My book as of now

I had dreamed that today, as I turn 40 years old, I would ship out my finished book to a publisher.  But God had other plans.  As I round the pole and head on back toward the finish line of life, I have:

  • a beautiful, snugly baby boy
  • two (close to three!) teenagers who enjoy me and like to talk with me
  • a whole pack of middle kids who want to sing songs and hear stories
  • fifty or so fun and thoughtful students who are committed to learning (except for the day before Thanksgiving Break)
  • a new lead on solving these health issues
  • a wife who is still sane despite everything I just listed.

Oh, and I have a draft of the book.  It’s a theology of Scripture inspired by St. Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine.  Footnotes need work (bother footnotes), and the last chapter is just a ta-a-ad incomplete, but it’s a book.

What’s in it?  Glad you asked: Continue reading “My book as of now”

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St. Martin’s Lent begins

Today’s feast, St. Martin of Tours, has gradually become a big deal for me.  Devotion to St. Martin was huge in the Middle Ages, with some 3,660 churches dedicated to him in France alone.  St. Martin’s Day or Martinmass was a feast day marking the beginning of winter, a time to drink, celebrate, and lay in the winter’s provisions. Continue reading “St. Martin’s Lent begins”

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A Marian Movement out of Lander, Wyoming

Two Wyoming Catholic College students recently decided to pursue or renew “total consecration to Jesus through Mary” according to the method of St. Louis Marie de Montfort.  They mentioned their plan to some friends, and within a few days the group was 40 students.  A day or so later, it was 70 students.  Faculty members came on board.  The president of the College expressed interest.  Before long, families even outside of Wyoming Catholic College were joining the movement.

This morning a group of twenty or so gathered at the local public library for a kick-off event, and I was asked to give a talk introducing Marian devotion and the “total consecration” in particular:

The goal is to complete preparation for the consecration to Jesus through Mary by December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  It’s not too late to join!  No need to be in Lander, Wyoming.  Just follow this link.

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A sensational account of heaven

In politics and other news, the world seems beleaguered and bleary.  It’s a great time to talk about heaven!

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The truth about elephants

We’ve all heard the story about the blind men who investigate an elephant.  But the story doesn’t mean what people think it does….

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The color of reading

Emotion colors perception wonderfully.  The same aspen tree, with the same white bark and the same golden leaves fluttering in the same wind, is one tree to the moonstruck lover, another tree to the poet in search of joy, and still a third to the dismal soul doubting whether life has meaning.  The same sensory input offers either a happy companion, or a wistful finger pointing to another realm, or a bleached-out bit of wood. Continue reading “The color of reading”

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How the Mass is a Sacrifice

This semester, students at WCC set their theology teachers a theme:  the liturgy.  Teachers chose topics within the theme, and students arranged the topics into a semester-long series.  Just like that, the students gained for themselves a full “practicum” on the liturgy, while each teacher has only to give two or three talks.  It’s a great arrangement!

Recently, I was tapped for a talk on “the theology of the Mass” or “how the Mass is a sacrifice.”  You can download it here, or listen online:

Students loved the talk, but they seemed especially excited about the explanation of transubstantiation in the Q&A.

By the way, I’m wondering whether I should post more of these recordings or even start a podcast.  Your feedback would be helpful.

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Sacred Heart Enthronement Hymn

When I first met the woman who would become my wife, her family had been saying a prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus every night for as long as she could remember.  It was a variant on the Renewal of the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart.  Now Jacinta and I have said that same prayer every night with our kids for years and years.

A few weeks ago, we began Project Bard:  we determined to build a treasury of songs by singing more or less every night–rounds, hymns, camp-fire songs, whatever.  To approach the ocean by little streams, we began with some of the goofier selections from Cedarmont Kids’ 100 Singalong Songs for Kids.

We always end our singing session with night prayers, so one day it hit me:  why not sing night prayers?  It wasn’t hard to adapt our Sacred Heart prayer to a traditional hymn tune from the Roman Breviary, drawing on Fr. Samuel Weber’s Hymnal for the Hours.  The result was just a little thing for my family, not really memorable poetry, but given Austin Kleon’s principle about sharing your work, and given that today is the memorial of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, I think I’ll toss it up here: Continue reading “Sacred Heart Enthronement Hymn”

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The Strange Ending of Mark’s Gospel

[The is the third in a three-part series on Mark’s Gospel.  The other parts are 1. Hearing Mark’s Gospel and 2. The Strange Beginning of Mark’s Gospel.]

While Mark’s beginning is strange to those who think about it carefully, his ending is strange to anyone who reads.  In the oldest and best manuscripts, Mark’s Gospel ends like this:

And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid.

That’s it.  No meeting the resurrected Jesus, no moment of glory, not even a moment when the petrified women actually tell someone what happened.  “They were afraid”—and the curtains drop.

The longer ending printed in our Bibles was written very, very early on, so early that it is canonical and considered an inspired text in its own right.  But the very fact that the longer ending is so ancient demonstrates that even the earliest Church found Mark’s ending strange.  No resurrection scene?  We gotta fix that.

For Mark, however, it made sense.  And I have a theory about how. Continue reading “The Strange Ending of Mark’s Gospel”

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The Strange Beginning of Mark’s Gospel

[The is the second in a three-part series on Mark’s Gospel.  The other parts are 1. Hearing Mark’s Gospel and 3. The Strange Ending of Mark’s Gospel.]

The first verse of Mark’s Gospel poses a question.  “The beginning of the gospel,” it says, “of Jesus Christ the son of God.”  Of course this is the beginning:  it’s the first verse, after all.  But Mark goes out of his way to insist that this right here, this thing he is about to say, is “the beginning of the gospel.”  This is where the story starts.

What is even more curious, Mark then begins his gospel from a point no one else would choose.  Matthew and Luke start with Jesus’ conception and infancy, and John takes us back to Jesus’ pre-existence with the Father before time began.  I have asked groups of students to outline what they would put in their ideal gospel, and every group has shown the same inclination to seek out roots:  they want a gospel that tells more about Jesus’ childhood, or more about Mary’s family, or more about Joseph, or more about the eternal life of the Trinity.  Everyone thinks the gospel story should somehow introduce us to Jesus by explaining his background.

But Mark insists that “the beginning of the gospel” is Jesus’ baptism under John the Baptist.  After introducing John the Baptist, Mark has Jesus simply show up, without explanation, and then the heavens are torn open, the Spirit descends, and the voice says, “This is my beloved son.”

Why is this scene so important, so pivotal, that this and no other is “the beginning of the gospel”?  Mark gives us seven clues: Continue reading “The Strange Beginning of Mark’s Gospel”

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