Mar 232017
 

With the recent death of my wife I am of course dealing with a lot of changes. All the patterns of everyday life in 36 years of marriage have been totally disrupted. While I am thankful for my faith in dealing with my grief, it still must be dealt with. The waves of sadness that hit me suddenly are mostly surprise attacks. Still I am dealing with it the best I can in prayer.

One of my early thoughts going through this process was that I wanted to live a life worthy of her. She who had toiled for years praying for her hardened atheist husband. After being married so long I think it can be rather easy to be set adrift. Still my faith anchors me and helps me from making of fool of myself – or at least more of a fool of myself.

Of those changes one was to commit to Daily Mass. My work hours are flexible so I searched through MassTimes.org looking for an early Mass that I could go to and still get to work somewhat early. Not many to choose from with that criteria and ended up with one at 7:00 A.M. that was only a little off my route. This was much earlier than I wanted. Still I have now managed a routine of getting ready in the morning in 15 minutes to be on my way. So despite waking up much earlier than I wanted, this is so worth it to start my day this way.

The second change I wanted to effect was to get involved in evangelization. That the faith my wife had given me should be multiplied. In the past I have made plenty of excuses regarding this. I felt like Moses telling God about how he wasn’t good talking to people. I am a bit of a gregarious introvert. I do love people, but tend to myself. I do better in larger groups than smaller ones like many class clowns.

Over the last couple of years I have been hearing more and more regarding St. Paul Street Evangelization. The more I heard the more I thought that just possible I could fit in doing this. There non-confrontational approach of handing out Rosaries, Miraculous Medals, etc – while listening to people and answering questions appealed to me. A group setting where you have several people involved and people praying for you when you talk to someone.

So I decided to reach out to them to find if there was a chapter near me. Turns out there was one – one that was just forming. So last Saturday I met with this group in their first meeting. An interesting range of people led by a Deacon obviously on fire for the faith. The parish he belongs to is providing all the materials needed. So next Saturday will be our first experience of setting out a table and following the charism of St. Paul Street Evangelization. The parish sponsoring this is right off the beach and so there will be a lot of foot traffic where we will be setting up.

Another change is becoming more involved in parish life. My wife liked going to different parishes each week. She disliked going to the same place over an over. My tendencies are different as have no problem with routine. Although going to all these different parishes did give me a snapshot regarding liturgical worship in my diocese and that generally things are improving in this regard. My first thought was to be involved in the parish where I first came into the Church. A downtown Jacksonville church that is now a Basilica. A really beautiful church with a solid pastor.

Other considerations came into play though. After my wife died I scrambled to find a place for her to be interned. I found that a parish within easy driving distance to me was the only one with their own graveyard. So she is interned there in a Mausoleum. Since we were not members of this parish, the costs were increased. Later as I realized I wanted to be buried there next to her I decided that this parish would be my home. The main church is very large seating around 4,500. They also still maintain their historic church completed in 1883. This wooden building is situated in front of the cemetery where my wife is. They have the Traditional Latin Mass on Sundays so this is where I go. After Mass it is a short walk to visit my wife and pray the Divine Mercy. I love going to the TLM on Sundays, but also love the Daily Masses I go to in the Ordinary Form.

So those are just some of the changes I am going through. So any prayers you can send my way I would appreciate.

Mar 062017
 

Some years ago I came across a story about Trappist Caskets where the monks of New Melleray Abbey in Iowa build hand-crafter caskets. This appealed to me in several ways. That they are hand-crafted, affordable, and that the effort supports Trappist monks. So I had told my wife this is what I wanted to buried in.

When we were staying at the hospice they gave us various materials including for funeral planning. Up to that point I really had not given any thought to this. Really I didn’t want to think about this at all. Still I realized that I had to deal with this. So I remembered the story about Trappist Caskets and called them to order one. I felt pretty creepy calling them about this since my wife was still alive at the time. When my wife died two days later, they were able to ship it to the funeral home in two days.

At her funeral Mass when I saw this casket I was pleased about the quality of the woodwork. Talk about mixed-feelings though. It is hard to appreciate the craftsmanship of something holding your wife’s body.

Still I did appreciate their customer service and how easy the process was. So I plan on setting up an ordering of one for myself. Just thinking about this is just so Lenten – Memento mori.

I was thinking about all this when I saw this recent post at Crux Loving Memory: Handcrafted Caskets Memorialize with Meaning. This was actually labeled as SPONSORED CONTENT so is a case of an advertisement disguised as an article. Still it does give some idea about them.

Feb 262017
 

If during the TLM you setup a projector to show a video of the Bishop’s Annual Stewardship Appeal, you should at least use a film projector for the correct ambiance. Perhaps some grainy black and white footage.

Oh and why do parishes think a video is a substitute for the homily? Seems like every year they treat it as such. I realize they do this because of time, but that doesn’t make it right. A shortened homily would at least make sense, no homily at all makes no sense.

Plus the Liturgy of Filling out the Form with more detail than the GIRM has got to go. Especially handing out forms and no writing implements. It always makes me feel like being in a captured audience and being guilt into contributing. I have no problem contributing, just with the clumsy attempts to make me do so.

Feb 212017
 

On Jan 29th my wife, Socorro Miller, passed away due to complications from cancer.

Socorro Miller

I can hardly write how devastated I am from losing her. After over 36 years of marriage I am certainly struggling day-to-day. I thank God for my faith and that she was the instrumental cause God used in my conversion. She was a women of prayer day in and day out despite all those years when I held her faith in little regard. In my then atheistic pride her faith was something I had to put up with. To the end she never wavered in her faith or her prayers. In those final days when she could hardly communicate – she was still making the sign of the cross.

Towards the end she was taken into a hospice to help to manage the pain. Our two children and myself basically lived in the same room at the hospice with her. This was extremely difficult for us to watch her rapid decline, but still we had to be there for her – who had always been there for us. I have often heard how compassion means to “suffer with” and this lesson was drilled into us.

By whatever confluence of events my children and I were awake and in conversation when she passed not long after 3:00 AM on a Sunday.

Socorro and I in 1980

She was first diagnosed a little over three years ago. Not long after that we made a visit to the Philippines to see her family.

Here she us with her two surviving sisters Rosario and Digna along with her brother Rudy – who died not long after this.

For myself I have some head-knowledge about the faith. An intellectual assent to the Church’s teachings. Still this has actualized some of that into a more lived experience. The Glorious Mysteries now have more depth for me. The Communion of Saints is becoming more real to me. I know she is praying for me as I pray for her.

I was super thankful that at her funeral Mass that the priest preached the faith of the Church. That our prayers for her must continue on. In the turmoil in the aftermath of this, I pray that I will live a life worthy of her.

So dear readers I ask that you pray for her and for my family.

Dec 312016
 

2016 has been the year of making a year anthropomorphic. Dark humor mixed in with a running joke.

This has kind of annoyed me. Yes I could appreciate the running joke, but I also want to count the blessings. Scapegoating the current year makes sense since we are always looking for patterns to put into a narrative. We are all storytellers of various skill and extract from everything to place into a story to make sense of.

Sure election years suck and this has been the suckiest in my memory. But I knew I was going to oppose whoever got elected. Yes it is sad when iconic entertainers die, especially at a younger age. Just that now we are feeling what are parents felt as their iconic stars died as they got older.

Still I would rather celebrate and enter in again what they left behind in film, books, and movies than complain about 2016. So yes this year triggered a lot of revisits of favorites leading also to new favorites.

Every year really is like Dickens brilliant start to “A Tale of Two Cities”.

As an optimistic/pessimist both dark humor and gratitude appeals to me in often contradictory ways. Still I would like to think about and list things I am grateful for in random order.

  • I actually managed to keep a New Year’s Resolution. I prayed the Rosary every day this year. Sure it was 366 (leap year) distracted Rosaries. But that was still better than roughly 4 a week I managed before. I also managed to pray Evening and Night Prayer every day along with spiritual reading. Before I was consistent on the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer. I used an app called Strides to log this everyday and that helped me to prioritize this everyday instead of my usual severe procrastination.
  • Discovered lots of new music (to me) this year via Apple Music. My favorite album was Megadeth’s “Dystopia”. The addition of guitarist Kiko Loureiro has reenergized Dave Mustaine.
  • My Apple Watch enabled me to be consistent in a daily workout. Probably only 7–8 days I missed during the whole year. Now have a standing desk at work and became much better at taking breaks and short walks.
  • While 2016 was not a great year for movies, there were some very good series with “Stranger Things” topping the list. Surprisingly the series “Lethal Weapon” was very good and actually brought the premise fuller to life. Plus it is one of the few series with an intact and happy family in it. I also enjoyed “Mr. Robot” and am finishing the second season of “A Man in the High Castle”. While movies are mostly retreading – series are showing that we don’t have a dearth of good writers.
  • This year I think I read more books from indie authors than books from big name publishers. Again reminding me how much talent is out there. Elitist gatekeepers have moved to narratives of political correctness and virtue signaling. The new Dragon Awards, awarded novels I actually read and enjoyed and the Hugo’s continued their decline. Sure there is a lot of crap in the indie world – just like the published world. See Sturgeon’s Law.
  • Yes there is a lot of bad news out there. Pope Francis phrase ‘piecemeal World War III’ is deadly accurate. So there is a lot to pray about and sometimes I responded appropriately in intercessory prayer. I want to make this my default response.
  • There is so much that can move us towards wonder if we let it. Sometimes my response to wonder can be overwhelming in the actuality of it. I am thankful for this and have a long way to go for a true Chestertonian response to the wonder of the world.
  • I am very thankful for a more detached view towards the world of politics. Yes still a political junkie, but less moved towards anger. “Put no trust in princes” has almost become an ejaculatory prayer for me this year.
  • Super thankful for social media friends. They keep me out of a bubble and challenge me. Even though I follow mostly faithful Catholics – there are certainly a wide range of prudential reactions out there. This helps me to not dogmatize my opinions and to remember how often I am wrong and will continue to be. Plus I love the wide range of interests that open me up into new worlds.
  • Also thankful for the job I have. As an application developer I enjoy my work which is intellectually satisfying, challenging, and requires constant learning.
  • Last but not least is just being a Catholic. How everything provides evidence for the truth of the faith. How my stoic tendencies are constantly being bombarded by the truth of the faith and “sheer grace”.

Thank you Jesus!

Dec 242016
 

Hilaire Belloc – Noël! Noël! Noël! Noël!

A Catholic tale have I to tell! And a Christian song have I to sing
While all the bells in Arundel ring.

I pray good beef and I pray good beer
This holy night of all the year,
But I pay detestable drink for them
That give no honour to Bethlehem.

May all good fellows that here agree
Drink Audit Ale in heaven with me
And may all my enemies go to hell!
Noël! Noël! Noël! Noël!

May all my enemies go to hell!
Noël! Noël! (Hilaire Belloc – The Four Men, 1912)

This from Belloc makes me laugh despite how much I hate the funny part.

I much prefer Tolkein’s Noel.

J.R.R. Tolkien – Noel

Grim was the world and grey last night:
The moon and stars were fled,
The hall was dark without song or light,
The fires were fallen dead.
The wind in the trees was like to the sea,
And over the mountains’ teeth
It whistled bitter-cold and free,
As a sword leapt from its sheath.

The lord of snows upreared his head;
His mantle long and pale
Upon the bitter blast was spread
And hung o’er hill and dale.
The world was blind, the boughs were bent,
All ways and paths were wild:
Then the veil of cloud apart was rent,
And here was born a Child.

The ancient dome of heaven sheer
Was pricked with distant light;
A star came shining white and clear
Alone above the night.
In the dale of dark in that hour of birth
One voice on a sudden sang:
Then all the bells in Heaven and Earth
Together at midnight rang.

Mary sang in this world below:
They heard her song arise
O’er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
in Heaven’s towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven’s King.

Glad is the world and fair this night
With stars about its head,
And the hall is filled with laughter and light,
And fires are burning red.
The bells of Paradise now ring
With bells of Christendom,
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing
That God on earth is come.

Dec 132016
 

So I wanted to copy a section of “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation” from www.clerus.va to post on some news coverage of it.

So first I tried to copy the text from the browser and nothing would tranfer to the clipboard. Tried a different browser same problem. So since this a PDF document I downloaded it tried to copy the relevant text again.

Imagine my surprise when I got this message.

Wow did I accidentally go to the Secret Vatican Archive where copying text is verboten?

So of course I tried “password” – no luck. What secret password would the Congregation for the Clergy use? Maybe the Russians know. Oh well.

Still it is all rather hard to fathom why they would publish this with the “Enable Copying of content” unchecked? Is there such a concern regarding copying Vatican documents?

Okay so annoying. But what about those with low vision problems, could they read these documents with screenreader? Would it show up in internet searches.

So I loaded the document into Voice Reader on iOS and it could read back the text to me. In fact I was then able to also copy the pertinent text. A Google search for a specific paragraph returned results. So if this was some intentional copy protection – it is a pretty weak one.

Maybe it was an unintentional publishing setting which seems the most likely scenario. I guess we will see with future Vatican documents or maybe just ones published by this Congregation. Certainly hope it is unintentional.

What prompted all of this was the following story from The Daily Caller.

Roman Catholic pontiff Pope Francis has quietly embraced human-engineered climate change in a series of studies and announcements, culminating in a new papal order last week that makes it a mandatory subject for all priests in seminary.

In a statement that was little noticed by the establishment media — but heralded by a prominent Catholic website over the weekend — the pontiff issued “new guidelines” for educating priests: while “reaffirming the requirement that seminarians study Catholic social teaching, the document says the education must include a study of climate change and other environmental threats.”

On Facebook I had previously seen a reliable Dominican priest saying that the document doesn’t say this.

So what does it say?

172. A sufficient number of lectures should be dedicated to teaching the Social Doctrine of the Church. This is because the proclamation of and witness to the Gospel, to which the priest is called, has significant implications for human society, and aims, among other things, at building up the Kingdom of God. This implies a deep knowledge of reality and a reading of human, social and political relations, which determine the lives of individuals and peoples in the light of the Gospel. In this perspective one finds important themes pertaining to the life of the People of God, treated at length by the Magisterium of the Church 258, such as the search for the common good, the values of solidarity and subsidiarity among peoples, the education of the young, work and the rights and duties connected with it, the meaning of political authority, the values of justice and peace, social support structures, and the accompaniment of those most in need.

For some time now, experts and researchers, active in different fields of study, have turned their attention to the emerging planetary crisis, which is reflected strongly in the current Magisterium regarding the ‘ecological question’. Protecting the environment and caring for our common home – the Earth – belong fully to the Christian outlook on man and reality. They constitute in some way the basis for a sound ecology of human relations. Hence they demand, today above all, a “profound interior conversion. It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they chose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent. So what they all need is an ‘ecological conversion’, whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” 259. Therefore, it will be necessary for future priests to be highly sensitive to this theme and, through the requisite Magisterial and theological guidance, helped to “acknowledge the appeal, immensity and urgency of the challenge we face” 260. This must then be applied to their future priestly ministry, making them promoters of an appropriate care for everything connected to the protection of creation.

Nothing mentioning climate change or any of the other silly euphemisms used for it. Can you read between the lines and infer that they are referencing this – possibly. It would not be surprising considering it is obvious the Holy Father and probably an large contingent of Vatican staff does believe in anthropogenic climate change. But it is bad reporting to report that a document says something that is not directly spelled out. Most of section for 172 pretty much says what other documents have said. Sure some of it is stated in a way up for debate like the sentence quoted from the L’Osservatore Romano. Still I consider the reporting exaggerated.

Now I myself am a skeptic of anthropogenic climate change. But I am also a skeptic of myself being skeptical and have been wrong plenty of times. My skepticism comes naturally from being burned by all the impending environmental catastrophes I was raised on. Modern predictions have not faired better.

Nov 262016
 

Eleven years ago I decided to create my own Advent Wreath graphic instead of just using the normal animated gif that I had used previously. If you would like it for your own blog you can use the html code below. I will replace the graphic each week so that it correctly shows the number of candles that should be lit. On Christmas I will change it to another graphic I created for Christmastide.

<img src="http://www.splendoroftruth.com/curtjester/wp-content/uploads/Advent/curtjester_advent.gif" width="170" height="189" />
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Aug 182016
 

Earlier today on various social media platforms I quipped:

  • Catholic Extrovert: Catholic parishes are unwelcoming and need to change.
  • Me a Catholic Introvert: Catholic parishes are awesome, never change.

As someone with introvert tendencies I like it fine not to be bothered at Mass. Still I also realize the seeming coldness at Catholic parishes I have experienced is not something we can brag about. So my quip was definitely tongue-in-cheek.

Having listened to so much Catholic radio I realize how many out there are totally turned off by this as if they are totally unconnected to their parish. People who have left the Church have mentioned this as one reason why since they found fellowship in Protestant churches. There are many cultural shifts responsible for this.

I have been in some parishes where there is an attempt to be more welcoming, but aspects of these attempts fall flat for me. Friendly ushers that welcome you should be pretty much default. Still I find attempts at faux-community such as the request at the start of Mass to introduce yourself to your pew-neighbor, extended Kiss of Peace, and a litany of birthdays, anniversaries, “our choir is great” (usually not), and asking visitors to acknowledge themselves. All connected with rounds of clapping.

Seems to me if the central axis of a welcoming effort is the Mass, you are doing it wrong. It is understandable since the parish is no longer a rallying place for Catholic community, but a place where you go to Mass once a week. Punch that Sunday ticket and move on. Or the idea that a vibrant parish is one with amplified music lifted from the sixties.

One parish I sometimes attend seems to understand this. There seems to be a real network of parish involvement as they provide a wealth of activities and access to continuing education in the faith. They had to build a larger parish hall since they had been successful at this. A nice balance of things like movie nights to more substantial dives into learning the faith. Along with the importance of apostolates and serving the poor.

Getting people involved must be a continuing difficulty for most parishes since the volunteers are often the same small core of people. Still I imagine this can grow when paths to involvements are offered. I have no experience with CRHP (Christ Renews His Parish) and similar programs. No doubt it is a step in the right direction (depending on who is facilitating the program). There are also programs like rebuilt parish which I also don’t have experience with. Still it seems to me we should be following the models of diocese who have increased Mass attendance, adherence to the faith, and vocations without gimmicks – for example the Diocese of Lincoln and Archdiocese of Denver.

The fact seems to be from anecdotal evidence that most parishes are the anti-Cheers “Nobody knows your name.” That is not a good thing.

Still as an introvert I especially like Eucharistic Adoration for reasons other than just being able to worship Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Yet I also long to be in community with other Catholics.

Aug 152016
 

I created this meme as a nod to G.K. Chesterton’s “If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” Where All Roads Lead – 1930

We only have existence from the one who is pure act and his essence is existence.

Still when an atheist says that he can be good without God, we can agree that they can indeed be good without a belief in God. No doubt there are many examples of atheists who are indeed morally superior than some with faith in God. Besides the natural law and our conscience is not just something doled out to believers.

Although a problem quick comes about in defining what is good without lapsing into moral relativism. Trying to define an intrinsic meaning to what is good without citing cultural norms or avenues of group dynamics to reduce tensions is not possible. They all come down to some form of enlightened self-interest. Some of these methods do lead to what is good, but don’t ultimately answer what is good.

When Jesus was trying to elicit an act of faith from The Rich Young Man he asked him “Why do you call me good?” (Mk 10:18). When it comes to atheists we can ask “What is good?”

When I was an atheist I knew I wanted to be good. Even if my understanding of what is good was nebulous. What I did know was that mostly I wasn’t good.

This failure to be good was partly since I could not define what was good. Often something I later understood to be an evil (a privation of the good) I understood as something good or at least neutral. Cultural cues affirmed me in this understanding. It is difficult to repent of moral fault that the culture affirms, especially as you feel a guilt over it. Being raised in a totally non-religious atmosphere, probably an anti-religious one, I could not understand where this guilt came from. Certainly not the idea that I might have a working conscience. As an atheist I could not possibly sin, but yet my sins were convicting me. I think of Chesterton’s quip in his autobiography in why he became Catholic “To get rid of my sins”.

“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.” – C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

Still it is not like coming to faith surmounts all these problems. The diagnosis is not the same thing as the cure. The tension is that as an atheist I felt mostly good while not really being good, while as a Catholic I more clearly see my myriad faults and feel gratitude over that. Yet at the same time can appreciate those atheists striving for the good, even if the good they seek is not properly apprehended. We are all on a journey of grace.