Subscribe via email


Monthly Archives


Post Categories

Tag Index

1st Corinthians 1st Peter 1st Timothy 2nd Corinthians 2nd Peter 60 Minutes 1970s A. G. Sertillanges Abby Abortion Absurdity Academia Accordance Adoration Advent Aesthetics Affluence Agenda Aging AIDS Alan Keyes Alasdair MacIntyre Alexander Solzhenitsyn Algebra Al Gore Alienation Alvin Plantinga America American Culture American Enterprise Institute Americanism Amnesty International Anand Giridharadas Andrew Hacker Andrew R. Grainger Andy Rooney Angela Merkel Anglicanism Anthropocentrism Anthropology Anti-Bullying Anti-Christ Anti-clericalism Antigonish AP Apologetics Apostle Thomas Appearances Archangel Raphael Archbishop Charles Chaput Archbishop Harry Flynn Archbishop Sean O'Malley Art Asininity Assassination Athanasius Atheism Audio Books Austria Authority Avery Cardinal Dulles Balkanization Banality Barack Obama Barbara Bellar Barney Frank Beatles Belgium Belief Ben Johnson Berlin Wall Bias Bible Bible.org Bible Explorer Bible in English Bible Software Reviews Bible Translations BibleWorks Bill Cottle Bill O'Reilly Bill Whittle Bishop Robert Morlino Bitterclinging Black Friday Blackmail Blessed Sacrament Bloggers Unite Blogging Bloomberg Bobby Jindal Bob Schieffer Bono Book of Tobit Book of Wisdom Books Bosco Peters Boston.com Boston Bruins Boston Globe Boston Pilot Bourgeois Ethics Boyhood Boys Bozo BP Brendan O'Neill Bullying Bureaucracy Burial Cacophony California Campaign Funding Cancer Canon Law Cap 'N Trade Capitalism Car Seats Catechesis Catechism Catherine Lawless Catholic Church Catholic Culture Catholicism Catholic Lane Catholic Schools Causation CBA CBO CBS CCD CEB Celebrity Celebrity Psychopath of the Week Censorship Certain Urgency Charismata Charity Charlie Baker Chattering Class Chernobyl Chicanery Children Children & Media China Chris Christie Chris Squire Christendom Christian Art Christianity Christina Harms Christmas Chuck Colson Church Citizenship Civics Civility Civilization Civil Rights Civil Unions Clarence Dupnik Clergy Sexual Abuse Close to the Edge CNSNews Coercion Cognitive Dissonance College Culture Comedy Commerce Clause Commonweal Communism Community Commuting Competition Compromise Computing Condoms Confiscatory Taxation Conflict Congregationalism Congress Congressional Powers Conservatism Constantinople Constitutionality Consumerism Contempt Contraception Conversion Coping Cosmology Counterculture Cover Up Creativity Credentialing Credo Cremation Criminality Crisis Magazine Cult Culture Culture Wars Dad Daily Mail Damien of Molokai Dante Darfur Darwinism Dave Bainbridge David B Hart David Brooks David Frum David Linsky David Mills David Thompson Daylight Saving Time DDC Death Debt Deficit Commission Deficit Spending Definitions Dehumanization Democracy Democratic Socialism Democrat Party Department of Education Dependency Der Spiegel Despair Deuteronomy Deval Patrick Development Devotion Dichotomy Disbelief Discernment Discipline Discrimination Disease Disorder Dispensationalism Disrespect Dissent Dissipation Diversity Divinization Do-Goodism Doctor Assisted Suicide Douglas Farrow Dred Scott Drinking Dualism Earth Day Easter Eastern Religion eBooks Ecclesiology Echo Chamber Economic Crisis Economics Ecumenism Ed Markey Ed Morrissey Ed Schultz Education Edward Feser Edward Winslow Egalitarianism Eleanor Clift Election '08 Election '10 Election 2012 Electronic Publishing Elizabeth Scalia Elizabeth Warren Empathy Empiricism England Enlightenment Entertainment Entitlement Entitlements Environmentalism Envy Ephesians Epiphany Episcopacy Episcopal Church Epistemology Equality Equating Eric Holder Eschatology ESV Eternity Ethics Eucharist Eugenics Euphemism Europe European Union Euthanasia Evangelization Evolution Evolutionism Ewald Stadler Experience Experts Extortion Ezekiel Facebook Faith Faith & Reason Faithfulness Fall of Rome Family Fascism Fashion Fast & Furious Fatherhood Fausta Wertz FCC Fear Felix Just Feminism Fidelity First Amendment First Things Folly Forgiveness Founding Fathers Fourth Estate FOX News Frances Titchenor Franciscan University Fraud Fred Baumann Freedom Free Lunch Free Speech Free Will Friendship Funerals G. F. Handel Gabrielle Giffords Gaia Galatians Garage Light Gay Marriage Genesis George Carlin George Orwell George Tiller George W Bush George Weigel Georgia Warnke Gerry Dembrowski Gerush92 Glenn Beck Global Warming Gnosticism God Good Good Friday Good Samaritan Gorecki Gospel Gospel of John Gospel of Luke Gospel of Mark Gospel of Matthew Gospels Gossip Government Grace Graciousness Great Britain Great Entitlement Society Greece Green Movement Grief Guardian Gun Control Gunwalker Handel & Haydn Hannah Arendt Hans Urs von Balthasar Harry Christophers Harry Potter Harry Reid Hating HCSB Health Healthcare Healthcare Reform Heaven Hegel Henri de Lubac Henry E Hudson Heresy Heritage Foundation Hidden Treasure Higher Education Hiroshima History Hitler Holiday Season Holiness Homosex Hope Hospitality HotAir Housing HTML editors Hubris Human Dignity Human Flourishing Humanities Human Nature Human Rights Humility Hypocrisy Hysteria iBreviary Idealism Ideas Identity Ideology Idolatry iEducation Illness Imago Dei Immorality Imperialism Incarnation Incivility Individualism Indulgence Infantilism Insipidity Insurance Intellect Intercession Intergenerational Theft Interiorizing Culture Iona Iowahawk Irony Irresponsibility Isaiah Islam Italy J.E. Dyer J. Gresham Machen Jack Wagner James Pethokoukis James V. Schall Janet Daley Jay Rockefeller Jazz Shaw Jefferson Starship Jeff Jacoby Jeremiah Jesus Christ Jewish Advocate Jews JFK Jill Stein Jimmy Carter Joanne Hogg Joe Biden Joe Carter Joe Scarborough Joe Wilson John Henry Newman John Jalsevac John Kerry John Locke John McCain John Roberts John Sommerville John the Baptist John Ziegler Jonah Jonathan Last Jonathan Sperry Joseph Stalin Journaling Journalism Joy Joyce Judaism Judgment Judgmentalism Judiciary Jurisprudence Justice Just War K-8 Kant Kathryn Lopez Keith Olbermann Ken Cuccinelli Kermit Gosnell Keynesianism Killing King David Kingdom of God KKK Knights of Columbus Knowledge L'Osservatore Romano Labor Laity Language Larceny Law Lazarus Laziness Learning Lectionary Leftism Legacy Legality Lent Leprosy Letter to Hebrews Letter to Romans Leviathan Liberal Education Liberalism Libertarianism Liberty Libraries LibraryThing Libretti Libya Licentiousness Lidwig Feuerbach Lies LifeSiteNews LifeWay Light Light Dawns on Marble Head Limited Government Liturgical Calendar Liturgy Liturgy of the Hours Logos Lordship Love Luciano Storero Lumen Gentium Lying Macintosh Magi Manhattan Declaration Mara Hvistendahl Marcel Guarnizo Marco Rubio Margaret Becker Margaret Marshall Marketing Mark T. Coppenger Marriage Martin Cothran Martin Heidegger Marxism Mary Eberstadt Mary Magdalene Mary Rose Somarriba Massachusetts Massachusetts SJC Massasoit Materalism Maternity Mathematics Matthew Hanley Matt Labash Mattress Girl MaybeToday.org Mayflower Meaning Media Ethics Media Hype Medicaid Medical Ethics Medicare Memory Mercy Methodology Mexico City Policy Michael Hanby Michael Moore Michelle Bachmann Michelle Malkin Mike Pence Milos Forman Miracles Misanthropy Misbehavior Miscenegation Mitch Daniels Mitt Romney Moammar Qaddafi Mockery Modernism Modernity Modern Scholar Mom Moral Doctrine Moral Imbecility Moralism Morality Moral Philosophy Mortimer J Adler Motherhood Mother Teresa Motives Movies MSBA MSM MSNBC Music NAB NABRE Nancy Pelosi Nanny State Naomi Achaefer Riley Nasta & Yulia Natick National Council of Churches National Day of Prayer Nationalism National Review National Socialism Natural Rights Nature NEA Negligence New American Bible New English Translation New Marriage News Product Newsweek New Testament New York Times Niall Ferguson Nigel Farage Nighttime Nihilism Noli me Tangere Nonsense Now Reading NY Times O Antiphons ObamaCare Occam's Razor Occupy OEB Old Testament Olive Tree Ontology Operation Rescue Opinion Ordinary Time Organ Sales Origen Original Sin Orthodoxy Osama bin Laden OWD Paganism Papacy Parables Parenting Partisanship Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry Passion of Christ Pat Caddell Patheos Pathology Patriarchy Paul Erlich Paul Ryan PC Study Bible Pearl of Great Price Pederasty Pedophilia Pentecostalism Permissiveness Perpetual Outrage Perseverance Personhood Pete Jermann Peter Augustine Lawler Peter Kreeft Peter L. Berger Peter Sanchioni Peter Seewald Peter Thiel Phenomenology Philosophical Naturalism Philosophy Pieta Pieties Piety Pilgrims Pink Floyd Planned Parenthood Plato Plenty Plymouth Plantation Poland Political Correctness Political Discourse Political Economy Political Resistance Political Science Pop Culture Criticism Pope Benedict XVI Pope John Paul II Pope Leo XIII Pop Music Pornography Postmodernism Poverty Power Pradis Prayer Preaching Priestcraft Priesthood Principles Priorities Prison Fellowship Prisons Privacy Private Schooling Privatization Pro-Lifers Procrastination Producers Progressivism Propaganda Property Property Rights Propheticism Prosperity Prostitution Protestantism Pseudo-Morality Public Discourse Public Order Public Schooling Public Spending Punishment Puritans QotD QuickVerse Racialism Racism Radicalism Rape Rape Culture Rationality Rationing Ravi Zacharias Reading Reality Rebecca Reconciliation Redemptionis Sacramentum Reform Regeneration Regensburg Regulations Relationships Relativism Religion Religiosity Religious Art Religious Dialog Religious Liberty Religious Repression Rent Seeking Repentance Republican Party Rerum Novarum Resomation Responsibility Resurrection Revelation Revolutions Rhetoric Richard Fernandez Richard John Neuhaus Richard Nixon Richard Wright Rick Santorum Rick Wakeman Rick Warren Righteousness Rita L. Marker Robert Barron Robert R. Reilly Robert T. Miller Rock Music Rod Decker Roe v. Wade Roger Vinson Roman Empire Romans Romanticism Romneycare Ronald Reagan Ron Dellums Ross Douthat Rush Limbaugh Ruth Ruth Marcus Ryan Messmore Sacrality Sacramentalism Sacraments Saint Augustine Saint Francis Saint Francis de Sales Saint Ismeria Saint Jerome Saint Maximilian Kolbe Saint Nicholas Saint Paul Saint Paul School Saint Peter Salvation Same-Sex Marriage Sanctification Sanctity Santa Claus Sarah Palin Satisfaction Scandal Scapegoating Schooling Science Scott Brown Scott Harrington SCOTUS Sean Bielat Self Discipline Self Knowledge Sentimentality Sermonizing Sexuality Sexual Revolution ShareThis Sharon Angle Sigmund Freud Sin Singing Slander Slavery Smoking SNAP Social Contract Social Engineering Socialism Socializing Children Social Justice Social Studies Sociology Socrates Solidarity Solutions Sonia Sotomayor Soteriology Soul Southern Poverty Law Center Soviet Union Speeches Speech Police spiked-online Spirituality SSM St. Augustine Church St. Patrick Church Standardization Statism Stem Cells Stephen Kinzer Stephen Prothero Sterilization Stewardship Strange Fire Stress Study Study Bibles Stupidity Subjective Objectivity Subjectivism Subsidiarity Suffering Sunday Readings Supernatural Superstition Symbolism Syncretism Tabernacle Talk Radio Taxation Tax Shelters Teaching TEA Party Technology Ted Kennedy Ted Koppel Temporizing Temptation Terl Bryant Tetragrammaton Thanksgiving The Catholic Thing Theism Theology Theology of the Body Theosis Theotokos Therese of Lisieux The Telegraph TheWeek.com Thinking Thomas Aquinas Thomas F Madden Thomas G. Guarino Thomas Jefferson Tim Cahill Time Timothy Dalrymple Tolerance Tom Coburn Tony Blankley Tony Melchiorri Touchstone Townhall.com Trade-Offs Tradition Training Transcendence Transhumanism Transparency Treasure Trinitarianism Trivia Troy Donockley Truth Tunisia Turkey TV Tyranny U.S. Senate U2 UFOs Unbelief Unintended Consequences Unionism United Church of Christ Unity Universal Declaration of Human Rights Universalim Universities Upon this Rock USA Today USCCB US Congress Usurpation Utilitarianism Utopianism Vatican Vatican II Verbal Engineering Verbum Vice Victimhood Victor David Hanson Violence Virginia Postrel Virtue Vocation Voluntary Insanity Voters Voting Vulgarity w.bloggar W. Norris Clarke Waiting Walk for Life Wall Street Journal Walter Russell Mead War Warren Buffett Washington Post Watergate Wealth webEdit Weekly Standard Wesley J. Smith Western Civilization Wicca Will-to-Power William Callahan Will of God Windows Live Writer Winter Wisdom Witchcraft WordPress Words WORDsearch WORDsearch 5 WORDsearch 7 WORDsearch 8 WORDsearch 9 WORDsearch 10 WORDsearch 11 Work Works Worship WWJD Yes Yom Kippur Youth ZBS Zero-Tolerance ZfEval-Searching Zondervan

Archive for the 'Ruminations' Category

Taking Stock

Posted: Sunday, September 15, 2013 (11:32 pm), by John W Gillis


I went out to fetch some Chinese take-out this evening, and found myself driving past Saint Patrick’s just a few minutes before classes were to start for the beginning of the new CCD year. I sped up just a little. This is the first year in almost a decade that I will not be teaching a class of teenagers. It is a strange feeling, and I already miss the camaraderie of the classroom. I’ve really loved my charges over the years, and they’ve been a great source of joy and satisfaction for me.

There’s no good reason to expound upon why I wouldn’t go back this year: it is sufficient to say it’s not because I was tired of teaching. Nonetheless, I will be living a rather different kind of life this year; I am in a new mode, at least for now. I have time for other things, but I will need to choose wisely. I have time to correct deficiencies and address needs. I do not have time to read the “news”.

For some reason, I’m not quite prepared to abandon this blog/website, so I need to do something to correct its dysfunction, for a moribund, unused web site is dysfunctional. I will be re-thinking its purpose.

When I launched the site, in March 2008, I anticipated having a heavy focus on Bible Study tools, resources, and methods – which represented a significant aspect of my intellectual efforts at the time. But I was also just beginning my studies at Franciscan University, and my early plans would prove not only overly ambitious, but also of receding interest to me. I’ve moved on.

In light of that, I do not expect to produce pages analyzing software products beyond the two I managed to get published last decade: WORDsearch and QuickVerse. Ironically, they have been merged into essentially a single product since the purchase of QuickVerse by WORDsearch in mid-2011. I suppose I should simply suppress my existing QuickVerse analysis page, since it has no more independent interest. That would leave only my WORDsearch eval page in that section of the site, and I’m not sure why it should have any permanency. I’ve already (tonight) suppressed the “WORDsearch Versions Comparison” sub-page. I published (again, tonight) a revision to the WORDsearch page, updating it to account for all that has happened in the busy two and a half years since I’d last revised the page: the QuickVerse purchase, the sale to Lifeway, and the releases of WORDsearch versions 10, 10.5 and 10.6. My attention, however, has turned elsewhere, and the website needs to reflect that change in focus – assuming I can get around to it!

Some Concluding, Year-End Musings on 2012

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012 (11:59 pm), by John W Gillis


Logos: Logos Bible Research scored huge in my estimation this year. I had struggled to be productive with earlier versions of their software, but version 4, released just about 3 years ago, represented a dramatic improvement in usability and performance, and I started drifting toward it then – especially since they were also beginning to release quality Catholic resources (e.g. works by Aquinas). Then, this Spring, they put together a series of terrific Catholic base packages, all of which included an outstanding edition of the CatechismCatechism of the Catholic Church. Logos version 5, released a couple months ago, adds some nice capabilities to an already terrific product, and has also been published in a separately-branded Catholic product line called Verbum.

Like the standard Logos 5 offerings, the base packages seem disproportionally weighted toward the upper end of the price range, but the entry-level Catholic package, The Catechism of the Catholic Church Collection (in the $50 range), is simply the best set of resources available at anywhere near that price for Catholics looking for a digital study platform. Check it out. It lacks an NAB, but that can be surmounted – and the versions it contains, the RSVCE and Douay, are better versions, anyway. Besides the CCC, it includes the Roman Catechism, the conciliar documents from both Vatican Councils as well as Trent, the essential dogmatic reference works of Denzinger and Ott, and the (daily) Catholic Lectionary. It is an outstanding value, and the resources work together brilliantly. I’m really impressed.

WORDsearch: Continuing the Bible Study Software theme… After rushing WS10 out the door last Christmas week, Lifeway finally got the product to the right spot with a series of version 10.5-enumerated updates released to WS10 owners beginning in June of this year. With a (Greek only) morphological search tool, user-created book types, a History window, and a sermon management tool, WS finally filled some long-standing functionality gaps. But for me, it’s too little, too late. I’ve been a loyal WS user since 1992 – my first (DOS) version of WS came with the NAB, NJB, NRSV, and a Strong’s-tagged KJV, plus TSK; it was Bible Study bliss. No application has served me better over the past 20 years, but it’s time to move on. This program simply cannot compete with the heavyweights. New owner Lifeway (i.e. the Southern Baptist Convention) has had a year and a half to demonstrate a commitment to improved professionalism with the product, and it has not materialized. The only changes I’ve sensed are an increased interest in chasing the latest cultural fads (you can now tweet your Bible Study results from within the program, if that’s your thing), and a decreased likelihood that the platform will be seeing anything like the excellent Catholic resources that are showing up steadily from Logos. On the increasingly rare occasions that I’ve opened the app to work with it recently, it has usually been crashing. Forget it. Thanks for everything; it was great while it lasted.

New English Translation of the Roman Missal: It’s been just over a year now since the introduction of the new translations of many of the prayers in the Liturgy of the Mass. Although they can be awkward and clumsy at times, and although I still haven’t memorized the new versions of the Gloria or the Creed, I think they are overall a big improvement, and are working quite well, with the exception of the Sanctus. I get the Isaiah basis for the change, and consider it an important corrective, but of the half-dozen or so churches where I worship with some regularity, there is not a single congregation that proclaims it smoothly. There’s even one where the priest himself still says “God of power and might” – probably because of the difficulty of getting his people to use a common cadence in proclaiming the new version. It needs attention.

On Obama’s Reelection: I have to admit, I was stunned by the election results. I was quite confident the country would reject Obama, after having four years to see for themselves what you get when you vote for someone based on the color of his skin – as so many people have openly (even gleefully) admitted to doing during the messianic frenzy of 2008. Mitt Romney was admittedly not the easiest guy to get behind, but he offered a genuine chance to correct some of mistakes that have been made, get the economy growing again, and bridge some of the rancor that has afflicted US politics since the Nixon years, but which has reached utterly dysfunctional levels now under this most divisive and partisan of chief executives.

Romney’s loss was disheartening. Partly, that’s because the “kill Romney” character assassination campaign strategy worked for the Democrats, despite the fact that Mitt Romney might just be the most decent guy to have ever run for that office – he’d certainly have to be a serious candidate in any such ranking. That is not a good omen for the future state of presidential politics in this country. But it’s disheartening also partly because of the sheer political force displayed in it by the progressive movement. The Democrats didn’t just convince too many potential Romney supporters to stay home, they wielded a large voting bloc that was willing to support the progressive agenda in plain daylight, not just as a kneejerk reaction to Bush burnout.

It could very well be that we’ve reached – or at least come close to – a tipping point as a culture, where a majority of citizens are willing to vote themselves “other people’s money” from the public till, and to delegate to the state the responsibilities of human freedom, from citizenship to family to personal health and well-being. If this is so, then we have reached the end of the usefulness of the great democratic experiment, and are descending into tyranny – one that will surely tout the infamous conceit of manifesting the will of “the people”. I wouldn’t expect it to end any better than its leftist forerunners have.

On perhaps a bright note, this debacle has produced in me a certain loss of faith in both the American people and in the political process – faith that was in reality misplaced to begin with. It has caused me to lose a good deal of interest in politics – or more accurately, in current events – which should serve both to free up time for less ephemeral concerns, and to orient my priorities more meaningfully.

On the Vapidity of the American “Opinion” Bureaucracies: Related to the collapsing opposition to leftist thinking in America is the success on the part of the progressive movement to establish a fifth column focused on the formation of opinion and the control of knowledge for political ends. I refer, of course, to the thorough progressive domination of the agenda-setting and opinion-defining institutions of education (both mandatory K-12and university-level) and mass media. As it is abundantly clear to me that the greatest threat to America as a place of “liberty and justice for all” comes from a combination of the “news” media and the educational institutions, I’m all in here with Pat Caddell, in his rant from this past autumn:

On Gun Control Hysteria: On this, the Feast of the Massacre of the Holy Innocents, it seems appropriate to complain that I was deeply distressed by the (media-driven) national meltdown of propriety and circumspection following the dreadful grade-school massacre in Newtown CT a few weeks ago. The notion that so many people were ready and willing to exploit the situation for dubious political purposes before the bodies of the dead children were even cold is chilling. Perhaps especially galling is the site of notoriously pro-abortion politicians crying crocodile tears over the carnage while intoning that “we must get serious” and “something must be done” to “protect the children”. Would it be impolitic to point out that during that very day, well in excess of 3,000 children were murdered in this country using devices – and furthermore, in the performance of acts! – that were not only perfectly legal, but which boast the unbending political protection of the very hypocrites who wailed the most loudly into the megaphones of self-righteous convenience on that sorry day? I hope those of us who retain some semblance of intelligence will be permitted a healthy degree of skepticism at the proposal that the repetition of such senseless bloodshed might be avoided by limiting the capacities of ammunition clips available to law-abiding citizens, causing mass murderers (of the gun-toting type, not the forceps wielding sort) to have to either buy their clips on the black market, or stop to reload a few times in the middle of mowing down a screaming group of defenseless women and children.

On Christmas: I’ve disliked the holiday we call Christmas at least since I was a young father without two spare nickels to rub together. As I’ve gotten older, my financial wherewithal has (predictably) improved significantly, and my Catholic faith has taken root and flourished into a principal self-understanding, but I don’t like the holiday any more. I refer to the holiday celebrated a few days ago that marked the close of the “Christmas Season”, a largely secular and irreligious period of consumer indulgence that began some time around Thanksgiving.

There is another day, a Christian Holy Day, also celebrated a few days ago, at the conclusion of the Advent season, and which marks the beginning of a Christian Christmas season, which has several permutations, being in the first place an Octave that concludes on January 1st, the Feast of Mary, Mother of God; in the second place a traditional period of gaiety extending twelve days, until the eve of the Feast of Epiphany (January 6th, though this can get moved to a Sunday), and thirdly as a liturgical season extending through the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, on the Sunday following Epiphany. This Holy Day and season celebrates the most remarkable thing that ever happened: the Incarnation of God in human flesh – in the flesh of a baby borne of a woman.

I’ve never been able to figure out how to celebrate the Holy Day amidst all the silly hoopla of the holiday, and I need to figure it out before I find myself thrown in to deep depression some one of these years.

On the Satisfaction of Devotion

Posted: Monday, June 25, 2012 (11:43 pm), by John W Gillis


A friendly hand fell lightly upon my shoulder one January morning several years ago, as I was spending a few extra minutes before the tabernacle, after finishing Morning Prayer. I was running behind schedule that day, but since at least the beginning of the new school year, my old friend had also apparently been coming to the church quite a bit later than she used to, because it seemed to have been the better part of a year since we’d seen each other. I’d wondered about her now and again over the previous few months – wondering if her health were intact, even wondering if she had passed on to heavenly glory while I’d been away over the summer…

I would go into the church to pray most mornings after dropping my girls off at the neighboring parish school, and my friend used to be there almost every morning, in very early anticipation of the 9:00 daily Mass. Usually, she’d come in after me – into the side room where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved – walking with short but determined steps, to stand before the tabernacle: head bowed, right hand extended above her shoulder to gently touch the face of the ark, paying homage to her Lord. But she would never fail to stop and greet me with a friendly smile and a twinkling eye on her way by – unless she’d gotten there before me, in which case she would wave to me energetically from her pew in the middle of the nave, if she saw me come in.

My favorite days were those times I was late, and she didn’t notice me come in. On those days, thinking she was all alone in the church, she would sometimes break out into song, lifting her shaky voice loudly to heaven in obvious gratitude for all the love, grace, and kindness she has been blessed to experience in her life.

And I’d think: if only I could pray like that… On those special mornings, I’d always be sure to catch her eye and give her a big smile on my way out.

The reason I was taking my time that morning was to read a bit from the writings of Saint Francis de Sales, whose feast day it was. In the second section of Part One of “Introduction the the Devout Life”we read:

[T]he world vilifies holy devotion as much as it can. It pictures devout persons as having discontented, gloomy, sullen faces, and claims that devotion brings on depression and unbearable moods. But just as Joshua and Caleb held both that the promised land was good and beautiful, and that its possession would be sweet and agreeable (c.f. Num 13.33-34), so too the Holy Spirit, by the mouths of all the saints, and our Lord by his own mouth (c.f. Mt 11.28-30), assure us that a devout life is a life that is sweet, happy, and lovable.

In our day, no less than in Francis’, the devout are popularly portrayed as somehow missing out on the fun, but the devotion of this old woman clearly reveals a deep satisfaction with the substance of her life – warts and all – which is nurtured in her routine, morning after morning. As she turned from the tabernacle that morning to walk back into the nave, my friend stopped to stoop down and pick up a stick match off the floor. Then she spotted another one next to where I was sitting, and she picked that up as well. She muttered some kind of guess as to how they might have ended up on the rug, then she said: “Now, we can’t have the church burning down, can we? We need it.”

It struck me immediately just how right she was, although earlier in my life, I wouldn’t have really understood her. I recall thinking at the time about the various pockets of local people occupying churches in protest against pastoral decisions to close them, and although I certainly think these folks were missing pretty much the whole point of “church” in their stubborn protestations, I think many of them were also genuinely afraid of losing something precious – not nearly as precious as the salvific fellowship of being joined to the Body of Christ, but precious nonetheless. It’s more than memories. Churches are places where our faith is transformed from the lonely struggle to be personally open to God, into the victorious unity of the communion that actually is itself our promised glorious future in nascent form.

Church is the place where – even more so than anywhere else – we can never be truly alone. Even when we think we’re all alone in a church, warbling at the top of our lungs, there is somebody appreciative standing before the Lord in rapt attention, with a big smile on his face, listening to us. Where else can we experience life like this, in our drive-thru world of screen names and Social Security numbers? Where else can we divest ourselves of the cloud of anonymous networked resources and information streams, to bask in the familiar, quiet strength of the great cloud of witnesses, and the musty, sensual reminders of generations that sacrificed faithfully that we might be here to remember? It’s tempting to consider ourselves too spiritual to really need church buildings, to live like spiritual nomads who can be home wherever our feet take us, but we are a cultivating people at heart, and churches are where Christian community – and a satisfaction known only to shared devotion – is cultivated.

I more or less stopped making that morning drive to the neighboring parish school a couple years ago, when school carpools and other scheduling disruptions changed the substance of the household morning routine. But as my youngest daughter was completing her last days at the school a couple weeks ago, I wanted to circle back and close the loop, so to speak, regarding the heritage of prayerful encounter I’d had the privilege to experience before the tabernacle, morning after morning, for more than seven years. And I wanted to see my sweet, happy, and lovable friend one last time, to say good-bye. So I created opportunities to attend a couple of the 9:00 Masses over there in hopes of seeing her, and I made a point to drive over on the final morning of classes to recite Lauds before the tabernacle one last time, but I never saw my friend.

I don’t know where she is now, but I’m sure she’s singing still. Her devotion was her vow to radiate joy in the world through a life of genuine gratitude for whatever it was that constituted her daily bread, and I am profoundly grateful for the satisfaction of having shared in that joy in some small way, as, each in our own way, we shared that prayer space together before the Lord, day after day.

Chuck Colson: 1931-2012

Posted: Sunday, April 22, 2012 (12:43 am), by John W Gillis


We lost a good man today. Read a few parting words from his co-workers on his recent project, The Manhattan Declaration, here – and sign the declaration if you haven’t yet, and if you care about marriage and human civilization (pardon the redundancy).

Dostoyevsky said “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” I would add that you can judge the degree of civilization in a man’s soul by observing how he treats prisoners. With all that Colson did for his God and for his neighbors over the last half of his 80+ years, in my view, his greatest legacy is Prison Fellowship.

 

“His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master’.”(Matt 25.21, RSV)

Good Riddance, 2011

Posted: Saturday, December 31, 2011 (8:03 pm), by John W Gillis


This year sucked. It began with my little sister’s funeral, and ended with a malaise lingering on from my mother’s funeral.

For my sister, Mary, death came quickly, and then it came slowly. She was very busy living a vibrant life, when she was suddenly smitten with a terminal cancer. Then she spent a year and a half dying. She tried to keep up the appearances of optimism, but everyone around her knew how the dance was going to end; we just didn’t know quite when. When it came, death came slowly, bleeding her life away as her ministering aunt and other loved ones waited in vigil for the end, which came in the third watch of the night after Christmas Day. She was 49, and left no children to carry her line forward on the Earth.

For my mother, Edna, death came slowly, and then it came quickly. Dying at 79, she had lived a good and full life, touching the lives of many, and leaving a legacy of kindness that, pray God, will redound to her name for generations, even when she herself is forgotten. Having been born with a collapsed lung, her breathing organ was never quite right, and she’d been living with a progressive case of acute Pulmonary Fibrosis for some time, before she up and died on us. Of course, we knew it was coming sooner or later, and she had gotten “old” recently, but still it seemed to come almost out of the blue. True, she had given us a scare the day before, and the family spent Sunday afternoon in the emergency room, wondering if she’d perhaps had a stroke, but she seemed fine by afternoon, had checked out OK medically, and was sent home in the evening. On Monday morning, she died. Just like that. It was October 3rd, the original feast day of St Therese of Lisieux, the saint credited by the family with saving Mom’s life as a newborn, and whose name she was thus given in tribute.

Whatever else may have happened this year seems almost lost in the shadows of these two bookends of death & grief. I’ve looked upon the sorrowful , resigned faces of yet a couple more friends who have had their verdicts of terminal cancer pronounced to them. I’ve watched dozens of co-workers jettisoned from their source of material well-being, as the business world atrophies under corporate & government mismanagement and corruption. I’ve seen the U.S. government run up a debt of unprecedented magnitude – one poised to crush the commonweal of my children and their peers – for the sake of a filched political placidity, while the ruling party successfully smeared the opposition as extremist and non-cooperative for the sin of (futilely) demanding a roadmap to fiscal sanity as the price for complicity in the mortgaging of the futures of those we have a moral duty to protect & defend. Shameful.

As for myself, I can’t get out of my own way: I had targeted early December for completion of my prerequisite course work at Franciscan University, but have been scuffling badly since mid-October, and don’t even know how to get back on track at this point.

On the bright side, this was the year that Joyce leveraged her imposed unemployment into an opportunity to pursue her long-time desire to get into professional dog grooming. The Boston Bruins are suddenly the best hockey team in the world for the first time since I could sing alto, and last spring they gave us one of the greatest hockey games I’ve ever seen (Game 7 of the Conference Finals against Tampa Bay).

Furthermore, as of yet at least, no crowd of self-entitled, self-righteous, unemployed ne’er-do-wells have converged to “occupy” my backyard, demanding that I succor them by paying off their insane student loans for stupidly bloated college tuitions I could never afford for either myself or my own kids (we found other ways to achieve what we needed to achieve). That’s a plus. And I still have my own job; my kids are all healthy and safe; we’re coming up on a leap-year – which means a “real” anniversary for Joyce and I on Feb 29th; Congress reversed the moronic ban on incandescent light bulbs; and Rick Santorum actually appears to have an outside shot at winning the Iowa caucuses, putting the only candidate I actually like from the Republican field in a position to at least temporarily receive some media attention before the big-money candidates get around to burying him under a torrent of glitzy drivel (OK, I also really like and admire Michelle Bachmann, but I’m afraid she would be almost as out-of-her-league in that job as Obama is, speaking of torrents of glitzy drivel from big-money candidates…).

And, lastly, the garage ceiling light bulb is still burning faithfully, almost 40 years after being installed. Yes, the very same light bulb that greeted my mother and father the first time they illuminated their new garage with electricity in June of 1972 continues to shine its light every time I flip the switch. To me, it’s become a symbol of faithfulness and perseverance, and it reminds me unfailingly of my dad. Would that we all could be relied upon so faithfully, as that bulb, to shine forth the light entrusted to us for the sake of others’ seeing their way in the world! I dread the day that bulb blows; I pray it’s not in 2012.

Happy New Year, planet Earth. Choose carefully; choose well. Peace, from here.

Some Kind of Start

Posted: Monday, November 28, 2011 (7:53 pm), by John W Gillis


I’ve been in an intellectual vapor lock since my mom passed away, on October 3rd. I almost called it an intellectual constipation, but, regardless of how apropos it may be, I didn’t think that would reflect very well on my typical output.

Nonetheless, it’s been very difficult for me to get anything done. No surprise, I suppose, that I’d become depressed in my grief. But even when I’m feeling relatively well, I’m having a hard time pulling the trigger on anything. I’m barely keeping my head above water staying prepared for teaching an 8th-grade CCD class on morality, and my own course work schedule with FUS has fallen hopelessly behind plan for the semester, as I find myself unable to clearly recall what I’ve read even as I’m reading it. Even modest writing assignments – such as a short theological reflection on Veritatis Splendor – have become titanic chores for which I cannot even find a starting point.

But it’s a new year now, as of yesterday, on the Church’s calendar. And so it’s time to pick up the pieces and move on. 2011 was a year of profound loss for me, but it’s also left me with a much more penetrating sense of how short life is, how little time any of us really have to set and accomplish meaningful goals, and how frail and tenuous is our part in the legacy of civilization’s march. More than ever, I see that personal influence – especially upon children – will bear the most significant legacy for most of us, whether for good or for ill.

It’s Advent now, and an appropriate time to be aware that the time is short; that the end is coming – in one way or another – and that the wise will be prepared. That’s easier said than done – but saying it is at least some kind of start.

Who has time to listen?

Posted: Saturday, January 1, 2011 (11:43 pm), by John W Gillis


Rummaging through some old journals this week while taking a measure of introspection, I came across the following in an entry from March 29th, 1990. I’ve cleaned it up a bit for publication, but it remains essentially the thought of my 29 year-old self. Reading old journals is a fascinating exercise in self-awareness, but I’m throwing them out, anyway…

Who has time to listen? Running around in hectic disarray, death edges closer to each of us by the minute, yet who has time to stop to listen? What would we hear if we did?

Common wisdom has it that we lead such frantic lives on account of a constant, oppressive sense that time is so short. I can no longer believe that. It seems to me these harried ways of ours reflect feeble and vain attempts to dissuade the inevitable. We busy ourselves in order to defy the inevitable, like a man fleeing from the sunset: he knows the sun is setting in the west, so he flees to the east to escape it, only to be caught all the more by surprise.

A man who takes the time, now, to slow down and enjoy the moment, which is our life as we live it now, must realize that he he may not have the time to do so later; whereas a man who won’t take the time now appears to be foolishly assuming that he will certainly have the time later. We’re not this frantically busy because life is so short, it would seem; rather we act like this because we want to believe we’ll go on forever, because we are so afraid of death.

But isn’t it quite strange to be so afraid of death? Death is the universal constant. All living beings – even those never born – suffer death. This death, physical death, is therefore more synonymous with life than is birth. Death’s singular inevitability makes it a rather strange object for our deepest fears. When we fear death, we fear certainty; when we fear certainty, we fear truth; when we fear truth, surely we fear God.

The psalmist said that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and certainly nobody suggests that we should leap willy-nilly to our own destruction, or pretend that death does not involve the demise of the self on some important level.

All the same, fearing the inevitable, and acting as if it were not knocking on our doors every moment, seems a futile exercise in self-delusion – it is as if we fear life itself, or at least the process of life. Better, it seems, to embrace death – not as a tool of destruction to inflict on oneself or those whose existence one finds intolerable, but as an enemy who surely will win the battle, yet not the war.

The way to defeat terrorism is to refuse to be terrorized. The great modern activists of non-violence have demonstrated this clearly. If we allow it, death will terrorize us into failing to embrace life in the moment, although our busyness will never stay the executioners hand. But I suppose the steadiness necessary to look death in the eye without flinching or trying to hide from it requires a certain confidence that death will not have the last word, despite all appearances. So be it.

Peeking Into the Past

Posted: Monday, May 31, 2010 (10:12 pm), by John W Gillis


Having reached the end of my second Franciscan University course a couple weeks ago following a mad rush of activity, I’ve found myself wandering a bit aimlessly, contemplating my next move. Over the weekend, I ended up rummaging through a series of old journal entries from the mid-90’s, and came across a handful of comments I’d like to save from the dustbin:

I was able to drive more sanely today. I have many such improvements in mind.
3/5/96

It’s important to make your life worth living; it’s important to live for something worth dying for.
3/5/96

A prayer life is the essential difference between living a truly human life, and living a charade.
9/2/96

The problem with me and drinking is that they’re mutually exclusive.
9/13/96

Once upon a time, I stood up firmly for my beliefs. But that was when I was a rebel: it’s easy to be staunchly egotistical.
9/22/96

I was thinking about change, about repentance, about awareness of sin, and humility. It dawned on me that repentance, or change for the better, is nothing more than being open to a movement toward truth which one already possesses – or apprehends. Repentance, which is spiritual growth, never comes about (never?) as from an outside force, but rather is nothing more than allowing oneself to be convicted of the truth one already apprehends – and which is generally apprehended apprehensively!

This movement brings one closer to the real source of truth, Christ, and consequently opens one up to yet new apprehension of truth – which yet again demands either conversion or aversion. To avert the truth is to refuse and deny repentance. Contrariwise, to confront the truth is to be constantly faced with the perceived need for conversion. Anyone with any experience in that genuine change for the good becomes, as it were, immune to that type of pride which is oblivious of humility. For the one who knows repentance, and who lives a life of spiritual growth, humility is a no-brainer. It is not so much that humility makes repentance possible, as that repentance makes the lack of humility downright impossible. Hence humility grows with repentance, not vice-versa. And spiritual growth is growth in humility.
12/2/96

EPT (Eastern Pretend Time)

Posted: Monday, March 15, 2010 (11:03 pm), by John W Gillis


So begins what is perhaps the toughest week of the year for me. The annual screwing up of the clocks began yesterday, and if history is any teacher, it will take me a week or so to regain my equilibrium. Until then, I pay the price. And I’m not the only one: my early-morning-bird daughter Rebecca did notRebecca, wide awake get out of bed until 9:00 (pretend time) this morning, having become obviously discombobulated over the weekend (and not being able to get to sleep until after 10:00 PM last night). In either a stroke of good luck or of insightful planning, her school had no session today, in order to hold a staff development day, so she was able to sleep in.

There has always been something inherently absurd in this collective pretending that it is a different time than it actually is, but the practice took on Markeyesque inanity a few years ago, when pretend time was extended in duration in the U.S. – not long, I might add, after parts of the rest of the world adopted the silliness. The cost in IT conformance of this clever boondoggle was ridiculous – and many systems still don’t work right for a few weeks. But, now the beginning of this formerly springtime ritual has been pushed back into the last couple weeks of winter – and hence into Lent.

I guess it was four years ago when I decided to make a Lenten commitment to attending Mass daily. My parish was offering an early-morning Mass at 6:30 AM for the season during the work week, and it seemed like a good discipline. I was completely exhausted by the end of Lent, but I soon missed daily Mass so much that I figured out a more sustainable means of participating regularly, and have gratefully done so ever since. But I’d also volunteered to read one morning each week during that 2006 Lenten season, and now I continue to be asked each year to read, though I otherwise rarely attend the early Mass now. I’m reading on Thursdays this year. So when Thursday morning comes around this week, at 6:30 Pretend Time (5:30 AM, in reality), I will ascend the two short steps toward the altar, and approach the ambo to proclaim the Word… if I can see straight. I’ll need toothpicks to keep my eyelids open on my homeward commute, twelve hours or so later.

I can understand why lots of people like to get up earlier in the summertime to get their work done early, so they can relax in the late daylight. But why do we need to collectively agree to pretend it’s actually later than it really is when we do so? And why do we need the government essentially forcing it on us – especially in the winter (as if it really matters what time of year it is when the government decides that it’s not what time of day it is).

I understand that any attempt to fit time into a taxonomy is an exercise in practicality that necessarily involves some level of hubris, but the traditional division of the day – even including the timezone concept – reflects a pragmatism of cooperation, a kind of common framework or language that allows people to understand each other. Daylight Saving Time, by contrast, reflects not a pragmatism of cooperation, but a manipulative capitalization on the dependence such cooperation has created across society. It’s an abuse of the taxonomy of time. I really think people can work out their own schedules – whether individually or in groups – without Congress declaring that Noontime will henceforth and until further notice occur at precisely one hour past Noon.

Tempus Fugit

Posted: Monday, March 8, 2010 (11:47 pm), by John W Gillis


MaybeToday.org turned two years old last Monday (March 1st). The occasion passed with little notice. Considering how much I had planned to write and post last month, and how much I actually produced (oops), I suppose I’m not surprised.

I spent the evening out with my wife, celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary. Having been married on Feb 29th, we usually get our choice of dates on which to celebrate the remembrance, but we very rarely wait until the 1st. I guess I launched the site the day after our anniversary in 2008 – I don’t recall being cognizant of the proximity of the dates, though I surely must have been (March 2nd is a birthday in our house, as well).

We had a nice dinner at Restaurant 45 in Medway, and as is customary on the occasion, it served as a quiet opportunity for recollection, reflection on the past, and a taking stock of how things are going. On the drive home up Rt. 16, while passing a road in Holliston which I used to travel daily to Framingham when we were living in Milford and I was working at General Chemical, it struck me how life experiences very often seem to have an import amplified in proportion to how early in life they occur.

In other words, it seemed like that left onto Brook Street, picking up Western Ave through Sherborn to the southeastern outskirts of Framingham, led to a road so many times traveled that I should be able to find my tire marks worn into the pavement – like an old friend with whom I share so many stories. Likewise, the whole experience of working at General Chemical looms rather largely in the scope of my composite memory of the path my life has taken to the present. But I worked there for only about three years, back in my early twenties. In contrast, I’ve sat a year longer than that in my current office, which is merely the most recent of five offices I’ve occupied in my current building, which is the fourth building I’ve worked out of for my present employer (in some permutation or another) over the past fourteen years. Yet, in terms of being a perceived life episode, I’d have a hard time not seeing the earlier experience as more life-defining.

The high school experience is another glaring example of what I’m referring to. The four years I spent in high school can almost be viewed as four distinct episodes in my life, each imparting a major impact on my life’s journey (or development, if you prefer) in numerous ways. Even the summers back then seem like they were so much longer, so much more decisive. I hesitate to say that time just doesn’t seem as interesting anymore – Lord knows I’d be somewhere between bored stiff and embarrassed to death if I had to relive a day of the inanity that was my adolescent life – but it might have something to do with the relative lack of crises in my life these days. The occasional heart attack notwithstanding, I lead a pretty crisis-free existence these days, and perhaps that equanimity just lends itself to a general dialing-down of the memory-experience meter. Perhaps our memory is a drama that, lacking dramatics, tends toward quietude and stillness. 

Or maybe I’m just stumbling upon another angle to the age-old truism that life seems to accelerate as we age. But I’ve never heard of anyone trying to recapture their forties or fifties, no matter how old they get. One needn’t look far to find people aching to recover their lost adolescence, though. I don’t believe youth offers the vitality we tend to ascribe to it – at least not beyond the physical robustness that aging breaks down. In the life of the mind – in the living-ness of life, in our relationships, our imagining and thinking, and our willing, both loving and sinning – youthfulness is such a crude exactor of purpose, crying out for perfection to wisdom and prudence. And yet, time flies…