Monthly Archives: May 2014

One that almost got Away pt 1

chinese_fishing_nets

When I was four, I was introduced to theology by my father; it consisted of this: if you sin, you will go to hell. When I was eight, I started going to weekly CCD classes; Thursday afternoons were led by earnest but theologically inadequate homemakers into the enlightened new religion of post-Vatican II. We went to Mass every Sunday, and for me it was very similar to the medieval contraption named the Iron Maiden: one twitch, and instant pain, until the next movement.
My friends were all Dutch Reformed. Catholics were backwards, non-American superstitious fools- not quite as bad as Jews, however nearly so. The very idea that we HAD to go to church on Sundays was a concept worthy of ridicule- as soon as they got over their astonishment of such a doctrine. First Communion was memorable, though at the time I did not realize why. First Confession was horrifying; the concept of sin while well understood was overwhelming for a boy of eight. Even at that age I knew those eight years of sinning could not be properly accounted for in a mere minute or two of babbling amidst abject fear.
Confirmation –even more fun! For some reason I was serious about the whole process, yet when I picked as a sponsor my father’s former closest acquaintance (Now a near deadly foe due to my parents’ divorce- where the former “friend” sided with my mother–no, I refuse to go further.). Things went downhill rapidly- Benedict Arnold comes to mind when I remember my father’s opinion of me. Confirmation was however a distinct memory; that of facing the Bishop and receiving his blessing; I was keenly aware of the symbolic pat on my cheek in remembrance of the suffering a Christian was to endure. Unfortunately with the social ostracism of a child of Catholic divorce in those days, I could not imagine things getting any worse: Such a silly young boy.
Amidst the debris of my family’s destruction, religion was abandoned in our family. Being left to my own devices I once returned to Mass alone after getting a drivers license. What struck me like a felled tree was confusion: What’s all this about Jesus? I thought the whole thing was supposed to be about God, not some guy who lived a million years ago. Such was spirit and intellect as a young Catholic in those heady days immediately following Vatican II. Onward goes the story and a few lucky years later I by pure chance picked up a KJV Bible. Believe it or not, I was lucky enough to start reading the NT. What I now realize as indwelling grace at the time overpowered my senses in a physical and highly emotional way.
The romance of love begins to fade during the trials and combats of living; when one of the two lovers fails to understand the principles of commitment and union within a relationship, said relationship begins to founder. Besides, I fell in love with a real live girl. We were married in a Methodist church(hers) as I could not discern the difference- poor catechesis and a failure to adhere to what I was taught- I was sure she was the one for me(correct on this point) and was also sure the trivialities of doctrine and dogma were irrelevant(incorrect on that one).
Armed with a new wife, a new life and the wide ranging vistas of a promising future, I deigned to let God impinge on my reality: I would call on Him when needed, and He would respond. Our Lord was reduced to a bumper sticker on my vehicle of life- and a rear one at that.


Panhandler

I had a bull once; well, I had A LOT of bulls, but this one was special. He was the best bull I ever raised; a grandson of Panhandler 741 and an own son of Julian 7546G: and he was magnificent. Long as a freight train, smooth as a Ferrari, with a hind end like a $40 dollar mule, as my father-in-law used to say. Fertile, and pre-potent, he threw heavy, muscular sons and feminine, hardy daughters. Panhandler was such a striking individual that people would stop on the road through our place to photograph him- and in an area where cattle outnumber people by a ratio of 30 to 1, that is saying something. People who have never been around stock much may not believe this, but those who have been will understand— Panhandler was chock full of pride. He was a BULL and certainly knew it; so did the other bulls that had to deal with him. Panhandler was a bit frightening in terms of size as well; one year after breeding season, when all the bulls are slimmed down from chasing cows across the prairie, for fun I penned him and took him to town in a stock truck just to see how much he weighed. In his working clothes and all tired out from breeding, he tipped the scales at 3200 pounds.
Panhandler was an emperor stuck in a two bit duchy, and he knew it. Not helping matters was the fact that some people were scared of him when they had to work him in a corral; they could not help it, with his size. I could handle him due to the fact that I raised him, and he still could remember when I was bigger and stronger than he was- as long as I did not take any chances, he was quiet and workable. Until…
Every year it is wise to test your bulls for fertility, to make sure they are still healthy and can breed cows; otherwise you have a sterile bull- not only failing to breed, but one that will chase other fertile bulls away. This one year, I decided to make a short trip to town and trusted a neighbor to help test the bulls. I returned after all was done to turn the bulls back into their pasture, and Panhandler tried to kill me. He was NOT joking around, there was blood in his eye (bulls eyes get bloodshot when they are upset), and he was on the fight. I escaped, but knew then it was time; I had kept him a few years longer than normal due to his quality, but I would rather live with smaller calves than die with big ones. I culled him. Later on I discovered that my neighbor was so frightened of Panhandler, he tried to move him around in the pens with a pitchfork; that is what changed a monarch into a monster.
Panhandler was a bull for the ages- the archetype of what a bull is supposed to be- but he developed into a liability when his power and demeanor were channeled to violence due to an unfortunate incident. His very talents rendered in the end his undoing as a result of circumstance. His was not a lifetime appointment; yet there are some in this world with such status that need to be assessed as this bull was; for the benefit of those who might be destroyed by such a one as this.


Daddy, I Trust in You

 

 

Kate, my eldest daughter was three years old at the time (I have four children, all grown). One afternoon, we were playing together in the living room- she loved to be tossed in the air, and then I would catch her. After a bit she decided it would be more fun if she would jump into my arms after climbing up on the end table next to our davenport. I must admit, it was a lot of fun for me too- something about, “daddy, catch me!!” and the look in her eyes when she was airborne. She KNEW that I was there for her. Those were some of the golden moments of parenthood that somehow seem to transcend time and space: it WAS, but in some way still IS and always WILL BE. I cannot explain it, nor do I wish to attempt to, for my feeble words shall just cheapen how it still feels.

After some time of this Daddy always gets tired; but Katie of course does not. I get up and walk over to the table for my coffee, in the kitchen which was open to the living room. I next heard her shout, “Daddy, catch me!!”. She was on the end table all smiles, a moment away from launching herself into the air once again, with the certainty of total trust — even though I was fifteen feet away, I would most certainly be there to catch her just before she hit the ground.

Of course if you are a parent, you know what happened next. Through the air she went, crashing to the ground, with an expression of disbelief and betrayal upon her face. What shot through my mind were those same two emotions:

1. Disbelief-Not that I would not catch her, but that she actually thought I could.

2. Betrayal- Because that is what I had done- betrayed my little girl for the very first time, of many more to come.

Thirty years later this incident haunts me still. When you are a new father, you have the euphoric ephemeral sense of Deity in which you revel. It is not long however, before your wings get singed from flying too close to the flame and you fall like a meteor to earth—forever. Not a fallen Seraph, but a fallen man.

I started praying the Divine Mercy chaplet a few years back and lately began to contemplate what trust truly means in the term, “Jesus, I Trust in You”. Being a bit dense I wrestled with this for quite a while, and then Grace revealed to me this memory of my daughter in the living room so many years ago. She had it in me; perhaps we all did in someone, sometime, somewhere. With this trust placed in someone who is not Jesus, we were betrayed and decided to never trust again. With a conscious act of will I can resurrect this trust in Our Lord, but in times unaware it leaks out when I need it most.

Woe is me, and may I find that place in my heart for Jesus, that my daughter once had for me.

 


Benedict XVI

 

The Panzer Cardinal; Nazi; Grand Inquisitor; Intolerant Eurocentric White man; Cold Hearted; Remote Ivory Tower Type. Throwback from the Past.

What else can be said about him- and not just by non-Catholics? “He just doesn’t GET us!” “Maybe now we can have a more “modern” (read liberal) Pope!” I have heard all of these both in print and in person. Of course, let’s not account for the esteem that John Paul the Great held Benedict in- or the fact that the Church through the guidance of the Holy Spirit elevated him to all the offices he has held throughout his life. Then there is the problem of what he wrote, and taught- clear, concise, inspiring and may I say, seraphic.

No, he is not a charismatic leader, nor does he speak in sound bytes. He is a shy, brilliant servant of the Most High God. A teacher and shepherd who wanted us to listen and think, not to be entertained. Our Good Lord and His Church thought that the World was ready for a man like Benedict XVI. It turns out not: it is not that he did not “get” us, but WE did not “get” HIM. Here is a man who will not be appreciated until long after he is gone; by those who needed him the most. Benedict XVI is man, much like Paul VI who offered himself up as a sacrifice for us all.

So now he is emeritus; and we kind of have two Popes, after a fashion- perhaps it is due to the fact that Our Lord, in his wisdom, feels we are so bereft of virtue, we now need TWO Popes to care for our souls