Early signs of SPRING

1) longer days (for which I’m extremely grateful!)

2) warmer weather (we hit 60 today. We’ll have more cold before Easter, to be sure, but after two months’ unremitting cold (highs in 30s and 40s, extremely unusual for us), this is a wonderful respite.

3) Robins and bluebirds – and other birds as well, but those are the two noticeable species.

4) Green! – tips of green from bulbs and daylilies are poking their noses above-ground.

5) Patted Simon a few minutes ago, and my hands came up covered in cat hair. He’s already shedding!

An Open Letter to friends – on Marriage

Dear M.,

I see on Facebook that you were married yesterday, and I want to write to share with you my best wishes for your greatest happiness.

I also want to share with you my very grave concern that you have chosen to marry outside the Church. By not waiting until your boyfriend’s prior marriage was resolved through the proper channels of the Tribunal, by being married by a nonCatholic minister, you have entered into a marriage which is both invalid and illicit.

This means that you and your new civilly recognized spouse. have removed yourselves from full Communion with Mother Church, and you cannot receive any of the sacraments until P’s prior marital bond has been resolved –

IF it’s resolved. Declarations of nullity are not a right, nor are they guaranteed. Even where indisputable grounds exist, those grounds still have to be adequately demonstrated to the Tribunal. Without such demonstration, the Tribunal cannot declare affirmatively in the case, and you’re going to be slap flat-out sunk.  Canon 1100 warns that private opinion doesn’t eliminate the possibility that nuptial consent was actually present.

You also need to consider what impact, what influence, your decision to marry outside the Church is going to have on your friends and relatives. You have received scores, at least, of congratulations from people who don’t understand the gravity of what you have done, here. Your actions make it look as if it doesn’t matter that a nonCatholic minister is not approved for Catholic Sacraments, that a nonCatholic minister’s ordination bears the same weight of authority and authenticity as a Catholic priest’s.

In other words, you’ve added scandal to the mix.

I never would have thought you would have taken such a dangerous, even irresponsible step. Too often, in our acquaintance, I’ve seen you speak affirmatively of the Church’s requirements, and labor with those who would treat those requirements carelessly. Now you’ve followed the same path, and from your announcement it appears that you feel your particular personal circumstances justify willful rejection of the very rules I’ve heard you defend repeatedly as long as I’ve known you.

Marriage is not the civil contract you have treated it to be. It is a sacrament, and as such under the rightful authority of Christ’s Church. You cannot in seriousness ask God to bless and reward such disregard, nor expect such scorn for the wisdom of the Church to be shrugged off as inconsequential.

You’re off to a very bad start, and I’m sorrier for it than I can say. I hope you will at least possess the integrity to not present yourself for Communion until your civil union can be convalidated, and I hope that the spiritual communion open to you will teach you renewed and greater respect for the Magisterial authority of the Church.


On writing

Listen. The place where words come from is not so far away as it might seem. Know your question, and listen; the answer will come.

Most writing occurs in the imagination before I pick up my pencil or sit in front of the computer. I have a sense of the story I want to tell, and how it’s to be told. I did this in college, writing under pressure; I’d think and think about the assignment, and then I’d see exactly what it was I wanted and needed to say.  Composing, after so much contemplation, was the simpler task; I was more or less transcribing something that had taken clear shape in my mind.

Now that I’m writing “professionally,” I thought I ought to change my tactic – sit and pound out so many words per day, for so many pages or hours. It was a fruitless effort, though. So I did my writing exercises, the “brain drain” of all the cluttery thoughts that have been gumming up the pipes and distracting me from the project that means so much to me. And one question in particular was formed in my mind.

Now I’ve seen my way clear on it. I know the answer to my question – and the answer to some other less demanding questions as well. When I return to active writing, tomorrow morning, I’ll have something worthwhile and reasonably well-formed to say.  It’s already there, in my heart.


Actually, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Of course, it sounds like desert-style deprivations and repressions, psychoses and irrational inconveniences, right?

Of course it does! If it didn’t sound so awful, more people would be willing to adopt it as at least a temporary lifestyle and would speak very positively about it. But, oh, no! it’s too “unhealthy” to go without sex!

Actually, I’ve found it extremely healthy to go without these past (ahem, cough) years. Haven’t always thought it so – sometimes it is lonely and unpleasant. But then comes the breakthrough, a breakthrough which can only come when one isn’t distracted by the inebriating effect of one’s raging hormones and narcissistic drive for gratification…

Huh? -Let’s look at that again, shall we?

Sex produces hormone shifts that demand, insist upon, mandate satisfaction. A kiss and a cuddle sets these hormones into overproduction at astonishing rates – gotta have more! and not just more of the same, you’ve got to go a bit farther along the process in order to attain the same level of thrill…

It’s like a drunk or a druggie who has to up his intake in order to reach the same level of “buzz” he used to enjoy – instead of two beers or a shot, it goes to twelve in quick succession and the whole bottle; his body has become acclimated to the substance, so much more is required to get the desired effect.

Sex does that, too, and in this severely disordered culture we’re living in, that insists on instructing young prepubescent children about condoms and masturbation, that places disordered information about sexual “normalcy” into our homes and minds day in and day out – well, we get warped, and our expectations of our spouses’ or partners’ PERFORMANCE becomes warped (after all, it has become a matter of performance, not of real love-making any more) …

and it’s no wonder people have gotten into rotten unsustainable sex-based relationships and basically screwed up their own lives (pardon the pun) and made themselves miserable.

I watch – not only women, men do this too! – getting into, locking themselves into these cheap, abusive, inferior relationships because on the one hand they are driven by fear of solitude (and of being “not normal”) and by sexual hormones, and on the other hand by a deep innate realization that we’re supposed to bond with one another and create families and be together in a deeper sense… and sex is supposed to be the most profound of the “togetherness” and yet somehow it’s all escaping us and what are we supposed to do?

Well, helloooo!!! When we hop into the sack as a matter of course in a nonmarried relationship, we have the euphoria of an artificial “intimacy” which, because of the drugging effect of the hormones, deprives us of the genuine intimacy of spirit we long for!

Celibacy gives one room and freedom to pull focus and to think beyond pushing for the next thrill: What is important to me in a relationship? What sort of character do I want in a spouse? What values are important to share – and which ones are nonnegotiable, and which ones do I have some flexibility with? (Fidelity of body and will is mandatory; preferring ACC sports over professional hockey not so much so 😉 ) How shall I live out those values with integrity in a relationship? How well do we know one another in matters of genuine character and spirit? Is this a person who I want to be identified with for the rest of my life? – a person I can trust and admire, whom I am proud of? or will this person shame and humiliate me with a low unscrupulous character?

Celibacy. It gives us a chance to know what we want. It allows us a clear enough head to know what we want in a life partner, a spouse – and to be able to see in truth whether this particular man or woman can live up to expectations and prove himself worthy of our devotion.

And – surprise and joy! – it gives us an opportunity to discover our own worth, into the bargain, as nothing else, out of our sex-driven culture, can do. Sex costs me all I am – my heart, my devotion, my loyalty, my whole self in unstinted donation to my spouse. I discover myself to be a “pearl of great price,” a prize of inestimable value; I will, therefore, give myself only to the man who is willing to pay my price to own me: his whole self, in all that he is.

Sunday thoughts –

I check my blog stats every couple days, and I wonder why some posts have been chosen for reading. Oh, well… thanks to all of you who’ve been visiting – and especially those reading “Prelude and Fugue in Faith.” That thing is some 14+ pages, single-spaced, quite a daunting read under ordinary circumstances, and made even more difficult because of its theological content. Especially my old school friends who aren’t Catholic – thank you, with all my heart, for reading.

So. It’s Sunday. I went to Mass this morning in a rotten frame of mind. Have been, in fact, these past two weeks. I didn’t go to Communion because I felt I wasn’t disposed, but instead made a spiritual communion by playing/singing Charpentier’s “Panis Angelicus” (found clips of the Te Deum on Youtube, but not this one) –

After our Mass, I went over to the Health Center to check out the organ there. I’m playing for a Memorial Service, Wednesday. Mass there was still in process, so I slipped into a back row of chairs as Father was finishing the “Our Father.” This is the Health Center chapel at the nursing home, and quite a few people were there in wheelchairs, very feeble and weak. I hadn’t realized this chapel even existed and had never thought of the more infirm people at the center. It was deeply touching. One woman was almost recumbent in her wheelchair; she was talking and singing to herself. For some reason, it wasn’t disruptive, didn’t diminish the very reverent atmosphere of the Mass.

When I got home, I felt completely renewed. My anger has dissipated. The issue about which I was so indignant is not the other person’s injustice toward me, it’s that it’s time for me to do other work. Yes, there were injustices, and God will deal appropriately and justly with that individual; but the fact is that I’m so dense that I wouldn’t have moved on had that deteriorating work environment not “herded” me out.

It’s a new beginning. As every Sunday celebrates the Resurrection of the Lord, I’ve been given something of a resurrection, today, myself. Now to go and prepare for the week to come. Learning to live deliberately is not easy, but it’s leahtly and necessary. I thank God for the opportunity to start anew – and that I’m young enough to have much to look forward to (my mother was “old” at 40, so it’s glorious, to me, to feel so young and eager, at age 52).

God bless you all this coming week.

obligatory blog post

It’s embarrassing when you go to an event, and a friend introduces you to someone new by saying, “You need to check out her blog!” – and I haven’t posted in a couple weeks. Thanks, Chris. 😉

Lots going on. I quit my job at the store, two weeks ago, In some ways, it was overdue, but I didn’t want to bail just at Christmas time; and in other ways I’m angry that I was not allowed to succeed in the work, which I loved – and surprisingly quite good at.

Still, these are the Purgatorial events that help us to learn to detach from this world and allow us to refocus our sights on Heaven.

Because I don’t really believe that Purgatory is all about punishment. No! Purgatory is a word from which we also get “purge” – it’s a cleansing, a purifying. It’s the refiner’s fire, burning away the junk so the pure metal can be revealed.

Purgatory’s purpose is to detach us from this world and its inappropriate affections – including self-love and egotism – and to attach us to Heaven.

The old saints speak of the Purgative Way, of learning to be detached from the things of this world. Then there’s the Illuminative Way, in which our affections become more perfectly attached to God. And finally there’s the Unitive Way – in which we experience a sublime union with our Lord. The three are in some respects sequential, but they can also occur simultaneously, since the lines aren’t as boldly drawn as (I) might wish they were.

For Lent, this year, I’m going to be joining some friends in reading Ralph Martin’s Fulfillment of All Desire, which examines these ideas more fully, drawing heavily from the writings of major saints – John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Francis de Sales…

I feel it’s what I need right now, to find my balance and to regain some focus.

What are you going to do?