The Weed Killer of Self-Doubt

The Weed Killer of Self-Doubt

Over the past few months, my wife and I developed a plan for our backyard that included the removal several tons of monkey grass and the plants that the previous owners borrowed from the set of Jurassic Park.  We tried being gentile, selectively pulling up roots here and there, but the task became overwhelming as the recent rains brought forth vegetation, surrounding our patio like a flood.  So I poisoned everything. A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow, right? While I can say that my application of the herbicide was selective, every unwanted weed and plant was doused throughly so as to minimize the chance of survival.  Four days later, I found myself glaring over the kill-zone, a sigh escaping my lips.  The hearty green of The Unwanted had faded slightly and a few brown spots appeared.  This is hardly the napalm-like effect for which I hoped – the new bottle promised visible results in 12 hours.  I expected for a little more destruction, especially after 96 hours.  Naturally, the self-doubt began to eat away at me.  Had I measured the mixture incorrectly?  Had I not applied enough to each plant? I question myself in a similar way when trying to tempt a fish.  Common knowledge is that lures are designed to catch the fisherman first and the fish second.  Because of this, the typical angler usually develops a rather egregious collection of lures of which only a few are actually used.  When selecting a lure to cast, I try to evaluate the wind conditions, temperature of the water, time of the year, location of...
A quick note on reconciliation

A quick note on reconciliation

The sacrament of Reconciliation recently received attention on Truth and Charity from some of my fellow contributors, and I wanted to give my two cents. Saturday afternoon, my family loaded into the car for our monthly reconciliation.  As with all church functions, some random toddler catastrophe caused our tardiness.  During the drive to the church, I wondered if the priest would postpone Mass if we arrived anytime before the bells rang.  We rolled into the church parking lot, pleading to God that we arrived in time before Mass.  Thankfully, we did. My thought of a priest postponing Mass to hear confessions reminded me of my college years at Benedictine College.  The school shared a campus with St. Benedict’s Abbey, home to 52 monks (more or less), many of whom are priests.  Reconciliation provided bookends to every Mass of every day, and nearly every able-bodied priest gladly offered reconciliation at the drop of a hat. One priest in particular offered Mass at St. Benedict’s Church across the street from the campus.  He dutifully heard confessions beginning an hour before Mass, and stayed in the confessional until all in need received reconciliation, many times delaying the start of Mass.  I once asked the priest why he delayed Mass for confessions.  To paraphrase, he said he would hate to deny reconciliation to a soul in dire need or a person who could be living their last moments.  What if they were denied reconciliation, left the church, and were struck by a car on their way out?  This was his thought. Such outward expression of the love for the souls instilled in me...
Signs of the Times, 1 of 2

Signs of the Times, 1 of 2

In this case, the “signs” are not clouds, tea leaves, or the demeanor of Ben Bernanke. No, in this case they were literal signs. While driving, my wife spotted two consecutive ads on a digital billboard for churches. The first had the tagline “We’re about people,” and the second included a sizable display of the name of the pastor. I think both signs are unwittingly demonstrative of our culture and about contemporary American Christian culture as well.   “We’re about people.” One immediately thinks of the supposed alternatives from which this particular church wants to set itself apart. What are other churches about, if not people? “We’re about rules”? “We’re about putting on airs”? “We’re about music”? “We’re about tradition”? Being “about people” necessarily includes many “externals” or things that some Christians would consider superfluous. Do some churches place large emphasis on music (it doesn’t matter the style: chant, contemporary, Gospel)? Perhaps, but only because, as “people” we have an inherent love of beauty and an inherent need to express this love and our love for God through the artistic talents he gives us. Do some churches place large emphasis on rules? Perhaps, but only because 1) we all have the natural law written on our hearts calling us to a standard of intra- and interpersonal behavior that bears codifying, and 2) we all find ourselves living within particular cultures that value additional customs or behaviors not necessarily found within the natural law but which cement familial and societal bonds. Do some churches place large emphasis on tradition? Perhaps, but only because, as rational beings, we have the capacity...
Love Never Fails – The Intimate Nature and Order of the Sacraments

Love Never Fails – The Intimate Nature and Order of the Sacraments

“Who is this coming from the desert, arm in arm with her lover? Under the apple tree I woke you, in the place where you were born. Close your heart to every love but mine; hold no one in your arms but me.” (Song of Songs 8: 5-6) Sacred Scripture has a number of images to describe the love of God for each human person: the parental love of a father for his son; the love that exists among friends; and the care a master has for a servant. For most of us we are very comfortable with these images. We tend to be less comfortable with the image of love noted above – that of a spouse for his beloved. However, this spousal image is fundamental for understanding the Christian spiritual life, and it is even more essential for understanding the sacramental life of the Church. The relationship of God to a person is akin to the relationship between a man and a woman with respect to courtship and marriage. Sometimes the time between meeting and nuptials is short; in other couples it can be longer. However, the same stages of the process are present: 1) initial meeting and courtship, 2) engagement, 3) marriage and consummation. The same holds true for the spiritual life. We have an encounter with God, we make a commitment to God in 1) baptism; we renew that commitment in 2) Confirmation; and we consummate the relationship with God in the celebration of the 3) Eucharist. Continue reading this article by Jude Huntz at PrayTheMass.org...
The Origins of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving

The Origins of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving

Have you ever wondered why we bother to practice prayer, fasting, and almsgiving during Lent? “For all that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh and the concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life, which is not of the Father but is of the world.” – 1 John 2:16 The concupiscence of the flesh (which includes all disordered bodily desire, not merely sexual desire) we today call lust, the concupiscence of the eyes we call greed, and the pride of life we simply call pride. Fasting trains our bodies in self-denial, and so helps to fight lust. Almsgiving trains our hearts in generosity, and so helps to detach us from our possessions. Prayer places us in a subordinate position of trust in the providence of our loving Father, and so helps to fight pride. That in itself is enough to justify these three Lenten practices, but there’s much more to it. We put these three things into special practice during Lent not only because they answer three worldly realities, but because they are answers to three ancient roots of temptation in the soul, the same three by which the devil tempted Christ. In his condemnation of lust, greed, and pride, the apostle John was not simply plucking low-hanging fruit from the tree of vice as easy examples of sin. He was calling to mind the three things that led to the original sin all the way back in the Garden of Eden: The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining...