Monday, January 30, 2012

Does God Care About Sports?

So it looks like I might do some "Ask a Jesuit" type stuff for that new website that I mentioned last week, "The Jesuit Post".  I thought I might share one of the sample questions that I answered for this week. See what you think... (And hey, if you like this idea, please, post some questions for me to answer. I need material!)

Does God really give a hoot about your local sports team?
                                                                        Signed, T-Blows
In point of fact, God is a really big fan of the Saints. Also the Angels. Duh. For many years this was not evident from their records, but in recent years he has made his feelings more clearly known.

Second answer: I have no idea whether God cares or not. Always be nervous when people tell you definitively that God cares about this but not that. Because seriously, how do they know?

Having said that, I believe God wants people to thrive and be striving to be their best selves. So while I’m not sure he cares what the score is to a given game, it is my belief that God revels in a perfect spiral thrown 80 yards down the field (or for my Aussie friends, a football moved down the field in a flurry of teamwork and seized inside the 50 in an astonishing leap). 

Some theologians have said our own feelings and experiences offer a glimmer of what God feels. If so, it might just be Tebow mania in Heaven after all. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Let's Talk About Sex

Why do priests insist on talking about sex?

A friend of mine asked me this a couple days ago.  To be clear, he was not an interested bystander, but a priest himself.  "Why do we do this?" he asked me. "How is this helpful?"

His point was this -- the teaching of the Church on things like premarital sex is clear.  And even today, in this so-calledly secular age, every Catholic kid has already heard the spiel, if not at Church then at home. So, really, what more is there to say? Indeed, my friend posited, as soon as a priest starts talking about sex, you can see people's eyes glaze over and all they hear is Charlie Brown's teacher giving a lecture. Wah wah wah wah wah.

Personally, I think priests should talk about sex more. Not the "here's the rules" lecture that we all know, but an exploration of the deep and real.  How sex can reveal so much about ourselves to ourselves, our willingness to put the one we love first, or lack thereof.  The scary vulnerability, that experience of being seen as you really are, naked both physically and emotionally, a way of being loved that is absolutely unique.  The sacramentality of touch; facing your primal self; even the tedium that sex can become, in its own way so similar to the dryness we sometimes go through in our prayer.

Sex is such a major part of our lives -- one we think about quite a lot if most studies are to be trusted. And yet where can we find spiritual reflection on the things that actually happen in our fantasies and between the sheets?  A good book, TV show or movie, perhaps.  But why not also from the fellow traveler standing at the pulpit?

Your Mom's More On the Ball Than You

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Strange Case of Bishop Morris

Yesterday in the Australian Jesuit magazine Eureka Street, Father Frank Brennan contemplated Rome's  decision some 9 months ago now to remove Australian Bishop Bill Morris. No public reason was given at the time, and it's not entirely clear a private one was given, either. Bishop Morris continues to be a priest in good standing and in fact works in the Brisbane diocese. A retired Australian Supreme Court justice (who had no knowledge of the case or Bishop Morris) was asked to evaluate the process by which Bishop Morris was removed. Looking at the Code of Canon Law and its provisos for the removal of a priest, the justice recently found the process lacked not only transparency, but fairness and justice.

Now, there may be very very good reasons why Bishop Morris has been removed. But even his fellow Australian bishops seem unsteady on the matter. Before they left for Rome for the visit they make to the Pope every 5 years, they promised to bring up the matter. But upon arriving they were told they were not allowed to discuss this with the Pope.

How many people get fired without just cause? Quite a few. And yet, one expects better from a faith  community that advocates so strongly for the dignity of every human person. Rome has every right to remove a bishop they find wanting; but to do so without some transparency or due process shakes the faith of the people of God.

The Jesuit Post

A bunch of young Jesuits have gotten together to create a new blog, "The Jesuit Post".  You can find articles about spirituality, literature, music, pop culture -- there's even a video about Tim Tebow (by Jim Martin!).

Here's a link to the site. And here's a link to a great little article about someone's cell phone going off during a symphony, which has a title I wish I had thought of! "Seventy Times Seven Watch".

Editor-in-Chief Paddy Gilger writes "this site is about Jesus, politics, and pop culture, it's about the Catholic Church, sports, and Socrates. It's about making the case for God (better: letting God make the case for himself) in our secular age."  Give it a look. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sign For a Bad Day

Some days don't you wish you could post a sign like this outside your life?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Connecting Amidst the Busy

Have you ever just sat and listened to the world around you? Outside my window as I write this I can hear birds chittering at one another. Something's whirring. A saw cuts in intermittently from a construction site in the distance. The heater kicks in for a second and gives a deep bass hum. And then, for a few moments, there's total silence.

We all have tried and true ways we use to connect to the deeper things in our lives and to God, methods we understand as prayer.  The thing is, they don't always work.  And there are days, weeks, months when we're just too busy or distracted to do what we usually do.

But sometimes when I take a few moments to listen to the sounds of the world around me, to just "be" in the moment like that, I discover that peace, that inner silence I long for is still there.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Just For Laughs

When you don't have much to say, there's always the New Yorker...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Risky Business

So here's a thought I had today: the problem with being insecure is not the being insecure, it's being insecure about being insecure.

Think about it. In life, if you're putting yourself out there at all -- which could mean anything from being honest to chasing your dreams to having kids --  you're very very likely to be insecure, because you have given yourself something important to lose.

No, the real trouble comes when you begin to believe you're not supposed to feel insecure, that there's something wrong with you.  It leads to a hundred varieties of compensation, like trying to get the approval of others to make you feel more secure (it doesn't), or pursuing other things that you think will make you feel comfortable (they don't).

In the end, all you can do is put yourself out there and be yourself. If that self is afraid, nervous, uncertain -- well so be it.  It probably means you're taking a risk. And that's a great thing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Elkanah and Ivory

The first reading yesterday was the start of 1 Samuel; it's the story of Hannah begging God for a child (Samuel).

Except it's not. The real start of 1 Sam is Hannah getting picked on by her husband Elkanah's other wife because she can't have kids. (Yeah, she's a real treat, that one. Think one of Cinderella's sisters, before the ravens pecked out her eyes.) And Elkanah tries to show Hannah how much he loves her, giving her bigger gifts than he gives his other wife and kids, but it's no use, she just cries and cries.

And at the end of the reading, right before she goes to the Temple to beg God, this is what Elkanah has to say: "Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?"

It's not that Hannah doesn't have a point. She wants a baby and she can't have one. And I don't read Elkanah's comments even as a criticism or a scolding. It's more a reminder -- Hannah, you're not in it all alone. I'm right here beside you, and I love you.

At times life as a Jesuit can be a little like the Real Housewives (of wherever) or like working in Hollywood. There's lots of temptation to compare yourself to others, to live not out of what you have, but out of what you don't have.

But chase that dream and you will never be happy. Because you will always find someone who has more, who has done more, who seems happier, who has better connections. Some of the most successful people I know, in fact, are the most insecure.  It's weird, but true -- chasing after what you're missing is like hopping on a log in a stream: you're going to run really hard, and eventually you're going to fall on your --


(But we're not talking donkeys.)

Elkanah, to me, is like God, a kind spouse who reminds us of the gifts we have, of the real bedrock of love and acceptance to be found in our lives, which is oh so much more than all the baubles we sometimes think we need.

It's so easy to forget.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ok, One More Gift: Have You Ever Wanted to See the Sistine Chapel?

My uncle Stan sent me the most amazing link.  It's the Sistine Chapel, completely empty (which never happens in real life -- it's always chock full of people and guards yelling "no photo!", while everyone ignores them), and you can both zoom (using "a" and "z") and click and drag the view around so that you can literally see every inch of the place. (The arrow keys do the same thing.)  Really really astonishing.  The Vatican put it up, and you just have to see it.

Click Here!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

12 DOC, Day 12: Apps

Do you have a smart phone (i.e. a phone that you use not only for phone and texting but for the internet)? If so, you're probably familiar with the millions of apps that are available to make everything more easy (or is it more complicated) for you.

I'm no expert on the whole app phenomenon, but I do have a few that are favorites -- and mostly all free!

Path -- I just discovered this app, it's like a little photo journal, or a micro-Facebook. You can invite friends to see your stuff, a la Facebook, or you can keep it to yourself.  I'm using it as a place I can share with just a few close friends. And the photos on it look amazing!

Foursquare -- You now all those websites or apps where you get advice on restaurants or travel or what not, and you can read a million people's comments? I love those websites in theory, but once I start using them there's just SO much information, so much feedback, I find it overwhelming.

Foursquare is the better version of that.  Any place you go -- and I mean anyplace, restaurants, bowling alleys, gas stations, rides at an amusement park -- you can "check in" and read people's tips, all of which is super short and often super super useful. I use it whenever I'm traveling, and I get great advice about things as varied as which bathrooms are the worst to use at LAX and where to park when I'm going to a certain diner.

Foursquare also has a sort of game component -- the more you check in to a place, the more likely you are to become its "mayor"; also, with check ins some places offer special deals.  But it's just a really great app.

Showtimes -- If you're a movie fan and you want to know the show times at all the theaters near you, there's a wide variety of apps that can help you. Flikster is a great one if you want a lot of information; but if you're looking for just what each theater is showing, I recommend Showtimes. A very simple, super useful app.

A Sample Screen:

Zap2It -- Basically, it's TV Guide for whatever cable system you're on, no matter where or what it is.  You just tell it what system you're on and it shows you everything that is and will be playing on every station.  LMU has an itsy bitsy teeny tiny system of its own, and Zap2It still has it in its database -- and so I think it's safe to say it'll probably suit you, too.  Also has room for you to mark your favorite TV shows or movies and then return to those later, so you don't have to skim through the whole guide to find out when your shows are on and whether they're new. Again, super simple and super useful!

Wi-Fi Finder (above) -- A great little app for when you're trying to find a spot to use the internet without cables.  Locates all the sources around you, and even tells you whether they're free or charge a fee. (I hate going to the airport and seeing those "Wi-Fi Here!" posters only to find out it's Boingo Hotspot and you're going to have to pay to use it.  Give me a break!

Price Grabber (left) -- Say you see a book at Barnes & Noble, and you're wondering if you can find it cheaper somewhere else.  You can scan the bar code on the back of the book with your phone (the world is getting to be so Star Trek, isn't it?), and it'll tell you where else it's being sold (in stores and online) and at what price. A fantastic way to save some money.  

Tiny Wings -- At this point, everyone's heard about Angry Birds. But there's another bird game out there called Tiny Wings, where you help a little bird get off the ground and soar between hills, mountains and oceans. It's a lot more relaxing than Angry Birds, but just as consuming, and has a fantastic, mellow sound track, too.  Great for a plane or train ride...

Friday, January 6, 2012

12 DOC, Day 11: Funny Tweeters

People use twitter in a lot of different ways -- for up to the second info, sneak peeks into the lives of their favorite celebrities, to watch people completely melt down.

Personally, I look to twitter for humor. Talk to me about what's going on right now, or about your life, or something else goofy, and make me laugh.

On this penultimate day of Christmas, I offer you a couple of my favorite tweeters, with a sample of their wares.

Darth Vader (@depresseddarth): "You know you have a bad relationship with your son when you ask him to rule the galaxy with you and he jumps off a cliff instead."

Gavin Speiller (@gavinspeiller): "I'm at my local pizza parlor so often that I feel like the old 1990's Chicago Bulls entrance music should play every time I walk in."

Kelly Oxford (@kellyoxford): "While someone is speaking to me, 80% of my inner dialogue is just wondering if my face looks interested." (So true.)

Mike Leffingwell (@mikeleffingwell): "One way to tell the difference between seals and sea lions is that sea lions have protruding ears and seals are delicious."

Will Hines (@willhines): "It turns out the 'help' button in the elevator is only for elevator-related help."

The Dark Lord (@lord_voldemort7): "They are making a Twilight MUSICAL.  If the world doesn't end in 2012 on its own I am going to have to do it myself."
    (also: "'Could this day get any worse?'  Yes. Challenge accepted.")

Runner Up: Paula Poundstone (@paulapoundstone): "UPS just announced they're changing their name to 'SUP?' to appeal to the younger shipping market."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

12 DOC, Day 10: Make You Feel My Love

Heard a great song today from Adele, a British pop star.  Like all of her songs, it's a love song.  But as I was listening I thought it would make a great song for prayer.

Listen, and imagine Jesus singing these words to you...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

12 DOC, Day 9: A Deep Thought on Failure

A good little clip to watch when you're waffling about taking a risk.

12 DOC, Day 8: Political Cartoons

In honor of the Iowa Republican Primary...

Monday, January 2, 2012

12 DOC, Day 7: A Poem


Nobody in the hospital
Could tell the age
Of the old woman who
Was Called Susanna

I knew she spoke some English
And that she was an immigrant
Out of a little country 
Trampled by armies

Because she had no visitors
I would stop by to see her 
But she was always sleeping

All I could do 
Was to get out her comb
And carefully untangle
The tangles in her hair

One day I was beside her
When she woke up
Opening small dark eyes
Of a surprising clearness

She looked at me and said
You want to know the truth?
I answered Yes.

She said it's something that
My mother told me

There's not a single inch
Of our whole body
That the Lord does not love

She then went back to sleep.

Anne Porter