Thursday, May 28, 2009

My 'hood

I currently live in Lakewood, right next to Hawaiian Gardens, which is a tiny one-square-mile city featuring a big casino and my wonderful St. Peter Chanel parish.

Here's what's been happening in town. Nice, huh? I didn't know a thing about it till I saw the story. How awful for the black people living in the area. :( Hopefully it will come to an end.

I'm not too surprised to hear about the gang activity, since I've heard about it at church... parents coming to priests for help with their gangster kids, that sort of thing.

The wisdom of tradition

I just made chocolate chip cookies, and thought myself very clever because I left the chips out of some of them. I always enjoy the rest of the cookie more than the chocolate chips, so why not? Well, sometime around my sixth chipless cookie, they began to taste cloyingly sweet. I realized that the semisweet chocolate counterbalances the rest of the dough and that's what makes it so delicious. Live and learn!

And I'm off again!

Some friends and I will be leaving tonight to road trip up from Hawaiian Gardens (in southern California) to northern California. On Saturday in San Francisco we'll see the ordination of someone I knew in college! Br. Raphael Mary Salzillo is being ordained a priest for the Dominicans. And no, we didn't go to Franciscan University of Steubenville, but a perfectly secular college, Caltech in Pasadena, California. :)

Here is an mp3 (the audio's of indifferent quality) of a talk on faith and reason that he gave at Caltech a few months ago. It was excellent; I especially liked the point he made about fear. Religious people are sometimes afraid that science will seem to disprove their faith, but it runs the other way too-- scientific types are sometimes afraid to investigate religion too closely, whether because it might not be so easy to disprove, or because they don't want to be tainted by association, I don't know. But as soon as he made the point, I realized it's true. There are lots of little scientific puzzles connected to the Shroud of Turin, or the tilma in Mexico City with Our Lady of Guadalupe on it, or the spiral staircase in New Mexico with no central support (oi, the Snopes page on that one was so stupid-- a real letdown; Snopes is usually a great resource) and anyone with an ounce of scientific curiosity should be interested in getting to the bottom of things. Even if you think it's just a clever fake, don't you want to know how it was done? But most scientists avoid like the plague anything associated with religion. The main point of the talk was that neither side should fear, because faith and reason belong together. That used to be taken for granted; Br. Raphael took us back to medieval history to trace how they were separated.

At the end of the talk we had questions, and people made him tell his vocation story That was funny. :) He majored in physics, and in grad school began to feel called to the priesthood: "I'd find myself in the lab, taking measurements on an atomic force microscope, and at the same time looking on the internet at different orders..."

So that's who's getting ordained on Saturday. Then on Sunday I'll be in Sacramento with eight friends, back at our beloved St. Stephen the First Martyr Church, where there will be a Solemn High Mass for Pentecost, and sung Vespers at 3 pm (this church has a great schola) and then a barbecue to celebrate the 25th ordination anniversary of one of the priests-- the one St. Stephen's stole from St. Peter Chanel. We're putting those Sacramento parishioners on notice. ;)

I'm looking forward to it! I wish all these trips weren't crammed into the same part of the year, but it's worth it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Nashville Dominicans

Last weekend I was on a five-day vocation retreat with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee. I posted a bunch of pictures here (I believe you'll be able to see that link even if you're not on Facebook... hope so, anyway.)

Who's in the pictures

The paintings in my May 6th post are, in order,

1) The Childhood of Christ, by Gerrit Van Honthorst

2) St. Ambrose Converting Theodosius, by Pierre Subleyras. Theodosius was a Roman Emperor who massacred 7000 people at Thessalonica in A.D. 390. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, denied him the Eucharist until he had done penance for several months.

3) The Presentation of the Virgin, by Tintoretto. I think this scene might be described in the Protoevangelium of James, A.D. second century.

4) St. Francis Kneeling, by Francisco de Zurbaran

5) And the Sistine Madonna, by Raphael; Athanasius already named the other figures in the picture (in the comments).

Kudos to Cathy, Athanasius, Assisi and JimAroo for correct answers, and to everyone for their patience. :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Let the boringness continue!

Whoa, two weeks since I've posted, and now I'm going out of town till Monday. Just thought I'd check in and say I'm not dead! I've been preoccupied. Well, let us pray for each other. :)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Blogging break

There's lots going on and I need time to get stuff done, so no blogging for me till Monday at least. I leave you with a hymn I've always liked. And with some random pictures I like too. Click for bigger versions and tell me who's in them if you can! If you want a hint on the last one, count fingers. :)

All the way my Savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread;
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me
O the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way.

-- Fanny Crosby

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Do you want to go to Heaven?

So Fr. Murphy walks into a pub in Galway, and says to the first man he sees, "Do you want to go to heaven?"

The man promptly replies, "I do, Father!

"Then stand over there against the wall," Father tells him. The man does so.

Then Fr. Murphy asks a second man, "Do you want to got to heaven?"

"Certainly, Father," the man replies.

"Then stand over there against the wall," says the priest.

Then Father walks up to O'Leary and says, "Do you want to go to heaven?"

"No, Father, I don't," says O'Leary.

Fr. Murphy can't believe it. "You mean to tell me that when you die you don't want to go to heaven?"

"Oh, when I die, yes! I thought you were getting a group together to go right now!"

Saturday, May 02, 2009

A hodgepodge of religious stuff, carelessly slapped together while web-surfing

How could you resist such a post title? :)

I just read this about discerning God's will...

It can happen more often than we may like to admit that our discernment ends up being about trying to bring God around to our way of thinking. We want to do the Lord's work but we want to do it our way, and don't necessarily want Him to be in control. True openness is more than just accepting intellectually that God could be calling us. Basically it means that, in spite of our fears and anxieties, we offer ourselves from our heart, "I will do whatever you ask me to do."

...and it inspired three thoughts.

1) Whenever I've been in that "bring God around to my way of thinking" stage, it created a certain anxiety or dissatisfaction in the background (or the forefront) of my mind.

2) Jesus told His followers (here, for instance) to trust God, let Him provide, and not worry. But a necessary precondition of that peace in God must be to accept His will and give up our own. He promises to care for us but doesn't promise all the things we want, unless He's what we want: "Delight yourself in Him and He will give you the desires of your heart."

3) Sometimes I hear people say, speaking of some sacrifice or work for God, "I could never do that!" I'm afraid the person really means, "I will never do that. I'm not even remotely willing, so I'm putting you on notice, God-- don't even think of asking me." But maybe the person's just humbly downplaying her inability to accomplish anything without God's help, or expressing a spontaneous feeling rather than some deep-rooted rebellion.

Okay, more Liturgy of the Hours stuff! The Mass readings all week have been taken from John 6, the chapter where Jesus says, "He who eats my flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." So the readings in the Office this week are focusing on the necessity of His incarnation to His victory over death. This was a reading for yesterday (at the bottom of the page). It's by St. Ephrem, a deacon in Turkey who died in AD 373. I especially loved this image:

Death could not devour our Lord unless he possessed a body, neither could hell swallow him up unless he bore our flesh; and so he came in search of a chariot in which to ride to the underworld. This chariot was the body which he received from the Virgin; in it he invaded death’s fortress, broke open its strong-room and scattered all its treasure.

And the reading for today was by St. Cyril of Alexandria who died in AD 444. He offers a slightly more abstract but also wonderful image; think of this next time you're going to receive Holy Communion:

When the life-giving Word of God dwelt in human flesh, he changed it into that good thing which is distinctively his, namely, life; and by being wholly united to the flesh in a way beyond our comprehension, he gave it the life-giving power which he has by his very nature. Therefore, the body of Christ gives life to those who receive it. Its presence in mortal men expels death and drives away corruption because it contains within itself in his entirety the Word who totally abolishes corruption.

And if you were celebrating the feast of St. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria who also died in AD 373, the reading was taken from his own sermons and dwells on the same theme:

He took to himself a body, no different from our own, for he did not wish simply to be in a body or only to be seen. If he had wanted simply to be seen, he could indeed have taken another, and nobler, body. Instead, he took our body in its reality.

Within the Virgin he built himself a temple, that is, a body; he made it his own instrument in which to dwell and to reveal himself.... He utterly destroyed the power death had against mankind – as fire consumes chaff – by means of the body he had taken and the grace of the resurrection.

Just some examples of why I love the Liturgy of the Hours. :)

Hey, I just found a blog full of lovely videos about religious life. This very blurry video in particular caught my eye. It's a report by ABC news that largely focuses on the Poor Clares in Roswell.

I enjoyed watching the video, but I'm not sure it really gets the cloistered life. It makes it sound like being a nun is mostly about painful sacrifice. "Who are these women, and why would they choose to give up careers and romance? As Diane got to know them, the mystery only deepened."

Then we see an old clip of a reporter interviewing Mother Mary Francis:

"And how often do you come out?"
"Well, ordinarily we never do."
"Never? There's a whole world out there! Why do you do this?"
"So that we can save the whole world!"

"Once inside," the reporter continues in voice-over, "we were stunned by the ferocity of self-denial."

And so on.

But that's not what I hear nuns themselves emphasize. I'm sure they find it hard to fast, and get up in the middle of the night, and be separated from loved ones, but when I hear them talk they say things like, "I realized how much God loved me, and that no worldly life would ever fulfill me because I wanted to be entirely God's, so I came here and I'm so happy!" As for "the whole world out there", we're closer to it when we're praying for people than when we're attending to our own concerns. I don't think the news clip captured the motivation of the cloistered life. But don't get me wrong; I liked it and I'm glad the reporters decided to do the story.

Change of subject-- last night I stayed up very late at my parents' house, so I spent the night, got up this morning, and dragged myself to the local church for 8:30 am Mass. It's only a few blocks away, but this was only the second time I'd visited it. And I discovered that it has a lovely little adoration chapel I never knew about! So I prayed in there for a while-- that's where I found all those readings I excerpted above.

One rather remarkable thing about this chapel was the thermostat, or rather the sign above the thermostat, which read, "Please adjust to your own comfort level." Can you believe it? Have you ever seen a thermostat say that? Don't thermostats normally threaten death and dismemberment to anyone who dares to touch their sacred controls? I was impressed.

Update: Someone posted a letter from a cloistered nun in the comments-- check it out!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Seven one-sentence takes.

Here's Jen's post.

1) I'm going to a TLM in West Hollywood at 8 pm tonight for Saint Joseph the Worker, yay. :)

2) I'm drinking mango coconut oolong tea and I just discovered it's fabulous when lightened with coconut milk instead of the usual half and half.

3) My church has been plywood and plastic sheeting for 3.5 years now but at last they're repairing it, which means for now the five daily Masses must be held in the smaller, older church building and we're all packed in there quite cozily and kneeling on the hard tile floor; it's kinda fun!

4) In the AD 1000's a monk strapped on some wings and jumped from the abbey watchtower; want to know what happened?

5) I want simpler, lower-cal, less processed food, so some day I'm going to try Jen's recipe of rice, one can black beans, one can kidney beans, and chopped tomatoes (I'll probably substitute salsa) and cheese on top if I have any ready to hand.

6) My cousin Greg and his wife Amy, who got married in Yosemite last summer (see here and here), are expecting in December, and I can't wait for a new first cousin once removed; I currently have three.

7) I'm feeding the cat while my parents are vacationing back East, and every day when I arrive at my parents' house, the cat's waiting for me on the roof-- could she be hiding from nasty neighborhood cat bullies, or does she just like it up there?