View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Love Can Move Mountains - The Proclaimers live

A stripped-down acoustic version. Very nice.

Giving Jesus the Finger

At Mass yesterday morning at St. John‘s, Father preached about how the world challenges us as believers, and how those who try to uphold faith and morality will generally be subject to ridicule and attack by the world.

He gave some examples. One of them sounded familiar: People praying the Rosary outside Planned Parenthood being verbally confronted. That was the world fighting back, he said.

Later as we gathered at Planned Parenthood, several of us who were at the Mass talked about the fact that he was citing what had happened to us the week before when an agitated neighbor came over and tried to get us to stop praying, and even threatened to call in government help to get us to stop. We wondered how Father had heard about the incident, and whether the man would show up again.

Someone else showed up instead.

The eighteen of us standing across from Planned Parenthood began to pray the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and other prayers. Many of us were holding rosaries. One man was holding a large, clearly visible Crucifix.

After a while, a young woman, well-dressed, in a nice car, pulled up in front of us waiting for the light at the corner to change.

Without directly looking at us, she gave us the finger. She kept her digit up until the light changed.

Hello world.

My first thought was of St. Francis. He would celebrate whenever he was deemed “worthy” of being mocked, insulted, attacked and otherwise abused for the sake of the Kingdom.

I’m not as spiritually mature as the Seraphic Father. I can recognize the “blessing” I receive when I am targeted for the sake of the Kingdom, but not with the joy he had. Sometimes I grumble and bark back.

Maybe I'll get there with time.

But it also occurred to me that she must have seen the large crucifix one person was holding.

She was in effect giving Jesus the finger.

I suspect if you asked her she would have said she was not giving the finger to Jesus per se - she might even be horrified at the suggestion - that her gesture was directed at us. But then, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.”

That song paraphrases Matthew 24: 14-18. What we do for others, we do for Christ, and what we fail to do, we fail to do for Him.

Every day any time anyone is abused, mistreated, mocked, insulted, deprived, aborted, and so on, Jesus is likewise attacked.

By giving us the finger, she was giving Jesus the finger.

A finger is not the worst such attack, but it is an attack nonetheless.

And it adds to what Our Savior suffers for our sakes.

As for me, I need to remember not to focus on that woman with anger. I need to remember that that woman is my sister. That security guard who sits in his car week after week is my brother. The women (and the few men) going into Planned Parenthood are my sisters and brothers.

And the babies who die because of Planned Parenthood are not only my sisters and brothers, but also the sisters and brothers of Planned Parenthood's staff members, that security guard, that neighbor who yelled at us last week, and of that woman who gave us - and Jesus - the finger.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A little art


Cat Stevens - Peace Train (live)

Herman Cain won't be inviting him to join his Cabinet.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

One step forward ...

I got a little work done on the new play. It's tentatively titled "The Birds." It's a "10-minute" play exploring a family's disintegration - all revealed through one character's words.

I'm enjoying playing with the dialogue.

It's nice to work on something in addition to poems. I think I'm better at drama than I am at short stories (and that novel that never seems to get done).

I got a contract for next year - never a certainty at a private school. So I'm gainfully employed for at least another year.

Thank you, Lord.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Is Herman Cain a Bigot?

Now that Huckabee isn't running, I've been looking at the political landscape to see if there's anyone I can support.

Some fans of Huckabee have been mentioning Herman Cain as a possibility, so I checked him out.

I agree with him on a number of issues. But then I came across his remarks about Muslims in government.

Asked if he'd be willing to appoint a Muslim as a Cabinet officer or judge, he said, “No. I will not. And here’s why: There’s this creeping attempt — there’s this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government.”

Wait a minute.

Now if he meant that he was not going to be pressured by political correctness to appoint a Muslim just because that person is a Muslim, okay, I could accept that.

But from the context he appears to mean that he would not appoint a qualified person just because that person is a Muslim.

That's unacceptable.

How would we react if a candidate said he would not appoint a person just because that person is Jewish?

Or Catholic?

Or African-American?

We'd call that bigotry.

I refuse to vote for a bigot.

So unless he can explain this one better - or apologizes - he's not about to get my vote.

I don't know...maybe it was Utah

Inspired by a daughter's announcement that she plans to move to Utah.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Still here. How about you?

The time for today's predicted Rapture came - and went. Apparently no people went with it.

I'm not here to mock belief in the Rature - even though there is really no Biblical support for such a notion. There are many good people who believe in the idea.

I feel bad for all the people who got taken in by this prediction. I hope this will not lead to some people losing their faith.

We all do and say foolish things. We've all believed in things that are not real.

God still loves us, no matter what mistakes we make.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Face it

In Zion City, Illinois, it is illegal to make ugly faces at anyone.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


According to some folks, The Rapture is supposed to take place 6 p.m. Saturday.

For those not in the know, The Rapture is an event that will result in the really good people suddenly being taken up to Heaven, with the rest of us not-so-good folks left behind, along with raptured folks' now driverless cars (as some bumper stickers warn.)

Perhaps we not-so-good people will be kept busy ducking all those suddenly driverless cars.

The Rapture we are told will precede the Second Coming and the end of the world. The Mayans supposedly predicted that the latter would take place in 2012. Maybe they were more enlightened than the rest of us. If so, pretty good for some heathens who didn't have the Bible to guide them.

Close study of the Bible is apparently what led some Bible-believing sorts to discover the concept of The Rapture back in the 18th Century.

Presumably all the Bible scholars before them were not enlightened enough to be able to realize that the verses were telling us about The Rapture. And the majority of Bible scholars today - including all the Catholic ones - are still not enlightened enough to endorse the concept.

Since the enlightened ones first began talking about The Rapture, it's been predicted with certainty as coming at a number of different dates, all of which passed with no driverless buggies or cars evident.

But this Saturday's date is supposedly really really certain.


A day to stay off the road?

Or at least a day to avoid all cars with those bumper stickers?

It has me wondering though: What if there's a Rapture and nobody goes?

Will there be a lot of guilty looking people in the pews on Sunday morning?

Of course, there are some good people who believe in The Rapture but also believe the Bible verses that tell us we won't know when the end is coming. Those good folks will likely just go about their regular Saturday activities, as will us not-so-good people.

As for me, God willing, Sunday I'll be at Church and then posting something on this blog.

In case you're not here to read it though, I'll understand.

And I'll watch out for your car.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Happy news - writings seem safe

I got out one of the discs I'd saved poetry on before the computer crashed. The files were fine, and I was able to download them.

If the other discs are fine, that means my novel, my plays, my short stories, and the vast majority of my poems are saved.

I'll check the others later, but I feel a little more at ease.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Mass Review

I attended another parish's Mass this evening.

I'll leave the parish unnamed.

The church had a number of statues and stained glass windows, which was nice to see. The Tabernacle was off to the side, but still clearly visible to the congregation. Good

The church is a large one; it was not very full for this Mass. The attendees were a mixed group in terms of age. Some folks were dressed nicely. Some, well, shorts and t-shirts.

Before Mass, the "folk group" (guitar, piano, a few singers) played a couple of pieces. I normally don't describe liturgical groups - even ones with guitars - as folk groups, but the name fit this particular group.

Before Mass there was lots of loud, distracting talking in the congregation. Focusing on prayer and preparing for Mass wasn't easy.

The Mass began. The guitarist was good, but played in an outdated 60s/70s folkie style, and the songs were a bit older than what I'm used to. They would be wise to update their style and their repertoire - there's better music available. The group's singing was uneven. The lead - and loudest - female vocalist had a grating voice.

The congregation did not seem to be singing much. They did say the prayers out loud, though, and they knelt at the right spots. Hooray.

The lector was good. The deacon did a nice job reading the Gospel.

The priest's homily was ... adequate. Not particularly well-structured or delivered, but I've heard worse. I hope it was just an off night for him.

This weekend's focus in the Church is on vocations (Sunday is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations). At this parish's Mass they did pray for vocations. And the bulletin contained a good long article about vocations. But not everyone reads the bulletin carefully and the length of the article would put off some people. A well-delivered, well-crafted homily on the topic would have been far more effective. The readings certainly offered material for such a focus. A missed opportunity.

[ADDED LATER: Sunday I attended another parish's Mass. On this World Day of Prayer for Vocations there were no prayers about vocations to the priesthood, diaconate or religious life, no bulletin articles about vocations, no mention of vocations in the homily. Sunday's parish made Saturday's parish look much better when it comes to encouraging vocations.]

After Communion, the priest read a list of announcements; that could have been shortened. Father then called up the kids to give them special "kids bulletins" - it seemed awkward.

Then he blessed some prayer shawls parishioners had made. That was nice.

At the end of the Mass, people began fleeing before the priest and deacon had even left the altar. Indeed, the church was half empty before the final hymn ended. Very disappointing.

I've been to worse Masses, but I was not impressed. Maybe it was just a bad day.

I'm not inspired to go back there.

Huckabee Decides Not to Run

From Mike Huckabee -

The pundits and members of the political class who have spoken with certainty about my decision to run or not for President in 2012 are amusing if not amazing to think that they knew what even I didn’t know until late this week. The past few months have been times of deep personal reflection. Even though I wasn’t actively establishing a campaign organization or seeking financial support to run again, polls have consistently put me at or near the top to be the Republican nominee. When possible candidates were discussed in the media and despite polls that showed me in the lead, my name would often go unmentioned while a candidate barely registering single digits was touted as a “front-runner.” I found comfort that the nomination would not be made by commentators, columnists, or consultants, but by the rank and file voters in the Republican primary, and their support is strong and has been growing.

Concerns that I had about raising the necessary funds to be competitive or being able to win in states outside the South were answered when signs of strong financial support materialized and when polls showed me winning in states like Pennsylvania, Maine, and even New Jersey. That kind of shattered the notion that I was only a regional candidate or only supported by social conservatives.

I had not done much toward a race because my life was filled with work that I truly love here at Fox News, doing radio commentaries on my daily Huckabee Report on 600 radio stations, traveling the country for speaking engagements, and helping good conservative, pro-life candidates who were running for office. Other people probably thought about it more than I did.

I don’t have an issue with my family being supportive. My wife actually encouraged me to do it, despite knowing full well it would subject her and the rest of the family to brutal and savage personal attacks. My adult children have also made it clear they would be with me no matter what.

When people asked me what it would take for me to run, I would tell them the same thing---pray for me to have clarity in the decision. I don’t expect everyone to understand this, but I’m a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. That relationship is far more important to me than any political office. For me, the decision is ultimately not a political one, a financial one, or even a practical one ---it’s a spiritual one.

The past few weeks, the external signs and signals and answers to many of the obstacles point strongly toward running. When I am with people encouraging me to run, it’s easy to feel the strength of their partnership and commitment to help me to the finish line. Only when I was alone, in quiet and reflective moments did I have not only clarity, but an inexplicable inner peace—a peace that exceeds human understanding. All the factors say GO, but my heart says NO. And that is the decision I have made and in it have finally found resolution. I don’t fully understand it myself—but I’m sure the pundits will. But I know that under the best of circumstances, being President is a job that takes one to the limit of his or her human capacity. For me, to do it apart from an inner confidence that I was undertaking it with God’s full blessing is unthinkable. I can’t know or predict the future, but I know for now my answer is clear and firm. I will not seek the Republican nomination for President this year. I will gladly continue doing what I do and helping others in their campaigns for Congress, governorships, and other positions. I’ll certainly give more detail about this decision in due time and especially to those who have faithfully and so sacrificially been part of the process. I know I will deeply disappoint many people I love. So many good and dear people have put forth extraordinary effort without any assurance I would mount a campaign. It pains me to let them down. I also know my decision will delight just as many who aren’t that fond of me. I am eternally grateful for the faithful support of my wife, children and real friends who promised to stand with me no matter what. I had come to believe I would be in the race for President. I won’t be. But I will for sure be re-dedicating myself to standing for and communicating the principles of common sense, Constitutional government, and civil discourse that I believe are critical to the survival of our great Republic. From New York, This is MH, goodnight God bless, and I’ll be back next week.

(I am disappointd, but God be with him.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Bach - Brandenburg Concertos No.3 - for the joy of it

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A law I can appreciate

An old law in Brainerd, Minnesota, orders that every male must grow a beard.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Man indicted for death threats against pro-lifers

US indicts man for death threats against pro-life leaders :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

I was not part of this case, but I was one of the people he has threatened in the past. He only backed off when I said I would report him to the police.

I pray he gets the help he needs.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

A Son of Clan MacMillan

My mother was from Greenock, Scotland (Glasgow). She met my father when he was in the U.S. Navy, and came over here to marry him. Nana followed.

They were Baxters. When I asked what clan we belonged to, Nana always said we were associated with Clan MacMillan (or Macmillan), but she said back in Scotland they didn't really made much of it. When I asked what plaid was ours, she said she never really paid attention: She just wore whatever looked good.

The other day I was at the library. They were having a used book sale, and what did I spot? A booklet entitled Your Clan Heritage: Clan MacMillan. I bought it.

Sure enough, the booklet reported that Baxter is one of the names associated with the clan - a so-called "sept name."

According to one story, a certain Archibald MacMillan was forced to hide out after killing a man from anotgher clan, and disguised himself as a cook making barley loaves. After he made a money-payment as a fine for the killing, he became known as "the baker," and his children inherited the name Mac-Baxtear, later shortened to Baxter.

The clan includes a fomer Prime Minister, Sir Harold MacMillan, the explorer Donal MacMillan, and the composer/conductor Ernest Macmillan. Thed family also features Kirkpatrick MacMillan who apprently invented the first practical bicycle, but someoneelse made it commercially successful. (I sense a family trait in that tale.)

The clan motto is Miseris Succurrere Disco (I Learn to Succour the Distressed). I like that.

Ah, roots.

Happy Mother's Day

Of these four lovely ladies, only my dear wife remains. But they are all in my heart and on my mind this Mother's Day. Happy Mother's Day to all mothers - birth, step and adoptive.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Ivan Cobenk on Kevin Bacon

A classic. And it has Kevin Bacon with no degrees of separation (except from sanity).

Planned Parenthood staff member quits!

Mary of Focus Pregnancy e-mailed this good news:

Great news of another kind. One of the workers at Planned Parenthood, that I've know for 6 years now, has quit!!! Her last day is May 13th. & she got a job at Monroe Community Hospital. She is a Christian & she told me 6 years ago that she worked in the 'clean' section, for she worked at the front desk. "What", I said to her, "there is no clean section at Planned Parenthood". Through prayer & persistence, she finally got convicted & was determined to find another job to get out of Planned Parenthood. So this is great news that she is finally leaving Planned Parenthood for good!! Yeah!! Thank you Lord.

This morning as I prayed outside the Greece Planned Parenthood and watched staff go in I hoped that maybe some of them wouoold also escape Planned Parenthood someday.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Half full, half empty, half baked

There are those who see the glass as half full,
there are those who see the glass as half empty,
and there are those who keep watching the glass
fully convinced it will eventually break and spill liquid all over the place.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Pete Seeger -The Man with the Banjo - Dady Tribute

Favorite "folks" - Pete Seeger and the Dady Brothers. Happy birthday Pete!

Pope sacks Controversial Australian bishop

Bishops can be removed if they go too far - but the Pope has to decide how far is too far.

Controversial Australian bishop sacked by Pope Benedict XVI :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Prayers and More Prayers

I went to Catholic schools for 12 years. I was an altar boy. I took theology courses. I was part of campus ministry (as a musician). I even spent a year in a college seminary.

And all along that way, I didn't learn a lot of prayers.

Oh, I knew the basics. Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory Be. Apostles Creed. Act of Contrition. Grace Before Meals.

But that was about it.

I didn't know how to say the Rosary. I didn't know some of the the other prayers associated with it (other than the basic four). I didn't know the Mysteries.

I didn't know the Memorare. Or the Hail Holy Queen.

I didn't know the St. Michael Prayer.

I didn't know how to say the Divine Mercy Chaplet or any of the prayers associated with it.

My most embarrassing moment came when I was in the college seminary. I went to a local church for confession. After years of going to communal services with printed booklets/sheets I blanked and couldn't remember the Act of Contrition (which I did know at one point). The priest prompted me, but when I admitted I couldn't remember he tossed me out of the confessional (not really sensitive pastorally!).

And in recent years when I pray with other people I find myself mumbling the prayers I only half know.

I've learned some of the prayers, but I need to learn more.

One at a time, I'm learning them.

And in the learning, I'm praying. A double benefit!