Monday, November 30, 2009

The Case of Julia Sweeney & Other Tidbits

Actress Julia Sweeney was a cast member of Saturday Night Live from the time she joined in 1990 until the time of her departure in 1994. After exiting the show, Sweeney experienced a series of personal disasters in which family members - including herself - were diagnosed with some form of cancer. Raised a Roman Catholic, Sweeney's adult battle with cancer culminated in a public declaration that she was an atheist, and even wrote a monologue called Letting Go of God, in which she elaborated on her newly formed atheistic beliefs. According to Wikipedia, famed atheist Richard Dawkins has quoted Letting Go of God extensively in his book The God Delusion.

When I was a member of my Church choir, I knew a man who lost both of his parents in rapid succession. Such an excruciating experience drove him away from the Church and never again did I see him return. I think both his and Sweeney's experiences might be structured almost identically.

I actually empathize with people who have shifted to disbelief that was caused by an extreme, personal ordeal. The hurt and the anger that compels them is more heartbreaking - at least in my eyes - than the tragic abandonment of God and their faith. I'm always reminded of the fact that these individuals have reached a breaking point in which pure exasperation took control of their senses.


I think sometimes we inadvertently get a little overzealous and focus too much on the excerpts of Scripture that describe the sheer difficulty (and, perhaps, likelihood or unlikelihood) of reaching the abode of the saints. Some people unjustly focus too much on that and build a fire and brimstone sermon that makes it sound like we're ALL going to hell. Yes, God is infinite justice and His wrath should make us all tremble. But God is also Love, and when the phrase "infinite justice" is evoked the first thing that comes to the minds of some is a God who mercilessly tosses wayward souls into the fires of hell without a second thought. Have you ever considered the possibility that the highest form of infinite justice God can apply might actually be infinite mercy? A God that embraces your return to Him very similarly to the loving reception experienced by the prodigal son in the famous parable. I'm fairly certain that we make the whole salvation desire much more difficult than what it actually is, and it's hard enough already!

Here's a brief video (again) of Thomas Merton. Listen to the narrator, speaking in the voice of Thomas Merton, say: "Faith means doubt. Faith is not the suppression of doubt. It is the overcoming of doubt, and you overcome doubt by going through it. A man of faith who has never experienced doubt is not a man of faith." Towards the end of the video he concludes with a profound observation that has had me thinking about it since the first time I heard it: "...the gate of Heaven is everywhere." What a beautiful thing to say.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Aftermath

- Turkey
- Rice and Black Beans (it was Cuban themed, folks)
- Stuffing
- Bread (LOVE bread!)
- Apple Pie
- Pecan Pie
- Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream (Half Baked)
- Miscellaneous yummies that are too numerous to mention here

So how was your gastronomical fandango?

Wanna go for a walk?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

To Perceive or Misperceieve

People say things they don't always mean. Often times they become angry from some perceived injustice or insult done to them and they retaliate with a finely orchestrated vitriol meant to cause equal, if not greater injury, than was done to them. These things happen. But with most reasonable people the anger dissipates, and they come to regret their comments and wish for a chance to take back their diatribe. Unfortunately, once the words are delivered it's too late to un-ring the bell.

"Don't worry about trying to figure out the Trinity. You can't even figure out yourselves." ~ A wise priest I know.

I think communicating with another human being can bring a hornet's nest of possible misunderstandings. You never know if your message is coming across with clarity and precision, or if aberrations you failed to account for corrupt the essence of your point-of-view. This type of miscommunication reminds me of the analog signals that until recently were used to transmit audio and visual signals to many television sets across America: A transmitter (this would be you, the speaker) sends a series of signals to a receiver (the person you are communicating with) that can be processed in some useful way. As those signals travel to the receiver, distortions and electrical pollutants can corrupt their integrity and consistency, and the picture and sound delivered to the receiver are unrecognizable and indiscernible.

Can you imagine how many faulty conclusions people have made and are making around the world (even as you read this) and will react to in some method? How many of these will involve violent reactions? How many will damage the reputation of the individual who wrote or spoke the words? How many of these misinterpretations will go undiagnosed as a misperception, failing to yield the opportunity for explanations and clarifications. Such a scenario could not only perpetuate a misunderstanding, but it could do so indefinitely. I've actually seen a scenario like the one I just described begin to take shape, but thankfully I had the good fortune to catch it in time.

Such an admonishing is especially true, here, in the written world, where communication is devoid of facial expressions, mannerisms, and a tone of voice to help place ideas and opinions in their proper context. I know I've written things that came off wrong and the individual who read them - either out of politeness or self control - chose not to offensively repudiate what they perceived was incorrect. I have had, however, commentators that took issue with some of the criticisms that I've leveled against certain individuals and specific groups by taking my words completely out of frame.

These types of inexactitudes make me wonder how much I really know. And out of those things and individuals that I think I do know but have dismissed as absurd and thoughtless, how much of those should I re-visit and re-evaluate to form a more accurate and respectable opinion of what they were all about. Can we say with absolute and unequivocal certainty that misperceptions or misunderstandings NEVER - not once - played a role in the censure and/or excommunication of any one individual in Church history? Some people argue that in the case of Teilhard de Chardin, a serious misjudgement occurred when authorities evaluating his writings never understood them in great depth.

By the way, this post is actually about the culinary experience of eating tainted fish with root beer and scotch;0) What were you thinking it was about?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Two Sets of Rules

Can you tell me how the combined scandals of every pedophile priest and priests who have tossed out their sacerdotal vows can ever stigmatize the Catholic Church to the same extent that radical Muslims have demonized Islam? Islam - however undeserved - has an anathema grade that could only be surpassed by the Nazi party at the height of their menace during the first half on the twentieth century. Yet despite this reality, Catholicism faces greater collective scrutiny and criticism from loudmouths who simply don't like the Church. My Lord, speak ill of someone who is of Muslim affiliation and watch what happens.

I don't dislike Muslims or have anything personal against Islam. But the hypocrisy and double standards that are applied to this situation irritate me to no end. (Yes, some of you have written about this).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Don't be a Miser, my dear Grumpy

Okay, grumpy, we're almost there! Advent is just three short weeks away and I for one have added Christmasy music to my blog to (hopefully) irritate those few misanthropes who are nostalgic for Ebeneezer Scrooge before his conversion.

Yes, Christmas has been commercialized, subverted, perverted, homogenized, brutalized, demoralized and denatured by deviants who had what were once hidden agendas. But no more! We know those serpentine scoundrels all too well and their failed and futile attempts at removing Christ from Christmas . They can no longer operate freely without detection. Having said that, I'm celebrating Christmas starting RIGHT NOW, with or without you!

Why don't you start planning ways to celebrate the great Yuletide jamboree. Certainly Midnight-Mass on Christmas Eve and all those other little rituals we perform during Advent are a must. But also in ways you haven't celebrated before (no, I don't mean getting hammered).

Merry Early Christmas!!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

National Adoption Month

Did you know that November is National Adoption Month? I'm not sure how something like this could have passed me without notice. Anyway, this month has been said aside as a time to "raise awareness about the adoption of children and youth from foster care."

Stop by, say hello and give a big THANK YOU to two individuals who put their money where their mouth is by not just adopting a child, but by adopting a child who was outside their race, and in one circumstance, a child with special needs. I've mentioned to both of them something they probably think it's melodramatic and hyperbolic, but which I nonetheless mean sincerely: PEOPLE WHO ADOPT SAVE LIVES.

The first blog is To China and Back...and Beyond, which you will find Mia (or as I call her Cutie-patootie) - who arrived in the United States just a little over two years ago - and her mom, Melissa. Melissa is a good sport for putting up with my notorious sense of humor on her blog:0) You never know the type of silly nonsense I'm going to leave behind when I visit.

The second blog is Tell Her This. There you will meet the newly arrived Ellis Gao Mei and her mom Kris. Kris and Ellis were involved in a traffic incident today (you'll see why I say "incident" instead of "accident" when you visit the blog), but they seem to have come out of it all right, thank God. Poor Ellis was shaken up, but TLC put her nerves at ease.

So please, don't be bashful. Stop by and say hi to these good folks: say hi to Mia and Ellis, and thank their moms for having enough humanity to look beyond mere genes and having the ability to share their love with a child that is genuinely theirs.

Remember National Adoption Month!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Has Mel softened up?

Actor Mel Gibson and his girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva are the proud parents of a baby girl named Lucia. Earlier this year, Mel and his wife of thirty years filed for divorce.

I'm a bit confused by Gibson's behavior. When he was filming The Passion of the Christ, he told interviewers that his wife would not have the gift salvation since she (I believe Episcopalian) was not Catholic. During this same period, reports of his "ultra- religious orthodoxy" surfaced when it became public that he is a part of a splinter Catholic group that does not recognize the authority of Pope Benedict or the changes of Vatican II.

Despite his very conservative adherence, Gibson filed for divorce this year and now has a child with a woman who is not even his wife. I know this makes me sound like a puritan, but doesn't this type of thing come into conflict with his Catholicism? Or has he softened up and relaxed his stringent beliefs? Is he still a part of his Catholic splinter group? Maybe I'm just picking on him unfairly.

All Souls Day

"Pie Jesu" and "Ave Verum Corpus"