See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Vampire - a gay metaphor? (REVISED)


(I mistakenly posted this in the draft stage - hopefully I can do some damage repair on it! And maybe it will be more coherent than the new RSV Bible translation.)

Have you ever noticed that vampire movies are replete with sexual tension?

The vampire steals into the bedroom of his victim and assaults him - or her, sucking the life-blood of his victim in order to feed his craving, thus continuing his life amongst the living dead. It is a totally selfish act, exploiting the victim for the vampire's pleasure, without regard for his victim's humanity and eternal soul.

Again, I'm thinking about the Ted Haggard scandal! Although I am not implying he is the victim here.

I believe, in cases of married men seeking same sex pleasure, there are those who unconsciously attempt to derive some sort of affirmation of their sexuality, their maleness, while asserting a sense of power or dominance over the other. On the other hand, the gay man, again unconsciously as well as symbolically, may be seeking to 'sap' this energy - that is, the man's virility, away from the other - it becomes a 'victory' of sorts. Gays refer to 'tops' and 'bottoms' in their sexual partnerships, which translates to dominant and submissive behavior. The 'roles' can be interchangeable, yet the terminology is very telling, as well as fundamentally demeaning. It is the epitome of weakness.

Many homosexuals are attracted to the 'manly man', the straight, masculine man, due in part to their insecurity regarding their own manhood. Because the straight man appears to be so unobtainable, he may present a challenge, thus becoming more attractive to the active, and/or passive homosexual. When one considers that one of the 'cures' for same-sex attraction is a wholesome, non-genital same-sex friendship, it is obvious that sexual encounters between men represent this need to find affirmation and validation of their masculinity, albeit perverted by genital expression.

Descending to the level of anonymous homosexual encounters in latrines or any other semi-public place, as well as in the solicitation of a prostitute, men encounter the more predatory homosexual. The encounter must be more sexually exciting because of the danger of being caught. It would be an adrenaline rush. I imagine it has to have something to do with the excitement of the illicit along with the risk involved. Regardless of the motivation, what is happening is a mutual exploitation for sexual pleasure, yet more deeply, a vain attempt to satiate an obscure psychological, emotional, and spiritual deficit. (Although the hedonist may well be simply seeking pleasure for pleasure sake.)

Married or unmarried, homosexual or heterosexual, all promiscuous men enjoy the chase, the hunt, and catching their prey. While some men may continue to enjoy the hunt after marriage, even if they 'play' the part of the pursued - they are still hunting. The dynamics are so much more complicated than these thoughts, and I ought not generalize so arbitrarily. Nevertheless, I keep wondering what is it that would cause a married man to leave his marriage bed for another man?

The next time you watch a vampire movie, look for the homosexual overtones - or rather, all the perverted metaphors - then connect these to the actions of certain types in our culture. I think the vampire has to be a metaphor for the many types of aberrant sexual behavior that occur in our decadent society.

(I don't know if I tackled this issue very well.)

The humble exalted.


Philippians

The Ted Haggart scandal bothers me. Supposedly in the documentary "Jesus Camp" - or connected to the filming of it, he made a sarcastic remark in reference to the Catholic Church. Not all Evangelicals and other 'born again' sects have much love for the Church of Rome. Liturgy and sacramental theology is foreign to them. Some Catholics may even regard Evangelicals with a bit of disdain, if not for their faith, then for their expression of it.

This morning's reading from Philippians made me understand that not everyone in ministry, no matter what denomination, is perfect. Paul writes, "It is true, some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others do so out of good will." Sometimes that good will becomes infected by the 'world's slow stain', especially when one realizes that "There is great gain in religion".

However, Paul's zeal and love for Christ, never desired to silence his opposition, providing they were preaching Christ. He writes, "All that matters is that in any and every way, whether from specious motives or genuine ones, Christ is being proclaimed!"

Christ takes care of the rest.

"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14, today's Gospel. It's good to be chastised, the Church first, and then the world. Everything is a grace!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Haggard


I never really
liked the guy.
I think it was
the phony
smile...

Nevertheless, he has humbly admitted that he solicited meth from his male prostitute accuser. He also admitted to a massage...if I were a late-nite comedian, I might ask, "On what body part?"

I posted about this before in connection with the George Michael scandals; married men sometimes have sex with other men.

It does not negate the truth of Pastor Ted Haggard's stance against gay marriage however.

Truth is truth - and we are all sinners.

"There is great gain in religion..." Paul's Letter to Timothy - That verse always comes to mind when I think of the religiously opportunistic and ambitious.

Political Ads


And "Negative Culture".

Pictured, Botticelli "Calumny".

Calumny, detraction, gossip, contempt...they're kind of negative - the political ads, that is. On both sides - 91% of the political ads for the 2006 elections are negative - throughout the entire Nation.

I think the current political ads mirror the culture. I know they mirror the culture in my workplace. Calumny, detraction, gossip, contempt...it's kind of negative. I don't think it's unusual in any workplace.

Lately, I'm not liking many people when they show me their true face.

The Vocation of Lay Brother


Today is the memorial of St. Martin de Porres, a wonderful mystic from Lima, Peru. He was of mixed blood, born of a Spanish father and a negro mother. He entered the Dominican order as a familiar, not having the status of a professed religious, although I believe he became a lay brother later.

He is known as a patron of peace and justice. His ministry to the poor who came to the monastery, as well as his medical knowledge caused him to be very popular amongst Lima's lower class. He is often shown in art with little domestic animals, with whom he enjoyed a special relationship and understanding, perhaps much like our father Adam.

All of his attributes, portrayed in art or literature, exist to illustrate for us his remarkable holiness and union with God. He wasn't a la-ti-da romantic, rather a penitent whose penances are rather repulsive to read about for the modern anglo mind. Gifted in prayer he was known for miraculous occurrences, such as levitation and bi-location. All the while exercising himself in his duties with the simplest practicality and devotion.

What we see in him is a humble soul exalted by God, given the immense grace of union with God in charity. This is what devotional paintings attempt to convey, his participation in the very life of God with the peace and joy, and reconciliation with nature Divine Grace effects in the purified soul.

After Vatican II, the status of lay brother in most monasteries and religious orders changed, there remained little distinction between choir religious and lay religious, most became brothers of more or less equal status, save for those in Holy Orders. Brothers enjoyed a new prestige and ministry, especially in the mendicant orders. Many pursued higher education if they did not already have it. They were more likely to teach or have some form of apostolate.

Unfortunately, the vocation of the simple lay brother, who was responsible for the more menial tasks of the monasteries, more or less fell by the wayside. I know brothers who insist that the idea of the lay brother as a servant in the community is insulting to their status as a religious. As a result, some monasteries hire people to do the menial work, including the cooking and cleaning. This may also be due to a lack of vocations. Although one wonders if the lack of vocations might also be the result of discouraging this humble vocation.

The vocation of lay brother is a lofty vocation in the Church, with many, many saints to attest to the beauty of a life of humility, hidden with Christ in God. Their lives were marked by many mystical graces and lofty prayer, as well as miracles, while they served the more contemplative brothers and fathers of the community. Perhaps some of the orders will reinstate this vocation one day.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All Souls - remembering the souls in Purgatory.
























November is the month of remembering the Holy Souls. Catherine of Genoa pretty much explains why they are "holy".

St Catherine of Genoa's mystical treatise on purgatory is the very best literature I have ever read on the subject. It is so doctrinally sound and much more substantial than anything else most contemporary writers have to offer. (I'll go after a couple of these at another date; writings that seem to pander more to curiosity and sensationalism.)

St Catherine was a no-nonsense woman, very practical, and quite an able administrator. Before her conversion she would have been someone we might describe as a 'bitch', lacking charity as well as any sense of humor, while being rather worldly and vain. Her conversion, when she had gone to the Church to make her confession, was an intense experience of the love of God, and her life was forever changed. She devoted herself to the care of the poor and the sick, founding a hospital, of which she became the Administrator.

She combined the practice of the contemplative life with the active life in an extraordinary fashion, never compromising herself with the world or lukewarm Christians and Ecclesiastics.

Presented is an excerpt from her "Treatise":

"The state of the souls who are in Purgatory, how they are exempt from all self-love.

This holy Soul (Catherine of Genoa) found herself, while still in the flesh, placed by the fiery love of God in Purgatory, which burnt her, cleansing whatever in her needed cleansing, to the end that when she passed from this life she might be presented to the sight of God, her dear Love. By means of this loving fire, she understood in her soul the state of the souls of the faithful who are placed in Purgatory to purge them of all the rust and stains of sin of which they have not rid themselves in this life. And since this Soul, placed by the divine fire in this loving Purgatory, was united to that divine love and content with all that was wrought in her, she understood the state of the souls who are in Purgatory. And she said:

The souls who are in Purgatory cannot, as I understand, choose but be there, and this is by God's ordinance who therein has done justly. They cannot turn their thoughts back to themselves, nor can they say, "Such sins I have committed for which I deserve to be here ", nor, "I would that I had not committed them for then I would go now to Paradise", nor, "That one will leave sooner than I", nor, "I will leave sooner than he". They can have neither of themselves nor of others any memory, whether of good or evil, whence they would have greater pain than they suffer ordinarily. So happy are they to be within God's ordinance, and that He should do all which pleases Him, as it pleases Him that in their greatest pain they cannot think of themselves. They see only the working of the divine goodness, which leads man to itself mercifully, so that he no longer sees aught of the pain or good which may befall him. Nor would these souls be in pure charity if they could see that pain or good. They cannot see that they are in pain because of their sins; that sight they cannot hold in their minds because in it there would be an active imperfection, which cannot be where no actual sin can be.

Only once, as they pass from this life, do they see the cause of the Purgatory they endure; never again do they see it for in another sight of it there would be self. Being then in charity from which they cannot now depart by any actual fault, they can no longer will nor desire save with the pure will of pure charity. Being in that fire of Purgatory, they are within the divine ordinance, which is pure charity, and in nothing can they depart thence for they are deprived of the power to sin as of the power to merit." "Treatise On Purgatory"

I do not dispute that God, in His Providence, has permitted souls to appear, speak, ask for prayers, what have you. Yet I believe the "Treatise" gives a better understanding of what the experience of purgatory is, as well as encouraging our prayers and suffrage for the Holy Souls.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

All Hallows Eve


Remembering the dead.

November is the month Catholics do this, remember the dead in prayers and suffrages for their repose.

Pictured here is a photo of the "Purgatory Museum" in Rome. I've never visited it, but I've seen other photos. It's interesting; scorched footprints and other signs of souls having visited from purgatory to implore prayers.

Padre Pio encountered souls from purgatory, as did St. John Mascias and many other saints. St. John Mascias was reputed to have freed thousands of souls from purgatory by his prayers, especially the rosary of Our Lady.

Halloween is a time when people love to retell ghost stories. I listened to a few on the radio in the car as I drove home tonight. It's fun to listen to ghost stories.

This morning I arrived early at work and few employees were there yet. I heard a baby crying. I thought someone had brought one of their children to work, yet this was a baby, everyone there had older children - and no one had brought their children to work today. I looked outside, no one was on the street. I asked if anyone else heard it, no one had. I thought it may have been a radio - but it wasn't. It was eerie. What if...

In high school, my friends and I used to sit in another friend's car, at night, outside a house that resembled the architecture of the Dakota in NYC - the building "Rosemary's Baby" was filmed at. The house we sat outside of is alleged to be haunted. We sat for hours, freaking ourselves out thinking we saw something. It was so fun. The house is still there. It used to be where a witch lived and a gathering spot for people in the occult. In fact, a few years later, when I worked at Dayton's, it turned out that a couple of co-workers, the Director included, used to meet at the house. They were wiccans, or as I came to refer to them, bitches. Very decadent and nasty people they were.

One of our friend's Dad was a meter reader for the city and this haunted house was on his route. He claimed many unusual experiences in that house. The only one I can clearly remember is that something knuckled him on his head when he was in the basement reading the meter - and he left immediately. He had another story about seeing something, a figure standing on a stairway, that suddenly disappeared. That is pretty much why we sat outside the house late at night in high school scaring ourselves.

Down that same avenue, Summit Avenue in St. Paul, was an old house our 6th grade teacher, Sr. Lillian, told us was haunted. She said it had been torn down and exorcism salt had been sprinkled upon it. Later a school for handicap children was built on the spot and it was called Christ Child School. She was a nun, so we had to believe her.

I've never seen a ghost - or a soul from purgatory - but the stories are cool.

Kids like the occult - they are fascinated by it. It is reason to guard, or guide their reading and entertainment. I think of "Harry Potter" - I appreciate the fantasy, but if I were a kid, I'd want to be a witch after reading it. I would definitely delve deeper into the occult as a result.

It is interesting that the root of the word 'fascinate' comes from the French, 'fasciner' meaning to entrance or charm, as in witchcraft, while our modern usage of the term still relates to the meaning, to be bewitched or held spell bound.

Fascinating!

Failure to thrive.


Crucifixion, Thomas Eakins

"In his own pain and agony, Jesus helps us to grasp the mystery of human pain;
the mystery of our own wounds, our fragility and our brokenness,
our fear of rejection or of having no place in society...

We do not need to live our entire lives angry
with our past or with our weakness.
We do not need to be resentful towards our parents,
our society or the Church
because they have hurt us.
We are called to discover that no pain is ever useless.
Nothing is lost.
Jesus welcomes everything that is broken.
If we give him our weakness
he will transform it into a source of life. -Jean Vanier

Monday, October 30, 2006

Halloween Costumes...


An 'All Hallows' Meme (Memes are kind of high school, don't you think? Who cares - it's Halloween.)

Fr. Martin Fox (Bonfire of the Vanities fame - a blog name I wanted!) tagged the first 5 people who acknowledged reading his post - so I'll do it - especially since the joke I posted earlier today on this blog wasn't well received. (It was so funny - for me.)

If you were invited to a Halloween/ All Saints Day Costume Party, which saint would you dress up as and why? (The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, is not an option.)

St. Benedict Joseph Labre. Because he wore trousers and I like him - he was a wonderful contemplative and layman. I'd be much crazier than he actually was however - I wouldn't show up at the party.

Which saint or other person would accompany you to the party?

St. Raphael Archangel, because he is the patron of pilgrims and he knew how to cook fish.

What famous quote would help others identify you?

"Lice? What lice?"

Describe your costume.

Ripped and torn too tight knickers over torn tights with a Franciscan cord, a Seinfeld pirate shirt under a a filthy waistcoat with a rosary around my neck. Bed hair like Joe Trojack's, and little plastic glitter bugs all over my clothes and in my hair.

Which movie or film best depicts the life of this saint?

A Robin Williams film about a crazy homeless man - unfortunately, I can't recall the title. It wasn't about St. Benedict, but Robin's character reminded me of him - or people like him.

What is your favorite book written about this saint or that he or she has written?

His biography - the title or author I can't remember, in addition, the writings for the process of his canonization, of which I have a very old book, in French, that I can only read with great effort.

As Fr. Fox wrote, I tag the first five people who acknowledge reading this. (No one reads this blog, so I guess it ends here.)

If a crazy blogger speaks in a forest, does anyone hear him? Is he still crazy?

Leaving Las Vegas


Or rather, the Monastery.

The monastery may be likened to a spiritual meadow, or oasis amidst the spiritual wasteland of our world. Shown here is a rather bleak photo of the monastery I was a member of for a short time as a novice, New Melleray Abbey. It's an old community living there now, very small compared to the 150 members residing there in the 1950's. (With approximately 35 monks or less today, some believe it is a community heading for extinction, but the monks have experienced such a drought of vocations in the late 1800's or so as well.)

When I left, one of the monks drove me into town so that I could get my connection home. His advice for me came in the form of a psalm, Psalm 1 to be exact. (He had memorized the entire psalter.) Today's responsorial psalm is Psalm 1:

Happy the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent (scorners)
But delights in the law of the Lord
and meditates on his law day and night.

I haven't always followed these counsels. Most of my friends, well, many of my friends, have been relatively irreligious people, they would say they were 'spiritual' but not religious. Most of these friends are no longer part of my life - due in part, to irreconcilable differences. I never preached to them, but my faith seemed to have been an irritation to them in many cases. Others may have been able to "blow it off" - my Catholicism that is, nevertheless I realized they were not a good influence in my life.

A co-worker said I was influenced by my liberal friends and their political views; to some degree I am, yet not governed by them. A person may speak and understand French, but that doesn't mean he is French. One may be sympathetic to liberal ideas, even understanding them, without adhering to them, or being ruled by them. I no longer sit in the company of scorners, nor the insolent self-righteous.

Another dear friend mentioned in an email that he and his wife wondered why I am so solitary, why I am not very social. I rarely find any rapport with the religiously doctrinaire either. They can be just as annoying as my more secularized friends. Both groups have a propensity for absolutes. The way that leads to eternal life is indeed narrow, and sometimes those on the way of perfection are as well. The scorners, the scoffers, and the insolent are not always those outside the Church. especially when they believe they are more Catholic than the pope.

I don't like to debate and argue and scoff all of the time - it's annoying. My best friends respect my solitude, and they know I love them.

I like my solitude. A Carmelite once told me that solitude does not preclude friendship. Neither does silence imply one does not speak.

(The meaning of Las Vegas is 'the meadow' or a sort of oasis.)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

"The sin of the Gentiles is they lack charity."


Pictured, Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, a saint with mental illness.

I cannot remember where I heard or read that phrase; "the sin of the Gentiles is they lack charity." I assumed it was from Romans - yet I searched every translation available many times without finding it. I may have had a dream years ago wherein I heard the words. I don't know. For at least 30 years the phrase has ruminated in my heart from time to time. It re-emerged in my thoughts again today - probably because I was thinking of Jean Vanier and his life with the disabled.

The wounded and vulnerable among us call out to our vulnerability, exposing our fears of pain and loss and failure. It is written that love casts out all fear, thus, if we do not love, if we have not charity, we close ourselves off from those who need us.

Anger and contempt can result in apathy - which, I think can be a form of violence in itself because of its injustice. Our world is full of it. It strikes me that we need to lose in order to win. In the United States, we hate to lose.

We so need to understand our relationship with the less fortunate, the disabled, the "losers" of our society, who cry out for relationship. Our fear of relationship is our fear of the pain that may be encountered in the exposure of our own vulnerability. Or perhaps causing us to experience our own brokenness - that which we expend so much effort to deny. In the case of the self-sufficient, it may be a prideful conceit refusing to acknowledge weakness in others, lest it contaminate their self-sufficiency. I guess that is pride - the pride of life.

I'm simply thinking about these things today.

I obviously cannot express them well.

However, I think all the sins of my life have had their root in the phrase, "The sin of the Gentiles is they lack charity."

Why are the blind and the lame with us?



Along with the mentally ill, and anyone else with some sort of handicap or disability?

In the history of man, we have relegated people with disabilities to anonymity, segregating them from normal society. Think of leper colonies, mental institutions, what have you. Or families, such as the Kennedys who put their daughter Rosemary in an institution after a botched lobotomy. (A family rich enough to care for her at home by the way - yet she was an embarrassment for them. Although, it was very common to institutionalize people with disabilities in those days.)

We often ignore the handicapped, or pretend we don't notice. Some of us complain that they have special privileges, such as prime parking spots, or automatic doorways and special restroom facilities.

In today's Gospel, everyone was trying to get rid of the blind Bartimaeus, rebuking him and trying to silence him. How many times did Christ's very disciples try to get rid of the pesky lame; the woman with the hemorrhage, being one of them. "Get rid of her." they said.

In modern times, Nazi Germany tried to get rid of anyone with mental disabilities. The Holocaust started out with the extermination of the disabled and elderly. That mindset is not too distant in our age known as the Culture of Death. While we legislate concessions for the handicapped in the business world, requiring employers to make accomodations in the workplace for those with disabilities. That is a good thing, albeit some employers resent it, along with other employees who feel themselves somehow discriminated against by the implementation of these special privileges.

This morning I remembered Jean Vanier, the founder of l'Arche. L'Arche is a community that began in France by the Canadian born Vanier. He invited into his home people suffering from severe mental handicaps. He lives with them in a family setting, caring for them, but above all providing a safe place where they might live in dignity, ennobled by the love and compassion of Jean Vanier and his co-workers. He never condescended, or pitied them, rather he treated these brothers and sisters as fellow human beings with value and purpose.

What is their purpose - why does God permit this? They have a purpose, to be sure, otherwise God would not have called them into existence. I sometimes wonder if they are not God's very precious gift to humanity. That they are here to teach us how to love, to exercise ourselves in charity. To illustrate for us what is important in life, that our success, our status is fleeting. When I meet such people, I am deeply touched by their innocence, their candor, and in many instances, their joy.

On the other hand, there are those who are angry and loud, their disabilities exacerbated by unacceptable behaviors, as well as alcoholism or drug abuse, or some other moral failing, for which they are not completely responsible. These people seem to be the most challenging to love, much less tolerate. These are the ones many of us say should be locked away. Yet these too are invited to the Heavenly Banquet, these are the children Jesus says we must allow to come to him, not hindering them, these, as with Bartimaeus, he commands, "Bring them to me."

We live in a country wherein most pets have a better life than the homeless, the mentally ill, and the marginalized poor. Yet one would think, that these animals we treasure as part of our family, could teach us to care even more for others who may be dependant upon the charity of others. After all, we are not above cleaning up the bodily eliminations of our pets, feeding them, caressing them, supplying top medical care for them. Yet for some reason, we can easily dismiss a person with special needs, ignoring them all together. When, if we could embrace them in their disabilities, look into their eyes and see our own humanity, in all of it's frailty, we might be free enough to love, to compassionate, to exercise ourselves in charity with the donation of our very self.

"I will gather them from the ends of the earth, with the blind and the lame in their midst." 1st reading of the day, Jeremiah 31.

The blind and the lame will always be in our midst - it is their vocation - they are our helpers on the way to Heaven. Let us strive more deliberately to love one another - even the seemingly most unlovable amongst us.