Friday, March 30, 2007

laetitia is moving

laetitia is moving! To see laetitia's new home, please visit Thank you for taking the time to read this site and share the journey with me. As always, please feel free to comment. Conversation is a great tool for broadening horizons. Peace and all good!

Monday, March 19, 2007

feast of saint joseph

A remarkable painting by El Greco. He manages to capture the tender relationship between Joseph and Jesus, as well as Joseph's role as protector. Seeming to pass between the present, past and future, Jesus points the way and Joseph embraces that.

There is an old prayer to Saint Joseph that nicely fits with this painting and today's feast:

Oh, Saint Joseph,whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires.

Oh, Saint Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most Loving of Fathers.

Oh, Saint Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss his fine head for me and ask him to return the kiss when I draw my dying

Saint Joseph, Patron of departed souls – pray for me. Amen

Wikipedia says of this prayer:

It is said this prayer was found in 50 A. D. In 1505 it was sent from the Pope
to Emperor Charles as he was going to battle. The faithful believe that whoever reads, hears or carries this prayer will never die a sudden death, be drowned or have poison take effect on them. They will also not be captured by the enemy, be burned by fire or defeated in battle.Lastly, it is believed to help those with general problems in need of help.

I'm not quite so sure it's prudent to believe in the more superstitious elements of praying this prayer. However, it is a great prayer to meditate upon the relationship of Saint Joseph and Jesus, which certainly can only help our conversations with either be more fruitful.

Happy Feast of Saint Joseph!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

guinness lesson #2: good things come to those who wait

For my Dad who says that good things come to those who wait...

guinness lesson #1: saint patrick's day is a holiday

on being irish on the feast of saint patrick

Saint Patrick's Day in the U.S. is usually a bad Irish joke. And yet in may ways this is mostly what the Irish in America conceive of in celebrating being Irish: green beer, a parade with cops and firemen, starting to drink at 10AM, leprechauns, and green. Tom Hayden writes in his IRISH ON THE INSIDE:

The Irish today, in America and at home, are somewhere between memory and forgetting. Amnesia and denial, whether self-induced o engineered by technicians of power, are being challenged by a rising hunger to reclaim a real identity free of hype, stereotype, and shame.

I continually ask what it means to have Irish roots when so far long ago my Irish ancestors immigrated. And despite just claiming myself as American, I am indeed mindful of these Irish roots that give me my surname, appearance, and perhaps even my temper. Most certainly these roots have given me an appreciation for lyric. For example, one of my favorite Yeats' poems:


We sat together at one summer's end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, 'A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds togetherIs to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen

The martyrs call the world.'

And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There's many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, 'To be born woman is to know--
Although they do not talk of it at school--
That we must labour to be beautiful.'

I said, 'It's certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam's fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
Precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.'

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time's waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.

I had a thought for no one's but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we'd grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.


But what of Saint Patrick?

Thursday, March 15, 2007


(click above for the trailer)

I viewed Into Great Silence last evening at the Film Forum on Houston Street. Held over, the movie still drew a strong crowd. However, the theatre was a revolving door. So many people left and came back or just simply left. In part it had to do with it being 162 minutes (2 hours and 42 minutes). But I wonder how much it had to do with the unfamiliarity of the content?

The Cathusians were founded by St. Bruno in 1084. They are monastic, as they live in community, but they are contemplative, too, remaining mostly silent except when necessity requires it. The film therefore also takes on this exterior silence. The director Matt Groening says of his film:

The film should become a monastery…A monastery is about getting rid of speech. Speech is constantly implying this logical way of structuring time and thought. Silence throws you into the present, in the sense of not thinking about how you
get your key out of your pocket.

The immediate object, the presence of immediate things, becomes much more luminous. It’s really like a consolation. The material world, the creation, helps you to be in the world, it’s as if God had created the world in order for us to feel at home. But that sort of future planning capacity really drops.

This is what the monastery is about; this is what I tried in the film.

(See the whole interview here:

The film indeed become a monastery as it included repetition of scripture ("O Lord you have seduced me and I was seduced." Jeremiah 20: 7), daily tasks, and liturgical rituals. Also, the rhythm of the seasons were aptly portrayed.

This sense of monasticism is lost on most of us who frankly feed on regulated time, instanteous information, and immediate feedback. This is perfect for Lent, reminding us how to see time a bit differently. We think we control time and yet time is outside of God. God only exists in the present. And perhaps this is why many of my fellow movie-goers, myself included, sat a wee bit uncomfortably in theatre. As we felt the time pass slowly during these 162 minutes, we feel as if in a perpetual present when we wanted a beginning, middle and end. How far removed I felt from what the present must be to God!

This certainly was a jarring movie that brought me out of my Lenten slump. Perhaps one of the most touching scenes in the film is a short monologue from an elderly blind monk. After nearly two and a half hours of little dialogue, his words were all the more meaningful. He says that we are happier the closer we are to God. Why should we fear? Indeed, while the film felt about an hour too long, it was a terrific reminder of the value not only of monastic life but also of remaining focused on the present in order to come closer to God.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

reflections after candidacy class #1: fraternity

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…”
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
John Donne

Relationships are important and indeed one of the most revered throughout the years has been that of friendship. The Greeks revered philia, a love between friends that in their view was a dispassionate virtuous love. We love friends because we choose to love them and that choice is based upon sound judgment, reason. Christ took this concept further, referring to agape between friends: no greater love than this than a man laying down his life for a friend. Even the Beatles of our time have taken to emphasizing friendship in their song “With a Little Help From My Friends”:

What do I do when my love is away
(Does it worry you to be alone?)
How do
I feel by the end of the day,
(Are you sad because you're on your

No, I get by with a little help from my friends

Realizing the importance of friendship, Benet Fonck describes fraternity as an extended friendship. To understand the profound nature of this remark, it worth pausing to reflect upon what we mean by friendship.

If we look at the nature of the Trinity, we can get a glimpse perhaps. Although the trinity is mystery and nearly impenetrable, we can perhaps at the very least say that the trinity is relational. Acting relationally, we might be able to say that it has perfect unity, is co-responsible for one another, and has a common will. We learn from this several things. One is that relationships are important. We learn too that it is important that relationships have a unity, or a wholeness about them. We learn that mutual responsibility ensures the success of the relationship as does its common purpose.

Reflecting on these key characteristics of relationship are valuable, but for this reflection even more so if understood through the Franciscan framework. Francis actually begun alone. He had every intention of remaining as such as a penitent hermit. The encounter with the San Damiano cross, to rebuild the Church, was something he intended to be a new mission that he was do alone in perhaps the model of the Order of Penitents. But, as Francis points out, the Lord gave him brothers.

Once Francis had brothers, he realized the importance of rebuilding together with the help of companions. He also realized that they had to develop a way of life. The call to rebuild required him to preach the Gospel to the world, so the rule of St. Benedict for monks would not work. And while he realized the importance of community, the Augustinian rule would not work because his concept of poverty was radically different. The Augustinian rule held that all goods be held in common for the good of the community, while Francis held that the brothers not own anything of their own. The difference? Collectively the Augustinian rule had a collection of goods owned by the group, whereas the brothers collectively owned nothing. As such, Francis developed a new way of life. Fr. Dominic Monti holds four values that he think differentiates the Franciscan charism:

  1. minority (lesser brothers)

  2. fraternity

  3. eremitical prayer

  4. mission

All of these characteristics shed light on the whole of the Franciscan family, which will help us to understand how the Secular Franciscan branch relates.

Indeed the brief remarks on trinity and also on the development of the Franciscan origins help us to understand fraternity as Secular Franciscans. Part of the issue in translation for us is that most, even the friars, are confused as to how we fit into the family. How do we? As baptized Catholics we all should strive for humility, a sense of community within the Church (i.e. parish), constant prayer, and evangelization. The friars and Poor Clares are removed from the world it thus makes sense that there should be a need for them. As baptized Catholics, why do Secular Franciscans need each other? Such a question either misses the value of the Secular Franciscan fraternity or of the value the general Franciscan mission.

Starting with the latter, it would seem that the question betrays a lack of understanding how the three branches work together. Like the trinity, the three are of one mind and heart, co-responsible, and with the common mission of rebuilding the Church. Indeed the friars rebuild by going from the outside into the world, preaching the Gospel and bringing Christ to the the world. The Poor Clares rebuild by surrounding the Franciscan family with the prayer relationship they have built with Christ through their privilege of poverty. The Secular Franciscans, however, rebuild from within by going outward in prudent witness to the truth of the Gospel. All the branches need each other if any of us are to be successful.

The former part of the question can be answered through examining the mission of the Secular Franciscan Order. The essential ingredient for the success of Secular Franciscans in rebuilding from within is fraternity. We remain in the world in part because we love Christ who is in it. But how do we know love? We know love as we experience love, first from God whose love is gratuitous and then from the relationships around us. Certainly anyone who has had the fortune of having a true friend knows the importance of that kind of love. That kind of love becomes useful for us, as realizing the importance of it (or of any important relationship) we are better able to see Christ in others. Even more important is that encounter with Christ we are in relationship. We in a sense participate in the relationship of the Trinity. Indeed, Secular Franciscan fraternity meetings take on a sacramental quality as Christ is present among us. We can then say that our relationship in fraternity is sacramental. We are then brought back to Benet Fonck's remark that fraternity is an extended friendship -- we extend even the strongest bonds of friendship because together we take on a uniquely Franciscan sacramental quality. Moreover, as we rebuild each other we encounter Christ. And this gives us tremendous credibility with the world. If we cannot love each other, how can they trust us? As the hymn goes, they will know we our Christians by our love. Indeed, they will know we are Secular Franciscans by the way we love in rebuilding the world around us.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

valorization of suffering

There is a danger in Lent of focusing too much on physical suffering of Jesus' crucifixion. This is an old pre-occupation in the Church that goes back to the early Church fathers Origen and Anselm.

Origen held the "ransom theory of atonement", while Anselm held fast to "satisfaction atonement". Both are attempting to answer the meaning of salvation. Origen felt that Jesus' death was a ransom -- that because Adam and Eve had sold humanity to the Satan, only Jesus being both fully human and divine could win humanity back to God. The idea is that as a human he died, so it appeared to trick the devil into giving his humanity. But, as God he was able to conquer death and bring us back to God.

Anselm took issue with crediting the devil with so much. He sees humanity as being stained with sin. Indeed because God's love is so infinite and gratuitous, human being s could never satisfy repayment to God. Jesus as fully human substitutes for our humanity; because he is also fully divine he is able to properly restore the balance for humanity.

Satisfaction theology developed a linkage between suffering and sin. It developed into a notion that in order for Jesus to take on the sin of humanity, Jesus had to take on proportionate suffering. But how do we know the extent of the suffering?

Attempting to determine just how much suffering can lead to dangerous strains of thought. Indeed I am cautious not take a Gnostic tendency. Taking the view that Christ suffered the most suffering of any human being not only fetishizes the suffering, but also rejects the humanity of Christ. This is not to say that Christ's death was not immensely painful and violent. We know it was. It is to say then that if we take the view that Christ suffered more than any other human being past, present or future, it diminishes his ability to be human as we are human; it instead makes him to be an uber-mensch son of a sadistic father who will only redeem humanity if his son actualizes the highest potential of pain. It does not allow for Christ to participate in our suffering because his suffering is higher. Such a view denies the love of creation and instead privileges the spirit over the body. The concern here, therefore, is that satisfaction theology can slip into such gnostic tendencies.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

encountering the trinity

Last night I had an interesting encounter with three people: a Muslim store clerk, a fundamentalist Christian woman, and my homeless friend. This was truly an interesting trinity if there ever was one.

I was on my way to do laundry, when my homeless friend said hello. I only had the money on me for laundry, so when he asked for money I had to turn him down. It was an awkward moment since I could see that he was disappointed. Determined not to rationalize my motives, I keep it on the level with him and explained that I truly only had enough for laundry. That was the truth. And as I went off to do laundry I was musing how that truth just didn't seem to satisfy. Truth as I had defined it was relative. In other words, even if I tried not to rationalize, I did. He deserved better than that. Indeed, more than the money he deserved more dignity than I afforded him. I don't think I quite grasped that and instead gave him my left over quarters. It was far from generosity and instead was more about assuaging my guilt.

I ran into my friend Erin who needed to head to the corner store. As we entered, a woman and the clerk were in a heated debate about Christ as Messiah. I was drawn like a moth to a flame. Erin wanted nothing to do with it and wisely went about her business. I was content to be merely an onlooker, but the woman would have none of that. She asked me if I was Christian, though she was doubtful. I said I was Catholic. She then thought I would take her side against the Muslim. She was attempting to tell him that in the Hebrew scriptures they explicitly mentioned Jesus as the messiah. When asked, I had to tell her what I perceived to be the truth -- they did not mention Jesus as the messiah in the Hebrew scriptures but by our faith as Christians we believe he is the messiah.

Fundamentalist Woman: No, it says the messiah in the Old Testament. And he is telling me that it is not in there.

Me: That's because it's not. It never says Jesus was the Messiah in the Old Testament. We learn that from our faith.

Fundamentalist Woman: {condescendingly} Honey, have you read the Bible?

Me: YES, I've read the Bible but your issue is one of interpretation. You are interpreting.

Fundamentalist Woman: I'm not interpreting. It's right there! Tell me, do you think theologians that interpret are unholy people?

Me: Quite the contrary! I think because they look at the scripture critically and take into account its historical context, they are quite holy.

Muslim: See she agrees with me.

Fundamentalist Woman: Well, she isn't a believer and is not going to be saved with her college educated hoo-

Erin: F*** you.

Muslim: If you look at the Hebrew scriptures and the Koran, they are more similar than Cristianity. Prophet Jesus got rid of all of the things sacred to a Jew. He got rid of circumcision--

Me: That was Paul.

Muslim: He got rid of kosher --

Me: That was Paul.

Muslim: Said it didn't matter who followed.

Me: Again, Paul.

Erin: Why are you trying to convert the crazies? I'm out of here.

So Erin left and I tried to leave unsuccessfully. I was a little puzzled and shaken. Here were two people passionate about there faiths and yet it seemed so far from what I knew of God. Of course, I was also condemned. And as I was walking outside, Erin was talking to my homeless friend. As we said hello and good-bye he said with deep sincerity, "God bless you." I finally go it -- he was far closer to God than the fundamentalist woman, the Muslim or myself. It was the singularly ironic moment of this man blessing me and affording me dignity that I could finally see the face and force Christ.