From St. Augustine’s Confessions

One of my favorite pieces of writing; one that has touched me most deeply in my life. It always reminds me of my transition back, after years of wandering and exploring, to finding the fullness of the revelation of God in Christ Jesus…

Urged to reflect upon myself, I entered under your guidance the innermost places of my being; but only because you had become my helper was I able to do so. I entered, then, and with the vision of my spirit, such as it was, I saw the incommutable light far above my spiritual ken and transcending my mind: not this common light which every carnal eye can see, nor any light of the same order; but greater, as though this common light were shining much more powerfully, far more brightly, and so extensively as to fill the universe. The light I saw was not the common light at all, but something different, utterly different, from all those things. Nor was it higher than my mind in the sense that oil floats on water or the sky is above the earth; it was exalted because this very light made me, and I was below it because by it I was made. Anyone who knows truth knows this light.

O eternal Truth, true Love, and beloved Eternity, you are my God, and for you I sigh day and night. As I first began to know you, you lifted me up and showed me that, while that which I might see exists indeed, I was not yet capable of seeing it. Your rays beamed intensely on me, beating back my feeble gaze, and I trembled with love and dread. I knew myself to be far away from you in a region of unlikeness, and I seemed to hear your voice from on high: “I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me.”

Accordingly I looked for a way to gain the strength I needed to enjoy you, but I did not find it until I embraced the mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who is also God, supreme over all things and blessed for ever. He called out, proclaiming I am the Way and Truth and the Life, nor had I known him as the food which, though I was not yet strong enough to eat it, he had mingled with our flesh, for the Word became flesh so that your Wisdom, through whom you created all things, might become for us the milk adapted to our infancy.

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

- St. Augustine, Confessions

Pope Benedict XVI’s Prayer Intentions, June 2010

General: That every national and transnational institution may strive to guarantee respect for human life from conception to natural death.

Missionary: That the Churches in Asia, which constitute a “little flock” among non-Christian populations, may know how to communicate the Gospel and give joyful witness to their adherence to Christ.

Father Forgets

Father Forgets
W. Livingston Larned

Listen son; I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen to your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside.

There are things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face a mere dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called you out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor.

At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, “Goodbye, Daddy!” and I frowned, and said in reply, “Hold your shoulders back!”

Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before your boyfriends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive-and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Imagine that, son, from a father!

Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you can in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at your interruption, you hesitated at the door. “What is it you want?” I snapped.

You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs.

Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding – this was my reward to you for being a boy.

It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.

And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed!

It is a feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come out. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: “He is nothing but a boy-a little boy!”

I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.

[from How to Win Friends & Influence People]

Reflections on a Parting

[Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patrick-smith-photography/3431233355/]

Well, the cat’s out of the bag, as they say, so I can share some of my thoughts and feelings on what generated this update on Facebook yesterday:

Thanks, by the way, for all of your warm words of support and prayer, and your messages sent in private. I have felt very warmly the touch of your thoughts & prayers. And they have contributed to the reflection that yields this post.

Our Pastor is Leaving

Today or tomorrow, the parishioners of our parish – Holy Family Parish – will receive in the mail a letter from our pastor, Father Larry Brunette, explaining that he is resigning from that role effective June 1, so this is his last weekend with us.

In his letter he gives a glimpse into why he’s leaving and explains why his departure from the parish is so sudden.

Here’s an Adobe PDF version of the letter, in case you haven’t received yours or are interested in reading it here.

This Hurts

I remember a few times in life that a parting has hurt so badly that I could almost taste the hurt. Some of them seem silly now.

I remember the first time I bought my own “real” car and I moved the last of my things out of my first car.

I remember the end of each of the nine summers I worked on summer camp staff, moving out of my cabin and heading home, leaving friends but taking memories.

I remember saying goodbye to “Chief,” my favorite dog.

I remember leaving an era during load out, the morning after a play I had written had influenced the lives of 7,000 of my brothers.

I remember 8th grade graduation and high school graduation, moving out of my parents’ house for the first time, and subsequently moving out of my first apartment.

I remember saying goodbye to my grandma one last time.

Meeting Father Larry

Eight years ago, my close friends Sam & Cheri invited me back to church. At the time, I was living in Collinsville (about 15 minutes from here) and there was a newer priest at their parish who they thought I’d relate to. So I went to Mass with them.

I met Father Larry that day.

And in a short meeting, I was inspired by him. He had been a married man, a computer salesman, and had raised a family. And when his wife passed away, he pursued a calling he had perceived as a young boy, and became a priest as a second vocation.

That was Father Larry’s last day at their church. He explained that he was heading to Holy Family in Granite City to be their new pastor. That was my home parish from my childhood and hometown!

The next weekend, I was back home at Holy Family.

Father Larry’s Role in my Journey

Over the coming months after coming home to Holy Family, I got back into music ministry and eventually was asked to become a music director and lead our contemporary ensemble.

One Wednesday night, I was at the church practicing with the Ensemble and stayed for 7 PM Mass. And this girl came in. Her name was Suzanne.

Suzanne and I had grown up together at our parish grade school and in high school (she was a year ahead of me.) We had been on the speech team and in plays together. She was the girl I thought would never be interested in me.

But after re-meeting in that chance moment in our home church 8 years ago, we started talking and going out and catching up on old times.

And today we’re married.

Father Larry prepared us for marriage, became an integral part of who we are as a couple, presided at our wedding, and Baptized our children.

He brought friends and family into the Church. In the 8 years he’s been here, he has buried close to 400 of our fellow parishioners. His impact extends well beyond our own family, but deep into the fabric of many of the families in our parish and in our sister parishes here in Granite City.

What an impact one man can have!

Most importantly, between the Jesuit priests at SLU and Father Larry, I’ve learned over the last several years something very important. They’ve added a layer of “heart” to the faith of my “head” and intellect that I had falled back on as a boy and young man. I credit Father Larry with helping to point me to this faith of the heart that has made me a better man, husband, and dad.

Turn, Turn, Turn

Each parting opens the door to new opportunity.

Right?

This week has brought confusion. Then anger and frustration. And then hurt. Can’t ignore the hurt.

But finally, it brought peace and prayer.

We’re going to miss him. Selfishly, not just as a parish. But our family will miss him. Our boys love him. They’re confused and sad.

But there’s comfort.

Our Faith

We believe in the Church that Christ started. We believe in the presence of the Holy Spirit, gently guiding these mere mortal men we call bishops, who are the successors of the Apostles. We believe that “everything happens for a reason,” and that the next man sent to shepherd us and our community of faith will be the man we need, here and now.

As hard as this might be for us, it’s also hope-filled. And that’s the spirit I want to share with my friends in our parish in the coming days and weeks.

Father Larry will be missed. And we will pray for him as he discerns where the Spirit and Church are calling him to minister next. But we await our next shepherd, and what God has in store to teach us through his love and guidance and wisdom and teaching.

As a friend said today, this is an opportunity for us to all remember that God is firmly in control, that He knows what is best for us more than any of us can imagine. And that we need to remember to rely first and foremost on Him, and then to trust the ministers he sends our way.

Each goodbye leaves an open door. Each parting leaves an open path. And each of our individual paths – even as they converge and diverge – leads toward the eternal home where we’ll never part again.

The wind was knocked from my sails for just a moment. Then I remembered that as long as we have the courage to hoist our sails, God will provide the wind. And we sail onward.

PS: Please keep Father Larry in your prayers. Our community has the strength to support one another as we meet our new pastor and settle into the future our parish life holds. But Father departs on his own, needing our prayers and friendship, and support more than ever.

Gateway Grizzlies’ THE BEAST Burger

The Gateway Grizzlies‘ 2010 season opens in just 3 days. It’s the best baseball for the best price in our area, and I plan to take the boys to more than our fair share of games this season.

For the last several years, the Grizzlies have offered one of baseball’s most unique – and awesome – concession items: “Baseball’s Best Burger.” The burger was a patty topped with cheddar cheese and bacon, then sandwiched between two halves of a Krispy Kreme glazed donut. Yes, it was that good.

This year, the competition in ballparks has gotten stiffer, and they’ve introduced THE BEAST.

THE BEAST is FIFTEEN (yes, 15) 1/3-pound Holten Beef (locally raised & processed) patties. 15 x 3 = 5 pounds of beef. That’s marinated with Andria’s (local steakhouse) steak sauce, topped with bacon & pepper jack cheese, and placed between a MacArthur’s Bakery (great local STL bakery) Gourmet Hamburger Roll. Other local touches include the option of produce from Eckerts Farm and horseradish from Keller Farms.

You have to call the Grizzlies’ catering office in advance to order THE BEAST. Or you can order the wimpy “junior” version (1/15th of the regular) at a concession stand during a game.

This reminds me of a few years ago at Rodgers Townsend when Matt Clement and I accepted our co-workers’ challenge to eat Hardees’ new (at the time) Monster Thickburger.

Who’s up for the real thing this time around?

I rode my bike to church. And walked home.

It’s beautiful outside today. So I decided to take my bike out for my first spin of the year – a short 5-block jaunt to the church for ensemble practice and back.

Little did I know I’d be walking home.

As I pulled away from the church after practice, the chain broke, leaving me with… well with really just one option: walk it.

Thank goodness it was a beautiful day. And a short first ride of the year.

From Compost Crock to Compost Bin

How do I know that Suzanne really loves me?

Tonight on date night, she let me buy my compost bin.

It said a lot when she got me the Compost Crock for my birthday. It had been on my wish list for a couple of years and she kept avoiding it. I’m sure it was partially because she was worried about me taking on yet another little man-project. And partially because it would require the sacrifice of some precious kitchen counter space. But on my birthday, there she was, in all her green stoneware goodness.

This last week, we’ve finally started to save our food scraps in the Compost Crock, so I knew that the Bin was an inevitable next step. But I knew it’d be a giant leap for Suzanne.

So tonight, when we made the purchase – sealed the deal – on our Monday night date night, I knew it was true love. That’s right. I’m now the proud owner of my very first SoilSaver Classic Composter. If this one works, it’ll be easy to build the case for a bigger version here at the house.

Within a couple of months, I’ll have some rich, free soil gold of my own. And it’ll make a huge difference in both our garden and our garden budget.

It was a great feeling to cut our garbage being hauled from our curbside roughly in half last year when we really started to focus on recycling. Now it’s another great feeling to cut it even more by keeping and using some of the valuable nutrients that we’ve been tossing for the 5 1/2 years we’ve owned our house.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out the book I’ve been reading: The Rodale Book of Composting (affiliate link.) Or explore the Missouri Botanical Garden’s available classes or online resources.

Nashville Under Water; Opryland Too

First, some perspective…

OK, so it might seem trite to be talking about Nashville’s finest resort hotel and conference property being under water, when there are hundreds if not thousands of homes also under water. But seeing the stories and pictures of the Gaylord Opryland Resort Hotel under water really hit home, and brought the seriousness of the Nashville flooding home for me.

Nashville is flooding…

The seriousness of the Nashville flooding is more than the (lack of) attention of the national news media implies. Thomas Rainer, the CEO of LifeWay, has been tweeting about the loss of much at his home in the flooding. And Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers (the world’s largest Christian publisher) is tweeting about the flooding in his own community.

Nashville photographer produced this dramatic short film that helps communicate the impact of the rain on the community:

So, back to Opryland…

Opryland is one of our favorite little family getaways. It’s a convenient distance – just a 5-hour drive. And with everything under one roof (atrium), it’s an easy place to take kids and just enjoy a few days’ getaway and relax & unwind without needing to get in the car and go anywhere once you’re there. The place is just phenomenal. At 52 acres, it is the largest non-casino hotel in the world, and the largest hotel in the U.S. outside of Las Vegas.

Check out some photos of 3 of our past trips to Opryland (July of ’05, February of ’06, and July of ’07.) If you’ve never been there yourself, perhaps they can help impart some of the sheer size and grandeur of the place.

Now it’s flooded too…

But as of today, it is underwater and closed indefinitely – “for months”, as one report has said.

Here’s a video of the flooded property from one Nashville news site:

What’s really amazing is that the hotel property was built to be safe to the 100 year flood mark, and was protected by FEMA-approved levies built to also protect to the 100-year flood mark. That says something about the magnitude of this flood… Something we can certainly relate to in the St. Louis area after our experience with the flood of 1993.

Since we haven’t seen a lot on the news here in St. Louis about the Nashville flooding (surprisingly, in my humble opinion), seeing it in this perspective brought it home for me.

As Mashable points out, in the absence of national media attention, we can be thankful that YouTube, Twitter, and the like have allowed us to see the reality from the outside.

In addition to the visits to the resort with the family, Nashville is a city I’ve visited a lot – and love a lot. From weekend trips with the guys for UT Vols football games back in the day to my first dinner with my wife on our honeymoon road trip, the city holds a special place in my heart.

A resort will easily rebuild. The people who live paycheck to paycheck will need a lot more help. Our brothers & sisters in Nashville need our prayers. And in the coming months, they’ll need all the support we can give them.

Pope Benedict XVI’s Prayer Intentions – May 2010

General: That the shameful and monstrous commerce in human beings, which sadly involves millions of women and children, may be ended.

Missionary: That ordained ministers, religious women and men, and lay people involved in apostolic work may understand how to infuse missionary enthusiasm into the communities entrusted to their care.