This blog contains the random thoughts that enter into my mind. Most of these will be of a serious nature that I will then proceed to mangle until unrecognizable. But I may yet discover truth in something...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Challenge to all Catholics: Expressions of Faith

I'm a member of the Diocese of Arlington, and thanks be to God, it has diversity. Unfortunately, this is a pendulum that swings two ways. It has enough diversity to allow the Tridentine Latin Mass in all parishes where requested (Motu Proprio comes to mind), unlike in other dioceses that still think it's outlawed (you can tell that some people don't actually follow what the Holy Father has proclaimed). It also has enough diversity [read with a lisp] to allow for nutty liturgies and guitar Masses. I was one of three men on the front page of the Arlington Catholic Herald in late June, 2007, in an article talking about the music appreciation of the Diocese. I was singing Gregorian Chant.

There was one line in a two page article that references Gregorian Chant in an off-handed way. Sacred Polyphony was either blended into that same sentence, or was the second sentence of that two sentence paragraph, also mentioned rather off-handedly. It gave major preference to all the other forms of "sacred music" (Broadway, 70's tunes, Creole folk songs, etc.).

So this brings me to the buildup to my question: As Catholics, we are united in Faith. We have one Creed that we recite every Sunday. If we are united in Faith, why don't we express our Faith in a unified way?

Speaking of music, why don't Catholics sing at Mass? I don't mean the members of the choir. Anyone who is in the choir sings every Sunday. (All of you can stop reading, if you like.) To the people who "can't sing" or just don't sing, what is preventing you from opening your mouth to give praise to God in the ways proscribed by the Church? Joining in the hymns and chants of the season is a great way to do so. Responding where necessary (depending, of course, upon the Liturgy you attend) is also recommended for participation, although not strictly necessary. What is required for participation is simply an attitude of actually wanting to attend Mass. Showing up is a good start. Showing up and paying attention is participation is the loosest sense of the word. Showing up, paying attention, and responding and/or as applicable is even better. Showing up in your Sunday best is showing your best side to God (which is yet another good step). Showing up in your Sunday best, sitting towards (or at) the front of the Church, being attentive, being good, maintaining a prayerful and respectful demeanor all the way through Mass is probably the best that we can do on this earth. It's hard, but hey, heaven isn't free.

Time to break some things down. I won't go into all of them today.

To those of you that come to Sunday Mass in less-than your best, what's up? Is God not worth it? If you can't afford good clothes, that's something else. Your best may be only one level above your worst. But if it's your best, it's your best.

Alternately, the people who come in Gucchi shoes, Ralph Lauren designed shorts and shirts, Oakley sunglasses riding on the tops of their heads should not attend Mass like that. Sure, it may be their "best", if by "best" you mean "most expensive", but I certainly don't. I'll never wear an UnderArmor outfit to Mass that isn't respectfully covered by something else, and that's pretty darn expensive. I wear suits to Sunday Mass, and at least nice-looking clothes to weekday Masses.

As a Confession, I will say that my dress code for weekday Masses is seriously relaxed from Sundays (I won't talk about Christmas and Easter). I'm still working on following the example that I set out as ideal. But my clothes are at least modest, and not too distracting -- at least, not to my knowledge. Of course, considering the Politically Correct Mumbo-Jumbo that infects today's society, I'll never really know for certain, unless the priest tells me.

Ideally, your "Sunday best" should be your "Mass best". If you put the best foot forward to give God the glory due to Him by appearing at Mass in a tasteful, non-distracting manner, you'll have overcome one major obstacle on your way to the perfection to which God calls all of us, and that not a single person on earth has achieved.

God Bless!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Challenge to all Catholics: Do You Really Believe in God?

While I going through my normal routine, I began to notice that I wasn't making much time for God. Every day, I roll out of bed, reset my alarm, and go back to sleep. Eventually, it becomes ridiculous beyond the point of belief, and then when I do get up, I've been in bed for so long that it's just time to start my day, and if I don't get started, I won't get anything done. Alternately, I tend to work long hours, such that when I'm done, I have about 2 hours to handle all of my other responsibilities, and then I go to bed, and rattle off only quick prayers.

This doesn't mean that I don't pray. I do try. Every so often, I do succeed, at least it would seem so to me. But this brings up a question.

Why do I do this? I mean, if I really do believe what I say about God, and how He loves us and how we owe Him absolutely everything, how is it that I can spend one minute (or less) in every 24-hour period thanking Him, worshiping Him, talking to Him?

To those of you who have a similar pattern, maybe you can help answer the question. To quote a good friend of mine, "I'm a sinner in need of a Great Savior." And I've got One. But I have to use the grace that He gives me to attain salvation. More often than not, I don't use the graces given, and that tends to be a problem.

Anyway, just stop and think about that. Every day that you dedicate to yourself and your needs, are you stopping to thank God for the life that He gave you, the friends you have, the Catholic Faith that you belong to (and I hope hold dearly)? Are you using His graces and His Gifts?

Also, a quick reminder, today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Our Lady's Conception, not Our Lord's). Today is a Holy Day of Obligation. You are not under any restrictions today for fasting or abstinence -- since it's a feast day of the Church, I think that fasting and abstinence is forbidden. Anyway, also, just make sure you go to Mass today!

God Bless!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Challenge to all Catholics: Why are you Catholic?

This is the first in a series of challenges to all Catholics. It's meant to stir up some rationale for Faith, at the very least in myself. I notice that I tend to take my Faith for granted at times, and my spiritual life goes down the tubes. Anyone who is non-Catholic but wishes to read along, you are certainly welcome to do so. I should warn you, however: I am not cutting corners, nor sparing feelings. I am not politically correct. I would be thrown out of modern day debate because I don't follow the rules. However, when one is in search of the Truth, as we all should be, the boundaries set up by man to limit discussions only form barriers to this discovery. I am in pursuit of the Truth, the Whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth. As such, I hope that no one reading will be offended, but I make no promises. If you are offended, all I ask is that you ask yourself why you are offended, and then tell me why. If my presentation sounds like an ad hominem attack, I will apologize for it, as none of it is meant to be so. If necessary, I will also reword my thoughts. But I will not retract what I say. If, on the other hand, you're offended by the Truth, I hope you will tell me why it is that you think I am wrong -- if I am wrong, then I will retract what I say, but if I'm right, then you should honestly reconsider your position.

I will also say that this is also an exercise for me. Apologetics has been one of my weakest points, so I will definitely try to keep this interesting, as well as thorough and to-the-point.

Without further ado, I begin the challenges.

+ + +

Anyone who is Catholic and reading my blog, raise your hand.

OK, put them down now.

Why did you raise your hand? Because you're Catholic. Why are you Catholic?

There are lots of reasons: "My parents are Catholic." "I was born into the Faith." "My spouse is Catholic." "I converted when I was a child." "I couldn't stand the Protestant/Muslim/Mormon/whatever ceremonies any more." "Most of my friends are Catholic."

Would you like to know the best reason?

The reason is this: "I love God and want to do His Will. God commands me to be Catholic. I want to be Catholic because God commands me to be Catholic. Therefore, I am Catholic."

When did God command me to the Catholic? I don't recall the verse in the Bible where God says, "Be Catholic."

When God established the Jewish religion, that was the religion of the time. All men who were saved were saved because of their following the laws of the Jewish religion. Jesus Christ, who is God, established the Catholic Church as the completion of the Jewish religion. Since this is the religion of God, that is how the command was given to us.

That's all for now. Think about that. I'll reply to comments as I get them. Look for a new post soon.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What is money?

I will begin this post by saying that anyone who knows anything about money to not read the following post. I'm just rambling. There is no point. This is not an economic evaluation of the USA; this is not a philosophical discussion on the principles of economics; this is not a historical presentation of the history of money; this is not a rant about capitalism vs distributism (although that one is coming). This said, you have been warned. Don't come crying to me when my expert opinion falls short of CNN Money.

Cash, currency, credit, change, the card -- all forms of money. Money is one of the basic elements of economics. How much you have, what you spend it on, how well you save it -- these all are pieces of who you are.

There are misers who horde their money, and spend as little as they possibly can. I won't use racial stereotypes, but you know the kind of person I'm talking about. Every once in a while, it is good to be miserly with your money. Saving for a rainy day is the greatest thing since sliced bread. But, when push comes to shove, it's only money, and you can't take it with you.

Then there are the crazy spenders. You know this kind of person, too: every penny they earn is immediately spent. They've got a lot of stuff, stuff they don't need, but it's all stuff that they think will make them happy. Does it? Who am I to say? In the end, no, but I won't deny the glee that comes from having the newest thing on the market and showing it off.

Earlier, I said that how much money you have, what you spend it on and how well you save it all are pieces of who you are. I didn't mean in the materialistic sense -- I meant in a more real sense. When you take the money away from the man, what you are left with is just the man, and it is much easier to see his nature without the material facade of cash.

Like I said, though, this is entirely disjointed and probably 99% incoherent. Please just pretend you didn't read this. I'll probably follow it up later with a better post...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sunday Sermon on the Parable of the Treasure in the Field

In case you missed it, the Gospel on Sunday was the Parable about the man who discovered a treasure in a field. He sold everything he owned to buy the field. The accompanying parable was the merchant of fine pearls who sold off everything he owned for the pearl of great price.

Fr. Poumade (sp?) gave a great sermon on Sunday, talking about how modern life these days distracts us from a true love of God. Our ideas of love have been tainted by the Hollywood-style mooshy-gooshy kinds of love, and we forget that true love is the willing sacrifice of oneself for the good of another, not just good feelings. Since God already has everything that is good for Him, the highest forms of love that we can give Him is obedience to His commands and the following of Our Lord's example, since He deserves nothing less. Our obedience should be motivated by love of God, not just a desire to avoid hell. It was one of those sermons that felt like it was directed solely at me.

After Mass, I talked to Fr. P about how one can move from the love of God that is motivated by the fear of hell to the kind of love that is motivated by nothing but a desire to do His Will. Obviously, there is no one answer (like, "Read this book, and you'll be there,"), but Fr. P had a good number of suggestions, and he gave me one piece of advice which is tried and true: act like you love God and you will eventually develop the right kind of love.

My next question was how do I act like I love God and participate in the joy that should come along with that without being a conceited prick, like what you see in modern Protestant ministers or people who seem to be always happy-go-lucky or slain-in-the-spirit or whatever else seems very fake and superficial. He told me that I was seeing the difference between true joy and optimism. True joy is serenity: nothing disturbs your love for God, whether good things or disasters occur. Optimism is a constant forced high that often crashes and burns with disaster.

Of course, I'm remembering all this two days after the fact -- a lot was said, and I'm forgetting a lot of it, but this was the gist of it. It was really good to hear.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentine's Day

With commercialism rampant in today's society, one wonders exactly why things like Valentine's Day has retained its name. Or, at least, I do. It's the day of love. Chances are, when you walk down the street, you'll run across more people making out than you care to see. I actually laugh out loud as I pass by them, but most people don't care. To them, the feast is Bacchanalian in nature only, and the feast of a Saint who's legend includes being martyred for celebrating Catholic marriages without empirical consent returns to the more carnal celebration of Lupercalia. With the surge of paganism as an acceptable religion, I'm almost surprised to not see the old pagan holidays resurrected in place of the Christian ones, no matter how badly the original Christian meaning of the holiday (or Holy Day) has been distorted.

I have no problem with Valentine's Day. It was always a day that I looked forward to at Christendom. It was the one time of year that I could write silly poems and get away with it, all for the amusement of the fairer sex. Had I written a poem for any woman there at any other time, I would be accused of stalking, but on this very special day, the giving of roses and poems describing affection to the girls was completely acceptable, and even welcomed by them -- or most of them anyway. There were always a few that hated it for whatever various reasons, but the solution for them was a simple one: don't participate. Go out to eat with your friends and avoid the Commons on that night, for there would be girls enjoying and sharing each other's poems, guys passing out flowers left and right, serving dinner and desserts, and there would be a dance later -- it was expected, and it was fun for almost everyone. But, as I said before, to those for whom it wasn't fun, whether it be someone who just broke up, or someone who hated the commercialism, or, worse still, someone who hated any such displays, deeming them unfit for the public eye, their solution was a simple one: don't be there.

On a more spiritual sense, this would lead me to talk about love. What is love? Love is not simply feeling all mushy over someone. Love does not intrinsically contain butterflies. Love is a conscious decision that a person makes to another person. Along those lines, true love can only be shared by people. Loving an object is not true love. Don't get me wrong, I love pecan pie, I love big trucks and muscle cars, and I love exercising in the gym. But there is no real love there. Strong attraction, yes; a feeling of connection, yes; love, no. Exercise can no more reciprocate true love than the sound of a 641 horsepower V12 7.3 L engine can tell me anything but, "I'm fun to drive."


Of course, right now, I'm more inclined to drive such a car, simply because of the commitment that love requires. And just like a car needs to be fixed, even more so does a loving relationship need maintenance.

But I am out of my league for now. I am not in a relationship, and have not been in a serious relationship for a long time. Although I'm open to whatever God wills, I'm not planning to get into one either. I'm not prepared now in any capacity to reciprocate the highest possible connection between two people (aside, of course, from what is required by Christian charity), and I don't see myself ever being prepared for anything of the sort.

With that said, I hope you all have a very Blessed and Happy Feast of St. Valentine the Martyr (or Valentine's Day, whatever you wish to call it).