For almost a year I have purposely been avoiding the news of current events, avoiding all major and alternative news media outlets, and since Ash Wednesday have disengaged from almost all social media. I have learned a few things so far. First, it is hard to get away from-and not just because of the long habit of engaging it. The Media is everywhere and actively pursuing my attention. Even after the habit is broken, and any interest fleeting, I am still surrounded by it shouting at me.
Second, I found I am really not missing anything. Much like a daytime TV drama, in which you can watch one episode every six months and be all caught up, the continuous swirl of angst and ennui that is called News can be safely ignored without loss. In fact, one of the dangers of the MSM is that by consuming it you begin to believe that you are actually informed about what is going on in the world.
Third, I have much more time. Social media consumes time and numbs thought-and vise versa. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. are great for pictures of the grand babies and tips for gardening or woodworking, but other than that I am glad to heed the warning of Robot to Will Robinson…
Finally, pursuing this course has brought more peace of mind, which in turn has aided clarity of thought and sincerity of prayer. My soul is so much more quiet. It’s almost as if I know more about what’s really going on than ever. Maybe I do.
Today’s gospel is the story of the martyrdom of John the Baptist from Mark 6:14-29. John had justly warned Herod of his sin of taking his brother’s wife, Herodias, as his own. She wanted John dead. This verse caught my attention:
But an opportunity came one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Mark 6:21
Who were these “leading men?” We only know of them and they are only remembered because they were invited to Herod’s party and were witnesses to Herod’s murder of The Baptist. These were the important people of the time. But now they’re long forgotten. All their plans, loves, dreams, and stratagems are no more, only remembered now as witnesses to the martyrdom of someone who was far greater than they could ever imagine. There is no record that anyone of them spoke up for John. Perhaps if even one of them had spoken, Herod would have spared John’s life. “Young lady that was a beautiful dance, but is it really worth the life of a man? What evil has John done to you that justice demands such payment?” No, only silence. Likely they were afraid of Herod.
As years passed, these “leading men” faced their own death and judgment. It’s a sad testimony that their lives are noted only for silence in the face of the murderous injustice done to one of the greatest Saints. They were “leading men,” yet that is their legacy.
Consider today – who are the “leading men” and do they still refuse to speak out for the weak and helpless? Perhaps the “leading men” are vying for your attention, your money, and your vote? Or are they are plying you with useless information to the point of mind-numbing distraction? And they would stand by in silence as innocence is slaughtered to defend evil?
Don’t be deceived. The end of all “leading men” is the same. Pray for the grace of wisdom and final perseverance.
Those whom we love and lose are no longer where they were before. They are now wherever we are.
Saint John Chrysostom
November is the Month of the Holy Souls. At my home parish, All Saints Catholic Church, a scroll of all those who have died in the past year is hung all month as a memorial and reminder. I doubt anyone on that list thought they would be there this time last year. During the All Souls’ Mass of Remembrance this evening all the names were read aloud as family members placed a flower by the altar; it was simply beautiful. Sorrowful, yet full of hope. Mass is always wonderful, but for me the November 2 Commemoration of the Faithful Departed is particularly special. Death is not the end of the story.
I visited my father’s grave at Arlington Cemetery this afternoon; he been gone 14 years and I miss him more than ever. Yet I sensed a real peace while saying prayers there for him at the graveside. At Mass tonight, in the liturgy of the Eucharist, being present with Christ, I had a profound sense of how I am also present with all those with Him. Just a glimpse of what is to come. Hope, indeed…
My wife and I talk a lot about getting older. We married young, I was 23 she 21, and have been busy with family the last 30+ years. Many of my children are grown and gone; my youngest turns 13 next week, and our lives are in a transition. My wife recently asked me if I had anything on my bucket list. I didn’t have a ready answer; I don’t have a bucket list. Since that conversation I’ve been trying to compose one, but when I sat down to write one out it just didn’t happen. It didn’t bother me that I didn’t have a bucket list. But, and this may sound a bit strange, what did bother me was that it didn’t bother me.
Until I thought about it some more. A long time ago, as a very young man, I wrote out a list of my life priorities, and that list has not changed. It is not a list of things to do, places to go, or achievements to make. It may not seem as such at first glance, but it is really a list of the same things. I have at the same time both fulfilled it and only yet started. So here it is:
- My wife
- My children
- My family
- My friends
- My neighbors
- Everyone else in the world
So I’ve already been been working on my bucket list for a long time. It’s not about what I’m doing or where I am. It’s about who I’m with and what I’m doing for them. Relationships. The one thing that I can take with me after the bucket falls over. And that doesn’t bother me at all.
I’m just going to say it plainly. I know more about the business end of having babies than any man (excepting doctors) should. Besides my personal experience of attending all nine of our children’s births, I support my wife in her very active role as a childbirth educator and Doula. Babies are what she does, and being she is my favorite person in the world …let’s just say I have a lot of exposure. Fortunately, she likes me too, so much in fact that when we get a break, I really do get to hold the TV remote. Of late though, she has been complaining of my choices (which is a whole other story) and has been asking to watch the BBC series Call the Midwife. Why is she asking me you say; why doesn’t she just watch it on her own? Well she wants to watch it with me. Beside her. The. Whole. Time.
So I did. This weekend we watched the first three episodes. Gentlemen, if you’re still reading, this is your warning. You will be mesmerized and bedazzled by some of the finest television made today. This is one realistic human tale with some of the most intrepid characters you will ever see. Breaking Bad, no comparison… Walking Dead, pshaw. This is no fancy made up fable, this is the stuff of life, real and gritty. And so well done you will be in astonishment. You have been warned. Enjoy.
Less noise; more quiet,
Less self; more prayer,
Less food; more fasting,
Less ignorance; more reading,
Less talking; more listening,
Less television; more family,
Less coldness; more warmth,
Less anger; more patience,
Less gossip; more reverence,
Less selfishness; more generosity,
Less blindness; more awareness,
Less envy; more complimenting,
Less jealousy; more acceptance,
Less sitting; more exercise,
Less fear; more trust,
Less hesitation; more courage,
Less me; more them, O Lord,
Less me; more You, O Lord. Amen.
Excerpted from the All Saints Catholic Church Parish Bulletin, Manassas VA
22 February 2015