The structure of the Our Father

This past week I had the pleasure of teaching high schoolers in Wyoming Catholic College’s PEAK program.  As usual, I used my PEAK stint as an opportunity to learn something new, asking questions to which I had no clear answers, studying issues I had never clarified before.  And as usual, the students taught me.

Photo credit: Wyoming Catholic College
Photo credit: Wyoming Catholic College

For example, one day I wrote the “Our Father” on the whiteboard and asked the students how it is organized.  One pointed out that it falls into couplets: Continue reading “The structure of the Our Father”

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The rosary: a medieval app

A friend recently mentioned to me that he uses a “meditation app.” It provides a Scripture reading as fodder, and it bongs a little gong to start and stop the meditation time.

My first reaction was to think this odd. Technology-driven prayer time must surely be the final flowering of modernity’s mechanistic mindset, right? Buddha and Moses have failed to bring us into God’s presence, but the GPS on my smartphone can take me straight to him. Continue reading “The rosary: a medieval app”

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Funny things happen when you try lectio divina

By chance, a senior at WCC saw me in the office hallway yesterday and hailed me down. Would I be able to tell him anything about the book of Hosea?

Lectio DivinaA good teacher never just answers the question, but asks more questions to find out what was behind the question. As it turned out, this student was inspired by my recent lecture, by the earlier lecture by Tim Gray, and by a chance exchange with another professor—inspired, he said, to read the Bible as addressed personally to him. In other words, he had begun to practice lectio divina. Continue reading “Funny things happen when you try lectio divina”

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But the only way is death

Last night a friend from college days died suddenly. I didn’t know Matt well, but he married my wife’s former roommate, who was a good friend, and I was always grateful to Matt for being so good to Sharon. We got Christmas cards from them every year. I kept up with Matt via Facebook.

Last November, Matt posted this on Facebook:

Ok, so I’m going through a rough day. (nothing major, I’m not dying or anything.) But it occurs to me that we have to consider our place in the world sometimes. It’s been my pleasure to know some wonderful men and women, and it occurs to me that we live as long as God plans us to. Some young, some old, but all to their cause. There really is only one sin, “Non Serviam” … “I will not serve”. On the feast of Bl. Miguel Pro I offer and ask you to say a prayer that echoes his last words, “Viva Cristo Rey”:

Dear Lord, let me be your poor servant. Grant me the wisdom to understand Your will, and the health and strength to carry it out. Allow me the grace to serve you as my Eternal King and show witness to the world of your sacrifice. I know that I am an imperfect vessel, and while I may try at times to bargain with you, I trust you and will always keep Your words in my heart, ‘Satan, get behind me’.

Continue reading “But the only way is death”

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From a father’s heart

The other night, I lay beside Matthew as he was “sleep training.” This means that he stood up in bed and fussed and chewed on my arm while I lay on the big bed next to his. I could just about make out what he was saying, in his 9-month-old way: “You’re RIGHT THERE and you KNOW what my problem is! Why can’t you just FIX IT?! What’s the PROBLEM?!”

But I ignored him, because he needs to learn how to lay down and go back to sleep by himself. I told him he was OK and that I loved him. After a while he slumped onto his bed, muttering to himself, and soon he fell asleep.

I hate doing that to him. I lay awake long after he was asleep, taking these quiet moments to talk with God. “Why have things been so HARD lately?” I asked him. “No one else can see inside me, but you know EXACTLY how worn out I have been! If Matthew could just sleep, so much would be better—and you could do it EASILY! Why won’t you just FIX IT?!”

But after a while I just slumped back onto my pillow. I could feel God’s presence, as though he were assuring me that he was right there and that he loved me. “God, I don’t know what’s going on,” I said, “but I give all of this back to you as a gift—and I’ll give you back anything else you send me. Thank you for letting me give something to you.”

And soon I fell asleep.

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One less reason to dislike Thomas More

In his good piece on the “Escriva Option,” Austin Ruse mentions that he dislikes St. Thomas More:

I am reminded of one of the reasons I do not care for St. Thomas More (heretical, I know). More longed to have been a Carthusian, who are tougher even than the Trappists, and he imposed Carthusian practices on his family including, cruelly I think, interrupting their sleep at 1 a.m. to chant the Night Office. Such a thing is not natural for someone in the lay state.

His point is well taken, but his view of More may be mistaken.  We tend to interpret such things through the lens of our own sleep customs, forgetting that sleep worked very differently before about the year 1800. Before the advent of artificial lighting, people slept in two segments.  They would sleep for a while, get up for a while in the middle of the night to do this and that, and then sleep for a long time again.  So the middle of the night was a common time for story telling, love making, prayer, and so on and so forth.  Wikipedia lists some of the studies on this; another helpful presentation is here.

Notice that the custom of prayer in the middle of the night has almost died out even in monasteries.  The reason we lay people find it strange to get up and pray at 1:00 a.m. these days is not that we’re lay people, but that we live in these days.  St. Thomas More was not being cruel; he was not even being unusual.

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Quaeritur Utrum Sim—The Problem of My Existence

My attention was recently drawn to studies on whether prayer really works.  Scientists track a bunch of people with problems who pray about them, follow a control group of people with problems who don’t pray about them, and compare results to determine whether Anyone out there is listening.  This clear and simple approach eliminates the guesswork in religion.

Since my attention was on the question, I began tracking how many times I said “yes” to my children’s requests as compared to how many times I said “no.”  The results were discouraging.  Children approaching me have about a fifty-fifty chance of getting what they want, and younger children have even slightly worse odds.  It’s pretty much what you would expect from flipping a coin.  But the experiment has led me to an important conclusion:

I don’t exist.

At first I was deflated, even though non-existence, according to experts, is something I have in common with God.  But then I realized that, as a non-existent person, I do a lot of important things for the family.  At our place, you see, Nobody cleans the kitchen floor regularly, Nobody tends the garden, Nobody reads to the girls at night—the list goes on and on!

And the beauty part is, I have discovered a phenomenal time-saving technique.  Instead of fielding requests from my kids, I give them each a quarter and tell them “Heads means ‘yes,’ tails means ‘no.’”

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