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.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Parody: We Knew You Was Precious

So lately I've been writing more, and some of my poems have been parodies of popular songs.  This parody is a Lord of the Rings inspired jest based on this Taylor Swift tune.  I love Lord of the Rings, and I am ambivalent toward Ms. Swift, so it was a perfect match.  I hope you enjoy!

We Knew You Was Precious

It was our birthday,
Hundreds of years ago,
Deagol picked you up,
But us he wouldn’t show.
We took you,
We took you,
We took you-oo-oo-oo-oo!

For only you we care;
With you we misbehave.
But then the first hobbit,
He fell into our cave.
He took you,
He took you,
He took you-oo-oo-oo-oo!

And you’re long gone,
So our tears begins,
Because now you’re with
That tricksy Baggins!

Cuz we knew you was precious when we killed him,
Oh Deagol our cousin!
Now we’re in places we’ve never been,
Since we follow Frodo.
We knew you was precious when we killed him,
Oh Deagol our cousin!
Now we’re in places we’ve never been,
And we’re lying about Shelob’s lair!

Oh, oh, precious, precious, precious!
Oh, oh, precious, precious, precious!

No apologies,
For all the fat one says.
Pretend we doesn’t hear.
We’ll soon make fat one dead.
We hates him!
We hates him!
We hates him! Hates hates hates him!

We knows you’re moving back
To that big scary eye
In charge of all the orcs.
You know that makes us cry!
We needs you.
We needs you.
We needs you-oo-oo-oo-oo.

No Frodo, please
Don’t give it back!
He’ll use it for
An evil attack!

We knew you was precious when we killed him,
Oh Deagol, our cousin!
Now we’re in places we’ve never been,
Since we follow Frodo.
We knew you was precious when we killed him,
Oh Deagol, our cousin!
Now we’re in places we’ve never been,
And we’re lying about Shelob’s lair!

Oh, oh, precious, precious, precious!
Oh, oh, precious, precious, precious!

Then our saddest fear
That we never thought:
Frodo will destroy you
In fire where you were wrought!  Where you were wrought! No!

We knew you was precious when we killed him,
Oh Deagol, our cousin!
Now we’re in places we’ve never been,
Since we follow Frodo.
We knew you was precious when we killed him,
Oh Deagol, our cousin!
Now we’re in places we’ve never been,
And we’re lying about Shelob’s lair!

Oh, oh, precious, precious, precious!
Oh, oh, precious, precious, precious!

We knew you was precious when we killed him,
Precious, precious, precious!
We knew you was precious when we killed him,

Precious, precious, precious!

Certainly not worthy of inclusion in one of LotR's appendices, but if Taylor Swift wants to perform it, she can contact my people and we'll work something out!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Reflection: May All Divisions Cease

Pentecost is my favorite Holy Day.  I have always loved birthdays, and when I was told long ago that Pentecost could be considered the Birthday of the Church, I gained a special appreciation for this day.  First Jesus dies for our sins, then He rises to give us new life, and then He ascends to the Father’s right hand to constantly intercede for us.  But He goes beyond even all that and sends His own Spirit to us!  We not only receive the gift of salvation ourselves, but, by the Holy Spirit, we can in some small way become like Christ in helping others toward their own salvation.

It’s all good stuff, to be sure, but I want to focus on what I think is a major, if not THE major, theme of Pentecost.  This theme can be called unity, or the ending of division, or reconciliation; however it is phrased, it is about things that were separate being brought together.  And it is expressed in several different ways.

I am a student of the Old Testament, so the first way in which this theme seems expressed to me relates to the Tower of Babel story from Genesis 11.  In that story, God confuses the languages of the people of earth because they attempt to build a tower that reaches into heaven.  The story has many layers of meaning and it is not my purpose to explore them here beyond saying that the Tower of Babel was built for the glory of man, not God, and that arrogance is what I think resulted in the division of humanity in the context of the story.

Pentecost heals that division.  Jerusalem is filled with pilgrims from many nations at the time of Pentecost.  When Peter proclaims the Gospel to them, they hear his words in their native languages.  The message of Christ crucified and risen brings all of them together, and their experience of unity causes them to convert.  In today's divisive culture, Christians would do well to remember that experiences of unity facilitate conversion.  We often forget that people who we consider ideological opponents are looking for the same encounter with Divine Love we claim to experience.  If Christians became a force for unity today, would not many be converted in part through the experience of that unity?

Of course I am not suggesting a watering down of the Gospel for the sake of niceness.  I mean the exact opposite.  Peter proclaimed the Good News boldly.  We must do the same.  But such proclamations must be followed by the creation of loving relationships, for it is only in the context of a loving relationship that real unity can be experienced.  Christians have to love those they wish to convert to the faith.

Christians also have to love one another, and that is a second point I’d like to present.  Leading up to Pentecost, the readings spoke of division within the early Church.  Paul and Barnabas had to bring a question to the apostles in Jerusalem, and the apostles rendered a decision that was binding for all Christians.  This decision was reached, the apostles said, in accord with the will of the Holy Spirit, and followers of Christ were expected to abide by it.

So we come to the idea that division can be healed by obedience to the Spirit, and we cannot fail to note that obedience to the Spirit was bound up with obedience to the apostles.  Today the successors of the apostles continue to teach with the Spirit’s authority, but obedience to their teaching is sometimes hard to discern among Christians.  I speak as a Roman Catholic, and the Catholic Church in particular is suffering from divisions among its members.  Many Catholics will reference the primacy of conscience to justify their dissent from the Magisterium.  Others will point to The Scandal and say that the bishops lost their moral authority.  And still others will say that, while they privately agree with the Church, they cannot live out Church teaching publicly.  All of these causes of division are obstacles that Catholics must overcome to enjoy the fullness of unity in the Spirit.  It is my belief that a sincere response to these frequently heard objections is a good place to begin the effort to heal these divisions.

To those who speak of the primacy of conscience, I would say that I agree with them: conscience must be obeyed.  I then would remind them of their obligation to form their consciences in light of Church teaching.  I would further suggest that, since we hopefully always are drawing closer to Christ, so too are our consciences becoming ever more conformed to Christ’s will.  Therefore, it is beneficial to always be in a dialogue with Christ’s Church and Sacred Scripture so that conscience formation can continue and not ‘reach a plateau,’ so to speak.  Complacency cannot be part of the spiritual life.  But perhaps most importantly, I would say that humility is a virtue that all Christians need (I often feel that I could use a double or triple helping), and sometimes humble submission to a difficult teaching is what will draw a person closest to Christ; after all, though Jesus questioned His Father’s will in Gethsemane, He then obediently accomplished it.

To Catholics who object to following certain Church teachings because of the bishops’ perceived lack of moral authority I would say, “It isn't their teaching.”  Their personal moral authority may indeed be compromised to one degree or another.  But they did not invent the Church, nor did they conjure Church teaching out of their own minds.  They simply safeguard it and pass it down through the ages, perhaps presenting new applications of it as circumstances warrant; or they are supposed to do so, at least.  If a few, many, or all of the bishops failed to live up to the teachings of the Church, then shame on them.  But the Holy Spirit has not failed.  The Holy Spirit has not lost any moral authority.  And the Holy Spirit is still working powerfully in the Church, and speaks through the Magisterium.

Of course, reckoning with The Scandal is not accomplished by making a distinction between the bishops and the Holy Spirit.  People have suffered unspeakably because of what happened, and the Church, particularly the hierarchy, must respond with unstinting pastoral care.  This care must be offered out of love, not for reasons relating to Church politics.  It is in this instance in particular that loving relationships must be created and sustained to bring about reconciliation.

As for those Catholics who say they adhere to Church teaching privately but not publicly, I would ask them if they are familiar with Mathew 10:32-33 and Luke 10:16, and what they think about those verses in context.  Perhaps a fruitful dialogue could result from serious consideration of those verses.

The final point I want to consider in this already lengthy post is that of personal reconciliation.  It seems to me that the Holy Spirit wants nothing more than to reconcile humanity with God.  So, then, it would appear that going to confession would be an excellent way for Catholics to celebrate Pentecost.  Penance services where several priests make themselves available for confession are frequently offered during Advent and Lent; why not after Pentecost?  It would be an ideal time to provide catechesis on the Holy Spirit’s presence in the Sacraments, and it would emphasize the Spirit’s role in the economy of salvation.

Another good practice for Christians to adopt in celebration of Pentecost would be to offer forgiveness to and seek forgiveness from those with whom they live and work every day.  Even if it were done only silently within the heart at first, such a practice would be a good first step toward a real healing of divisions and increase in unity.

I know that the divisions that afflict humanity cannot be solved completely before the Second Coming, but as I look at the state of the world and the Church today, it seems like Christians can do a much better job than they have been doing recently.  Today is an excellent day to begin the attempt at improvement, and perhaps I can say nothing better than to ask that you join me in praying the invocation below:

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful,
And kindle in them the Fire of Your Love.
When You send forth Your Spirit, they are created,
And You renew the face of the earth.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Poetry: Every Every

So it has been a few months since my last post, and what a few months it has been!  Many things have been going on, and I'm feeling very busy as I count down the two remaining weeks until my high school puts on its spring musical.

The most important thing that has happened has been a slow and steady deepening of my prayer life.  I made praying the rosary daily a New Years resolution, and I am happy to report that I have not yet broken it.  The fruit of all this prayer has been wonderful, and I am very grateful to God for what He has done for me.  I've had quite a few adventures, and I've experienced many diverse blessings.

I have been writing, and, just like my last post, this one is a poem that comes from the ideas of a friend.  It is pretty obviously religious, and it captures some of the experiences and feelings I've had recently. Please enjoy!

Every Every

You come to visit every year on the same day,
And every year before you come I do the same thing:
Dust and vacuum and wash and polish
Everywhere that I can see,
Walk right by the stains that cover
Every place I can’t see,
And sweep away into dark corners
Everything I refuse to see.

I want to look nice for your arrival,
So every year I go through those same rituals.
I am afraid you won’t come if you see
How dirty the house is everywhere.
I am so scared you will walk by,
And visit every place but mine.
And that feeling sweeps me into a dark corner,
Where I refuse to believe even you can find me.

But still you come, every year,
And enter in through the door of my heart
Even if it is only opened just wide enough
For one beam of light to pass through.
You do not come to inspect my house,
Or to judge how well I have kept it,
But only to share a meal,
A meal you made yourself,
And to tell me you love me.

When you are here
I forget to worry about
Everywhere, and every place, and everything.
And yet somehow just by coming in
You make everywhere, and every place, and everything
Completely new.
Every every that worried me,
Or that I forgot or ignored,
Is gone,
And your love
Is all in all.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Poetry: Gasping

Well, it has been several months since I've posted anything here, and a lot has happened in that time.  Not much of it has to do with what I've been writing, because I haven't been writing that much!  Some of these past events may be shared at some point, but not today.

A few hours ago I asked my Facebook friends to give my ideas for the subject of a poem, and one of my colleagues suggested a theme that inspired me.  The poem is not based exactly on what he said, but it is certainly close enough that he gets credit for summoning the muse.


To take a breath so clean
It stings like little pins behind each tooth,
Cleanses like Isaiah’s coal,
And scours both tongue and roof,
Reverberating through
The space behind the eye, near the abode
Intellect and mem’ry claim,
And then thrusts down the throat,
And swells the neck with joy
That purity, before this day unknown,
Utterly beyond the world
Within now makes its home
Can only be achieved
By one who leaves behind the earthly shore,
Plunges into breathless depths,
And rises up restored.