Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christian Carnival #154 --- Christmas Week Edition

Welcome to what was, in the olden days, the twelve days of Christmas. Goes to show how out of step Christians are if the secular world sets the tempo, and how scandalously at odds we sometimes are amongst ourselves. We've heard and believed the Announcement of Great Joy, as the shepherds did --- but things aren't all glory and light yet, since we are all bent (though redeemed) people in a fallen world tending to the chaos it was in the beginning. And --- some of us, like the secular world, have been celebrating since before Thanksgiving and just finished up on the 25th; some just started the celebrating and will keep singing Nativity songs for twelve days, or forty; and a lot of Christans east of Athens won't even get to Christmas until the 7th of January. So, not every post will be full of comfort and joy (can't really expect that until the Great Day comes, anyway), but they are all fine and worthy.

So, on with the show!

John talks about The Shame of Shame at Brain Cramps for God The differences between guilt, shame, and shaming, and how to behave toward each.

Patricia presents Let It Get To You posted at A Better You Blog. Listen when God speaks. Notice when others hurt. Appreciate kindness when you receive it. Let it get to you, the good and the bad.

Bryan McKenzie has a pastor to pray for as he writes of eternal damnation in To Deny Hell posted at THEOdyssey

In this season that's all about an irresistable Baby and His unsheltered and refugee family, the Part-Time Pundit looks at the consequences of easy abortion, namely it is easy for abused women to be pushed to have abortions, in his post, The Problem with the Culture of Drive-Thru Abortions

Rev Bill has found a story that gives a new twist to an old truth.

In Jesus the spy, Michael at Tantalizing if True exposes Christmas as a thrilling tale of international intrigue.

Jack Yoest presents Rocky Balboa: Courage, Integrity, Faith, Victory The Movie posted at Reasoned Audacity. The Yoests were in Philadelphia recently and wondered about the Rocky statue that was briefly at the top of the 72 steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Since September, the statue is now at the base of the steps. So Jack decided to ask the man who might know, Sylvester Stallone.

Know your opposition, advises Stephen of Practical Quandary in his post Exploring the Secular Mindset. This article presents some arguments against religion and Christianity from the secular point of view. Understanding the viewpoint of a non-Christian is the first step to being able to connect with them and be able to effectively share the Christian's viewpoint on reality.

Hiyasmin Linatoc presents A Way to Meet God posted at Mind, Heart, and Mysteries. Drawing heavily on the insights of, among others, the Christian thinkers Timothy Radcliffe and Simone Weil, he write of how we can overcome being "fretful about many things" [that's Luke 10:21].

This old-time theology student, with notebooks full of "Xp" and "Xpian" and "Xp-ity" got a bit of a kick from Matt Jones' post Get the X out of X-mas! at Random Acts of Verbiage.

The Evangelical Ecologist is sharing the true meaning of Christmas with his green friends this year in a post called The Uniqueness of Christian Ecology -- The Messiah. Before we can truly address pollution in the air or water, we have to understand how a tiny baby came to rescue mankind from the pollution of sin in our hearts.

Catez of Allthings2all gives us Kiwi reflections on T.S. Eliot's Journey of the Magi during a downunder Christmas, in Travelling for Beauty

Brett at Seek Truth thinks that maybe it's time to reconsider our plan of attack in the war on Christmas.

Many churches seem to think everyone is in a family. But what about those who don't have families at Christmas time? Sadly, but fortunately, these "strays" can take care of each other, proposes Diane of Crossroads.

The Codex: Resources for Biblical Studies Blogspot offers us Christmas According to John (in two parts). [here's the link for part 2] This post looks at a couple of Bible passages that may at first glance be unlikely candidates for a Christmas message. Both are attributed to the Apostle John, and both also give accounts of the birth of Jesus, so to speak: The first Tyler dubs John’s “Apocalyptic Advent” (Revelation 12) and second is John’s “Metaphysical Manger” (the first chapter of John’s Gospel, which is one of the four assigned Gospel readings for Christmas in the Lectionaries used by some of the churches).

Kara of Everyday Liturgy reflects on how to look at the Holidays from outside of the American cultural experience in Traditions.

Brian at Real Meal Ministries has written a post on understanding Bible translation in order to help readers make informed decisions among some of the available English translations of the Scriptures.

Renovate Your Life with Craig sends the Carnival Multi-dimensional Health.... (I'm not a body; it's just where I live). Craig writes: Put up your hand if you think that we're all one-dimensional (i.e. physical) beings. Just as I thought; no-one. Now, put up your hand if you think we're amazing, complex, multi-dimensional, physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual beings. Knew it; a whole bunch of you. Except you up the back who's too important to put your hand up for anything. It's okay, the rest of us love you anyway. Here, have a cyber-hug... O

Mark Olson presents On Christmas ("something of a speed Limit for the holiday season") posted at Pseudo-Polymath.

Bego at A Cup of Coffee and a Random Thought shares with us her Seasonal Silliness.

Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God. In That immanent joy, John da Fiesole of Disputations discusses the relations of joy and gladness with the trials and tribulations of life, by way of prayer and fasting.

Ruth the Wheelie Catholic comments on an article about Spending Christmas alone.

Annette takes a brief look at some of the visions in Zechariah, the horsemen, craftsmen and a measuring line, at her blog Fish and Cans.

When a person struggles with a particular sin, it is important to remember what is at the root of both the problem and the solution: loving God. This week at Light Along the Journey John reminds us of this truth in his post More Than These.

Lynne Parsh reminds us all that Sharing the Gospel is Not a Fearful Event. Be not afraid. Be bold.

From Money Missions, Ben's visit to a Christmas concert by the Tijuana Choir and Opera reveals stark contrasts to some of the Holiday Ensembles found in Seattle (which I believe is Ben's home city). [Interesting comment thread follows the post]

Jeremy the Parableman looks at various responses to the problem of divine foreknowledge and human freedom, in his contribution Omniscience and Freedom

At Randomness, DawnXiana does the math to find out Why I Will Never Have a Boyfriend.

And from your Carnival host, with the assistance of "Jellybean" of the Rosary Army Forums, the unavoidable correspondence and conformity that's hinted at in the special carol for yesterday, the feast of Stephen --- "and all those who bless the poor, will themselves find blessing!"


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Carnivals, Carnivals, Carnivals!

The Catholic Carnival is posted and ready for visitors at Pondering the Word.

And, the Christian Carnival is being hosted tomorrow right here at my virtual Anchor Hold. So, don't forget, before midnight tonight, to send me the information on your best qualifying post of the past week, at ChristianCarnival@gmail.com or at kmknapp@execpc.com . Please put "Christian Carnival submission" in the subject line. Thanks!


An unavoidable correspondence and conformity

Jesus feeds hungry me (you, us).

I (You, We) feed hungry Jesus.

via Maria "Bego" Johnson, whom I met in the Rosary Army Forums as "Jellybean". She actually sent this as a possible entry to tomorrow's Christian Carnival ---- but it's too old for the Carnival rules but just right for the feast of Stephen when good King Wenceslaus went out.......

Speaks Maria:

600 Stories

But I can only share mine.

I joined a group of youth from our parish to feed the hungry and homeless at a soup kitchen.

A soup kitchen! It all sounded so bizarrely Cannery Row, or something.

We arrived sometime after 7 am at a beautiful church in downtown Atlanta, The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The church basement was already a busy beehive of activity, with people cooking, and setting up the makeshift parish hall (not what the new churches have--this is really a basement, painted in a gaudy green, but incredibly functional). Old pews line one of the walls, and well-used and battle-weary tables were set out in what later proved to be efficient and manageable dining sections.

The guy directing all that human traffic, Ted, is a delightful retired Government employee--let's call him an engineer because if he isn't I'm pretty surprised--this guy seemed to be disorganized and thinking as he was moving, but to my amazement, the day went off without a hitch. He is a phenomenal people-person, a cartoon, a stereotype, a gigantic heart in a regular man, and very very funny.

He spoke great truths in little bursts, and was in a perpetual state of catechesis, the kind my dear friend calls backdoor catechesis. We went there feeling magnanimous about our time and sacrifice to do something for the poor. He helped us understand that the poor were gracing us with the opportunity to serve them and learn something. That lesson was not lost on me at all.

He began by letting us know that we would see things that would surprise us, or confuse us...perhaps make us uncomfortable. He warned that there might be instances of rudeness and hostility. He told us to forgive and always be respectful--to address these folks as "Sir" and "Ma'am." In short, to give these people a meal, and more importantly, human dignity. I never saw so many kids smile and genuinely serve. It was beautiful.

After the set up period, we were dismissed to attend Mass in the beautiful historic church. Father Henry delivered a similar message to us, as my new friend Ted. He spoke at length about how the poor are harrassed, not in the ways that we are harrassed, but by things we don't experience. The cold. Hunger. Fear. They seemed to be preparing us for something that we couldn't yet comprehend.

They estimated that about 600 people were served today. The vast majority, and I do mean the vast majority, 99+% were happy to be served, happy to be there, and if not happy, certainly grateful for the warmth of the hall, and the warmth of the food. They had good table manners (why would one think that being poor equals being a rude pig? I've seen greater slobs at fine restaurants), and cordial behavior. They asked for what they needed without shame (and some--burning with shame), and we were happy to provide it. Truly, in over 200 people served in my section, we only had one person that seemed out of place with his behavior. I suspect that he was slick, not poor, yet we served him with the same respect.

A number of things stand out in my day, as snapshots, little mental polaroids because I can't yet process the whole experience.

* a man, dressed in his finest clothes, terribly outdated and in stark contrast to others, but he was clean and pressed and behaving as if he was attending the finest meal in the finest company. For him, it certainly was.

* a toothless, disheveled man in dirty clothes, shivering, shivering, and asking for anything hot. He drank his coffee and ate his soup, and stayed at his seat for a long time. No one asked him to move.

* a prostitute. She had to be a prostitute. And she sat with the group, and she was served with a smile.

* a mother and her two children, Anna and Daniel's ages. I wept at that one. Enough said there.

* a young couple with a lot of bags, clearly out of place, and yet, a part of the group.

* a woman wearing all kinds of mismatched clothes for warmth ate two bowls of soup and the sandwich that was also provided, and asked me, very humbly, if she might have another one to take with her. I came back with three, and she was so grateful that I had to excuse myself for the second time to compose myself. Later, as she was leaving, we sent over a another couple of handfuls. She was there with a man who was taking great pains to help her carry her possessions in a broken canvas bag.

Ninety minutes later, after everyone was fed and the hall was cleaned up, I walked out to the curb to wait for the parking lot to clear (we were blocked in). One of the other youth groups was gathering in the area where I stood, and so I started to make my way through them to get back to my group. One of the teens in the group came up to me and asked, "Are you in my group?"

I laughed and said no. And then he did something totally amazing. He said, "Well, I'll give you a hug anyway! It's a great day, isn't it?"

It certainly was.


Monday, December 25, 2006

A Nativity Hymn from St. Ephrem

Whom have we, Lord, like you? -
The Great One who became small, the Wakeful who slept,
The Pure One who was baptized, the Living One who died,
The King who abased himself to ensure honor for all.
Blessed is your honor!

It is right that man should acknowledge your divinity,
It is right for heavenly beings to worship your humanity.
The heavenly beings were amazed to see how small you became,
And earthly ones to see how exalted.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Christian Carnival

is ready for customers at Lux Venit.

Also, Christmas week, the Christian Carnival will be hosted right here! I know everybody will be joyously busy with the holy day, but still, sometime between now and midnight on the Feast of Stephen --- that's Tuesday the 26th --- do send me the information on your favorite qualifying blog post. That way, the holiday Carnival will be well-filled and befitting. Put "Christian Carnival Submission" in the subject line and send to christiancarnival@gmail.com , or if that address makes difficulty, to my personal email address at the link in the sidebar.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Caesar's Money and the Common Good

A few days ago I got the most reliable Christmas missive in this fair city; the blue envelope from "Wayne F. Whittow City Treasurer". The envelope that holds the bill for the property taxes on the little anchor hold. This year, $1008.45. Even with our fair city's EZ no-interest monthly payment plan, it's going to be a little bit rough. [Wasn't so bad when I was still working and the bill was only about $600...... but they say property has appreciated in value over the years..... I bought the anchor hold for $15,000 seventeen years ago and now the assessment is a bit higher....]

But I've never been one to seriously gripe about the blue envelope. I've always known that I, and this entire community, gets very good value for the money Caesar collects in the taxes, making the fair city a proper place to live.

I appreciate having the garbage collected. Having the streets repaired and plowed and salted, even when they sometimes forget mine it's so little (most alleys are bigger). Having the fires extinguished, the medical emergencies attended to, and the hazardous materials and heavy rescue teams ready for action. Having the crimes investigated, the criminals arrested, tried by courts, kept in jail, and supervised by probation agents. Having safe clean water coming out of the taps, and having the sewage properly treated before it ends up in the lake. Having the children educated, whether their parents can do it or not. Having people to check that the fumes and dust from the tannery and the automobile shredder and the other industries in the neighborhood aren't toxic or overly obnoxious. And to tell the grocery store they have to clean up their dumpster's grease slick in the alley or else. And it all costs money.

And the quality of life would sink precipitously if we didn't have transit and libraries and museums and public parkland. All of which costs money, also. And --- I'm a retired city employee, providing service for the public good of this city. My income when I was working, and my pension now, is financed in large part by the collection from that blue envelope.

So, I've never seen any reason to be offended by having to pay my proper share of the taxes that the government bodies use to finance the services for the common good. I understand that if I want the infrastructure and services that the government provides, they need to be paid for. I've even, on the occasions over the decades that I've bespoken my alderman about additions and changes in services --- extending the transit to Brookfield Square, and south of College Ave to the WalMart, library hours on weekends, affordable housing trust fund, and so on --- made sure he knew that I knew that it might mean a few pennies more on the tax bill, and that I wouldn't bellyache about that, that the service would be well worth the pennies.

After all, it's not God's image on the coinage, it's deceased presidents' images. We need Caesar's services and enjoy the benefits of Caesar's services, we have to give over some of the cash. After all, governments have bills, also.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Today is St. Lucy's Day, which means that......

first, it's the name day of the blogger at City of Steeples! Happy name-day, Lucy!

and, second, it means that this coming week Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday --- December 20, 22, & 23 --- are the winter Ember Days.

Our daily bread does not come from Cargill or from Archer Daniels Midland.
It doesn't come from General Foods, Kraft, or Nabisco,
or even from Brownberry or Natural Ovens of Manitowoc.

Our daily bread is given us by the Lord,
the creator of the heavens and the earth.
It comes from the fertility of the good earth;
it is nourished by the sunlight
and by the snows and the rains in the proper seasons;
it is nurtured and gathered and prepared
by our sisters and our brothers
who work very hard for very little
on our farms and ranches and in our gardens,
in our canneries and bakeries and dairies and slaughterhouses.

This we must remember:
Our food does not come from Pick 'n Save or from Sentry Foods or from Jewel-Osco.
Costco and Sam's Club cannot create a single green bean or tomato.
Only God can.

God created the earth, and He created the earthworms, and the soil microbes.
God created the plants, and also the trees that bear nuts and fruits.
God created the bees, the hummingbirds, and all the other little pollinating creatures.
God created us, and commanded us to nurture the plants and the animals, to care for His garden.
He told us to have dominion and to subdue them, shaping them to our needs.

We can plant seeds. We can tend animals.
Yet, only God can make a plant grow.
Only God can create calves, chicks, lambs, poults, ducklings, goslings, and piglets.
Only God has power over the often-chaotic patterns of the weather.

So, four times each year,
at the turning of the seasons,
Mother Church, being very wise,
gives us some days to fast and pray
that the earth may be fruitful,
that our plants and our livestock will stay healthy,
that the rains and the dry times and the snow cover come at the proper times,
that the cyclones and the floods and the insect swarms stay far away from us,
that our sisters and our brothers who do the hard work
that takes our food from a seed planted to a can on the grocery store shelf
will always be treated with respect and with justice.

These days, the Ember Days, are coming soon.
Let us not forget.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Patience, patience......

My street is still iced over from the blizzard 10 days ago, so I'm still stuck inside today. But the temperature is supposed to be well above freezing for the next four or five days, so the street should thaw out for me to get to Mass next week. I'm very eager; though I'm better off than some shut-ins because the Mass I normally attend is also broadcast, so I don't miss absolutely everything (but the radio's just not the same, or even sufficient).

My mind is already getting a bit dull and stultified from cabin-fever, and it's not even New Years yet. Just if my neighbors, who are all able-bodied and drive, could catch some excitement about having bare pavement --- mostly they're happy if they have a set of passible ruts for their cars, and percieve no need for more. And there's only so much shovelling I can arrange and so much cash I can spend on rocksalt to salt _the_city's_street_.

Oh, well, Advent is the season for training in patience, after all.......


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Celebrating the New Year in Heaven

Dorothy's family's world, which would be hers as well, was Journalism. She, as a grade school girl, had survived the Great San Francisco Earthquake --- but her nightmares afterwards sent her family to Chicago, and then to New York City, the city that would become her own. They weren't believers, particularly; and she wasn't either. She had an extremely short failed marriage (hubby abandoned her in Europe after only a month or two....), became an activist for the vote for women, got a job in journalism behind her father's back (he didn't want her in journalism, blackballed her at all the mainstream papers, but he didn't think she might apply at the Socialist Call), associated with the radical intelligentia of the age before finding the one she thought was her true love and entering a common-law union with him. Forster Batterham being an atheist and anarchist wasn't a problem since she very nearly was also. But then her life took a 180 degree turn.

Dorothy was pregnant. And God-haunted. She was starting to believe that she ought to be a Catholic, if she could with the two marriages and all. And she was certain that the baby had to be baptised and raised as a Catholic, and not spend so much time adrift as she had. When she told Forster, that was the end, She could have Forster, or God, said Forster; and of course God won.

So the baby Tamar was baptised, and Dorothy was baptised not long after. She found a small apartment, went looking for a new job since Catholicism was inconsistant with the Socialist Call, and wondered what she would do next.

But there was an apostolate waiting for her. A wandering Catholic philosopher from France wandered into her life and taught her to think like a Catholic. Her neighbors and people from her past life who were in trouble knew there was a listening ear and a hot cup of tea at her place. And, since she knew Newspapers, she started one of her own, a Catholic paper to compete with the Call and the Daily Worker. The Catholic Worker still sells for one penny, even now.

In time, especially with the Great Depression, her apostolate grew out of her little apartment to several apartments --- to a storefront --- to a little farm --- to other people in other cities --- all serving Christ by sharing one's own food with the hungry and one's own home with those who have no home. Living the fulness of the "explosive" Catholic social teachings, and writing about it in the paper.

In the 1970's, as Dorothy became frailer in her old age, she handed the headship of the house in the Bowery over to "the young folks" but continued to live and to serve there. Until 1980. It was Saturday of the 34th counted week, or in the Latlish often preferred by the Church the 34th week of Ordinary Time, the last day of the Church's year, November 29th. Dorothy was becoming weaker and weaker. Until, just before sunset, with her daughter Tamar, the deacon Tom Cornell, and several others of her old friends with her, she died, just in time to pray the first Evening Prayer of the New Year with the saints of heaven.