Spiritual Musings

Reflections on a Visit to the School of the Americas (SOA)

Posted on December 3, 2008. Filed under: Me and only ME ranting, Politics, Spiritual Musings | Tags: , , |

Ever since I first learned about it in 2004, I have been in heavy favor of shutting down the SOA.  This is news to noone.  But I’ve never been able to get down there with any groups for a peaceful protest and Q & A with the proponents of the SOA.  While the SOA may be indirectly involved in the massacaring of innocents I still believe that any involvement by the “school” is too much when it comes to the deaths of thousands of civilians.  If you are not familiar with the SOA, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), I urge you to check it out.  Like any questionable government entity it tries to pass itself off as something that is needed for national security.  While I am not a conspiracy theorist and I don’t believe the Trilateral Commission will dominate the world, I do believe that the evidence of those who have “graduated” from the SOA speaks for itself.

Some of the esteemed graduates of the SOA include:

Manuel Noriega, leader of Panama and drug trafficker;                                                                                

Col. Franck Romain, On Sept. 11, 1988, armed men broke into the St. Jean Bosco church while Fr. Jean Bertrand Aristide was saying mass and killed 12 parishioners and wounded at least 77. They doused the church in gasoline and set it on fire. Witnesses identified at least two of the gang members as deputies of Col. Romain, who was then Mayor of Port-au- Prince. Col. Romain later publicly justified the massacre as legitimate.                                                                                                                                                   

Maj. Alejandro de Jesús Alvarez Henao, Principal member of “Muerte a Secuestradores” (MAS), a paramilitary death squad responsible for numerous assassinations and disappearances.                          

Sgt. Antonio Ramiro Avalos Vargas Non-commissioned officer in charge of the small unit that massacred 6 Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her teenage daughter.                                                 

Maj. Armando Azmitia Melara, in 1983 commanded the Atlacatl battalion in the massacre of 117 people; in 1984 he commanded the Atlacatl battalion in the massacre of 68 people, most of whom were under age 14.                                                                                                                                                          

General José Valdivia Duenas, On May 14, 1988, army soldiers under Valdivia Duenas’ command killed (with gunshot, bayonets, and farming tools) between 28 and 31 male residents of the hamlet Cayara. Returning four days later, the soldiers arrested many villagers, dozens of whom disappeared (only 3 bodies were recovered). Duenas was subsequently promoted.

This is just a partial list (literally just scratching the surface, for a more complete and extensive list of graduates and the crimes they’ve comitted, here is a link to the source of the information above) of the graduates of the SOA who have commited atrocities and are involved in illegal activities.  As a Christian, I knew that I could not let this go by the wayside.  It is not one of those things that you can turn a blind eye to or think to yourself, “Well, it’s not effecting me or my life, so I’m not going to worry about it.”  While my current station in life prevents me from taking a more active role in seeing the SOA shut down, I will try to do what I can, in whatever small way that I can.  This is one of those ways, informing people.

Below is a reflection on the protest by one of the peaceful participants, Lani Osa.  With her permission I am putting this up because it resonated in my soul.  I hope that her experience may effect you too, to stand for something good, the closing of the SOA.

Reflections on the School of Assasins

by Lani Osa
Today at 5:46pm

Georgia. Distinguished as one of the most musical of states. A place, like many, where the most I could say of it is: I’ve passed through there, years ago, in a car. I was tired and I don’t remember much.
But last week I went to Georgia and back, and now forever more it will be a house filled with happenings, sights, fire songfull nights.

First of all there was driving. 24 hours of it, a straight shot due south. It was dull and it was fun, if not quite “Fear and Loathing.” Tunes, friends, anti-boredom agents. Our enthusiasm and snacks. The mythology of the road trip, our part in the fumes which will someday render the polar bear a fantasy beast.
Wake me when we have somemore lemonheads.

We arrived at the campground a jumble of twisted muscles and bloodshot eyes. We pitched tents and slept the best we could. The winter nights of Georgia are frozen too. Who knew?

Saturday we infiltrate the depths of Fort Benning. When i say infiltrated, I mean of course, piled into a busfull of protesters hailing from across the country to get the inside view of the virtues of the School of the Americas. A tour, given annually when the angry(ish) mob flocks to the chainlink shores of a fence which keeps in and closes out a military education which has bred two generations of massacres and the worldly incarnation of callous economic policy. The hired assassins of North American imperialism.

We sit in front of a military/civilian panel which lectures us on the necessity of the proud institution. The floor is opened and questions are fired. The darkest deeds of the school are bandied about by the folk who see straight through the party line. The panel is affronted by our audacity. The line is towed. Frustrating as any presidential press conference where every true question is thrown to the wayside. “Answer the question you wish was asked, never the one that was.” What is a State but a coherent fiction perpetuated by its actors at the expense of the slow waltz of wisdom, unashamed to turn failures and shame to lessons of change.

Afterwards we drive on to the “God Bless Ford Benning” rally, the traditional righteous counter demo to our assemblage of ‘tear it down!’ lefties. The streets are filled with soldiers in new-fangled camo, so unlike the well-loved rags of ye olde military campaigns. My brother worked in a factory in Ashland where he sewed camelpacks in the self-same material.

The rally. It’s a family affair, there are popcorn machines and candy stands. Girls wrestling for the camo-ed men, pawning backrubs and kisses. For the kiddies, real live tanks they get to crawl into. Rows of automatic weapons backed by proud soldiers frothing at the mouth with ravings over their gats’ technical innovations to spellbound crowds. A kitschy hippie impulse seizes me. I pluck a roadside flower and stuff the stalk into the barrel of a semiautomatic rifle. The soldier watching over the toy is not impressed. I smile the sweetest smile i can muster and traipse away.

Sunday 20,000 people convene for the demonstration. A protest zone is quarantined off. A stage sits in the center. Puppets, drums and masks vitalize the space. Most people have come with one white cross, large enough to write the name and age of a massacre victim. We all stand facing the sage. An old Catholic Padre, massacre survivor, whispers to us a prayer. A prayer evoking the spirit of the East, her gifts are beginnings. The South, the gift of healing and growth. We turn to the West, who gives the wisdom of inward-looking. Then back to the North, from whence stems guidance and rest.

The circle is turned, the liturgy commences.

On stage, the name of a victim is chanted in minor keys whose passage through the self is marked by tremulous waves. Their age, their village, or else a simple “unidentified child, woman, or man.” A booming deep ceremonial drum is beat once. One beat per life. The vibration echoes through every body in the crowd. 20,000 people raise their cross, or if they have none, their hand, their fist. As one we chant “presente.” They are present. They are here with us.

This chant, the drum beat, crosses raised, “presente.” For how many names do we repeat the ceremony? Although we chant and march in slow funeral procession for two hours or more, we pay homage to only a fraction of the human lives we lump into the category of victim.

Death. If our protest accomplishes nothing else, it forms in me a newborn understanding of a human life. How many times do we hear of a murder, a natural disaster, famines, war crimes, collateral damage? I can only hang my head with the most abstracted sadness. It is difficult to feel real empathy for faraway turmoil. Perhaps this is a defense mechanism, lest our soul be so inundated with tragedy that we cease to function in our own day to day affairs. Perhaps too this is why it is so easy to struggle for exotic causes. It is nothing personal. We neither loose nor gain nor risk any measure of our own existence.

But for me this ceremony was a shaman looking into my eyes every one of those dead. A real live person, each of them, no longer victims or tallies. It was a seeing of the fullness of each of those lives, a flare, then the fire snuffed, trampled, drowned. At one point, a chorus is repeated time and again until grief makes me forget where or who I am. “Unidentified child. Village in Columbia.” 30 times or more this was spoken. What happened in that village! How could the lucidity of these children be canceled out in the instant of a few staccato beats? Just because the massacre is the latest entry in an interminable accounting, it’s as if it has happened for the very first time in history. For those on the other end, this has never happened before. Cultural memory means nothing in the face of shot down child.

We walk in a circle. We trace out the medicine wheel. The wheel which forms a cycle, the nature way of death, life, birth, be it futile or sublime. How to integrate such rupture, these jagged edges and gaping holes? At some point each of us finds ourselves before the Fence. It is in interruption, like all of these lives. I cannot speak for the thoughts described in the hearts and minds of the 19,999 others who found themselves before the fence, now a barrier of crazed angles, morphed into a wall of tilted crosses as each is balanced precariously, another emblem into the links. Patches of light filter through, and the military warning signs guarding the inviolateness of the other side.

I seek a resting place for Luis A. Morales Viego of Cuba, who lived beneath the skies and took air into his lungs for 15 years. I wonder what filled his life in the weeks before his death. Did compadres die by his side? Were his days and nights made of dreams for his life to come or was he a precocious cynic? Had he seen more beauty or more terror in his days? Was he in love? Did he like to dance, did he play music?

This boy was nobody to me until I clutched his memorial, raising it high “like an antennae to heaven.” I joined him to his brothers and sisters in death. It means nothing for him and everything to me. He is present no longer, despite the liturgy.

We are not fighting for ghosts. A cross cannot resurrect life once lost. The consequence of failing in our struggle is not an abstraction, even if we cannot appreciate the enormity of it. Yet every action of real resistance is an affirmation of the pulses yet pushing blood through the body, of lungs filled up and emptied out. These people were killed by people like them, but the system breeding these deaths is one we all participate in, through action or apathy. In the time I take to write this, there have been new killings. A moment of protest is a luxury when there is no time to loose.

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What I Am Thankful For 2008

Posted on November 27, 2008. Filed under: Me and only ME ranting, Spiritual Musings | Tags: , , , |

What I Am Thankful for 2008

Many of us during the Thanksgiving Season stop to reflect on what we are thankful for.  Sometimes we share it with others; sometimes we keep it inside believing that some things are so personal that they should remain ever internal.  I’ve never made a list of what I am thankful for and when asked I usually rattle off the usual pleasantries, i.e. my family, God, my friends.  But this year I’d like to start a new tradition and list what I am actually thankful for. 

I am thankful for the re-burgeoning relationship I have with God.  After the years of depression I’m finally beginning to rekindle the fire that once engulfed me.  I’m thankful for the new ways in which God has led me to lead a more peaceful and simple life.  I’ve been introduced to some of the finer points of eastern philosophies and religions and found that many of their practices and beliefs are easily integrated into the Christian spiritual journey.  So along with Jesus, the Saints and the Church, I am thankful for Tao and the simple way of non-resistance. 

I am absolutely thankful for my wife.  No one has to put up with my BS like she does.  She is the cornerstone of my life and is the most dependable person I know.  She is like a mirror to me, showing me my good aspects as well as reflecting back to me my flaws – the things I need to work on – but always willing to work with me on fixing them.  She will always hold a special place in my heart for her patience and perseverance.   I’m grateful that she supports me in the endeavors I get excited about and is always willing to offer a hand to help.  She works tirelessly for the benefit and welfare of our children, for her schoolwork and for the program at church which she is a part of.  She isn’t always shown the appreciation that she deserves from others as well as by her own husband. 

I’m very grateful for my son Titus.  Watching him grow and become more of a little man every day fills me with joy and at times will even bring me with tears.  I’m thankful that he is entering that time in his life when he is beginning to understand the difference between right and wrong and as a matter of fact, he’s the first one to speak up when his daddy slips up and does something objectionable.  He is one of those joys in my life that keep my going when times are tough.  No matter how his day has gone, whenever he gets to see me for the first time that day, whether it be picking him up from Montessori or coming home from work, he comes running into my arms yelling, “Daddy!  I missed you so much!”

I’m thankful for the newest addition to our family, baby Guerin.  He’s a rolly-polly lump of unbounded happiness.  He is free with his smiles and is one of the most vocal babies I’ve ever seen.  When he smiles he sticks out his tongue, it’s the cutest thing you’ll ever see.  Sometimes he gets so happy you can tell he can’t contain it, so he scrunches up into a ball smiling the biggest smile you’ve ever seen.  I’m grateful that he was born this year without any complications and that he has been healthy (except an initial bout of jaundice) and there have been no major scares with him.  I can’t wait to see how he grows in the following year.

I’m thankful for past and present friends.  I’ve reconnected with so many old friends these past few years and I am glad to hear they are doing relatively well (read: at least they’re alive).  Joel, Jessica, Ashton, Neal, Holly, Joey, etc., I’m glad to have been able to reconnect with you as you all have made positive and lasting impacts on my life.  I will never forget you and I’m so glad to be able to talk with you again. 

Speaking of impacts on my life, I am thankful for the friends in my circle and new friends I’ve met.  Maurice, you will always be my friend and my closest confidant.  Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.  Lauren, Gerald, Ron, Ro & Eric, Jenn & Andy, Joe & Danielle, Fiona & Tom, the people I work with, you’re all lumped into the group of people I really like being around and I have benefited by having you in my life.  New friends:   Shawn Voss, Kelli Dunlap, Melinda Ledman, Sarah Lehman, Travis Williams, Mark Johnson, each one of you have at one time or another brought joy to my doorstep (although some of you have left a burning bag of joy on my doorstep).  I look forward to strengthening our relationship as I hold each one of you very dear and am glad you are now my friends. 

Lastly, I’d like to say that I am thankful for a year filled with triumph and failure.  I’ve succeeded at things I never thought I could have and failed at things and learned from them.  I’m grateful for the challenge that I was given that made me reexamine where I stood in relation to the person I thought I was, affecting a change in my life that I pray will grow through the coming years.  I’m thankful for the people who listen to me prattle on about things they don’t care about and I’m grateful for those who come to me for advice or information.  I guess you could say it’s a little bit of ego-stroking but hey, I’m thankful for it!  I’m thankful that I am no longer suffering from massive depression and I am able to get on with my life.  I’m thankful for all the little joys that are brought to me everyday by those I care about. 

That being said, thanks for reading this and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Writing Your Own Eulogy

Posted on November 26, 2008. Filed under: Spiritual Musings | Tags: , , , |

Writing Your Own Eulogy

I don’t necessarily have an obsession with death; at least not a morbid obsession.  Ever since I began my pilgrimage with the Christian faith I have come to terms with the fact that death is merely a transition from one reality to another.  I’ve also come to realize that your actions in this life have an effect that goes beyond what you can see at the time.  Upon becoming a parent I’ve learned that the way that you lead your life and the things that you teach your children literally mold the future. 

I’d recently done some soul searching, reexamining my life and the way that I’ve treated people.  I came to the conclusion that I didn’t like the path that I was taking.  I was falling victim to the abrasiveness and lack of compassion that I had sworn off 10 years ago. 

Since then I’ve tried to work on maturing again.  I’ve come up with some ways to help continue this growth in my life and what I’m presenting to you today is the most recent. 

I was watching a DVD the other day and one of the characters was attending a funeral of a former friend.  He was asked to perform the eulogy and he can’t really think of anything nice to say.  That got me to thinking, what would someone say at my funeral?  What would be my legacy that I leave behind?  How would I be remembered and how would I have impacted the lives that have come my way?

I think at one point or another we all ask ourselves how we’d like to be remembered.  Writing your own eulogy is the perfect chance to do this.  I’m writing my own eulogy because after doing some meditation and contemplation, I believe I know what I would like to be said about me, realistically.  Perhaps it will give you and me a template of the things we need to strive towards in our lives.  Consider it a spiritual exercise.  Be realistic:  none of the, “It was so awesome that he won the lottery” or “she was the greatest humanitarian since Mother Theresa”.  While either one of those may be true for most of us it doesn’t fit in with reality.

Please, let me know if you try this out for yourself.  Do some self-examination and see if what you’d like to be remembered for is actually who you are.  If it’s not, how are you going to change to become that person you’d like to be known as?  The 2 keys are practicality and honesty.  That being said, here is mine:

“We come together today to remember the life of Rob.  As a community we celebrate the love and vibrancy that he has brought to our lives.  He was born December 16th 1976 to Louise and Larry in St. Louis, Missouri.  He deeply admired and adored his parents, two of the people who were most influential to the man that he would become.  They taught him his values and showed him that he can overcome adversity if he was willing to try.  He was always grateful for the lessons they taught him. 

“Rob was born into a family where affection was freely given by his parents and that was something that he passed down to his children.  He was always showing his kids how much he treasured them and thoroughly enjoyed playing with them or just snuggling up with them to watch cartoons.  He loved to take them to new places and treasured showing them the varieties of life.  He always got such a kick out of watching them gaze in wonder at their ever expanding world. 

“He was always enthusiastic about whatever activity his children wanted to do, supporting them each step of the way.  He tried everything within his ability to give them everything that they needed…and some of the things they wanted.  He taught them the values of hard work and perseverance, even the oft neglected value of sacrifice for the benefit of others.  Rob believed that in this world there are very real rights and very real wrongs along with plenty of grey areas.  He instilled this in his children teaching them to defend the defenseless, love the unlovable and to cherish those gifts which God has bestowed to us. 

“Rob was deeply in love with his wife Marcia.  He wasn’t always the best husband, but, who is?  He tried to do his best to make his wife proud of him and he worked every day to find new ways to make her happy.  She stood by him through the worst times in his life and was the shoulder he could always lean on.  He did his best to show his appreciation and to express his gratitude for her never giving up on him.  When it comes to the old saying, “She is his better half”, Rob believed it.  He knew she bolstered his weaknesses and added to his strengths.  As he always said, “The woman that I’m in love with now, is not the woman I first loved.”  This was due to the ever increasing love he felt for her as they grew together as a single entity and as he proudly watched her grow into the woman that she is today.

“I guess if we had to label Rob and put him in a box, we’d call him a “Taoist-Roman Catholic-mystic-pilgrim-theologian.”  At least that’s what he strove for.  Rob believed that the Kingdom of God is present in our midst and is not set for some future time.  Springing forth from that belief he did what he could to love others as God loved them and to show all of God’s creation the adoration that God has for it.  He was known for his empathy for those who were suffering and those in need knew that he was someone who could be counted on to be there.  He would give the shirt off his back if he knew that it would lead to the alleviation of someone’s suffering.  Although he at one time had shown a blasé attitude to pretty much everyone and everything, his heart was transformed into one that deeply cared about the weak and the desperate.

“He realized that this Creation is a gift from God and cared about keeping it as a sacred space for those to come in the future.  He wished to pass on a legacy of caring for the world around him to his children and his grand-children.  He longed for peace in the world and in the personal lives of those he’d met.  He sought reconciliation between himself and those he’d wronged; he also sought to reconcile those that had wronged others to those that had been wronged as he believed, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

“We all know how much Rob loved theology and philosophy.  When he was younger his zeal often got in the way of him explaining eternal and spiritual truths.  As he matured he learned how to teach and nurtured a gift for making large concepts small enough for the everyman.  Rob would explain with excitement to people who were often eager and willing to listen, those grand ideas that he thought were eternally important 

“Rob was one that we knew we could count on to listen to us and hear what we were trying to say, whether we vocalized it or not.  It seemed as if he would hang on to your every word as you told him what was on your mind.  He exhibited a genuine concern for our spiritual and emotional welfare and often knew what to say (and even when to stay silent).  It was a discipline which he set himself towards after coming to the realization that he was often missing what was truly in a person’s heart. 

“Rob was always trying to find a good balance between social justice and spiritual discipline.  He believed that too often people tended to fall on one side or the other.  He worked hard until the day he died to discover that middle road that so many Saints before him had come to find.  He believed he needed to work tirelessly at this to make up for all the time that he had lost thinking and pondering upon frivolous issues.

“Rob did not fear death.  What he DID fear was being forgotten once he’d passed on.  The light that he was able to bring to other people’s lives has ensured that he will live on in our memories.  He left an impact on all of us and we will never forget him, so in that way, his fears have been allayed.  Rob we will miss you but we know that your spirit lives on.  The ripples in the pond of this reality will carry on forever.  We’re thankful to have known you and we are inspired by your love and compassion.  You learned to live fully human and are someone God and all of us can be proud of.  Know that to this day, your love is still felt by all of us and rest easy in the fact that we all love you too.  Goodbye Rob, we’ll meet you again in the highest of realities.”

I hope that I did not come off as pompous or overly eager.  Once again this is an exercise in being the person that I pray I am one day able to become.  That’s not to say I’m completely lacking in all of these qualities I expressed above.  They are merely the end points on the map of my pilgrimage through this life.  Now that I have it down in writing, I can continue to refer back to it throughout the years and work at becoming the man I hope to be remembered as.

If you end up using this as a tool for yourself, please leave it as a comment or email it to me.   My hope is that other people are able to find this to be a useful tool in mapping out improvements in their lives.  I’d just like to hear from those who are on this journey with me.  And, maybe we can help support each other in the process. 

Peace be with you.

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Michael Dowd Speaks about Evolution and Faith

Posted on August 3, 2008. Filed under: Spiritual Musings, Theological Crap |

From “Ten Minutes With…” an interview conducted by Michael Dowd

“The Rev. Michael Dowd’s Dodge Sprinter van bears an image of kissing fish. The fish, labeled “Darwin” and “Jesus,” reflect his belief that evolution is sacred and that science and religion go hand in hand.

“I’m not into reconciling science and religion,” said Dowd, 49, a former believer in creationism. “If evolution doesn’t wholly jazz someone religiously, they should continue to reject evolution.”

Dowd, a pastor in the United Church of Christ, is the author of the new book, “Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your World.”

Since 2002, he and his wife, Connie Barlow, an atheist and a science writer, have lived on the road, sharing their perspective that an understanding of evolution strengthens, rather than undermines, faith….”

Interview continued at RNS

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Black American Bishops Disagree with African Bishops over Inclusion of Gays

Posted on August 3, 2008. Filed under: Spiritual Musings, Theological Crap |

The Lambeth Conference is polarizing black American bishops and African bishops over the inclusion of gays in the clergy.  Allusions to the fight for civil rights in the U.S. and the inclusion of gays are being made and the oppression of blacks is likened to the homosexual oppression in the church.  African bishops claim they know what real oppression is as well and the difference between race and sexual orientation in the faith is a different matter all together citing biblical grounds for the exclusion of homosexuals in the clergy. 

Read the Religious News Service article here.

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Archbishop of Canterbury Calls for Ban on Gay Bishops

Posted on August 3, 2008. Filed under: Spiritual Musings, Theological Crap |

The Archbishop of Canterbury today called for a ban on consecrating any more gay bishops in the Anglican Communion.  He made his plea at the Lambeth conference in front of about 650 bishops.  The bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robison, notable for being the first openly gay Anglican bishop to be elected a few years ago, was barred from taking part in this discussion.  Read the article here.

Allowing openly gay clergy and women clergy has polarized much of organized, main-line Christian denominations against the Anglican communion.  Within the past few years there has also been talk about a major split in the Anglican church as well.  It’s been widely publicized that the African bishops and the quite a few Asian bishops have begun to look at the United States and Europe as mission territories with the understanding that the churches in these areas are straying farther and farther from the will of God.  Facing frustration after frustration, these bishops (and a few conservative bishops in the larger church) have sent out some grumblings about leaving a now “apostatized” church, if they are not able to save it.

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Monk Teaching the Glory and Joy of Sex

Posted on August 3, 2008. Filed under: Spiritual Musings, Theological Crap |

It’s not often that we hear any “good” news from the religious establishment about sex. 

Polish Capuchin Brother Ksawery Knotz

Polish Capuchin Brother Ksawery Knotz

More often than not we are told how bad it is.  Every once in a while someone will speak up and comment on the goodness of sex or even the holiness of sex.  But the stars and planets truly need to be in alignment for someone to combine the two and say that sex is both good AND holy.  Fra. Ksawery Knotz, a Polish monk, has taken it upon his good ol’ celibate self and said that sex can be holy and good at the same time in the same space and son-of-a-gun, the universe won’t implode. 

Fra. Knotz even holds seminars and retreats to help married couples fully enjoy their sexual union and even gives tips on his website.  One of the great things about his marital tips is that he discusses the oft held stereo-types and misunderstandings that Catholic couples may have about what may be considered “sinful” or not.  These days, those types of reassurances (at least in America) aren’t for those who are worried if what they are doing behind closed doors is bad, but for those detractors who believe that the church concerns itself too much with what goes on in the bedroom.  Mostly people only get upset when the church says you shouldn’t do something, but they don’t seem to mind when it says, “Nah, go ahead and have fun with it, it’s not up to us.”

On top of all of this, Fra. Knotz isn’t some kind of renegade monk trying to do his own thing w/o church approval.  He’s gotten the nod from his superiors for his seminars and retreats.  Mary Sibierski with Agence France-Presse just published an article on Fra. Knotz where he was able to briefly talk about what he’s doing and what is going on and mentions the fact that he has approval from Catholic leaders.

Please take the time to check out the article and to scan through Fra. Knotz’s website, I think you’ll be pleased and perhaps even surprised.

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The Dark Knight – A Review

Posted on July 20, 2008. Filed under: Reviews, Spiritual Musings |




The Dark Knight – A Review

The Good, the Bad and the Fallen

My anticipation for this new Batman movie, directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins) was akin to a child on Christmas Eve. I knew that if I waited long enough I’d be presented with something that made neat noises and had cool blinking lights. When I got to the theater to open my gift what did I find? Something really cool that made neat noises and had cool blinking lights! To begin with, the trailers had me riveted (must see trailers of the summer for “Watchmen”, the new James Bond movie “Quantum of Solace” and “Terminator: Salvation”). By the time the actual movie began to play, I already had goose bumps covering my arms.

The basic premise of the movie is that the mob is being run out of town by Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), at times with the help of Batman (Christian Bale). In their moment of desperation, the Joker (Heath Ledger in his final performance) offers his services to bring an end to Batman. The Joker then goes on a rampage of wanton death and destruction bringing forth a new enemy for Batman and even causes the caped crusader to doubt his own worth and place in Gotham society. The better Batman does his job, the worse it becomes for the citizens of Gotham as the criminal element (in this case the Joker) has to become more and more brazen and violent to do what they do, becoming a never ending cycle.

 Ledger’s eagerly anticipated performance was well worth the wait. I found myself genuinely creeped out and disturbed by not only what he said but by how he said it. His movements, expressions, intonations, quirks, hell everything he did was over the top. It was like watching an even more psychotic version of Alex from A Clockwork Orange, a man who merely wants to revel in chaos, destruction and fear. Unfortunately for the rest of the cast, Ledger’s acting nearly overshadows the stellar performances given by everyone else (as a matter of fact, Gary Oldman as Lt. James Gordon blew my socks off again and Eckhart as Dent was mesmerizing.) By far, this is the darkest Batman movie I’ve ever seen.

The parallels that the world of The Dark Knight and our post 9/11 world are as well concealed as a bull in a china shop. An iconic shot of Batman standing amidst the still-burning rubble of a recently bombed building while firefighters scurry around searching the debris brings to mind images of the ruins of the Trade Center after they fell. One line that ends up being said twice in the film is, “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” which seems to be the film’s way of questioning whether or not in our own reality we’ve become the bad guys. Though prevalent, these obvious allusions did not detract from the experience of the movie or from the reality of the Gotham’s world.

There was one thought that kept popping into my head as the movie unfolded: people need a savior. They need someone who they know will protect them and they know will be there for them when they are needed. Batman couldn’t always be there and I believe Bruce Wayne stated it best when he said, “People need a hero with a face.” People need a hero that they can identify with, someone they know is like them and has the same hopes and fears which will motivate them to do what is best.

 When God became man, he identified with humanity. He presented us with a savior with the same desires, same temptations, same fears and dreams as we have. We were given a hero with a face. When we needed it most humanity’s hero appeared and saved a dying world while showing us a different way of doing things. He showed us that we don’t have to fear the night, that we are cared about. And much like the Dark Knight, our hero was despised and an outcast but he still did what needed to be done simply because it was the right thing to do.

In conclusion, this movie stirred my mind and sated my imagination. With the emotions, visuals and overall “feel” of the movie, it was a film that was more or less “experienced” as much as watched. It took you to some pretty dark places but it truly stirred your thoughts beyond the celluloid. Great movie, a must see at the theater and most definitely a must buy when it comes out on DVD.

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My one and only poem

Posted on June 10, 2008. Filed under: Spiritual Musings |

This is why I don’t write poetry, cause I suck at it. Here is a poem I wrote after looking at some titles for blogs that I’d typed up. I thought to myself, “Hey, self, that looks like a poem in the making.” So I did a little editorial work to it and added some stuff and thought I’d give this poetry thing a try. Let me know what you think, seriously, I want to know if I’m hurting the world by writing tripe like this.

Longing for your company again
It’s been lonely without you
Don’t know what to do next
Just sit here and wait for you to call

But you don’t

It feels different this time
We’ve lost touch for so long
I need your help again
I think I can trust you now

I’m sorry

I know you’ll pick up when I call
All I have to do is finish dialing
It’s so much easier when you move first
I think I can hear you breathing

You’re so quiet

Sometimes I think I hear you whisper
Gossamer beating against the air
Was that your shadow on the wall?
If I squeeze my eyes shut, I can see you

I can’t focus

Was that you calling my name?
No, it’s just my imagination right?
One day we’ll see eye to eye
The fire will eventually smolder

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Taking Stock

Posted on June 10, 2008. Filed under: Spiritual Musings |

There are times in everyone’s lives that they stock of where they are, what they’ve done and where they are going. About a year ago I’d gotten into quite a deep depression because I was taking stock of my life every couple of hours and coming up wanting. Thankfully my life began to get some traction again and I don’t spend the majority of my days lamenting the path that I’ve taken. Not that it’s not wise to do that every once in a while, just not all the time.
There are times when you also need to take stock of your life spiritually. I learned a long time ago that when we wish to look at how we’re doing in our pilgrimage of faith we need to look at it in snapshots. I cannot compare where I am today with where I was yesterday. I’ll only get disappointed and disheartened. It’s been a long time since I’d done it last and recently it was kind of forced on me.
Someone mentioned something to me recently that really got me to thinking about my growth, or lack thereof, over the last few years. For a while I could look at my life and see consist growth. Then I hit a wall and I pretty much know where that wall was. The problem with it is that at the time I don’t think that I knew that I’d hit a wall.
Maybe it’s due to the fact that I didn’t do any sort of stock taking for awhile. Maybe it’s because I thought that I was doing just fine. I think that I’d achieved that level of intellectual arrogance where I thought it was time to stop learning and time to begin to merely absorb, that the spiritual side of the Christian life had taken a back of the bus seat to theology and life itself. I know that with a job, no school, no one to really talk to about spiritual matters and the problem with the pain killers had lent to the neglect of my spiritual life.
Examining my pilgrimage I’ve come to discover that there are plenty of things that are lacking in my life. I think about Galatians 5:22 and the Fruits of the Spirit (which I’m thinking about doing a small series on) and how my life has not seen an increase in or is completely missing many of things in that passage. I’ve been trying to think of why these things are missing in my life, what it means and what needs to be done to change.
I know that I’m not content. I know that things need to move forward. I know I long for the old days when it used to come so easy. Maybe this is just another part of the growing process. Maybe this is the spiritual equivalent of moving out of the house and realizing that your parents were right. I don’t know and I won’t pretend to know. But I’ll try to keep you informed and maybe someone else can join me in the same sort of examination and we can grow together. The invitation is there, I’m willing to start down a new path in my journey and I’d love some company.

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