augusta, they think “Traveler.”  Ironically, Travelers drive much nicer vehicles than we do, generally dress and style their hair “expensively” (even if the follow out-of-date fashions).

On All Saints’ Day about 5 years ago, we had to drive upstate overnight because my wife had an event there for work, and one of our kids had a medical appointment.  When we went to get dinner after arriving in Greenville, we realized we’d left our only card at the McDonald’s we stopped at for lunch.  We called to cancel it, but it was too late to go to the bank in person for a withdrawl.  Finding myself, in the middle of a real life occurrence of a cliche scam, I took the kids to Mass then asked for help.  The parish business manager was the usher, and he got the pastor, who gave us the $60 I requested.  That covered a hotel room (how many parents have saved on hotel rooms by undercounting their kids?) and some vending machine food.  In the morning, I *did* go to the bank and get the cash, then came back to the church to give back the $60.

The business manager said, “Thanks for restoring my faith in humanity. Keep the money and do something special for your kids.”  He mentioned the Irish Travelers in North Augusta (I guess he thought we were Travelers), and recommended their church as a beautiful place to visit, as it had rescued the stained glass windows from an old church in Philadelphia.

It took us a while to actually visit, because we were worried about their reputation for being clandestine, reclusive, etc.  While they have a reputation for wearing fancy clothes and hairdos, and the women *do* have 60s and 80s style hair, for daily Mass and devotional services, at least, they dress pretty much like my wife and I do (hence the common impression of people, especially when I’m wearing the jacket they gave me–more on that later).  They usually wear religious t-shirts or hoodies.

Their liturgical music is Haugen-Haas, and the most orthodox publications in their vestibule are the diocesan newspaper and Catholic Worker. Otherwise, it’s the “Fishwrap,” US Catholic or Commonweal–I forget which.

OTOH Their parish has Adoration, various Novenas, Rosaries, Legion of Mary and a few other groups.  They have an outdoor shrine to the Infant of Prague.

We don’t know if the first daily Mass we went to there was something special, or they just always have a meal, but contrary to reputation, they invited us to join them after Mass for a very nice little buffet in the vestibule.  The “lace curtain” part of their reputation is of course a penchant for enjoying fancy food, fancy houses and fancy cars that makes this Carmelite rather uncomfortable.

We went that once for daily Mass in the evening.  Then in the Lent before my surgery, we went for daily Mass and Stations on Friday.  That was when I noticed the women wearing the religious hoodies and asked about them.  They offered to give me one next week, for free.  We asked for mutual prayers.  We came almost every Friday that Lent for Stations, and after a few weeks, they gave me a very nice St. Michael hoodie that I still have but sometimes feel embarrased to wear.  Once, last winter, we passed a group of men at Wal-Mart who saw my hoodie and said, “He’s not one of us.  Wonder where he got that?”

We’ve been once or twice since for Mass, and I went to Adoration a few months ago.

Seeing all the women praying in church, with their 60s style hair, with very few men there, made me feel  like I was in a mafia movie: the women in church, praying for the men who were out commiting crimes for a living (if reputation was deserved, and the truth is probably somewhere in between.

What I don’t understand, though, is how the fraud the Irish Travelers commit to get their fancy belongings is any different than the fraud committed by Hillary Clinton or anyone else who’s rich.  It’s not envy to point out that it’s extremely difficult to become extremely wealthy without commiting some sort of crime or sin.

Most of the articles focus on misrepresenting income to get Food Stamps and Medicaid, and I see comments online from African Americans–a community also stigmatized as being full of criminals and committing the same kinds of crimes–rejoicing.  It is horrible how we, as liberals put it, “Other” everyone.  It’s always “those people,” and the accusations against “those people” usually apply to “us,” so long as we’re the “good guys.”  Every villain is the hero of his own story, after all.

We hear about the Travelers getting paid to do work at people’s houses, doing a bad job, and then leaving.  I’ve experienced a lot of workers like that over the years, from licensed repairment to MDs.  If a doctor charges me $500 to tell me I’m being a hypochondriac and doesn’t even run a test, I still have to pay him, then he goes and uses my money to make the payment on his BMW.  If an Irish traveler charges me $500 to paint my house, does a cheap job that washes off in the next rainfall, and disappears, I’m out $500 that he uses to make a payment on his BMW.

I’ve read articles about previous raids and investigations that turned up nothing but some unaccounted for cash.  That actually sounded suspicious to me, like they *were* hiding something, but still, it strikes me as a witch hunt.  And as Hillary Clinton races to the White House on the backs of deleted emails, compromised National Security, dead ambassadors, dead friends, dead witnesses, dead lawyers, dead soldiers and dead babies, it seems hypocritical now for the government to prosecute anyone for any reason.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Evening Prayer II

If you are a brother or sister in Carmel, or a member of a parish or town named for Our Lady under this title, happy Solemnity of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel! If you are not, happy optional memorial! (A little humor)

You can find the Carmelite “Propers” (the parts of the Liturgy of the Hours specific to different feasts; as opposed to the Ordinary and the Commons) at this site http://carmelcanada.org/liturgy/office.pdf.
If you can find a way to access the site, please make a donation to them for their service. It is a tragic injustice that the liturgy, which is supposed to be the common prayer of the Church, is copyrighted. I understand in one sense why, but I wanted to provide a convenient blend of the texts, since, though praying online is helpful, flipping between screens or apps can be distracting and cause things to refresh.
So I’ve provided links to different sites, and reflections on each passage to fall under “fair use,” while providing a guide to deeper prayer. Again, please donate to the people who provide these great services for free.

God, come to my assistance.
Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

[Hymn]

Flos Carmeli, vitis florigera,
Splendor cæli, virgo puerpera, singularis.
Mater mitis sed viri nescia
Carmelitis esto propitia, stella maris.
Radix Iesse germinans flosculum
Hic adesse me tibi servulum patiaris.
Inter spinas quæ crescis lilium
Serva puras mentes fragilium tutelaris.
Armatura fortis pugnantium
Furunt bella tende præsidium scapularis.
Per incerta prudens consilium
Per adversa iuge solatium largiaris.
Mater dulcis Carmeli domina,
plebem tuam reple lætitia qua bearis.
Paradisi clavis et ianua,
Fac nos duci quo, Mater, gloria coronaris.

Ant. 1 I am the Handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you have said.”
Psalm 122I rejoiced when I heard them say: “Let us go to God’s house.” And now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built as a city strongly compact. It is there that the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord. For Israel’s law it is, there to praise the Lord’s name. There were set the thrones of judgment of the house of David. For the peace of Jerusalem pray: “Peace be to your homes! May peace reign in your walls, in your palaces, peace!” For love of my brethren and friends I say: “Peace upon you!” For love of the house of the Lord I will ask for your good. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: — as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen. – See more at: http://divineoffice.org/xmas-0101-ep2/#sthash.vQumIqyC.dpuf

How does this speak to us as Brothers (and Sisters) of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel?

Ant. 2Mary heard the word of God and kept it; she pondered it in her heart.
Psalm 127
If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor; if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil. In vain is your earlier rising, your going later to rest, you who toil for the bread you eat, when he pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber. Truly sons are a gift from the Lord, a blessing, the fruit of the womb. Indeed the sons of youth are like arrows in the hand of a warrior. O the happiness of the man who has filled his quiver with these arrows! He will have no cause for shame when he disputes with his foes in the gateways. Glory…
See also http://www.athanasius.com/psalms/psalms5.html

this is one of my favorite Psalms. It speaks particularly to the vocation of the secular, but also to the spiritual fatherhood and motherhood of the Friars and Nuns. The first historical Carmelites were former soldiers who laid down their physical arms for spiritual warfare. The Scapular is both our shield and our token from Our Lady.

Ant. 3The Apostles were constantly at prayer together, with Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
Canticle – See Revelation 19:1-7
Alleluia.
Salvation, glory, and power to our God:
(Alleluia.)
his judgments are honest and true.
Alleluia (alleluia).

Alleluia.
Sing praise to our God, all you his servants,
(Alleluia.)
all who worship him reverently, great and small.
Alleluia (alleluia).

Alleluia.
The Lord our all-powerful God is King;
(Alleluia.)
Let us rejoice, sing praise, and give him glory.
Alleluia (alleluia).

Alleluia.
The wedding feast of the Lamb has begun,
(Alleluia.)
and his bride is prepared to welcome him.
Alleluia (alleluia). Glory…

See also http://www.liturgies.net/Liturgies/Catholic/loh/mary/eveningprayerii.htm
How are we preparing ourselves to welcome our spiritual Bridegroom?

A Reading from the Letter to the Galations (4:4-6)

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5
to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption. 6 As proof that you are children,* God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. See http://www.usccb.org/bible/galatians/4

To be brothers of Our Lord, we must humbly accept the mantle of obedience, as He did.

Responsory
I will cry out with joy to the Lord;
my soul will rejoice in my God.
–I will cry out with joy to the Lord;
my soul will rejoice in my God.
For he has clothed me with the garment of salvation and robed me in a mantle of justice.
–My soul will rejoice in my God.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
–I will cry out with joy to the Lord;
my soul will rejoice in my God.
“Receive, my beloved son, this habit of your Order. This shall be to you and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire.”

Canticle of Mary
Ant. Today we received the Virgin Mary as our mother. Today, she has taken pity on us. Today, all Carmel rejoices in the solemnity of the Blessed Virgin, whose name we bear.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my Spirit rejoices in God, my Savior, for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant. From this day forward, all generations will call me blessed, for the almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name. He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation. He has shown the strength of His Arm; He has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things; the rich He has sent away empty. He has come to the help of His servant, Israel. For He has remembers His promise of mercy, the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham, and his children, forever. Glory . . .

The privilege of the Scapular is neither a symbol nor a superstition, but to die clothed with the Scapular, the garment of work in a religious habit, is to die doing God’s work.

As we honor the holy Holy Mother of God, under whose name and patronage we live, let us pray with confidence to Christ our Lord and say:
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

You said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven”;
–may we stand with Mary among the poor and humble of the Lord, so that you may be our only wealth.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

You said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”;
–in following the Immaculate Virgin may we come to live that purity of heart which makes us eager to see the Father’s Face.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

You said, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe”;
–with Mary at our side, may we never cease to trust in the love You have for us as we journey in this night of faith.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

You said, “You ought to pray always and never lose heart”;
–teach us to pray like Mary, treasuring Your Word in our hearts and proclaiming it in our lives.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

You said, “A new commandment I give you; love one another as I have loved you”;
–united in heart and mind, may we be ready to spend our lives for our brothers and sisters and share with Mary in Your work of redemption.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

Dying on the cross, You said to John, and through him to all disciples, “Behold your Mother”;
–may all those who trusted in Your everlasting mercy [especially ____] rejoice one day with you and Mary in our Father’s house.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

Here list your own intentions.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.
Our Father .. . .

Prayer
Lord God, You willed that the Order of Carmel should be named in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Your Son. Through her prayers, as we honor her today, bring us to your holy Mountain, Christ Our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

May the Lord bless us, protect from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.


St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the malice and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the Power of God, cast into Hell Satan, and all the other evil spirits, who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Click here for my Litany to Carmelite Saints

From the First Epistle of St. Clement of Rome to the Corinthians:
<blockquote>Let our whole body, then, be preserved in, Christ Jesus; and let every one be subject to his neighbour, according to the special gift bestowed upon him. Let the strong not despise the weak, and let the weak show respect unto the strong. Let the rich man provide for the wants of the poor; and let the poor man bless God, because He hath given him one by whom his need may be supplied. Let the wise man display his wisdom, not by [mere] words, but through good deeds. Let the humble not bear testimony to himself, but leave witness to be borne to him by another. Let him that is pure in the flesh not grow proud of it, and boast, knowing that it was another who bestowed on him the gift of continence. Let us consider, then, brethren, of what matter we were made, who and what manner of beings we came into the world, as it were out of a sepulchre, and from utter darkness. He who made us and fashioned us, having prepared His bountiful gifts for us before we were born, introduced us into His world. Since, therefore, we receive all these things from Him, we ought for everything to give Him thanks; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.</blockquote>

Yes! Here, at last, is my understanding of Suffering

For the past couple days, I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, OCD’s Practice of the Presence of God.

A forerunner of St. Therese’s Little Way, whose short collection of letters is often identified as a perfect example of Discalced Carmelite spirituality, Br. Lawrence has never been able to be elevated to the altar even as a Servant of God because we know so little of his life.  Like Thomas a Kempis, and the housewife in C. S. Lewis’s Great Divorce, I think his obscurity even in the eyes of the Church is ironically a sign of his great Sanctity.  Br. Lawrence’s 11th letter summarizes exactly my view on the meaning of illness, and what I pray for when asked to pray for someone who is ill:

Eleventh Letter: I do not pray that you may be delivered from your pains; but I pray earnestly that God gives you strength and patience to bear them as long as He pleases. Comfort yourself with Him who holds you fastened to the cross. He will loose you when He thinks fit. Happy are those who suffer with Him. Accustom yourself to suffer in that manner, and seek from Him the strength to endure as much, and as long, as He judges necessary for you.
Worldly people do not comprehend these truths. It is not surprising though, since they suffer like what they are and not like Christians. They see sickness as a pain against nature and not as a favor from God. Seeing it only in that light, they find nothing in it but grief and distress. But those who consider sickness as coming from the hand of God, out of His mercy and as the means He uses for their salvation, commonly find sweetness and consolation in it.
I pray that you see that God is often nearer to us and present within us in sickness than in health. Do not rely completely on another physician because He reserves your cure to Himself. Put all your trust in God. You will soon find the effects in your recovery, which we often delay by putting greater faith in medicine than in God. Whatever remedies you use, they will succeed only so far as He permits. When pains come from God, only He can ultimately cure them. He often sends sickness to the body to cure diseases of the soul. Comfort yourself with the Sovereign Physician of both soul and body.
I expect you will say that I am very much at ease, and that I eat and drink at the table of the Lord. You have reason. But think how painful it would be to the greatest criminal in the world to eat at the king’s table and be served by him, yet have no assurance of pardon? I believe he would feel an anxiety that nothing could calm except his trust in the goodness of his sovereign. So I assure you, that whatever pleasures I taste at the table of my King, my sins, ever present before my eyes, as well as the uncertainty of my pardon, torment me. Though I accept that torment as something pleasing to God.
Be satisfied with the condition in which God places you. However happy you may think me, I envy you. Pain and suffering would be a paradise to me, if I could suffer with my God. The greatest pleasures would be hell if I relished them without Him. My only consolation would be to suffer something for His sake.
I must, in a little time, go to God. What comforts me in this life is that I now see Him by faith. I see Him in such a manner that I sometimes say, I believe no more, but I see. I feel what faith teaches us, and, in that assurance and that practice of faith, I live and die with Him.
Stay with God always for He is the only support and comfort for your affliction. I shall beseech Him to be with you. I present my service.

To Hipster Dad and Trad Dad

A few days ago, Aleteia started the latest round of parents-at-mass wars by reprinting a CatholicMom.com column from last June, by one Thomas Tighe, a self-described “hipster dad,” who writes about one of those incidents I’ve blogged about before where people come up and say rude comments to parents trying their best to teach their kids how to behave at Mass.  Now, whether Mr. Tighe’s description of his attempts really qualifies as “his best” is a matter for debate but of prudential judgement.  I know, though, that when our kids were little, one of the major reasons we shunned the cry room as often as possible was to avoid the bad example of parents who brought snacks and non-relevant toys (we would always try to get the kids to bring religious books and sometimes religious toys).

Sometimes, a cry room is necessary.  Sometimes, a vestibule or a trip outside church is necessary.  Indeed, I got so used to taking my autistic son out of church that I realized at one point last year I preferred being outside, listening on the speaker.

I like the anecdote about Ven. Fulton Sheen, when a lady took a crying baby out of Mass during his homily: “Madame, you needn’t take the baby out on my account.  He isn’t bothering me.”
“No,” the lady replied, “but you’re  bothering the baby!”

Yes, parents of young or disabled children have no Mass obligation, but that is precisely why attending at all is an act of heroic virtue.

Nevertheless, I’m inclined to agree with Tighe, especially given the absolute vitriol that people were spewing in response to his column.  For example, Steve Skojec weighed in with the perspective of a “certain kind of traditionalist.”

Skojec takes the “absolute silence” perspective, including suggesting that it’s a sin to drop a book.  I’m sure he’d be deeply offended by the sound of my wheelchair or the number of times I drop things at Mass!

I wish I could get people like you to stop quoting Mark 10 as a justification for irresponsible parenting. I have always brought my children to Mass, letting the little children come unto Him…but I’ve also always reminded them that the Mass is a supreme act of worship of Our Lord on the Cross, not a friendly gathering where Jesus told the little guys cute parables. . . .

Yes, when the Apostles were complaining about children, they were mad that the children were being perfectly well behaved and wearing their blue blazers with brass buttons.  And when Jesus said you can’t get into Heaven unless you learn to be like children, He meant perfectly silent and well-dressed.

When people have offered actual help, or talked to our kids helpfully, I’ve welcomed it.  Once, when my kids got distracted by the Christmas Tree at the Christmas Eve vigil, the pastor gently said, “I realize you’re excited because it’s Christmas, but please wait till after Mass to look at the tree.” Another time, as my eldest daughter loudly proclaimed her responses at our parish, a lady behind us kept whispering in her ear.  I braced myself when the lady approached me after Mass.
“How old is she?” she asked.
“Five,” I said.
“You must have taken her to Mass since she was a baby.  I kept leaning over and telling her how impressed I was that she knew her responses.  I have a daughter who’s a nun now, and she knew her responses when she was 5, too.”
A few times, we went to Sunday evening Mass at my alma mater’s campus chapel.  We were flabbergasted when the young priest pointed to our kids as an example of how to behave at Mass!   “Those little children know how to behave at Mass better than you college students!” Then when the baby woke up and started crying, he said, “Now, see?  You’ve woken up the baby!”
I went to daily Mass there once with my son, when he was 2 or 3 but not yet diagnosed autistic.  Father asked if I wanted to lector.  I said, “What about him?”  “He’ll be fine!”   I shrugged my shoulders, got up to read, and my son started following.  I gestured to return to the seat, and he did.
My eldest daughter once got up and laid prostrate in front of the altar after a homily about kids at Mass.
She had grown up attending a monthly “Reform of the Reform” Latin Ordinary Form liturgy in Northern Virginia, and the occasional High Mass Extraordinary Form in Richmond.  When she was 2, she sang her Latin Mass parts well enough to impress a Juilliard-trained composer and choral director.
After we moved to SC, there was a monthly EF low Mass we would try to attend.  Once, when she was 5 or 6, confused by everyone being silent during the liturgy of the Eucharist, she began singing the “Salve Regina,” perfectly.  She was sitting a few rows behind me, with her godfather.  I turned to shush her, but almost everyone smiled and gestured as if to say, “she’s fine.”

A few years later, at another parish, I was sitting up front with the younger two, and an elderly couple behind us kept leaning over and whispering what I sensed were gentle admonitions to my son.  After Mass, they asked, “He’s autistic, right?”  I said, “Yes.  They both are.”  They said, “We have an autistic grandson.  We know how it is!”

But we’ve had enough nasty comments to know some people will never be satisfied.
One of the times I tried to bring my son to the low Mass, he whispered some questions but was relatively well-behaved.  Nevertheless, this older gentleman came up and yelled at me, saying, “I raised nine children, and I taught them to behave themselves at Mass!”  I really got the impression that he was as mad about my daughter’s devotion as about my son’s curiosity.  Two other ladies followed him and said, “Don’t listen to him, you’re doing great!”

I often tell the story of taking all four kids to a “Holy Hour” by myself. They’d been to Benediction many times, and knew some of Evening Prayer from my saying it at home.  I was holding the baby.  The then 6 and 4 year old were focusing on the prayers. My son was walking up and down the pews, but being quiet, as he’d done at the aforementioned college mass, which was a huge improvement for him.
They used illicit, barely recognizable, texts for Vespers and Benediction, politically correct, Charismatic and “interfaith friendly.”  At Benediction, they “voted” on which hymn to sing instead of “Tantum Ergo,” and sang “Amazing Grace.”
At the Magnificat, Divine Praises and other points, my kids said the correct translation with me.  Afterwards, the deacon who led it came up and told me how distracting my family was, and children shouldn’t be present at such a “solemn event.”

The last time we had a direct encounter, my wife was in the back with the younger two, who were both sleepy, as they often are, from their meds.  These two old ladies told my wife that our kids were distracting them by sleeping!

So, whether they’re actually being bad, or they’re actually participating, or they’re being quiet but sleeping, we’ve gotten both positive and negative feedback from strangers and clergy.

Yes, there are some people who are blessed with peaceful, well-behaved children, and like other people blessed with particular virtues, they shouldn’t lord it over others.  But there are also some whose kids’ perfect behavior can be a bit scary to the rest of us.

For the past several months, we’ve been regularly attending a Byzantine church that we have visited from time to time over the past 5 years, and I always found the kids seemed to be better behaved and attentive there.  In Advent, I suggested going to the OF Vigil Mass (it didn’t work out because we all got sick), and the kids said, “Do we have to?!”  They find the chanting both soothing and easy to participate in. They love having the icons to pray with. Like me, they find incense bothers them allergy-wise, but they also find it calming (even when they were smaller, they seemed to settle a bit at Vespers as soon as the Censer passed).  They like the community meal after Liturgy.  When there are a lot of children, the DRE gathers them and brings them up to sit in front of Father during the homily.

On Sunday, we were a bit late as usual.  It was Theophany, so there was an especially long liturgy.  I brought three because our middle daughter was sick, and my wife stayed home since I’m the one who usually does.

We stood/sat in the back.  In the second to last row, there was a visiting family–very obviously Latin Rite traditionalists.  The father and sons were all in suits.  The wife and daughters, all in dresses and veils (while veiling is traditional in the East, it’s not an “obligation,” and from my research veiling is usually avoided in the Melkite Church to avoid confusion with Muslims).   My two youngest ended up right behind them.  I was across the aisle.  My teenager was at the other end.  We’d been told to take empty holy water bottles when we came in.  So my son kept playing with his holy water bottle.  After a while, he came over and told me that he realized we had forgotten to get his morning pills before we left the house! I thanked him for holding it together so well, and took him out to the car to take his pills.  I was happy he was holding it together so well, but still trying to keep him in control.  He kept bugging his younger sister, and she kept shushing him.  The lady in the veil in front of her kept turning around and admonishing *her*.

Later in the afternoon, since I didn’t recognize the family, my wife asked our daughter if she recognized the lady.
“Which lady?”
“The lady who kept turning around and correcting you,” I said.
“Oh, *that* lady,” she sighed.  I should note that, of our four children, she’s the most resistant in matters of faith and has already developed the impression that God is a dictator Who just has a bunch of rules and wants to “get” people, in spite of our efforts to teach a balanced view of the faith.  If she grew up in one of these, “children should be seen and not heard” families, what would her faith be like?