Tassel of the Cloak

Joyce Kilmer's Trees

Joyce Kilmer, the early 20th Century poet, is most famous for "Trees":

 

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

 

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

 

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

 

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

 

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

 

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

 

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The Crusades - Good or Bad?

Atheists and anti-Catholics often point to the Crusades.  How can the Catholic Church be the Body of Jesus Christ when it committed such awful sins? 

I do not intend to defend the Crusades here, though they are much more complicated than how opponents of the Church present them.  But let me first say Christians sin and act evilly all the time.  They do not stand for the entire Church.  The Church is not sinful because you or I sin.  Individual crusaders committed sins, but the Church as a whole should not be labeled because of them.

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Our Lady of Walsingham

I wonder if William Shakespeare was inspired by his Catholicism to make ghosts such a prominent part of several of his works.  The ghost of the title-character's murdered father in Hamlet propels the young man into action.  The spirits of the murdered victims appear in Richard III, Brutus sees a ghost on the eve of battle in Julius Caesar, and the ghost of Banquo haunts Macbeth in Macbeth

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The Old War Horse

General James Longstreet was Robert E. Lee's second-in-command.  The "Old War Horse," so named by Lee, played a pivotal role in many battles, including Second Bull Run, Gettysburg, and the Wilderness.  One of the Confederacy's most gifted tactical commanders, Longstreet was highly regarded, particularly by southerners. 

That changed after the Civil War.  When Longstreet became a Republican and supported President Ulysses S. Grant, the once-famed Confederate general was seen as a traitor.  He was rejected and shunned by those around him.  In fact, Longstreet was literally shunned by his Episcopalian congregation.  Shunning is a practice of protestant evangelical churches.  Outcasts are banned from the community.  When the rejected Longstreet wandered into the nearby Catholic congregation, Father Abram Ryan, the priest (and also a former Confederate Army Chaplain), told Longstreet his church shunned no one.  Longstreet found his home.  He converted to Catholicism in 1877.  The "Old Catholic War Horse," in his remaining 26 years of life, was not only the ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, a U.S. marshal, and the U.S. railroad commissioner, he was also a devout communicant.

The Catholic Church's openness to the troubled Longstreet is what brought the general into the faith and made him a champion of Catholicism.  

Something similar occurred with another wandering Civil War veteran.  William Frederick Cody used his marksmanship to kill 4,280 bison to supply meat for railroad workers.  The fame from this feat led him to create his traveling show, "Buffalo Bill's Wild West," which toured for 24 years.  Over 2 million people from all over the world saw the spectacle.  But that wouldn't be Buffalo Bill's crowning achievement.  The day before Cody died in 1917, he asked for a Catholic priest and was admitted into the Church.  Like Longstreet, he found a home in Catholicism.

Redemption for the Loyal

The prophets in the Old Testament had to preach very difficult messages to hostile audiences.  They were persecuted. Some were even killed (see Isaiah). The Prophet Ezekiel was no different.  Preaching to the Jews in Babylon, for he had been among the group deported by Nebuchadnezzar, he was not well-received.  He had told his fellow countrymen that they had sinned and deserved this punishment.  He prophesied also that this captivity would not be short, but would last seventy years. 

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The Wedding At Cana

At first glance, The Wedding at Cana by Italian Renaissance artist Paolo Veronese is a meaningless jumble of bodies.  But if one looks closely at the expansive painting from 1563, currently held in the Louvre, many messages are portrayed in the variety of figures.  This, of course, is Veronese's depiction of our Lord's first miracle when, at Mary's behest, Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast (cf. John 2:1-11).

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Learning the ABCs of Prayer

Watching the children in pre-kindergarten learn about the alphabet made me recall a little parable on prayer. 

A Jewish farmer was not able to return home before sunset one Sabbath and so was forced to spend the night in the field.  Upon his return home he was met by a rather perturbed rabbi who chided him for his carelessness. "What did you do out there all night in the field?" the rabbi asked him. "Did you at least pray?" The farmer answered: "Rabbi, I am not a clever man. I don't know how to pray properly. What I did was to simply recite the alphabet all night and let God form the words for himself."

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Prayer...Make It A Priority

Prayer is central.  It must be our first priority.  Prayer should be the constant fabric woven throughout our lives.  No matter what we are doing or where we are or whatever our situation is, we should always pray. 

Jesus did.  While he was on this earth, our Lord prayed at least three times everyday (in accordance with Jewish custom) and often spent hours and sometimes even days in solitude with the Father. 

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Rock On, Journey

The classic rock band from the 1970s and 80s, Journey, is not a Christian rock band, but one could look at the titles of some of the songs and see an implicit spirituality.  There is Faithfully, Open Arms, The Wheel in the Sky, and, of course their most famous song of all, Don't Stop Believin'.  Interestingly enough, the composer of all of those above songs was the keyboardist for Journey, Jonathan Cain.

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The Miracle of Hiroshima

On August 6th, 1945, the Enola Gay dropped "Little Boy" on Hiroshima, killing instantly 140,000 people and completely obliterating everything within a mile and a half radius.  Buildings ten miles away were brought down from the blast.  Over 200,000 more would die shortly thereafter from radiation.  The atomic bomb destroyed just about everything and everyone.  Just about.   

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MTD is Selfish

In 2009, Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith published Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults.  Smith researched teens and young adults about their faith lives.  What do young Americans believe? Does God affect their lives?  From his data, Smith establishes that the faith lives of young Americans can be described as "moralistic therapeutic deism (MTD)." These are the tenets of this understanding:

First, a God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on Earth. Second, God wants people to be good, nice and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions. Third, the central goal in life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. Fourth, God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem. Fifth, good people go to heaven when they die.

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Mary, the Mirror of the Church

Karst is a type of terrain characterized by hidden rivers and lakes.  Typically the terrain consists of limestone, as this easily erodes, and the section of stone underneath the surface has been dissolved.  Most cave systems in the world are karst areas.  Likewise, there are "karstic" rivers, which can flow below the ground at points.  If the soil is dense, the water will be on the surface; if porous, it will be underground. 

 

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The Routine of Love

Do you have daily routines that ground you in something you consider important?  A ritual of sorts that makes you recall your motivating factor or your original desire for something or someone?  I, for instance, try each morning as soon as I wake up to make a sign of the cross and then nod in the direction of the only picture I have in my bedroom: that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  It reminds me of why I am a priest: because I love Jesus Christ more than anything in the world. 

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