Saturday, July 03, 2004

I finished Dean Koontz' "The Taken" this evening. I'm a big fan of Koontz. I find that his skill as an author has grown, keeping pace with my own aging tastes. His recent books, "Odd Thomas," "By the Light of the Moon," "From the Corner of His Eye" and "One Door Away from Heaven" are all among my favorite modern books. I read a lot, including poetry, fiction and non-fiction, and I find there is a great prejudice among literary critics and college English professors against popular writers who explore the fringes of human experience. Sometimes, however, Koontz creates over-the-top, violent images that distract from his message. This was the case in "The Taken." The majority of this book, which is about Hope, leaves no room for that Hope. The end, for those who can handle the rest of the book, redeems the author somewhat. To whet your taste, here is something you've probably heard before:

"An extraterrestrial species, hundreds or thousands of years more advanced than we are, would possess technology that would appear to us to be not the result of applied science but entirely supernatural, pure magic."

And here, from Koontz, is something you probably haven't heard before:

"A supernatural event of world-shaking proportions, occurring in a faithless time when only science is believed to have the power to work miracles, might appear to be the work of an extraterrestrial species hundreds or even thousands of years more advanced than we are."

That, right there, that sense of mystery and the supernatural nature of God, is what is missing from other churches I've attended but yet exists, yet remains, in the Catholic Church. The lack of otherness beneath the life of a Methodist today, perhaps beneath the life of all protestant faiths, is what I am finding in my new home, in my new church... and it's something Koontz writes about a lot.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Growing up, I often heard that one shouldn't discuss politics or religion with friends or family. I've kept up on the politics of the day since our eighth grade class had to pick a candidate in the 1972 election, send away for materials and keep a scrapbook of the whole election period. Can you imagine teachers having kids do that today? I chose Edmund Muskie and followed him through the primaries -- I still remember his picture in my scrapbook: him standing on a platform in New Hampshire, tears of anger in his eyes over how his wife was being treated, the snow coming down all around him. What did he say about William Loeb, the newspaper publisher who wrote articles that Muskie's wife drank too much and swore?

EDMUND S. MUSKIE: (February 1972) "By attacking me, by attacking my wife, he has proved himself to be a gutless coward. And maybe I said all I should on it. It's fortunate for him he's not on this platform beside me."

And the Republicans labled this man "weak." Anyway, despite Nixon's dirty tricks and that awful time, I have never seen such a season as this. This year there are no differences of opinions, there is no room for discussion, instead, if you disagree on either side, you're evil lying scum. This one is called a deserter, AWOLing idiot and the other is called a Purple Heart stealing, golddigging, French-lover. Michael Moore's movie is just the tip of the iceberg of discontent on the Left while the great silent Right in the center of the nation stews over gay marriage, abortion, activists courts and the misleading media. There is no middle ground, there is no down time for the opposing sides to get to know each other, there is no compromise, there is only conflict, distrust and hatred.

If we can no longer disagree on good terms, what good is freedom of speech? People will fear to speak. If we can no longer recognize moral problems in society without lawsuites and fear of retribution, what good is freedom of religion? People will look the other way in silence when confronted with moral outrages shoved in their faces. If people only read or watch the news they agree with, what purpose is there in freedom of the press? Hatred will be fed until it burns, fed until you're so angry at the other side the tears start welling up in your eyes, fed until you can't believe anyone would ever vote for the other guy... fed until you're Muskie, standing in the snow, wanting only to strike out at those who are striking out at you.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Our next chapter is "God: Our loving Creator" which I have two weeks to read. I read it last night, albeit while distracted... I have a lot of irons in the fire just now.

A couple of us in class said that we weren't sure about whether we go to heaven when we die or rather wait until the 2nd coming. Our instructor said that our souls go to heaven (after purgatory, if needed) and are then reunited with our bodies at the 2nd coming.

I read about this a bit in the Catechism. I need to have some quiet reflection time over the whole concept of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.

I appreciate the emails I received about Limbo... it was evidently a concept which tried to resolve what happens to babies who die before they are baptized.... a concept that has gone by the wayside.

I wonder what happens to babies who are never born and yet never die? There are 400,000 frozen embryos in the USA alone...

Monday, June 28, 2004

First RCIA Class 

Our first RCIA class opened with a song on tape, rather than a prayer, which I rather liked. We have a small class, though, with uncomfortable card-table chairs and no table. We sit in a circle and talk. We have no place to put books or paper. We each shared a bit of our history and faith journey and then talked about the different books available to Catholics for learning, from the Bible to the Catechism to prayer books.

We talked a bit about changes in the Catholic Faith over the years, how once the concept of Limbo was taught (where people go to wait for the 2nd coming) while now Heaven is taught (where souls go to await being reunited with bodies). I'll need to do some investigation on that since it doesn't ring quite right with me.

We talked about St. Thomas Aquinas and The Summa... it made me want to get through some more reading so I might one day tackle that work. Our instructor talked about how St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that the loftiest understand of God was to realize that we have no understanding of God.

I asked about shorter RCIA paths for lifelong Christians who have been living their faith. Our instructor said RCIA was all about community, meeting people in the church, learning about others and sharing views... it used to be shorter and now is longer and that's for the better. There are, however, shorter paths for those who desire them... everyone is taken on a case-by-case basis. If I sought path other than this standard RCIA path, the Church would make it for me. For those who have less time or just don't want to cover ground they've already covered, you don't have to take the long way around, like I am.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Rite of Acceptance 

At the beginning of church, three of us stood up in the back of church to be called for the Rite of Acceptance/Welcoming. With our three sponsors, six of us then stood up front. The priest asked, "are you prepared to listen to the apostles' instruction gather with us for prayer, and join us the full sacraments of the Catholic Church?" Or words to that effect, and we all said, "I am." Then we faced our assigned sponsors and our sponsors took direction from the priest to cross our forheads, our eyes, our lips, our shoulders, our hearts and our feet. That was pretty much it. It was nice, and the whole church got to know who we were who were intending to join. Our priest placed a cross of wood tied with string around our necks and gave us each a Bible (The New American Bible School and Church Edition) We listened to the readings and the sermon before leaving church while the others had mass. Our instructor asked a few questions about what we thought of the readings and the sermon while outside the others had mass and final hymns.

Our RCIA class will be studying "This is Our Faith" by Michael Francis Pennock. We're to read Chapter 1 (The Existence of God) for tomorrow night's class.

Today I have the Catholic Rite of Acceptance and Welcoming. Most of the Catholics I know have never seen this rite performed in their churches, at least they don't remember it. The main beneft of this rite, as I think I've mentioned before, is that should one pass away during the year of instruction before joining the church in communion, one can be buried in a Catholic graveyard.

My RCIA classes then begin tomorrow and continue every other week throughout the summer. Tomorrow's class will be on "The Existence of God," which is pretty basic. Future classes will cover items like, "The Trinity," "The Holy Spirit," and "The Church."

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