Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A mystic's brain

Another interesting story, this time about a study to see how the brain reacts to a mystical experience. I wonder how valid it is, though, since no one can call up a mystical experience at will. It all depends on grace, and when it happens, the person receiving the grace of prayer isn't likely to call the doctor for an on-the-spot MRI!

Thanks to Marty Helgesen for pointing this out!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Something really strange

Just when you think you've heard everything, something else really strange comes along. This story is about a man who had an extremely rare condition "fetus in feto"--His twin was never born but got wrapped up inside him and lived inside his body for several decades. It should be in Ripley's Believe It or Not.

Monday, August 28, 2006

St. Augustine

What a great saint Augustine was! I thank and praise God that he followed the inspiration of grace and was converted. Imagine if he hadn't been; what a great light would have been lost.
His beautiful words always move me: "Late have I loved Thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new!"

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Working hard--for what goal?

I recently saw an email marketing newsletter that has a secular focus. The author is a young man who's made a lot of money by working hard and is urging others to do the same. It reminds me of what Jesus said about the children of this world being more clever than we are.

The newsletter asked its readers frankly if, to get rich, they are willing to work 16-hour days, give up TV and other entertainment, and get up an hour earlier to do something to get rich.

It honestly made me reflect: do I have the same kind of determination to work for God and for holiness? If people are willing to work so hard to get rich, shouldn't I, who am aiming for eternal life, be willing to work even harder for that goal?

Mary, assumed into heaven, pray for us that we might keep our eyes on Jesus and work for heaven!

The Assumption of Mary

St. John Damascene and St. Germanus of Constantinople are two ancient writers who focused on Mary's Assumption. Here is a text from St. Germanus:

"Just as a child seeks and desires its mother's presence and a mother delights in her child's company, it was fitting that you, whose motherly love for your Son and God leaves no room for doubt, should return to him. And was it not right, in any case, that this God who had a truly filial love for you, should take you into his company?"

Saturday, August 12, 2006

"Some people are so lucky."

I recall one occasion when God’s voice came to me from an unexpected source. A few years ago when I visited my family for vacation, my brother Paul took me and my mother to a Broadway show (The Sound of Music). It was about 11 PM as we left the theater but lights blazed, cars honked and people crowded the sidewalks. As we picked our way through the crowd to the parking garage, I noticed an old African-American woman huddled on the sidewalk. She crouched next to a building, warming herself near a steam grate, the patches on her jacket fluttering in the wind. As we went by she said, “Some people are so lucky.” Did she intend those words for me? I don’t know, but those words drove straight into my heart. In a second all sorts of feelings flooded into me. I felt bad for her, guilty that I had eaten a steak dinner that evening, and frustrated about a society that lets people live on the sidewalk. Whenever I'm tempted to feel sorry for myself, those words come back to haunt me, “Some people are so lucky.” She was like a prophet who spoke God’s word to me. Only God knows what kind of hand life had dealt her. But she gave me a gift that night and taught me an important lesson about gratitude.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Terrorist plot averted

The foiled plot to blow up ten planes is the big item in the news right now. Thank God that a big tragedy was averted and lives saved. When things like this happen, I always wonder if it was in answer to someone's prayer that God would prevent it.
In her autobiography, St. Therese had a reflection about things like this. It's been a while since I've read it, but it was about how we should be even more grateful to God to realize what evils he prevented us from reaching us.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The "takeaway close"

I just read about a marketing idea called "the takeaway close." The idea is that if you tell people they can't have something, that makes them want it. In selling, for example, when stores say only a few choice items are in stock, people will go crazy trying to buy it.

The other day I drove past Fenway Park and saw a big banner that said "Parking: $30." I don't know how much the tickets cost. When you add everything up, it costs a lot to go to a ball game. Yet people always crowd in. I couldn't help but think that maybe if the Church charged lots of money for the privilege of going to Mass, people would pack the churches!

Isn't it true that it's so easy not to value what we can easily obtain. The body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is the most precious gift of all. Nothing on earth can approach its value. Yet it's so neglected. How many Catholics don't bother to participate in Mass at all. The same thing holds for confession. Who wouldn't want to have all of their sins completely forgiven? Yet, this sacrament is so neglected today.

What are your thoughts on this?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

"Let them alone"

This morning at Mass, the Gospel reading confirmed for me a decision I had made. Has it ever happened to you that you found an answer to some problem through the Scriptures proclaimed in the liturgy?
Recently I was involved in a difficult situation, and to resolve it a decision was made that I knew would upset a certain person. She is not directly involved in the situation anymore but had been in the past and a strong emotional bond had developed about it. Anyway, I was debating if I should try to discuss it with her and perhaps come to an understanding.
After praying about it I realized that part of my reason for doing that had to do with my own self-interest. I don't like knowing that someone might have some bad feelings about me even though I did nothing to offend. Sometimes, too, people are so strongly emotionally invested in a situation that it's hard for them to talk about it, and I realized she wouldn't be able to listen to what I had to say (based on some past experiences).
So I decided to let it go. There was no point in this particular situation to try and dialogue.
In today's Gospel, Jesus said something that upset the Pharisees. When his disciples told him they were angry at him, he just replied, "Let them alone. They're blind guides of the blind."

That confirmed my decision. It's not to say that the other person is blind, but just to acknowledge that sometimes it's better to let things go. The priest gave a great homily about this. He pointed out that Jesus reacted in different ways. Sometimes he was direct and told people things rather strongly. Sometimes he was gentle and tried to open their hearts. But other times, like in this Gospel, he realized there was no point in a useless debate. So he let it go.

Lord, help me to learn when to let it go and when to reach out to someone!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Our Lady of the Snows

August 5 is the feast of the dedication of the basilica of St. Mary Major, also called Our Lady of the Snows. I visited it in 2003 on our pilgrimage for the beatification of Fr. Alberione. It's a beautiful church. From there we walked to St. Clement church (which has excavations under the church we weren't able to see) and St. John Lateran. The Holy Stairs are nearby that.

In October I'll be going to Rome for a meeting of the bursars (my other job), so I'm starting to look forward to that.

"You are my beloved Son"

The Gospel for the Transfiguration gives us the voice of the Father saying about Jesus, "This is my beloved Son; listen to him."
The spiritual writer Leanne Payne often talks about how in prayer when we listen to the voice of God, we'll find him saying very wonderful things to us. Sometimes I've heard people say things like "God is out to get me." But that's so wrong. Even when we do sin, God is never "out to get us" but always looking to save us. He doesn't approve of the evil we do, but he loves us in spite of it.
Imagine God saying to you, "You are my beloved son; my beloved daughter." He's really saying it.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A lot has been happening lately

I haven't had much time for blogging lately due to many things.
But the situation that's developed in the Middle East and especially Lebanon is very serious. Pray the rosary for peace.

The other day I read a page from St Thomas on happiness. The moral section of the Summa is built around the idea of happiness. Virtuous living makes us happy. He was saying how the goal of life is union with God in heaven; that's what we're meant for. We're on a journey.
I can so easily forget that and focus so much on the here and now. But it's a great thing to meditate on: happiness with God forever in eternal life.