Rotten head cold. Well, at least it’s not the flu, right? That’s what I was afraid it was, Friday night when I began feeling really rotten – rotten, I mean, past the sinus junk that’s been annoying me all week before. By Saturday I felt somewhat reassured, I was just in for a head cold.

The disappointing thing is that I have no voice… well, what voice I have sounds awful, like my daddy used to say, “Like a dying cow in a hailstorm.” That cow is very weak by now.

And this is the week the Master Chorale is supposed to be singing with the NC Symphony – Edward Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius. What! You haven’t heard of it? Not surprising. Few Americans have, I think.

It’s fascinating, especially for me as a Catholic. Elgar was Catholic, in the midst of Anglican England – and he took as his libretto a poem by Cardinal John Henry Newman, himself an Englishman (and a former Anglicn priest). The poetry is typically Victorian- a bit excessive if you know what I mean – but the theology is thrilling.

Gerontius (a tenor) is an old man. He is dying, and he knows it, and he sings about his state, his joy at seeing God, his fear of Judgment, his uncertainty about what really is awaiting him on the other side of the veil…. and the chorus is a group of the faithful, interceding for him, invoking the prayers of the angels, saints, holy virgins, and just about anyone else who might have a capacity to pray for a dying man. Then after a bit more reflection by the tenor solo – Gerontius – the chorus becomes a choir of angels, commanding Gerontius’ soul to “COME FORTH!” and it does, and he dies. And that’s the end of Part 1.

In Part 2, Gerontius is surprised to be able to see – it has to be his guardian angel – face to face for the first time. The angel is escorting him upward through the cosmos toward the Gates of Heaven, and explaining to him what is going to be happening. For some reason, the Angel is sung by a soprano, I think it is – I think Angels ought to be basso profundos, but maybe the contrast of men’s voices wasn’t stark enough?

Outside of heaven, Gerontius sees a crowd of demons (sung by… the chorus) – they accuse him “What’s a saint? one who taints the air with his breath before he dies….” and mock God, calling Him a tyrant and a despot. They taunt Gerontius but cannot touch him. Gerontius and his angel continue in. Gerontius sees the holy angels travelling back and forth – and the holy saints who are in the presence of God, worshipping and adoring God –

But he isn’t one of them yet. His Judgment occurs in an instant, and the angel is carrying him to still another place – Purgatory. We hear the saints-in-the-making, being purified in the Refiner’s Fire of Purgatory – and they are truly happy people. The most beautiful “hymn” in the whole piece is sung by the souls in Purgatory, “Oh, wisest Love, oh, Kindest Love….” they praise Almighty God.

The piece ends on a note of triumph: Gerontius may be in Purgatory, but that means his ultimate salvation has been secured and that he will be admitted into Heaven. The piece ends with a glorious hymn of praise to God.

It really is beautiful music, and so suitable for early Lent to my way of thinking…. and I won’t be able to sing it. Bummer!

Well, God works His will on us – my experience with the Master Chorale has been a glorious one, and I have made some splendid friends there. But the sense is growing in me that it is time to start living here, close to home, cultivating the interests and hobbies that will get me around people on a local level and give me a chance to have Real Life friends not just in Raleigh but down here as well – okay, more than I currently have?

More later. I’ve got to go get ready for work.

Lent at last

Ash Wednesday, Opening Day of Lent. Opening day of Sin season – we’re gonna hunt ’em down and shoot to kill.

I need Lent this year. I feel a need for a good scouring, inside and out. I’ve been too careless with sin. Those venials may not be your “Go to Hell” card, but they can sure do a lot of damage, like a termite infestation, left untended.

My Protestant habits always make Lent hard for me. I still find Confession awkward and I have an aversion to it. I forget it’s Friday until after I’ve busted the fasts to smithereens.

We keep on trying. I’m not sure I can go forty days without anything sweet (besides my morning coffee or evening tea) – but I can sure limit to Sundays, I believe, and make up for it between times. After all, in the old days, fasts and abstinences were a lot more stringent than they are now; the old folks, the saints, would be horrified at what we 21st Century Americans consider a ‘sacrifice’.

This year, instead of filling my evenings with videos like The Notebook or Casablanca or Sense and Sensibility, I’m going to pop in the unwatched videos of Scott Hahn’s Our Father’s Plan.

I’m putting down some of my leisure reading in favor of two devotional classics: St. Francis de Sale’s Introduction to a Devout Life and for the month of March, a 30-day “pocket retreat” from Sophia Institute Press.

I will be praying for you: please pray for me.

I need a little… Lent

Day after tomorrow – Ash Wednesday. I’m feeling a little impatient, almost want to anticipate the start. As with Christmas, however, all liturgical milestones need to be honored in their own time and place and not shifted around a lot. I may start my Lent reading today, but that will be the extent of my anticipation.

Keith Green wrote a song a few years ago – more than twenty-five, now – that went something like this:
My eyes are dry,
My faith is old,
My heart is hard,
My prayers are cold –
And I know how
I ought to be –
alive to You, and dead to me.

That’s how I’m feeling these days. All calloused over, toughened up. Insensitive. Complacent.

It’s not a good place to be. I suppose my soul-house is like the analogy I warned my RCIA people of yesterday, as we talked about sin: mortal sins can be like a bomb blast, but venial sins can be like a termite infestation – eventually, if you haven’t taken care of them, they’ll cause the house to fall in on itself as surely as if there had been a bomb blast.

Two months since my last Confession – always an excuse not to go. I am a lazy slug. God deserves better from me, and I want better from myself.

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down….

The First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation
We meditate upon the Angel’s appearance to Mary – and her great Fiat: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me acording to thy word.”

Praying for my friend today, I take this Mystery and pray:
Almighty God, You sent the angel to your daughter Mary to invite her to bear the Messiah – and she said Yes! Be with my beloved friend, I pray, and let the annunciation of Your immense love and your choice of him to be Your very own bring him joy this day. I pray that he might always be ready to say Yes! to Your call upon his life, whatever it might be. Be glorified through him, and on the Last Day may he sing Your praises with all the angels and Saints in the Beatific Vision. Amen.

But… i gotta GO!

I woke up feeling achey and mildly feverish this a.m. I sure hope it’s not going to develop into anything nasty –

Tomorrow I’m supposed to go to Raleigh – the Fifth Annual Ignited by Truth Conference

Featured Speakers are friends of mine, via their written works and blog –
Mark Shea
Peter Kreeft

I will feel simply horrible if I can’t get Dr. Kreeft to autograph my poor well-worn copy of Philosophy 101 by Socrates!

The diocese of Raleigh’s recently-installed bishop, Bishop Michael Burbidge, is going to be celebrating the closing Mass, too – I so very much want to meet that dear and good man of God.

Not a day I am keen on missing, if ya know what I mean…

Sharing the Faith

I got to the church about forty-five minutes early for choir practice last night. Father was there, getting ready for our opening night of Bingo – and he was showing two women around the church. I greeted them and went about my business of getting ready for the kids to show up – but when I came out of my closet office they were still there. One of them dropped back and struck up a conversation with me.

She was genuinely shocked when she learned I am a convert. WHY would a CHRISTIAN want to become a CATHOLIC???

You know what? It’s probably good that I used to think that Catholics were cannibals – those sorts of questions don’t offend me. I’ve thought worse, probably, right?

So we spent more than half an hour talking – I corrected her misinformation that Catholics worship Mary (that’s an old one) and that Catholics believe Jesus died but wasn’t resurrected (That was a new one for me) – I told her about our Easter Triduum, invited her to come back and attend Mass with us. Since she was curious about our Bibles, I gave her my NAB which was sitting on the shelf (unused) in my office. We exchanged email addresses, and last night I sent her my conversion story.

She’s the third person this week I’ve sent it to.

I LOVE sharing the Faith! LoveitLoveitLoveit!

Pray for this gal – her name is Linda, and I didn’t catch her friend’s name. They’re Pentecostals, former Methodists. I expect I’ll be hearing from them again. PrayPrayPrayPrayPray…..

Rant: The Chocolate War

I probably won’t be invited back to sub at our local middle school – not after I complained about the video being shown to the 8th graders I subbed with yesterday.

The video was The Chocolate War, based on the bestselling novel by Robert Cormier. It is the story of a sociopathic bully – who makes The Catcher in the Rye‘s Holden Caulfield look like a well-adjusted and productive member of society. He connives to take over the secret society, The Vigils, of a private boys’ school (run by Catholic teaching brothers) and he pours his contempt on faculty, administration, and peers.

The book, and the movie, is full of profanity, masturbatory references, flagrant contempt for authority figures in general and religious in particular.

If it contains any literary merit whatsoever, I have yet to discover what it is.

Yet this book is the current hottest thing since boiling water to hit the schools.

I don’t get it, and I want to know two things: First, why in the world are “educators” stupid enough to think this piece of crap is literature and has educational value? and Second, why in the name of all that is holy have parents put up with this?

I’m angry at myself today, because although I complained to the principal and the school’s media specialist (who assured me that very detailed letters of explanation were sent to parents and signed permission slips on file for each of the students in the classes), I wish I had had the steel in my spine to simply refuse to show the thing. I didn’t. I cooperated with feeding those tender young kids’ minds mental and spiritual dung.

I just don’t know what to do. I only know I feel more confirmed than before: I do not belong in education.

Uh. try again?

Hi, Y’all –
Still here. Busy, and happy.
The article I mentioned, “In Celebration of Holy Friendship,” was published on January 1 by Catholic Match Magazine. You have to register to access it; married people can register with FourMarks and I believe you can access the magazine that way.

A new article has been published for February. “Reflections on Love” is accessible through catholic web – scroll down until you see Catholic Relationships heading, then click on “What Is Love?” From there you can actually click on a link that will take you to the Catholic Match article in its entirety.

Looks like I’m going to be a regular contributor to that magazine. I’m very pleased and grateful for that opportunity.

See you again soon!