Mission Expunged

my desk sits there . . .
chair and lamp
are ready

Paper, pen, books
lifeless as of yet
but ready to do as I command them
as I bend them to my will
to study
and pass
and gain knowledge

but something is amiss . . .

pen and paper, of their own volition
fly to my hand
defying the laws of gravity
elemental air assaults me
even as ethereal thoughts pour
onto the formerly pristine void
as letters to friends are composed
in the breath of an instant
and in the blink of an eye

that done, my mind turns once more
to the completion of my work

but suddenly,
the electromagnetic entities that control my radio
exert their mystical powers
and a surge of energy bursts the radio to life
as if that weren’t enough
a spiritual apparition can be seen –
gliding silently and effortlessly –
across the floor
it surreptitiously gestures
and by some ghostly psychokinesis
by some act of sorcerous levitation and manipulation
it lifts and sets a cassette into the proper receptacle
and music swells

it pours into my soul
and my body sings with joy
every fiber resonates with the heavenly sounds
that are emanating from the psychically induced
conglomeration of wires and metal . . .

however, as the music fades, my emotions fade as well . . .
coming down to an earthly existence
after reaching and exploring the pinnacles of heaven is hard
but work beckons

it calls
yet its voiced appeals are lost
as sweeter delights beckon . . .

a banshee sings,
and her sweet song is heard drifting down the corridors
to my room
a chorus of angelic voices raises my consciousness,?
and seduces me
until . . .

possessed by the spirits of long dead musicians
i am led to the chapel
there, the object of their desires is to be found
an instrument of such grandeur that its very name
belies it’s power
a piano . . .

my body, now under the control of benevolent spirits
is guided to that creation
as I sit my hands are lifted
and melodies are produced

finally, their appetite for musical expression satisfied
they thank me and leave my mortal shell
my mind, finally its own again
reminds me of the work I need to do
and I walk back to my room
in a daze

as I enter the room grows dark . . .
suddenly, shafts of light blaze forth
as a book materializes in my hands
then, by some act of mystical teleportation
i am lying on my bed . . .
I think
“I’m reading and it helps me learn . . .”
so I keep going
since I enjoy what I’m reading
and as I read
my parapsychological experience
is forgotten

but then . . .
a chill . . .
I feel a presence

by some clairvoyant faculty I know
and act on my knowledge
that I must call . . .

so I am led, once more, out of my microcosmic world
into the greater world without
and as I reach the object of my desires
I reach out and touch someone
for a while . . .

when I have finally finished
I am spent
daily combat with forces beyond my control
tires me
and I must rest . . .

stripping myself of my battle gear
I lie in bed
waiting for repose and refreshment to come
as it does,
a fleeting thought enters my mind
” . . . homework . . .”

“tomorrow,” I thihnk
and sleep

(and that’s why I didn’t do my homework)

Blessings & Peace,
Hugo

Unsystematic Echoes

The meaning of life is to see. – Hui Neng, 7th Century

If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration, but timelessness, eternal life is theirs who live in the present. – Wittgenstein

It is not because of impermanence that we suffer, but because of our ideas of permanence. – Thich Nhat Hanh

We and God have business with each other; and in opening ourselves to God’s influence our deepest destiny is fulfilled. The universe, and those parts of it which our personal being constitutes, takes a turn genuinely for the better or for the worse in preparation as each one of us fulfills or evades God’s demands. – William James

To say it briefly and clearly, so that there may be no doubt; God in his faithfulness gives each man what is best for him. – Meister Eckhart

Blessings & Peace,
Hugo

Eucharist

A deep reverence for the abiding and sacramental presence of the risen Jesus in the Eucharistic bread is a sacred and wonderful trust. The same should be said for that same presence in the mind-body-soul-spirit matrix of each and every person in existence.

Advocated Android Apps

A friend bought a new android tablet and asked me what apps I’d recommend. Here are some of my favorites (not necessarily just for tablets) from either the Google Play Store or from Amazon’s app marketplace (if you can, check the Amazon app store daily – they have one free app every day).

Catholic Apps
All three of these apps get you daily readings, different Bible translations, prayers by category, and tons more. Any one will work, but all three together pretty much guarantee that you’ll find the info or prayer you’re looking for.

Browser Replacements
I don’t use the default browser on my phone or tablet – I install both of these. I enjoy the Chrome Browser because I have it linked to my Google Chrome account – all of my desktop bookmarks are easily available, my logins are synced, and if I have open browser windows on any of my computers I can get to them quickly from my phone/tablet. Dolphin Browser gets marks for being speedy and clean – if you don’t (or can’t – older versions of Android don’t support Chrome) use Chrome, this is my next choice.

Online Storage
If you’re looking to expand your storage options, cloud-based storage can give you several more GB’s of space. I’d install all of these, set up the accounts (or login – chance are most people have either a Microsoft or Google account), and enjoy the expanded space. (All of these are free apps)

Media / Consumption Related
AirSync: This app allows you to wirelessly transfer music from iTunes (on your computer) to your device. If you’ve got lots of free space on your SD card and need some tunes, this is the perfect app to use. <$4.99>

Amazon Kindle: Want to read on your device on the go? This piece of software will let you download books from Amazon (free or paid) so that you’re never without reading material. If you already own a Kindle or if you use the free Kindle software on your computer, this app will sync with your account as well, making it that much easier to read wherever and whenever you want. <Free>

Amazon Mobile (phone / tablet): Browse everything Amazon offers quickly, and purchase items just as quickly, too. <Free>

DicePlayer: This is the app for you if you run into file types you can’t play with the built in video player, or if you would like more control over picture/audio quality, or if you would like to install custom codecs from different sources. <Free>

Netflix: If you have an account there’s no reason not to install this – being able to watch movies whenever and wherever is great! <Free>

Twilight: This app shifts your display into the red as nighttime hits. Numerous studies point to bright light as a major contributor to insomnia. If you find yourself using electronics often right before bed, this may help counteract those effects. <Free>

Miscellaneous
Clean Master (Cleaner): Run this once a week to keep your device running smooth and speedy (Junk Files and Privacy are the two options I use – Tasks won’t do much (Tasks is a built in task cleaner, but they really don’t do much for performance in general for Android based systems); App Manager is good for uninstalling or backing up programs and data, but I use other programs for those tasks (but your phone needs to be rooted, and that’ll be a longer, separate post one day) 🙂 <Free>

Evernote: I use this to keep notes on just about everything work, home and play related. The fact that it’s synced across all my desktops and mobile devices is awesome. <Free>

Nova Launcher (and the paid version): I love tinkering with the look and feel of my Android devices (Windows, too!). This great app let’s you add/delete home screens, set new animations, group icons in folders or pages, install icon packs and themes, change the grid layout of your homescreens (to make icons larger or smaller), layer icons and widgets on top of each other, and more. The basic app is free (try it and see if you like it!), and if you want a bit more functionality the Prime version will only set you back $4.00.

Swype Keyboard: I loved this when I got my first Epic – this app replaces the default keyboard with one that lets you swipe your finger across the keys to type. It takes a few days to get used to, but I find it so much faster than touch typing now. You can try it out for free, but at only $0.99 I would put this as a must have for any Android device.

And there you have it. Got a question about an app I listed, or need recommendations about other apps? Leave a comment and I’ll get to it as soon as I can.

Blessings & Peace,
Hugo

An Ending

Every now and then I can access memories and thoughts from a life that is no longer mine. Raining fire and brimstone on my foes. The simple joys of eating and sleeping. Standing up to the injustice of a petty, power mongering minor official underneath the weight of a mountain of earth and stone.

And every now and then I can call upon powers I used to wield. A curse, full of dark and corrupt energy escapes my lips, and someone around me visibly wilts as that power courses through their body, soul and spirit. It’s . . . frustrating . . . this new existence.

Shards and fragments of my former life give just enough tantalizing glimpses that I yearn for more . . .  but I only receive tiny morsels, ephemeral and diaphanous slivers of memories and times and places and peoples.

Would that I had never uttered the Abyssal incantations that stored a fragment of my essence in the earthen and metal body I now wear. Would that I never prepared for the eventuality of a death that came all too soon and triggered the eldritch energies that reawakened me. Would that I had never gone against my beliefs and come back from the Void.

Photo by siliaFX

Diocesan Youth Conference – Spiritual Tool Box

The glory of God is man fully alive. – Irenaeus

Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God. – Pope Benedict 2/24/12

What is prayer?

  1. Please; Thanks; I’m sorry; Wow
  2. Opening up, communication, listening, attentiveness
  3. Silence, Simplicity, Solitude, Service

How Can We Pray?

  1. Body: service (community, liturgical, etc.), Tai Chi, yoga, art, dance, sports, music, exercise, laughter
  2. Mind: Scripture (lectio, study, Mass readings), theology, media (books, movies, music, social media & games), laughter
  3. Soul & Spirit: Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, Sacrament of Penance, Eucharistic Adoration, retreats, rosary, Divine Mercy, Stations of the Cross, special church devotions or devotions to saints, laughter 🙂

App Resources

  1. iMissal (Android/Blackberry/iOS/Windows) – http://www.imissal.com/
  2. iBreviary (Android/Blackberry/iOS) – http://www.ibreviary.com/new/index_en.html
  3. Confession: A Roman Catholic App (Android/iOS) – http://www.littleiapps.com/confession/
  4. Mea Culpa: An Examination of Conscience (iOS) – http://www.meaculpaapp.com/
  5. Laudate (Android/iOS) – Playstore: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.aycka.apps.MassReadings&hl=en; App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/laudate-1-free-catholic-app/id499428207?mt=8
  6. iConfess (iOS) – https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/iconfess-confession-handbook/id307804649?mt=8
  7. Blog with many more Catholic apps in general – http://catholicapps.wordpress.com/
  8. One of the participants turned me on to the app instapray which is available for both iOS and Android – thanks! 🙂

Web Resources

  1. comepraytherosary.com – pray it online with others
  2. sacredspace.ie – daily online prayer (about 5 minutes)
  3. pray-as-you-go.org – mp3 downloads for each day
  4. americancatholic.org – daily saints and daily one minute prayer meditation (look on teh left side bar under “Daily Features”)
  5. churchresources.info/pray/index.shtml – daily online prayer
  6. loyolapress.com/3-minute-retreats-daily-online-prayer.htm – 3 minute retreats
  7. www.catholic-prayer-life.com/ – lots of links – I particularly like their weekly Scripture reflections (question for you to ponder about the weekend readings) and their audio Lectio Divina
  8. onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/online.html – mp3/online retreats
  9. catholiccincinnati.org/being-catholic/online-prayer-resources/ – online, audio, video. weekly and daily resources

Blessings & Peace,
Hugo

You can’t come into Church wearing that!

 Just before this story in the Gospel of Luke Jesus has healed a paralytic and forgiven him of his sins. A little bit before that he had stirred up controversy with his public proclamation of the purpose of his mission. And now he again stirs up trouble by talking to Levi, inviting him to be one of his followers, and eating at his table with other tax collectors.

First of all, it’s good to understand why this would have stirred up trouble for Jesus. All of Judea was occupied territory – the Roman Empire had taken over. Where Rome came, taxes came. And with taxes came the need to have locals (who knew the area and language) collect taxes (usually backed by Roman militia). So tax collectors were hated because they were willingly working for the occupying force and, on top of that, collecting money from fellow Jews to give to that same occupying force.

But there was a bit more at work in the revilement that most Jews felt for these Jewish tax collectors. The tax collectors could read, write and handle ledgers. When they came to the home of the average Jewish citizen there was no way for the tax payer to know if the amount they were being charged was correct. Consequently, many (but not all) tax collectors tended to collect a little extra on the side for themselves. They made a nice sum of money off of the backs of people already being taxed beyond a reasonable amount.

So tax collectors were automatically considered sinners for two reasons – they were working for the invading force, and they were stealing from their countrymen. What happened if you were one of the honest tax collectors? You were lumped into the bunch of bad ones – popular prejudice (judging someone before getting to know them) said that every tax collector was, of course, stealing from everyone else.

And then Jesus comes along. He doesn’t pre-judge Levi. He doesn’t lecture him on his choice of professions. He doesn’t chastise him for his past behavior. He simply invites Levi to follow him. Levi, moved by the offer, decides to throw a party for Jesus, Jesus’ friends, and his own friends. Jesus (party goer that he is) accepts.

The dinner party goes well, except that there are some Pharisees and scribes (not invited to the party) who are a bit upset at Jesus’ choice of company. By this time in Luke’s gospel Jesus has performed several signs of God’s coming reign. His reputation is starting to precede him, and people . . . except more of him. Imagine if you heard that Mother Teresa was coming to visit your area. In your excitement to meet her you put on your best clothes and drive out to where you’ve heard she’ll be. You find yourself travelling to the seedier side of town, and finally find Mother Teresa at the home of a known drug dealer, sitting at their table, eating their food, and socializing with their . . business associates. 🙂

That might capture the feel of how these students of religion and the Scriptures felt seeing Jesus and his disciples surrounded by tax collectors (read: sinners). They weren’t chastising them, they weren’t preaching to them, they weren’t condemning them – they were actually enjoying themselves and sharing a meal.

Shocking.

I know.

I can almost imagine a bit of jealousy creeping into their thoughts: “Why is he hanging out with those people? Why isn’t he spending time with us?” And when they confront Jesus with his outlandish behavior, Jesus reminds them that it’s people who are very sick who need doctors the most, not those who are pretty healthy.

Jesus came to “bring good news to the poor . . . proclaim the release of captives . . . to let the oppressed go free (Lk 4:18).” And that necessarily entailed spending time with the undesirables of his day. I like to compare it to modern day times – if Jesus came back today he would be spending time with HIV patients; drug dealers and drug users; pedophiles; tax collectors (some things never change! :)); children and teens abused and beat up for having same sex attractions; biker gangs; gangs in general; prostitutes; the poor, lowly, downtrodden, invisible, unwanted, unwelcome masses that sometimes live on the fringe of polite society because they don’t feel welcome there at all.

So I have issues with parishes and dioceses (in my particular Catholic denomination) and churches in general (in any given Christian denomination) who place such a high premium on how people come dressed to Mass (or service). My thinking says that if Jesus welcomed “sinners” with open arms and heart, then we should do the same. Accepting people where they’re at, and meeting people where they’re at, were staples of Jesus’ ministry. When we put artificial barriers to that acceptance, we’ve become part of the problem, not part of the healing that Jesus came to bring.

What I see Jesus doing over and over again in the gospels is entering into relationships with people. No judgement, no condemnation (unless they were being overly righteous or hypocritical) – only a merciful acceptance of all the historically contingent idiosyncrasies in their lives that had led them up to where he found them. Once he entered into a relationship with individuals, then he called them to conversion. But he respected them enough . . . he valued them enough as individuals – to meet them where they were at. No artificial barriers to his friendship – just a deep seated desire to affirm their beauty as echoes of the divine breath within them, in all their broken glory.

It was only after this time of relationship that he begins to challenge them to conversion of heart, mind, body and soul.

If we place such a high premium on how we dress for Mass, then our role should not be one of gate keeping: “that’s too short, that’s too tight, that’s too revealing, that’s too baggy, how dare you come into my church wearing that clothing!” It should be one of relationship – entering into a messy and complicated relationship with individuals with no predetermined agenda except getting to know them as reflections of Jesus Christ. Once we have the courage to enter into their lives, and let them enter into our lives . . . then and only then do we have the privilege – not the right – of challenging them to change their lives.

It could something as innocuous as what they wear to Mass (because in the grand scheme of things, this is a very small thing!). It could be something as life altering as their choice of professions, or past times, or life partners. But if we are not willing to enter into the messiness of a real relationship with them – not a “let’s get to superficially know them so we can tell them how to act or dress” – but a real relationship that has the capacity to hurt and to change both ways . . . if we’re not willing to do that, then we do not have the privilege or the right to denounce them for dressing or acting in a certain way.

I don’t think this applies to those of us who are a bit more “churchy,”  mind you. If we’ve been lucky enough to spend time around church all of our lives, if we’ve been lucky enough to have been catechized well and taken it to heart . . . then, in a very real sense, we know better. Dress up a bit for church. Make it a special occasion. But don’t assume that everyone has been so lucky. Welcome people with open arms. Show the whole body of Christ – not just those who dress and talk and act like us – that they are welcome in our church, in our community, in our hearts.

Until we can do that, we have no business whatsoever telling people what they can and cannot wear to worship.

Blessings & Peace,
Hugo

Photo by Petful.com

A Beginning

She wore a deep, leaf-green cloak over a loose brown tunic and cord-drawn breeches. The hood of her cloak kept her face covered, but it could not control the wisps of dark hair that slowly crept over her face and shoulders. He dressed similarly to his companion, but in sapphire-trimmed white linen. Both had the drawn, weary look of travelers moving far too quickly and for far too long.

They had awoken before daybreak, broken camp and moved towards a small building. The abandoned chapel was cool as they entered, hoarding the night’s temperature as winter gave way to spring. They knelt opposite one another on the bare stone, momentarily savoring the feeling of peace that permeated the ancient building. Closed eyes slowly opened as they focused on the small flame that hovered above the holy water font in the center of the sacred place. Making the sign of the Way in tandem, they began to pray.