Monday, September 23, 2013

estranged

Slash's second guitar solo in Estranged, 1994
"when you are talking to yourself,
and nobody's home ...
so nobody ever told you baby
how it was gonna be
so what'll happen to you baby
guess we'll have to wait and see"
(Guns N' Roses - Estranged, 1991)
home from a new spiritual high, i return to where i was - in the clouds for almost five years:  St. Augustine's Seminary.  i remember my five years with joy, overlook the tough parts, and look forward in celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year!

there are two ways to leave the seminary.  both are good!  some men are ordained to the Holy Priesthood.  some are not.  i know many brothers who have chosen other paths, who are holier than some of the clergy.  from our common baptism, is not the universal call to holiness?  indeed, the seminary helps every man to know God better, and to know himself better as well.

as this prophetic song mentions though, nobody tells us how it will be (after ordination, for example), you'll have to wait and see.  however, based everyone's ordination day pictures (a parallel to wedding day pictures) all my brothers are joyful, smiles on their faces, ready to change the world, to transform her, indeed, to save her!
"when i find out all the reasons
maybe i'll find another way
find another day
with all the changing seasons of my life
maybe i'll get it right next time
and now that you've been broken down
got your head out of the clouds
you're back down on the ground
and you don't talk so loud
and you don't walk so proud
any more, and what for ..."
how many people do you know who are estranged:  separated?  or divorced?  marriage annulled? - (the reason Axl gave in writing this power ballad!)  do you know people who are estranged from the Catholic Church?  from God?  and, how many men do you know who have left the priesthood?  humility, is such a difficult thing, a hard lesson!  i know my brothers, when newly ordained, who are walking on cloud nine, some are levitating, others think that bilocation is right around the corner - indeed, we are oozing holiness, we cannot wait to perform our first miracle.  but, priests look for God, just like everyone one else (hopefully).  although it is a difficult lesson indeed:  to think one will change the world, only to realize later that it was i who has been changed.  now you've been broken down, got your head out of the clouds, you're back down on the ground, ... you don't talk so loud, and you don't walk so proud.  but being broken is a good thing, as Leonard Cohen once said.  it is how the light gets in!
seminarians + winter football, 2007?

i look forward in gathering with my brothers this week.  every time i see one of my brother priests - no matter which diocese or religious order, i always try to ask a simple question:  have you found the joy of the priesthood?  understanding that one is not God is a difficult lesson to learn - for newly ordained priests, indeed, for all who have experienced the conversion, of finding joy with God in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

of course, there are varying answers.  i ask it not in order to compare notes!  God works in my life, in my heart, just as He works in yours.  but it is good to know, to put in to words, why we are happy, or rather, why we are joyful.  that joy is God in Our Lord Jesus Christ.  and your priest has given his life to make Him known and loved by all.  as St. Augustine once said, Jesus is our knowledge.  He is our wisdom.  remind your priests that He is their ambition as well:  to know Him better, to love Him more, and to follow Him more closely.

of course, the victory is not ours, but His.  and yet, there is an invitation, and a call.  the zeal of the new evangelization, and helping others know God in Our Lord Jesus Christ.  i am in awe, i have no words, to describe the joy which i feel - still only four years after ordination (aka i'm still a baby) - to know that i participate in His mission, the salvation of souls - baptizing them in the name of (into) the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!

the seminary helped me on the first step:  knowing God better!  loving Him, and following Him, continues for me as it does for you.  it is not i who saves the world, but God in Our Lord Jesus Christ.  on ordination day, the parents give away their son to the Church.  Holy Mother Church receives him with gladness, and presents a new gift to the People of God, a baby priest, who will grow only with your love.

pray for your priests.  peace.

ps.  if the video can end on a happy note - spoiler alert:  Axl is saved by singing dolphins - , how will the rest of your journey go?  we have God Our Father who loves us, and Holy Mother Church that cares for us.  life is good.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

ready to start


"meep, meep" Road Runner
"now you're knocking at my door
saying please come out with us tonight
but i would rather be alone
than pretend i feel alright"
(Tears for Fears - Ready to Start, 2013)
guess what?  chicken butt!  no really, Tears for Fears is coming out with a new album, so i hear!  to celebrate, and to thank music, they decided to cover this Arcade Fire song!  genius, indeed!  i love it!!!

i'm just back from my annual priestly retreat (with ABp), and BAM!  i'm ready to start!  the zeal of the new evagelization, which is always present, is seeking new ways to make itself known!  how do we proclaim God in Our Lord Jesus Christ to a world, to a culture, which is tired, angry, or indifferent?!  let's talk.

i'm always open to suggestions.  indeed, we have a suggestion box in our parish.  here's is my paradox.  some say they want shorter homilies.  others can't get enough.  what is a priest to do?  if my preaching is not short and to the point, people get upset.  if my preaching doesn't say enough, people get upset.  seriously, i am open to your ongoing comments here!!!

however, doesn't it also depend on where people are on their faith journeys?  have they had a conversion?  do they know the love and mercy of God in Our Lord Jesus Christ?

one thing that Michael Dopp, my retreat director, has brought to my attention is the plea to improve the preaching of parish priests, and specifically, how it must proclaim and return to the kerygma:  the preaching of God in Our Lord Jesus Christ!  this changes everything!  indeed, sometimes i would focus on the catechism.  that's great, ... only if you already know Christ.  how about my brothers and sisters who are only now experiencing the joy?  they need things better explained, and more to the point?

the retreat was great!  he focused on the kerygma, through the lens of the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, underlined by our call to holiness and to mission.  as my ABp often says, "got faith?  share it!"  our call to holiness is to know and love God.  our mission, then, is to share Him with others!  i'm always looking for new ways, new examples in sharing the Good News.

i'm ready to start, + looking forward to this new year.  we had our first Ottawa Challenge Cursillo exec meeting, and we are already preparing for the retreat in November!  i've already visited école catholique Paul VI, and will be visiting école sécondaire catholique régionale de Hawkesbury in October.  the pastor has already talked about a few things, and i'm ready to start - sooner than later.  who's with me?

peace.

ps.  Tears for Fears, followed by Arcade Fire live + Ready to Start:




Sunday, September 15, 2013

bridge over trouble water

Claude Théberge - Cat, 1996?
"when you're down and out
when you're on the street
when evening falls so hard
I will comfort you" (Audrey Assad - Bridge Over Troubled Water, 2013)
this is one of my favourite Simon & Garfunkel songs.  and, i am currently enjoying the recently released (a few days?) version by Audrey Assad.  when i played the piano i always wanted to learn this song.  i'm not sure what i love most, the words or music.  the words are consoling, the piano hypnotizing.

it is good to be consoled, to find consolation with God in Our Lord Jesus Christ.  in searching for that equilibrium though, we often lose our balance in life (paradox).  that is true of our brother priests as well.  next week - Monday to Friday - the English priests of the Archdiocese of Ottawa will be away on retreat.  i will be joining them.

but what about ministry, schools, meetings, the Sacraments?  when the Missionaries of Charity sisters complained to Mother Teresa mentioning there was too much work to do, what was her reaction?  "there is too much to do, OK, another hour of prayer then!"  like a friend reminded me the other day, it is important to find time to pray:  a moment of silence during the day, one day a week, a weekend a month, and even a week a year.  balance, it does soul + body good.  also, Canon Law tells me, encourages me strongly to take an annual retreat.

i look forward to this retreat.  our retreat master will be none another than my friend Michael Dopp, he founded The Mission of the Redeemer Ministries, a new ministry, at the service of the Church, committed in forming Catholics in the new evangelization!  however, before sharing the Good News, one has to live and experience the Good News, to pray, to be consoled, comforted by God.  we cannot always be on the high of proclaiming the Good News, but we must also encounter Him in the darkness, when pain is all around.  God doesn't always work as we would like Him too.  i am reminded of this truth in a book that i am now reading for the second time:
"one of the basic unrealities of most accounts of the inner journey is that they avoid discussing the almost intolerable difficulties we often encounter on this heroic way.  the chapter, 'Serpents and Devils in the Shadows' should be required reading for all spiritual guides and those who venture inward.  the darkness is real, and those prepared to meet it have the best chance of passing through the abyss successfully." (Spiritual Pilgrims:  Carl Jung + Teresa of Avila)
along with my Bible, this will be part of my spiritual reading for the week.  one cannot just simply stay on spiritual cloud nine.  one has to dig deeper at times.  i enjoy the stories have how saints, brothers and sisters succeed.  but don't we need to know how they struggled as well?  indeed, how they overcame obstacles!  it seems that we'd rather stay in the light, then really look at the darkness.  however, God works in both, and to omit one would be, ... ?

"don't work too hard".  i've been saying that all my life, to everyone and to anyone i met.  i think i may have had it wrong.  i think i should say, "work hard", yes, "but for Him."  if i work hard for myself, it'll never be enough.  if i work hard for Him, well, ... that changes everything!

pray for your parish priests.  peace.

ps:  the video, Bridge Over Troubled Water, by Audrey Assad:




Saturday, September 14, 2013

can't hug every cat

Claude Théberge - Cat, 1996?
"sorry, i'm being emotional
i love cats
i love every kind of cat
i just want to hug all them
but i can't, i can't hug every cat
i am a cat lover, and i love to run."
(Schmoyoho - Can't Hug Ever Cat, 2011)
is it bad that i enjoy this video, a lot?  hello, my name is Fr. Jonathan Blake, and i love cats, i love every kind of cat.  yep, i'm a little emotional.  i had two cats growing up - Pantouffle, + Noisette.  my mom has, had, will have cats.  my sister has cats.  i look forward in visiting friends who have cats!  i know priests who have cats in the rectory!  i love cats, i love every kind of cat.  and i want to hug all them.  i just love them!
"i think about how cute they are, ...
and how their ears,
and the whiskers and the nose, ...
i just love them!"
wow!  but there is the problem!  i am allergic.  quite, actually.  yet, throughout junior + high school i managed.  today, i'm not quite sure, and there is the paradox.  i love cats, but i can't touch them, or i will die. :(  i've been singing this ditty in my head for a while, and i'm not the only one who has a love-hate relationship with cats.

as you can see, Claude Théberge, the painter, surely has an obsession.  but we are in good company, since Jim Davis is like me too - allergic!  he loved them so much that he created Garfield!  that's right!  i just blew your mind, i know.  no probs!

that's it.  i just want to be on the record, that i love cats, i love every kind of cat!

peace.






Monday, September 09, 2013

dentist!

Norman Rockwell - Look Ma, 1958
"your temperament's wrong for the priesthood
and teaching would suit you still less
son, be a dentist you'll be a success"
(Little Shop Of Horrors - Dentist!, 1986)
i am now home safe and sound.  of course, why would i not be?  i went to the dentist today.  back in the day i had braces for over two years!  i even had the much-loved retainer before that!  every time i went to the dentist, it meant pain!  inhumane pain.  they would tighten those braces and i couldn't eat for weeks!  and just as things got better, back to the dentist i went.  i remember Dad singing to me - brush your teeth - by Raffi!  once is ok, but more than that it adds to the pain.  our family, today, cannot talk about brushing teeth without a smirk.  not only because of the joy of that song, but also because it was slightly annoying to one and all.

so, today, things are better!  there i am sitting on the chair (pic from last time;  Doc loved it!) chit chatting away - as much as one can - and thinking about God.  the theology of dentistry!  indeed, parallels are everywhere, seeing God in all things, even in the pain and trials of cleaning teeth.  then there is always that one question that i dread:
"have you been flossing?"
ah, um, maybe?  of course, they can tell!  "Doctor, forgive me, for it has been 6 months since i last flossed."  he knows before i even utter the words!  how can they tell?  they just know!

anywho, back to the theology of dentistry.  two things.  you can understand why some people do not like going to the denstist.  they had a bad experience, which forever taints new experiences!  unfortunately, the same is true with our Faith, and some priests.  we know people who have had bad experiences in the past.  some continue to struggle today because of those very experiences.

today, i enjoy going to my dentist.  he his a joyful man, including all his staff.  he makes the experience - even of flossing - good times.  indeed, that is where dentistry is going i am sure - the joy of teeth!  i do not forget the difficulty of braces so many years ago, but i have a new way of looking at dentistry, and the people working in it.  same with our Faith, and my brother priests today.  my brother priests work hard to spread the Gospel, the joy of God in Our Lord Jesus Christ.  we all may have had difficult experiences with our Faith, but God continues to invite us deeper in that personal relationship.

finally, they were cleaning my teeth today removing this and that stain.  they worked hard - with jackhammer + sandblaster, and all!  sometimes those stains are tough ones to get out.  isn't it the same with some of our sins?  which ones are tough to get out?  and, why is that?  bad habits, vices?  what have i done, or not done - flossing - that has left such a stain on my heart, that are obstacles to my journey of holiness?  and, what do we do now to get it out?  Crest - toothpaste - might work each and everyday, but we still need the Doctor.  prayer - relationship with God in Our Lord Jesus Christ - is important each and everyday, and He invites still deeper through Holy Mother Church, and the priests for the Sacraments, and of course, the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  priests need one another as well, since i cannot hear my own confession.

i always leave the dentist office thinking i'm going to brush well, and floss everyday.  i leave the confessional, thinking i will never sin again.  the journey is upward and forward.  that is holiness.  i have another appointment with the Dentist in March.  we still need to make time for confession.  when?  that is between you and God.  if you see me, make me accountable for flossing.  if you see me, make me accountable for holiness!

peace.

ps:  two videos:  1) Raffi on brushing of one's teeth, and 2) Little Shop of Horrors and Steve Martin as the Dentist!  caution, warning!  do not watch the video, if you are scared of dentistry. :) no wonder i have bad memories, ...




Saturday, September 07, 2013

welcome to the jungle

Chris Jones - First day of school, 2013

"welcome to the jungle,
we've got fun and games"
(Guns N' Roses - Welcome to the Jungle, 1987)
i miss blogging, i really do.  i haven't been here in a while, i know.  have mercy on me.  as the wheels on the bus go up and down, so does life.

my last post was back in June, graduation and the end of the school year for many.  now, it seems right to post something new at the start of a new school and pastoral year!

that kid in the picture, ... was, is, and might forever be me!  anywho, we can talk more about that later, maybe after you treat me to a nice beverage?

school is never over.  we are always learning.  learning hopefully to make the right choices.  i always thought that if the teacher only taught -- insert subject here --, then they have failed at their job.  teaching is not only about a subject, but about life!  have you ever gone back to your school years later to thank a teacher?  what exactly do we thank them for?  i remember going back to Moncton High School, Quispamsis Junior High School, + Elementary, Notre-Dame Elementary School (now closed), years back thanking a few of my favourite teachers.  sometimes i forget what they taught me, but of course, they taught me much more!  i do not need to name movies based on all of this, it has become a stereotype now.  but it is good to say thanks! and obvious is the need for good teachers ( + priests).
"welcome to the jungle it gets worse here every day
ya learn to live like an animal in the jungle where we play
if you hunger for what you see you'll take it eventually
you can have everything you want but you better not take it from me"
as the #backtoschool French article discusses (indeed a great commentary on the above picture), it will also be on the school bus that children learn many things.  indeed, some may find or loose Faith.  as the GNR song goes, if all we learn is multiple choice, and forget about living life, we become animals.  it will become a jungle out there if we have no roots, and it will bring us to our knees.  on my mind lately is the lack of direction from these so called Quebec Values charter, the violence in different countries, our homes, and parishes, and now the Frosh Week scandals at St. Mary's University (SMU) in Halifax.  what exactly are we learning in our schools, parishes, homes?
"the Instagram video is embarrassing to St. Mary’s University, but it should embarrass Canadian society in general.  It’s time that we realized that healing our culture will take more than decades of ‘no means no’ campaigns. Pro-lifers realize this. So welcome to another school year (welcome to the jungle).  We have work to do."  (NCLN, 2013)


so, now what?  choose, but choose wisely (à la Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade).  -- (reflection EN, FR via Salt & Light) -- we must choose God in Our Lord Jesus Christ.  He becomes the foundation of our lives.  indeed, he is the only orientation and direction needed!  He is the game changer.  He changes everything!

we have been invited by our Holy Father today to pray for peace in Syria.  we seek peace in our world, in countries, in our families, parishes, and in our hearts.  one thing is fo sho:  the road towards peace always begins in prayer.  in this new school and pastoral year, let's choose God, and He will give us His peace.  seek to know Him better.  love Him more.  follow Him more closely.  remember, we are in the jungle, but not of the jungle.

over and out.  werd.

ps.  SMU's apology for the frosh week jungle.