Post 224

Easy Come Easy Go:
Reflections on Snow Tires

It’s beautiful outside today. The hoar frost is thick and covers all the tree branches. Don’t you think it’s pretty? It’s like a different world when it’s like that.

The roads also have a dusting of snow, so I’m happy for my timing.

You see, the day before yesterday I took the Rocket in to have the wheels changed from all-season to winter. The tires are already on rims so it’s not a big deal for the shop to do a switch. The quote was sixty dollars plus 5% Goods and Services Tax.

I dropped off my Rocket and my keys and went to eat lunch at an Italian restaurant.

I got a seat near the fireplace. It wasn’t a real fireplace, but still, the concept was pleasant, because it was chilly outside.

I like those little wicker baskets they bring you, of just-baked bread covered in a cloth napkin. Somehow I always find that part exciting. I don’t know how many grams of bread I ate, but it did occur to me that if I had brought my kitchen scale, I could have weighed the bread.

I think that would be funny. Ooh, this slice is 16.5 grams! Tare it and add the butter — ah, 5 grams of burro!

I had angel hair pasta with chicken in a cream sauce. It was quite good. I don’t know how much that weighed either, and I can’t remember how much the dish cost, but I ate and paid and left, in the style of veni vidi vici.

I walked back to the shop.

Guy: Yes, so we’re done your vehicle.
Me: Okay
Guy: I have to tell you a couple of things about it.
(Cue music of Impending Doom)
Me: Okay
Guy: You’ve got the wrong kind of lug nuts on your wheels. They’re supposed to be like this (holding up shiny gold circular thing). Yours aren’t like this (referring to shiny gold circular thing), and so they’re actually damaging your wheels, digging into the rims.
Me: Oh
Guy: They’re not expensive to replace – just a couple of dollars each.
Me: So you didn’t go ahead and put on the right ones?
Guy: No, we never put new product onto the customer’s vehicles without clearing it with them first.
Me: Oh
Guy: And we couldn’t get a hold of you
Me: Oh
Guy: So just come back any time and we’ll put them on for you. It just takes a minute. But you should replace them, because the ones you have are damaging your wheels and eventually the wheels could fall off.
Me: Alright

I took my keys back and went to the van.

So I guess I’m set.

Post 223
To Our Lady, who knows the whole story

November 23 & 24

This is the first anniversary of

something sweet

the beginning of a new world

that turned some lives

upside down and right side up

all at the same time.

Jesus, we trust in you.

Post 222

Non!
Reflections on Preservation of Culture

I’ve been dropping posters off lately. I’ve given them to some businesses and to almost every local Catholic church, in order to spread the word about an upcoming nativity play.

I went to the French church of St. Joachim, and they accepted a poster. I went to a Portuguese church, a Polish church, a Korean church, a Ukrainian church and an Italian church too. The Basilica put up both of the posters I gave them. That was nice. As a matter of fact, I met with no refusals, with one exception.

The French parish of St. Thomas Aquinas, “Paroisse Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin,” refused to put up a poster. I spoke with Caroline Maillet-Rao, who is their “agente de pastorale,” and she looked at the poster, and asked if the performance would be in English. I said yes.

She looked at it and then said that the poster was in English. (It was.) She said that in their foyer area, they did not put up posters if they were in English. She asked me in a charming way if I was okay with that.

I said that no, I was not okay with that, and that it was a disgrace to refuse to display an 11×17 inch poster for two weeks because it was written in English. I said that it was a Catholic event, and was dedicated to Pope John Paul II.

A man who was seated nearby (who looked like he was hanging around in order to shoot the breeze, en français) was apparently eavesdropping. He jumped into the conversation, exclaiming with gusto that I must remember the importance of preserving the French culture.

Ah.

Of course. I forgot.

I thought that we were Catholics first. I thought that one of the beautiful things about Catholicism was that it united people who had different languages and cultural backgrounds.

It is in that context that it makes perfect sense for the Italian saint, Tommaso d’Aquino, to have his name written in French and put onto the outside of this church.

Catholics were sharing long before social media came along.

But really, how can any cultural group expect to preserve itself by a process of rejecting the things around it which are legitimate and good? How misguided! The proper way to expand and preserve your culture is to engage with those outside it and show them what you have to offer. Heritage Days, for example, is an opportunity to showcase different aspects of numerous cultures.

Draw people in to your culture by showing them the handicrafts and the traditional dancing. Draw people in by highlighting your accomplishments in art, architecture and science. Draw people in with your food and your drink and your hospitality. Play the music. Create fans of your culture who are within and outside it.

That’s how you do it. The proper way to maintain your culture is to cherish it and celebrate it and share it. It is the only legitimate way.

You will not manage to preserve your culture with hostility and suspicion towards all those who do not understand or appreciate your culture. I am in favour of the preservation of all that is good in any given culture — without saying that all cultures are equally good — as was Karol Wojtyla. It is ironic that the poster for a play dedicated to someone who was a champion of preservation of culture is rejected in the name of preserving culture.

Rejecting a poster written in English will not advance the French culture.

Consider how it could have been handled. The conversation could have gone entirely differently. What if she had asked me where I was from, and what if she had asked me about the nativity play? We might have begun to chat. What if she had asked me if I had any French background? I would have told her that my father’s first language was French. In other words, we could have had a very friendly chat, and I would have been proud to tell her of my French ancestry — all those Clements and Muises and Surrettes.

By the time we were done, I might have wanted to dust off my book of French irregular verbs.

That’s how you expand, strengthen and preserve your culture.

In the alternative, she could have accepted the poster and said, “Do you know what would be really lovely? If you could create another poster, the same, but with text in French, then it would really appeal to many of our parishioners, and we could hang both, side by side. Would that be possible?” In the face of such a request, who knows what would have happened? It may have led to a long-term collaboration.

But such was not to be, and so I write about the only Catholic parish that refused to accept a poster, on the grounds that it was written in English.

Regardez, mon Dieu!

Post 220

Baby I Love Your Way: The Inspired Song of 1994

Omelet

PETER: Good afternoon. Welcome to CBC and this special live day-time edition of the National. I’m Peter Mansbridge and with me here is Barbara Frum.

PETER: We really have no time to waste, so we’ll jump right into it. You’re looking at a photograph of a genuine Canadian-made omelet, featuring eggs, milk, cheddar cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes and Ukrainian sausage from Uncle Ed’s. It’s the only photo our team was able to get before the battery died, but you can see it clearly enough. There’s really no doubt that it’s what it is.

PETER: The word on the ground is that the craving hit at around midnight, Sunday night, mountain time — that’s what we’ve got, and it’s really quite interesting, Barbara, because we all know that Blogger’s previous post made mention not only of mushrooms, but of eggs and sausage as well. Can we really call that a coincidence?

BARBARA: Yes, indeed Peter, it’s really quite fascinating, and you just have to ask yourself, DID SHE SEE THIS COMING?

PETER: Yes, Barbara, you’re right — one would think that she had those ingredients in her fridge at the time of composing Post 219, so the real question here is which came first, the blog post or the egg?

BARBARA: Ha ha, yes, Peter, but as I said, Peter, the main thing we want to know is DID SHE SEE THIS COMING?

PETER: Well put, Barbara, but since I’m the more important journalist around here, I think my questions are better phrased than your questions and nah nah nah.

BARBARA: Oh yeah? Well Peter, I’m tired of getting underestimated and I think my on-air make up is thicker and smoother than your on-air make up and oh look we’re running out of time and stay tuned for the local news and look at that I got the last word isn’t that nice.

[Cue music]

JULIA: And good evening, welcome to this Tuesday edition of ITV . . . Claire Martin is here and she’ll be delivering the weather to us in an English accent.

CLAIRE: Oh thank you, I think, for your introduction but what exactly is your problem with my accent, Julia? Don’t you realize I’m the niece of Barbara Edwards, the United Kingdom’s very first female weather presenter? If you think I’m going to be ditching this accent anytime soon then you got another thing coming, honey!

[Remembering she’s on the air because this is a live special edition . . .]

[Awkward silence.]

CLAIRE: Well, folks, it’s been a really lovely and unseasonably warm November for us here in the greater Edmonton area, with almost zero snowfall. Looking outside, you’d think it was the middle of October, but of course, you and I both know that you’re not looking outside, because you’re so busy watching me on TV!

CLAIRE: Ha ha ha — alright, so later on today, we expect a high of about 6 degrees and we’ll have a mix of sun and cloud. Tomorrow will be a little bit cooler and you can expect a temperature of around plus 3. Looking ahead to the rest of the week, Thursday and Friday will be our colder days, with a high of only minus 4 degrees Celsius. For those of you who are looking for an excuse to wear your expensive “Canada Goose” parkas, it won’t be quite cold enough, but we all know that weather never gets in the way of those who are truly Fashion Forward. Nice boots, eh? Back over to you, Julia.

JULIA: Thank you Claire, and now for a look at the entertainment world, we’re going to be turning it over to Blogger, who will probably be serving up a new dish of ninety’s hits with Catholicism on the side. Go ahead.

BLOGGER: Uh, thank you Julia. What’s your issue with Catholicism, huh?

JULIA: Nothing — I’m just saying, you know, you usually, you know, like, mix that in.

BLOGGER: Yeah, so what’s your point?

JULIA: Well, nothing, but —

BLOGGER: You wanna piece a me?

JULIA: Well, no, but — well, yeah! Let’s go!

BLOGGER: Alright! You’re on! Right here!

[Scuffle. Camera gets bonked off its wheely-stand but audio continues running . . . noises are heard, and muffled dialogue is audible . . . “Some Catholic you are!” “Oh yeah? Well take that!” “Hey! What do you think you’re doing?” “I’m fighting the good fight” . . . ]

[Commercial break]

BLOGGER: And a warm welcome back, to all our faithful viewers. As Julia mentioned, I’m here with your entertainment updates for November 15th.

BLOGGER: We’ve got one song that made it through the rigorous evaluation procedures this time around. That’s right; we’ve got one inspired song for 1994. Joe is standing by, and he’s going to give you a sampling of “Baby I Love Your Way,” by Big Mountain. Go ahead, Joe.

JULIA: Hey! That’s a cover version! They didn’t sing it first!

CLAIRE: My thoughts exactly, Julia — that’s Peter Frampton’s song, and he’s from England too! He released it in 1975! No fair!

BLOGGER: Oh be quiet. Big Mountain did it reggae style and it’s way better with that mellow pacing and sunny laid-back mood. The slight changes to the lyrics were also inspired. Let it rip, Joey.

JOE (giving a thumb up): You bet.

Baby I Love Your Way — Big Mountain
(Lyrics: Peter Frampton)

Ooo baby, I love your way
Every day

Ooo baby, I love your way
Every day

Shadows grow so long
Before my eyes
And they’re moving
Across the page

Suddenly the day turns into night
Far away from the city

Well, don’t hesitate
’cause your love just won’t wait

Ooo baby, I love your way
Every day

Wanna tell you
I love your way, everyday
Wanna be with you
Night and day

The moon appears to shine
And light the skies
With the help of some
Fireflies

I wonder how they have
The power to shine
I can see them
Under the pine

But don’t
Hesitate
‘Cause your love
Won’t wait

Ooo, baby, I love your way,
Every day

Wanna tell you
I love your way, everyday
Wanna be with you
Night and day

I can see the sunset in your eyes
Brown and grey, blue besides
Clouds are stalking islands in the sun
I wish I could buy one out of season

But don’t
Hesitate
‘Cause your love
Won’t wait (Just won’t wait)

Ooo, baby, I love your way,
Every day

Wanna tell you
I love your way, everyday
Wanna be with you
Night and day

Ooo, baby, I love your way

Wanna tell you
I love your way, everyday
Wanna be with you
Night and day

Ooo, baby, I love your way

Wanna tell you
I love your way

Post 219

Cold Zone:
Reflections on a Visit to St. Joseph's Seminary

On Thursday I decided to stop in and say hello to Auxiliary Bishop Bittman.

Ha ha, just kidding.

I decided to stop in and look at the interior of St. Joseph’s Seminary, because I was in the neighborhood. I parked the Rocket and walked up to the building. It was quiet and everything was very still. The door was marked “low energy power-operated” or something eco like that. I pressed the button and watched as the door hummed very slowly open. It was a big door and I waited as it moved. Hummmm. Жжжжжж.

Fancy place. Noisy doors. Alright. Now I’m in.

There’s someone there behind the glass over on that side. Am I supposed to talk to her? I decide I’m not going to check in — nothing says I need to — and when I proceed she comes out to arrest me.

Ha ha, just kidding.

She comes out from some invisible other entrance and wants to know why I’m here. She tells me that I can go and see the chapel. “It’s the only public part of the building,” she says.

Ah.

Nothing like a warm welcome.

She escorts me to the chapel and tells me to feel free to stay as long as I like. Okay. That sounds better, but doesn’t feel sincere anymore somehow.

Alright. Here we are. I’m inside the chapel. Everything is really, really smooth. Can you say “Smooth”? That’s good, but you need to draw out the “oo” more. Repeat after me: smooooooth. Ah yes, that’s better.

That’s how it is. The floor is really, really, smooth. It’s made out of highly-patterned limestone tiles in shades of brown. I looked at them and thought, “mushrooms.” The waves of brown remind me of the gills of a mushroom if they were sort of sideways and squished. The floor looked clean and shiny and really, really smooth.

I haven’t actually seen floors like that in a church before, neither in Europe nor in Alberta. I’ve seen that type of glossy shininess sometimes in select areas — St. Andrew’s has that now, and St. Thomas More does too, but it’s usually reserved for the altar area. In this place, it’s wall-to-wall gloss.

I think it’s supposed to look impressive. Am I impressed?

The place has stained glass windows that look rather complicated. They don’t draw you in with simple scenes from the gospels. To be honest, I can’t even remember what the images were. I glanced up but didn’t compute and lost interest. Do you remember what was on those windows? I found them neither beautiful nor explanatory. Stained glass should be one or the other, and preferably both. It’s actually not hard to make stained glass look beautiful, because sunlight streaming through coloured glass is an incredible starting point. It’s hard to screw that up. All you have to do is choose a reasonable subject and execute it fairly well. (The Basilica’s glass comes close, but that artist managed to make every apostle, saint and prophet look not okay. Some look grim and sour, as if sanctity is about professorial sternness instead of joyful enthusiasm, and some look just plain Freaked Out.)

Oh well. They never asked me.

The pews at St. Joseph’s Seminary chapel are also — you guessed it — very, very smooth. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such smooth benches, and that ain’t hyperbole, little guy. They were made of very dark, very close-grained wood, and the cut was sleek and pristine. All the benches were of a strange shape, however. None had armrests, and instead of being straight, as pews almost invariably are, a good chunk of the pews were curved, as if to say, “Hey look at me.” It means that if Snow White and the seven dwarves were sharing one pew, each of the dwarves would be at a slightly different angle.

The place looks and feels like a show-home crossed with a mausoleum.

I have no complaints about the tabernacle, however. It’s big and ornate and stands its ground, as it should. That ball was not dropped, thank God. No volleyball-shaped tabernacles here!

However, the shape of the chapel is unfortunate, because although many parts of the chapel are lofty, the architect has the lowest point of the chapel above the tabernacle. It becomes more and more claustrophobic as you get closer to the tabernacle, because the architect did something weird with the walls. They are curved and white and — you guessed it — very, very smooth around the altar area. Someone thought it would be really cool to have, as it were, a chapel within a chapel.

To be near the altar is to feel like you’re inside an egg.

That’s not cool.

To be near the altar is to feel like you’re inside an igloo.

That’s not cool.

That’s cold.

Where am I? Is this “Telus World of Science”?

No, madam, you are in a spaceship. Stay as long as you like. Have a seat in one of these rounded pews.

Uh.

Uh, I think I want to go now. I think I want to go back to planet earth. Get me out of this luxury egg and mushroom palace.

Eggs and mushrooms make a beautiful omelet, but don’t serve well as a church.

Let’s go. This foyer is nice, and what’s that non-public area with all those IKEA-perfect tables and chairs? Don’t look, it’s not for you. Keep walking; just head for the doors. Here they are. I’m not going to be clicking any buttons this time — just let me push this puppy open. There. I’m out.

Whew. Fresh air.

Plants. The sky. That’s better.

You know, I had heard from several people that the seminary chapel was beautiful, and even back then, I was somewhat suspicious. Why were they saying that? Did they really like it or was it one of these Emperor’s New Clothes deals? I wondered then and I wonder now.

I’ve seen it now, and I see, it’s not beautiful. It’s weird and way too modern. It looks expensive for the sake of looking expensive. It’s a self-conscious showpiece. It’s like a Louis Vuitton bag, which derives its appeal mainly from its reputation as being pricey. Objectively, those bags are not that great. Objectively, they’re dark brown with little shapes and letters repeated over and over again. (Just for fun, you could calculate how many dollars you paid for each letter L and each letter V. What’s the math?)

Oh look at this. Just now I have read the long flowy descriptions of different aspects of the chapel. Those pews are made of mahogany, now I know. The stained glass windows that I was looking at were from the old building, and they were supposed to represent different sacraments (no wonder they were so hard to figure out). The dark floors and benches were supposed to make me think of earth, and the blank white walls were supposed to make me think of heaven.

Ah. I see.

Yeah, it’s just like ANY modern “art” situation — you need to read the brochure in order to figure out what the artist was thinking. I didn’t know the pews were earth. I didn’t know the blank white walls and ceiling with circular scoopity swirly things was heaven.

Here’s what I was supposed to realize:

CHAPEL INTERIOR Heaven and Earth

When entering the chapel, one is confronted with a marvellous melding of heaven and earth. The rich brown limestone of the floor and dark mahogany pews suggest the heaviness and solidity of the earth. They ground us. The white concrete walls of the chapel, on the other hand, are intentionally neutral, so that the sun shining through the stained-glass windows will fill the space with a radiant light and colour the canvas-like walls. This effect should help us to lift up our hearts from the weight of the earth to the glory of heaven, to raise mind and heart to the Lord when we come to pray . . .

Give me a break. That’s just such a stretch.

And what’s worse is that there are hints of slightly off-kilter theology. Earth is presented more negatively than it should be. The “heaviness of earth . . . the weight of the earth” sound like depressing contrasts to heaven. There’s a balance that’s missing here.

But anyway, let me say: a chapel should strike you as lovely without reading the literature. As a matter of fact, that’s the entire point. Any person entering a chapel or church should be able to be nourished by the beauty of the place, and feel that the place is holy. In this history of places of worship, the idea has always been that it’s very much NOT about the words. It’s a visual thing, and, being a visual thing, it is supposed to be accessible to the youngest of children and even to those who cannot read. That’s why gospel scenes, or images of the saints, are excellent subjects for stained glass. They can be easily represented pictorially.

This place relies excessively on this-means-this and that-means-that. It’s okay to have a little bit of that, I guess, but things start to get really weird when you say that walking between the courtyard and the chapel is an expression of the missionary activity of the church and that’s what you’re supposed to think about when you walk back and forth. It just gets to be too much. It gets to be almost a mini-religion in itself. The theology of The Building gets to be overwhelming.

Here’s another excerpt:

The West Door of the Chapel and the church’s narthex gives on to a spacious formal courtyard with a tree planted in its center. It is meant to suggest the garden of Eden or the earthly paradise, and particularly, creation after the Fall. One enters the chapel from this fallen world and walks toward the altar, the place of encounter with Christ who redeems us and all creation through his sacrifice on the Cross, the new Tree of Life. As we make this journey many times a day, from garden to altar, from altar to garden, we are reminded of our mission as Christians to transform the world in Christ.

I offer an alternative. Let’s not pretend that courtyard is the garden of Eden after the fall. Let’s not. Let’s just pretend it’s a garden, and let’s pretend this is a chapel. Let’s clear our minds of what symbolizes what. Why so much unnecessary symbolism? We’re Catholics, after all, and we’ve already got enough, both of what’s real and what’s symbolic.

I don’t want “the Design Committee” to get carried away with representations to the extent that they start saying the walls are like a canvas. The walls are not a canvas, people. The walls are walls.

The pews are not the earth, and there is no need for them to represent the earth. Let’s just say they are Places to Sit.

Sheesh.

And about placing one tree in the centre of the courtyard so that the area could represent the garden of Eden, that is so stupid, because that would mean that the tree would be THAT tree — the infamous Expulsion-Coming-Soon Tree. What happened to all the other trees? Is that how God did it? Here, Adam and Eve, here’s your “garden.” It’s got one tree, I know, I know, but make sure you don’t eat the fruit that hangs from it.

Man.

Reading the website descriptions of the place go a long way to explaining what went wrong in the design, of both the seminary and the theological college. The mentality was skewed in favour of Deep and Profound. If you do things right, you won’t have to aim at Deep and Profound. The reason you don’t have to AIM for it, is because if you just aim at giving Jesus a lovely home, and if you just aim at making the place one which feels welcoming, dignified and beautiful, you’ll wind up with a Catholic chapel or church, and that in and of itself is going to be deep and profound.

I mean really: if you’re making a home for Jesus, and making a place where the sacrifice of Calvary is going to be repeated, do you really need to pretend the tiles are earth? Do you really need anything more?

Stay focused, people, is my point.

And as for all this modernity, not only does it need an explanation to justify its barrenness (symbolic blah blah blah), the problem is that it isn’t anchored to time-proven traditions, and what looks really up-to-date today is going to look very yesterday in the blink of an eye. Many modern buildings and churches suffer from this problem. They were designed by someone who prioritized innovation, almost above all else. What you will find is that the churches designed with the most unique architecture for its day are the most unpleasant to be in, years later. St. Dominic Savio, for instance, is a disaster though I’m sure it was trendy at the time. Renovations, an abundance of plastic flowers and a gray geometric-patterned carpet haven’t rescued the interior, believe it or not. Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, is distractingly poorly-designed, as is St. Theresa’s in Edmonton. These floor plans where we pretend to enjoy sitting around in a semi-circle, such as those of Good Shepherd and St. Matthew’s, just don’t work. In a church where everyone faces forward, you’ll see the back of heads. That’s less distracting than seeing the faces of the other half of the congregation, tee-pee style. I know, I know, the idea was community, but that is best accomplished with all the things built into the liturgy, not by rearranging the people. We’re at a Mass, not a baby shower, after all. Conversation works great in a circle, but we’re not here to chit chat. We’re here to worship.

The nicest churches in this archdiocese are styled traditionally. The Basilica is the nicest, and it is traditional in design. As for surfaces, the Basilica is not smoothness on top of smoothness.

That smooth-operator style can be initially interesting, but it doesn’t stand the test of time, because it’s cold and impersonal. People are tactile beings and so variation in surfaces textures is comforting. Much of the appeal of the homemade cookie is the imperfection that’s built in. Things that are hand-crafted have a warmth — the details are there (some deliberately and some accidentally) and these little details capture your attention and your imagination. Today I studied the mosaic above the tabernacle at the Basilica, and I wondered how it was made, and how the person building it would have felt, after having placed just the very, very first section of pieces. How do you feel when you begin a project and you look upon the vast expanse remaining, left to be completed?

The chapel at St. Joseph’s Seminary looks too impersonal and machine-made. It is so lacking in the human touch that it’s rather intimidating, although it is so many times smaller than the cathedrals of Europe. I think we can all tell that a lot of money went into the building, but I’d say there wasn’t a lot of heart.

Those two things – heart and money – are totally different, and sadly, where one is, the other often isn’t. I’d far rather attend a play at a high school than a play at the Citadel because one has heart and the other doesn’t. Someone who designs a building to look grand and impressive and palatial has a different intention from someone who designs a building to look welcoming and beautiful and holy.

And just to be clear, do not hear me saying that I believe every church should be built to the same standards as a European cathedral or even the local basilica. I am not saying that. On the contrary, I believe that a small white church with wooden floors and pews can be something marvelous. What a lovely silhouette it has, season after season, beside that country road!

We could do that, nowadays. It’s not more expensive than a spaceship church, and indeed, is a highly efficient use of space. And as for innovation, I think that there would be almost nothing more surprising than seeing a church built in 2016 along those original lines. So often, the most startling thing is seeing anew the thing that you thought you knew so well.

Wouldn’t it be nice? I think it would be so neat to enter a church where the wooden floor is brand new, and where a bright but heavy bell hangs in the steeple. The straight wooden pews would be carved with little roses and crosses, and the light that falls across the holy space would be soft and colourful. Look — the candles are real beeswax. They’re on stands near the rectangular altar. The altar cloths are white and carefully embroidered. So sweet, yet so much to look at!

Sigh. That, I think, would be nice, and I’m sure that people would marvel over such a place, but more importantly, it would feel like home.

Post 218

The Fruit on the Branch on the Tree in the Garden:
Reflections on Temptation

One of the most important things to notice about temptation is that the object of your temptation will invariably have something appealing about it. The object of your temptation will draw you in because it appears to offer you something that you do not have, whether it is safety from a threat, enjoyment of something tangible, such as something tasty to eat, or enjoyment of something intangible, such as fame or friendship.

Money is an interesting one, because in the past, I think it was more common to enjoy the physical quality of it. Gold and silver coins can have a pleasing appearance, and I do not question those stories about misers who would spend their time in their treasure rooms, playing with their loot.

Nowadays, money is something far more abstract. Money is represented by figures on a computer screen. By studying some numbers, some people’s feelings become very stirred up. I was initially going to say that some people are very pleased upon studying their financial numbers, but then I remembered that usually the wealthy are not particularly pleased by how much money they have. Usually they are dissatisfied, because they want more. The pot of gold is always just out of reach. They feel that if they just had a little bit more, then they would finally be able to rest — they would finally be able to put their mind at ease.

Those who love money so often live their lives in a state of hidden agitation. They are constantly looking over their shoulder, and comparing what they have to what others have. When they learn about Trump’s wealth, for instance, they feel like paupers. It’s disconcerting for them.

As for me, I wouldn’t want Trump’s wealth. I don’t buy lottery tickets, because I don’t want to run the risk of winning. And as for numbers on a computer screen, I can always make myself as many numbers as I want.

I can write this for instance: $240,306.

How does that feel? Does that sound like a good salary for a year? How would it have felt to collect that much, for the year 2014? According to the audited financial statements of Trinity, that’s how much was paid to the director of Wisdom Home Schooling. I didn’t realize that those figures were available online until a friend sent me the link yesterday. Whoo boy.

If you don’t like those numbers, then I could write this: $243,936.

Does that feel better? It’s the amount paid to the director in 2015. Page 14 of the financial statements has lots of numbers, if you like numbers.

That audited report has an interesting entry. After listing what was paid to the Director of Wisdom, it lists amounts paid to “Relatives of the Director of Wisdom Home Schooling.” That wording is interesting because Wisdom ain’t a family business in the normal fashion. When you picture a ‘family business,’ you picture a situation where Ed’s dad starts making sausages, but being poor, enlists the help of any able-bodied family members, who work for less pay than they could receive elsewhere. Eventually, the money starts to come in, and Ed is able to buy a better sausage machine. Things get better and better and then finally the town decides to honour the family by constructing a gigantic fiberglass sausage.

When you picture a family business, you envision a situation where someone started from almost nothing, and people in the family made personal (often financial) sacrifices to make everything work. Family businesses are often a testament to the power of cooperation among family members in order to create and maintain a business.

If such enterprises decide to enjoy the gains from their hard work between the people and party it up regularly on Whyte Avenue, I begrudge them nothing. I myself have been involved in a family business; the income was initially so embarrassingly low that I wouldn’t answer my colleague, who wanted to know how much I made. I remember that. He asked repeatedly.

Joining a venture begun by a family member was a sacrifice I was willing to make. When my colleagues pursued lucrative opportunities, I declined, for the sake of family. And I stuck with it, through good times and bad. That’s a typical family-business story.

Wisdom is not a family business in this way, however, because it is based on receiving free money from the government. But to be clear, it is based on someone else (=Trinity) receiving a grant from the government to accomplish certain things, and then passing 95% of it along to them (=Wisdom). In such a case, more is not merrier. Having more family members collecting salaries does not reflect positively, and is not an example of cooperating to build, or create or make. It is an example of cooperating to take. They approved each others’ salaries and paid their expenses without questioning.

But look at this report. What a big change here! In 2014, the amount was $196,501 and in 2015, the amount given to “Relatives of the Director of Wisdom Home Schooling” was $389,366. I wonder what happened. It’s almost double the amount! So either the Director got a whole bunch of new relatives, or else the relatives just got a whole bunch of new cash.

Whew. Them’s big numbers, especially when you consider that the families who were and are relying on Wisdom are not usually raking it in themselves. Most of those families are one-income households and some of them struggle to make ends meet.

Some of the mothers in those households try to figure out techniques to scrounge up some extra cash. They rack their brains — what shall it be? Norwex cloths? Epicure? Stampin’ Up? ‘Jewelry’ featuring decorated beer bottlecaps?

Here’s the link, if you’d like to see for yourself: here. Go to page 14 of the report.

Ah yes, money is one of those things. It’s one of those temptations that exist, and it’s interesting to see who has succumbed. It’s not always the ones you’d suspect. Sometimes those who speak so eloquently about faith in the Lord and trusting in God are the first to deceive. Turn your back and they’re counting the cash.

They cause so much sorrow to Christ.

So much sorrow.

Christ is sad because they knew better. He is sad because they use all the talents that God gave them in order to pursue what is base, instead of what is good. He is sad because he gave them enough strength and help to resist the temptation (he always does), but they chose otherwise. They wound him afresh.

But my primary point, when I began this post, was to speak about the real allure of most temptation.

Money is not evil, in and of itself. Having money means you can buy yourself the wool cardigan that will keep you warm in chilly weather. Having money means you can buy grapes and cottage cheese at the store. You can order that bird feeder for your neighbour for Christmas.

And it’s the same way with other temptations. The fruit in the garden of Eden looked good. It looked yummy, as fruit can.

It is better to acknowledge the attributes of the things that tempt us. Why lie to ourselves, and say that we would never want fame, if we would? Fame has its good points too. Fame in and of itself is also not bad. Pope Francis is famous, and that’s okay. Jesus was famous. Chesterton was famous. A lot of good people have been famous, and fame can be put to good use.

The problem comes when people want fame for the wrong reasons, or when, having fame, a person deviates from his or her duties. I do not agree, for instance, with the behaviour of some mothers who leave their families to speak at conferences. They promote themselves as being Entertaining and Enlightening and by reading their website, you see that they’re hoping to be boarding that plane to a City Near You. You can pay by MasterCard or Visa.

So long, husband! So long, kids! Mommy is famous!

And speaking of mothers and speaking of fame, I question the behavior of well-known sisters who go touring to far away places in order to accept this award or that or to speak to heads of states and other audiences. Sisters are meant to remain with their communities. If your order is in Nova Scotia, for instance, then you shouldn’t be living in a one-bedroom apartment at St. Andrew’s Centre in Alberta. It’s not right.

In particular, the ‘Mother’ of an order shouldn’t be flitting about.

The temptation to leave your order is something faced by almost all sisters, at some point or another. You will find this common theme in the writing of almost all canonized sisters. The devil tells of the good that would be done by leaving. The sister is given the lie that she is accomplishing so little where she currently is. The sister is given the lie that God would be so much happier with her if she changed her location, and that her spiritual life would flourish, if she would just GET UP AND LEAVE.

In response, she could rightly acknowledge that there are many good ways to serve God. If she is a cloistered sister, she can easily agree that she won’t be bandaging any wounds, anytime soon. She can acknowledge that care of the sick is a corporal act of mercy.

Indeed — all of this is true. But the question is: was this the call? Did Christ call her to this way of life or to that? Is it true that corporal acts of mercy are more important than spiritual acts of mercy?

As for “a call within a call,” that depends. If call number one is truly from God, then “call” number two won’t contradict call number one. That’s not how God, in his goodness, runs things.

Now this is not to say that those who succumb to temptation cannot become saints. They can become even canonized saints, and be quite well known, in their day. It is just that the path to sanctity will be more difficult than the original plan. Plan B is never as good as Plan A.

And moving to the lay person, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a young woman considering this fellow and that as a possible future husband. Why not? She can look, and if she wants to blink her eyelashes really fast in order to come across as extra-appealing, then I say, go wild. Bat them eyelashes, honey! You go girl.

However, once the same woman is married, it’s time to blink like a normal person, at least out in public. At this point, it is not okay to try to portray yourself, to every man, as Really Quite Charming. It is not okay to display yourself or to suggest to other men that you’ve Still Got It. That’s not okay. You’ve made your choice, and you’ve got a husband now. You’ve made your vows.

It is not an excuse that Prospect B is really quite a bit more holy than your husband. It is no excuse that Prospect B understands you better than your husband does, or is more fun to talk to. It is no excuse that Prospect B is actually more your type.

What do you expect?? Of course the one who tempts you is going to have no shortage of positive traits! Of course the one that distracts you is going to have a myriad of real and imagined good points! That’s how it goes.

That’s how it always goes! So you are not mistaken when you notice that Prospect B has very nice hair, and you are not mistaken when you notice that Prospect B is polite and intelligent.

You are mistaken about the eyes, though. His eyes are pretty much average. Iris, pupil, eyelashes.

Human beings have many qualities, and you won’t find anyone who has nothing in his favour. Everyone has something, and almost everyone has nice eyes.

The thing is, you’re infatuated right now, and so you’re assuming that what you don’t see is just as good as what you do see. But it’s not like that. People are never WYSIWYG. People are mysterious.

Besides, right now Prospect B kind of likes you too, and people generally perform well when they’re on stage. And people generally perform well when they know they’re liked. It’s natural. It’s the way it goes.

So don’t be fooled. Be prepared. Know that it is normal for temptation to look good. That’s the entire point. It wouldn’t be called temptation if it weren’t tempting.

Don’t be surprised that the new girl in town seems to have The Whole Package. Wow! Where have you been all my life? Don’t be surprised that the fellow who works on the sixth floor smiles so nicely when he holds open the door (he does that for all the ladies).

The one who tries to tempt you is scheduled to surface in your life when you least expect it. You let down your guard because you know that she’s Happily Married. You let down your guard because she works at the church. You let down your guard because he’s so fat, or so skinny or so tall or so small. You let down your guard because he’s so young or so old.

Don’t. Be on guard. Temptation comes in all shapes and sizes and what was laughably unthinkable last month becomes not only possible but desirable today. That’s how it goes. Beware, and reduce the opportunities for sin. Avoid the occasion of sin, as we Catholics say. Don’t think you’re so tough or so holy that temptation will bounce off you like oil on a Teflon pan.

You see, temptations are kind of like these rock songs that don’t make the cut. Sometimes I encounter a song that is 99% right. It’s just so tantalizingly close that you want to overlook that extra background melody that is going rather astray. Why is that there? You want to overlook that lusty growl in that woman’s singing. Hmm, it doesn’t suit the song — what is she doing?

You want to look the other way when the lyrics have that aftertaste that isn’t quite right. You want to have more than the one song for 1994, but if you keep the same standards, you won’t.

The thing about temptations is that they are so incredibly deceptive. They are not what they seem. The packaging is there, and everything seems very impressive and picture perfect, but don’t be fooled. That smiley-faced and companionable person is not who she seems. She sighs with you and nods sympathetically, but look closer — notice that micro-second smile that flashed across her face when she heard of your suffering. Hmm. And as for that holy and earnest Christian, he is not who he seems. Deacon schmeacon. Those with collars can be crooks too. That’s why some of them sign up for it in the first place; it’s just a costume, like others they’ve worn. Shame on you, actor! Repent, actress!

Temptations are like that. They aren’t like the Rapper D Dog songs that make you groan; they’re like the other ones, the songs written by Diane Warren like “If I Could Turn Back Time,” (Cher) or “Blame It On the Rain,” (Milli Vanilli) or “Don’t Turn Around” (Ace of Base). They’re like that. They have so much going for them, but they’re just not right.

“The Sign,” also from Ace of Base, is the same. It’s really catchy and I remember liking it a lot at the time, along with everyone else. I remember Janet giving me a tape of the album as a gift. Ah yes, I remember those days! Nevertheless, when you live with the lyrics for a while, you can’t get around the rather icy, disdainful quality buried amidst the happy boppity sounds.

Other songs that fall into the same category (almost but not quite there) are “Wouldn’t it be good” (Nik Kershaw), “Out of Touch” (Hall & Oates), “It’s My Life” (Talk Talk), “One Thing Leads to Another” (The Fixx) and “Found Out About You” (Gin Blossoms).

It’s kind of like looking at a math equation. On the surface, 1 + 1 makes 2, but when you look deeper, you discover that it’s not really 1 and 1. It’s really 0.96 and 0.99. Ah yes. Not quite 2. Things don’t add up, they don’t fit and they’re not right.

The line doesn’t go straight; it isn’t appropriately narrow. Instead of tidy little accounting silos, you find a slush fund. It oozes here and it oozes there and hey can I sell you a side of beef? (My cows have three sides.) Yeah, it veers off the path and just wait a bit — I think we might soon hear a crash.

In sum (speaking of sums), God, in his goodness, will allow you to experience temptation which is precisely suited to your temperament and your strengths and weaknesses. That’s what makes it hard. The temptation is custom-designed to catch you where you’re weak. Satan appeared to Jesus when Jesus was famished, and offered him bread.

If you are a visual person, you will be tempted by the way people and things look. If you like good conversation, you will be drawn to those with interesting things to say. If you like fame, you’ll be tempted to believe the fast-talking agent who says he can give you the moon and make you a star.

However, God does not allow this so that you will fail. Au contraire. He is providing you with the battleground, the place where you will succeed. He equips you with tools and he won’t leave your side. You’ll win. You’ll prevail. Just hang on to what’s right and you’ll make your way through. When it’s done — when you’ve had the fight of your life — you can say, “I’ve run the good race.” You can sigh a sigh of relief and say, “Thank you God; indeed, you are good. You sustain the weak and you defeat the strong.”

Post 217

Blogger Watches the News

I stayed up late on November 8th to wait for the results of the United States election. I also wanted to hear Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump speak.

Trump’s speech was very good; he hit all the right notes and delivered it well. Clinton, as you know, didn’t show.

Oh well.

I spent more time staring at a map of the United States than I had ever done in my life, as I watched Fox News and their commentators. I liked Megyn Kelly but almost all of the men were deathly boring and contributed very little, except for that Tucker guy. It was live, so sometimes they tried to fill up empty air time. They’d speculate about things that were going to happen within minutes. For example, one of the questions was, “What do you think Trump is going to say?” and then you’d have to listen to a commentator’s predictions. Good grief. Some questions just ain’t any good.

I went to bed while Trump was trying to wade through the crowds after his speech (now there was a man looking for the exit). People were holding cameras up to his face and he was trying to keep smiling, as was his wife.

Oh well; I’m going to bed. We common folks have been awake long enough.

Since the election, I’ve made some all-important detours into some subtopics, and I’m sure you want to know all about them.

I know you’re out there, after all. I know I have many readers, even without checking my statistics. My blog is one of those blogs that people read while pretending not to have the faintest idea that I have written anything at all. They keep up the charade until they finally get frustrated enough to complain about post number such and such and post number such and such, either to me or someone else. One woman accused me of referring to her as “Grandpa Godzilla,” when the truth is, I wasn’t thinking of anyone at all. It just rhymed with Vanilla, kind of.

But anyway, back to my research, I was wondering, for instance, who this Ivanka person was — he thanked someone by that name in his speech and I was wondering whether he was thanking his first wife. I know, I know — everybody knows who everybody is. Oh well. I’m up to date now, and I know that Melania doesn’t have a degree and that he’s had a total of three wives and he’s got five children.

Barron looks like he’d be great as an innkeeper in a nativity play. He’d have more fun doing that than standing on stage listening to a speech at whatever o’clock in the morning.

I’ve also now watched a YouTube video from 2011 of Mr. Obama ridiculing Donald Trump while Donald Trump sat in the audience. His jokes at the expense of his citizen and guest went on for a painfully long time and were unseemly for someone in Obama’s position.

And on that topic, it was quite icky to see President Obama repeatedly criticizing Trump while Trump was campaigning. It struck me as undignified, kind of like watching Father Kris do a variation on the bird dance to cheesy lyrics following a catechism class. Avert your eyes, folks. And where’s that exit anyway?

I also researched the list of American celebrities who had threatened to move to Canada if Trump were to be elected. Barbara Streisand, Cher and Whoopi Goldberg were on the list.

Do we want them here?

Ah, I wrote about flighty Americans in post 71 (March 9, 2016), so I won’t say more now.

I was also interested in reading about the reaction of different government leaders from around the world. So many people will be wanting Trump to do so many things. He’ll be a busy boy.

There are so many pleasant things about the election results from this week. The main thing I like is the last-minute reversal quality. Trump was so soundly rejected by those who Knew Better prior to his ultimate victory. I don’t know if any politician has been more ridiculed on his way to the presidency than he has been. Consider the compounding effect of all the social media in place during this election. Indeed, there was a Cinderella flavour to it all, and I think it is important to note that sometimes even the rich suffer from unjust attacks. Wealth doesn’t provide immunity from everything, and sometimes the underdog is the rich guy sitting over there.

I was happy that all the ‘experts’ had to revise their predictions, and I was glad that so many assumptions about the American public were proven wrong. It struck me as strange that so many people assumed that all the Hispanic people would think the same way as each other, and it struck me as strange that so many people assumed that women like voting for women. Are we that one-dimensional? And I agreed with the commentator who pointed out that many unfair labels were applied not only to Trump, but to everyone who supported him. So many stereotypes and so much condescension!

Oh well.

I don’t know how Trump will perform as a president, but I hope that he is able to accomplish good for the United States. I don’t like hearing about Americans (or anyone else, for that matter) being on food stamps and being unemployed or even under-employed; I hope that can be turned around, and I hope that those Americans protesting in the streets will make their way home, instead of heading north towards the Canadian border.

The election is over, and there is no need for anyone of good will to have any fear. No matter who reigns as the visible head of any country, God is always in charge. He always has the final say.

So rest easy. Go to bed if you’re tired. Stay awake if you’re not. Drink lemonade and eat gingersnap cookies. Go online and try to figure out what the people in Paraguay or Ukraine think about the election results. Decide what you’ll do for Remembrance Day tomorrow. That kind of thing.

Life goes on, and very little of your life hinges on the election results, unless, of course, you’re Donald Trump (another one of my readers).

Hi Donald! Congratulations. You did it.