Jun 142018

After having lost 145 pounds I am now pretty much in maintenance mode. Still throughout my life I have lost significant weight and then regained it. Although never as much as this. So I am well aware of the fact that to maintain my current weight takes effort. This year, I have been successful at this, but it also takes a lot more effort than I previously imagined.

Just to maintain my current weight I am still doing intermittent fasting with usually only one meal a day. This combined with daily exercise, usually some walking and at least 15 miles on bike. So maintenance for me has meant maintaining the daily regimen I used to loose that weight.

Thinking about this it seems to me to be quite parallel to the spiritual life. You might overcome some vices and grow in virtue, yet you can’t just rest on this. It also takes a daily effort to nourish my spiritual life and love of Christ. You just can’t have a “cheat day” as some call it in reference to dieting. This also takes more effort than I might have previously expected. You just can’t tread water in the spiritual life.

I now have a deeper appreciation for the metaphors St. Paul uses in references to athletes. That it takes continuous training and perseverance. As an avid cyclist now (never thought I would be that guy), I now look forward each day to my ride. To measure distance and speed and to see the positive effects of this. I wish I had that same “look-forwardness” when it comes to my efforts in regard to the spiritual life.

Still I am carving out the time for scripture study and prayer and am starting to enjoy scripture reading along side a commentary. I would be happy and almost proud with my progress, if this verse didn’t keep me a little better grounded.

“Say: we are unworthy servants, we have only done what was our duty” (Luke 17: 10)

Apr 262018

In which I start with a caveat from Fr. Dwight Longenecker.

I’ve held back from commenting on the Alfie Evans case so far because everybody else and his brother seem to be weighing in, and to be truthful, these cases are extraordinarily complex and I’m not a medical professional.

This whole story reminds me so much of the Terri Schiavo story. Again we have doctors on both sides saying different things. One side of the divide will quote some doctors and the other side different doctors.

Still like the Terri Schiavo story this is not fundamentally what the story is about. The doctors at the hospital where he is being treated might have the correct prognosis. Still whether this is true or not does not effect how Alfie is currently not being treated. Withdrawing nutrition and hydration is purposeful execution in this seeming circumstance. There is no indication that Alfie can’t process either or that they do him harm.

Still it is not surprising that many doctors don’t have the same understanding as Catholics in regard to withholding nutrition and hydration. Still neither are extraordinary means to maintain life. As Pope Saint John Paul II wrote this “always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act.”

Unfortunately there is another aspect of this case that mirrors the Terri Schiavo story.

Archbishop of Liverpool backs Alder Hey hospital in Alfie Evans case. Reminds me of the awful Bishop Robert Lynch in regards to Terri Schiavo.

So when I read this linked story I wondered what the heck Archbishop Mahon was thinking.

Father Longenecker puts it succinctly.

The fact that the Archbishop of Liverpool has taken the side of the hospital in this case is shocking. Does he not know the Catholic principles for end of life matters? Does he not stand up for them? Why on earth hasn’t Archbishop McMahon spoken clearly about the Catholic principles on end of life issues? This is not only for the sake of Alfie and his family, but it is a powerful teaching opportunity while the world’s media is watching.

Instead we get a bland, sentimental statement that the hospital has done all it possibly can. No. The medical staff are clearly contravening Catholic end of life issues. They are withholding nutrition and hydration from the child and they are therefore taking steps to intentionally end life.

The Archbishop could have backed the hospital in some aspects of the case and denounced them in others.

One of the most maddening parts of the story is that the parents are not allowed to take their child elsewhere. From the hospital to judges it makes no real sense. Maybe seeking treatment is futile, but what is to be lost by letting them try? I won’t speak about their motives – since I don’t know them and what I might conject is beyond my charitable imagination at the moment.

Still praying for Alfie and his parents, along with others has occupied some of my prayer time. Unfortunately I feel that this will just become another train of similar stories as in the Charlie Gard case.

Mar 302018

I so love this from St. John Chrysostom in today’s Office of Readings.

”If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood, we should go back to the ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt. “Sacrifice a lamb without blemish”, commanded Moses, “and sprinkle its blood on your doors”. If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.

If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side. The gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy eucharist. The soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own. So also with the lamb: the Jews sacrificed the victim and I have been saved by it.

“There flowed from his side water and blood”. Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolized baptism and the holy eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, “the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit”, and from the holy eucharist. Since the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: “Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!” As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.

Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life.”

Mar 082018

From an article Acer has made smart beads to help keep count of Buddhist mantras

Taiwanese tech company Acer has made Buddhist prayer beads that can help keep track of recited mantras. The beads have a smart chip that tracks the number of times a mantra is repeated and displays the number on a smartphone app. (The chip senses how many times a user has rotated the beads through their hand. Each rotation marks one mantra.).

The beads also reportedly have the capacity for future features to be added, like electronic payments, or getting discounts from Buddhist shops and restaurants.

Buddhist prayer beads
Buddhist prayer beads

I could almost wish for a Rosary version of this.

Although I could also see it’s use for reciting the Jesus Prayer. The Pilgrim in the Russian Orthodox classic The Way of the Pilgrim could have made use of this as he was given more and more repetitions of the Jesus Prayer to recite.

Now the Buddhist prayer beads version is rather odd in that electronic payments will be latter enabled. What? Perhaps PrayPal. Or maybe to pay for Pray for View.

Now what options would a electonic Rosary have?

  • Vibrates when it detects you have fallen asleep while reciting the Rosary. Your Guardian Angel will thank you since he won’t have to pick up your slack.
  • Bead speed detection to remind you if you are praying it too fast to adequately meditate on the mysteries. Also being smart enough to detect if you are praying the Divine Mercy instead and make allowance.
  • Scriptural Rosary Mode. When you get to the large bead it narrates some scripture mathing the decade and the day of the week.
  • Set an audible clacking at a desired sound level to help future saints.

Another nun made strange, clacking noises in chapel. Therese did not say, but the good lady was probably either toying with her rosary or was afflicted by ill-fitting dentures.

The clacking sound really got to Therese. It ground into her brain. Terrible-tempered Therese was pouring sweat in frustration. She tried to shut her ears, but was unsuccessful. Then, as an example of her ‘little ways’, she made a concert out of the clacking and offered it as a prayer to Jesus. “I assure you,” she dryly remarked, “that was no prayer of Quiet.”

  • Built in GPS to detect if you are praying in a Church and gaining a Plenary Indulgence. Future versions will have “attachment to sin” detection.

Photo Credit: Acer via Engadget

Apr 242017

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch has played quite a few roles as a gifted person who is also very arrogant. His Sherlock Holmes portrayal in the excellent BBC series, playing Kahn in Star Trek Into Darkness, and more recently Doctor Strange in the movie of the same title. Add to that as the voice of Smaug in the Hobbit “Trilogy”. He pulls of these roles quite well portraying someone deeply intelligent, but flawed with a arrogance that mocks those who can’t keep up.

In most of these roles there has not been a character arc where the character comes to grips with this flaw, much less acknowledge it. Well at least until Doctor Strange.

Doctor Strange is a brilliant surgeon, and he knows it. Until an accident renders his hands incapable at the surgery he was so adept at. His desperate search leads him to the Ancient One hidden in the Himalayas. Where after much struggle eventually he learns to overcome his pride and to learn to serve others.

There has been much discussion regarding Rod Dreher’s series of posts regarding The Benedict Option, and his recent book “The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation”. I am waiting to actually read the book, which I have on hold to comment on what he has to say.

I titled this post “The Benedict Cumberbatch Option” partly as a joke on Rod Dreher’s title. Well actually the title came to me as a joke first, and then I started to think about it as it regards to Doctor Strange. Last year I read through some of the major story arcs of the original Doctor Strange comics and some of the later ones. I especially enjoyed the original as done by Stan Lee and illustrated by Steve Ditko. Often I just enjoyed the whole tension of his being a “Sorcerer Supreme” using dark magic and invoking all sorts of creatures while being good and doing good. I feel this was all done as a gag as this tension is never explained or explained away.

Still I think there is a “Benedict Cumberbatch Option”, that is you admit and then repent of your flaws and work to overcome them as in the story arc of Doctor Strange. How we do this might take us to Nursia or for that matter the Himalayas. It might also just take us to deeper prayer in our homes, serving others, or all of the above.

G.K. Chesterton is famous for having replied:

“Dear Sir: Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ I am. Yours truly,”

Although he did go on to write a book of essays with that title that wasn’t about “I am”. Still we live in an age of reformers who never think about reforming themselves first. Although that is really not new. It is so much easier to opine than to actually take up the harder work of repentance. Really writing this blog post suggesting what you should do is pretty easy. Still my “preaching” in writing is mainly towards myself. We do live in a toxic culture where living the faith is not easy. It is almost as if Jesus telling us that we would have to pick up our crosses was not just rhetorical.

So I am putting the “The Benedict Cumberbatch Option” out there as my hopeful character arc of acknowledging my sins and repenting of them.

May 182016

While news always trends towards the depressing, it seems like it is just one damned thing after another this year. A presidential election gone insane, a President issuing PC diktats, people trying to get on the right side of history instead of the right side of truth. There is just so much that is unnerving and the pace of the insanity seems unmatched.

Yet as an optimistic-pessimist I can see the bad and the good. The political craziness dissuades me from any utopian vision of politics. If only such-and-such is elected, if only some party has the majority, all the empty lies that sustain the status quo of government bloat and inefficiency. Put no trust in princes.

So much to grip about, and yet to realize that there is no environment where we can not grow in holiness. So these thoughts have been churning away in me and Fr. Dwight Longenecker crystalized these feelings for me.

Why blame the world for being corrupt and venal when I also am too concerned about money and material possessions? Let me simplify my life and seek detachment. Let me live more by faith, be more generous with my money and be happier. Why blame the world for immorality and lust? God grant me the grace to live chastely, to seek purity of heart and innocence of mind, and let Sodom and Gomorrah go where it will. Why blame the world for being duplicitous, manipulative, power hungry and cruel? Instead let me look to my own life and seek always to be transparent in all my doings, concerned only for others and not myself and to never stoop to being manipulative or cruel.

In other words, I want to live local and love local. Let the politicians do their worst. I have a job to do, a life to lead, a Lord to worship and a people to serve. I do not ask of the courage to stand up to the evil in Washington or the world. I simply ask for the courage to stand against the evil in my own life, in my family, my parish and my community. As a citizen I will be involved and vote where I can for local politicians who share my values and principles. As a priest I will seek to serve those who God has given me as my flock and family.

If we seek perfection in the world, first imitate Jesus and grow in perfection via grace – sheer grace. I find it easy to complain about the corruption of government, but want to find another topic to discuss when it comes to my own corruption and moral laziness.

“These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Jn 16:33

So if such tribulations make me ponder my own cross and my own need for Jesus – then Lord help me pick up that cross.

May 082016

An entry from Paul Thigpen’s A Year With the Saints: Daily Meditations with the Holy Ones of God.

We must understand that even though God does not always give us what we want, he gives us what we need for our salvation. Suppose you ask your physician for something that would be harmful, and he knows it would be harmful. What should he do?

Let’s say that you ask for a cup of cold water. If it would do you good, and he gives it to you right away, then surely you can’t say that he hasn’t heard you. On the other hand, if it would do you harm, and so he doesn’t give it to you, you still can’t say that he hasn’t heard you, just because he contradicted your will. Instead, he’s heard you according to what your health requires.

So learn to pray to God in such a way that you’re trusting him as your Physician to do what he knows is best. Confess to him the disease, and let him choose the remedy. Then hold tight to love, for what he does will cut and sting you.

You may cry out, and your cries may not stop the cutting, the burning, and the pain. Yet he knows how deep the festering flesh lies. While you want him to take his hands off you, in his treatment he must consider not your cries, but the extent of the infection. He knows how far he must go. He’s not listening to you according to what you want, but according to what will heal you.

— St. Augustine, Sixth Homily on 1 John, 8

Reading this I realized how much I am like that person who goes to WebMD before going to the Doctor’s office. Ready to tell the doctor what the problem is and what to proscribe to me. Not a lot of listening to the Divine Physician is involved.

Mar 212016

Once again my plans for a Holy Lent have been dashed by reality.

Sure I had a framework planned out involving more prayer and fasting. Most of that lasted the whole first week of Lent and then I started to find excuses to lighten up. Not that my initial plan was over the top or beyond my reach. Just that once again I tried to brute-force holiness by doing stuff and forgetting to invite God into this. A stoic at prayer.

Not that it was a total failure. I did manage to be very consistent in the course of spiritual reading I set out for each day. With the help of the Strides app I have also managed to pray the Rosary each day when before I was rather less consistent on weekends.

Still I notice the same awful tendencies I have and self-centeredness. Still Lent does help me to be more aware of this and even failing I see myself failing and resorting to prayer. I try to put the Jesus Prayer on continuous loop at these times. Lent can often be a good cure for spiritual pride as you find any spiritual pride to be rather ridiculous in face of the truth. I provide myself comic relief by laughing at myself.

Last night while thinking about my Lenten misadventure I remembered Lent wasn’t over yet.

So I am going to cram for Holy Week. Pick up that dropped framework and carry it out for the rest of Lent and the Triduum before Easter.

Like most crammers I have the expectation that I can make up my lack of progress the night before Easter. I will just pull a Lenten all-nighter figuratively. Yeah that’s the ticket. Besides Jesus paid those late workers in The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. So I’m holding him to that.

Feb 092016

This my be my most audacious post on my blog. One in which I offer prayer advice. When it comes to praying badly I am quite an expert at it. Really though this post is how to help to develop the habit of prayer for some personality types. Plus with Lent starting, just possibly what I offer might be useful to someone.

I really put the pro in procrastinating and so even things I prioritize gets put off for later and then don’t get done at all for that day. Why put off something today you can put off tomorrow? Really I have been thinking about doing this post for a couple of weeks.

Last year I got an Apple Watch and I soon found that the activity tracker was very helpful for me. For one the three-ring activity indicator was a constant reminder I was failing in one of those areas. So I started to prioritize exercising each day and looking for opportunities to walk. I soon found I was doing this every single day, even on days when I could have found tons of reasons not to do it that day. I have maintained this for over six months now and went down some pant sizes and have made this a habit every day of the week.

During this I was observing myself and wondering why this visual indicator was so important to me? Part of it was maintaining a streak and continuously hitting the goals. A visual indicator of an accomplishment. But I also found that even when I was unable to exercise because of sickness or travel, that when able to do so again – did so. So it got me into the habit to the point where it was a habit.

Still as much as physical health is important, I wanted to prioritize my prayer life even more. So I figured that if the activity rings provided me the motivation I needed, then maybe something could help me likewise in my prayer life. Around the same time I had been thinking about this I had seen various app reviews about goal oriented apps where you could set daily goals to check off each day with various options.

One of the prayers I have continued in since even before I officially entered the Church was the Liturgy of the Hours. Really I had been pretty good starting my day with the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer, but Evening and Night Prayer would often fall away – especially on weekends. The same for the Rosary – I normally would pray it towards the end of the day during the first part of the week, but weekends rarely.

So I wanted to set two goals. One to pray those hours in the Liturgy of the Hours that I sometimes didn’t get to and to be much more consistent in praying the Rosary.

So around the beginning of the year I bought an an iOS app called Strides: Goals & Habits Tracker + SMART Goal Setting and set these two daily goals. I was also able to set the time where it would show an indicator that one of my goals needed attention. So now for over a month I have not failed to meet these two goals daily.

So for whatever reason my personality quirks found this method useful in meeting goals and actually planning a head of time to make sure I provide the time for this. When it comes to exercise and prayer it certainly does take a significant block of time each day – but what I would fill that block with otherwise would be less helpful for me. I also found that more consistency in praying the Rosary was actually helpful in praying the Rosary for me. There was another prayer hack that I added in praying the Rosary, but I will discuss that on another day.

No doubt this technique will not work for everybody. You have to care about some indicator badge on an app and it has to annoy you enough to meet the goal.

The app I used – Strides has been getting the job done for me. It is fairly easy to setup and to interact with daily. Although based on this review I would probably have bought Streaks instead as it seems to be the better designed app. Momentum Habit Tracker is another possible consideration for much more tracking. I admit the main reason I haven’t switched over to Streaks is that I already have a months worth of data in Strides and while losing it would really mean nothing, there is psychological momentum connected with it.

No doubt there are equivalent apps on Android, although the one they have called Streaks is a habit reminder, but is is not from the same creators as the iOS app of that name.

Mar 042015

Via Tom at Disputations:

I’m having a raggedy Lent so far this year, which on the upside means I’m not at risk of vainglory in how well I’m keeping Lent.

But I have managed to actually complete a novena – to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots – in the nine days since Ash Wednesday. (I probably complete on time about 10% of the novenas I start.) And just a couple of hours after I finished the ninth day’s prayer, I received some fantastic news related to my prayer intention.

Correlation? Empirically so. Causation? Impossible to say, as impossible as when something good happened related to my prayer intention the other time I completed a novena to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.

Now, there’s nothing at all miraculous about the good things that happened. I’m inclined to think – even, in a way, hope – they were purely coincidental. If it turns out to be the case that God wants to answer my prayers, then my lousy prayer life is responsible for a whole lot of grace missing in this world.

Frankly, though, it doesn’t matter. The act of prayer is in itself a grace, which if maintained becomes the habit of prayer, and that’s a good in itself. Whether or not we get what we pray for in some discernible way, we are sure to get what praying does for us, which we can then give to those we’ve been given to love.

Offer yourself to Jesus. Invoke Mary’s aid. Trust.

Well said with something to chew on.

Thomas L. McDonald’s “How I Pray” series had contemplative lay hermit Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB for this week’s entry.

Another delightful entry in this ongoing series and I especially enjoyed:

I think my favorite rosary is the plastic glow-in-the-dark that hangs on the shade of a small lamp beside my bed. I love praying it as my last motion of the day. I don’t worry if I fall asleep while praying it, assured that my Guardian Angel or a saint will carry on. I look at it this way—I don’t imagine we are ever fully matured spiritually until after death. So we are always children, and if a child is resting in your arms and falls asleep mid sentence, would you mind it so terribly much? I thought not…

I just love this image of my Guardian Angel or a saint carrying on a Rosary I started but fell asleep praying. Still considering the number of times this has happened, Heaven must have a duty roster to carry on my Rosary whenever I start one. Annoys me the number of times this has happened and when awakening and going to bed not being able to sleep. Guess I should have brought my Rosary to bed with me.

As a consequence my habit now has been to pray the Rosary standing up to prevent this from happening.