O ID reader, could you pray for Fr. MIke to make it home to Tucson?
His flight out of Seattle Monday morning (or "North Pole" as residents are currently regarding it) has been cancelled and arranging alternates is very difficult. Thousands of people are spending the night at Seattle Tacoma International airport tonight - and the restaurants are running out of food since deliveries can't make it in. So they are warning passengers to bring their own food and drink with them to the airport!
But this is Fr. Mike's second Christmas in a row being trapped by blizzards in a far-away city. Last year, he finally made it home late Christmas Eve. After a long 3 months on the road, he deserves some time at home.
So pray for all who are trapped in airports and bus terminals and cars tonight - for their safety and well-being - and especially Fr. MIke.
One of Chesterton's Christmas poems that has always moved me in a profound way:
The House of Christmas
There fared a mother driven forth Out of an inn to roam; In the place where she was homeless All men are at home. The crazy stable close at hand, With shaking timber and shifting sand, Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand Than the square stones of Rome.
For men are homesick in their homes, And strangers under the sun, And they lay their heads in a foreign land Whenever the day is done. Here we have battle and blazing eyes, And chance and honour and high surprise But our homes are under miraculous skies Where the yule tale was begun.
A Child in a foul stable, Where the beasts feed and foam; Only where He was homeless Are you and I at home; We have hands that fashion and heads that know, But our hearts we lost - how long ago! In a place no chart or ship can show Under the sky's dome.
This world is wild as an old wive's tale, And strange the plain things are, The earth is enough and the air is enough For our wonder and our war; But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings And our peace is put in impossible things Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings Round an incredible star.
To an open house in the evening Home shall men come, To an older place than Eden And a taller town than Rome. To the end of the way of the wandering star, To the things that cannot be and that are, To the place where God was homeless And all men are at home.
O'Dayspring from the East, Brightness of the everlasting light, Son of justice, come to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!
Indeed. In the past two days, my sister has told me that her specialist is pretty sure that her cancer has metasticized, another Seattle friend wrote to say that husband has just been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and I sat at table after Mass this morning with an older couple who had just lost their son to brain cancer a month before.
In contrast, a close friend also wrote to say that their eldest son has just found out that he will become a father for the first time next year.
In so many ways, all of us - whether currently in good health or not, joyful or stunned or grieving, sit in the shadow of darkness and the shadow of death. How desperately we need the mercy, the hope, the healing, the deliverance, the light that the Son of Justice comes to bring us.
The weather outside was frightful last night, as the song goes, and I'm not sure about a timely departure Monday morning for the balmy climes of Tucson. We had about six inches of wet, heavy snow last night. I was out at 6 a.m. shoveling the many sidewalks and stairways that lead to the doors of Blessed Sacrament church. Nine folks came to the 7:30 a.m. Mass - seven on foot. I think this afternoon I'll do my laundry, settle down by the fire and write some Christmas cards, and listen to this song which has a special attraction this year...
I'm dreamin' tonight of a place I love Even more then I usually do And although I know it's a long road back I promise you
I'll be home for Christmas You can count on me Please have snow and mistletoe And presents under the tree Christmas Eve will find me Where the love light beams I'll be home for Christmas If only in my dreams
Christmas Eve will find me Where the love light beams I'll be home for Christmas If only in my dreams If only in my dreams
Seattlites are posting some great photos of the storm on the KIRO website. I loved this one of the Bon Marche Department store star through a park. I remember that star seemed absolutely magical to me as a small child and it is still magical today. Long time Seattlites still call it the Bon Marche star. Even I was stunned when I was last in town to find out that the Bon Marche no longer existed and the lovely old art deco building now belongs to Macy's.
And you've got to admit that this is a keeper:
The Abominable Snowman. Or maybe just "Ugly Lama in Snow"
In honor of the cold and snowy weather spreading over the much of the country today - and especially to my friends and family in my birthplace, Seattle - where they are actually expecting a blizzard (!) (I'm sure that people will slog through the storm to hear Fr. Mike preach at Blessed Sacrament all the same), I thought I would share this wonderful little passage from Chesterton:
"This is written amid fields of snow within a few days of Christmas. And when I last saw snow it was within a few miles of Bethlehem.
The coincidence will serve as a symbol of something I have noticed all my life, thought it is not very easy to sum up. It is generally the romantic thing that turns out to be the real thing, under the extreme test of realism. It is the skeptical and even rational legend that turns out to be entirely legendary.
Everything I had been taught or told leg me to regard snow in Bethlehem as a paradox, like snow in Egypt. Every rumour of realism, every indirect form of rationalism, every scientific opinion taken on authority and at third hand, had let me to regard the country where Christ was born solely as a sort of semi-tropical place with nothing but palm-trees and parasols.
It was only when I actually looked at it that it looked exactly like a Christmas card."
O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.
Mary is called the “New Eve,” which means in Christian theology Eve is seen as a “type” of the woman to come – sort of a point of comparison and contrast to the young girl we meet in the Gospel today. So that suggests that to understand this Gospel passage more readily, we should look consider Eve, “the mother of all the living.” In Genesis 3 we have one of my favorite accounts in the Bible; the story of the Fall. Every time I reflect on it, it seems, there’s some new insight to be had into our human condition. Consider, for example, the passage we know as “the temptation.” Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the LORD God had made. The serpent asked the woman,
Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?" The woman answered the serpent: "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, 'You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'"
In the garden, Adam and Eve are stewards of an earthly, harmonious paradise. They even walk with God in the breezy time of the day. Into this natural perfection comes the Serpent, the cunning one, who asks the woman, “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” There’s no temptation in that statement, but it sets the stage for the temptation. That question is absolutely necessary for the temptation to have its effect. The Tempter is mis-named. He should be called the Limiter, the spoil-sport, the whiner. Because we cannot be tempted unless we are aware of some limit – some absence or gap in our life.
Eve is reminded that there is one tree in the garden from which she cannot eat. Once that has happened, the temptation can be effective – “The moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad.” This is a Semitic way of saying, “you’ll know everything.” 'You won’t need to rely on God’s knowledge. You can be free.'
The first Eve encountered the cunning serpent in the garden; Gabriel meets the second Eve in the confines of her father’s house. This encounter with the angel Gabriel is Mary’s moment of decision. A new offer is given to a new Eve. Gabriel tells Mary, “Do not be afraid,” but gives her reason to fear. Will she accept an unexpected – and quite unique – pregnancy? This was an issue of life and death. As a virgin betrothed to Joseph, how would she explain this to him? He could rightfully expose her to the law and have her stoned to death as an adulteress.
Mary also had to trust a preposterous claim Gabriel made: this son of hers “will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,?and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,?and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,?and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” Pretty lofty claims, considering Mary was young, female, poor, and living in a land conquered by the world’s most efficient and brutal army, with no end in sight to their servitude. Our fate, and the fate of the whole world – all who’ve ever lived – rested upon Mary’s free response to that invitation. Like Eve, she had the choice – to focus on the limitations to her existence, or to trust God.
She chose to trust – and not just this time, but when she has to give birth in a stable, when old Simeon claims her heart will be pierced by a sword, when her beloved son, the fruit of her womb, dies on the cross – and with him, seemingly, Gabriel’s promise, but not Simeon’s. She responds, “as you wish,” and although it’s not included in today’s Gospel, it’s important to note what Mary does after Gabriel leaves; Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. Faith in God gets us moving; listening to the Limiter paralyzes us (it's interesting to note that Dante imagined Satan in the depths of Hell immobilized within a frozen lake). He focuses our attention on what we don’t have and what we think we can’t do. He takes our attention away from what God has done, and what God might do through us.
The reading from 2 Samuel illustrates our forgetfulness. We’re told King David is enjoying peace in his palace, the Lord having “given him rest from his enemies on every side.” Comparing his palace to God’s tent, he proposes to build a suitable house in which God may dwell. And through the prophet Nathan, God tells David he has things backwards.
“Should you build me a house to dwell in???It was I who took you from the pasture?and from the care of the flock ?to be commander of my people Israel. ?I have been with you wherever you went,? and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. ?And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth.? I will fix a place for my people Israel; ?I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place?without further disturbance.?…I will give you rest from all your enemies.?…and when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,?I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, ?and I will make his kingdom firm.
God might have added, “If it weren’t for me, you’d still be sitting in a pasture watching sheep!”
For all our opportunity and power we Americans have, we often act as though we're powerless – at least I do. How often have I seen evidence of a problem – like homeless folks sleeping in a shop doorway, or statistics about high school dropouts, or even ice-covered sidewalks, and said, “there’s nothing I can do about that.” How often have you wanted to do something to address a problem but thought, “what can one person do?” How often have we looked at people like Mother Teresa, or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or Dorothy Day, or Abraham Lincoln - or Abraham, for that matter - and thought, “Wow, there was a remarkable human being.”
The saints, and great, good people from the past started out like you and me. But they didn’t listen to the temptation; they weren’t paralyzed by their perceived limitations. Nor did they place limits on what God can do. They trusted God, stepped out in faith, made themselves available to Him – and simply kept taking one step at a time – even though they didn’t know exactly where He was taking them. It wasn’t that they were so great, it’s that they prove how great God is.
We, who have been baptized into Christ Jesus, who have received the Holy Spirit in baptism and Confirmation, have no reason to downplay what God can do, with our assent and cooperation. If God, through the Holy Spirit can make simple bread and wine become the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus, his Son, what might He do with flesh and blood?
In a few days we’ll celebrate the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity: God-made-flesh. St. Paul knew the incarnation didn’t end with Jesus’ ascension, but that we are the body of Christ. Just as the power of the Holy Spirit flowed through his humanity as he cured the sick, expelled demons, taught the crowds, and had compassion for sinners, so, too, that power continues to flow through those who will be his instruments. Every step of the way the Tempter – or, better, Limiter - is there whispering to us, “What can you do? You’re just one person.” And of course, the Tempter’s right – but he withholds part of the truth. Jesus told his disciples, “whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.” He also promised told us, “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5b
In the power of the Holy Spirit and grace, we can take the next step in spite of our fear, in spite of our doubts, in spite of what everyone else may be doing. And when that happens, look out! You never know where God will take you – or what great things He’ll do with you.
This was the headline that greeted me in this morning's Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Snow Buries Area!"
Chicken Little lives in the Puget Sound. Downtown Seattle had four inches of the white stuff, while other areas got up to a foot. Of course, this is quite unusual for the area, and Thursday morning had people scurrying for cover as the snow was accompanied by thunder. Apparently, many native Seattle-ites don't know what thunder is, either.
In the upper peninsula of Michigan where I went to college for my undergraduate degree (Michigan Tech, in Houghton), four to six inches of snow was a daily occurrence. Of course, there were all kinds of snow removal equipment to keep the roads serviceable. Even so, since the town was built on the side of a steep hill, most of the roads that climbed the hill were off limits for much of the winter. I remember seeing cars sliding slowly backwards down the grade, the driver frantically trying to keep the back end pointed straight down the hill...
I will admit, the snow and ice has kept me off the roads. There are precious few snowplows here, no trucks dropping salt or sand, so the roads are quite treacherous. I gave a talk last night (to a dozen or so hearty souls who braved the elements - most walked to the church), and afterwards gave a ride home to a woman who walked thirty minutes to get to Blessed Sacrament. The icy hills and narrow car-choked streets around Blessed Sacrament made me extra careful.
I am supposed to fly out Monday morning after preaching at Blessed Sacrament this weekend. Unfortunately, another storm is supposed to hit Saturday night, with sustained winds of 50-70 mph and gusts up to 90 mph along the Puget Sound, accumulations of six to twelve inches in downtown Seattle, and rain turning to ice later. This is sounding like last year, when I got stuck in Colorado Springs December 20-24 because of a blizzard.
This is not a complaint. I am very, very blessed to have a roof over my head and warm clothes to wear. This cold is bitter by Seattle standards, and the homeless here are filling the shelters and churches that offer refuge from the cold. Sunday I'll help out with the weekly soup kitchen that this small parish has hosted for several decades. The parishioners recently renovated the kitchen and dining areas, and those who come here for a hot meal will appreciate being out of what is forecasted to be an absolutely miserable day.
The women have left the refugee camp in Orissa, and have come to Bangalore. The trip was organized by activists of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), in order to permit the women to celebrate the Christmas holiday. In Orissa, tension remains high, and the Christian community has been threatened with new violence in the case of celebrations connected to Christmas.
Among the many stories of women marked by pain and suffering, AsiaNews has gathered that of Asmitha Digal, from the village of Bataguda, 25 years old and with two young children, whose husband was barbarously killed by fundamentalists: "On August 26th [editor's note: one of the first days of the anti-Christian violence in Orisa] my husband Rajesh came by train, got off at Muniguda station and began walking to Kandhamal as there was no other transport and all the roads were blocked with felled trees. He was accompanied by a young Hindu boy Tunguru Mallick."
"At around 9 am," Asmitha continues, "they had reached Paburia village, they were stopped by a mob of nearly 60 RSS extremists [editor's note: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a nationalist paramilitary group] armed with long wooden clubs and batons, they snatched Rajesh’s satchel, which had a Bible and gospel tracts. Mallick ran away and hid in some bushes, they thrashed Rajesh and told him to embrace Hinduism which he meekly refused. This angered the extremists who threw him into a pit and covered him with mud neck-downwards, and once again told him to become Hindu, yet again Rajesh refused, then they took huge stones and stoned him to death."
Asmitha says that she tried to report the case, but received no response or compensation. For her, the trip to Bangalore represents an opportunity to issue a message of hope.
"I have to live for my children, my husband is with Jesus, and Jesus will be born for us at Christmas to bring us a new life. Jesus comes as a little baby, so helpless and born in a stable, our relief camps are like stables - bare tents, and we like Jesus are shivering in the cold, but Christ is alive and this is what makes the radicals afraid, we pray and believe in a living God.
ID crossed the 200,000 visit mark this week. I know that this is small stuff indeed compared to the big blogs but we're happy to have crossed cyberpaths and sometimes wits with you! We're looking forward to our third year of blogging which begins January 1.
Those of you who are masters of the New Media - facebooking and twittering your merry way through life - will find it hard to grasp that mere mortals like myself are finding Facebook a little hard to get a handle on. I've always liked computers, got the hang of the internet and e-mail without worries. Blogging made immediate sense (although my technical skills are still very sketchy) but Facebook seems to be different.
For instance - those "messages" I am supposedly getting - are they legit or just ads? How do you export addresses from IMail to Facebook in order to invite people to join your page? (I've tried to do so, but I seemed to import the addresses rather than export them)
And all the smiles, snowballs, pokes and stuff, I'm struggling with those as well.
So I"m resorting to "old" media of blogging (cause a media form with a lifespan of more than two nanno seconds is "old" these days) to let you all know that the Catherine of Siena Institute now has a Facebook page and I'd like to invite you all to consider becoming "fans" and joining in the conversation there as well.
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