punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Friday, December 23, 2011

This Christmas, Why Not Stay Home?

I’m one who loves the holidays.

I’m also one who despises what they do to people, myself included.  For example, I find myself often becoming frustrated from the sudden scarcity of available parking spots anywhere and everywhere - and, judging by the lack of civility displayed in parking lots, it's clear that others feel the same way I do.   Also, the fact that I can’t seem to get anywhere on the road in any decent amount of time only adds to my already heightened sense of irritability and I sometimes find myself wishing things for my fellow drivers that have nothing to do with glad tidings or cheer. All of this combined with the downright frightening displays of self-entitlement by people and children (including my own little darlings, at times) is enough to make me want Christmas to disappear as quickly as the this year’s number one selling toy. Bah humbug!
The face that says it all.  Maybe he's upset that he
didn't even make the top ten sellers this year.

But really, I do like Christmas.

I know many of us travel during Christmas, and, for some, the inevitable visit to a local relative’s home is always looming.   Not to mention, that at some point, we have to do the grocery shopping and, being good Catholics, attend Christmas mass.

But outside of these necessary holiday rakings-across-the-hot-coals endeavors (except for Mass), this Christmas I’ve decided that what I want to do the most, what will ‘feed’ me and my family the most spiritually, and what will contribute the most to my family’s harmony away from the ‘gimme more' madding crowd is this: I’m going to stay home.  That is, I’m going to make it a point to stay indoors more than going out to buy more stuff.  I’ve already been practicing.

I did make one exception the other night when I went out to Adoration.  After the kids went to sleep, and the grace-inhibiting traffic on the road had abated, I took myself to see Jesus because, you know, He is the ‘reason for the…<gag>slurp<cough>,' Phew.  Caught myself before that cliché got out.

Where was I?  Oh, yes. There I was at Church, before Jesus, when I realized something I can only attribute to the Holy Spirit: there, in our Lord’s presence, I was still at home.  It’s not an elitist thing to say at all. 

I know we usually get all warm and fuzzy inside when we see nativity scenes, and understandably so: Christ was born.  But let’s not forget what that took.

What’s cool is that, despite things being, how shall we put it, less than ideal for the Holy Family during the the time of Our Lady's delivery, Jesus came anyway. And so to say our ‘home' is in Jesus’s presence is not to say that things are perfect or even nice, it’s to say Christ comes anyway.  And that’s ideal for any sinner.  He comes when we’re tired, down, disillusioned with humanity and cynical about everything.   Good thing too, or else we’d never get to open presents. 

Only kidding.   Sorry about that - I too am a victim of the din and dim of this time of year.  What? Is that Gentleman Jack in my eggnog?  Why yes, yes it is.

This Christmas, I highly recommend staying home and/or spending sometime adoring Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Even travelers can do the latter.  Either way, it's still 'home'.  It’s the same Christ that was wrapped in swaddling clothes and was laid in a manger, after all, only not as cute and wiggly.  And if you’re like me, the 'inserting yourself into the Christmas story' tactic just ends up with you being the donkey anyway, and so it’s nice to be with our Lord in the here and now, as I am presently, rather than imagining what my stink would’ve stunk like back then.


If you’ve already made plans to visit someone’s house, or go to a party, cancel them.  The exception to this is Christmas dinner at your grandparent's house where roast beef and yorkshire pudding abound.  Just saying. If you can’t do it this year, do it next year or some other year.  But do it sometime, and prepare to be surprised about how the Holy Spirit comes to invigorate your home in unexpected and beautiful ways.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Quote From Peter Hitchens, Brother of the Late Christopher Hitchens

I can't remember where I got this quote but it has been on a "sticky" on my laptop's desktop for over a year.  It's from the brother of the late Christopher Hitchens, Peter Hitchens:

An English Boomer on the Boomer Generation:
We were differentiating ourselves from our parents--the denizens of a worn-down, seemingly defeated post-war generation, a crumbling empire, burdened with ancient and unexamined premises, weighed down by old songs and bored with ancient psalms, eager to cast off the dreary dross we associated with the glum burdens of adulthood. By rejecting our parents' half-hearted beliefs, and refusing ourselves to be parents, we were staving off in our own minds the march of time, the fact of aging, the grim biological fact of our own mortality. By remaining forever rebellious adolescents, we imagined that we need never grow old and die. Having children in itself is in some sense an admission that we must replace ourselves--because we were replaceable. And that is something our narcissistic generation could not admit. And so we didn't. Peter Hitchens  The Rage Against God.

It's amazing who different two brothers can be, isn't it?  Even scripture holds profound examples of brothers who are complete opposites.  Eternal rest grant unto him, oh Lord.  Let the perpetual light shiny upon him.  May he rest in peace. Amen.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Girl with the ‘Interior’ Tattoo

The upcoming release of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has sparked some discussion about the morality of tattooing, and Msgr. Charles Pope’s excellent post on the topic makes it nearly indisputable that permanently altering our appearance for decorative purposes is not what God intended for our bodies.

Getting tattooed is not a sin, per se, but, as Msgr. points out, the book of Leviticus speaks against it, and, given that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, the act of using them as a canvas upon which to inscribe worldly designs is, shall we say, somewhat of a desecration of them.  The same can be said for excessive, bizarre piercings.   And, did I fail to mention that both require the puncturing and repetitive wounding of the skin? Msgr. Pope, you had me at “infection.”

The purpose of tattoos, as we all know, is to depict something of personal significance outwardly.  The media glamorizes such self-expression through TV shows and movies that practically mythologize tattoo parlors, tattoo artists and the people who get ‘tatted.’ In The Girl with A Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth Salander is a computer hacker extraordinaire ‘set apart’ in so many ways, one of which is having a dragon tattooed on her back.  “She’s different,” we hear one character remark in the preview as she struts across the screen with bleached eyebrows and a black mohawk. And so, naturally, big companies trust her with their background investigations.

Why look anywhere else for quality employee assurance?
What Hollywood would like us to think is that we are somehow more “ourselves” with an external sign, which is the opposite of what Christianity teaches.  We believe that we are not what we adorn ourselves with whether it’s body art, material goods, or even other people.  At our innermost core, we are made in the image and likeness of God, and while no tattoo can ever take away from that, neither can it, no matter how religious it is, ever fully express it either.  

Of course, Christians who evangelize by getting ‘inked’ are just responding, in a very human way, to the supernatural desire to love and honor God.  Still, I would argue, they haven’t gone far enough.  How about this:

Instead of sitting in a tattoo parlor undergoing the pain of rapid pin pricks, why not obey God’s law and feel the ‘sting’ of dying to yourself as you place God’s will above your own.  Now try doing that all of the time, especially when it’s hard, and then your might get a taste of what the path to sainthood really entails.

Want the face of Jesus, or Our Lady on your body?  Instead of doing that, why not get to know them by reading Scripture, or by reading the writings of the saints in order to let the Holy Spirit more deeply forge the image of Christ within you?

Want to entrust yourself to the artistic talents of someone else?  Why not spend time before the Blessed Sacrament with the confidence that God can make your life a masterpiece of His grace if you let Him?

Want a piercing?  Be like Our Lady: allow your heart to be pierced.  Say "yes" to God, in other words, and experience what having love for Him and others truly means.

Instead of an external mark or tattoo, why not be the gal, or guy or with the ‘interior’ tattoo? The kind that can’t be removed by lasers because its been inscribed by God on our souls through frequent reception of the sacraments and perseverance in faith through the trials, failings, redemptions, risks, rejections, sacrifices and daily penances of Christian life.  The kind where if someone were to peer inside our hearts, there they would see a rendition of Christ crucified, or Our Lady or another Mother Theresa or Padre Pio.  Ink not required.

What role Salander’s ‘tat’ actually plays in a movie that is a collection of every brand of sexual sadism out there is difficult to discern (it’s the self proclaimed ‘feel bad’ movie of the Christmas season).  But Lisbeth Salander, in a way, is basically what Catholics are supposed to be but in a perverse rendition: ‘different,’ and a dragon tattoo supposedly proves it. 

As we get closer to Christmas, it may to helpful to reflect on how Christ’s coming has permanently altered us, has made us ‘different’ from the culture all around us...on the inside, that is.  As the Christmas song goes, "Then He appeared and the soul felt its worth." 

From Isaiah, we learn that God, remembering his people has "inscribed you on the palms of My hands" (Is 49:16 NASB) and later, Christ would bear actual wounds on His hands for our sake. Now those are a physical markings that bring us closer to our true identity than any tattoo ever could.

Monday, December 12, 2011

One of OLOP's Own Goes Home

Though he had "SJ" (society of Jesus) scrolled after his name, Reverend Raymond Devlin was a regular fixture, and I would say, belonged to Our Lady of Peace Church, where he often assisted, especially with confessions.

It was in confession where, before giving you absolution, he asked you one simple question, "Are you sorry for your sins?"

It's a good question.  One we should think about often.  Are we sorry?  I can still hear his voice in my head.

He was a fine priest, a good man and quite the character.   His brother Joe Devlin was also Fr. Joe S.J.   They are now buried in the same grave together in the Jesuit plot of Santa Clara's Mission cemetery.

 In his life he personified the passage, "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a single grains, but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (Jn 12:24)Who knows how many people he ministered to and affected in his life - most likely tens of thousands.

An aura of holiness always surrounded him.

He went home to be with our Lord and his family in Heaven and lived from Oct 7, 1924 until December 6, 2011.  May he rest in peace.

Read his full obituary here.

Read or contribute to his online guestbook here.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

To Veil or not To Veil? That is the Question

I’ve met some wonderfully devout Catholic families who wear veils during mass.

I’ve also met some wonderfully devout Catholic families who don’t.  Mine doesn’t, but I swear, there's an inexplicable draw about those veils.

I used to think that chapel veils were a sign for some sort of spiritual elitism.  But, in a way, I was just being a ‘un-covered head’ elitist adamant that I didn’t need a veil to be all holy-like.  And of course, you don’t need a veil to be holy and those who wear them already know that.

Some families opt to wear chapel veils because that is how mom and dad grew up and they're just passing the tradition on to their kids.   Others choose to 'veil' simply as a sign of reverence for our Lord and I have a deep respect for anyone who wishes to show, in their dress, that the mass is like no other hour in their schedule.  

And secretly, I think I’ve always found the lacy veils to be pretty and attractive.  It's not such a big secret, actually, considering I wore one for my wedding. See:

Many moons and pounds ago...
But, then again, it could just be my inner Spanish flamenco dancer wanting to leap out in passionate, mantilla clad form. 

Deep down, I realize that, if I don’t keep the Spanish dancing doña at bay, I’d probably show up to church looking something like this: (strumming of guitar sound)

Hm. Alright, maybe not quite that flamboyant.  Probably something a bit more muted, such as this:(dramatic angelic choir music)

Oh, yes, I would.  Six inch comb and all.

The important thing to understand about veils is that, whether you decide to veil or not to veil, either way, you aren’t doing anything wrong.  No matter what some might claim, the requirement for chapel veils was already in decline when the mass rubrics of the 1962 Missal did not mention them. Similarly, and more recently, the 1983 Code for Canon Law is silent about the subject.  So, no, you are not obliged wear one, but at the same time, it’s equally fine to wear one. 

We need to avoid the temptation (maybe you haven't been tempted this way but I have) to believe that some invisible veiled/veil-less rivalry exists somewhere six feet above the temporal plane. Although, that would be an, er, interesting ‘battle’ to witness (The Veils unleashing a hail storm of lacy netting and the Bald Caps deflecting with the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), the truth is that the efficacious grace of the Eucharist is available to all properly disposed Catholics regardless of headdress.  

The important thing, of course, is what’s in your heart … unless what's in your heart happens to be a flailing Spanish flamenco dancer.  Whatever you do, don’t let her out.  Appease her with chocolate and Gyspy Kings music, but do not, I repeat, do not let her flamenco in church.  That might have been okay in the old translation (no it wasn’t) but the new translation, not so much.

And speaking of Gypsy Kings, who knew these guys made music videos and that they have over three million views?  Take look, if you can bear it: