Thursday, November 26, 2009

Defeating The Night

I half-stumbled off the formerly jam-packed bus, onto the suburban streets I grew up on. Deeply engrossed in reading a book, my mind was swampy, or perhaps cloudy, just like the neighbourhood I had just stepped foot into. The familiar orange foggy glow of the streetlights made sense on this humid, late-November night in Nova Scotia. They were as welcome and known to me as so many friends, though disconnected, just like many of those friends.

But I wasn't dwelling on any trials regarded friends, or much of anything. My mind was stirring, thinking, dwelling. It was truly being lifted heavenward, not by anything I was doing, but by the strains of music that I had recently stumbled upon. Words of God's seeking out of man, and ultimately, Christ's sacrifice. After a weary day, I dreamily walked up the street to my house, but part of me wanted to fall to my knees; collapse, and just recognize. 

* * *

Although I'm not a huge fan of popular clichés, I do think that this East Coast Post could be the result of trying to 'strike while the iron is hot'. To be completely honest, I just felt very moved to write right here and now, while the thoughts are still fresh in my mind. Whereas my last post (after the very-worth reading Stilly-entry on Ste. Therese de Lisieux) was very much a collection of thoughts that had stirred and brewed in my mind for weeks and weeks, this is purely inspired by the events mostly of the last week, and in all honesty, less than that.

I want to try to weave together, as best I can, the thoughts that have come together and made sense in my head. They are unquestionably and unequivocally faith-based. I've had a few interesting experiences in the last week, some mini-revelations, and a jolt to the heart which draws me to this. I want to focus on mistaken understandings of the Church, unworthiness, music, truth spoken to the heart, and ultimately, what my faith is, and what it means to me. I'm staring down the barrel of finals, stress, and freedom, but I feel like I need to express my thoughts this evening, irrespective of their final relevance.

* * *

My perspective last Saturday morning was not too far off from my current mood. A broken person, but more importantly on that day, a sleepy person. I was taking part in a Catholic Men's Retreat, just helping out with music, in a very small way. Most of the day involved listening to speakers, and then discussing and sharing in small groups. I was given the freedom (and the encouragement) to join such a group. Being easily the youngest one there, I didn't necessarily jump at the chance, but I joined with one such group.

We were faced with a very relevant question, and I heard some (from what I believe) irrelevant answers. The question was posed: what can we do as a Church to get more people to come? Everyone obviously wants a full church, at least in that crowd, for whatever varying reasons. But it wasn't long before an older gentleman in the group to pipe up that the Church was 'a church of men', and that we needed to have married priests, and female priests before anything could really change. This thought has knocked around the table by a few like-minded men, and I was part of a group that was pretty unimpressed by this typical answer.

I was annoyed. I thought, Does this guy even realize what he's saying? Does he really want the Church built up, or does he just want his super-liberal friends back in the pews with him? I wasn't being very loving, by any means. Thankfully, I didn't really snap on him, or any of the other agreeing men around the table. That session ended, but not before our table representative exclaimed that our table wanted female priests. I tried to keep my head low...

I didn't stay with that table all day; in fact, I was shifted to another one before the next session. This one had a few more like-minded guys, but the best way to describe them was seeking, good men. There wasn't always agreement, but I saw God working in them. 

After being confronted by this surge of heterodoxy, I stayed astonished, but I more or less put the time at my tables in the back of my mind; just one more encounter with arguments that put me on edge. They weren't men with malice. They were just men saying what they thought was right, regardless of the state of their hearts when saying that. I can't judge the state of their hearts. 

About half a week later, I was sitting at the table for my campus' Catholic Society, which was placed in the Student Union Building at my university. Typically, it's a meeting place for studies and for students who are a part of the society, but sometimes other people come and strike up conversations with available, faithful Catholics. 

An older man, maybe in his late 50s or early 60s, came up to the table with a purpose, and studied the name of the society closely. After mulling over his thoughts for a time (he may have even scratched his chin during this pondering period), he asked the table at large a question.

"What's the society's position on Bishop Lahey?"

Having a regular Joe or Jane ask a Nova Scotian Catholic about the former bishop of Antigonish and man currently at the centre of a child pornography investigation is not all that unusual anymore, at least in the last two months. One person volunteered that the group had no real position on it. I mean, we all are hurt by it, of course. It seemed a little silly that he'd even ask that...

He followed this up by wondering aloud if having female priests would help. This took the table aback, as there seemed to be very little correlation between the two thoughts. He then asked one of us sitting at the table (a girl, no less) if they thought women had the abilities to do what men did in the priestly vocation. After being pointed to the Church for the reasons why, he came close to repeating some haunting words, tiptoeing around saying that it was 'a church of men', while meaning that God wasn't a part of Catholic teaching. I piped up that of course God guided the Church. He proceeded to have an 'a-ha!' moment, 'pointing out' that God was, in fact, also a man.

A couple people couldn't really contain their laughter. It seemed plain and silly that this man would say that an ultimately genderless God was a man like I was, or any other person of my gender. Yes, God revealed Himself to us in masculine ways (like Jesus Christ, true God and true man, as well as the Father and the Son), so it makes sense that we talk about Him as He has revealed Himself.

He then 'cleverly' (?) pointed out that many women are calling God 'she', and that we should "think about that". Uh, what? Over a billion people in the world are Muslims, should we just become practitioners of Islam because of the numbers? What the heck?

Who was this guy, coming up to the table, and floating out all these points, and urging us to think about things, while he invested no thought in what we were telling him. It was bizarre to me!

None of the men in the previous stories were really seeking answers, in the traditional way. They were no open-minded, or thoughtful. They were downright close-minded and, in some cases, rude. Boo!

I could just stay like this, disliking the words of these men, and not having a heart for them or where they were in life. But it took the once-self-proclaimed 'greatest band in the world' to help me get to a better conclusion.

* * *

Since beginning to listen to U2, I've known they were Christian, to some extent. The language used in much of their music was definitely religious, and definitely had Christ in mind. So when my Astro-twin and chaplain handed me Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2  by Steve Stockman, I was intrigued. 

After rushing to my bus to go home, I popped in my fitted earbuds, put U2's discography on shuffle, turned it down a bit, and cracked open this book. I haven't read much in a while, so I was interested to feed this part of me.

But the situations and positions in the book were strikingly familiar. No, Bono wasn't advocated that Latin-Rite priests be allowed to marry, nor was The Edge preaching about the necessity of female priests, but there was something that I had heard spoken, not so much in words, but underneath the words.

Someone recently told me not to just listen to what people are saying, but why they're saying it. The men at the retreat? Well, they had a fundamental misunderstanding of a number of things in the Church. The sacraments, the priesthood, the Eucharist, etc. If they had understood these things, maybe they would understand what the Church taught a little better. I'm not coming down on them, but they did lack this. They misunderstood what the Church said.

The man at the table? Well, he could've kept walking. I'm sure dozens of students walked by the table, saw that it was the Catholic society, and that they could move along. But this guy wanted to talk. Something stirred up in him. And he had a fundamental misunderstanding of who God was. God isn't someone we can make into who we want Him to be; God is so beyond that, so beyond what we want.

U2? There was, and is a deeper rift in them: "Well, religion has torn [Ireland] apart. I have no time for it, and I never felt a part of it. I am a Christian, but at times I feel very removed from Christianity." (Stockman, p. 59). There is a separation of God and Christ from religion and Christianity. And it's not a new thought. But I'm willing to say I'm an adherent of this faith, so what is happening here?

* * *

Upon stepping off the bus, I had just read these words of U2, and thought of the thoughts of the men who had spoken before me. So where did I fit in? All these thoughts from all these places that seemed off to me, what was it? What did I believe? 

U2 had said things I disagreed with, but a youthful Bono said something that gets my heart across: "Judeo Christianity is about the idea that God is interested in you–as opposed to a god is interested in you. This was a radical thought: that God who created the universe might be interested in me ... It is the most extraordinary thought." (Stockman, p. 17).

God is seeking us out. But more than that, religion, faith, Christianity, the Catholic Church; they're not maladies that take away from life, or get it wrong; they're the solution! They're the freedom! I was listening to Matt Maher's song, Christ is Risen, and dwelling on this truth. God has freed us. We aren't enslaved anymore. God is freedom, and His Church offers us this deep, amazing freedom to come into a relationship with this God, Who is interested in you; Who is interested in me! Amazing!

All these thoughts came together in my mind, and I felt compelled to share them with the web at large, and with readers of this Blog. I am so thankful, and caught up tonight. Wow. 

God is good.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Do you believe in Love?

Thanks to Matt, I haven't written anything in awhile, so I feel super inadequate and inefficient when it comes to writing, being that I'm not in school right now, and not writing 10 page essays every week.  I also feel super 'not-awesome' because well... Matt is an extraordinary writer, so I have to TRY and keep up.  (shh... don't tell him I told you, he might get all self righteous and stuff)

oh..shoot... urhmmm...

SO, I just finished reading "I believe in Love" by Father Jean C.J. d'Elbée. (Amazing book, read it)

Let's type about that... shall we?

It's mentioned that; Jesus loves each of us to the point of foolishness on the Cross and the glory of the Resurrection.

I guess I'm writing about this because for the past while (since I wrote my last post) I've constantly been feeling inadequate, incompetent, insubstantial (a lot of 'ins') dry, failing... foolish.  Even writing this post, I feel "in______ish.")

This sentence struck a chord with me because right now in my life, this state of being is constant almost everyday.  To know and to have it repeated to me once again that my Saviour who died on the cross for me, was ALSO thought foolish.  Not only in this action of being crucified for my sins, but also throughout His life...  He loved to the point of foolishness, ALWAYS!  How glorious!!!  If only us lil'uns here on earth would do the same!

It's not that we can't love to the point of foolishness, it's that we choose not to.  It's almost like we don't believe in the simple things like we don't FULLY believe in love.  I get so caught up in my feelings of inadequacy that I forgot the simple things.  I forget love.  I forget that my weak and wobbling ways don't really matter.  What matters is my love... am I being Christ to others?  When we live in this way, all the things we do wrong or poorly become perfected because we've entrusted them to the King.  Not only are they perfected, they are made beautiful.

It's so simple, but why is it so hard!?  All our Lord asks of us is to simply believe in love and love to the point of foolishness!!  We have the most perfect model of this kind of love... we have Jesus!  St. Thérèse of Lisieux understood so beautifully this simplicity that our Lord desires for us!  She not only understood it, she worked everyday at living it.  She knew that we are NOTHING without Him and that all He wants is our YES!


I sat down to write this post not really knowing what to to talk about and this came out.  Not as similar to Matt's blog as our first two posts, but alas, this will do!  It's also not as long as Matt's post, but alas, I have Youth Group to run soon.  Maybe also random-ish... but alas... my writing organization skills are not at their prime at this point in my life.

But I think, after typing out all my thoughts, I can conclude this brand spankin' new post with this...

it's okay to feel inadequate sometimes.  It's also okay to BE inadequate and to fail.  It's okay to be thought foolish or stupid.  It doesn't matter because this is how Jesus lived and this is how He died.  It is undeniable that we MUST strive to love in this way.  We MUST believe in Love!

Monday, November 16, 2009


The dangers of waiting so long to write a new sort of blog is that your mind can often get so full of ideas and plans and hopes and dreams that you can hardly come up with a good way to order written thoughts. As you may have guessed from this opening, I am suffering from precisely that problem. That's why this entry has the rather lacklustre title 'Realizations'. I briefly considered (just now) changing the title to 'Revelations', but I feel this blog is simply not epic enough to merit such a title. So we're doing a slightly not-so-exciting title in "Realizations'. That's not to say there's nothing good in it... Okay, I feel like I've almost buried this enough.

I can only blame myself, you can only blame me 
As some readers may have noticed, there has been a considerable length of time between entries here. Stilly and I decided, for the most part, to alternate in blogging, and thus you can blame only me, really. I had school, work, schoolwork, and other responsibilities. I'm not about to pretend that I couldn't have at least TRIED to get writing this. But I'm not a professional opinions writer (I sort of was, for a little while), and I generally only write when I'm feeling inspired. But I have been inspired! A few times, at least.

All I want you to leave me is alone 
I gotta say, I love taking refuge. I don't mean this in a pseudo-deep, oh-my-goodness-solitude-is-like-so-indie kind of way, but rather, just alone time. Right now, for instance, I have found an undisclosed location at Dalhousie from which to listen to live music on YouTube (check out CBC's Q for some Quality stuff!) and write. I won't finish this blog here, but it's still worth noting. Y'see, moments like this remind me that I can really take pleasure in the small things. Opening the window on a stormy night to hear the rain and have consolation in my comfort. Someone once told me that that was very St. Therese of me, enjoying the little things. At the moment, I didn't jump at that point, but now I'm thinking that's probably pretty close to being true. So I'm enjoying the little things right here, right now. There IS no other place I'd rather be... Well, that might not be true. I can think of a small city or two west of here that might fit me pretty well... Like, in Alberta.

Whatever you like
Something I've come to know about myself in the past little while (I find 'the past little while' a very good and very vague phrase) is that I really appreciate knowing the passions of others. I realized this when I had a sharp sense of joy after seeing a guy in class next to me looking up cars on internet forums, and another time when I saw a guy looking up European Football scores. People love things that I don't, and I find that very interesting. I remember a friend telling me about their sort-of-secret passion for tropical fish, and it added so much to the character of this person in my mind. And, for those at home, these small passions of mine include voracious news and blog consumption, as well as atmospheric guitar fills a la 'Bad' by U2. 

You know it ain't nothin' to drop a coupla stacks on you
I love how on the Blogger editing bar, there's a tab that reads 'Monetize', as if I could just translate what I write into cold, hard cash.

All winter, we got carried
This is a thought that came to my mind over a month ago, at least, and has bounced around my head since a few months ago for sure. Upon flopping into my chair-tablet hybrid in one of my favourite classrooms of the HHAAB (Henry Hicks Academic Administration Building, but with an acronym like that, why would you NOT use it?), I conducted a lazy scan of the room. A young man, roughly my age, strolled into the room with an Abercrombie & Fitch shirt on. This would be unremarkable on most occasions, but on the front of the shirt was emblazoned 'MAKE LOVE NOT BABIES', which alarmed me to say the least. And yes, it's a real shirt, Google the phrase and 'Abercrombie' and it'll pop up. While this might be somewhat tongue in cheek, it startled me a bit. I mean, I had always had a cursory knowledge that today's North American culture saw children born from the sexual act as a problem (after all, Barack didn't want his daughters "punished with a baby"), but to market that idea on a t-shirt for public acceptance struck me as pretty darn bold.

A few days later [ed. note: it could have been a week], I was on the bus to Halifax on a bright morning. Once again, I sat down on a less-than-comfortable seat, but I had a far more lazy scan going on. I saw another guy my age with a shirt that had a bride and groom on it, and it said underneath, 'GAMEOVER'. Now, this might seem like yet another relatively harmless shirt with a slightly provocative caption, but it does encourage a certain culture against marriage, just as the previous shirt did against family. A wide cultural perception of marriage being the end of your life is definitely a negative thing, with our culture being built on marriage, as family is built on marriage, and neighbourhoods on families, and can-you-tell-I've-heard-Christopher-West-speak? Okay, maybe your life is over in the sense that you can no longer really engage in sketchy escapades, but good. You shouldn't be doing that anyway. It's called sketchy for a reason.

So, my realization has been, in short, that there is, in fact, an attack on marriage and the family. Maybe I didn't need to report what I saw on some t-shirts to let you in on that...

After changes upon changes
I could go on and on about other things I've realized, as I have a little list on my mind while publishing this, but I think I'll draw it to a conclusion there, with one last realization. Y'see (yes, I did use that at least twice in this entry), that list on my mind, and actually in type below this very paragraph, is a change. Yes, that paragraph will disappear by the time anyone actually READS this, but whatever. Previously, when writing anything, from blogs to articles to essays, I used to do a somewhat ramble-rant, with any number of points emerging from a pseudo-brain-to-hand method. But now, I've realized that I'm better off listing things. This may seem like a somewhat mundane realization, but I feel like my writing productivity has just gone up! And that's sort of a big deal from a guy who finds writing to be a joy he can engage in every now and then. I'm more organized, and I like that. I don't know if that simplification of writing is clear to readers, but it is a big difference to me. 

We're making our escape
Without going into any detail, today has been a good day. So far. The first day of this calibre in what I feel has been months. So, I write this. And now I bid farewell to my readers, from the East Coast of Canada. I hope Stilly is up for a similar act of writing soon... We'll see, I guess.