St. Thomas a' Becket

St. Thomas a' Becket is considered a saint by both Catholics and Anglicans, and was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral by order of King Henry II.  Thomas tried to serve both God and his country, but could not, and was assassinated for his loyalty to the Church.

This French enamelled reliquary is one of 45 remaining examples:

 St. Thomas a' Becket, pray for us!

Can you use a lift?

Making the world a better place

The Christian Science Monitor is running this intriguing story today:

What are ways, gathered from the world's brightest and most talented in their fields, to make our world better?  I agree with some of them (starting the day with a hymn, for instance, or making sure all children are educated).  Some are clearly above my paygrade:  fixing the Mexican drug wars would be an example.

I am not the world's brightest, but the article made me think.  What can I do to make the world a better place?  Clearly, I'm not in a position to change public policy or affect global politics.  But I'm also not the type of person to sit back and say,  "This is too big a problem.  I can't do anything."  (Cue my mother's voice in my head:  "Do SOMETHING.)

So here is my modest proposal for making the world a better place in 2011:  I am going to be a better ME.  I will give it my all:  be more patient, a better listener, a better wife and mother.  I will put others first.  I will be kind to people that are not necessarily kind to me.  I will go out of my way to help another.  Less TV, more reading.  Less sitting, more moving.  I will return all phone calls and messages, and keep up with old friends. 

I can't fix the economy or sign treaties.  I can't build schools or shelters.  I can't offer medical services in Haiti or help plant crops in Africa.  I can make the world a better place though.  I can do SOMETHING.

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our King and lawgiver, the expected of nations and their Savior: Come, and save us, O Lord our God!

O King of Nations

O King of Gentiles and the desired of all, you are the cornerstone that binds two into one. Come, and save poor man whom you fashioned out of clay.

A plea for just a little more soul

I've been holding back on something.  However, it's reached its tipping point, and I can't hold back anymore.  Here it is:

There are Songs White People Should Not Sing.

Perhaps this is harsh.  I'm sure there are exceptions, but it is clear that we just shouldn't do some things, and a bunch of white suburbanites singing "Go Tell It On the Mountain" is one of those things.  Please stop.

I also believe that no white person should ever sing a Stevie Wonder song, and "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" is off-limits (even karaoke.  Perhaps especially karaoke.)

Heddy Ledbetter is no-can-do for white folks.  (If you don't know who Heddie Ledbetter is, shame on you.)  In fact, the entire genre of Delta Blues is probably tricky territory for any of us white people.  Enjoy it, listen to it, but please don't sing it.  Leave it to the professionals.

Feel free to add to the list.  That is my simple plea for Christmas.

Hey, lady: be patient!!

I was at the local dollar store the other day, getting some Christmas gift bags.  (I hate, and am terrible at, wrapping gifts.  Therefore:  gift bags.)  The store was busy.  It is a locally owned stored, and usually staffed by a member of the family that owns it.  That was the case this day, and Store Owner was busy trying to get everyone taken care of.

One lady near the check-out counter had placed an order for helium-filled balloons, and was waiting for the order.  However, Store Owner decided to check out people before he took care of that.  When it was my turn, Balloon Order Lady mutttered under her breath,  "Well, I don't mind waiting for a couple of people, but this is ridiculous."  I was annoyed.

I was annoyed because I thought that wasn't really the Christmas spirit.  Clearly, Store Owner was doing the best he could.  I was annoyed that Balloon Order Lady wasn't more patient.  It wasn't my fault the guy had decided to do things in this order.  I was annoyed because I thought if you couldn't wait a moment or two, you should shop at the big chain store with self check-out.  Annoyed, that is what I was.

I left, feeling just a little bit self-righteous and proud of myself.  I had been patient.  I wasn't annoying or muttering under my breath.  I was the better person.

Then I realized:  my annoyance with Balloon Order Lady was no better than her annoyance with Store Owner.  In fact, mine was probably worse, as I had reflected on the situation, whereas her response seemed to be just an off-the-cuff, tip-of-the-tongue reaction.  And then, I was annoyed...with myself.

Advent is a call to patience, of waiting.  Sometimes, we are patient, and sometimes patience is thrust upon us.  Where are you be called to patience?  I hope you are doing better than me....

O Rising Dawn

O Rising Dawn, radiance of the light eternal, and sun of justice;

Come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Horrible, but real

I'm not sure what to do with this information, other than pray.  It is hard to say how much of this is cultural/religious (witchcraft, in many forms, is widely practiced in many African countries), and how much of it is the Culture of Death and its disregard for all human life. 

In case you're unclear, Uganda is in sub-Saharan Africa, east part of Africa:

O Key of David

O Key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel: you open and no man closes; you close and no man opens. Come, and deliver him from the chains of prison who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.

O Root of Jesse

O Root of Jesse, you stand for an ensign of mankind; before you kings keep silence, and to you all nations have recourse. Come, save us, and do not delay.

O Adonai

December 18

O Adonai, and ruler of the house of Israel, you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush, and on Mount Sinai gave him your law. Come, and with outstretched arm, redeem us!

O Wisdom

The great hymn, "O come, o come Emmanuel" is based on the Church's tradional prayer, the "O Antiphons".  It is a series of daily prayers, right before Christmas, that focus us on different aspects of Christ.  Today's is "O Wisdom":

O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and reaching from beginning to end, you ordered all things mightily and sweetly. Come, and teach us the way of prudence.

Religious freedom = security

The Pope is on-target with this:  if you are not free to practice your religion, you are not free.  As he points out, persecution does not simply take the form of torture and suppression, but also more subtle forms that are pervasive in the West:

The pope also warned against "more sophisticated forms of hostility to religion" which, in Western countries, is often expressed by a denial of its Christian roots and the rejection of religious symbols, "which reflect the identity and the culture of the majority of citizens."

It also means that I am not a bigot or a homophobe if I stand up for traditional marriage or download the Manhattan Declaration app.  Sophistication notwithstanding, I am still free to practice my faith.

De-politicizing hunger?

This time of year, we see much need, personally and in our places of worship, for food donations.  This is an intriguing look at how well we are doing (with special attention to West Michigan):

It is not okay...

It is not okay to treat humans beings like one more product in the global market.

It is not okay to exploit a human being EVEN IF the person being exploited agrees to it.

It is not okay to kill one human being in order to finance the education of another human being.

It is not okay to look at this and shrug your shoulders, and say "Who am I to judge?"

"Assembling the Global Baby" - Wall Street Journal:

It is not okay.  In fact, it is evil.

Sacred Place of the Day

Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Gaudete Sunday

Today is Gaudete ("joy") Sunday.  It's the day Christians typically celebrate the "half-way" point of Advent:  that Christ is near, and our joy will soon be complete.

Every year, I try to make a retreat at a nearby retreat house, and the same priest was there for a number of years.  On Sunday morning, with the end of the retreat looming,  he would invariably resort us to "finish strong".  (He usually gave a sports analogy, which didn't go over well with the elderly women on retreat, but seemed to be a topic close to his heart.)  However, his point was valid:  even though the end was near, we couldn't just say,  "Well, that's that.  We are done."  In fact, we needed to be just as vigilant and fervent in our last prayers as in our first.

This is a sound attitude for Advent as well.  We aren't there yet, but we must press on, praying, hoping, anticpating and preparing.  We "finish strong", and then can truly celebrate in the Light of Christ on Christmas Day.

Why all the menorahs?

First, I am a student of world religions.  It fascinates me that the human heart, in all times, places and manners, seek to answer questions such as,  "Why am I here?"  and "What's the meaning of life?"

Secondly, I read this quote today as I was continuing through George Weigel's The End and the Beginning (it's a long quote, but a good one, so stick with me):

The divine initiatives of deliverance and salvation, the election of Israel, the covenant of the Law, prayer and worship, the privileged position of Jerusalem and the Temple - all are elements of Israel's Testament that nourish the spiritual life of Christians....We Christians and Jews are really united.  Religiously, we are intensely brothers, as we accept the same divine revelation, with the difference that Christians complete it with the paschal mystery of Jesus, which is a great novelty, but this novelty does not cancel the previous revelation, but rather highlights it....[So] this must be the truly Christian attitude:  We must consider Jews as brothers and sisters of Jesus and Mary, and therefore, elder brothers and sisters.....

- Father Albert Vanhoye, S.J., Secretary, Pontifical Biblical Commission

Whenever we humans can pray and share faith together, we should.  What was true for the Jews is true for us:  God loves us, created us to be in relationship with Him, and promises us that He will always be with us, despite our foolish and sinful ways.  If the Jews take eight days out of December to celebrate it, we should (at the very least) support them in that.

Stopping "those people" from having so many kids....sigh...

I was in a discussion at a church-sponsored book club the other night, and the following comment was made:  "I know it's not Church teaching, but if they could just stop those people in other countries from having so many kids...."


I have lots of problems with this type of statement.  I can't possibly go through all of them here.

However, I did respond.  I said,  "You know, lowering birth rates isn't as difficult as you might think.  In most cases, all you  have to do is educate the moms."  I explained how giving women basic health and nutrition education, including fertility and breast-feeding information, typically lowers birth rates.  No sane mother wants her child to be hungry, born into poverty, or to die before adulthood.  Equipping women with knowledge - no artificial anything necessary! - helps to ensure lower birth rates and healthier kids.  Note that the Church works with Muslim organizations in this endeavor.

Today's Menorah

A more traditional menorah:

Blogging Lite

I'm keeping it light this week.  My wrist is hurting from computer use, and I'm trying to get through George Weigel's second bio (or second half of the bio) of John Paul II. 

Today's Menorah

Fresh, Clean and Pure Friday: Try something new

I've had some middling-to-severe health problems over the past couple of months, and am finally now starting to feel better.  I attribute this mainly to acupuncture.  I've always wanted to try this, and with my latest health challenges, it seemed a good time.

Do you have something you've always wanted to try, but have been held back for some reason?  Maybe it's a menu item at the restaurant you eat lunch at, or a type of tea on the grovery shelf.  Maybe it's that book club you've been prominsing yourself you'd join.  Whatever it is, NOW is the time!

Today's Menorah

From (really!):

Small Successes Thursday

1.  Hurray for acupuncture!  I've been feeling better this week than I have in months.
2.  Did some more "stocking stuffer" shopping today.  Eating that elephant one bite at a time.
3.  Found a brand-new-tags-still-on-it H&M jacket at Goodwill for three and a half bucks.  Kudos for the work wardrobe!

Because there aren't enough Hanukkah songs...

....and I really like Matisyahu!

Today's Menorah

From Pier One imports:

Happy Hanukkah!

Lest you think Hanukkah is some sort of "Jewish Christmas", here's the scoop:  Though initially a minor holiday, Hanukkah has become one of the paradigmatic Jewish holidays. Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Jews over the Syrian Greeks in 164 BCE, and is celebrated by lighting a hanukkiah, or menorah, for eight days, eating latkes, and playing dreidel. 

From "My Jewish Learning":

The Best Laid Plans...

About 20 years or so ago, I stopped giving up things for Lent. It's not that I didn't find it a worthy practice; I did. It's ...