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wwjd

disclaimer: so this post is going to have some top quality christian propaganda in it; in my opinion that makes it all the better, but you can feel as you will

i hate things that i don’t understand.  i don’t like change.  i’m a horrendously (slightly) obsessive compulsive creature of habit.  basically, when things go from being one way to being another, it scares me.  not in a boogie man scary way or anything like that, but it creates a strange and different unknown.  and fear of the unknown is one of the biggest fears around.

it’s for that reason (amongst others, i suppose) that i’m a really big fan of both my faith and my religion.   both have been around for a long, long time, and for the most part haven’t changed all that much.  the faith part, some might say, has been around since adam and eve.  they were made by this guy named god and listened to what he said.  they did make one little oops by listening to the snake in the garden, but after having god yell at them and getting kicked out of eden, they straightened out and started listening again.  and if you don’t care to go that far back (whether or not you think we’re monkeys who wear socks), belief in jesus has been around for almost two millennia.  in my book, that’s a hefty bit of time.  and then the whole religion thing.  some would say that catholicism started with jesus dying and the apostles going around saying that he was a pretty righteous dude.  others would disagree and say that original christianity was not by any means the same as original catholicism and that those practices were really started as a more strangling form of religion that was placed upon the roman people by the power of the first council of nicaea in 325 (which may or may not have been imposed upon the church of the time by the oh so powerful emperor constantine [the great]).  personally, i’m all about the first option, but regardless, both points of view leave some sort of catholic teaching beginning between 1,700 and 2,000 years ago.  once again, i’d say that’s a hefty bit of time.

and that’s pretty cool.  in my eyes at least.  it seems firm and steady.  the foundation was put down so well way back when that even through a great religious exodus (often called the protestant reformation [and by the way, i’d like to wish you all a belated happy reformation day!  for any and all of you who were not aware, the 31st day in october [though it can be changed around to a different day if desired, making it more like one of those crazy “observed” holidays that never really make a whole lot of sense] is celebrated by many [especially in the lutheran tradition] as what is very formally called “the festival of the reformation”.  it’s a day to celebrate the great work of martin luther and his theses [there were 95 of them] that sparked the protestant reformation way back in 1517.  now, it was on that day [october 31st] that luther posted his theses [which by the way, were a big list of things that he felt the church was messing up on] on the door of castle church in wittenberg, germany.  as our friends at wikipedia[.com] put it “reformation day… coincides with halloween, but there is no direct relation between the two holidays.”  there are some more conservative thinkers in the christian world that aren’t big fans of halloween because of its pagan [and dare i even say just a touch satanic] history and background.  and that’s brought up a bit in a different wikipedia article that states “some christians do not appreciate the resultant de-emphasis of the more spiritual aspects” of the day.  regardless of how you view halloween, be impressed by the fabulous political correctness with which the writers handled the situation.  it’s well played]) and some crazy situations like having three popes at once or having some rather unfortunate sex scandals plastered across the television screens of the world, the catholic church has stood its ground.  the tradition has held, and simply put, it’s not going anywhere.  for me, that’s actually a huge part of what i believe and why i believe it.  it’s just like the bible.  you can’t can’t claim the bible’s a fake.  it just doesn’t work.  there are so many contradictions and bizarre things in there, that it would be the worst fake job in history.  but it’s still around and still gets occasionally read, so you have to figure that it’s not. and the catholic church is similar.  so many stupid and terrible things have happened in the history of the church, that if it wasn’t a legitimate and solid religion with some real spiritual basis behind it, it would have folded a long, long time ago.  but it hasn’t.  and people still occasionally go to church, so you have to figure that it’s not too bad.

and rather interestingly, that’s what so much of my life is.  habit and tradition.  and most of the time, i love that.  it’s a safe way to work with life, and i like safe.  but then i heard something.  well, i was told something actually.  more in conversation than in eavesdropping, so we’ll go with the “told”.  i was in church.  kind of.  here at the university, there is a student center back behind the church, and on sunday mornings at 10:15 am, they have a mass in the big room in there instead of in the normal chapel.  honestly, i don’t know why it’s in there or when they started having it in there, but they do.  and seeing as i often can’t make it to any of the other mass times offered, i go to that one a lot.  so i was in the student center (which by the way, is often just called “the center” when they make announcements about events and activities that will be happening in it.  that, of course, always makes me think of the “boy meets world” episode when shawn starts hanging out at “the centre”, which turns out to be a cult.  it always settles a little weird in my mind, but what can you do), and it just so happened that there was a silent auction going on in the lobby area of the building to support a couple groups that are involved in trying to help out the people of haiti.  those running the silent auction were walking around making sure everything was alright and that people knew how to make bids and things like that, and a wonderful man named bob (who is one of the guys that kind of unofficially run the church.  every church has those people that are just involved in absolutely everything, and at this church, bob is definitely one of those guys) came over and stood next to me.  we stood observing the scene for a moment, and he said “the money changers are in the temple.”  and he smiled at me and walked off to do something else.

it was really simple and really quick.  and for most people, it probably would have meant next to nothing.  but for me, it packed quite a wallop.  if you didn’t know, that line was a reference to an episode in the new testament gospel accounts of jesus often simply referred to as “jesus and the money changers”.  it’s found in all four gospels (matthew 21:12-17, mark 11:15-19, luke 19:45-48, and john 2:12-15), so that considered, there’s a decent change it happened.  for the sake of space (and goodness, we all know the internet is running low on space), i’ll just give you one of the four.  and i like matthew (it’s a good name), so we’ll go with that one.  the dandy new american translation states, “jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there.  he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.  and he said to them, ‘it is written: “my house shall be a house of prayer,” but you are making it a den of thieves.'”  that only includes verses 12 and 13, but for our little chat that’s really all we’ll need (and on another fun note, john’s version talks about jesus making an impromptu whip to help get people out, which is pretty cool.  though, the fact that the story is given so early in that one gospel [chapter 2] and none of the others gives some scholars the inclination that they may actually be two different events.  my thoughts?  i had no idea about that until i just read it online, so you’ll have to ask someone else for more information in that regard).

there it is.  a lovely tale.  but why bring it up?  why now in the midst of talks of habit and tradition and all that jazz? well basically, because that’s exactly what was going on.  jerusalem was being a big huge creature of habit.  in a nutshell (and a very, very vague and simple one, to say the least), it was close to the jewish festival of passover and all the jews needed to go to the temple and make a sacrifice to god for the festival.  to do that they needed an animal to sacrifice, which they could very conveniently buy in one of the outer courtyardy areas of the temple. however, they had to buy these animals with special money (per the jewish law) that they didn’t normally have on them and had to go to the money changers first to exchange their money.  basically, it was like this:  they had money.  they changed their money to the proper currency.  they bought an animal to sacrifice.  they went and had it sacrificed in the temple.  and now i repeat: very, very vague and simple.  the thing was, jews had been doing this for a long, long time.  jesus and his family had probably done this themselves plenty of times.  plus, the setup was really convenient.  everything these people needed was right there.  in a (really strange) sense, it was the mcdonald’s of passover.

which brings us back to storrs, connecticut.  bob and i were standing there watching this hustle and bustle going on around us with lots of people worrying about making their bids on items and how much money they were willing to spend and all that.  and as bob walked away smiling, i realized that he was so right.  it was exactly the same.  and that confused me so much.  all these people were at church, there to celebrate god, and yet all of the focus was on what was happening outside in the lobby.  instead of being focused on faith and spirituality and listening to the word of god, it was all about bidding and donated items and money.  the thing is, it was all for a great cause.  the money that was being raised was going to end up going (in some way or another) to haiti, which happens to be the poorest country in the western hemisphere.  those people need all the money and support that they can get.  so it was a really good thing.  the catholic church has a list of “corporal works of mercy” that are: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead.  by supporting the auction, those things were going to be able to happen.  but at the same time, i stood there thinking about it, and the one thing that ran through my mind was the overdone and taboo (but if truly thought about and used, oh so perfect) line “what would jesus do?”.

wwjd.  i’ve seen it on posters, necklaces, t-shirts, bracelets, stickers, and a zillion other things.  does it actually make people think about what jesus would do?  maybe.  does it then make people act like jesus would have acted?  maybe.  i really can’t tell you that.  but i can tell you that for once, that line meant something to me because i really had to stand there and contemplate it.  regardless of what kind of swindling and overpricing the money changers and animal sellers were doing around the temple in ancient jerusalem, it was a decent service.  people got what they needed, where they needed it, when they needed it.  money was being spent on the outside, and sacrifice (which i guess could be the equivalent to modern “worship”) was happening on the inside.  it was a tradition of sorts.  a habit, definitely (if not the former).  it was the safe way to do things, so people did it.  and then jesus came in and started knocking over tables and thrashing around his whip.  the obvious question i had to ask myself was whether or not jesus would have done the same in our church.  now there’s the dumb debate over what kind of house of worship jesus would go to if he was around today, seeing as the christians worship him and the jews don’t…but he was jewish…whatever.  that’s not important.  what’s important is what he would have thought and done if he had, for whatever reason, shown up to church that day.  bob was right.  the money changers were definitely in the temple.  they were doing it for a good (even great) cause, but at the same time, the focus on god and worshipping him was totally being averted.  the minds and hearts were being dragged in the wrong direction.  and so i just stood there.  contemplative and downright confused. was what we were doing a bad thing? even though it was in an attempt to help the poorest of the poor? can good things occasionally be not so good? can they even be bad? oh dear. i was perplexed.

and here it comes, the answer.  well, no.  once again, i have no answer for you (it seems like that’s happening more and more often.  either i’m getting more deep or just less intelligent.  i’m definitely going to have to go back to the simple, stupid stuff.  it was a lot easier).  i was perplexed about the issue, and i remain as much so. and yet, i guess the only “answer” i have is to tell you not to worry about answers all the time.  i have books and books of catholic teaching, catholic laws, catholic thought, catholic history and most anything catholic you would ever want to know.  but i can promise you that none of them, even if i did look (which i’ll be honest and admit i didn’t), would have an answer to this question.  in this situation, all of that tradition and all of those teachings still leave us empty-handed.  so when you think about it, the safe way isn’t all that safe.  even with tradition, you can still lose.  for someone who is so big into these long-standing, changeless traditions, that kind of stinks.  but alas.  it happens.  sometimes all we can do is take it in and make our own decisions and opinions.  and sometimes (gasp), that may involve change.  as scary as that can be.

so go grab your wwjd bracelets. put on your jesus t-shirts and wear them proudly. and the next time you do something (anything, really), think about what you’re doing. think about it from all sides and angles. it’s incredible what you can find out when you take a look around the back corner of an issue. and if you find something a little scary, just go with it. it’s the tough things that make us grow and the changes that make us learn. even when we have no idea what jesus would do.

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fatness and the food guide pyramid

disclaimer: so this post is going to have some top quality christian propaganda in it; in my opinion that makes it all the better, but you can feel as you willyou may be asking yourself “with a title like ‘fatness and the food guide pyramid’ how in the world is this going to be religious?”. and to that i simply say, you underestimate my powers of absurdity. though really, it’s not all that absurd. and this post actually has little to do with fatness or the food guide pyramid. it was just a catchy (in someone’s mind, i hope) title.if you haven’t figured it out already (and goodness, i’ve given you all the clues you could ever need), we’re going to be talking about lent. and more specifically, the beginning of lent (commonly known as “ash wednesday”). and believe it or not, this very day just so happens to be that same ash wednesday (today being the wednesday after “quinquagesima sunday”, of course). now it all makes sense, you’re thinking. no? well, let’s take a look at what we’ve read. first of all, the first word in title is “fatness”. that “fatness” is in reference to the day that was yesterday, commonly called “mardi gras”. “mardi gras” can be roughly translated into the wonderful title “fat tuesday” (and since we’re talking about translation, it’s also interesting to note that mardi gras also happens to be the final day of the festival of “carnival”, which is derived from the latin “carne vale” meaning “farewell meat”). fatness, fat tuesday. take out the ness and the tuesday, and you can see it loud and clear: fat (though please don’t ask me how it is that you’re supposed to see something loud, because i have no idea).but what does any of that have to do with lent? well you see, it’s in the traditional nature of the season (of lent) to purge yourself in some way from the normal amenities of life. in layman’s terms, you give something up (though there has been a push recently [within the past five or ten years or so] to drop the whole “giving things up” concept and focus on simply doing good things instead). many people will give up their favorite food or favorite activity or something of the sort. this becomes a sacrifice that they must endure (though when you put it that way, it sounds much more awful than it should sound) until easter. and this all begins on a certain day on the church calendar that we call ash wednesday (by the way, the date of ash wednesday constantly changes, as it cooresponds to the date of easter, which also changes every year. and because i know you’re all wondering, ash wednesday can only fall on the “leap day” of a leap year [february 29th] if easter is on april 15th of that year. this phenomenon will occur in 2096, so mark your calendars and be ready). now when you’re planning to separate yourself from some beloved part of your life, the only logical thing to do would be to stock up on it while you still can. it’s the whole squirrels hoarding nuts (to eat later when they need them) concept. and that is what mardi gras is all about. it’s basically a super-mondo party where you pack forty days of craziness and gluttony into a single day. that way, you can begin your fast (from whatever it is you’re purging yourself of) the next day. so there you go. “fatness”. a clear clue about lent.for the sake of time and sanity, we’ll skip the “and the” section of title and move straight on to the “food guide pyramid” portion. i’ll give you a moment now to see if you can decipher the code. go.figure it out? that’s because instead of sitting there and trying to figure it out, you just skipped down to the next line and kept reading. that’s not how it’s supposed to work (though if anyone actually did sit there and try to figure it out, i applaud you heartily). but i’ll forgive you, i guess. it is lent after all.anyways, the food guide pyramid. let’s look at this logically. the phrase “food guide pyramid” is made up of three words. when you take the first letter of each of those words and place them in order, you are left with “fgp”. if you were to happen to find yourself walking down the streets of new york city and accidentally stepped into the nyse (new york stock exchange) building, you might notice that the symbol “fgp” is the stock symbol for “ferrellgas partners, l.p.”. it just so happens that when the nyse opened business this morning (on ash wednesday) fgp was sharing at a price of $22.99. taking those digits (2299), it becomes clear that there is a reference to the year 2299. in that year, we know (by doing the math of the scenario or by finding a nifty little website on the internet that tells us) that easter, the day to which ash wednesday and all of lent leads, will be on april 16th. april 16th, of course, is the birthday of the current pope, pope benedict xvi, whose latest written address (which just so happens to be about lent) was recently released on february 13th and opens with the line “they shall look on him whom they have pierced”, which is from the book of john 19:37. once again noticing the clear allusion of year, we remember that edith wharton died in the year 1937 (on august 11th). before dying, however, she wrote the novel “ethan frome”. that novel is set in the fictional town of starkfield, massachusetts, which is based upon the actual massachusetts town of plainfield. now at the time of the 2000 census, the town of plainfield, massachusetts had a total population of 589. it just so happens that in the year of 589, the third council of toledo (which marked the entry of catholic christianity into the rule of visigothic spain) was held. this council opened with three days of prayer and fasting on may 4th of that year. amazingly, may 4th also happens to be the birthday of the ever-talented lance bass, formerly of n’sync. lance was born on that day in 1979, which is also the year that the fabulous spanky g, the former drummer of the band “the bloodhound gang”, was born. mr. g was born on march 13th. now in the year 483, a new pope was ordained as pope felix iii on that same day, march 13th. coincidentally, the number 483 is also the difference of the numbers 1250 and 767 (1250 – 767 = 483). those two numbers, when looking in the catholic “code of canon law” (which is the big book of rules for the catholic church), are the only two canons (or ecclesiastical laws) from the book that specifically use the word “lent”. so clearly, the food guide pyramid was referring to lent.basically, i think you should probably feel rather foolish. the clues were sitting out there so obviously that there was no possible way to miss them. if you did, all i can say is “tisk tisk”. by the way, i’m still trying to think of something good that i can give up (or do) for my purging during lent. you’re probably supposed to figure these things out before ash wednesday comes, but better late than never, i guess.i know that this whole thing has been creating immense amounts of suspense about what i’m going to talk about regarding lent. but that’s all i really have to say for now. lent is a long period of time. forty days (it’s actually forty-six days, but that’s a topic for another time). don’t worry, we’ll have time to get it all out. i simply leave you with the thought that the title “fatness and the food guide pyramid” has absolutely everything to do with lent and unquestionably has nothing to do with the new picture of the food guide pyramid that they put up down the hall from my dorm room (which, by the way, is the “new” food guide pyramid. personally, i’m not a fan and think the old one is much cooler) or the fact that when i started writing, this post was actually going to be about how changes in the pyramid mirror (in my strange mind) the changes that we make during lent. nope. nothing to do with any of that. just lent. happy ash wednesday.

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valentine’s day, kind of

disclaimer: so this post is going to have some top quality christian propaganda in it; in my opinion that makes it all the better, but you can feel as you willas you all probably know, today is february fourteenth. so happy methodius and cyril’s day!yes, methodius and cyril. now i know that popular culture says otherwise, telling you some craziness about some guy named valentine, but in all actuality, today is about two lovely men named cyril and methodius.but what about valentine, you ask. well first off, the “st. valentine” that is normally associated with “st. valentine’s day” (which in our wonderfully materialized and secularized culture has simply dropped the “st.”) was actually three men. well, maybe. you see, in the year 496 pope gelasius i declared that february fourteenth would be celebrated as the festival of st. valentine. unfortunately at that point there was really no record of who that valentine guy was or what he did (that being a problem that hasn’t really changed). basically, valentine was honored as one of those “…whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to god.” we know he was a martyr. but how he lived his life, nobody knows. looking back historically, there were three men named valentine (or valentinus in the roman tongue of the day) during the time of the christian church before 496. so logically, the day could have been celebrating any of them. these three men were a priest in rome, a bishop of what was then interamna (and is now terni), and a simple martyr in the roman province of africa. they are all thought to have been killed sometime around 300 a.d., but besides these few facts, we don’t have much else.there are plenty of stories and legends, though, that try to fill in the unknown details of the whole situation. one rather concrete concept is that chaucer, in his work “parliament of foules” made the statement “for this was sent on seynt valentyne’s day, when every foul cometh ther to choose his mate”. it is thought that this idea caused the day to be looked upon as specially consecrated for lovers and as an occasion to send tokens and letters of love. interestingly, there are two separate camps regarding the analysis of chaucer’s line. some believe that his “seynt valentyne’s day” referred to a day halfway through the month of february (on the fourteenth) just as it has become celebrated in modern times. the second camp, however, is of the belief that chaucer was actually making reference to a man named valentine of genoa (who may or may not have been the same man as the previously mentioned bishop of interamna), who apparently used to be celebrated by the church on the second of may. they simply claim that the middle of february would be much too early for the birds to be mating in england. personally, i’ve never been on that side of the atlantic pond, so i wouldn’t really know.so after i’ve been through a (very) brief of st. valentine’s day and the man (or men) behind it, why did i start this whole thing talking about some other strange guys? well, that’s basically because we’re not living in the year 1968. back before the year 1969, things would have been fine. at that point, the church celebrated the feast of saint valentine on february fourteenth and the flowers, chocolates, and other loved-based materialisms followed suit. unfortunately for that lovely congruity, however, the second ecumenical council of the vatican (more commonly known as “vatican ii”) took place between 1962 and 1965. this council made a whole lot of important church decisions and basically tried its best to start bringing the catholic church into the modern world while also holding on to the traditions that had kept it running for almost two thousand years. one decision that was made (and would come to fruition in the year 1969) was to revamp the church calendar. there were a lot of feast days celebrating “great” people that really couldn’t be proven to be all that great. it was decided that one group that had to go was the collection of saints whose lives and actions were heavily based in legend. and believe it or not (from what we’ve learned so far), that included st. valentine. so in that fateful year of 1969, st. valentine’s day became no more. luckily for all the lovers out there, hallmark cards, inc. had been founded way back in 1910 (with it’s slogan “when you care enough to send the very best” coming into use in 1944), thus allowing the romantic side of valentine’s day to charge ahead even without the religious side to back it up.but who in the world (i’m sure you’re wondering) are these cyril and methodius characters? well, they were two brothers who lived in greece in the ninth century (dying in 869 and 884, respectively). their father was an officer in the very slavic portion of greece where they lived. they, however, didn’t really follow along in the family business and became missionaries instead (though methodius did hold a governmental post for a short period of time before “seeing the light”, as they say). one task undertaken by these men was to translate the bible into a language that the slavic people surrounding them could understand and appreciate. cyril (who was originally named constantine before becoming a monk and changing his name) developed the cyrillic alphabet, and the brothers went to the task of composing a slavonic liturgy. their liturgy, approved by pope adrian ii only fifty days before cyril died, spread to bulgaria, bohemia and southern poland. though methodius would end up being exiled when a bunch of bavarian bishops busted in and took control of the jurisdiction of his homeland, he was allowed to return and, according to legend, completed translating the slavonic bible that he and his brother had started in a mere eight months just before he died.so nothing against st. valentine, whichever st. valentine it is that we might be talking about, but i think st. cyril and st. methodius take the cake on this one. unfortunately for all the hopeless romantics and “sleepless in seattle” fans out there, the salvation of eastern europe turned out to be slightly more important to the church than a few love letters, roses, and whitman’s chocolate samplers. and so, happy st. methodius and cyril’s day! but i bet those two guys would have liked all the chocolates, candy, and nice cards if they had lived in today’s dandy little world. so continue with those. they’re tasty.

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no thanks, i’m fine

disclaimer: so this post is going to have some top quality christian propaganda in it; in my opinion that makes it all the better, but you can feel as you willi was at church today, friday the eighth of december. now normally on a friday there will be maybe fifteen or twenty people at the 12:10 PM mass that i go to. today, not so much. today there were seventy-four. yup, seventy-four. i counted them (though actually it may have been seventy-five. when i got done counting i couldn’t remember whether or not i had counted myself). i got there and the place was more full than normal, and as i sat in the pew before mass began, more and more people came in. it was nuts. maybe it was because it’s the first week of advent and people are feeling extra holy (or extra unholy and needing to go to church to get holier, depending on how you look at it). maybe people (both students and professors) were super excited about being done with their classes and went to church in celebration. it was confusing. really cool that so many people would be at church, but somewhat strange.and so when i got back to my room i decided to look into it. and i found my answer. it’s a holy day of obligation. so people had to go (if they wanted to). today happens, for any and all wondering, to be the feast of the immaculate conception. it’s a day to celebrate the very controversial concept that mary (the mother of jesus) was deemed immunity from original sin by god at her conception. she was “preserved from the stain of adam”, you could say. i find it rather ironic that here at the university, i attend st. thomas aquinas church. this is ironic (it’s an interesting question of whether something can actually be all that ironic when you have to go about explaining the irony behind it, but regardless) many modernist scholars today contend that when pope pius ix may his official decree on this doctrine, thomas aquinas was one of the theologians around that disagreed with it. and yet here we are, celebrating the feast of the immaculate conception in a church named after him. irony. though it should also probably be added that this may be a bit of a stretch of the truth. as an explanation i researched a bit states, “the immaculate conception was a teaching with which even the prince of theologians, st. thomas aquinas, had problems. aquinas did not deny the sanctification of mary while she was still in the womb of st. anne [her mother] before her birth, but he did express some difficulty extending this sanctification back to the first moment of conception. it was more of what one might call a technical question than a denial of the spirit of the teaching for him. it was the type of question with which we continue to struggle today regarding the ‘moment’ (if indeed it can be defined) when a person comes into being. is it, for example, the moment of ovum and spermatozoan union or some other moment of what biologists and anthropologists often refer to as ‘animation’?” so maybe he did believe it (mostly), and it was all just too technical. aquinas was an extremely scholarly fellow, so he probably thought into the whole matter way more deeply than it needed to be thought into.that explanation brings into play another rather interesting (and somewhat humorous, i’d say) note that i also found in my researching. the “catholic encyclopedia” online has an article about the “immaculate conception” and there is a section of it that goes as follows: “the term conception does not mean the active or generative conception by her parents. her body was formed in the womb of the mother, and the father had the usual share in its formation. the question does not concern the immaculateness of the generative activity of her parents.” personally, i thought that was one of the most ridiculous things ever written. did they seriously need to add that? for those playing at home, i’ll summarize (in my best g-rated fashion): it had nothing to do with how well mary’s parents got it on. yeah. it actually says that. moving on.so why in the world am i throwing all this theological stuff your way? well, i’m glad you ask. it really doesn’t have much to do with the immaculate conception at all. that whole debate is for another day. today’s class is actually about the gospel reading that went along with the feast of the immaculate conception mass. it was the classic scene (from the first chapter of the book of luke) where the archangel gabriel comes down and greets mary with the “hail, full of grace” line (though apparently, that’s a rather poor translation by those darn catholics and the original greek is a lot closer to something like “hail, thou that art highly favored” or “greetings, highly favored one”). as that scene plays out and comes to a close you get to the part where mary replies something along the lines of “behold, i am the handmaid of the lord. may it be done to me according to your word.” when push comes to shove, she said yes. she’d do it.there is some debate about the concept of what the purpose of gabriel’s trip down to mary was for. was it just to let her know what was going on? or was he sent to ask her if she was okay with the whole thing? if that was the case, what would have happened if she said no? would god’s big plan have come to a halt?and that’s where this whole crazy post began. i was sitting in church listening to the priest speak of mary’s acceptance of gabriel’s words, and i stopped for a moment. what if she had said no? there are plenty of times when i do the wrong thing even when i know it’s the wrong thing. there are plenty of times when i’m asked to do things and find ways out simply because i don’t want to do them. i struggle with this problem all the time. a lot of times, saying “no” is just so much easier than saying “yes”. if an angel popped out of nowhere and laid down this crazy story about how you’re going to birth the son of god, what would you say? my first reaction would probably be “um…no thanks, i’m fine” (disregarding the whole i’m a boy situation, of course). but mary said yes. crazy.but really now, what if she had said no? what would have happened? no jesus? maybe. jesus has a different mom? maybe. who knows, all those catholics might be sitting around with their rosary beads saying their “hail bathsheba”s right now. or maybe jesus would have just kind of popped out of nowhere kind of like people expected the messiah to do. all in all, if we weren’t all still praising the roman gods at this point, our whole nativity story and the befores and afters of it would have to be rather different. maybe there’s no one singing away in a manger. no more little town of bethlehem. we three kings of orient aren’t. christmas in general is a not so much (though don’t worry. i’m sure our society would have found plenty of other opportunities to indulge in lavish gifts and food on other occasions). it would be weird. and all that makes the whole thing that much more impressive. the jews had been waiting for thousands of years for their messiah, and (according to the christians at least) whether or not he would arrive was resting at that moment on the answer of this little, teenage jewish girl. wow. props to her on that one. i probably would have peed my pants. or dress. or whatever a nice jewish boy of that time period would be wearing.but don’t worry, all is well. she did say yes. god’s great plan played out. things went as they were supposed to. the next time you’re asked to do something, though, think about it for a second. does it involve the birth of (arguably) the most influential figure in history? if not, it’s probably not that big of a deal. don’t bother saying no. if mary could handle virgin birth, then you can handle yours too.

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word to your mother, and the pope’s mom too

disclaimer: so this post is going to have some top quality christian propaganda in it; in my opinion that makes it all the better, but you can feel as you willso it’s been a little while since my last post (more days in between than any other downtime has been. a new record of sorts). i had this crazy test today that i’ve been studying for and stressing about, but now it’s done. and so i can now grace you with a post. (and by the way, if anyone needs to know all about hildegard of bingen, just give me a call.) i was having a conversation the other day, and the idea of describing myself came up. now as i found and as i’m guessing many, if not most, people would, it was rather hard to do that. the constant change and growth within yourself leads to a very difficult situation when trying to pinpoint an exact description. but that’s not really all that important. it’s far too deep and meaningful to be anything that i would write about. the conversation, however, progressed along those lines and ended up talking about trying to make a difference and trying to be someone of importance. you don’t want to be someone that just goes along with life, lives, dies, and that’s the end of that. you want to be meaningful. you might want to help people. you might want to be rich and famous. doesn’t matter. whatever your fancy is, it’s something. and that, in my humble (or not so humble) opinion, is a pretty basic concept held by most people. and when it came up in the conversation i was having, it made sense. and i went along with it.ever since then, i’ve been thinking about it. everybody wants to “make it big” in some way or another, but should that really be a goal of so many people? i mean, it makes perfect sense. the names we read about in history books or hear on the news aren’t usually those of people who sat around all day and did nothing with their lives. those that “live on forever” are people that made a difference that was in some way or another important. but i think that brings up a lovely question in itself. what is important? the easiest answer, of course, is that it’s different for everyone. but then how can we assess what would make our lives meaningful? who knows.seemingly, i came to my own sort of conclusion on the matter. my old opinion (which was moreso in the league of attempting to be as influential and “important” in doing world-changing things as possible) was wrong. in short, i changed my mind. and as i walked around and thought about it, an example of why i made that change struck me. that example was the pope. and nothing against the current pope (benedict xvi), but for the sake of this argument i’m going to use the late pope john paul ii. (oh and by the way, if you happen to hold any anti-catholic or anti-pope or the pope is the antichrist and he’s going to bring about the downfall of human society kind of tendencies, sorry. my bad.) this man has often been called “john paul the great” and various other versions of that title by many people since his death, arguably for good reason. i could get into all those reasons, but for the sake of this discussion we’ll just assume that he was a decent guy. and either way really, if you become the pope, you’ve hit the big time. while many people will very forcefully argue that the pope is a terrible person who is corrupting the world and overall is a big meany, i don’t think even they could disagree with the fact that he’s a pretty big world figure. he has his posse and goes around in his popemobile and gets to do all kinds of cool stuff. he’s kind of like snoop dogg without the “izzles”. and i was thinking on the most basic of levels (as my thought often is) about what it entails to become the pope. there’s an administrative sequence that happens: priest becomes bishop becomes archbishop becomes cardinal becomes pope. but then it goes back even further. he has to get to the priest part somehow. he was probably a nice catholic adult that grew out of a nice catholic teenager that grew out of a nice catholic kid. but then you have to go even further. how does one become a nice catholic kid? i don’t think it can just happen. you don’t just crawl out of the cradle, across town, and into the church. well, maybe i guess. but not so likely. (this also brings up a very interesting matter of if male babies are as stubborn about asking for directions as male adults. i know i would probably get lost crawling across town. since all catholic priests are male, if they were crawling to church as babies, do you think they would stop and ask someone how to get there?) so we seem to hit a point here whereas pope john paul ii (whose birthname was karol jozef wojtyla, by the way) would have had a bit of trouble moving up the ladder by himself. and so his mom enters the scene (and his dad too, probably, but it’s the natural human way to associate the nurturing of a child with his mother). most likely, she brought him to church when he was a young boy. who knows, maybe she forced him to go. maybe he was one of the kids that hated it and just wanted to get it done so that he could go home and eat more pierogi (he was polish, you know. and another interesting fact, the plural is “pierogi”. the singular is actually “pierog”, and all of us americans just say it wrong. i learned that at the relay for life). however it went down, it was his mom who got him into the whole church deal. so thinking about this in a transitive mathematical way, his mom caused him to go to church which (through a bunch of circumstances that we will simply overlook) caused him to become a priest which caused him to become a bishop which caused him to become an archbishop which caused him to become a cardinal which caused him to become the pope. if we super-simplify the matter, we can logically say that his mom caused him to become the pope. that may seem overly simple and somewhat crazy, but really in this sense of logic, if he hadn’t been brought into the catholic church by someone, he certainly would never have been the pope. so yeah, his mom caused him to become pope. and then we can take it further. if we say that he did lots of great things (or even one for that matter) as the pope, it was his mom that caused whatever he did. anything pope john paul ii did could be taken all the way back to being a result of a decision by his mother. interesting. so i ask you this: what was her name? yeah. i had no idea either. and that was what changed my mind. (her name, because of course you’re curious now, was emilia kaczorowska.) if it wasn’t for this one woman and the act of bringing her young son to church, many things that changed the face of the world would never have happened. it’s an amazing concept. she didn’t get into any history books that i’ve ever read. in fact, she died when her son was only nine years old. and yet, you could contend that her importance to this world was immeasurable. now i’m not saying that i know what her goals and ideas were. or that she just sat back on her butt and did nothing with her life. but she proved to me a wonderful point. you can be incredibly important without being a big shot. you can make a huge difference by doing things that might seem to you like they mean nothing. what a thought.and so my mindset changed. all because of emilia (yeah, we’re on a first name basis now). it would be cool to do something big and actively change the face of society for the better. that can always be a lofty ideal, i suppose. but is doing that the only way to become “important”? not in my mind. for now, i’ll stick to the little stuff. maybe my little brother will be the next buddha or something. then people can search the internet and find me on wikipedia too. me, emilia, jon buddha, and the pope.

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