Category Archives: providentialism

Ornan’s Threshing Floor and the Baptism of the Lord

Ornan the Jebusite offers his threshing room floor for sacrifice

Ornan the Jebusite offers David his threshing room floor for the sacrifice

In Acts 2, the early Church shared everything, even though they were being taxed by the pagan government.  In Second Kings and First Chronicles , David and his people suffered horribly because he took a census, described as “A satan–rose up against Israel, and he incited David to take a census of Israel.” In other words, the devil cajoled David such that trusted his own wisdom over that of God’s and doubted His Providence.  Given 3 choices, he chose to be punished by God for 3 days until he made the atonement.  Because of the generosity of a stranger, Ornan the Jebusite, who gave him the land, including his threshing room, and freely offered to pay the entire atonement, at the very spot that would house the Temple in Jerusalem, David and his sins for presuming God had not granted enough for the people, were atoned.  Interestingly, David turned down Ornan’s offer for it to be free, wanting to pay from his own stores.

Consider Matthew 3: 7-12:

7 But when John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his place of baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit worthy of repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax lies ready at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 I baptize you with water for repentance, but after me will come One more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in His hand to clear His threshing floor and to gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Jesus came when a “census of the whole world” was being done by the secular, pagan government and offered His Life, once and for all, in atonement for our sins and for the whole world, essentially paying the price for our taking a census, of saying, no God, there isn’t enough, we can’t provide for all, which is blasphemy, as He does indeed provide for all. That pride and greed is essentially where all the other sins come from.

It’s Caesar we worship when we refuse to help each other, saying it’s the government’s job or those in need should have planned better (taken a census) instead of our very duty as followers of Christ is to trust Him and do whatever *He* tells us. Read Matthew 25 for those responsibilities. No, I am not even talking about immigration matters, though that certainly is part of it. Asking myself how many times I have “taken a census” to avoid helping someone or put someone down, period, is a good examination of conscience.

The Day Jesus Jumped Out of My Mouth

Christmas Eve Liturgy, Christmas Day (actually December 26) Vespers, and most of today’s Sunday Liturgy, were very profound spiritual experiences. It has been a long time since I’ve felt consolations like I did today. I alternated between tears and joy, pain and ecstasy.

Then something happened. I’ve received Communion on the tongue so many times that I can’t even remember the last time I received by hand. I’ve received Communion in the Byzantine Rite (Ukrainian once and Melkite many times now) enough to know how it works. I’ve received sitting in the pew, and in various other awkward situations. Today, I came up, and it was like a wall formed across my mouth. I wasn’t sure what to do. The Host fell thankfully onto the cloth. I paused in confusion. Father picked it up and tried again.

Obviously, the “rational explanation” is that I had some kind of neurological issue, but why at that instant?

The thing was, I wasn’t aware of any mortal sin, and, like I say, I ahd been having a profound spiritual experience till that point, so Jesus was trying to send me a message. But what?

I often refer to the passage in St. Faustina’s diary where Jesus warns her about the time in Purgatory earned by a sinful thought. Then Father spoke in his homily today about how we all can be Herod. It kind of tied into my reflection on Judas from Christmas Day, in my previous post.

Last night, we watched the first part of The Greatest Story Ever Told. I was struck by something “Jesus” says in the film. Faith is about more than just an intellectual proposition: it’s about our trust in God’s promises. It’s also about our trustworthiness in God’s Eyes. When people say, “If you only had enough faith, ____,” they’re partially right. Faith isn’t just thinking “I believe God has the power to answer my prayers.” It’s being willing to literally go out on a limb for Him as Zacchaeus did. It’s being willing to give all we have like the widow.

So, tonight, I had briefly entertained some bad thoughts, and my daughter told me the dog needed to go out, so I had to take the dog out. A series of misadventures later, and I was outside for a half house. At one point, I thought maybe *this* was tied into the message God was sending, and I had the above thought process.

I believe, Lord! Help my unbelief!

“He who seeks to keep his life will lose it; he who loses his life will save it.”: Vaccines versus viruses; prepping versus providence

If there’s one thing the Bible is clear about, it’s not putting our trust in princes, in mortal men in whom there is no help, not trusting in our own devices, etc., for God chooses the weak things of the world that no flesh may glory in His sight. The foolish man cannot know this, and the fool cannot understand.
From the time when Satan refused to trust God, then tempted Adam and Eve to “be like Gods who know,” to the Tower of Babel to Israel being punished over and over for not doing things Gods way, while those who were justified were justified by their absolute trust in God, even when His instructions were foolishness to human wisdom, the Bible tells us over and over that we should, as Jesus says, “Consider the lilies of the field,” for we know no the day nor the hour. Just when we are saying “peace and security,” the Lord will come like a thief in the night and say, “You fool! Don’t you know this very night your life will be demanded of you?”
I am always dismayed by Christians who insist that they should put their trust in worldly goods, rather than building up treasure in Heaven, be they investors, “preppers,” etc. Obviously, there is a common sense level of protecting ones health and family, and keeping an emergency reserve if possible, but some people seem way too concerned about storing up treasure on earth.
Then there’s the vaccine issue. Again, nothing wrong with protecting health, but doing so at the expense of other people’s lives should be avoided, and it is difficult to suppress the instinct to say, “I told you so,” when the efforts people cling to prove futile in the face of worse and worse viruses and bacteria strains. We hear about “herd immunity” (a term that’s offensive in itself), and see arguments about what that does or does not mean. We see arguments about old viruses returning supposedly because of unvaccinated families, though others arguing they’re spreading among the vaccinated and that they’ve gotten worse because of resistance. Now, there is apparently a virus spreading that mimics a cold or flu but is far worse and they barely even know what it is. . . .

God Comes to Us in the Soft Voice: O Me Of Little Faith!

People like to say, “Jesus will understand.” They talk of their “nice guy,” thumbs of Jesus but then come readings like this week’s. The Apostles are cowering in a boat in a storm. They’re *fishermen* and they’re scared. They see Jesus and think He’s a ghost (when I was a kid, I assumed this was a post-resurrection story). Of all of these twelve chosen men, who have already come back from their first commission and worked miracles on the Lord’s behalf, one has the courage and love to jump out of the boat and run to Jesus. Then he wavers. And what does Our Lord say?
“Oh you of little faith!”
If *that* is “little faith,” imagine what we all should be capable of. If St. Dominic Savio told his former teacher, St. John Bosco, in a dream that he could have saved many more boys if he’d had more faith, what does that say of us?
Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

When I had my aortic repair surgery in March 2013, I lost my left vocal cord. The laryngeal nerve was paralyzed: they don’t know whether it was cut or pinched off. After 3 months in the hospital and multiple follow-up surgeries, I had an injection to try and restore some of my speech. The injection was basically Botox, and the goal was to swell the left vocal cord so instead of being permanently open, it was permanently closed. That helped restore my ability to speak enough that I could make a phone call and carry on a conversation.

It was a temporary injection supposed to last a couple months at least but only lasted a little over a month. I didn’t like the side effects, and the surgeon told me the only option was likely to be “reenervation,” when they somehow do a nerve bypass. After doing some research, I decided I didn’t feel comfortable with that path and its risks. I also figured that if Julie Andrews doesn’t have enough money to get the right procedures to get her singing voice back, I might as well pray and wait for a miracle.

A few weeks ago, we were in Virginia visiting my wife’s family and met a couple Facebook friends in person. This one lady (keeping her anonymous so she doesn’t get bombarded) brought along a rosary from the Holy Land. She’s a traditionalist, so I was a bit more open to her claim than I might have been rom a charismatic. She said that the first time she prayed it, her dog was healed of pancreatic cancer. Another time, she touched a lady at church with it, accidentally, and the lady was cured of cancer.

“Do you mind if I touch your throat with it and pray?”

I was like, “Sure, why not?”

I was wavering between doubt and hope, skepticism and faith.

People describe a feeling of warmth with a healing. As I was arguing in my head about whether God would be willing to give me such a wondrous miracle, I felt that sensation, and a bit of a buzz.

I started talking: nowhere near my old voice, but as good as it ever got with the injection. I also felt better. There was a sense of relieved tension. When we got back to my in-laws’, I called my mom, and she understood me. While some family members have been able to understand if they tried really hard, my father in law has barely heard me on the phone. Our conversations the past year have amounted to:
“Hi, John, is Mary around?”
“No, but I . .. . ”
“Ok, I’ll call back later.”

The evening we were driving back to South Carolina, he called and asked how we were doing, whether we were home yet, etc. We actually had a conversation!

I called my sister and one of my brothers that weekend. I have managed to handle several phone calls in the subsequent weeks that my wife would have had to handle for me.

Plus, my energy levels have generally increased. I’m feeling much better, overall, than I have in years. Not quite a “call the Vatican” miracle, but definitely a “healing.”

So, that brings me back to these week’s readings. Hearing Jesus reprimand Peter for his doubt, I thought, “Is He reprimanding me for my doubt? Did He have more in store for me that I failed to accept out of fear?”

Then Father started his homily and addressed the first reading. “God comes to us in the soft whisper,” he said.

God has come to me in the soft whisper. It pains me (literally) to be unable to sing today. Our organist played the Holy Holy and Amen I grew up with. She played “All Creatures of Our God and King” for the recessional. I tried to sing. I managed a bit, but it was painful.

Might I be able to sing now if I’d had a bit more faith in that moment of healing? Or did God give me just what I needed, my daily bread, though He still wants me to learn from my “soft voice”?

Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!

Will the real Fatima.please stand up?

It dawned on that, everywhere I look, I see people who need Fatima’s message, yet even most who “promote” it get it wrong.
For many, Fatima is “about Vatican II,” when, if anything, Vatican II was about Fatima.
For many, it was and is about a magical formula for the “consecration of Russia” that will lead to the magical “conversion of Russia,” and in turn to an “era of Peace.” Those prophecies are open to interpretation until they can be seen through the lens of history. Sr. Lucia said St. John Paul fulfilled it. If he didn’t, it’s too late, anyway.
Russia’s errors have spread through the world: not just the Communism that is encroaching on the US thanks to so many money-hungry “Catholics” voting for Obama, but also abortion (the USSR was the first country to legalize it).
The reason we have not seen mass conversions and world peace is not because the Pope failed to say the right words at the right place and time with the right bishops. It’s because laity, priests and religious fail to answer Our Lady’s call to conversion of heart:
sacrifices (in the manner of the Little Way);
true contrition and monthly (at least) Confession;
Frequent, sincere and meditative praying of the Rosary;
Devotion to and respect for the holy Eucharist
Wearing the Scapular or Miraculous Medal.
How many people do these practices at all, much less with the depth and sincerity Our Lady called for.
Francisco didn’t see her the first few times. He was below the age of reason and yet she still said he was guilty of too many sins and needed to say many Rosaries to see her and to avoid Purgatory. Yet we presume we’ll all be instant Saints.
She showed them souls falling into Hell like snowflakes, yet we hold to a watered-down universalism.
She said souls go to Hell mostly for sins of the flesh, which are as disgusting to the Devil as they are to God, and that, “Fashions will be introduced that will offend my Son greatly.” Yet we fall right into the filth with the rest of the Culture of Death.

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“We deserve our punishment”

I know a lot of people  who suffer from chronic pain.  Most of my Marfan friends are non-Catholics, and I observe how very differently they approach the question.  Often, “Offer it up” has become such a cliche that it loses meaning.  Even Jesus cried out from the cross, and sometimes that’s what we have to do, but we must always remember to keep focused on the goal.  I constantly have to remind myself of these things:

1.  “Though He was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at, . . .”

2.  “We deserve our punishment, but this Man has done no wrong.”

3.  “In my own body, I fill up what is still lacking in the sufferings of Christ.”

4.  Mother Angelica once asked, “Why me, Lord?”  She got a response: “Why Me?”  She never asked again.

5.  A single mortal sin merits eternal suffering.  The worst we can bear here is nothing compared to that.  Imagine enduring *anything* forever.  My mom’s all-time favorite homily was, “You think it’s hot here?!”

C. S. Lewis once responded to someone who said, “It’s hot as Hell,” with “How would you know?”  When I was in CVICU last year, thinking I was dead and in Gell, everything seemed unendurable because ?I thought it was forever.  I was hot (high grade fever and screwed up post op metabolism).  I was thirsty (living off a feeding tube and npo).  I was in pain.  Most of all, I was *bored.*  I couldn’t move or speak.  I was strapped in a bed with tubes all over my body.

The only way to survive such a situation without despair is the Lord’s grace.  The Voice kept telling me to stop waive ring and make a choice.  It kept telling me it was over: I was in Hell or destined for it, that Jesus would never forgive me.  Yet, I thought of Faust, and I prayed, and I used the seemingly endless monotony to pray.  In particular, I thought about “70 times 7 times,” though I confused it as “70×70” and couldn’t remember if I was supposed to ask or grant it, so I kept naming people in my prayers and asking their forgiveness while offering mine.  I prayed the Pater repeatedly, the Publican’s Prayer and St Dismas’s prayer, over and over, 24/7, for at least 2 or 3 days.  My recovery began.

Why Kenny Rogers and John Lennon were wrong

“The best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep,” said one.
“Imagine all the people living for today,” said the other.

Our neighbors like to have bonfires on the weekends and play the radio.  Usually, they do it in fall and our relatively mild winters, but, given the bad winter we’ve had, coupled with yard debris, they’ve been having them the last several weekends.  When we were leaving for Mass, the repulsive “Imagine” started playing on the radio at the neighbors’.  I quickly started the car engine, knowing it was on Casting Crowns.  I thought about switching to Fr. Antonio Vivaldi’s _Four Seasons_, but figured I’d rather hear content to get Lennon’s book of Marx out of my head (so to speak; “Imagine” came out nearly a year after “American Pie”).  I didn’t, and it fit in with the weekend’s meditations.

“Imagine all the people living for today”??
That’s exactly why we’re in the mess we’re in.  That’s what Thomas Hobbes famously describes as the state of nature: the war of “all against all” because everyone is “living for the moment,” and “the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

"YOLO? No, bro"

Living for today is a good thing if you’re focused on the eternal “today” that is our destiny.

In his address at the 1998 Seattle C. S. Lewis Institute, Peter Kreeft quoted Voltaire saying that too many people had their minds on Heaven and Hell and not on France.  “I don’t know where Voltaire is now,” said Kreeft, “but, wherever he is, he’s not in France.”

Me with Peter Kreeft and Tom Howard

Me with Peter Kreeft and Tom Howard

Liturgically, this weekend’s theme of course was resurrection in anticipation of the upcoming Easter.  Saturday, we also celebrated the Memorial of St. Vincent Ferrer, known for his preaching on the Last Things, for promoting the following:

Prayer of St. Vincent Ferrer to be Sinless at the Hour of Death

Lord Jesus Christ, who willest that no man should perish, and to whom supplication is never made without the hope of mercy, for Thou saidst with Thine own holy and blessed lips: “All things whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, shall be done unto you”; I ask of Thee, O Lord, for Thy holy name’s sake, to grant me at the hour of my death full consciousness and the power of speech, sincere contrition for my sins, true faith, firm hope and perfect charity, that I may be able to say unto Thee with a clean heart: Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit: Thou hast redeemed me, O God of truth, who art blessed forever and ever. Amen. 

As we usually do, ironically, when I actually make it to Mass with my family, we went to the “last chance” college Mass, with a very kindly priest of the Holy Father’s generation who tends to overemphasize, as it were, “Niceness.”  He gives pleasant, uplifting homilies but never really challenges people.   He has a lot of good qualities, but I found his homily a bit lacking in the caution that should come with these themes.

“I am one of those who believe this life isn’t all there is.”
I should hope so.
He emphasized, “But if Christ is in you,
although the body is dead because of sin,
the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” (Rom 8:10).

He kind of left out the conditions “if” and “because of righteousness” and went with, “Christ is in all of us, so we’re all going to be together.”  He phrased it in that “ambiguous” manner that typifies his era, but he definitely promoted presumption.
I don’t know if it was posted because of St. Vincent, or the Sunday liturgy, or just an act of Divine Inspiration, but a blogger who goes by Tantamergo at “Dallas Area Catholics” posted a great piece on praying for a Happy Death, particularly praying for the opportunity to be conscious, as St. Vincent recommends above, so we can invoke Our Lady in our dying days, with various examples from Saints to that effect.
Thus, it was dismaying coming into Mass with those things in mind to hear Father say how most of his family were dead, and they’d all died of cancer, and he hoped to be fortunate enough to die in his sleep or suddenly!
No, the best we can hope for is not to die in our sleep; it is to die fully aware so that we’re not further punished for putting off our repentance.

Reports claim that Yellowstone is getting closer to eruption, and the animals are fleeing.   Others say that the supervolcano theory hasn’t been proven, that the animals are just engaging in normal migration, etc.  I say that, obviously, if they knew it was going to happen, they wouldn’t want to trigger mass chaos by saying that a mass extinction event is coming.  Either way, whether it’s Yellowstone, cancer, a heart attack, a gang playing the “knock out game,” or the proverbial bus, we must all heed Our Lord’s warning to store up treasure in Heaven, not on Earth.  Whether we die tomorrow or 90 years from now, we’ll still face the same personal judgement and the same two options for Eternity.  We worry so much about preparing for “retirement,” or how to survive various disasters, but do we worry about what will happen if we die a sudden and unprovided death?

Daily examination of conscience
Daily devotion to Our Lady and to Our Lord’s Passion
Self-sacrifice and almsgiving
Frequent recourse to the Sacraments
and, most of all
Praying daily that we and our loved ones will experience a “Happy Death,” with complete Confession, the Anointing, Viaticum, and the Apostolic Blessing (collectively, “Last Rites”).

These must be everyone’s priorities.

Lenten Reminder: He comes like a thief in the night

Reminder: whatever you do, Keep in mind you could be dead tomorrow.

People say, “What would Jesus do?”

They should really ask, “What would Jesus think?”

When you make a decision, consider that “Nothing that is hidden will remain hidden” (Lk 8:17) .  It’s a scary thought that everything that has ever happened will one day be known by everyone who has ever lived.

Remember the man to whom the Lord said, “You fool!  Don’t you know this very night your life will be demanded of you?”(Lk 12:20)  People like to prepare so much for the “future” when the “future” that seems so looming is nothing compared to the true Future that awaits after “death.”  We prepare for “retirement,” and we even prepare “funeral expenses,” but do we really prepare ourselves for Death and Judgement?  Or do we presume on God’s mercy? I know I do far too much of the latter.

One of the Devil’s greatest lies is that we have plenty of time.

Yet we’re told, by the voices of advertising that taunt us to break the 9th and 10th Commandments, that we have lots of time and need to “prepare” (not to store up treasure in Heaven), or that we have no time at all.

Fukushima; ever-impending nuclear war with Russia, Iran, North Korea, China or whomever; Climate change; bee depopulation; GMOs and various -icides: the media, new and old, are constantly telling us of the things that are going to kill us all before we know it, to create panic and get us to but stuff, not to get us to get right with God.  In the meantime, every one of us is a blood pressure spike or clot away from death–some of us are just more keenly aware of that fact.

Repent! For the kingdom of God is at hand!

“Share this and Your Prayers Will Be Answered”

While there is something to be said for accompanying our prayers with promotion of devotion, we must also be careful of turning prayer to superstition. Even, and especially, if they refer to “God,” “Angels,” or Saints (Therese seems to be particularly a victim of this), emails/memes/etc. that make “promises” if you share them and/or, worse, threats if you don’t constitute violations of the First Commandment, per the Catechism:

Superstition

2111 Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition.41

. . .
2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future.48 Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others – even if this were for the sake of restoring their health – are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another’s credulity.

Irreligion

2118 God’s first commandment condemns the main sins of irreligion: tempting God, in words or deeds, sacrilege, and simony.

2119 Tempting God consists in putting his goodness and almighty power to the test by word or deed. Thus Satan tried to induce Jesus to throw himself down from the Temple and, by this gesture, force God to act.49 Jesus opposed Satan with the word of God: “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test.”50 The challenge contained in such tempting of God wounds the respect and trust we owe our Creator and Lord. It always harbors doubt about his love, his providence, and his power.51

2120 Sacrilege consists in profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and other liturgical actions, as well as persons, things, or places consecrated to God. Sacrilege is a grave sin especially when committed against the Eucharist, for in this sacrament the true Body of Christ is made substantially present for us.52

The Wisdom of Bishop Myriel: Welcoming Valjean

The Bishop, who was sitting close to him, gently touched his hand. “You could not help telling me who you were. This is not my house; it is the house of Jesus Christ. This door does not demand of him who enters whether he has a name, but whether he has a grief. You suffer, you are hungry and thirsty; you are welcome. And do not thank me; do not say that I receive you in my house. No one is at home here, except the man who needs a refuge. I say to you, who are passing by, that you are much more at home here than I am myself. Everything here is yours. What need have I to know your name? Besides, before you told me you had one which I knew.” The man opened his eyes in astonishment. “Really? You knew what I was called?” “Yes,” replied the Bishop, “you are called my brother.”

Hugo, Victor (2010-12-16). Les Misérables (English language) (p. 67). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

Wisdom of Bishop Myriel: Carmelite Spirituality

He did not attempt to impart to his chasuble the folds of Elijah’s mantle; he projected no ray of future upon the dark groundswell of events; he did not see to condense in flame the light of things; he had nothing of the prophet and nothing of the magician about him. This humble soul loved, and that was all. That he carried prayer to the pitch of a superhuman aspiration is probable: but one can no more pray too much than one can love too much; and if it is a heresy to pray beyond the texts, Saint Theresa and Saint Jerome would be heretics.

Hugo, Victor (2010-12-16). Les Misérables (English language) (p. 54). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

Wisdom of Bishop Myriel: The role of a bishop

The apostle may be daring, but the bishop must be timid.

Hugo, Victor (2010-12-16). Les Misérables (English language) (p. 53). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

What do we have to fear?

Supposedly, there are 50 Reasons Why We Should Fear the Worst from Fukushima.

Bankers keep committing suicide.

We keep hearing about dangers of nukes, ships, and EMPs from Iran, China and North Korea.

IRS.  NSA.  TSA.  DHS.

Obamacare.

Monsanto.

Cancer.

We are constantly being told to worry about the future: about money, health, property, “safety” and “security.”

41 The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. 42 There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41-42, NAB).

Do we live “according to the flesh” or “according to the spirit”?

5 For those who live according to the flesh are concerned with the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit with the things of the spirit. . . . 35What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? (Romans 8:5,35, NAB)

It just when we say “peace and security” that the “Day of the Lord” will come on us like a “thief in the night.” (1 Thess 5:2-3).

7  “When you hear of wars and reports of wars do not be alarmed; such things must happen, but it will not yet be the end.  8 Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes from place to place and there will be famines. These are the beginnings of the labor pains.  9 Watch out for yourselves. They will hand you over to the courts. You will be beaten in synagogues. You will be arraigned before governors and kings because of me, as a witness before them. . . . 11 When they lead you away and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say. But say whatever will be given to you at that hour. For it will not be you who are speaking but the holy Spirit. . . . 14 When you see the desolating abomination standing where he should not (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, . . . 15 [and] a person on a housetop must not go down or enter to get anything out of his house. . . . 35 Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. 36 May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. (Mark 13, NAB)

We should only fear one thing: offending Jesus. That’s it.

And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. (Matthew 10:28, NAB)

If we put as much effort into frequent Confession and daily examination of conscience that we do into worldly matters, we would certainly have nothing to fear from those, and things might indeed go far better for us as a society.

Trust God for the rest.

Being Where Terri Was: Part 1–How I Got There

Since late May, I have debated in my mind about what or whether to write about my experiences in April. Like most such autobiographical topics, I’ve fretted about such quibbles as whether to write it here first or save for some formal publication opportunity, whether to go with a fiction or nonfiction approach, how much to share, etc. So I’ve ended up squandering the time I’ve been given to share it by hindering myself, and I decided I’d better just post it here and trust God’s will.

So, here goes: on March 27, as my few regular readers are aware, I had my aorta repaired from the middle of the arch to the middle of the abdomen. I knew going in that it was a risky procedure. I’d spent 2 years reading medical abstracts, studying statistics, talking to surgeons, emailing surgeons, etc., not to mention having spent my entire life *up* to that point studying for the inevitable. For an otherwise “healthy” person, surgery on the descending aorta carries, depending on whose stats you read, something like a 40% chance of mortality within the first two years, and I forget the exact numbers I started with, but when I added them all up, I came up with a 90% chance of some kind of “permanent complication,” be it death, paralysis and/or organ damage. The likelihood of those complications occurring, and the need for surgery ASAP, increased if one was a) A Marfan (check), b) had previous surgery on the aortic root (check), c) had already suffered dissection (check) and/or d) had an aneurysm greater than 6 cm in diameter (check).

Since my dissection in January 2011, I’d been debating whether and where to have surgery. My longtime cardiologist agreed with me that my odds weren’t good and it was better, if I did anything at all, to find someone relatively local who was competent enough rather than do it long-distance. i had already ruled out Johns Hopkins, Emory and UNC, and while I’d been seeing a local surgeon who was competent and confident enough to do it, he needed at least one more team member and told Tme that he literally asked every cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon in the Augusta area, with no one willing to “touch me.” The last time I saw him was in May 2012, when he told me that, recommended I see his mentor at UNC, and told me I wouldn’t live through the end of the summer without surgery (this was based upon CT scans done in November of 2011 and January 2012).

After ruling out UNC, I put the whole thing in God’s Hands. I happened to see a trailer on my Facebook feed about a new movie of _Les Miserables_. I thought, “Oh, not another one,” thinking it was going to be another adaptation of the novel. Then I clicked play, and heard Anne Hathaway’s amazing performance of “I Dreamed a Dream,” and I was ecstatic: THEY MADE A MOVIE OF THE MUSICAL?! I ran to my wife and kids. I called my parents and my in-laws. My wife said, “That’s it: no doctors, no surgery, no activity. Total bed rest for six months. I want you to live long enough to see that movie!” That was the “goal,” and in the mean time we got to go on a Make-a-Wish trip to Florida, and I was able to make my definitive promises as a Secular Carmelite. At my Community’s Day of Recollection, after making my Promises, last December, one of my friends not only knew what I was talking about about when I explained about the surgical options I was considering (and trying to get someone to do, since I was hoping to find someone willing to do a stent operation rather than “traditional” open surgery) but knew one of the top vascular surgeons in the country and had another friend who’d had an iliac aneurysm repaired by that surgeon–I believe he was at Shands in Florida. So he immediately got his cell phone out and called the surgeon’s registration nurse, with whom I spoke for a few minutes that Saturday morning. She gave me a few more names. I started researching.

In early January, having done all that and seen _Les Miserables_ twice, I started looking these names up. I stumbled on the _US News_ list of top surgeons and, since their database of “top vascular surgeons” was nowhere near as long as other categories, I just started scrolling through it after having specifically searched for the other names. Of course, most of the people on the list were from NYC, Boston, Philadelphia, etc. Surprising, few of the names I’d been given were on the list. The one doctor, Dr. Svensson, I believe, at Cleveland Clinic was named by _US News_ as the top cardiac surgeon in the country. I contacted his office and explained how the only reason I was going to travel that far for surgery was for stents because I knew I couldn’t physically handle the travel or financially or emotionally handle the consequences of being stuck 10 hours from home should complications arise. She said, “No way, no how would we ever do stents on a Marfan.” I thanked her for her time.

So, after knocking off everyone else from my list, I finally hit someone within my 3-hour ideal radius that wasn’t Emory: Dr. Jeb Hallett at Roper St. Francis Health Care in Charleston. Plus, he had a little star indicating that he was in the “top 10%.” I Googled his name, and I found this video:

I called his office and scheduled an appointment. When I saw him, it was the most amazing medical appointment I’d ever had. I can honestly say that in all my experience with doctors, now as a patient and a parent, and having known some very excellent physicians, I have never known a doctor quite like Dr. Hallett. He knew everyone whose names I mentioned either as previous surgeons or as surgeons I’d considered. He even agreed with my reasons for ruling out some of the others. He spent a good 2 hours with us. He pulled the CT up on the computer and went over it with us. When his colleague, whose name I can never quite spell correctly for some reason, came for the cardiothoracic consult, Dr. Hallett stayed in the room. They talked right there with us. Our two eldest daughters were with us, and rather than insisting that they leave the room, as we feared, he included them in the conversation.
Afterwards, Mary asked me to talk to the girls about how they felt about it, as Gianna seemed a bit taken aback (as Mary and I both were) by seeing my aorta on the computer screen, and how shockingly huge it was. I said, “What do you girls think?”
Allie said she wanted them to do her surgery when the time comes, and said, “I think it’s a miracle!”
I later told Dr. Hallett on the phone what Allie said, and she said, “She may be right.”

"I am eternally grateful to God for both of these men."  -- my wife

“I am eternally grateful to God for both of these men.” — my wife

Periodic Reminder about my CD

Sometimes, what God chooses to inspire people with when you’re doing His work is not what you expect. Back in 2009, I self-published a CD/audiobook through Amazon’s CreateSpace Service called (available in CD format for $12 from that link or for MP3 download at $5.99 from this link).

It’s a collection of 30 prayers and devotions over 44 tracks (each of the 15 Prayers of St. Bridget of Sweden gets its own track). The only really long track is the Chaplet of St. Michael (17 minutes). The goal was to create a set of short prayers that can be integrated into one’s day, either in the car or while doing chores, etc. C. S. Lewis said of his fiction that he wrote the books he’d always wanted to read, and that’s the case here. My wife and I have a lot of Rosary CD’s, religious talks on CDs and DVDs, and at this point many MP3s we’ve downloaded from EWTN’s audio archive. Since I first published this audiobook, I got a SmartPhone and downloaded the Android App from the great folks at . On long trips, a whole Rosary can be counter-productive to staying awake in the car. On a short trip, a 20-minute Rosary or Divine Mercy chaplet will usually get interrupted before one arrives at one’s destination, and on CD or MP3, it will restart when we start the car again. Therefore, I wanted something with short prayers that I could theoretically mix with a music playlist, or that would make it easy to pray while doing the dishes, taking a bath, etc.
It’s tough drumming up attention for a self-published work like this, but still I sell a few copies a month and have garnered a few nice reviews on Amazon that show people are getting out of it what I’d hoped, as well as a lot of individual feedback from friends and acquaintances who have found it very helpful in their own prayer lives, including several nuns.
One of the highlights many people have talked of, from our pediatrician to the aforementioned nuns to Amazon reviewers, is the voice of my eldest daughter, then 7, on the Litany of the Saints, and alternating with her mother and me on the Lord’s Prayer’s and Angelic Salutations in the longer devotions. She’s always been something of a Night Owl, like her dad, and, when I was doing the recordings, she came downstairs and said she could sleep. So I said I’d been hoping for her to help me on these recordings, and asked her to say a few prayers with me. By the end of the Litany of the Saints (after a few takes, and after she’d recorded the Pater Noster’s and Ave’s), she was tired, and a few of her responses reflect her fatigue and frustration, which my listeners have said is very fitting and reflective.
When yet another person makes that comment, it always reminds me of Mother Angelica’s pre-1998 story about the woman who came up to her after a talk in Florida and said, “I loved your talk. You changed my life!” Mother said, “I’m glad I inspired you! What was it I said that moved you so much?” The lady replied, “I didn’t hear a word you said.” Mother was like, “OK, Lord, I’ll bite,” and replied, “How did I inspire you if you didn’t hear anything I said?” The lady answered, “You see, I have to wear a brace. And all my friends tell me that it’s because I don’t have enough faith, and if I had enough faith, the Lord would heal me. So I saw you come out on the stage, wearing your braces, and I knew you were a holy woman, and you have to wear braces, so that showed me my friends are wrong. After that, I was so moved, I didn’t hear a word.” Of course, it always made me worry about what that woman thought after Mother was healed in 1998. . . .
Speaking of healing, and the trade-offs that often accompany it (i.e., Mother’s stroke 2 years later), As my wife posted here in April, and I have alluded to both before and after, I had surgery on my descending aorta on March 27 of this year, at Roper St. Francis in Charleston. The timing of my surgery turned out to be highly Providential, if not “miraculous,” and that’s a story I’m working on writing up for a more formal venue. I ended up spending 3 months in the hospital, though I was able to post a few times in June, while still there.
One of the complications of the surgery was paralysis of my left vocal cord. The alternate term “voice box” is probably a bit more accurate to how it works: it’s really more like a valve in our throats, which closes and opens to help us swallow, produce sound and breathe. My right side still opens and closes properly, but my left does not. Therefore, other than some recorded lessons I did as a college English instructor, many of which are not of the best quality, this CD has greater personal significance for me, as a now-former college instructor who had always dreamt of getting on the “lecture circuit” and/or being a professional singer. Barring a miracle, I’ll be confined to writing from now on, as well as to promoting this one recording.
Nevertheless, as Mother Angelica would also say, if just one person gets to Heaven because of my work, it’s worth it. I’m here to serve. I just hope if you’re reading this I’ve inspired you to purchase a copy or two for yourself or for a gift.

Lightning Strikes FROM the Vatican: Benedict Retires, and God Sends a Sign

Following yesterday’s announcement that his holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, will be resigning his papacy, God sent an apparent sign by having “lightning strike” the top of St. Peter’s Basilica (presumably, there’s a lightning rod up there). No one I’ve read has presented any statistics one way or the other regarding how often lightning strikes there, though I’d figure that it’s got to be a pretty unusual event to snap photos of such lightning just in time.

Joanne McPortland, with whom I usually disagree when I either read her blog or encounter her on Facebook, has written a very good piece about how God shows His glory in Nature, per the Psalms.
It does stand to be noted that God *sometimes* uses lightning, and other phenomena, as a sign of His disfavor, as He did with St. Barbara’s father, and as He did with Rudolph Giuliani–one of the select few “Catholic” politicians who’s actually wrong on most Life Issues.
Or there’s a favorite story of mine. A family friend who often does “general intercessions” as part of grace also has a lifelong devotion to St. Barbara. Once, in the late 90s, her grandchildren were all visiting, and she was saying her typical long form of grace before meals. The children began snickering and whispering. It was storming outside. She said, “You better watch out, or God’ll get ya!” Just then, BOOM! Lightning hit the house: the TV right behind their heads in the kitchen blew up, as did the TV and VCR in the den!

However, no one was hit by this particular lightning strike: it’s just a fantastic display of God’s grandeur.

Now, that said, I keep noting on various discussions of what this lightning strike could “mean” that everyone’s forgetting their high school physical science.

Lightning does not strike from above. It strikes from below. In a storm the wind and the rapid changing of temperatures cause friction in the clouds, making the clouds positively charged. This attracts electrons from the ground, which seek out a path of least resistence to get up to the ionized clouds. Lightning is the flash of light the electrons produce, and thunder is the sound of the electrons jumping. The reason lightning rarely “strikes twice” in the same spot during a storm is that the ionization in that area has become neutralized.

So, technically, contrary to 99.99999% of the discussions online, lightning did not strike the Vatican: the Vatican struck the sky with lightning.

So, if “lightning striking” is a symbol of a rare and awesome phenomena, and Pope Benedict’s resignation (only 4% of Popes have resigned, none in 600 years, and most under serious pressure for some reason) is a metaphorical “lightning strike”, then if God is sending a message by this lightning strike, that message is:
Benedict’s Resignation is a Rare and Awesome Thing.

The Pope’s Resignation: is it the End of the World?

Who knows? It’s certainly a time to pray and fast for the good of the Church and the World.

Here’s what I don’t understand: Jesus specifically warned against the equivalent of “stocking up canned goods” in Luke 12, saying to store up treasure in Heaven. Paul, in 2 Thessalonians, is writing all about what *not* to do, and the oft-quoted “anyone who would not work should not eat” was referring to those who were doing the equivalent of “hiding out in a bunker” and waiting for the world to end. He who clings to his life will lose it; he who loses his life will find it forever.

In the Twilight Zone episode “The Shelter,” Larry Gates (later Guiding Light/s HB Lewis) plays Dr. Bill Stockton, a beloved family doctor who’s quite proud of the bomb shelter he’s built in his basement–with *just* enough room for him, his wife and his son, and stocked with just enough food (it is unclear whether he packed “just enough food” to last not only until *after* the fall-out of nuclear war but till after it was possible to *regrow* food). His friends and neighbors, gathered for his birthday, mock his paranoia–until reports come in that an actual nuclear war is on the verge of starting. Stockton hurries his family to the shelter, leaving the friends & neighbors behind. He locks them out. They come begging to be included. He says he doesn’t have any room–*maybe* one person if they insist. But he keeps screaming at them to leave and threatening to shoot them if they don’t. They fight among themselves viciously about who should be the one to survive with the Stockton family, and condemning each other’s real or perceived faults.

Then war *doesn’t* happen, and they’re all left with their relationships shattered by their selfishness.

When Jesus comes again, you’re not going to avoid that by hiding out in a bunker, and we have the assurance the world will not end until then. If it’s nuclear war, you’re not going to avoid that by hiding out in a bunker (interestingly, at Nagasaki, a Catholic Church was preserved from the destruction). If we’re going to experience a little turmoil that leads to the Era of Peace, then why fight it or fear it? If society collapses, stored goods will only last so long before you need more food, and refusing to share what you’ve stored with those in need will not win you points in Heaven.

And, if none of that stuff happens, and you wake up just as you did on December 22, 2012, or you come out of your bomb shelter like the Stocktons, and the world is still here, you look pretty silly. You might even, like the Stocktons, find yourself with shattered friendships.

And if you go to bed expecting the world doesn’t end, and your *life* ends, whether the world does or does not, you still make yourself liable to die and have the Lord say, “You fool! Did you not know that this very night your life would be demanded of you?! For I come like a thief in the night!”

“The Poor Will Always Be With You”

One point I have always made on the topic of “Social Justice,” particularly when arguing against liberals, is that Jesus Himself said, “The poor will always be with you” (Mark 14:7), a point echoed in Catechism 676, which says the spirit of Anti-Christ is found in any political movement which promises to solve humanity’s problems through secular means. Thus, while so many “Christians” on the political “Left” insist that Christ would want us to vote for people who want to “end poverty,” Jesus Himself says we will never end poverty, and the Church says that any promise of ending poverty is actually the spirit of Anti-Christ. Indeed, as the recent election has given particular heat to debates among Catholics about the economic applications of Catholic Social Teaching, Leo XIII, the very pope who originated modern Catholic “Social Justice” teaching explicitly condemned the approach of the “Left”.

Of course, as I often note, Dietrich von Hildebrand says it is wrong to try and force either capitalism or socialism into conformity with Catholicism because both economic systems are based upon wrong notions of the human person, and Bl. Fulton Sheen often taught very similar notions (he often liked to say that capitalists want Christ without the Cross, while Communists want the Cross without Christ).

The Compendium on Social Doctrine makes it perfectly clear that governments must provide a basic “safety net” for the poor, and that some sort of redistribution of wealth is appropriate–in particular the Compendium, pulling together the teachings of Leo XIII and subsequent Popes through to John Paul II, advocates redistribution of land, *precisely* because every person has a fundamental right to personal property (a policy which GK Chesterton named “distributism”).

Nevertheless, as I noted in my previous post, it is individual charity Christ cares about most, because charity is supposed to represent love. Voting for a politician who wants to tax some people to supposedly help others (while that politician and his cronies, and a bunch of bureaucrats in between, get most of the benefits and the poor still get the scraps) doesn’t satisfy the demands of love. Giving a few bucks to a foundation is helpful but still isn’t necessarily an act of Caritas. Giving a homeless person a peanut bar and a Powerade, with a kind word to boot, can be an act of infinitely greater merit than donating a fortune anonymously to a food bank (though both are necessary).

But what baffles me most about liberals’ insistence that Jesus wants us to end poverty is that Jesus *praises* poverty: Blessed are the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3). He praises the poor widow who gives her last coin to the Temple.

Jesus wants us to SACRIFICE. I’m often told when I say this that it doesn’t apply to everyone, that it’s wrong to say that we are all called to follow the Counsel of Poverty, but nowhere does Jesus say that. He is constantly saying to give up everything for the kingdom. “If you wish to be perfect,* go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mt 19:21).

My objection to both capitalism and socialism is that they are both materialistic. The following passage from Flannery O’Connor’s _Habit of Being_, in a letter from 1959, circulated Facebook recently in the form of a scanned page:

The Church’s stand on birth control is the most absolutely spiritual of all her stands and with all of us being materialists at heart, there is little wonder that it causes unease. I wish various fathers would quit trying to defend it by saying that the world can support 40 billion. I will rejoice in the day when they say: This is right, whether we all rot on top of each other or not, dear children, as we certainly may. Either practice restraint or prepare for crowding…

When Catholics on both “sides” talk about economics, they always emphasize which economic philosophy will bring greater “prosperity” to individuals and to the nation as a whole (of course ignoring that there are more than two economic philosophies available), yet they never stop to consider the question of why people who are supposed to be focused on the next life are obsessing about prosperity in *this* life!

“But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. ” (Mt 6:20). “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.” (Mk 10:29-30).

Yes, in this passage, Our Lord promises material reward in this present age, but His whole point is that we are to live on Providence. He promises that if we give up everything for the Kingdom, He will give us what we need in this life and eternal life in the next. So that verse can hardly be used to justify either a capitalist or socialist attitude. Jesus calls us to *sacrifice*, not to “save.”

“Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. 30Even all the hairs of your head are counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. ” (Mt 10:29-31). “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 10:39).

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear. 23For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. 24Notice the ravens: they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more important are you than birds!m 25Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your lifespan? 26If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest? 27Notice how the flowers grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them.n 28If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? 29As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. 30All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides. (Luke 12:22-31)

Where, in these teachings, do people get the idea that God wants people to engage in accumulation of money, on the one hand, or that God wants us to obsess about taxing the rich to “end poverty,” on the other?

But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ 21Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.* (Luke 12:20-21).

No servant can serve two masters.* He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” The Pharisees, who loved money,* heard all these things and sneered at him. (Luke 16:13-14).

When I hear a Unionist say, “We were mad that the bosses got a raise, so we went on strike,” I hear someone serving money. When I hear a capitalist say, “I earned my money, and I have a right to keep the money I earned,” I hear someone serving money. When I hear a liberal talk about taxation, I hear someone serving money.

Then there’s this key teaching:

Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.” 16They brought one to him and he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied to him, “Caesar’s.” 17So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were utterly amazed at him. (Mk 12:15-17)

Caesar makes money in his own image. God made *us* in His own image. That’s what Jesus means: WE belong to God. Money doesn’t exist. It’s a figment of Caesar’s imagination. We are real. If God can raise up descendants to Abraham from the stones (Luke 3:8), then Jesus can produce money from the mouth of a fish (Matthew 17:27).

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. (Psalm 127:2).

Stop looking to Wall Street for your salvation. Stop looking to Washington for your salvation. God does not want us to cure poverty, and He does not want us to be “prosperous.” Indeed, the Bible shows time and again that God does NOT want us to be prosperous, either individually or as a society, because whenever people are prosperous, they forget God (Genesis 11:1-9).

He wants us to love one another and provide each other with basic dignity and justice, but “prosperity” is a lie with the face of Caesar stamped on it. That’s why I reject both dominant political/economic philosophies of the world. That’s why I do not understand how the “Christian Left” can justify itself.

Government programs and Organized charities are fine, but it’s One-on-One that Counts with God

I’ve been there in line at Catholic Social Services, asking for help, getting in line at 8:30 to see all the people who’d been waiting in line for long before that, and finding that everyone in line after me was sent home right after the doors opened because they can only help so many people.

One of the holiest priests I’ve ever known, who was parochial vicar at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Erie, PA, in the mid-80s, said he would get frustrated by answering the door to all the homeless people, knowing they’re just going to go get drunk, but he knew the day he didn’t answer the door, it would be Jesus in disguise.

C. S. Lewis was once walking with J.R.R. Tolkein, and they passed a beggar. Lewis pulled out all the money from his pocket and gave it to the man. Tolkein said, “Did you have to give him *all* your money? You know he’s just going to spend it on drink, right?” Lewis replied, “Well, that’s all I was going to spend it on.”

One Sunday in Sumter, a man came to our door with a long story about his car breaking down and everything–a story that is supposedly the sign of a con man but a story I’ve lived out for real on many occasions since then–and my dad gave him some money. We had guests over, and everyone said, “That man was probably a con man.” My dad said, “So what? He’s my brother in Christ and I have to help him.” A few hours later, the man *returned*, asking for *more* money. Dad said, “Listen. I’m a school teacher. I have a wife and son who are severely ill. This is all the cash I have on hand. I’m helping you out of Christian charity, but I can’t give you anything else, so please don’t come back again.”

A few days later, the man was arrested, and his picture was on the front page of the paper. The police asked his victims to come in and offered their money back. People asked Dad if he was going to go testify and get his money back. Dad said, “No. Why would I negate my act of charity?”

One year, on the Solemnity of All Saints, we had to travel to Greenville for a doctor’s appointment for Allie, and Mary scheduled a field trip to coincide with it. We lost our card along the trip from North Augusta to Greenville, and used up the little bit of cash we had on dinner and gasoline. We knew we could go to the bank in the morning, but we had no money for a hotel. So we went to Mass in Greenville, and after Mass, I went up to an usher explained our situation, telling a story that reminded me of that man so many years ago. I noted how it seems like even when things are going relatively well for us, things like this happen, and God is constantly challenging me to take seriously my commitment as a Secular Carmelite to live in the spirit of the beatitudes. It turned out he was the parish business manager, and he went to get Fr. Jay Scott Newman, who came out and talked to me, and authorized him to give me $60 from the parish safe to pay for a hotel and some food. The next day, we went to the bank, and while Mary was at her field trip, I went back to St. Mary’s, tracked down the business manager, and offered him the $60 back. He said, “Keep it for your kids, and thanks for restoring my faith in humanity.”

Similarly, my father in law never locks his doors. He always says, “if anyone is going to rob me, they’re going to find a way to do it, and they obviously need it more than I do, and I don’t want to have to pay for the broken glass.”

We don’t have a lot, but we always help those in need. One time, a fellow came up to us after Mass at MHT, and Mary gave him a bottle of Powerade and some snacks we had in the van. A few weeks later, the same guy made a B-line for us in the parking lot, and we winced. He came up and said, “Wow! It’s the nice lady who gave me the Powerade! I just wanted to come up and say thank you.” Once, I was in downtown Atlanta by myself, and I couldn’t remember where I parked. The only person who helped me was a homeless lady, who asked for a ride to a soup kitchen. I apologized, pointing out that I obviously didn’t know my way around town, and instead gave her the snacks we had in the car for our own lunch. She was deeply grateful.

On the other end, my father tells the story of his uncle Peter, a very well-to-do man, who was standing on Sunday after Mass on the steps of St. Peter’s Cathedral, and wearing his favorite old overcoat, a bit tattered. A man came up and handed him some money. “Go buy yourself a cup of coffee.” At first, Uncle Peter’s pride was offended, and he wanted to tell the guy off, but he stopped himself and said, “Why should I take away from his act of charity? His intentions were good.” So he went and bought himself a cup of coffee.

Ultimately, our call as Christians is to serve and be served, to trample our personal pride and learn the path of humility. Like both my great uncle Peter and the Apostle Peter at the Washing of the Feet, we must learn to let others help us if we are to participate in the Kingdom, and we must be willing to always help others, even if that means giving the last of our available resources. If we do not treat the least of our brothers and sisters with love–and surely the least are those who have sinful intentions in their hearts–how can we expect to share the reward of Christ who died for us while we were still enemies? If we hold grudges, act out of pride, lord it over others, etc., how can we expect the forgiveness of Our Lord, Who comes to us with humility and constant forgiveness?

God Spoke through my SmartPhone

OK, so this is weird. I have copies of all my religious mp3s on my Android “phone,” including a free MP3 audiobook of _Imitation of Christ_ I downloaded some time back. Each MP3 file is like 20 minutes long. Around noon, Mary was at the desk, and I was on the corner of the bed, and the phone was at the opposite end of the room. All of a sudden, we heard _The Imitation of Christ_ play for like 3 or 4 sentences, in a very clear-cut, point made snippet. ‎

“If you withdraw yourself from unnecessary talking and idle running about, from listening to gossip and rumors, you will find enough time that is suitable for holy meditation.” Bk 1, Ch. 20

I picked up the phone. There were no recent calls; no alarms; and no sign of the MP3 player playing.

Now, when I *looked* at the phone right after it went off, I saw no indication of an “alert” on the phone–no indication of a call, alarm or text message or email. Mary *did* have an alarm set for around that time, but the alarm says “Alarm”. There is NO option on the phone for an “Imitation of Christ” ringtone. When you go to the list of ringtones, it says, “Alarm Rooster,” and you click on Alarm Rooster, and the rooster crows. But on *that* alarm, if you play the ringtone, it plays the clip.

And, again, you can’t pick a short clip out of a 20 minute MP3 and assign it as a ringtone, and even if it were possible, neither one of us did it.