Sunday, July 26, 2015

Check Your... Charity!

Oh, the joys of finishing grad school are numerous, among which is counted to ability to return to semi-regular blogging!  Hurrah!

This post is a response to a few different things: today's Gospel (the multiplication of the loaves and fishes in John); introspection about the acts of charity I have and have not performed; and, most especially, a response to a Check Your Privilege quiz from Facebook that I took.

Regarding the quiz, I scored a 58 out of 100.  This score caused a large red block with white text that read, "YOU"RE QUITE PRIVILEGED" to appear on my screen.  My initial, emotional reaction was to disregard that assertion as biased and baseless, for how could an Internet quiz sum up the gifts I've been given and the accomplishments I've done in my life?  Then I reflected for a moment (and commiserated with a good friend who also took the quiz), and responded differently: I am, in fact, quite privileged. Indeed, I would call myself extraordinarily blessed.  Compared to all the other human beings who have lived upon or are currently living upon the Earth, I have a very, very good life.  I am grateful for it, and I recognize that I owe an impossibly great debt to so many men and women.  Out of the entirety of the human race, I am undoubtedly among the 1%, regardless of where I fall in the economic scale of modern American society.

But this post is not about privilege.  It is about charity.

The quiz has been stuck in the back of my mind, and hearing today's Gospel refined some proto-thoughts into an actual idea for me.  I take a dim view of social justice mongering that is not backed up by concrete acts of charity, so this post is a sort of challenge to anyone, including myself, who thinks that consciousness-raising and posting on social media are sufficient as acts of service to others, and that little or nothing more is needed (and yes, I appreciate the irony of that statement appearing in a blog post I have put on Facebook).  Jesus responded to the needs of the poor and suffering, and so should we.  So, rather than checking my privilege, I decided to check my charity.  I came up with the list of questions below and answered them honestly, and then I assessed my answers in light of the Gospel call to serve others.  The results were... illuminating, and disturbing.  In short, I need to love better.

I share the list with you in hopes that it will assist you in your own discernment, and hopefully motivate you to do what you can to help others.  It is arbitrary, it offers no set score, and it does not take into account what your responsibilities are to your family, friends, job, etc., but I believe it can serve as a catalyst for self-reflection and, maybe, actual works of charity.

Check Your Charity!

No official definition of 'act of charity' is offered for this quiz, but if you keep the idea of 'doing service or making sacrifices for the good of others with no expectation of return' in your mind, that will help.  This quiz does not differentiate between single people and married people, parents and children, young and old, rich and poor, man and woman, black and white, etc.  You should just honestly assess yourself in whatever state of life you are in, and think and pray about your 'results.'

1.) In the last year, what acts of charity have you personally done for your immediate and extended family members?

2.) In the last year, what acts of charity have you personally done for your friends?

3.) In the last year, what acts of charity have you personally done for your physical neighbors?  This question applies to where you live, work, learn, etc.

4.) In the last year, what acts of charity have you personally done for strangers who live in your town or city?

5.) In the last year, what acts of charity have you personally done for strangers who live outside your town or city but in your country?

6.) In the last year, what acts of charity have you personally done for strangers who live outside your country?

7.) In the last year, how much money have you donated to local charities that help people who live in your own town or city?

8.) In the last year, how much money have you donated to charities that help people who live outside your town or city but in your country?

9.) In the last year, how much money have you donated to charities that help people who live outside your country?

10.) In the last year, how much money have you donated to charity as a percentage of your income after taxes?  How many of those charities to which you donated directly served the poor and needy, and how many were educational, artistic, or political (etc.) charitable organizations?

11.) Do you know how many charities exist within a 10-mile-radius from where you live?

12.) In the last year, have you volunteered at any charities within a 10-mile-radius from where you live?

13.) In the last year, roughly how many hours have you spent performing acts of charity for strangers?  Compare that number with the number of hours you spent on social media, watching TV, playing video games, or performing similar activities.

14.) When was the last time you spoke to a stranger who you consider to be 'poor' or 'in need.'  What did you say?

15.) When was the last time you shared a gesture of goodwill (handshake, hug, pat on the back) with a stranger your consider to be 'poor' or 'in need.'

16.) Describe the thought process you use to decide whether or not someone is 'poor,' or 'in need.'

17.) When was the last time you comforted a family member who was suffering?

18.) When was the last time you comforted a friend who was suffering?

19.) When was the last time you comforted a colleague who was suffering?

20.) When was the last time you comforted a stranger who was suffering?

21.) How many loving, kind, and generous thoughts do you think about other people each day?

22.)  How many loving, kind, and generous words do you speak or write about other people each day?

23.) How many loving, kind, and generous actions do you do for other people each day?

24.) How many arrogant, jealous, and greedy thoughts do you think regarding other people each day?

25.) How many arrogant, jealous, and greedy words do you speak or write regarding other people each day?

26.) How many arrogant, jealous, and greedy actions do you do against other people each day?

27.) Do you believe you are doing the best you can to be charitable to others?  If so, how will you continue to  do so?  If not, how will you improve?

That's the list.  I have no doubt there are questions some people would add and questions some people would take away.  That's fine.  But my real hope is that people will add more acts of charity to their daily lives, and take away as many uncharitable thoughts, words, and deeds as they can.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

CT Mass Mob Waterbury: March 30th

The first CT Mass Mob gathering has been moved to March 30th.  We will still meet at Saints Peter and Paul in Waterbury for the 11am Mass, and we will gather in the church hall afterwards for a reception.  The reception will be your standard "coffee and," and it will last until 1pm.  The whole parish is invited to attend the reception after Mass.

So come to Waterbury and bring your friends and family!  We can't wait to see you on the 30th!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

CT Mass Mob: Waterbury

The time has come for the vote for the location of the first pilgrimage of CT Mass Mob!  On Sunday, March 23rd we will be worshiping together at one of the following churches is Waterbury: Saints Peter and Paul, the Shrine of Saint Anne, and Our Lady of Lourdes.  Please find some info and links about the churches below, and then vote in the poll to the left!

Saints Peter and Paul is the parish where I grew up, and I have a mountain of fond memories associated with it.  Click here to visit the website for the church; most of the links on this page contain information about the school, but if you click on SSPP photos and then scroll down and click on Christmas Concert, you can find a few images of the interior of the Church.  Among the notable elements of the church interior are a beautiful stained glass windows, including one depicting the patrons of the parish above the choir loft, and the wonderful pipe organ.  The organ can be played from the choir loft and from a keyboard behind the altar, and the pipes behind the tabernacle are not just for decoration; they work!  Saints Peter and Paul Church is one of the great landmarks of the East End of Waterbury, and also is one of the landmarks of my heart.

The Shrine of Saint Anne for Mothers is a historically French-Canadian church that stands a stone's throw from Sacred Heart High School, my alma mater.  The Shrine's website has numerous photos of the beautiful interior; click on Restorations and scroll down to read about the architectural and artistic work that is going on in the church.  St. Anne's is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Waterbury.  When traveling on Route 8 or I-84, it dominates the field of view with its beautiful Gothic spires.  Radiant with exterior and interior beauty, this nearly one hundred-year-old church (it was finished in 1922, but the groundbreaking was in 1906!) is well worth visiting.

Our Lady of Lourdes is just down the street from St. Anne's, and it nearly abuts I-84.  It is the historically Italian church of downtown Waterbury (it is somewhat ironic that the Italian church is named for a French apparition of the Blessed Mother, yes, but, well, forget about it!), and, as the parish website says, it was modeled after the church of Santa Francesca Romana in Rome, and it was dedicated in February of 1909, making the church 105 years old!  Perhaps the most unique feature of Our Lady of Lourdes is the grotto under the altar, where generations have prayed together for the intercession of Our Lady.  I served as a cantor at Our Lady of Lourdes when I was in high school, and I fondly recall the voices of Italian grandmothers praying the rosary before Mass.

All of these churches are beautiful, and they all are worthy of pilgrimage.  But it is your task to vote for the one you most want to visit.  Remember, the poll closes on March 2nd, so be sure to vote now!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

CT Mass Mob

There is an interesting AP news story about a group called Buffalo Mass Mob that is using social media to get people to attend Mass at churches that are not as popular today as they were in the past.  My sister told me about the story, and after I read it, I immediately realized that this sort of thing was something that CT needed.  My sister agreed, so, we are starting up a Nutmeg State version of this phenomenon. Behold, CT Mass Mob!

I hope you'll forgive me for the sparse design.  I only just made the page a few minutes ago!  As you can see by the test poll at the side of my blog, our first city that shall be visited is Waterbury, my hometown, and we have three options for churches to visit.  Here's how it works.  We'll announce when voting will be open, which probably will last for a week or so, then everyone will vote (just once please!), and then we'll all attend Mass together.  There are no age restrictions or anything like that; we invite anyone and everyone to join us.

We're going to try to pick churches based on two primary criteria: aesthetics (visual and musical) and economics (churches that could use some extra heft in their collection baskets).  Since the idea is that we are going on a mini-pilgrimage, we ask all who attend to be willing to make a significant donation to the church (whatever that happens to mean to you given your financial circumstances)  After we worship the Lord, we will then hopefully gather at one or more local eateries, or perhaps have coffee and treats at a convenient location (we will ask the church we visit about using their hall, should they have one).  Of course we are happy to get suggestions for CT cities and churches, but, for now, my sister and I will be deciding which churches make it to the poll.

So it is really quite simple.  We get together to praise God and receive the Blessed Sacrament, then we enjoy some fellowship, and we help out a local church in the process.  How wonderful!  I hope you will consider joining us

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Training Pictures

I recently have begun a new exercise regimen that gives me the opportunity to  reacquaint myself with some locations I thought I knew. I made it part of my mission to take a picture of my location every day, even if I have been to that place a hundred times before.

I have started to enjoy taking these pictures, and now that I have a smartphone, and thus have a decent camera in my pocket most of the time, I am taking more pictures than I once did.  Some of my favorites are below. I hope you see something of the beauty I saw in them.

Also, this is the first post I have made from a mobile device, so I can't wait to see how it looks!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Poetry: Floating

I wrote this poem a little while ago and meant to post it, but time slipped away and I never did.  But I went looking for it because it speaks well to how I am feeling right now.  There's lots of things going on, and I can't carry any of it, so I'll just have to let myself be carried.


To trust the wave, to brave the deep,
Requires that not one toe still touches sand,
For if I claim unto myself some pow’r
Of push or pull, then all I’ll do is stand
And never move beyond the place I am.

To let it lift, that gift of force
That’s caught amidst the war of Earth and Moon,
To let it carry me to where it will,
For good or ill, arriving late or soon,
Will bring me to my destiny, or doom.

I want to know, to go, to leave
Myself behind upon the shore of fear,
And, traveling thus, transfigured by the sea,
Be my true me, an object held so dear
In waters over which the Spirit
Hovers near.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Navarre in Relation to the Camino

This post is different from my normal writing in that it is an assignment for a graduate class and is mostly going to deal with images rather than words.

My task is to take you through a virtual tour of the Way of St. James, or the Camino, as it passes through Navarre.  The Way of St. James is a traditional pilgrimage that dates from Medieval times.  Pilgrims would travel to Santiago de Compostela (the Cathedral of St. James in Compostela, Spain), which is considered the traditional resting place of St. James.

Image of the Camino in Navarre from Navarre's official tourism website

The above image, taken from Navarre's Official Tourism Website, shows several different routes that connect to the Way of St. James.  This virtual tour will follow the way as it begins in Orreaga/Roncesvalles and travels some 130km to Viana.

The view of Orreaga/Roncesvalles from this website dedicated to the Camino

One finds Orreaga.Roncesvalles tucked in the foothills of the Pyrenees in Northern Spain.

Interior of Iglesia Colegial courtesy of this website.

The Navarre tourism board recommends visiting the Collegiate Church of the town, which is built in a beautifl Gothic style.  Certainly the light streaming through the stained glass windows would be inspirational to any pilgrim who offered prayers in this sacred space.

Following the Camino will lead you to the great city of Pamplona.

Aerial view from

Pamplona is a modern city, but it is not devoid of sings of its ancient heritage.

Pamplona city walls © Turespaña
Pamplona city walls from

A pilgrim could not help but be impressed by the city's fortifications.  But more impressive is the city's cathedral.

Pamplona Cathedral © Turespaña
Pamplona Cathedral exterior from

An image of a side chapel in Pamplona's cathedral from this website

Continuing along the way to the Southwest, a pilgrim would find the beautiful Romanesque bridge at Puente La Reina.
Fair weather over the bridge, from this website.

As the bridge is the blending point of two different routes on the Camino, it is possible that a pilgrim would hear the singing of other pilgrims along the way.  One singing group takes the notion of blending even further when they mix together Jewish, Christian, and Muslim medieval music.  Perhaps some lucky pilgrims once heard something similar to their performance many centuries ago.  Perhaps not.  But it is important to note that medieval Spain was home to many cultures that existed, relatively briefly, in harmony with one another.

As a pilgrim reaches the edge of Navarre the town of Viana becomes a place to say farewell to the region.  The Church of St. Maria in Viana is a beautiful Gothic church to which a Renaissance entrance was later added.  The church is yet another beautiful example of the Gothic style.

                          Portada de Sta. María        Retablo de Sta. María
St. Maria exterior and interior from the Navarre Tourism Official Website.

The 130 kilometers of the Way of St. James in Navarre are full of many beautiful sights, far beyond what is presented here.  No virtual pilgrimage can compare to the real thing, so, to conclude this post, I exhort my readers to learn more about the Camino, and perhaps consider making the pilgrimage and seeing these many beautiful sights in person.