Tuesday, October 23

Here we are again. I guess I should be flattered that Joseph likes to hang out with me so much when everyone else is asleep. So I might as well surf and tell you what I've seen while he lies on the floor playing with his box'o'toys

Here's a writer I've just discovered : Jim Lileks, a columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, as well as the author of several books. His website has several sections, including the Institute of Official Cheer, which allows you to relive (or be introduced to) some of the most painfully lame moments of 20th century pop culture. I'm finding his daily Bleats very entertaining. Here are some his reflections on The News:

Since I usually watch the news in the evening, I’ve seen a good deal of Brian Williams; he always seems to be leaning forward into a stiff wind, and he communicates bad or important news by leaning forward some more; I expect him to topple over the desk some day. Fox has some women who were clearly hired for their perky bubble-babe quotient, and are now forced to be grim and serious, but they also have two of the sharpest female anchors I’ve seen in a while. (Fox also has a male version of the pin-up variety, a fellow named Sheperd Smith; he looks like a grown-up DC superhero sidekick.) I cannot stand Judy Woodruff, who always seems so pained and disappointed that It Has Come To This.

Under the category of "Articles that can't be for real:"

Monastery installs firemen's pole for late monks:

An Austrian monastery has installed a firemen's pole to make sure monks get to their prayers on time.

The pole runs from their second floor sleeping quarters to the ground floor, where religious sessions take place.

The head of Pupping Monastery, in Northern Austria, came up with the idea during renovations which left little room for a staircase.

As I said, hard to believe, but apparently true. The story appeared in the London Telegraph - I found a link to it, but can't get to the article itself.

Sounds like a scene from a Monty Python skit, doesn't it?

Blessed John Buoni

This is not a week for Celebrity Saints, but that doesn't mean those we remember are any less interesting. It's just that we know hardly anything about them. Every day, however, at least one saint pops out at me with a quirky life detail.

John Buoni lived in the 12th-13th centuries. He spent the first half of his life as a court entertainer - a jester, perhaps? - and apparently enjoyed all the perks. Around the age of 40, he became ill, turned his life over to Christ, and became a hermit.

He gradually attracted disciples and they formed a community which eventually came under the Augustinian Rule. John was, as hermits tend to be, an austere fellow, who, according to Butler's:

...had three beds in his cell, one uncomfortable, another more uncomfortable, and the third most uncomfortable.

The story I like the best is this one: John, like many holy hermits, was beset by visitors, which sort of defeats the purpose of being a hermit, don't you think? John did, so one night, he just started walking and wandering, determined to get away from the penitents and the curious who wouldn't stay away and find a new hermitage where he could pray in peaceful solitude. He walked all night, but at dawn, found himself in familiar surroundings: at the door of his old, familiar hermit's cell.

John took this as a pretty clear sign from God that this is where he needed to be.

It reminds me just a bit of a Jewish folk tale:

Eisek lived a hard-working and pious life in Cracow, Poland. In spite of his best efforts to support his family he was weighed down by debt and oppressed by worries for his future. He resorted to more fervent prayer, but matters remained unchanged. One night he had a dream that clearly arose from his anxiety. In the dream he found himself in a distant city at an impressive bridge situated near a great palace. A voice spoke up and said: "Eizek you are in Prague, at the royal palace. Under this bridge there is a buried treasure that will be the solution to your problems. It is yours for the taking."

Upon awaking Eizek dismissed this dream as arising from wish fulfillment, and so easily explained away. But when it recurred two more nights in a row and the voice rebuked him for not acting on the advice given, he decided to undertake the difficult journey, though not without lingering doubts.

Upon arriving at the Capital he was directed to the famous bridge and to his wonderment he saw it resembled in detail the image he had seen in his dreams and so did the palace opposite. As he explored under the bridge for the treasure site indicated by the voice his actions aroused the attention of the palace police who took him to their chief. Eisek, obviously frightened, told the captain the story of his dream, but without mentioning his name or native city. The captain, a man of experience and discernment quickly recognized that the suspect was harmless and laughing at his explanation spoke to him jestingly. "I too have been having a recurrent dream, but I have too much common sense to go to the trouble it would give me were I to heed it. I keep seeing the poor dwelling of a Jew in Cracow, named Eisek, son of Yekel, and a voice says: "go to this home and dig under the stove where you will find a large treasure buried." But do you think I am stupid enough to believe such a foolish dream! Eisek listened with rapt attention to these remarks and soon as he was released headed for home where he found the buried treasure.

(The Treasure by Uri Shulevitz is a nice children's book that tells this story.)

Sometimes we're called to move on and break out on radical new paths, but the vast majority of our lives are spent doing God's will right where we are. We're a restless people, made all the more restless by a culture that continually puts images in front of us that heighten our desire to be other than what we are, by mobility, by the possibility and reality of rapid change.

Don't be swayed by all of that. Don't try to escape the place to which God has brought you right now - after all, He's put you here...there must be a reason. What is it that He wants you to do?


I'm up a lot in the middle of the night these days. Sometimes when the baby wakes, I just put him into bed with us and let him snooze there after he's fed. But other times, when I'm just a little awake, and I really don't feel like sleeping with him on the crook of my arm the rest of the night, I drag myself downstairs and nurse him there in the silence.

What fascinates me is how absolutely quiet it is, and I'm not just talking about in the house. I'm talking about outside. It's so quiet that when a train passes, two miles away, the rush of it going down the track, something that happens during the day, but I never hear, sounds as if it's going on in our backyard.

I understand that there's a lot more noise out there than I realize. I don't even notice it during the day - if you asked me, I'd say we lived in a quiet neighborhood, and we do. But there must be noise, because the nighttime is so noticeably quiet.

When we pray, we may think we're listening to God, but are we? Are we even aware of how much noisy our spirits really are? Or have we just grown so accustomed to the continual drone, that we don't even know it's there, muffling and distorting the voice of God we're so confident that we hear, only to be startled when it rushes by us like a train in a very silent night, unfamiliar, yet at last unmistakable?


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