Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

The Modern World

e.e. cummings is an amazingly sharp critic. A weird grammarian that makes Emily Dickinson look normal, and himself no saint, still he has a depth of perception that is badly needed in the Postmodern World in which we live. Following one publisher, I have coded a bad word as Greek characters. If you can't make it out, don't worry about it. If you can, don't be offended. Enjoy.

Jehovah buried, Satan dead,
do fearers worship Much and Quick;
badness not being felt as bad,
itself thinks goodness what is meek;
obey says toc,submit says tic,
Eternity's a Five Year Plan:
if Joy with Pain shall hang in hock
who dares to call himself a man?

go dreamless knaves on shadows fed,
your Harry's Tom,your Tom is Dick;
while gadgets murder squawk and add,
the cult of Same is all the chic,
by instruments,both span and spic,
are justly measured Spic and Span:
to kiss the mike if Jew turn kike
who dares to call himself a man?

loudly for Truth have liars pled,
their heels for Freedom slaves will click;
where Boobs are holy,poets mad,
illustrious punks of Progress shriek;
when Souls are outlawed,Hearts are sick,
Hearts being sick,Minds nothing can:
if Hate's a game and Love's a
who dares to call himself a man?

King Christ,this world is all aleak;
and lifepreservers there are none:
and waves which only He may walk
Who dares to call himself a man.

How Far Today?

(That's how far I ran this morning with my childhood friend, Dave. I took a 12 min break before the last 3 miles, and felt depleted... the natural consequence of running during the warming morning rather than the cooling evening, and not having eaten in eight or nine hours... but I ran 'em. While I rested, my comrade being in my better condition than I, he banged out two miles. We finished together. And like the workers in Jesus' parable (Mt 20), got the same reward in the end - achievement.)

The Name Above Every Name

A new prayer...

Eternal Father, grant me the serenity not to know
Your will and to love
it anyway. Please give me
I need to serve You. Please help me
not to worry about
anything, but in
everything to

See the Fishy Swim

So, partly to have fun and partly to develop my career related skills, I decided to start learning how to develop flash videos using Adobe's Flash software. Here's the first motion picture with sound that I have developed. It's simple, but fun, and I like it. Enjoy!

It really isn't that hard to do poorly. It is probably very detailed-oriented and painstaking to do well. If you miss it the first time it goes around, just right-click on the picture, and select Play from the context menu that pops up.


5.45 mi loop x 3 loops = 16.35 miles
Start time: 10:32 p.m., Sun Aug 23, 2009
Finish time: 01:06 a.m., Mon Aug 24, 2009
Elapsed: 2:33:41 (hr:min:sec)
Pace: 9:23 min/mi

Cramped, hungry, and feelin' fine.
Off to get dinner at the 24 hr McDonald's.
Mmmmm... Milkshake...

'Nuff Said.


You may have seen car stickers that read 26.2, a reference to the distance of a marathon, in miles. Tonight Tom and I ran 14.47 miles - something over half the distance. It took us about 2:10 min, which is a pace of 9:00 min/mi. That's about 11 seconds faster than we need to run in the marathon in order to run the whole thing in under 4 hours.

It's hard to tell from the map, but we ran a portion of the course several times (the one mile stretch from our house to the corner of Keswick and Strathmore Ave). We did that to avoid running the lower loop twice, since the last time we ran that section at night, as Tom observed, "You could get a full meal by opening your mouth," the gnats were so thick.

Yes, it was warmish out when we started, a bit under 90*, but it cooled down to about 80* as we finished. Yes, our legs hurt, we both shared with each other - calves and quads, especially. I will confide in you dear reader, that my... how do I put it delicately?... my glutes (let us say) hurt as well. Both of them.

Before the run, we offered our efforts, persistence, and pain for a number of intentions, including all those supporting our efforts to raise awareness, money, and prayers for seminarians and for vocations to the priesthood. Your continued prayers and support have been a great encouragement. I KNOW how much some of the intentions you've given me need prayers and sacrifices. All that kept me going when I felt a new pain in my right thigh at mile 11.5 or so. It's gone now, which is nice. In any event, I have every confidence and reason to believe that my sufferings this evening have sprung holy souls from Purgatory - at least two of them.

Another thing that kept me going was a memory. I remembered, as we polished off the first 7 miles or so, how good I felt physically, how easy, uncramped, and unexhausted, I felt last year at the marathon's halfway point. I thought, in just 10 weeks, I'll be there again if it please God and I keep putting in the miles.

Thanks for your continued support and prayers. God bless.

The Joy of Israel

As Jesus Christ is the first fruits of God's promise to raise us from the dead (1 Cor 15:20), so Mary is the first fruits of Jesus' promise to prepare a place for us in His Father's kingdom (John 14:2-3). The importance of Mary being assumed into heaven cannot be underestimated. Because death is the just recompense for sin (Rom 6:23), Mary the sinless New Eve was not subject to that penalty. Because our Blessed Lord brought to Himself her, a mere mortal creature, we have all the more reason to believe that He will do likewise for us. That she was taken to heaven ought to remind us powerfully that we were made for nothing less.

The glory showered upon Mary is not shocking when we bear these things in mind; except, perhaps, how little glory and honor we give her.

The Wisdom of Solomon tells us that Wisdom is more beautiful than the sun and excels "every constellation of the stars" (Wis 7:28-29). The Church's tradition is torn between seeing Wisdom as a precursor of the Holy Spirit, and seeing Wisdom as a precursor of the Virgin. This confusion to be expected. Husbands and wives, when they are living in Christ, function as one. Mary is the virginal spouse of the Holy Spirit Who overshadowed her to give her a Son (Lk 1:38), and so it is natural that it should be hard to tell exactly which of the two did what after their union was consummated with Mary's perfect "Yes," the "yes" so perfect that it could, by the power of the Holy Spirit, conceive the Eternal Yes in her womb. The Revelation to St. John repeats this message: the woman more beautiful than the sun and more excellent than the stars is clad in them, as with robes and crown (Rev 12:1). Mary is crowned with the glories of creation, and of all the glories of creation, she is the crown.

The Church has always seen Judith, whose story is told in the Book of Judith, and whose name means woman of Judah, as a foreshadowing of the Blessed Virgin, another woman of Judah. When Judith came back from cutting off the head of the enemy whose legions were about to destroy Israel, the people greeted her with an amazing cheer: "You are the glory of Jerusalem, the joy of Israel; you are the fairest honor of our race," (Judith 15:9). Mary, in delivering Jesus to us, has done an invaluable part in delivering us from our enemies. The words applied to the former woman of Judah apply even more so to the latter.

Martin Luther knew it. Years after breaking with Holy Church he still preached, "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart," (Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther's Works, English translation by William J. Cole, edited by J. Pelikan [Concordia: St. Louis], 10, III, p.313). Ulrich Zwingli, the most uncatholic of the Reformers wrote, "The more the honor and love of Christ increases among men, so much the esteem and honor given to Mary should grow," (Ulrich Zwingli, Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Volume 1, 427-428). Protestant poet William Wordsworth knew it. He called her "our tainted nature's solitary boast."

I am sorry for rambling, but it's late, and I love Mary. But what a God we have! Not content to give us His Son, He gave us also His mother! She is the mother of our Lord, and of us, His brethren. Now drawn into heaven, Mary is truly the Mother of All Peoples. Our Lord not only made His Father ours (Jn 20:17), but also His mother (Jn 19:26-27). Who will dare honor the one and not the other?

Rest in Peace, Eunice

Eunice Kennedy Shriver died on Tuesday, and today will be buried from St. Francis Xavier, Hyannis, Massachusetts. Her legacy was immensely important to me personally – she strove to help the world see the strengths of persons with disabilities, rather than as a series of shortcomings or challenges. Her efforts were largely in response to the condition of her sister Rosemary, who seems perhaps to have been mildly mentally retarded or ill until a failed lobotomy, secretly ordered by her father, reduced her to utter incapacity. Eunice and her brother Ted Kennedy were both present when their sister Rosemary passed away in 2005.

Until recently, Eunice and Ted have had very different approaches, though. One cannot doubt that both loved their sister as best they knew how. That is natural. But Eunice was convinced that every single human life was a good thing, no matter what else. She personally advocated with president after president, starting with her brother. Even though she was a card-carrying Democrat, she was an outspoken supporter of the pro-Life cause within and outside of the Democratic Party. Ted, on the other hand, along with much of the political members of the Kennedy clan, has been a strong advocate for abortion. Abortion says nothing if it doesn’t say, “Some lives aren’t worth living.”

Persons with severe disabilities challenge our easy status quo. Normally, each of us is self-sufficient. We each can take care of ourselves, and occasionally help each other out as need arises. But a person with a severe difficulty, especially a mental one, needs constant help. Oftentimes they need help for the most basic functions of life. That means we around them must pitch in, get outside of ourselves, and learn to be patient, and gentle, and do extra work. Unlike “the rest of us,” it is not possible merely to coexist with the handicapped. They need too much. That is why we will either learn to love them or we will decide to kill them.

This morning, listening to NPR on the way to work, I heard some Democrat pundits fending off accusations by those hostile to their plans for healthcare reform. They brought up the accusation that they or their approach would kill all the people with Down syndrome. “Ha! Come on!” was about all they could say. Of course they don’t support killing all who have Down syndrome. They just support extensive neo-natal testing. Oh, but wait, they also support abortion on demand, and especially in difficult situations. And of course they support, many of them at least, government funding for abortions. Hmm… one wonders why there are so many fewer people being born with Down syndrome now than in the past.

But let’s get back to Ted and Eunice. Ted’s approach is the politically expedient one (for now), and it is also the more pleasant one, that is, the one that allows social pleasantries to do most of the work. After the abortion (say, of a child with Down syndrome), social pleasantries can go into full gear. It wasn’t a child, but a choice. There was no abortion (such an ugly word), but merely the premature termination of a pregnancy. The child who never existed didn’t have a perfectly livable condition with which millions of people worldwide live happily; rather, there was a severe defect. The doctor and family did not conspire to murder for the sake of convenience a child entrusted to their care by God Almighty, but rather, they sent home to Good and Gentle Jesus a precious little one who otherwise would have struggled greatly. Do you see, dear reader, how the game is played? False words cover over the truth, and one can try to look at oneself in the mirror again.

That’s not how Eunice’s approach works, though. In Eunice’s approach, a child is born into difficult circumstances. Sometimes the circumstances are extrinsic to the child – like poverty, or an ill mother or missing father. Sometimes the circumstances are part of who the child is – like mental disability or a permanent medical problem. The child’s life is filled with frequent or even constant hardship. Those close to the little boy or girl must learn to sacrifice in new and intense, profound ways: sleep is lost, money is spent on extensive necessities rather than on yearned-for luxuries, vacations are altered or sacrificed, hopes and dreams are modified or abandoned (that’s the hardest part). It is too much for one person, so the family, friends, neighbors, and local leaders all have to pitch in together. Cooperation makes an overwhelming set of challenges manageable. New virtues are acquired that were never before needed, or are developed when before they would have been slight: patience, tenderness, discipline, flexibility. Heroic effort is needed for basic steps. Those around the child eventually learn to be amazed and joyful at very little bits of progress – oh, how a person with handicaps struggles for such little gains. I remember my amazement to discover that my own handicapped sister had learned to tie her shoes. That she was fifteen years old wasn’t my interest, but only, “Hey, Ma! Look what she can do! Did you see that? Did you already know she could do that? Holy cow! That’s great, Keelin! Good job!” In Eunice’s plan, we learn self-sacrifice, cooperation, affection. We learn love. And as the child grows and prospers modestly, or not, we learn to see a rhythm in reality, a meaning in the muddle. We learn to see how one event happened before another, though we would not have so arranged things, and that the arrangement that actually happened was, in fact, arranged. We come to see that there is a plan in the universe, and a Planner. Ultimately, in the life of a child with disabilities, we come to see the face of God.

But it’s not romantic, and it’s not easy. There is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to be shed along the way, or else everyone would do it. We need grace – the life, strength, joy of God shared with us from on high – or else we will go the path of least resistance. We will go the way the pagan world, the world without God, has always gone. The Jewish prophets were the first to object to the murder of the weak and marginalized. They were the first to insist that personal comfort and domination by the fittest were not in accord with God’s will, with deepest reality. Christians have taken up that objection, that insistence – though some of us have been seduced into murder by pleasant words. If we do not learn to pray, to return to God, to seek His help, we will end by killing those who interfere with our plan for happiness. We will go Ted’s way.

Now, on a closing note, I’d like to be fair to Ted. It is easy for a good heart to be seduced. Moreover, he now has brain cancer, and wasn’t even able to attend his sister Eunice’s funeral Mass. His cancer has certainly incapacitated him. He was there for Rosemary, after all. Maybe his struggle with cancer and the prayers of his sisters in heaven will help him to come to know the love of God in a more profoundly penetrating way than he has before.

Eunice, thank you for all you did. Yours was a monumental life. Now you are with your Rosie and can know her as God has always known her. Please pray for us who still journey here below.

P.s.: Today Eunice's family issued a powerful statement that well summarizes a powerful life. She visited Rosemary regularly. She advocated persistently for political and social measures to improve opportunities for those with handicaps to enjoy their full human potential. She strongly challenged consciences and gently coaxed contestants. She built the Special Olympics from a backyard affair (literally) to a global showcase of talent in which each individual is fostered and cheered on. Until the last years of her life, she and her husband, Sargent, hosted a summer camp for children with and without disabilities at their home in Rockville, Maryland, so that the children could grow with each other.

"Inspired by her love of God, her devotion to her family, and her relentless belief in the dignity and worth of every human life, she worked without ceasing - searching, pushing, demanding, hoping for change. She was a living prayer, a living advocate, a living center of power. She set out to change the world and to change us, and she did that and more. She founded the movement that became Special Olympics, the largest movement for acceptance and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities in the history of the world. Her work transformed the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the globe, and they in turn are her living legacy."

P.p.s.: Another thing strikes me about Mrs. Kennedy Shriver. In every single photograph of her that I can find, she is smiling. It seems as though her path, though it be harder, is happier.

Click here for the biography on her website.

It Bears Repeating...

Ephesians 6:11-13, "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."

Let's never forget. A human being is NEVER the enemy of a Christian. An estranged brother or sister at worst. That's why all our weapons must be packed with love rather than gunpowder or uranium. Love only whacks evil - and leaves the rest intact.

Gettin' Back in the Swing

So I just 15 minutes ago finished my 12 mile run. Actually, it was 12.76 miles because that was the most convenient route I could find that would bring me by my house at the halfway point so I could make a pit stop. It took me 1 hour, 59 min, 35 seconds. That's 9:22 min/mi, about 11 sec slowly than my minimum goal for the marathon. I've got 10 or 11 weeks to work on that. Should be doable.

At 80*, the temperature was cooler than the daytime high of nearly 100*. Over the course of this run, I burned approximately 1441 calories. To give you an idea of what that means, somebody my size and weight, with a desk job and not much exercise, should consume 1824 calories in a day to maintain weight.

You wouldn't think that running is a team sport. Oddly enough, though, high schools and colleges do have running teams. My roommate and I couldn't run together tonight, but he will run tomorrow night the same pain and accomplishment that I ran tonight. We encourage each other. That is a real motivation. Two other things motivated me. Firstly, I offered up the run as a whole, and with it each hill, each creaky joint, and each impulse to stop and hitchhike home. Tonight's cause was a close friend, a brother really, who is undergoing some pretty excruciating spiritual turmoil. The other motivating incentive was a chocolate milkshake at the end. (Hey, bro, ya know I love ya, man.)

I am going to the 24-hour McDonald's for a milkshake, to buy some ice at the 7-11 next door, and then to take a cool shower and hit the hay. It's 1:00 a.m. right now.

Also, when I started the run I asked my guardian angel (who is so cool) to remind me when things got rough, especially in the last 4 miles or so, what this is all for. As always, he came through. (Thanks, Father, for giving me such an awesome guardian.) While I was running this song I recently downloaded, "We Are Gonna Be Friends", came up on my iPod and then stayed in my mind. I didn't mind because it's a nice song.

The song led me to reflect on the amazing things my Heavenly Father has given me, how He has lavished blessing upon blessing, and grace upon grace: good weather, legs that work, family that love, good friends, faith and hope, beautiful cool breezes, baseball games and juicy hamburgers. God is so merciful. Please, friends, let's always take opportunities that present themselves to remind each other of our Father's great love for us.

We're all in this together now.

Neocons and Catholics

The Holy Father's latest encyclical Charity in Truth has certainly caused a stir. Most notable, though, is how little stir it's caused, or rather, the lack of stir among certain elements of the population. In the U.S., because of the abortion wars and some other political struggles, most practicing Catholics find ourselves in alliance with the Republican party. The Republican party, for its part, is wrapped around the Neocon finger. Anything that even hints at a whiff of "justice" or "social" is branded as socialism and roundly condemned as unchristian. Folks like George Weigel who otherwise sing the praises of popes as they stand against abortion, are dead silent, or in Weigel's case go so far as to wonder in writing if the pope in question has been listening to the wrong people too much.

This article, by Donald Devine, does a good job of refuting the Weigel's claim that the encyclical is somehow a departure from Catholic doctrine. Devine explains why both "conservatives" and "liberals" will be unhappy with the encyclical of a pontiff who refuses to be categorized so easily. "Liberals" use terms like "social justice" to engineer statist centralization of power. Neocons use terms like "free market" to rationalize a fascist oligarchy of corporations. The Holy Father, on the other hand, truly believes in the freedom of the human person fulfilled in a caring community organized around principles implanted in reality by its Creator.

That is, the Holy Father is a Christian. When Christ strikes America as liberal, then the Holy Father is "liberal," if you must. When Christ seems to Americans to be conservative, then let the Holy Father so seem as well. He is committed to neither side, and seems to see both sides as being artificial and unnecessary. He is committed to no political party. He is committed only to Christ. Please God we who populate the pews of Catholic parishes will give it a try.

Staring Each Other Down

So training season is underway for the Marine Corps Marathon, and for the first month of it, I've been a bit of a slacker. I mean, I've been running, but I've been shoving workouts around, putting them off, and letting them fall back. I am not dramatically behind on my training, but I want to do better this year than last, so my attitude has to change.

Well, on my runs in Omaha, these two hills knocked the wind out of my sail a number of times. One of them is a long, medium grade hill (1/2 mile at 6% or so). The other is shorter, just 100m or so, but probably at over twice that grade. On top of all that, the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) has two major hill factors - the beginning and the end. The beginning has two big hills, one a gain of about 200 ft over about 2.25 miles, and the second has a gain of about 100 ft over about 1 mile. They didn't cause me any trouble. I hardly noticed them for the all the excitement and adrenaline. But at the end there is an hill that puts on about 100 ft over a mile and half, and of course, there is the infamous finish. At mile 26 or so, one must ascend an exit ramp (I kid you not) off of VA-110 to the finish line at the top of the ramp. I suppose if you run on a highway, you have to run on exit ramps. But what a place to put an exit ramp!

So I have decided to go on the offense against hills. Here's the one that I will be using as my proving grounds. My roommate (also training for the MCM) and I have a not so affectionate name for her, but in public, I will let it suffice to call her the Hill Monster.

Some things to note about the Hill Monster. She is located exactly 1 mile from our house. So there is a nice warmup to get to the workout, and a nice cooldown to get back. And the distance run on the Hill Monster can be pretty nicely estimated because she is so perfectly 1/4 mile long. At 79 ft (almost 8 stories), the Hill Monster is a pretty big girl. She is graded as steeply as 17% (!), about 3x as steep as the nastier hills on the marathon. It's all too perfect for a hill work out. I couldn't make this up.

So tonight we did battle for the first time. It was epic. I felt like Bard of Laketown doing battle with Smaug the Dragon. Like Beowulf fighting Grendel. Roland versus the Moors. I mean, this is David and Goliath stuff. The plan was to run up down her at an easy, recovery pace 8 times. After each descent, turn around, and run back up like I was chasin' a rabbit. Specifically, I wanted to run each up-and-down lap Kenyan-style. That means doing the second part (in this case, the uphill) faster than the first part. It gets hard after a while. So that I wouldn't miscount, I set 8 pennies on a ledge, and removed one as I finished each ascent.

Well, the results are mixed. The pennies did prevent miscounts, but they didn't prevent all the mind games that runners (or at least I) can pull. I started the workout somewhat late (8:40-ish) and had a 10 p.m. appointment with Jesus in my parish adoration chapel. I am gonna put that down as the official reason for my strategic withdrawal after 4 laps. I do know that not having brought water, and it being still warmish out, and not having really eaten since 2 p.m. or so, and... excuses, excuses, excuses... lol. But as I mentioned before, it wasn't a failure. I did successfully Kenyan it, and even with the lazy downhills and the nasty uphills, my average pace was 7:53 min/mi, well faster than what I need to run for my marathon goal. So I am basically gonna say I had the firepower to beat her, but not the supply lines or time. Next time I'll make sure I start earlier and do at least 6 laps.

In any event, the Hill Monster and I have not done battle for the last time.

That makes me think of something I've heard in the confessional over and over again, and very truly, I think. Like battling my dear Hill Monster, the Christian life does not require perfection, but persistence, in the journey with Jesus wherever He may lead. I feel like that requires having a will that is steel to the world, but play dough for Jesus. That's hard for a lot of reasons. That's probably one of the reasons I need Him.

My Retreat

So, as I mentioned before, I went on retreat from July 24 to Aug 1. It was a really beautiful experience, and I am especially appreciative of the community that hosted me, provided me meals, and a daily spiritual director. I feel like the lines of communication between me, myself, and God are more open than they've been in a long time, and that can only be a good thing.

That said, the retreat was not easy or, in one sense, pleasant. "There's a reason," my director said on Day 5, "that they are called spiritual exercises. A retreat is not a vacation." Holy freaking cow, was he dead right on the money! I forget where I read - I think St. Anselm - that the spiritual life is much more difficult than the natural life, and mental labor more difficult than physical. As an academic, he was perhaps biased and defending his lifestyle, except for a key rationale he provides: if it were easier, wouldn't spiritual development be sought and attained more frequently than the material? Yet we see the opposite. Additionally, St. Anselm himself was accustomed from his youth to working for his father, attaining some prosperity therein, hard toil (like walking from Italy to northeastern France to get to the monastery that he eventually joined!) and physical sacrifice, so one can hardly say that he simply hadn't tried the material life. My retreat was eight days long and silent - no talking, no books (except the Good one) or newspapers, certainly no iPod (!). I went to Mass each day, and met with my spiritual director for an hour or two each day. That was very nice. Then in was back into silence. I ran about every other day, and was encouraged to eat heartily and take naps. Lots of time with me, my Bible, and God.

It got intense.

Even when I wasn't in chapel praying, prayer just kinda popped in on its own without me looking for it. Sometimes it was like wrestling with Him. A friend asked me, "Lol. Who won that wrestling match?!"
I laughed, and thought for a minute. When we wrestle with God, we always win. That's because if we win, we win; and if we cry "uncle," (or more aptly, "Father!") and submit to God's will, then we win, too. And don't think that it's blasphemous to write about beating God in a wrestling match. There's precedent: don't forget Jacob and the angel (Gen 32:24-25).

The retreat also required a lot of perseverance. It helped that I flew to Omaha and was picked up at the airport, so I couldn't really go anywhere. But at points I was crawling out of my skin to get out and get it over with. Just like in a run, one might stop to breathe, stretch, or walk, I found myself a couple of times cheating: sneaking a look at an old newspaper, or having a quite, furtive conversation with another retreatant. But basically I stuck with it. I kinda thought - don't take this as dogma - that retreats have different durations, like races. A day retreat might be like a mile run, a weekend like a 5k, a week-long retreat like a 10k, and the 30-day retreat Jesuits make might be compared to a marathon. Maybe there's something there.

So it was good. There were some things that God and I needed to hash out together, kinda like our own little Beer Summit. Only happier, and nobody had to get arrested.

The Drumbeat for Taxpayer Funded Abortion Marches On

Without writing into law, the enemies of life are very craftily trying to create institutions and laws and offices and give them the legal authority to cram abortion down America's throat through regulations quietly, and at a later date.