Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Apostles, Martyrdom and Our Lives

Today, the Dominicans celebrated the feast of St. Lorenzo Ruiz and the Japanese martyrs.  During Mass, I spent a lot of time reflecting upon martyrdom.  I'd like to share some of those reflections here:

The Apostles were some of the first martyrs and those who were closest to Jesus.  But, Jesus died. 

If that was it, if that was how the story really ended and their was no resurrection, why would they die for this man?  People die, or sacrifice themselves, for others who are living.  The man who pushes the lady out of the way of the oncoming car, only to take the fall himself.  The person who takes the bullet for somebody else.  These people are giving up their lives for actually living people.  Hmmm...any insight into the reality and power of the Resurrection? 

Now, people will also give up their lives for a truth or (political) ideals.  We see our troops doing this all around the world - sacrificing themselves for the good of our freedom as a country.  They sacrifice their lives for something greater than themselves.  Again, this point provides some insight into why the martyrs did what they did.  They died for God, for Truth bigger than themselves. 

I'm also confident that the Apostles weren't crazy or mentally ill.  They knew what they were doing, spoke well, reasoned well, led the Church in her infancy, and dealt reasonably with all the issues that come with infancy! 

People may fight or play a sports game in honor of a dead/dying person.  Still, one fights or plays to win.  Fighting to die doesn't make sense.  I was thinking of the end of Braveheart as the men are lined up once again for battle, only this time, William Wallace is already dead.  They do not lay down their lives for Wallace.  They fight and are willing to lay down their lives for Freedom (which is exactly the belief Wallace laid out for them earlier in the movie). 

This martyrdom point seems very curious.  I believe it speaks strongly of a Presence - a real, living Presence.  A Presence greater than myself - a Truth worth dying for. 

How much grace and faith it must take to be a martyr. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Youth Night Recap: Thanksgiving - Sept. 18

I'll do my best to keep up with recap posts from our Youth Nights during the year.  Hopefully it helps out if somebody misses a meeting, or wants to revisit what we talked about.

The word Eucharist comes from the Greek eukharistia, which means "thanksgiving, gratitude." 

We opened with a short talk on a Thanksgiving holiday I experienced in Austria while studying abroad.  You see, Thanksgiving there was arguably the most homesick time for all of the college students.  One had to come face-to-face with the years he or she had spent with friends and family for that holiday, and the realization that it would not be happening this year.  The school came to the rescue by proposing a Thanksgiving feast that would be "just like home." 

It was far from it. 

"At home," turkey is not delivered with fireworks, I receive generous portions of stuffing and gravy (nothing of the like in Austria), I watch football, talk to family, and sleep all day.  One turkey for 150+ people didn't go very far.  So, most of us had to settle for a processed turkey-loaf with little pieces of pulverized veggie wedged inside.  Then, we danced - Thanksgiving Ball style...which was code for "Austrian dancing.:  Here, men in short shorts taught us a few native jigs, and the festivities of the night took over. 

In the end, that Thanksgiving in Austria was nothing like what I had originally expected - which, I was told would be something  like what I experience "at home" - instead it was quite different, more energetic, and ultimately very satisfying.  I learned that things don't always fit the mold of my expectations; and if I'm open to the difference, I can actually enjoy the experience.  But, we have to be open to the differences.

A similar thing happens in John 6.  The crowd of Jews (many of which were Jesus' own disciples), approached Jesus and asked for a sign.  They wanted him to give them manna from heaven.  See, they knew what manna was, what it looked like, how it happened that their ancestors got it, etc.  In short, they wanted a replicated sign - not unlike my desire for a replicated Thanksgiving.  They wanted it nicely sliced, easy-to-handle and pre-packaged (they wanted Wonder Bread).  Jesus transcended their desire for a sign.  Here's how it breaks down:

  • John 6:28-35 - I am the Bread of Life.
    • Jesus calls himself the Bread of Life come down from heaven.  The Jews murmur, and believe he is speaking metaphorically.  
  • John 6:47-52 - The Bread is my flesh. 
    • Jesus takes another step, declaring that this bread is his flesh.  The crowd begins to understand that he is speaking literally.  They question him - how can this be? 
  • John 6:53-57 - Eat my flesh and drink my blood to have life.
    • In order to have life within, partake in this food and drink.  
    • Note the word choice in v. 57 - Jesus uses the word "feeds."  This comes from the Greek word for chewing/gnawing.  He was speaking literally to them - the difference between me saying "I want to eat that hamburger," and somebody looking at a little baby and saying, "I just want to eat him/her up!"  
  • John 6:60-70 - The words I have spoken are spirit and life. 
    • Jesus challenges the crowd of his disciples to see with eyes of the spirit, not carnally.  
    • These were disciples who had walked with him and had surely witnessed his miracles.  But, they were not willing to follow when they could not see the miracle happen physically before them.  They did not have eyes of faith.  
    • After the crowds depart because of the difficulty of Jesus' teaching, Jesus does not go after them - they had made a free decision, they were not confused.  Instead, he turns to those closest to him and asks a question (one that ought to cut us to the heart, one that demands an answer), "Do you also want to leave?"  
      • Simon Peter answers, "Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."  
      • This is a truly beautiful response, as Peter looks out at all he had experienced before encountering Christ.  Everything pales in comparison.  With Christ there is Life, and Peter professes his faith here. 
        • I would argue that Peter's position is one of faith in Christ, and Thanksgiving before his life-source. 
 Our small group session revisited these passages, and dug deeper with questions like:  Why do the crowds leave?  Why does Jesus not correct himself, or soften the point?  What stands out about Simon Peter's response? 

We believe that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist - not merely a symbol.  Think about what difference it makes - based upon your daily experience - when somebody is really present before you, as opposed to a video chat, like Skype.  What difference does real presence make? 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How We Listen to Music

I will start off by stating that I believe music (itself) is good, and that listening to it is a great exercise of the mind and heart.  I also think it is good that we now have instant access to whatever type of music we want, whenever we want it (iTunes, pandora, youtube, etc.).  This latter point only becomes annoying when I am trying to run events or get somebody's attention, and he or she refuses to take the earbuds out. 

So, for as much good as our instant access to music has brought about, it is interesting to reflect upon the quasi-negative effect. 

Music, most of the time, and for many of us, is a largely individualized affair.  I have my playlists, and my iPod and none of this touches you.  Again, for the most part (though not all of the time), this seems to be the case.  My music is for my ears.  But, what did people do before the mp3, the CD, the cassette, the 8-track player, the record, the radio, the phonograph? 

They listened to music live, as a group, at concerts.  Music was something shared by all.  It was meant to be communal - insightful and life-giving to the whole. 

I'm not so sure we fully understand this nowadays, though we get glimpses of it:  at concerts, at sporting events, religious events, and when you rock out to a song with your friends in the car. 

We are communal creatures.  Music is typically made in community and for community.  We ought to keep this in mind as we become more and more tempted to isolate ourselves in individualism and iPod-ism. 

I've always been struck by the sense of isolation portrayed by these silhouette dancers.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Social Network: Recap

Here is the talk from last night's meeting:

When we take a step back and observe ourselves in action (both online and in real life), what do we find?

I believe we come to understand that our desires are ultimate true and good - these are desires for love and affirmation.  The question we all have to grapple with is if the ways we pursue affirmation and love are actually satisfying (namely comparing ourselves to others, putting on false fronts to "fit in" or "feel accepted," etc.).

The final portion of our meeting last night sent the teens back into their small groups (they were split into groups by their high schools).  Here, they grappled with questions like:  Why is it difficult to live your faith in school?  How can this small group go out as light into the darkness?  What commitment can you make with one another as a sign of your commitment to Christ?

I pray the teens follow through on their commitments.  I heard about some pretty cool stuff from Core Team afterward.  Some of the commitments were:

  • Praying for everyone in the small group at noon each day this week.
  • Attending Mass together at school once a week.
  • Attending Communion service at school once a month. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Top-Siders

Last year, my wife informed me that it was time to get rid of my juvenile, college Sketchers.  So, she had her mom by me some Sperry Top-Siders. 

A few tears were shed, then I moved on. 

That was in April. 

I guess I never really wore the Sperry's in rainy weather, until this week.  I think Tropical Storm Lee might be passing through, the last couple of days have been a drizzle.  Everything outside is cold, damp and gray.  And, I've been wearing my Sperry Top-Siders. 

Yesterday, my feet were completely soaked.  I thought it was a fluke, like I walked in a big puddle or something without realizing it.  But that was not the case. 

Today, we've had nothing but a fine mist all day in Cincinnati.  The ground is wet, but no big puddles - and my feet are wet. 

I recalled, about an hour ago, that the box my Top-Siders came in said something like, "Get Wet."  Cute, right?  They're boating shoes, so haha, right, I'll get them wet next time I'm on a boat (which is practically never).  Turns out, this tagline from Sperry is a real command, and my shoes literally take whatever water is on the ground and splash it up on my shoes.  I saw this happening. 

As I walked across the parking lot, I stared at my feet the whole time, watching the big, rubber, clown-like shoe-bottoms slap the water up on the fronts of my shoes.  Now, my socks are quite wet, and I'm wondering why Sperry wanted this to happen to me. 

These pics illustrate my cause for frustration:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Spiritual Equinox: Fact or Fiction?

I was reading Magnificat this morning and came across this article by Fr. James Sullivan.  I passed him later today in the hallway at work, and asked permission to post the article. Here you go! 

Spiritual Equinox: Fact or Fiction?

On the twenty-third day of this month, there will be the same amount of daylight as there is night.  This is called the autumnal equinox, when the axis rotation of the earth around the sun makes this possible twice yearly.  In the spiritual life we are often faced with the darkness of our lives (the night) and the refulgence of Christ’s life (the day).  We may even be tempted to think that a good balance of both is normal, even to be perfectly balanced as the equinox is.

In truth though, as Saint John reminds us in his First Letter: “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all” (1:5).  Sin has no real place in our life yet often enough we find its presence real enough to drag us deeper into darkness.   Christ proclaimed Himself to be the light of the world and that means most especially that He is the light of my world, of your world, of my life, of your life.  It is not a balance of light and dark but only the fullness of light.

And that is why even in the night of our sin, we continue to turn again to Christ.  He is the eternal day which has no equinox.  “Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day” (Psalm 139:12).

Fr. J. M. Sullivan, O.P., serves as Novice Master for the Dominican Province of Saint Joseph at Saint Gertrude Priory in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Kickoff Recap: Part II - Plus a note on the theme.

I just threw together more footage from Kickoff.  This is from our second game - the one with Marshmallow Fluff.  Check it out: 

Fr. Albert did some great work on the camera to catch all of the cheating.  There are also a lot of shots of scavenging. 

At the end of the evening, we passed out our t-shirt for the year.  I'm quite pleased with the design. 

Our theme for the year is from John 1:5, which says, "The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not over come it." 

Light always conquers darkness in our experience here on earth.  If I'm sitting in a dark room in my house, and open the door to a lighted room, that light instantly pierces the darkness of the room I'm standing in.  It conquers it - and really, it appears to cut right through it.  This provides us with a fantastic image to reflect upon throughout the year.  Are we willing to open that door to our hearts (and however much darkness lies in there) and allow the Light of Christ in?  Are we open to conversion and healing, and the "light of light?"  Are we tired of walking in darkness? 

These are the questions that will drive the work we do this year, as we continue this process of metanoia, change, transformation, conversion - literally converging all of my self, my life upon the Light.