February 2010


I have a lot of work to do tonight, and as I ate dinner I was contemplating staying up until it was all finished, regardless of the time.  In college, all my best paper-writing happened at night and in the wee hours of morning.  Ask my friends — I was always writing papers when everyone was heading to bed.

Contemplating staying up late, I remembered that I needed to be at school early tomorrow.   I thought, “Oooh, I’ll pull an all-nighter!”

Um, yeah right. *yawn*

I’m old.

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Inevitably, Lent makes me Rome-sick.  There’s something about spending the holiest time of the year in the Eternal City that changes your future Lents forever.

The interesting thing about my memories of 2005 and 2008 is that many of them are tied up in liturgical events, be it John Paul II’s death on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday or celebrating Palm Sunday with Pope Benedict at St. Peter’s.   Because of this, there are often two days that bring the memories flooding back to me — the date and the feast.

This past Friday, for example, I was eating a Lean Cuisine microwave meal for lunch (Parmesan-crusted fish) and was somehow reminded of the first week in Lent two years ago, when I was sitting in a chipper in Swaffham, England eating real fish and chips.  Was last week the two-year anniversary of that adventure through Norfolk?  Well, yes… and no.  Lent fell earlier that year, during the first week of February.

I’ll go through a similar experience when the 5th Sunday of Lent rolls around, and I’ll want to celebrate the two year anniversary of Mass with Pope Benedict — but it really happened on March 9th, not March 21st (when the 5th Sunday falls this year).

In case you haven’t noticed, though, I like celebrating time liturgically.  I like forming my life around the feasts of the Church.  I think this balance between dates and liturgical feasts is actually a good reflection on the ideas of kairos and cronos.  Lots of much smarter people have written on these two measures of time, and I won’t be able to do it justice.  Basically, cronos refers to the measure of time that comes sequentially– chronologically, if you will. 😉  It is the attempt to measure time using something like the sun, a clock, etc.

Kairos has a different sense.  Whereas cronos measures time, in a quantitative sense, kairos refers more to the quality of time.  Kairos is occasion, a time of great importance, of opportunity, of grand events.

There is more than one way to experience time.

Father Thomas Rosica, in a recent Scripture meditation reminds us, “So often in our individual and community lives, in our various ministries, parishes and daily lives, we simply plod along from day to day, living with a sense of hopelessness, monotony or heaviness. We are locked into a cronos time, and cannot see how God wishes to break through the ordinary moments of life and transform our existence and our history into something extraordinary. … How can our cronos time be transformed into kairos– a real moment of breakthrough and hope, of promise and new possibility?”

At this point in my life, it’s easy to become bogged down with measuring time — I have one more day to finish this lesson I need to teach in thirteen days; I am twenty-six years old and have been out of school for almost two years now; if I want to go back to school I have nine months to take the GRE; my friend is coming to visit me and is landing at the airport 4:45pm; I’d like to make the 5.5 hour trip home soon…

But it’s important to remember that God doesn’t work limited by our cronos. He works within it, and He has sanctified it by coming into the world at a definite moment in cronos, but He is not limited by it.  He sees that lesson I’m going to teach in 13 days right now.  And He sees where I’m going to be in five years.  And He’s there, sanctifying it.

So as I celebrate my “anniversaries” on days almost outside of time, I unite myself to Him, seeing His hand in every event, at every time.

Well, it must be almost Lent.  My Christmas tree is gone and my apartment looks bare.

Mardi Gras is kind of a funny thing.  It always felt funny to me.  I couldn’t explain it until I began really reflecting on the Church’s feasts and fasts.  I’m not against living it up before we all start to fast… but if you notice, the Church generally fasts before She feasts, not the other way around.

I’m going out to dinner tonight, and I plan on drinking a beer and eating something chocolate for dessert.  I’m not saying it’s wrong to live it up today.

But are we living it up today so we can fast tomorrow?  How many people are drinking to excess today only to not even give up alcohol for the next forty days?  People celebrated “Carnival” with the eating of meat — why?  Because they weren’t going to eat it for the next forty days!

When I was England for the beginning of Lent a few years ago, we celebrated “Pancake Tuesday.”  To the French this may be Mardi Gras, but to the English today is named after the food they’ve traditionally consumed on this day.  Since people used to give up milk, fat, and eggs for Lent, they would use up those ingredients by making pancakes the day before Ash Wednesday.

Now that’s living it up, folks!  Pancakes!

So remember — it’s not wrong to party today.  But keep it in perspective.

It’s not my favorite holiday, I’ll tell you that.  But I’m trying to cultivate a devotion to St. Valentine to make up for it.

I found his tomb in Dublin.  I’m not sure which St. Valentine it is, as there are several.

Happy Feast, all.

Someone still has their Christmas tree up.  All their Christmas decorations, for that matter.

*gasp*

I guess I’ve just kind of gotten used to it– I plug it in each night when I’m reading/writing/eating dinner and it’s just so pretty… but this morning it occurred to me that it’s the middle of February, and maybe it’s time to take it down.

I was fully intending to take it down on Candlemas, February 2nd, because I like to celebrate Christmas until that day.  But then my life got really busy, and it never came down on the 2nd.  or the 3rd.  or the 4th.

But since Lent is approaching this week, I suppose I should make an effort to take all the Christmas decorations down.  I think I’ll do it on Tuesday, so that on Wednesday my apartment looks properly empty and penitential.

I’d keep my decorations up year round, but that means you don’t have the joy of putting them up next December.  Hm, that sort of reminds me of a blog post I wrote a few months ago…

Every once and awhile, my brother and mom and I will play a game, “who said this?”  It usually entails my brother emailing us a quote, then my Mom guessing, and by the time I get a chance to read the emails, she’s guessed correctly and everyone has moved on with their lives.

Today was the same, but I thought I’d share the game with all of you.

I mean, the fact of the matter is, is the president has been on his 60-day tour, and everywhere he goes the numbers just get worse. The American people have essentially voted on this proposal and really what you have is a situation now where I think that the president and the Congress are going to need to figure out a way to save face and — and step back a little bit. And if — if they let go of their egos — listen, I’ve been on the other side of this where — particularly with my wife. (laughter) Where I’ve gotten in an argument and then at some point in the argument it dawns on me, you know what, I’m wrong on this one and it’s — it’s — it’s irritating, it’s frustrating. You don’t want to admit it, and so to the extent that we can provide the president with a graceful mechanism to — to say we’re sorry, Dear, then I think that would be — that would be helpful.

My mom nailed it, while I fell into the obvious trap of thinking it was a recent quote about our current president and the mess he’s gotten us into as a country.

Nope, Mom was right.  Those words came from Senator Barack Obama, in 2005, criticizing President Bush’s attempt to privatize social security.

Will he listen to himself?

I have a quick addendum to my last post, but I thought I’d just post again, seeing that any update will get lost at the end of that long entry.

My nephew was recently talking to my sister (his aunt) about his new baby brother or sister, still in utero.  When my sister asked him if he thought the new baby was a boy or a girl, he replied, “I don’t know.  You can’t see yet.”

My sister thought, “Oh!”

And then he added, “Babies don’t have any hair!”

I realized that his mistake — cute and laughable — is actually the same as the Smithsonian’s mistake mentioned earlier (below).

He has taken a outward manifestation (long hair/short hair) and mistakingly identified it as the defining factor that separates boys and girls.

The Smithsonian has taken an outward manifestation (art, language) and mistakingly identified it as the defining factor that separates humans from other mammals.

His mistake is cute and pretty harmless, except for that fact that he might call some nice guy “Ma’m” some day, just because the guy happens to have a ponytail.

The Smithsonian’s mistake isn’t so cute and harmless… because they’re not four years old… and their conclusion has far greater repercussions.

It puts their thought process in perspective, doesn’t it?

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