Thursday, October 8, 2015


This post links to Convert Journal
We still get where we're going

The kids were just right tonight.

Every year the children in my catechism class need a month or so to acclimate to how class works. The first meeting is always leaden- they don't know me and are cautious and reticent. But tonight they were fully alive, and this high will last through the end of April.

The lesson plan began with the Shekinah Cloud over Mt. Sinai, and would run through the Golden Calf to the Meeting Tent. Which is plenty interesting, but extra spark was in all the digressions prompted by kids' questions. For example, I was explaining how the Levite men were put in charge of offering sacrifice after the other tribes blew it with the Golden Calf:

"Were the Levite women priests too? Good question, no they weren't, just the men. But who sacrificed the lambs at the first Passover? The elders! Yes the elder men. All the way back to Abel, the men did the sacrificing. So what did the Levite women do, they didn't have to work? Sure they worked, they ran the households, that's work. But I mean work that makes money. Maybe they did, but it would be connected to running the household. Hey, there's a great bit in Proverbs about that called the Good it is:

"Who can find a woman of worth? Far beyond jewels is her value.
Her husband trusts her judgment; he does not lack income.
She brings him profit, not loss, all the days of her life.
She seeks out wool and flax and weaves with skillful hands.
She picks out a field and acquires it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She watches over the affairs of her household,
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband, too, praises her:
“Many are the women of proven worth, but you have excelled them all.”

"That sounds just like my wife. I kiss her and tell her she is the prize of a lifetime. But her work is much bigger than just what she may make and sell. And a Levite priest could hardly tend to his sacrificing business if his wife was not running the household and tending to the family's business."

It's gonna be another good year.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Dew Drop In

This post links to Convert Journal

Here’s a favorite bit from Isaiah 45:

“I am the LORD, there is no other.
I form the light, and create the darkness,
I make weal and create woe;
I, the LORD, do all these things.
Let justice descend, you heavens, like dew from above,
like gentle rain let the clouds drop it down.
Let the earth open and salvation bud forth;
let righteousness spring up with them!
I, the LORD, have created this.”

I like occasions when Scripture refers to rain or dew: I imagine both precipitations would figure prominently in the imagination of anyone living in an arid land.  And I’m guessing, but I bet anytime a prophet figuratively referred to rain or dew, his hearers would reflect on this bit of Exodus:

“Then the LORD said to Moses: I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion…”

And I love the way the bread came down: not in a torrent, but lightly, softly-

“In the morning a layer of dew lay all about the camp,
and when the layer of dew had gone up, fine flakes were on the surface of the wilderness, fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground.
On seeing it, the Israelites asked one another, “What is this?” for they did not know what it was. But Moses told them, “It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat.”

It’s especially relevant for Catholics, because Eucharistic Prayer #2 riffs elegantly on that bit of Exodus:

“You are indeed Holy, O Lord, the fount of all holiness.
Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them
like the dewfall, so that they may become for us
the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In Exodus, first came the dew. When the dew went up, the miracle bread was present. And at Mass we pray for a similar miracle: that the Holy Spirit will, dew-like, cover our offerings; and shortly after, there will be miracle bread to eat.

Stay fired-up about Jesus and his Church.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summapalooza 2015 Class 8: nthngbtcnsnnts

                                                                  Scroll down at the link.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Summapalooza 2015 Class 7: Forgiveness

                                                                   Scroll down at the link.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Greenville-Ephrathah 16

Li'l 'Phrathah

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone will ordain Deacon Roger Morton to the priesthood on May 29, 2015 at his home parish of St. Mary's in Greenville, SC. Deacon Richard Wilson will also be ordained; his home parish is St. Joseph's in nearby Anderson, SC. Li'l 'Phrathah sez: close enough!

Y'all come and see...and don't forget the reception!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fiat Lux

 Link to an oral rough draft of the May 6 opening of my Summapalooza lecture series. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ax me I'm Cat'lic

This post links to Convert Journal

I had an idea for Easter. You know how folks will come to Midnight Mass and Easter Sunday Masses, but that will be it for the year. They might be inactive Catholics; or not Catholic at all, but they just wanna come and see.

On the Saturday before Holy Week, there's a four-church walking tour here in Greenville, SC. People start at the Episcopal church, then visit the Presbyterian and Methodist churches, and finish up at my parish, St. Mary's. Each church puts on a 30-minute lecture, mostly about its history, the stained glass, the organ, and then there's some time for Q&A before moving on.

I thought this might be a great evangelization opportunity, so the parish Adult Ed czar and I split the time: he covered a bit of parish history, explained the Mary stories depicted in the stained glass, and the history and function of the Stations of the Cross. Then I covered the liturgical function of the church, starting with the Meeting Tent in the desert; running through the Temple and synagogues of Jesus' day; and ending with the church we were sitting in, and how it connected to Heaven per Hebrews and Revelation. So after it was over we had plenty of good questions, some I hadn't anticipated. Once that was done, I wound up discussing more Catholic stuff with a few visitors, including a former Catholic. He was now "spiritual but not religious," and was telling me how Jesus was really conceived out of wedlock by a Roman soldier. I gave him and a few of the lingerers my card, said hey email me and we can have lunch if you want to. I was satisfied that the liturgical pitch went over well.

So I was thinking wow, some of these visitors were way plugged in- and that likewise, many "Creaster" (Christmas and Easter) visitors might respond to some non-threatening evangelization, too. I got permission to be a one-man evangelizer at the 9am and 11am Easter Masses. I made a lapel-sized sign that read "Ask Me Anything After Mass," and did door-greeting which I would have done anyway, I think it's gracious. My intent was to make it easy for non-Catholic visitors to get answers to any questions they might have, make a personal contact with them.

Turned out be a total dud!

First, I knew most of the people, by face if not by name. Second, as far as I could tell, everybody was Catholic. No Midnight Mass seeker-types. And the only questions I got were harmless ones about the parish, where are the bathrooms, etc. asked by out-of-town Catholics. Oh well.

But it was a good experience. Acting on an idea on short notice was energizing. And I learned some stuff I didn't expect to.

I intend to do a modified version at Christmas, and (maybe) get at least 2 more people to cover the other two entrances to the church. It's a long time 'til Christmas so there's no rush. Like the Church herself, it pays to take the long view- but not a view so long that nothing happens.

Friday, March 20, 2015


Y'all get fired up about my free lecture series this summer! The world is invited! Come and See!

Saturday, March 14, 2015


This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets.

like that but closer

Let's talk about cars. More specifically, their engines. Even more specifically, their connecting rods. The connecting rods transfer the up-and-down energy of the pistons into rotating energy at the crankshaft, which then makes the wheels turn and all that (like so). Of course the rods are under terrific stress, and if one fails it usually ruins the engine.
Until recently, a typical connecting rod was made of four pieces seen at the lower left, with the pins resisting the side-to-side stress between the rod and cap. Nowadays, many connecting rods are made per the example at lower right: each one is forged as a single piece. Then the cap is carefully cracked off, and reattached around the crankshaft for a virtually perfect fit without needing any pins. The cracked cap and the rod it is taken from are so uniquely mated that no other cap will fit that rod; and when put together, the crack is practically invisible.

Which reminds me of this: "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; 22 and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh."

Uniquely mated.

Friday, March 13, 2015

(x)y = ελληνική λέξη

This week it occurred to me that if the second letter in an English word is y, it's probably from Greek. Let's try it out: Greek words. Not an auspicious start, is it?
Byssinosis, (A)byss.
Cytoplasm, Cyst, Cynosure, Cynic, Cycle, Cyanide, Cypress.
Dynamo, Dysentery, Dyspepsia. Greek words.
F in Greek is phi Φ, which we'd write as ph, thus: Phylum, Physics, Phytoplankton.
G/J: Gyroscope, Gynecology.
Hymen, Hydrogen, Hysteria. English words beginning with "Iy"
K/Q: Kythera (Zither)
Lyre, Lycanthrope
Mystery, Myriad, Myrtle, Myrrh, Mycelium
Nymph; but not Nylon.
Pyromania, Pylon, Pyramid.
Rhyme, Rhythm. Don't split hairs, you know the h is silent.
Synonym, Sycamore, Symbol
Tyrant, Tyro, Type, Typhus English words beginning with "Uy"
W and Greek words.
Zymurgy, Zygote.

ελληνική λέξη = Greek word

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Res Ipsa Loquitur 18: Tony Agnesi Show

Brighter Than Expected

This post links to Convert Journal

I hope that's kosher

Fun fun fun at the Communion retreat on Sunday with 7 and 8-year-olds. Four groups of 10 or so, 25+ minutes each time. The standard program covered the miracle of the Loaves and Fishes using step-by-step teacher's notecards, and miraculously-expanding big paper-doll type loaves and fish. Pretty neat. Of course the kids already knew the story, so I couldn't see spending the whole time on that one miracle. Plus they already knew other stories that tie into the Eucharistic theme. Why not connect the dots they know, and add a couple while we're at it?

So instead of the prepared program, I presented a stripped-down version of the 6-step Bible Miracle Food Pyramid:

0. What's a food pyramid? What's a miracle food pyramid? (2 minutes)

1. Moses, bread and flesh in the desert. (3 minutes)

2. Elijah, bread and flesh in the desert. (3 minutes)

3. Elisha multiplies bread. (3 minutes)

4. Jesus transforms water into wine. (3 minutes)

5. Jesus multiplies bread and flesh; helpers passed out hunks of French bread for some hands-on drama. (6 minutes)

6. Jesus transforms bread into flesh; and wine into blood. This miracle continues even until today in Masses all around the world. (5 minutes)

At each step we reviewed how each succeeding miracle compared to the prior ones. As appropriate, I'd dramatize the stories and draw pictures. None of the four sessions went quite the same.

First time I've worked with kids this young. Their attention spans are shorter than 6th graders', but they think as fast, and threw themselves into it as soon as I got them laughing. Nice gig.

This example is how I typically lesson-plan any new assignment. I consider allotted time, the audience, and what they probably already know. Then I figure how to cover the topic in a way that's fun and stimulating, connects to other stuff, and leads to a bigger Catholic picture. Always: how does this bit we are discussing tie into the rest of the Bible and the Faith?

Saturday, February 7, 2015


This post links to Convert Journal

that's a shapely one

Marriage is a recurring theme in catechism class because it is a recurring theme in the Bible. Typically we cover this story during our trip through the Gospels:

"Master, there were with us seven brothers: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and having no issue, left his wife unto his brother. Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh.
Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? Jesus said, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven."

Without fail a child will ask me why I won't be married to my wife in heaven- won't we still love each other?

Part of my answer is that post-Eden, marriage lasts until the death of a spouse. But I also want to say something bigger about life after the Second Coming; that is, in the New Jerusalem- like so:

"Somebody tell me what wasn't good in Eden. Adam was alone! Yes, and? God made Eve out of his rib. Yes, and when he got his missing rib back he was completed, just like I am completed by by wife. Y'all tell me about my wife. You love her! I sure do...but why? Umm, she's you're wife? Well, yes...let's say I love her because she is good. Where's that goodness come from? God? Yes; tell me about creation. It was all good! Yes! So all the goodness we experience ultimately comes from...God. Yes. So my wife is like a book...or a TV...or Elisha's bones...c'mon, y'all know this... she's a media, cause God goes through her! Yes, a medium, she mediates God to me, like sacraments and all kinds of stuff do. Do I get the full dose of God though my wife? Huh? Is all the goodness of God available to me through my wife? Well, God's bigger than she is. Yes. But if I'm hanging out with Jesus after the Second Coming, do I get all God's goodness then? Yes! And if my wife is there...she gets it too. Yes. So is there more love between us now- or in the future? In the future! Yes. So if we will have even more love for each other while we're in God's company, how worried are we going be about how married we are? Well, maybe you wouldn't care anymore. Sort of, but not exactly...let's think of it this way: instead of the limited dose of love we get from each other here, we'll experience infinite love in heaven. It'll include all the love we have as husband and wife, but bigger: it will include everybody. Yes? But aren't you still going to miss being married in heaven? I don't think so. Imagine it like this:

Let's say I need water to live- without water I'd be incomplete, right? What? Can I live without water? No, you'd die. Without water would life be good? No you have to have it. Yes, so think of my wife, and the love she brings me, as water. I need it. And I'm ok, because I have a pitcher of lovewater right here, next to me, which is... your wife! Yes. I hug this pitcher against my heart like Adam's missing rib. And all around me right now in the classroom- is there more water? There's no water in here. Right. Except for my pitcher-full.

But eventually my wife and I will die- let's hope we'll both be in heaven, where love might be like an infinite ocean. Now imagine I walk into that sea of lovewater with my pitcher-full. See, it gets deeper and deeper, until...your pitcher is underwater!  Yes. Tell me about it. Well, the water in the pitcher is part of the ocean now. Yes. But the pitcher is still there, and it's still full, right? Yes, but the ocean is way bigger. Yes. The lovewater in my pitcher has merged with the infinite lovewater that's all around me and my pitcher. My little pitcher-full doesn't disappear: it's just where it was always meant to be. There will be many pitchers, but one water. So what we love about being married today will still be true in heaven and in the New Jerusalem, but unimaginably bigger and better."


BTW, the above is similar to how I answer the question about pets in heaven:

"Everything that you love about your pets (and everything else) will be more fully available to you in heaven; and in the New Jerusalem I would expect to see dogs and trees and all the rest of creation, so be happy."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Trinity Cameos

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

Every year in Wednesday Night Sunday School, when the Trinity makes a cameo appearance, I point it out. I know of three occasions. Three. As in Trinity!

1. Genesis 18, The Hospitality of Abraham:

In class I use this fresco...

....or this mosaic.

 "And the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men stood in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the earth, 3 and said, "My lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, 5 while I fetch a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on--since you have come to your servant." So they said, "Do as you have said." Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, "Make ready quickly three cakes." 7 And Abraham took a calf and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. 8 Then he took curds, and milk, and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate. 9 They said to him, "Where is Sarah your wife?" And he said, "She is in the tent." 10 The LORD said, "I will surely return to you in the spring, and Sarah your wife shall have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?" 13 The LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?' 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, in the spring, and Sarah shall have a son." 15 But Sarah denied, saying, "I did not laugh"; for she was afraid. He said, "No, but you did laugh." Then the men set out from there, and they looked toward Sodom; and Abraham went with them to set them on their way."

The LORD. One person? Three persons? Who could say in Abraham's day?

2. Luke 1, the Annunciation:

this one is of course inevitable

[Gabriel] said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end." 34 And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" 35 And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.

The Holy Spirit; the Father; and Jesus, a little speck now growing in Mary.

3. Matthew 3, Dunked in the Jordan:

James Tissot strikes again

"And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

Jesus; the Spirit; and the Father, channeling Isaiah. Notice Tissot shows the Father's presence as the Glory Cloud, the Shekhinah, swirling down over his Son.

In class I like to tie these together a bit more- not only is the Trinity making a few cameos, but in each case there's an associated miracle. In the Hospitality, the announcement of a miraculous pregnancy; at the Annunciation, yet another announcement of a miraculous pregnancy. And at Jesus' Baptism- well, I say Jesus made water holy so it could wash away sins.

I think that's pretty miraculous, don't you?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Fighting Words

This post links to Convert Journal

Isn't it remarkable: the occasions that Jesus' own people want to kill him follow instances when He quotes Scripture couplets to them? Of course it's remarkable; let's look at 3 cases.

In Luke 4 (edited), Jesus begins his public ministry after 40 days in the desert: "Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country. 16 And he came to Nazareth...on the sabbath day. And he read from...Isaiah. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." And he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." 22 And all spoke well of him: "Is not this Joseph's son?" 23 And he said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, 'Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here also in your own country.'" 24 And he said, " prophet is acceptable in his own country. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when ...there came a great famine over all the land; 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him off a precipice. 30 But passing through the midst of them he went away."

Mark 11: And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons; 16 and he would not allow any one to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he taught, and said to them, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations. But you have made it a den of thieves." 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and sought a way to kill him."

Mark 14: The high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" 62 And Jesus said, "I AM; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." 63 And the high priest tore his garments, and said, "Why do we still need witnesses? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?" And they all condemned him as deserving death."

Jesus expected at least some of his hearers to be very familiar with the Scriptures; familiar enough to figure out Jesus' meaning behind the verses.

In Luke 4, these are the fightin' words: "...there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when ...there came a great famine over all the land; 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." What Jesus means is,"Y'all know these stories, right? Then ya betta not bank on the Messiah doin' ya any favors. On two prior famous occasions, God overlooked the Chosen People and helped pagans instead. So get wit' John da Baptis' program, an' produce good fruit before the axe cuts ya down, an' in the fire ya go."

Oh dear, they did not take that very well.

In Mark 11, Jesus quotes Isaiah and Jeremiah: "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations. But you have made it a den of thieves." That is, "Let me remind you Temple bigshots that Isaiah prophesied that someday strangers and foreigners, not just Sons of Abraham, would be welcome in God's house. And Jeremiah says your disrespect for the Temple is so bad that God will abandon Jerusalem just as he abandoned Shiloh. Someday everyone will pray in God's house, but his house won't be here." Ouch.

In Mark 14, Jesus probably answers the high chief in Hebrew, saying I AM as a reference to this bit of Exodus 3: "Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" 14 God said to Moses, "I AM I AM/ הָיָה הָיָה." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM/ הָיָה has sent me to you.'" Thus Jesus identifies himself with God/ YHWH/ יְהֹוָה (You can see how close God's name is to I AM in Hebrew.) That's bad enough, but then Jesus quotes from this passage in Daniel 7: "I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed."  Now Jesus is really askin' for it. "You? You're I AM? You preposterous bumpkin. You're going get power and dominion and lord it over us in your kingdom?" Utterly aggravated, Caiaphas tears his robe in frustration.

Jesus speaks in the Bible; he also speaks through the Bible.

Art by James Tissot