Archives for May 2010

Thanks to Neil Young (Music for Mondays)

Neil Young is in town! Neil Young is in town! That was what the sign on the Civic Auditorium said last Thursday night. It’s always big news when a big name comes to a small town. Not like I could go to the show or anything. My wife was hosting her book club meeting and although baby-sitting duty would kick me and the kids out of the house, I’m not quite ready to take them to a rock concert. I took them go-karting instead.

But I wanted to go to the show. So I did the next best thing. I hunted around for Neil Young songs on You Tube and started posting them on my Facebook page. See, I’ve always liked some of his songs, even when Ronnie Van Zant from Lynyrd Skynyrd  told me that I shouldn’t like him. Sorry, I couldn’t do that Ronnie, because Cinnamon Girl rocks, man. (I can’t believe my wife has never heard of it. Sheeeeeeesh!)

Even so, before I became a Catholic, I was more close-minded. Which means that after I became a Catholic I became more open-minded.  Whaat?! Yeah, sounds like an oxymoron to be an open-minded, yet orthodox follower of the faith doesn’t it? But that is the way it is.

You hadn’t noticed? I can’t explain it all to you here, music fans, because that is way beyond the scope of a post like this. Suffice it to say that Neil Young is an interesting character, a non-conformist, and yep, you guessed it,  a contrarian. Is he a Catholic? I have no idea. But is he godless? I don’t believe so. Heck, some people think he may even be a prophet. I really can’t say. I do know that a few videos here don’t even begin to scratch the surface of Neil’s artistic and philanthropic work. I just know that I like Neil Young’s music and his character.  He isn’t perfect, but he knows that too.

Now then, what we have here are the makings of the longest Music for Mondays posts ever at YIM Catholic. Good thing that it is a holiday (here in the US at least), because this way you can crank up the speakers and sing along with Neil (and me).  Just be careful, because some of his tunes will melt your speakers down to the wires, which I think is a good thing too.

Why hasn’t Neil ever been awarded a Grammy? That is the question I’m asking myself too. I don’t know (ed. this has since been rectified!). No matter, come along and follow me for a taste o’ Neil Young and remember the wise words of Crash Davis from the movie Bull Durham: “Don’t think. It’s bad for the ball club.” Just enjoy these along with me.

First up, Neil’s folksy side:

Heart of Gold “Put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore, so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I saw more interesting people there.” Thankfully, before Neil headed for “the ditch,” he recorded a show for the BBC in London and played this new song for the audience. Check him out as he fumbles around, in a very charming and relaxed way, for the harmonica in the correct key (key of G, in case you want to blow along with him) to accompany the song. This was Neil’s first and only #1 hit on the Billboard Charts and it is a beauty.

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That song sold me on Neal almost immediately. This song sealed the deal. As if Neil would need a band—sheesh! At the same BBC show, Neil also played Old Man. He gives us some neat background information about how he wrote it for the old foreman of his ranch in California. Listen to the words, which Neil enunciates as well as Frank Sinatra ever could, and see if you hear something spiritual whispering into your ear. I know I do around about here,

Love lost, such a cost . . .

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Like a Hurricane. Webster likes finger-picking rock guitarists like Mark Knopfler. Finger-picking? Yep, Neil can do that too. Now, what does the song mean? Hey, this is art! Subject to interpretation, see? I know what it means to me and I know something else: it sounds great.

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This Note’s for You. Here Neil basically sticks a knife in the heart of the mainstream. This song and music video, which parodied the MTV/Corporate influence of the music industry and, dare I say it, the materialist culture that is still prevalent today.  Show it to your kids. I am. They didn’t want to, but MTV honored this song and video with the Music Video of the year Award in 1989.

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Just Singing a Song Won’t Change the World I saw an interview Neil gave on the Charlie Rose Show where he told Charlie that all he has been given is pure gift, a gift that he has to share. This video, shot with someone’s hand camera, was done at a benefit for the Bridge School that Neil and his wife founded to help developmentally challenged children in the Bay Area of San Francisco. Two of Neil’s children are diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Talk the talk and walk the walk.

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Neil and his wife Pegi sing Four Strong Winds followed up by Neil alone on his When God Made Me performed at the benefit concert Live Aid Canada in 2005. Listen to the second song.  Does it make you wince at all? Sort of like good Catholic social teaching, it cuts to the quick.  Is the theology crystal clear? Probably not, but Neil isn’t a theologian either. But he isn’t an atheist either.

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OK, were moving into the “melt your speakers” portion of Neil’s oeuvre.  I’ve never seen the Jim Jarmusch film Dead Man (1995) starring Johnny Depp.  But after this discovery, I will be. And soon!  Neil set up monitors all over his studio and followed the movie along in real time playing whatever he felt from what he saw on the screen and as the action moved him. He told Jarmuch that the film didn’t really need any music. But Jim begged him to write music to the film anyway. Neil has a gift, see, and thankfully he understands that. Thank God he is sharing it.

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Have you ever heard of the group Pearl Jam? Neil wrote this tune Rocking in the Free World and performed it here with Eddie Vedder & Co. back in 1993. In letter-box format no less, so you can also melt your computer screen too. And note, Neil doesn’t go trying to bash his trademark black Les Paul guitar into any amps either. Unlike the rookies from Pearl Jam. Neal just shows them the reason why his guitar is given top-billing. Ow…that dude can jam!

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Fifteen years later, Out of the Blue, live in 2008, where the now older man shows that as you start losing your hearing, just turn up the volume and add more distortion. Break out your ear plugs or crank your speakers is all I can say. And don’t forget to listen to the message too.  After all, there’s more to the picture than meets the eye and it’s better to burn out than to fade away.

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See? Like I said, we’ve barely scratched the surface, but that is all we have time for this week. This could turn into one of those Webster-esque multi-part posts for me very easily. Maybe next time, we’ll do Neil’s movies.

 

Because of the Liturgical Year

I’ve been a Catholic my whole life, and yet I always have more to understand about our faith. Yesterday during Mass, for instance, was the first time in my 47 years I understood why Trinity Sunday falls when it does during the Liturgical Year. I have not always been a faithful Catholic, so I have denied myself the lessons the Liturgical Year teaches. It exists to help us understand the dogmas of our faith.

In my twenties, I attended Mass erratically. While it was a blessing, I kept returning to the Church, one of the many problems with irregular Mass attendance is, we don’t “get” the whole picture. I visited a family member in South Carolina one weekend when I was 26 and—lo and behold—discovered it was Trinity Sunday. I remember thinking, Oh, that’s interesting. But the day felt random. I didn’t understand why it fell when it did.

The Liturgical Year is a guide for believers. The faith is so deep and cycles of the year help poor souls like you and me understand the richness and complexity of the life of Christ. The year begins on the first Sunday of Advent and guides us through various seasons that tell the story of Christ’s life – Advent, Christmas, Lent, the Triduum, Easter and Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time is so called not because it is ordinary, but because we use ordinal numbers to mark the weeks. The Liturgical Year ends with the Feast of Christ the King.

Of course we believe, for example, in the Resurrection during the season of Lent. But the Church offers us Lent as an opportunity to meditate on the sufferings of Christ so we might better appreciate the miracle of His Resurrection. Each season of the Liturgical Year has its moods, its colors, its prayers and psalms, and its Bible passages.

And so it is that Trinity Sunday comes to us, not as I once thought, as a random day of the year, but rather as the climax of a series of feast days that instruct us, step by step, in the central mystery of the faith, the comforting dogma that our God is one God in three persons. This relationship is based on unconditional love and interdependence and we can attempt to model our loving relationships here on earth on the Trinity.

As yesterday’s exquisite reading from the book of Proverbs tells us, God the Father existed before time.
When the Lord established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep;

when he made firm the skies above,
when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth;
when he set for the sea its limit,
so that the waters should not transgress his command;
then was I beside him as his craftsman,
and I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
playing on the surface of his earth;

and I found delight in the human race.

Thus, the first person: God the Father.

Yesterday’s second reading resonates with the Easter miracle. Without Easter morning, there would be no Christianity.The second person: God the Son. 

As St. Paul told the Romans and tells us:
Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.”

Fifty days after Easter, we celebrate Pentecost. The third person: God the Holy Spirit. 
St. Paul’ s letter continues: Not only that but, we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope,and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”


And so, the following week we celebrate Trinity Sunday, which describes the whole picture: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Within the Liturgical Year, there are many different rites or ways to observe. The Sarum Rite was a variant of the Roman Rite and once was used throughout England. The piece we five choristers sang a cappella during the offertory yesterday came from the Sarum Rite.

God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at mine end, and at my departing.



Isn’t this lovely? How comforting to know Our Triune God is present to us always, through every season of the Liturgical Year and every season of our lives.

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To Remember the Fallen

This is a special Memorial Day edition of the YIM Catholic Community Prayer Intentions List.  In the United States, Monday, May 31st is a federal holiday. On this day we honor those who have given their lives while serving in the armed forces of our country during armed conflicts.

As the resident Marine on the blog, writing this post is a duty I must fulfill. Truthfully, I didn’t want to write it. But then I started remembering two Marines who died in an accident that almost killed me. Their names are Sergeant Armando Avila, and Sergeant Michael Vasquez.

They served with me in the artillery unit that I belonged to. Sgt. Avila was a cannoneer and responsible for a team of Marines that manned the 155MM howitzer that we all knew and loved, the M198. Sgt. Vasquez was a Forward Observer, or the eyes of the battery. He would radio back to our Fire Control Center positions and coordinates for targets. I loved these two men as brothers. Their families loved them even more.

I still wasn’t going to write this post though, because my two friends had died in a peace-time accident. Then one of my friends posted the picture and story of a guy I served with when he was a young enlisted Marine. Let me introduce you to my friend and comrade-at-arms, Major Jay Thomas Aubin, USMC.

Jay had always wanted to be a pilot, it was a dream of his. His father owned a little airstrip up in Maine. Little Jay was a lot like me, you see. He knew what he wanted to be when he grew up, and he knew it at a young age. Also like me, Jay wasn’t born with a silver-spoon in his mouth, but he had a goal, and goal setting is how you actualize dreams. Or maybe he, again like me, was called to the vocation of warrior.

Jay enlisted in the Marine Corps right out of high school for a four-year enlistment. After graduating from Parris Island, he went to school to learn how to repair communications and navigation equipment on aircraft.  He worked on A-6 Intruders, an all-weather attack aircraft. He was a good kid, a good Marine. He did his four years honorably, and left the Marines with money he had saved and earned. He attended college.

Like me, Jay didn’t go to college to “find himself” either. He went to earn his bachelor’s degree so he could come back into the Marine Corps as an officer and take his shot at flight school. If all this sounds pat and easy, believe me, it is far from that. The entire endeavor was a long-shot if there ever was one. College was the easy part but surviving Quantico (where Marine Officers are made), which is known for many things, is no cakewalk. He did well, made it to flight school, earned his wings of gold. Easy words to write, but extremely difficult tasks to accomplish.

He married a girl named Rhonda, who knew what she was getting into when she met Jay. Military wives are a special breed, and they need to be remembered as well. The Twin Towers were struck, and the machinery of society geared up for war. By this time, Aubin had moved up the ranks and was a Major and an experienced pilot (when I knew him he was a wee Corporal). His country said his unit must go to war, and he said “Aye aye, sir.”

Operation Iraqi Freedom was the name of the deployment. The war began on March 20, 2003. From here, I’ll let Hugo Kugiya of the Associated Press tell the rest.

Maj. Jay Thomas Aubin was among the first casualties of the war. He was piloting a helicopter with three other Marines and eight British Marines aboard when it crashed in Kuwait, two days after the war started.

The chopper was emblazoned with his nickname, Sweet Pea. It was a name given to him by a subordinate, inspired by the way Aubin responded to a favorable report: “Oh, sweet!”

“No one could find a name to suit him,” said his mother, Nancy Chamberlain of Winslow, Maine. “They kept coming up with these macho names, but they didn’t fit.”

He was not an imposing man, possessing a slight build and an easy smile.

Let me break in with a little reality here. Jay was tough as nails. Look at the photograph. He could run 3 miles like a gazelle, doing it in 18 minutes or less. Slight build? He could do 20 dead-hang pull ups. And when I knew him, 80 sit-ups in under 2 minutes. Marines come in two varieties: big and mean, and skinny and mean. OK? Back to the civilians’ write-up,

His was more of a nurturing personality. After the Marine Corps ball, he took his wife home, then checked out a van and drove back to the party, waiting for drunk Marines to exit, offering them a ride home.

Knowing him as I did, I can believe every word of this. He was an outstanding human being.

Aubin, 36, enlisted in the Marines, first, as a way to pay for college where he earned a business degree, then, so he could pursue the dream he had had of learning to fly, ever since he was an infant and his pilot father strapped him into his two-seater.

The crash that killed Sweet Pea was ruled an accident — there was no gunfire. Blowing sand and smoke from burning oil wells were thought to be a factor, his mother said.

“The thing that bothered me the most was I thought he was going to be blamed,” Chamberlain said. “But he wasn’t …

“He always said if he was flying a helicopter that went down, he wanted to go down too. I miss him more than I can tell you, but sometimes there are things worse than death. We’re the ones suffering now. But if he had lived, he would really be suffering.”

And that is how I received my orders to write this post. My buddy, Corporal Jay Aubin became Major Jay Aubin, aka Sweet Pea, and his family lost him at the age of 36. He was survived by his parents,  his wife, Rhonda, and their children, 10-year-old Alicia (now 17) and Nathan, 7 (now 14).

Our Lord said,  this is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:12-13). Whether or not you believe that this includes members of the military, let me assure you that it does. Sudden death is an occupational hazard for members of the military. For the rest of us, it is just a hazard. But death, either way, is inevitable, and those who put their lives on the line during combat operations are definitely following Our Lord’s commandment.

In the comment box below, if you would like to offer up a prayer for any of your friends or family members who have given their life while serving in the armed forces, please do so. You can remain anonymous or not, it is up to you. I would only ask that you adhere to our other regular rule, which is to avoid divisive politics.

There are hundreds, thousands,  tens of thousands of stories similar to Jay Aubin’s that I’ve shared with you today. So let us pray for the brave souls of our fallen, and for their families who have borne their sacrificial loss, together as a community. Semper Fidelis.

God of power and mercy,
you destroy war and put down earthly pride.
Banish violence from our midst and wipe away our tears,
that we may all deserve to be called your sons and daughters.
Keep in your mercy those men and women
who have died in the cause of freedom
and bring them safely
into your kingdom of justice and peace.

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.




For Your YIMC Friday Night at the Movies

It’s the Friday before a long weekend here in the U.S.A. which means it’s time for me to break out a Friday night movie.  Remember those movies I was posting during Lent? I had a great time doing them. I hope you enjoyed them too.
When I went to Mass during lunch today, they had posters up for a viewing of this in the Parish hall on June 16th. Confession time again (never ending for me it seems!), I ‘ve never, ever seen this movie. And from what I hear, that is my loss. Eight Academy Awards?! Dude, what rock have you been living under?
Here is another neat thing about this movie: it’s in black & white.  Did I tell you my children are on vacation from school now? Well they like nothing better than when Dad brings home old, black & white movies that I then force them to watch with me.  Wailing and knashing of teeth, whining, braying, etc. They can’t believe it’s not in color. It’s like the after effects of taking candy away from a baby.
That is, until the credits stop and the singing starts.  And then they are mesmerized and enjoying it.  I can’t wait to drop this one on them tonight. Check out the trailer,
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And who hasn’t heard this famous tune? I mean, with the exception of my children (soon to be remedied).

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Um, er, of course, I had no idea that this is where the song was made famous.  But now I do! So head to your library, or favorite video store and rent this movie and enjoy it with me and my family.  Happy Friday!

Because God Makes Me Secure

I “met” Ricky Jones earlier this week after he responded to a guest post on the universality of the Church. Meredith Cummings’ post talked about how, as a white woman and a convert, she grew to understand the Church is not just for Hispanics. Her post spoke to Ricky, who is an African-American man married to a Latina. Ricky, also a convert, designs websites for Catholics.  He  is an advanced student at the Instituto de Formación Bíblica, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Guest post by Ricky Jones
I wasn’t born Catholic nor have I been a Catholic for very long. I was baptized about two years ago. Like most people, I never thought I did wrong, or that I was a sinner. I didn’t even know what sin was. Until the age of 23, no one ever had taught me anything about God. All I knew was that some people believed that He created us and that if we don’t do His will, we’re going to go to hell. I met my girlfriend, Johana, five and a half years ago in Phoenix, and thanks to her and her family, if not God Himself, I began to learn about God.

I would go with her and her family to Mass every Sunday, but just to go. I didn’t understand the majority of what they said in church. They are Mexicans and were all raised as Catholics. At the beginning, I didn’t want to know anything about religion, because in school they had taught me that God doesn’t exist and that we come from monkeys. That’s probably why I came out so hairy. My mother was never “religious,” and did she not teach me anything about God.

I started taking RCIA classes in English because I didn’t feel prepared to take them in Spanish yet. I had been taking the classes for a few months when we decided to move to Los Angeles. We felt secure because we both had good jobs and we were both able to transfer. I worked from home as a web designer and she as a sales associate in a high-end clothing store. It was her parents who didn’t feel so sure about our move. Her father had been out of work for six months and they had sold most of their belongings to start fresh in California.  Johana always told me that she wanted to get married in the Church and I would always respond that I didn’t want to get married at all. But one Sunday while she was at work, I decided to go to Mass alone. It was there that I felt God’s presence for the first time. It was the first time that I actually listened to what the priest was saying. But it was not what they said that impacted me, it was a feeling that “woke me up.” I felt a calling from within that I could not explain and since that moment I decided to convert to Catholicism.
We faced many problems as we arrived in Los Angeles. First, the people who had invited us to stay in their house (all seven of us in one bedroom) got angry with us and we had to go out and find a place to live. I found a two-bedroom apartment and we lived much better there. I had to start the RCIA classes all over again, but this time Johana joined me because she wanted to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. We were a small group of six or seven people, but we really liked the sister who was our catechist. After being baptized, confirmed, and receiving the Eucharist for the first time, I felt… the same. We even had a party since it was also my birthday and I drank way more than enough. I didn’t change my mindset or my lifestyle, because I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.
About six months later, we began to grow closer to the church. We regularly attended a prayer group and we really enjoyed the singing and dancing. One night in the group they asked, “Who has fear of losing their job?” Obviously I, the American with the good job who earned good money, was the only person who didn’t raise his hand. I was secure in my job because I was always told by my co-workers that they loved my work. The same week I was on the phone with my father and he asked me the same, “Are you secure in your job?” Again I respond, “of course.” It seems I was a little arrogant, I’m sure. The next day I was speaking with my supervisor about a project we were working on, when he casually mentions, “Oh… we need to talk, me, you, and someone from human resources. We are experiencing a reduction in force and they told me I had to let someone go, and I chose you.” I was speechless, probably because I thought I was “secure.”
After I hung up the telephone, I began to cry. But something made me fall to my knees and I told God, “Thank you my Lord. I know there is a reason for this. I know that you want me to be humble and that you will give me a better job than this one.” This is was the moment that I was reborn. I still haven’t found another job. I now run my own business as a website designer, focusing on websites for Catholics. Most importantly, I have found God and His word. He has taught me so many things. I feel richer than ever. Not rich in money, but rich in love, faith, wisdom, understanding, and much more.We have had many problems between us, with family and with neighbors, but with God as the center of our relationship and our family life, everything came out fine. Thank the Lord, we married in August. Every day, I give thanks to God for the changes He has made in me. My wife and I now are Eucharistic Ministers at our parish, Mary Immaculate Catholic Church  in Pacoima, CA, where I also serve as a lector.
I give thanks for the transformation He has made in my life. Now I can say I am truly secure.

Because Immanuel Is His Name

The other day I wrote a post about how small an amount of time I am committing to Our Lord. The number I came up with was shockingly small. Given the years I wandered in the wilderness, the number probably has a couple of more zeros to the right of the decimal point. But that is in the past.

One fact about Our Lord is He doesn’t keep bringing up the past and how much I neglected Him or, more accurately in my case, flat-out ignored Him. Now I think of Him constantly. Our reader Rose wrote that her spiritual director has suggested that she remember that Our Lord is only “an awareness away.” Allison suggested praying the LOTH as another way to keep our Lord before us. I rely on these two tools daily.

Webster wrote once about Brother Lawrence and his Practice of the Presence of God. So simple, so easy that it is often overlooked to just think of God. Brother Lawrence did so constantly and I have read of his practice more than once during my walks to and from daily mass.

There is no known portrait of my friend Wu Li, SJ so I’m going to have to make-do with this one. Just a portrait of a wise looking Chinese man is enough for my mind to bring Wu to life.

A few days ago, I received my copy of Jonathan Chaves’ book, Singing of the Source: Nature and God and the Poetry of Chinese Painter Wu Li. I am so thankful that Chaves translated these beautiful poems for us all. This book belongs on every Catholic’s bookshelf.

The following poem in particular has had a profound impact on me.  It is from a series entitled Singing of the Source and Course of Holy Church. These words speak of our Triune God as He is, and as He is in the Eucharist, and how thankful I feel when I partake of Communion with Him.

Utterly transcendent, His wondrous essence
was never limited to place;
to bring life to the teeming people
He showed Himself, then hid.
Effortlessly, a single standard—
a new cake baked for us;
as before, the six directions have one supreme Lord.
In the human realm, now we have
a whole burnt offering;
in Heaven for eternity is preserved our daily bread.
I have incurred so many transgressions,
yet am allowed to draw near;
with body and soul fully sated,
tears moisten my robe.

So Wu Li felt the same way as I do when partaking of the Eucharist. Thoughts of gratitude and happiness because behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). He is here. God is with us and He is as Good as His Name.

Song of the Mystic (A Few Words for Wednesday)

I know of Father Abram J. Ryan (1838-1886) because he was once the pastor of the parish where I usually attend daily mass. Each day I walk by a historic marker that tells the story of this “poet, patriot, priest.” The thing is, he was a Confederate loyalist, which makes him a rebel patriot.  Thankfully, the rebels lost the war. But even the Confederate troops needed a chaplain, and that is how Father Ryan served.

Father Ryan is best know for writing the poem Conquered Banner which, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, was “read or sung in every Southern household, and thus became the apotheosis of the ‘Lost Cause.'” Lost causes are good and all, but I prefer the following poem by Father Ryan instead. It is simple, beautiful, and evokes the theme of solitude, silence, and prayer.

Song of the Mystic 
  

I walk down the Valley of Silence—
  Down the dim, voiceless valley—alone!
And I hear not the fall of a footstep
  Around me, save God’s and my own;
And the hush of my heart is as holy
  As hovers where angels have flown!

Long ago was I weary of voices
  Where music my heart could not win;
Long ago was I weary of noises
  That fretted my soul with their din;
Long ago was I weary of places
  Where I met but the human—and sin.

I walked in the world with the worldly;
  I craved what the world never gave;
And I said: ” In the world each Ideal,
  That shines like a star on life’s wave,
Is wrecked on the shores of the Real,
  And sleeps like a dream in the grave.”

And still did I pine for the perfect,
  And still found the False with the True;
I sought ‘mid the Human for Heaven,
  But caught a mere glimpse of its blue;
And I wept when the clouds of the Mortal
  Veiled even that glimpse from my view.

And I toiled on, heart-tired of the Human,
  And I moaned ‘mid the mazes of men,
Till I knelt, long ago, at an altar
  And I heard a voice call me. Since then
I walk down the Valley of Silence
  That lies far beyond mortal ken.

Do you ask what I found in the Valley?
 ‘Tis my trysting place with the Divine.
And I fell at the feet of the Holy,
  And above me a Voice said, ” Be mine.”
And there arose from the depths of my spirit
  An echo—” My heart shall be thine.”

Do you ask how I live in the Valley?
  I weep—and I dream—and I pray.
But my tears are as sweet as the dew-drops
  That fall on the roses in May;
And my prayer, like the perfume from censers,
  Ascendeth to God night and day.

In the hush of the Valley of Silence
  I dream all the songs that I sing;
And the music floats down the dim Valley,
  Till each finds a word for a wing,
That to hearts, like the Dove of the Deluge,
  A message of peace they may bring.

But far on the deep there are billows
  That never shall break on the beach;
And I have heard songs in the silence
  That never shall float into speech;
And I have had dreams in the Valley
  Too lofty for language to reach.

And I have seen thoughts in the Valley—
  Ah! me, how my spirit was stirred!
And they wear holy veils on their faces,
  Their footsteps can scarcely be heard;
They pass through the Valley like Virgins:
  Too pure for the touch of a word!

Do you ask me the place of the Valley,
  Ye hearts that are harrowed by care?
It lieth afar between mountains,
  And God and His angels are there:
And one is the dark mount of Sorrow,
  And one the bright mountain of Prayer.

Belmont Abbey College, located near Charlotte North Carolina, has an archive on Father Ryan which you can access here.

YIMC Book Club Meeting Alert!

Mark your calendars YIMC Book Club members, because it’s time for us to take up the runner-up in the poll which C.S. Lewis won last time. What, you had forgotten? No worries, I will keep you up to date. I’m talking about The Great Heresies by Hilaire Belloc.

Now, before you all mutiny and go whining about how it’s summer-time and school is out etc.,etc., do me a favor. Save the complaining for another time. Sheesh, it’s starting to sound like my household around here with all my children reminding me that school is over!  Adult lesson #1: School may be over, but life doesn’t go on vacation.

Besides, didn’t you see my post this morning? Reading this book will help you boost your number. So mark your calendars, head to your favorite book store, beg, borrow, (but please do not steal) a copy of Belloc’s “book on the biggies.” Real cheap-skates(I’m first in that line!) can even find it for free on-line. And don’t scramble too fast because although we will still meet on Thursdays, we don’t start until next Thursday. Looking at my wrist watch, that appears to be June 3rd.

This coming Thursday, though, I intend to follow Jack Lewis’ advice and give you a short, palate-clearing reading selection. Just like we did last time. Maybe we can actually have some decent discussions now that the Skipper (ahem, Webster) is ashore on business. Just don’t tell him I said that. Capice?!

If you will be joining us, sign up in the comment box below.  In the meantime, take a look and a listen to this so you can prepare your brains’ “reading voice” for the sound of the character known as Mr. Belloc.  Enjoy!

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Because 0.89% of My Time is Not Enough

Sometimes it’s dangerous putting a calculator into my hands. I can come up with some pretty wild ideas. This past Sunday, when visiting a different parish while on a trip to Georgia, the priest mentioned in his homily that if we only think about being Christians once a week during mass, then we are only giving Our Lord 52 hours a year, or only 2.167 days out of 365. Gulp! That’s nothing.

Later on, I played with this information a little bit. Figuring that sleep accounts for 8 hours a day, that leaves 16 hours a day for when I am actually awake. 16 hours times 365 days = 5840 hours a year that I am available to practice living life as a Catholic Christian. Now, if I only practice my faith by going to mass for 1 hour a week, as the priest mentioned, and I am only giving Our Lord 52 hours a year of my time, then 52 hours divided by 5840 hours equals 0.89% of my time.  Think about that for a moment.

How is that even remotely close to this?

Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest. Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)

If you said to yourself, it’s not, then you are thinking like me. Surely compartmentalizing our Catholic faith into just attending mass weekly is not enough to earn the “well done my good and faithful servant” kudos (Matthew 25:23). Nor is it enough time to fulfill the command to,

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19).

We have to do more. We have to find a way to give more of our time to the service of the Lord. One way is for us to consecrate our daily work to Him. Think about the number of hours we throw toward that task. At least 2080 hours a year. So up from .89% of our time to a whopping 36.5%. But even that is far from the mark.

I ran across this short poem by Toyohiko Kagawa recently that left me thinking,

I read in a book 
That a man called 
Christ 
Went about doing good. 
It is very disconcerting to me 
That I am so easily satisfied 
With just 
Going about. 

Over the next few days, I intend to look into various ways to go about fulfilling the passage in Deuteronomy above. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing (Music for Mondays)

Tis is the season of school music concerts. Our oldest son, an eighth grader,  loves playing the upright bass in his middle school jazz band. As a parent, I find it  such a joy to watch 25 awkward middle school students, most of them boys, transform into confident jazz drummers, saxophone players, trumpeters and bassists. Much of what they play is swing music, a form of jazz music that became popular in the 1930s. The music, has fans worldwide, speaks to the sheer exuberance for life  we can feel when we begin to count our blessings.


One of the best parts of being a parent is that our children take us places. I never had much of an interest in jazz music, or specifically in swing music, until our son developed an enthusiasm for it. Here is a clip from the 2004 Japanese movie “Swing Girls” that gives a sense of the transforming power of this music. In the movie, which won seven Japanese Academy Awards, a group of delinquent high school students from rural Yamagata prefecture form a jazz band.  Here is a clip of their first efforts to learn to play swing music.

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Who cannot tap one’s feet and smile when hearing Louis Prima sing “Pennies From Heaven?” The ebullient  Italian-American trumpeter, singer, and songwriter from New Orleans was born into a musical family from Sicily and was strongly influenced by fellow New Orleaner Louis Armstrong. Prima’s style adapted to the times, but perhaps he is best known for the swing combo he led in the 1930s.

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Glen Miller was one of the first famous swing band leaders. Here is his band playing Tuxedo Junction, one of the tunes my son’s jazz band plays.

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The 1930s generated many great swing band leaders and musicians; for starters,  the Dorsey Brothers, Cab Callaway, Artie Shaw, and Fats Waller. Thank God that Pandora Radio allows us to  listen to these greats. I especially like this Pandora station: Big Band/Swing.

Here is Louis Armstrong in 1959 performing in Stuttgart, Germany. I figured this tune was especially appropriate to end this YIM Catholic post.

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