Nov 302013

First off have a blessed Advent!

Eight 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="" width="170" height="189" />

Update: The above was updated since quote marks were not translating correctly

Additionally underneath my Advent graphic on my left side I have code that does a Christmas countdown showing how many praying days left.

Below are both a JavaScript and PHP versions.  For WordPress use the PHP version.

JavaScript Version

<!– Christmas Countdown – Jeff Miller–>
<script language=”JavaScript”>
function eventcount() {
var now = new Date();
var message = “”;
var event = new Date(“Dec 25 2013 00:00:01″);
var seconds = (event – now) / 1000;
var minutes = seconds / 60;
var hours = minutes / 60;
var days = hours / 24;
if ( (days%1)<.5)
days = Math.round(days);
if (hours< 0 && hours >= -24)
message = “Merry Christmas; Christ is born!”;
else if (days > 0)
message = “Only “+days+” praying day”+ (days>1?’s’:”)+ ” till Christmas!”;
<!– End Christmas Countdown –>

PHP Versions

<?php function countdown( $event, $month, $day, $year )
 // subtract desired date from current date and give an answer in terms of days
 $remain = ceil( ( mktime( 0,0,0,$month,$day,$year ) - time() ) / 86400 );
 // show the number of days left
 if( $remain > 0 )
 print "<p><strong>$remain</strong> more praying days until $event</p>";
 // if the event has arrived, say so!
 print "<p>$Merry Christmas; Christ is born!</p>";
// call the function
countdown( "Christmas", 12, 25, 2013 );

Note: PHP version is adapted from here.

Nov 202013

small_10808923615The charge by some atheists that “religion is a crutch” is rather common. When I was a atheist I had heard the phrase and instantly agreed with it. It was just so much better to live by pure reason and to know that when you die “that’s all folks.” I would think that to believe otherwise was just pure wish-fulfillment and escapism to deny the simple fact that “life sucks and then you die.” From time to time I would pondere moving from existence to nonexistence. Something both scary and comforting since when you blink out “you” won’t think about it anymore.

Some make the counter-charge that atheism is also a crutch. That and atheistic belief can be comforting and wish-fulfillment in that ultimately there are not consequences to your actions. You never have to repent of your own perceived faults other than what seems to cause external problems in your day-to-day life. This counter-charge might have some truth to it. Although I would suspect that it a rather small factor in atheism. Still I can only judge from what I have experienced. For most of my time as an atheist this charge would have been way off the mark. I held that atheism was true and self-evident and thus this was the purest reason to hold to it. This took a bit of a hit as I grow to realize my myriad faults were something beyond just faults but something even into the territory of sin. Yet “sin” was too theological and I thought surely using reason and will I could overcome those faults that I perceived caused damage in my life. I could overcome these eventually while being able to keep all those faults I liked or thought didn’t really matter.

All of the events that paved the way for me to being open to faith ultimately came down to the reality of sin and working very backward to the reality of God. In this backdoor it is not far to go from the reality of sin to the reality of needing a redeemer. When I read years later G.K. Chesterton’s reply to why he became Catholic “To get rid of my sins.“ I was able to totally relate. During this transition period there was a time as an atheist where I was forcefully clinging to my atheist faith trying to shore it up with atheist books and a dose of Ayn Rand. I realize now just how much I feared leaving atheism behind. I just could not hide out in agnosticism, but I did manage to spend a couple of years on the cusp of faith where I guess I had become a ”cafeteria atheist.” But atheism as a crutch was a valid way to look at this time as I was truly afraid to step forward because I knew I had so much to repent of.

Now “religion as a crutch” is a rather odd crutch. Such a crutch is more like the staff that turned into a snake. The reality of sin and the possibility of Hell is not exactly comforting. So if Catholicism is wish-fulfillment, you’re doing it wrong. Repentance rather sucks and slowly working on all those attachements to disordered things is a day-to-day struggle. Plus when your really start reading Jesus’ words you find that he could never have gotten a job on Madison Avenue. Sayings like “Pick up your cross daily”, “Be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect”, and “The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” are not exactly Gospel ad copy. If “Turn the other cheek” and blessing those that persecute you is wish fulfillment you need to get out more.

Despite this the joy of knowing Jesus and his love for me strengthens me. Yet I also know that I have many battles before me and most of them battles with my concupiscence – talk about friendly fire. There is also the reality where “religion is a crutch” rings true. When you are unable to walk by yourself a crutch is extremely useful. It isn’t wish-fulfillment to know that you are injured and need aid to help you walk straight. Really the problem in most of my life is that I thought I was walking straight when I was really hobbling along, When I am at my smartest I realize I have to lean on Jesus to move forward and am at my dumbest when I once again forget this and hobble along on my own. The crutch of the matter is really the crux of the matter and it is with carrying that cross that I have a crutch in which to follow Jesus.

Photo credit: Giuseppe Martino™ via photopin cc

Oct 162013

From the Pope’s speech Meeting with the Clergy, Consecrated People and Members of the Diocesan Pastoral Councils – Pastoral Visit to Assisi.

It is not enough just to read the Sacred Scriptures, we need to listen to Jesus who speaks in them: it is Jesus himself who speaks in the Scriptures, it is Jesus who speaks in them. We need to be receiving antennas that are tuned into the Word of God, in order to become broadcasting antennas! One receives and transmits. It is the Spirit of God who makes the Scriptures come alive, who makes us understand them deeply and in accord with their authentic and full meaning!


Vatican Antenna

As a past electronics technician I like the antenna imagery. In this case it would be a duplex antenna being able to receive and transmit. Plus it makes sense regarding the “transmission” of faith. Then efficiency of this Gospel antenna is measure by the ratio of what is faithfully transmitted to what is received from the Church. There can be loss of efficiency due to heat since not proclaiming the truth in a charitable way generates more heat than light. With the Gospel antenna you can expect polarization as Jesus amply warned in Matthew 10. If you are not living a life of faith and then try to transmit it to others, expect transmission line losses. Expect resistance and other impedance losses.

Jul 312013

“You see how faith accomplishes a revolution in us, one which we can call Copernican; it removes us from the centre and puts God at the centre; faith immerses us in his love and gives us security, strength, and hope.” Pope Francis – Welcoming ceremony for young people

Even as science marches on we keep having to disprove the theory of Egocentricism* where everything in the universe orbits around us. To learn and relearn that we should revolve around the Son. From our own center God seems so far away that there seems to be no visible parallax. We need a Teleoscope to see final causes and that it is not all about us.

Interesting that in the welcoming ceremony at WYD that the Pope referenced Copernicus who was of course Polish and certainly spent time in Krakow and was where one of the universities he attended was. Bonus that Copernicus was likely a priest or at the minimum had taken minor orders. Although I am sure this was a coincidence and not a hint ahead of time where the next WYD will bee.

  • Certainly ego is an anagram of geo

Photo credit via photopin cc

May 222013

Recently having read The Church Building as a Sacred Place: Beauty, Transcendence, and the Eternal by Duncan Stroik I was thinking about how my own views towards architecture that have both changed and stayed the same.

I realize in some ways I strived for an aesthetic that was fueled by my atheism. I use to think all government buildings should be the architectural equivalent of the big box stores. Functional and without a concern for beauty or anything that would add cost for merely appearance sake. Humans really didn’t need all that to do work so why bother. I would also have seen rows and rows of cubicles as an efficient no nonsense design.

Spending many years at sea onboard various aircraft carriers I found my aesthetics pretty much satisfied by the way military ships are designed. Wiring is all visible and the bulkheads and frames of the ship are uniformly haze gray. A design based on ease of maintenance with not other concerns. It also use to annoy me that one area that was not based on practical concerns was the linoleum tiled floors. Although part of this dislike was the time spent mopping and buffing such floors and the idea of making a warship pretty.

Part of my outlook was certainly appreciation of the “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” relativism. Since beauty was totally subjective we should not waste time and money on something so subjective. Yet at the same time I didn’t really believe this. I was forcing this view on myself to match my philosophy. I was committed to moral relativism, but not a relativism towards beauty. When it came to art and architecture I was drawn to beauty and totally frustrated with the lack of it in so much art and architecture. So-called modern art should have appealed to my atheism, but instead it repelled me. I could find many forms of art interesting, but I didn’t equate something being distinctive as being the same as it being beautiful.

Still my more utilitarian mindset wanted to appreciate function over form. That in a universe with no ultimate meaning it was ridiculous to try to bring meaning out of art. If I had known Andy Warhol’s quote “Art is anything you can get away with” I would have appreciated it from the mindset I tried to overlay on my thoughts. Yet time and time again I was drawn to what classically was called beautiful.

It was my conversion that led me to finally drop what I didn’t really believe. I did not have pretend to myself anymore that I preferred the utilitarian or that what I found ugly or what had repulsed me was just my own subjective view. That while there are subjective reactions towards beauty this is not to say that all beauty is purely subjective. It is not that you are as likely to find a painting or photo of a mountain scene than one of a garbage dump.

I remember once my late pastor had told me that often reporters assumed that his parish was the diocesan cathedral. Surely this was because it was the most beautiful church in the diocese created along more traditional lines with a beautiful high altar. What had drawn me to this parish church was it’s beauty. I had found it accidentally when driving when I saw the sign for the book store. When I went inside I was stunned by what I saw and recognized the beauty of it. At the time I had rarely been in a Catholic church and certainly not one that couldn’t have doubled as an auditorium. Hollywood also seems to be attracted to the more traditional architecture of Catholic churches in that when you see one in the media it is never of the fan-like auditorium type that unfortunately are so prevalent. They know instinctively what a Catholic church is suppose to look like.

This does make me wonder just how much the loss of the religious sense has contributed to so much utilitarian ugliness that pervades the world? So much art and architecture seems to exist to only glorify the architect or artist. A rebellion against beauty to force a new aesthetic into acceptance. This is understandable to some extent in the secular world, but unfortunately the same is true regarding sacred architecture and art. An attempt seems to be made to divorce themselves from the past instead of building on it. An individualism that creeps into everything yet at the same time an ugly sameness. Aesthetic relativism does not led to people arguing over what is more beautiful, but a destruction of the beautiful.

May 072013

Angels and Saints at Ephesus from the Benedictines of Mary Queen of Apostles is now available. This is the followup album to their wonderful Advent at Ephesus.

Thanks to Carmel Communications I have two copies of the album to give away.

Rules are simple:

  • Leave a comment on this post with a valid email between now and midnight on Sunday.

I will then randomly select two winners with the results posted next Monday. Winners will be contacted so that the CD can be mailed to them.

  1. Dear Angel Ever At My Side
  2. Ave Regina Cælorum
  3. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
  4. Christe Sanctorum
  5. Duo Seraphim
  6. Virgin Wholly Marvellous
  7. Est Secretum
  8. Lorica of St. Patrick
  9. O Deus Ego Amo Te
  10. Emicat Meridies
  11. O God of Loveliness
  12. Læta Quies
  13. A Rose Unpetalled
  14. Jesu Dulcis Memoria
  15. Te Joseph Celebrent
  16. Jesu Corona Virginum
  17. Veritas Mea
Mar 232013

The meeting of Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI makes me both happy and sad. I like seeing the two of them together as it is rather cool, yet there is also the bittersweet melancholy over seeing our emeritus pope.

I felt like a bit of a voyeur watching the two men knelt down in prayer. It was oddly disconcerting and to my mind almost an intrusion into a private moment. Or maybe I just expected that this event would be totally private without the intrusion of cameras. Yet the papacy has a very public aspect and I should have expected this. Maybe for me it is just disconcerting to watch two men quietly in prayer.  In a world where we jam our senses every waking moment, their simplicity in the quietness of prayer  can seem at odds. What I really should be disconcerted at is all the noise and all the efforts to have to narrate what has its own natural narrative. Our culture really needs to see people in prayer as an example.

“No, we are brothers,” Francis told Benedict, according to the Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi. He said Francis wanted to pray together with Benedict, so the two used a different kneeler in the pews and prayed side-by-side.

Francis also brought a gift to Benedict, an icon of the Madonna, and told him that it’s known as the “Madonna of Humility.”

“I thought of you,” Francis told Benedict. “You gave us so many signs of humility and gentleness in your pontificate.” Benedict replied: “Grazie, grazie.”

Benedict wore the simple white cassock of the papacy, with a quilted white jacket over it to guard against the chill, but minus the sash and cape worn by Francis. Walking with a cane, he looked frail compared to the robust 76-year-old Argentine.

Outside the villa, the main piazza of Castel Gandolfo was packed with well-wishers bearing photos of both popes and chanting “Francesco! Francesco!” But the Vatican made clear they probably wouldn’t see anything.

The Vatican downplayed the remarkable reunion in keeping with Benedict’s desire to remain “hidden from the world” and not interfere with his successor’s papacy. There was no live coverage by Vatican television, and only a short video and still photos were released after the fact.

The Vatican spokesman said the two spoke privately for 40-45 minutes, followed by lunch with the two papal secretaries, but no details were released.

Many have tried to portray stark contrasts between these two men as if Pope Francis is the first humble Pope. I have really appreciated Pope Francis’ connection with his predecessor from the first moments of his papacy he has referred to him and this goes deeper than just passing references. Recently he made references to the term “dictatorship of relativism.” Yes there are certainly contrasts between these two men as there are contrasts in all of us. God did not use cookie cutters to stamp out our personalities. The great saints were not indistinguishable copies of each other. There is not one master way to live out a humility nourished by love of God and neighbor. Although certainly Pope Francis’ early papacy has been rather striking in the way he lives out his humility.

Thankfully our hearts are not a zero-sum game where love for one person must replace the love of another. I can love Blessed John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis and learn and relearn both the same thing from all men and differences in emphasis from them individually. Thank you Jesus!