Saturday, June 30, 2012

Peace Be With You

All my sins rise up before my eyes
And choke the light with memories of black.
These acts of mine I never can take back
The lusts, the hates, the snobbery, the lies
And simply you reply “Peace be with you.”

 I stand accused with nothing but the truth.
Thus I thought, desired, spoke and did.
These acts were mine and more, I am sure, lie hid
Buried in the subconscious of my youth.
But your only word to me, “Peace be with you.”

Hidden sins I cannot even bring
Before the accuser, hungry for my faults.
Unknown and festering in dark submental vaults
They lie in wait, and to my soul they cling.
But your command to me, “Peace be with you.”

New life, new love, new hopes send down the blade
Through the water’s shallow clarity
Below the shine of surface charity
Plunging into the murk I’ve left unsaid.
And sharply you remind me, “Peace be with you.”

Who knows what lives down there in all that silt?
The water’s peaceful surface boils in fright,
I blame the dredge for what it brings to light,
And still you plunge the blade in to the hilt
And fiercely promise me, “Peace be with you.”

For this you came, to bring the sword of peace
With wounded healing hands through silent war.
Prying, cutting, searching the very core,
Taking away so that you may increase
My hope. My only hope. “Peace be with you.”

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I Really Do Give a ----

I have been doing a train-up for a mountaineering course I’m going to be going to soon. This means that I am learning to climb rocks. I have all of three days of climbing experience now, entirely on sport climbing routes (sport climbing routes have bolts drilled into the rock that you can clip into as you go, as opposed to trad routes that you have to place your own protection as you climb.)

The first day was rough. It was raining, the rock was wet, and I had never climbed before. The only thing I knew how to do was pull-ups, but no matter how strong my upper body may be (I can do more pull-ups than the average bear) it is not strong enough to haul my 215 lbs up wet rocks all day long. No matter how good you are at pull-ups, you can’t pull up on something you can’t grip. Plus, I am afraid of heights.

The second day was much better. The rock had dried off and I was learning to use my legs and body weight to hold myself on the rock. I was the first to climb a particularly demanding route, which I did on the first attempt.

The third day was better still. I crushed every route that the other guys did, muscling my way past moves that other guys just couldn’t stick. At the end of the day when everyone else wanted to quit climbing and just practice building anchors, I talked the instructor into letting me try a route he had never done before. He guessed it was a 5.10 and he told me I wasn’t going to make it. I didn’t, technically. I made it to one body length from the top before I was smoked and stuck, unable to progress any further. But I was not sketched out. I was easily able to talk through my descent plan, and conduct a retrievable rappel without leaving any gear behind.

The instructor said, “Well, I can tell we’re going to have a fun time in ----- ----- when we go down to climb there, because apparently you don’t give a f--- and you’ll try anything.”

That is a very strange assessment of me. The longer I stay in the Army, the more I realize I just don’t fit in. All the other guys assume that I just don’t care about anything because I go hard and long and don’t quit or complain when things get sketchy. They assume that I just don’t give a ----.

But that isn’t true at all. I’m not sure I understand it myself, but the one thing I am sure of is that I do, most definitely care. I don’t want to die. I love life. I love my family and my friends. I love the books I read and the faith I have been given. I love pizza and beer, comfortable chairs by the fire with a book and cup of tea, conversations with intelligent, joyful Christians. I love the sound of children laughing, I love running around the lawn with a crowd of youngsters, or sitting and feeding an infant a bottle. I love music and stories, poetry and prose, art and movies. There is so much in the world that I love. Maybe when I was a teenager I didn’t really care if I lived or died, but I haven’t been a teenager in a very long time.

I am aware, inescapably aware, that every moment of every day I spend doing dangerous things, is a moment that I risk losing all of that. I could die or be crippled for life. I could lose my eyes, or my hearing, or my legs. Most terrifying of all, I could lose my hands (I would rather lose almost anything, rather than my hands). I could spend the rest of my life a quadriplegic in a hospital bed, all because of a slip on a rock somewhere, or a stray bullet.

I care, all right. Nor am I seeking out thrills. I don’t really get any thrill or satisfaction out of the adrenaline, anymore. Adrenaline is a gift, a tool that focuses and enhances my abilities, but it is an uncomfortable feeling.

So why did I choose to climb that extra route? I can’t really explain it. Climbing is fun, on easy routes, but the hard routes just suck. There is a certain physical satisfaction in sticking that move with smooth, powerful economy of motion, but there is so much pain involved in getting there. I hate that feeling of being halfway up the rock, tired, demotivated, my forearms burning, my calves cramping and shaking, unable to go down, unsure if I have the strength to go up. It is a feeling of being trapped. When you just want to close your eyes and go to sleep, and wake up and have it all be a bad dream, but it isn’t a dream, you really are where you really are and you have no choice but to keep going, or fall, let the rope catch you (if your protection is good) and just give up.

So why did I insist on doing that extra climb? I just wanted to. What else was there to do? We were out at the site for a certain length of time. The purpose of being out there was to practice climbing, so if I’m not climbing or belaying another climber, why am I even out there? I have more useful things to do with my time. I have books to read, people to talk to, prayers to say. I think I climbed it because it would have been a waste of time not to climb.

Why am I going to keep climbing? Why am I still going to deploy and leave everything I love behind for almost a year?

Because this is what I have been given to do. The lawful authority I have freely subjected myself to by the grace of God has given me this task. Therefore this task comes from God. Somehow, in God’s economy of salvation, it is necessary for me to give up things. I don’t know how, or why, or what will come of it. I know that I would not love my family the way I do if I had not spent most of my adult life separated from them. I know I wouldn’t love hot showers so much that they almost make me weep, if I hadn’t spent so much of my life cold and dirty. I wouldn’t love pizza as much if I had never been delirious with hunger. These are symbols of some deeper metaphysical reality. Somehow, my sacrifice of life (what I look upon as my “real” life) makes that life more real, and somehow it benefits the people I love, who in turn are what makes that life my “real” life. Somehow, by becoming poorer I become richer. The armchair is more comfortable, the beer is more flavorful, the book is more meaningful.

Without tasting death, it is impossible really to live.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Theology of the Body Part I

His Right Dishonourable Loathsomeness, Master Thugfang, is a demon of great infamy among academic circles. He is a frequent columnist for “Tempter’s Times”, an assistant editor for “Wickedness Weekly” and current chair of Tempter’s Training College’s Department of Defense Against the White Arts, after the sudden disappearance of the most recent head under mysterious circumstances. Now, His Right Dishonourable Loathsomeness takes your questions. Having problems with a particularly troublesome patient? Meddlesome enemy agents stymieing you at every turn? Don’t wait, write immediately to “Ask Thugfang” C/O “Underworld Magazine.”

Dear Master Thugfang: My patient has recently read The Polish Pope’s Theology of the Body, and now he is less accessible to porn temptations. What do I do? Sincerely, Needs Options.

My Dear Needs Options,

Ah yes, The Polish Pope: I have never been able to decide whether he or that Albanian Nun have been the worst disasters of the human’s twentieth century. You’d better hope your patient doesn’t discover her. Between the two of them you could find yourself in a pretty tight place. As it is, you have probably already lost a good deal of ground. Do not think for a second that this is not a serious error on your part. It must be dealt with. However, since you sign yourself “Needs Options,” it seems you are already looking about for new avenues. At least you have the principle, what you need now is experience to show you how to make use of this setback.

First of all, you have neglected to mention whether or not your patient is married. It doesn’t change the principle, only the application, but it would help to make my advice more relevant. It is lack of attention to detail like that which is going to be your ruin. Sheer laziness, is what it is, so I will write as if he were married in this column. In a later column I will address the single humans.

Now, the fact that he is becoming “less accessible” to your rather routine pornography strategy could mean one of several things. It could mean that what he has read has penetrated to some level of his will and he is now really trying to live what he has come to believe. Or it could mean nothing more than that the patient is so entranced by the poetic appeal of that theology, what the enemy’s agents would term its “beauty”, that he is temporarily infatuated with it and so he momentarily sees how humdrum and boring pornography really is. Or it could mean that The Enemy is using that book as an occasion of what He calls “Grace” to overcome your strategy once and for all, and the patient is at least partially responding.

Whatever the case may be, never think for a second The Enemy won’t be up to something. Whether He is going to come in and put a stop to your work against this man’s chastity right now or not, you may be sure He is not inactive. We don’t fully understand why He doesn’t do this every time He is asked, but I suspect it is usually because the patient himself doesn’t fully want Him to do any such thing. But any amount of desire for relief on his part will call forth a response from The Enemy. The goal for us is to get the patient to let that opportunity of “Grace” go by without any active response. The key to that is compartmentalization.

The human male is a creature of great disconnectedness. This was originally designed as a means of allowing them to prioritize issues and deal with each one in turn, without distraction from other issues. We have since worked on many levels, cultural and individual, to exaggerate this quality. In extreme cases I have seen male patients so well trained that they can go directly from rape and murder to endowing churches and tucking their own children in bed at night without a qualm. In the more ordinary scheme of human life it is not at all unusual for a male human to move from his wife’s arms one night to the strip club the next night and think the two completely unrelated. He does not feel guilty because he does not think the two are connected at all. His wife has his “heart” and his paycheck. The stripper on the stage has his eyes and his attention for a moment. It is much the same as a king in other ages, marrying one woman for offspring, but keeping dozens of others around or running through them one after the other for “love”. The trick is to find a way to split the two in your patient’s mind.

In the old days we made good work of the idea that the mind and the body were separate things. The male humans could lust after whatever they wanted, so long as they never actually touched them. Or he can touch whoever he wants, so long as he does not, in some vague undefinable sense, “love” them as he “loves” his wife. We are still reaping the fruits of that in society at large, but the damaging thing about the Polish Pope’s work is precisely that it exposes that lie and proclaims the truth, that nothing the body does is separate from the soul, and nothing the soul does is separate from the body. He is undoing millennia of work, going all the way back to our re-interpretation of Paul with the Manicheans.

What he cannot undo, however, is the culture. We still run that, and we have no intention of giving that up. Your patient now believes in his own psychosomatic unity? Good for him. He still thinks that TOB is all about sex, and there we have him. If he is married you need to encourage his infatuation with this new fad for the few minutes a day (or week, or month) it takes for him to copulate with his wife. Let him indulge all sorts of sublime, spiritual fantasies. Let him expect to hear angelic choirs singing, be uplifted to the seventh heaven. One of two things will happen. Either he will have such an experience or he won’t. If he does, play on the insatiable human desire to “do it again”. So all through the day when he should be thinking of his wife’s happiness now he is instead looking forward to seeing her in her nightgown that evening. You may have to endure a great deal of nauseating human romance, maybe for a very long time, but you can get your revenge later. If you can confine TOB to the bedroom you will completely pull its teeth. If it never sees the kitchen, the laundry room, the diaper changing table, or the trash bin, it will fail in the bedroom eventually, and might I add, most enjoyably.

Now if this profound emotional flutter doesn’t happen to him, your work is even easier. A sensible human would see the connection to The Enemy’s other sacrament, the one with the wafer. That does whatever it does whether the human feels it or not, but don’t let him see that. Convince him to try to feel the “holiness” of sex by sheer strength of will. Eventually this effort will defeat itself and in the wake of his disappointment you will have all sorts of options, ranging from depression and porn use, to apostasy, to affairs, to divorce. Use your imagination.

Again initially you will have to encourage some marital sex which it is usually our policy to discourage. I grant you it is unorthodox, to encourage what is undeniably a virtue, but the principle is really to unbalance the relationship. You will destroy their love the rest of the day, and eventually their sex life will follow as well, and it will be all the more amusing to watch when it does. Defense against the White Arts is my specialty and sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.

You and I know that whenever and wherever a Christian couple lawfully enacts their disgusting marital embrace, The Enemy’s sacrament is there. We cannot help but know it. We are seared and blinded by it. We burn and sizzle under the scorching, hateful light of it. They do not. They enact it and they do not know it and this is why when one sensible human tells them the truth we can use that very truth to poison their entire sexuality. When they don’t feel that scintillating personalistic vision, they assume it isn’t there, and if it isn’t there then maybe they just shouldn’t do it tonight. They don’t feel supernatural enlightenment, so they must have done it wrong, when in reality they were just tired, or had something else in the backs of their minds, or it was too warm in the room.

You and I see this with all The Enemy’s sacraments, but this one sacrament they somehow think should be different than the rest. It’s the same lie we’ve been using for years now, dressed up anew. If you don’t feel “in love” with someone, then somehow the marriage no longer counts. Well now among a certain sect we can teach them to think if they don’t feel “unified” by it, it doesn’t count as “spiritual sex.” So they separate soul and body once again and we enjoy it even better than before.

So your principles are, confine this dangerous new fad of his to the bedroom. This will eventually make his wife very unlikely to get excited about it with him, which will give him an excuse to doubt her zeal for “the faith” which is really nothing more than his own pet version of The Enemy’s Faith.

Then, disillusionment (which is really illusionment), disappointment, despair. Once they start down that road you must press your advantage as far as you can. Crush the little vermin into the mud of their own frustrated desires. Let them never even dare to be happy again.



Friday, June 15, 2012


I love my love, my love desires me
My Beloved’s love is mine and mine is hers
And for her I delight to pour out wine
Sweet and heady, as piercing as a kiss.
So welcome all, my friends, come forth and see
Join in, rejoicing in our joy. Draw near
Drink deeply of my father’s choicest wines
And let yourselves be overcome with joy.

Monday morning comes, every week
And the wine is gone. I don’t know where it went.
The gongs of pagan temples in my head
Reverberate over a deserted backstreet,
Where I found myself upon waking. The sky is gray
Or else the light is far too bright for my head
Hungover. Either way, it doesn’t matter. I can’t see,
And somehow last night my paycheck disappeared.
The unnatural, jarring beep, beep, beep
Of the alarm jolts my heart into palpitations
Rabbit like, as I face another day.
My lovely lover’s eyes are rimmed with red
Makeup smeared and bleary; Too human,
Too real for this early in the morning.
I wish she would just offer me some wine
But that’s all gone. Long gone. And anyway,
I have to go to work today.

An older lady orders up more drink
From the strange, wild rabbi with the crazy hair
And eyes that quietly see into my soul.

The coffee maker takes too damn long
To drip my much needed morning dose
Of caffeine. Instant coffee, that’s what I need.
Or a caffeine pill. Caffeine by IV.
Drip it straight into my veins
If I am to face the day.

On the way to work he asks for water,
One hundred and eighty gallons.
Now where the hell am I supposed to find
That much water in the desert?
If I had even a tenth of that I might give you some,
And drink the rest to wet this cotton mouth
Or brew some coffee with it, or take a hot shower.
I might save it for later, just in case.
But give it to you?
And anyway, I’m still waiting on my wine.
If I were drunk I would give you water,
I can afford to be generous when I’m smashed.
What do you need it for anyway?

Well, I suppose I can give you a little.
I think I have an Aquafina in the glove compartment
Leftover from some trip or other.
Who knows what those kids leave in here.
Check under the back seat, and ignore
The prehistoric petrified Cheerios.
There you will find a bottle,
Of water. Or two. Go ahead.
Take one for the road, if you need it.
I need to pick up more anyway.

The Rabbi asks the lady if she knows
What this means, that strange request of hers.
Her only response is full obedience.

That’s the problem with giving
That if you give them a little, they want more.
The homeless guy wants a bottle of water,
The kid wants juice, the wife wants tea.
The kid needs a bath, the wife needs a nap.
That homeless guy on the corner again
Knows my name, but I’ve never asked him his.
One hundred eighty gallons I fill up
One sippy cup at a time.

And suddenly there is wine again,
I don’t know where it came from; only that it’s here.
And better than I remember it. Stronger,
More real, more like wine than wine.
Sweeter, more subtle, like and yet unlike
The wine I knew before. This new wine,
Is old. As old as the hills
And the old wine was very new.

Only much later do we learn
The strange Rabbi bought us the wine
And paid for it with his Blood.

I love my love, my love desires me
My Beloved’s love is mine and mine is hers
And for her I delight to pour out wine
Sweet and heady, as piercing as a kiss.
So welcome all, my friends, come forth and see
Join in, rejoicing in our joy. Draw near
Drink deeply of my Father’s choicest wines
And let your selves be overcome with Joy.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sunday Morning

Today is a Sunday. I am sitting in my room, listening to the Magdalen College Choir (having already enjoyed several albums each of Casting Crowns and L’Angelus) and reading. I have been to Mass and Adoration, and enjoyed a doughnut with friends after Mass (We did not all enjoy the same doughnut, naturally. They enjoyed different doughnuts than I did.) I have given an unexpected gift to someone (I hope they like it. hee-hee! ;-D ), I have talked with several of my family members on the phone, I have written several blogs (this being one of them) and I have finished “Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys” which I HIGHLY recommend. Now I am patiently savoring Brother David Steindl-Rast’s book “Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer.” It was recommended by a good friend, and I can already see why. So far I have only read the first chapter, and cannot even express it in prose. It requires poetry. Something like this:

Let us go into the woods, you and I,
Just us; and let us be surprised
And see things as they are, and know
That they are thus, and good, because He wills them so.

Horribly trite, but that is what comes to me on the spur of the moment, as it were. It works for me and I really don’t much care what anyone else thinks about it.

As an added anomaly, I am drinking coffee in order not to be drowsy as I read. I was literally falling asleep in the middle of the page, at 5:00 in the afternoon. That is very untypical of me, but there is a reason for it. Allow me to share the story with you…

Of course it begins with Friday night when I didn’t go to bed at all until nearly 2:00 in the morning. There was a good reason for that. And I’m sure there is a good reason for the fact that I cannot sleep once the sun starts shining, which it does around 5:00 A.M. in these parts. But one night of hardly any sleep is no great shakes to me. The icing on the cake came this morning, at about 3:30 when I awoke to hear the front door opening (I am a light sleeper) and women’s voices downstairs. Since no women live in this house I was a little confused until I listened to what they were saying. I realized that two of my roommates, S and J, had brought home a couple of girls from the bar. I shook my head and tried to go back to sleep. I must have succeeded because I was only vaguely aware that the voices moved up the stairs and into the hall outside my bedroom. What snapped me to full wakefulness was the sound of my bedroom door being opened and S shouting, “No! Don’t go in there!” But it was too late.

Something not many people know about me is that I possess the ability to come instantly awake like an animal, from total slumber to total wakefulness, in absolutely zero time. There are a few triggers that can bring on this reaction, and one of them is a door opening (I come awake before because I had heard the front door open on the other side of the house and downstairs.) So before the door was even half way open I was already awake and in full on action mode. I tossed the blanket to one side and threw myself out of the bed onto my feet, snatching up the pistol I keep on the box next to the bed. The intruder screamed and jumped back into the hall. I stepped into the doorway of my room with no shirt on and a gun in my hand. According to my roommates I was even sweating. I didn’t point the pistol at anyone, or even rack a round, and my trigger finger was indexed. Despite these details, apparently I looked a bit disconcerting to the two little Asian chicks standing outside my door in their bar-hopping outfits. S and J were busy trying to reassure them that I was really quite harmless, and reassure me that they were harmless as well. I didn’t say anything, but went back in the room and closed the door.

As soon as I calmed down a bit I started laughing. It sounded like the two girls were half ready to leave, and the two guys were trying to calm them down and get them to stay. I could hear the girls downstairs protesting that they never went home with guys before and this was why! “Why didn’t you tell us you had a crazy roommate?! You didn’t see what I saw. All I saw was just this big, shirtless, hairy white guy coming at me!” S and J were trying to explain that I was actually really nice. S said, “He’s fine. He’s actually super religious.”

“That doesn’t mean he isn’t crazy!”

I eventually stopped laughing long enough to go downstairs (with a shirt on this time), introduce myself and apologize for startling them. They invited me to join them line dancing in the living room, but I declined. I’m not sure what S and J were expecting to get out of their company but all they did get was some halfhearted line dancing before the girls left at about 4:30. I couldn’t go back to sleep so I stayed up and did some reading and praying and all the while I was still laughing at the memory of their faces. Maybe that will teach them to go home with strange guys at all hours of the morning.

At any rate, that is why I got very little sleep on top of very little sleep. But at least it was the funniest morning I’ve had in a very long time.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Only One Thing to Do!

Sometimes you end up in pickle…

You don’t know what’s going to happen.
You don’t know where to go from here

You aren’t even sure how you got here.

At times like this there is really only one thing to do…

Stop worrying,

Sit back,

Look God dead in the eye

And tell Him:

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Like the Dewfall

O God, our God of wind and storm and rain,

King of all the force of nature’s might

Lord of hurricane and burning sun

Of all our earthly sea and sky and land,

Who sends as herald quake and blazing fire,

Yet comes at last in a whispering breath of air.

Sometimes, O God, our hearts cannot abide

The fury of your love in all its force

The fierceness of your love with all its fire.

You pour out grace upon us like the rain

Pelting down upon our cowering heads,

Tender, backwards hearts afraid of drops

Of too much life.

                                Life we need, but Lord

Our leaves are still so young, so pale, so soft

And worms and slugs have been gnawing at our roots.

The earth itself, it seems, would wash away

In the shower of your Love, O mighty God.

Life we need, but Life we cannot bear,

It is far too strong for us. Have Mercy, Lord!

The rain ceases.

                              The sun sets.

                                                         Night falls.

The air grows chill, and still, and dark, with sounds

Of scurrying things in shadows on each side.

We cower in the black of ignorance;

This merciful dilution of the light

Seems worse, far worse, than the blazing light of sun.

Here in the dark we choke and wilt and droop

As hours tick by without a hint of life

O God, my God, where are you in this night?

The cold air chills through every pore and cell

Numbing me with no apparent gain

While unbeknownst to me the very air

Grows damp and soft, pregnant with His grace

And drops of moisture form upon my skin.

With infinite tenderness each one is formed

Coalesced from the imperceptible grace

That fills the night with God’s own glorious life,

And gently emplaced by the Holy Spirit’s hand.

The coolness sooths and heals my battered flesh,

And soaks unhurried into my thirsty cells.

Then as the sun returns I stand bedecked

In prophetic jewels of bright, thrice borrowed light,

A gift from Him, my King, my Father, My God.