Thursday, November 10, 2011

On the Altar

The Altar.
A block of stone, an ornate table of rare wood?
Temporary, permanent, ancient - what is it?

Look beyond...
the hands of a priest,
a table,
changed forever by oil and hands, a bishop's consecration.
The hands, the table... they are sacred, set apart for a holy purpose.
Set apart for God Himself.

It appears simple, a father leading his family
in a meal of prayer and thanksgiving.
Yet, it is more than a simple meal of bread and wine, shared for to be together.

The priest becomes something more.
Despite his flaws and failings, he is now In Persona Christi.
The bread and wine are now the Body & Blood, Soul & Divinity of Christ,
confected by those anointed hands on the table which has become Calvary - the Cross.

Consummatum est. This is the wedding feast of the Lamb.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hierarchical Thoughts

He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.
He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.

I am absolutely fascinated by the wording of this passage from Colossians in Latin:

Omnia per ipsum et in ipsum creata sunt,
et ipse est ante omnia,
et omnia in ipso constant.
In Latin, the words ipsum, ipso, ipse are all forms of the intensive pronoun, that can be roughly translated as "he himself." Like the difference between saying, "Fred ran an errand," and "Fred himself ran an errand," or "Fred ran an errand himself."

Given that, we can take a stab at the translation of this passage, which is found at the end of verse 16 and beginning of verse 17 in the first chapter of Collosians.

All (things) through he himself and in he himself were created,
and he himself is before all (things),
and all (things) in he himself they last/are known/exist/consist (of)/stand firm.
Again and again this use of ipso, the intensive pronoun with the antecedent of Christ, emphasizing his absolute centrality to creation itself.

His centrality is not just in our worship, or in our own lives, but in fact to everything.

This is why we evangelize.

I recall a homily my pastor gave a couple of months ago, in which he said, "We must live lives which make no sense, if God isn't real." I think he found the heart of what St. Francis meant when he said, "Evangelize always, when necessary use words."

Obviously, not all of us are given to eloquent speech, or deep thought, or graceful prose and poetry. But each and every one of us is called to live a life that makes no sense, that is not logical, that is irrational, to the eyes of the world.

Even more than that, we Catholics have the added challenge that our lives must make no sense unless the Church is true. We should be a walking question mark to all people of faith, so that knowing us, they are brought to the question, "why would they do that if the Church wasn't what it said it was?"

And why do we do all this? For the glory? For the rewards? When Archbishop Fulton Sheen was asked how many souls he had converted, he answered none. God does the conversion, he was simply open to God's call to evangelization.

We do this because it is the will of God that no one suffer the pain of hell, which is the pain of eternal separation from Him.

We do this because in every human soul there is a longing, a thirsting. Every addiction, every false idol, every faulty idealism is a search for the altar of God. Because of our fallen nature, we struggle in finding it, but it is in our very nature to struggle to find it. We evangelize with our whole lives because every person's dignity deserves nothing less that the whole and total truth.

What if today is the day the Lord is going to use your prayer before the noon meal to draw a soul to himself?

What if today is the day when your unabashed joy in the saving power of God will be the conduit of God's love into a lost heart?

Belief in God is not a "different strokes for different folks" deal. No, we do not force our beliefs upon other people, but we must be constantly living lives that reflect our belief, and call others to belief. It is not "imposing our values," it is Living in the Truth.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The First Luminous Mystery

He Who was baptized in the Jordan
The Baptism in the Jordan

Matthew 28:19

Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Christ had already followed this example, as we find at the start of his public life in Matthew 3:13-17
Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan, unto John, to be baptized by him. But John stayed him, saying: I ought to be baptized by thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering, said to him: Suffer it to be so now. For so it becometh us to fulfill all justice. Then he suffered him. And Jesus bing baptized, forthwith came out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened to him: and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him. And behold a voice from heaven, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

I am reminded of an incident with St. Faustina, to whom was revealed the Divine Mercy. Our Lord told her to ask her superior to allow her to adore at midnight. She did, and was told no. He repeated this request several times, and each time she asked her superior, who denied her request. Finally, St. Faustina's superior told her not to ask her anymore.

The next time Our Lord asked her to adore Him at midnight, she replied in distress that her superior had again said no, and had ordered her not to ask again. Jesus replied that he had done this to make clear to her that he exercises his authority through his church, and that she must be obedient to her superior.

By himself being baptized "to fulfill all justice," Christ shows us the important of this as a sacrament. Though sinless, he accepted cleansing from sin, just as he would later accept their punishment.

Christ was baptized so that we could be baptized with him, anointed with him.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Luminous Mysteries

The Luminous mysteries tell us of Jesus's earthly ministry, from his baptism to his institution of the Eucharist. They are:

  1. The Baptism in the Jordan
    Qui apud Iordanem baptizatus est.
    He Who was baptized in the Jordan.
  2. The Wedding at Cana
    Qui ipsum revelavit apud Canense matrimonium.
    He Who revealed Himself at the wedding feast of Cana.
  3. The Proclamation of the Kingdom
    Qui Regnum Dei annuntiavit.
    He who announced the Kingdom of God.
  4. The Transfiguration
    Qui transfiguratus est.
    He Who was transfigured.
  5. The Institution of the Eucharist
    Qui Eucharistiam instituit.
    He Who instituted the Eucharist.

As you probably know, the luminous mysteries are a fairly recent addition to the Rosary. There have been many people in favor of their addition, and many people who believe them to be a great insult to Mary.

What I know is this:

  • The Rosary is not Liturgy. While traditional and universally known, it is a devotion, and there are several variants.
  • As revealed to St. Dominic, the Rosary is a means of teaching the faith. Blessed John Paul the Great's addition is to the teaching aspect.
  • The luminous mysteries are and always will be optional. If you don't like them, don't say them.
What I know is that Bl. JPM said that these are five mysteries of Christ worthy of meditation. That is all I need to know, totus tuus Maria!

Mary, loving mother who tells us to do the will of your Son, pray for us!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Doing some maintenance...

Hey all. Just a heads up that I've started using a lot more custom formatting in recent posts, and I'm going to start working backwards to apply the same internal structure so that my blog is easier for me to maintain. I'm also going to be looking over older posts to make sure they still look good with the new theme for the whole blog.

I have several new posts in the queue, including a start into the Luminous mysteries of the rosary, and some discussion of Hell. Bear with me, those should be out soon. If you see typos/glitches/plain bad formatting, feel free to report it to me,


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What's in a name? Take 2.

His name is not "Barry."

His name is not "Bo or B.O."

His name is not "Bozo."

His name is Barrack Hussein Obama.

You would do well to address him as President Obama, or Mr. President, or POTUS (President of the United States) if you're tweeting. I don't care if you don't like his policies, or even the man himself, but if you cannot muster respect for the man, then respect the office.

I do not know the president as a person, so I can't say whether or not I like him on a personal level. I could most likely have a beer with him. Our conversation would probably involve him saying a lot of nothing - because he's a politician and they're good at that - and me saying a lot of nothing - out of respect and my desire not to get at all heated.

I do know that there are very few policy decisions he has made that I approve of. I do know that I do not like his philosophy and politics, and believe that his are the politics that undermine our good. That does not give me the right to attack him on a personal level, even if it be only in the realm of caricaturizing his name.

It shames me sometimes to hold company with others of conservative mind-set, for the simple reason that during ALL 8 YEARS of the Bush administration we were fighting this name calling, and now what happens when we don't like the sitting president? We turn around and do the same damn thing.

I don't care if President Obama is a Muslim, or has been a Muslim, or has an appreciation for Islam in general, or whatever the Islamic Charge-de-jour is.

At this point, I don't care if the birth certificate is a hoax. The governor of Hawaii said it's the real deal, and let's be honest, the man only has one year left in office.

What concerns me about our sitting president is that he is a left-wing pro-abortion socialist, and I fear that his policies - while of good intent - are going to do more harm than good.

Ad hominem (to the man) attacks are considered fallacies because even if the assertion be true, it does not affect the validity of the person's argument. We are losing the culture war to relativistic socialism, and that is the front on which we must face him, and all who share his political persuasion.

Calling him names does nothing but demean ourselves.

If you can't use reason and history to assault his political and philosophical convictions, don't say anything at all.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Modes of Knowledge

I've been thinking (dangerous, I know), and I have come to the conclusion that much more important than the separation of church and state (which is poorly misunderstood at best anyway), we need the separation of Theology, Philosophy, and Science.

Before you turn me over to the inquisition, here me out. After I've explained myself, if I'm in error, correct me.

Here are three primary disciplines for the acquisition of knowledge and the literal meanings of their root words:

Words, Sayings, and Reasoning about God
Love of Wisdom

For the sake of clarity, let me plainly state that truth is the goal and end of all three disciplines, and therefore their ends are God, ultimately. Moreover, as Aquinas makes plain, truth is truth, and cannot contradict truth. Therefore, if a truth is discovered via philosophy, it cannot and will not be contradicted by science. Science will not be contradicted by theology, nor by divine revelation, if it has achieved a truth. This understanding is very important.

The problem (and I believe the source of most if not all 'contradictions') is that these three disciplines seek to answer three different questions. 'Contradictions' crop up when we attempt to apply a discipline to a question it was not intended to answer. As a side note, this is why we need to return to a more balanced education system. When all you have is a calculator, the whole world begins to look like a math problem.

So, what questions are being asked? How are they being asked? Why are they being asked?


Let me start with philosophy; everything else has. When we approach a thing, often the first question that comes to mind is, "What on God's green earth is that thing?" I argue that this may be the most important question to be asked. How and why flow from what, and so there we start.

Philsophy, then, is the means by which we determine what a thing is. What is its kind, shape, and measure? There are many theories about the 'what,' what is reality, what are good and evil, what is a human person. But every philosophical theory does seek to answer this question. Ask a deontologist what is right, and he will tell you it is duty. Ask an aristotilean what is reality, and she will tell you form, matter, cause, and end. Ask Kant, he'll tell you it is imperative. Every philosophy starts with what a thing is.

But then, this makes sense, does it not? When in the woods and something approaches, how do you know if you are safe or not? You investigate what type of thing it is. Is it a person, or an animal. If it's an animal, is it a doe, a bear, a wolf? Knowing that it is a doe, one knows that it is proper of a doe to eat plants, not people, and so you are safe, so long as you don't spook it and get trampled.

So from that what, we move to the how, and to the sciences. Some may argue that science answers what, but what it answers is modality, not essence. By that I mean, when we ask what a thing is, intrinsically, what is the heart of the thing, part of the answer is of course what it is made of, its material cause. But while the material causes is indeed a part of the 'what' of a thing, the study of the material is a study of how it is. How does the human body work? That it does we know from observation, but how... That is the purview of science.

Science deals with the physical realm, with probabilities and inductions. Whereas previously we were concerned with the truth of the essence, we are now concerned with the truth of the cause and the matter. What conditions and events trigger something to happen, and how do we recreate it or stop it. Science opens marvelous vistas into the workings of everything from the smallest sub-atomic particle to the largest super-galactic cluster. It tells us of the intricacy of our biology, vulnerability opposed by resilience. It is the clock-maker instructing us in the mechanisms that drive the time, strike, and chime.

But it doesn't tell us why these things happen.

Theology answers why because theology seeks to know the heart of the maker. Knowing what a thing is, knowing how it is and how it works, can clue us into its purpose and its end. However - especially concerning humanity - all the science and all the philosophy in the world doesn't tell us why we're here. And since all creation is ordered to our good, and through us to God, the same goes for everything else.

It is theology which tells us of a God who, for no reason but that he willed it, created us that we might be happy with him. Our purpose and finality are God, to love him and be happy with him forever in heaven, and that is a truth we only discover when we listen to what God tells us of himself.

The fullness of theology - recall, Words, Sayings, and Reasonings about God - comes when we are in touch with the Word of God, the only-begotten second person of the trinity. Jesus doesn't tell us about the complexities of sub-atomic structure, but he is praised by it. The Word Made Flesh never explained to us how the Trinity is the prime mover, but he is glorified in Aristotle and Aquinas.

It seems that all good things come in threes. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; Mother, Father, Baby Within; Past, Present, and Future; Scripture, Tradition, and Faith; Philosophy, Science, and Theology. The most stable platform is the tripod, and when we forget that and ignore a leg, we find ourselves destabilized, unbalanced.

All three are important. All three are necessary. All three must be understood and used for what they are, insofar as they are what they are - tools for the acquisition of the truth, modalities of knowledge.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Thought Experiment

I saw the Atheists & Agnostics Society set up outside the Hub the other day, and it sparked me. I understand questioning the veracity of various religions, being turned off by televangelists and "faith healers" and psychics, and even doubting the existence of God. However, I have come to the opinion that in this society where we have replaced worship of God with the worship of Man and Science, we have become pseudo-philosophical at best when it comes to the issue of God.

In deifying reason, we have ceased to become adequately familiar with it, and with it, wisdom.

So I invite you to walk a little while with me, let me pose some mental pictures for you, see what you think.

Supposition 1: The two vitally human acts are knowing and loving.

Allow me to clarify some terms so that we're clear as to exactly what I'm saying here.

First, Aristotle identified three "levels" of life: Plant, Animal, Human. Things like digestion, respiration in the lungs, sleeping, these are things we share with plants. Movement, instincts, direct sensory faculties (the 5 sense), these we share with animalia. There is a 3rd level, something which sets us apart from plantae & animalia, which is our humanity, our human vitality.

Second, by knowing, I mean acts of intellection, reasoning, cognitive processes which go beyond even what we see in the animal world. Humans, not animals, built the Model T and the World Wide Web.

Third, by loving, I don't mean the mere emotion of love (powerful as it may be), but rather the act of will which is a choice, decision, or act. It is not mere intellect, and not merely following through from the fruit of reason, but rather the way in which a human is able to take the input of intellect, memory, and instinct, and make a choice. As an example, take amusement parks. Roller coasters are thrilling because against reason & instinct, we make an act of will to conquer the height (and our fear) for the sake of conquering it.

So, then, what I mean in supposition 1 is simply that what sets us apart from the rest of life, what makes us human, or is at least specially human, is our capacity to know, intellect and reason, and our capacity to love, choose, and decide.

For the duration of this post I will refer to the intellect and will, the mind and heart, or knowing and loving as faculties, and the degree to which we have formed our faculties as our capability. Our current capability is not necessarily indicative of what our actual capacity for these acts of intellection and will are.

Also, for the time being, I don't care where these faculties come from. For all I care, they could simply be advanced brain chemistry. Their mechanism is not important to this foray.

Supposition 2: To comprehend a thing fully, one's intellectual capacity must be greater than the thing being thought of.

What is 2 + 2? 4, of course. There is no doubt in your mind as to the truth of the statement, "2 + 2 = 4." If you had to describe why this were the case, you could explain that you understand the concepts of 2, 4, addition, and equality. What I am positing is that your intellect is greater than any of those concepts, and is therefore able to fully encompass them.

In a sense, one could say that your intellect is capable of arithmetic, certainly has a capacity for intellect. Your intellect is greater than arithmetic, encompasses it, is able to see it for what it is.

How about calculus? What is the integral with respect to x of 3x^2 dx, from 0 to 5? It's 125 of course. However, while at one point in my life (i.e. at the end of AP Calculus, when I scored a 5/5 on the AP test), I could have rattled that off. Now, I had to look it up (though I was able to understand why it was 125).

So, the intellect can be formed, can grow, and can mature. My capability may or may not be indicative of my capacity. I have a capacity for calculus, but I have been lazy in my mathematics, and am no longer fully capable of it as I was. However, since I have the capacity, I am capable of understanding calculus, encompassing it with my intellect.

Supposition 3: Humans, insofar as they are physical, are finite beings.

This should pretty much go without saying. We are born at a particular time, and we die at another particular time. Observationally, therefore, there is a finite span of time within which we live. We live in a finite material universe, essentially a part of it. We grow - sometimes by steps, and sometimes by leaps and bounds - but always it is a finite progression. We are not infinite.

Supposition 4: If God exists as he is typically understood philosophically - omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent - then he is "bigger" than us.

Of course, by bigger than us, I also mean bigger than our intellects. A truly infinite God - for that matter anything truly infinite - must by necessity be beyond the capacity (not just the capability) of any finite intellect. That must therefore mean that he is truly beyond our total comprehension. We can know things about him, but full understanding is not possible, not by our own power.

Conclusion: We've got it all wrong about God.

It's truth time. We need to be honest. I'm not just looking at atheists and agnostics here, I'm looking at Christians, Jews, Muslims, and everyone else who is talking about God in the sense presented above.

Too often we are looking for a God we can understand. We are looking for a concept that fits in a nice little box in our heads, that we can "wrap our heads around."

We don't want to be shocked.

We don't want to be challenged.

We don't want to be anything less than the highest thing in the universe.

If our criteria for rejection of God is that we cannot understand Him, then we have misunderstood the essential truth of Who it is we are looking for.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Fifth Joyful Mystery

Him Whom Thou Didst Find in the Temple
The Finding in the Temple

We come at last to the final mystery of the Joyful chaplet, which is one that can suffer from many of the same tendencies as the previous mystery. It is one of those after-Christmas mysteries, and it sometimes gets difficult to focus after the emotional high of the Nativity. All sorts of songs have been written about the birth of Christ, but how many about the finding in the temple?

Let us remind ourselves of the events upon which we are meditating in this decade. Take a moment to read the passage starting at Luke 2:41.

A first thought is this: we're not talking going to the mall and losing track of your kid for a little bit. Mary and Joseph didn't realize that Jesus was not in the caravan until a full day's travel away from Jerusalem, after which they returned (another day), and spent three days looking for Him.

5 days.

I can only imagine the fear and anxiety. This is their beloved son. This is the Son of God. He's been missing for 5 days...

I wonder, was Mary anxious that she had somehow imagined it all? After all, this child was to be the Messiah, which couldn't very well happen if he was gone. I suspect not, but she does say that she was anxious, and all mothers tend to be concerned for the well being of their children, no matter how capable they are, or such has been my observation and experience.

As for Joseph, these events are the source of both his 7th Joy and his 7th sorrow in the traditional prayer. As many have expounded on the prayer, how great the sorrow at having lost the Christ, and yet how great the joy at finding Him again, safe, in the temple, conversing with the rabbis.

Yet I can't help but wonder that maybe there was an 8th sorrow here for Joseph also. Upon expressing their anxiety to Jesus, he replies, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"

Should not His father's house been their family home in Nazareth, where Jesus was learning Joseph's trade?

But what they did not realize is that Jesus was telling them that He must be in His Father's house. The temple is His home, because He truly is God.

The verse that occurs to me is Isaiah 55:6, "Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near." Jesus tells us that He must be in His Father's house. The temple. While, as the Psalmist says in the 24th Psalm, "The earth is the LORD'S and all it holds, the world and those who live there," there is a special presence of God in His temple.

Much like the sacraments, God is not bound to His temple, but His temple is surely bound to Him, and we have assurance from Him that He is present in His Holy temple.

But even more than that, as Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians (6:19a): "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God." Our own bodies are to be temples of God. Our hearts are to be where Christ is found. If our heart is the Father's house, then does not Christ assure us that He will dwell therein?

Does He not tell us that if our body is the temple of the God (for the Holy Spirit IS God), that He will be present, speaking the Word of Truth in our hearts, communicating Himself in us?

Almighty Father,
Send your Son into our hearts,
And make them temples of the Holy Spirit,
That where we are, you may be found.
Bind us to yourself, and remain with us always.
This we ask in the name of your Son,
Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God,
Forever and Ever.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

De Metaphysicam Aristotelis


I think that one of the greatest poverties of our modern education is that we have taught ourselves that what is new is better than what is old, simply because it is new. And yet, one of the best ways to understand reality was expounded upon over 2000 years ago, by a Greek man named Αριστοτλε (Aristotle). Specifically, today, I am speaking of the "four causes" of Aristotle.

These four causes are:

  1. Formal
  2. Material
  3. Efficient
  4. Final

We're going to work through these today as a sort of groundwork for some other thoughts coming up. Let us begin, shall we?

It is important to keep in mind that we're not thinking of "cause" the way we normally would in English. We will brush the English definitions, but with the exception of the efficient cause, we're in somewhat foreign territory. As we go through these, it may be helpful to think of these causes as answers to questions about the nature of a thing.

The Formal Cause

The formal cause answers the question, "What form does it follow?" or, "What type of thing is it?" For example, let's take your grandpa's rocking chair. Let's say it's a Lay-Z-Boy, or equivalent. Well then, the formal cause is "furniture," or "chair," or perhaps, "rocking chair."

The Material Cause

The material cause answers the question: "What is it made of?" Keeping with the example from the last section, one could say that the material causes of this chair could be considered to be wood, metal, fabric, padding, the components of the chair.

The Efficient Cause

This cause is the one most cognate with the English word. The efficient cause is that which brings about the object, the chain of events which caused it to be. The efficient causes of this chair might include the laborer or machine which crafted it, the order for it from the showroom, things of that nature.

The Final Cause

Finally we come to the final cause, also know as the teleological cause (from the Greek Τελοσ - end). This answers the question, "What is it meant for?" In the case of our grandfather's rocking chair, the simple answer would be "for sitting," a more complex answer might be, "for providing a place to rest." Any final cause of a thing, however, is its purpose, what it is meant for.

As another example, let's take me. My formal causes include "human" and "male." My material cause is an embodied soul or an ensouled body, so a soul, flesh, bone, blood, et cetera. My efficient causes are my parents, and their parents, and their parents. Lastly, my final cause is God, that is to say, since we know that we were created to live in union with God, and that God is our end, God is our final cause, our finality, our purpose.

Now, I did say that the word "cause" here is not being used in the sense we normally associate with it; however, these usages do share a certain sense with their common cousin. Specifically, there is a sense of contingency - that the caused (that which is under investigation) depends upon the cause(s) for its existence. That is to say, the caused is contingent on the cause.

But what does that mean?

Basically, if you take a cause away, you take the thing away. Let's say there's no such thing as flesh and blood, no such thing as a soul. What am I then made of? I cannot exist because what I'm made of doesn't exist.

Take away my parents meeting, marrying and having me, I don't exist.

Take away such a thing as humanity, then I can't even be human, I am formless.

Take away my end, and while I may exist, I exist to no end. I am pointless.

We may begin to see here the dangerous game we play when we attempt to remove God from the equation. He is our proper (and only true & fruitful) end. Our lives are literally meaningless if not for him.

We will discuss more of the ramifications of this worldview in later posts, and will also be coming back to these ideas.

De Experientiam

I seem to be seeing more and more things recently which point me to the conclusion that we are losing touch with reality.

As I sit here composing my dirge to reality, I am playing Angry Birds HD Free on my iPad. Now, if I were to actually set up such a situation where I truly launched birds of varying colors at helpless pigs poised over their destruction, I would most certainly leave me daughter without a father for a protracted period of time. And yet, this little arcade game of Avian-Procine Bellicosity is one of the most popular - and most well known - apps for the various i-devices.

But it's not real, so it's okay. Problem, Angry Birds playing PETAns?

Even as I write this post, I am not actually writing. I am hitting keys laid out in an arbitrary pattern; little bits of plastic which trigger electrical impulses that are sent through a myriad of busses and buffers (and even through the air via Bluetooth), to cause little variations of the brightness of pixels in my screen. The thoughts are real, and the light shining in my face is real, but are the words real?

How real is virtual reality?

Don't get me wrong, I love computers. Well, more accurately I have a love-hate relationship with the blasted machines. Suffice it to say that at present, my livelihood - and by extension my family's - is dependent on my facility with them, and the programming thereof.

Still, doesn't it frighten you at least a little bit how much of our lives, our civilization, is dependent on electrical representations of 1s and 0s whizzing through wires (and the air)? Just sayin'

But in all seriousness, I pose the following question: In a world with increasing dependence on computers and other electronic technology, do we know what is real? Do we know how to interact with reality? How real is virtual reality?

Some of you may be wondering what bee got in my bonnet, what the efficient cause of this thought chain is.

To put it briefly, I fear that we are being trained to reason in the wrong direction.

For a culture which prides itself on being scientific - that is, observing reality and then deriving theories to explain it - we seem to thing that we can somehow start from the theories, to learn all there is to know from books, and then to develop our theories of society and governance without actually looking at reality.

I see by the glazed look in your eyes that I'm getting a little hypothetical. Let me exemplify.

  1. Item 1: I have recently been embrangled in a Facebook conversation (will I never learn?) in which one of the chief points of debate is the place and nature of experience, and knowledge gained thereof.

  2. Item 2: Whilst berating my... discussion... partner for not recognizing experience and its importance, I have managed to spectacularly fail at truly experiencing him through his posts so as to actually understand what he's trying to say, filtering them instead through how I would interpret them, and how wrong he must be. I'll give you two guesses how well that's gone, and the first doesn't count...

  3. Item 3: I have come upon one of the most well reasoned criticisms of the Post-Conciliar liturgy that I have yet heard - it is not the organic development it was meant to be, but rather was written theoretically, torn by those exploring theories of the ancient masses (i.e. before 300 A.D.), and those dissatisfied by the Church/Mass and wanting to make it bound ahead. So instead of the well reasoned and thought out Vernacular Mass that we are receiving this Advent, we received a Mass which was unfortunately a source of great confusion and sadness for many people. Many more knowledgeable than I have placed this at the foot of starting with theory and not reality.

So what's with this love affair with experience? Des Cartes put that to bed, didn't he? Cogito ergo sum and all that - I think, (and a thing that thinks exists), therefore I am. He claims that he was able to develop everything from there, but... Things fall apart.

The Cartesian essays which are often fodder for introductory philosophy classes follow his rejection of all things he's ever know to have fooled him as unreliable. He therefore relies solely on reason and seeks to build himself back up from there.

The thing is, reason still remains unproven. He trusts it because it has never failed him, but his memory has, and maybe it is now? How does he know that he is remembering correctly? Perhaps he has simply forgotten all of the times when reason failed?

Our senses tell us that what is attained by reason tends to match what we perceive in the external world. Our reason tells us things and reveals patterns about our observations. They work together, but are not the same thing.

Furthermore, even if we allowed the assumption that reason always works, that only means that reason is self consistent. It is a way that appears to describe the universe, but the maniac says the same thing about his theory that everyone is out to get him, and is able to put forth a quite consistent logic that adequately describes the events that are agreed to happen. To see an example read the chapter, "The Maniac" in G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy.

Now, I know, you're probably saying, "Well of course reason is self consistent, otherwise it wouldn't be very reasonable, would it? And isn't that a point in its favor?" Well, yes, it would be, except that self-consistency is not sufficient to prove a thing, by reason's own standards.

No, this doesn't disprove reason, and I'm not trying to do any such thing. However, reason is itself not sufficient, and even if it were sufficient in itself, it is unable to make the leap between the ego and the external world.

As obvious as it may sound, it takes an experience of the outside world to know that there is an outside world.

I guess the main point I'm trying to make is that we should always favor the real over the virtual, and seek the reality, the real things, the real people. Reality is good, it's a good place to live. There is value in academics and the abstract, in stories and fictional novels, but to paraphrase Morgan Freeman, we are not human doings, we are human beings.

My challenge to you this day is to experience your reality. Experience the air you are breathing. Experience the reality of other people present to you, with you. Touch reality, hold on and don't let go.

I suppose it's about time to wrap this post up. What I hope you take away from this is that while reason is a powerful tool, it is just that, a tool. It is a filter by which we undersand our experiences, but we must have those experiences. Experience reality today, you will be better for it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Where Have All the Good Men Gone?

It's official.

Men. Are. Pigs.

I know this gets screamed all the time by all different types, but in a number of cases, it is really and truly true.

Well, no, that's not quite true. To say that a man is a pig is a contradiction. We have become all too fond of denominating an adult male by use of the term "Man," but the truth of the matter is that it is not that simple. It is, unfortunately, not automatic.

Better to say that many who we call men are in fact not, but merely boys trapped in an adult body without the faculties necessary to have achieved the noble title of "Man."

Some of you may recognize the image above as from an ad campaign by Trojan™ condoms, which basically implied that a man was a pig unless he carried Trojan™ condoms on his person. This is because, of course, it's okay to intend to have sex with a woman you just met, after both of you have become mildly to extremely inebriated, so long as you have "protection."

Of course.

The only protection needed in those circumstances is a bottle of mace. Or a shotgun.

The astute observer will by this point have noted that that campaign is not exactly recent, and that there must be another impetus for this particular post, and they would be right. Because they are astute. Why don't we get together and call ourselves an institute?

Sorry, Paul Simon makes me happy.

I recently had to pull out the "It's time to stop the rape jokes, they're not funny" card in a group of personages who will remain more or less anonymous. This is, unfortunately, not the first time I have had to pull out this card with this group. The time before, one of the males in question made the assertion that another person was "raping" him, because they were on a team together and he had been told to take care of some administrative work for the team.

After he had repeated his protestation several times, to the effect of, "Seriously, what you're doing right now is basically raping me," I quite simply told him that that was not funny, and that it was time for him to stop. He didn't understand, protested that it's just a joke, to which I simply replied that I know too many women who have been raped to make any such joke funny. It is not funny. You should stop.

He kept asking me why I was getting angry with him, to which I replied that I am not - and I wasn't, really, any more than I would be angry with a puppy that hasn't been house trained, though the pressure was indeed building - and eventually had to resort to interrupting him every time he opened his mouth with, "<Name>, let's drop this. This conversation is over. Drop it."

Bad enough, but unfortunately not as bad as this afternoon.

The discussion of several of these personages, the young male involved in the above encounter included, drifted to their current respective stocks of alcohol, and the uses thereof, which then led to this aforementioned young male expounding upon his technique for hooking up with freshmen:
So, basically, this is how I hit on them <approaches another guy to use as an example, putting his arms around the other's shoulders>, and then I say, "Let's go back to my place, I've got a hot tub," but then by the time we get there, I don't have a hot tub, but it doesn't matter, because she's forgotten why she came in the first place, so she thinks she just came with me for everything else.
After making it clear to him in no uncertain terms what I thought of that, he defended himself, saying that he was getting drunk too, and those girls made the decision to go to that party and get drunk. Others of the young males defended him in this, blaming these young ladies, because obviously these males in question wouldn't be doing this if these girls weren't showing up at these parties drunk.

No. No. No. No, No, NO, NO!!!!!!!

Even granting that these young ladies are making poor choices, I allowed, do you not see your own hand in building this situation? Do you not see how you are enabling this? If you recognize it as not good, then why are you being a part of it? If she is that drunk, she is too drunk to give consent. If she is that drunk you cannot assume consent.

At some point during this conversation I told the young initiator of this line of discussion, "So basically, as the father of a daughter, you're the type of man I'll be coming after with a shotgun."

They agreed, but continued to defend themselves. After all, it is my responsibility to not raise a slut for a daughter, they said, also referencing Chris Rock: "Daddies, it's your job to keep your daughters off the pole."

And you know what, they are absolutely right, it is absolutely my responsibility to raise a daughter who has too much self worth to even interact with this type of cretin.

But what about the daughters who had no fathers, or whose fathers were abusive <insert appropriate sentiment here />? You acknowledge that their "daddy issues" are a brokenness, but more over say that it makes them fair game?

You are not men. Not even boys, because boys at least have some innocence. You are predators. You prey on the weak who you should be defending, defending them even against themselves.

You claim that it is not your fault while you objectify women, making it clear that the type of woman you want to be with is one who is hot and puts out. Are you truly so blind to your part in this? Let those with eyes see.

It used to be that courage, honor, valor, integrity, these were the things that made you a man.

It seems that to today's society, what makes a man is the condom.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New Contact Info

As promised, I am posting to let you know I have updated the discussion page.

New contact information for blog related communication.

As you were.


East Meets West

So as many of you know, I've got a bit of a background in the martial arts. Specifically, I hold a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and orange belt in Hapkido, have studied under both the WTF and ATA styles of Taekwondo, and have had exposure to (seminars or integrated into other martial arts training) Judo, Kungfu, Kumdo, and Systema.

I have also had the honor of serving as an instructor at under Masters Hegland & Shilkaitas, from whom I earned my degree, and as a TA for Grandmaster Yong Chin Pak, who truly is a legend. My dad started teaching me Taekwondo when I was 9, so you could say I've basically grown up around the martial arts.

As many of you also know, I have a keen interest in Theology and Philosophy. My dad pointed out to me (some time ago) that one of the things he enjoyed the most about Taekwondo in college was how the tenets taught by Grandmaster Pak, reflected the way of behaving in which we are trained in our Christian faith; Courtesy, Integrity, Self Control, Perseverance, and Indomitable Spirit.

A warning here, there a few major ways in which eastern religions/philosophies tend to fall away from the truth; Contradiction, nihilism, determinism, and "emptying yourself."

In brief, logic - a product of the west - is founded upon the principle of non-contradiction. That is, one cannot say that a statement (the ball is green) and its opposite (the ball is not green) can both be true at the same time. Many eastern philosophies reject this notion, which draws in a great number of mystic-type pseudo-theologians, but really prevents and real progress from ever being made in any direction, philosophically speaking.

Secondly, with regard to nihilism and determinism, a number of philosophies espouse a total negation or destruction of the self, and promote the concept of a re-incarnation cycle in which we live countless lives until we "get it right."

Along with the issue of nihilism, the Zen concept of emptying yourself can be dangerous if one is not careful. While there is nothing wrong with meditation - in can be very healthy for mind, body, and soul - there are many ways it can be perverted. As a contrast, in Christianity, when one empties oneself, it is for the express purpose of being filled by Christ. We decrease that He might increase, as John the Baptist said. If we simply empty ourselves without any intention, we can open ourselves in dangerous ways.

But all that aside, as far as the way of behaving is concerned, the same basic tenets seem to appear between east and west, and there is a strong tradition of mysticism from the east, which we honestly sometimes lose in todays techno-centric world.

The point I'm getting at is that I have long admired the warrior monks, albeit their much romanticized film versions. The concept of drawing closer to the truth while honing your body appeals to me though I am not very physical myself. Something with the phrase "mens sana in corpore sano" - a healthy mind in a healthy body.

To that end, I have wondered for some time now about what it would be like to start a Catholic order of warriors. Maybe it's a guy thing, but there is a simple and profound closeness and contentment in struggling against another with nothing but your own wits and skills. And there is a truth that when your mind is the master of your body, it is freed to attain nobler pursuits than before, when it is not always fighting for dominance.

I need to find them again, but I composed a series of prayers related to the 8 elements of the Palgwe and Taegeuk form sets taught in the WTF. They have yet to be reviewed by a priest, but my thought was to have them integrated with the forms, so that the practice of the form becomes itself a prayer, a physical expression of love for God by the utilization and maintenance of His temple.

The training would be... interesting. I'm contemplating making the training itself in Latin, though I lean towards the Korean in which I learned the techniques, or English because the rest will be hard enough already. Students would learn not just the physical, or even the mental and spiritual which is currently taught, but more, training in classical forms, hand to hand self defense, sport sparring, weapons, and of course Theology and Philosophy.

The outcome: The Philosopher Warrior. They are gentle, not because they are weak, but because they withhold their strength. They are humble not because they lack in ability, but because they know their ability is a gift, and a responsibility to be used in the service of others. They seek the truth, in word and in act, purifying thought by the sweat of their brow, bonding with each other over the clash of words and the clash of blows.

Their minds are honed into weapons of truth, seeking out what is right in charity and compassion. Their bodies are healthy, strong, able to defend others, clean temples of the Holy Spirit, contemplating the mystery of Christ's Sacred humanity while they discover their own.

Plus, with the end coming 2012*, wouldn't you rather be roaming the post-apocalyptic plains of the midwest with a band of Catholics survivalists?

* N.B. I don't actually believe the end of the world is in 2012. I don't know when it is.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Fourth Joyful Mystery

Him Whom You Presented in the Temple
The Presentation

The Fourth Joyful Mystery can be somewhat of a challenge for me, honestly.  It's the one right after the Nativity.  We already had the High Holy Day of the mysteries come up, and now we're just walking back and forth, and doing some stuff according to the law, and... Well, sometimes it just feels like the day after Christmas.  Nice, but nothing too special.

That couldn't be further from the truth.

The beauty of the presentation is that not only is it a sign of how Christ comes as a fulfillment of the law, but also because it is in a way the first unveiling, the first time that he is presented in public in the scriptures.  

"But what about the night of the nativity?" you ask.  "What about the shepherds, and the Magi?"

Well, by analyzing scripture, the Magi did not come until at least 41 days after the birth of Christ, after the presentation.  We know this because the presentation occurred after the days of purification for mother and child were completed, which Leviticus 12:2-4 numbers at 40.  

More than that, Matthew tells that the night the Magi came to pay Christ homage, Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt at the command of an angel, which means they came after the presentation had been accomplished.

As for the Shepherds, they're a pretty small group, and not really what we would think of as the "general public" per se.  So aside from them and maybe the family who Joseph and Mary may have been staying with, the presentation at the temple really is the first time that Jesus is presented to the world.

That's what makes this a big deal.

So it is that we come to the Temple, the Mosaic prescription for their purification having been satisfied.  Remember how important the first born was to this culture, especially the first born male?  He was the one who would become the head of the family one day.  He was the one spared during the Passover when every other first born male in Egypt died.

More than that, that practice was a prefigurement of this very event.  It was a part of Jewish custom so that in the fulness of time, when the only-begotten Son of the Father, the first born of all creation was born as a human, he would be consecrated to the Lord in his sacred humanity.  

Here we are in the Temple, " present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, «Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord...»" (Luke 2:23).  This is where Mary gives us her son, brings him to us in public for the first time, and it is here that something very special happens, described by Luke 2:25-35:
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him.  It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord.  He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
"Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel." 
The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, 
"Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
His words are considered so important that they are called the Canticle of Simeon, or the Nunc Dimittis, after the first two words in Latin (Now you dismiss), and is included in Compline (Night Prayer) in the Liturgy of the Hours.  However, what I'd really like to focus on for the remainder of this post is the last part, which he says to Mary directly.

"Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted, (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

If you have ever seen the image of two hearts side-by-side, both radiant and on fire, one wrapped in a crown of thorns and the other pierced by a sword, this is why.  They are the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  In this passage, Simeon is foretelling the sorrow of Mary to see her son crucified, to stand at the foot of the cross, offering Him to His eternal Father.

So we too ask that as our mother, given to us through John at the foot of the cross, would present us and consecrate us to the Lord.  One very beautiful way to do this is to complete the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary according to Sr. Louis de Montfort.  I can't vouch for every opinion on this site, but it does have some great resources, including this guide to the devotion.

Mary, our Mother,
Whose heart was pierced by a sword of sorrow,
Reveal the contents of our hearts and minds.

Show us where we fail to live
As children who have been presented to the Father
By our baptism.

Pray for us to your Son
That seeing our failings, we may bring them to Him,
to live the abundance of life which He promised.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thoughts in the Desert

We are in the midst once more of the penitential season of Lent.  Having just celebrated the 3rd Sunday, we look forward to Laetare Sunday this coming weekend, laetare being of course the Latin for, "O be glad!" or "Rejoice!"

However, that is not really the focus of my thoughts this day.  That being said, there is much value in reflecting on the fact that the Church is telling us to rejoice in our time of penance, to anoint our head with oil rather than look gloomy as the hypocrites do when we fast. 

When I was originally preparing to give this reflection several years ago, I really wanted to know what Lent is, aside from the fasting and the penance and the purple.  While I didn't have words for it then, what I knew I could see was the Way of Behaving, but I wanted to know what was the Way of Life which was the real point.

The first thing I looked to was the origin of the word "Lent."  That's pretty easy, it's from a word meaning "Spring," simply naming the season in which the Season falls.  Not sure where to turn next, I looked at the characteristics of Lent, namely the fact that it is 40 days long.

Now, many of you will note than if you tally the days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, the total is greater than 40.  Sundays are feast days, and are Sundays in Lent, not of it.

Okay, so what's so important about 40?  

If you know anything about the significant numbers in the bible, you have likely heard that 40 is a number denoting a penance.  40 days and 40 nights of rain.  40 years in the desert.  It's almost like the base unit of measurement when Israel gets put in timeout...

All joking aside, let us look to some examples of these 40 days of penance in the scripture.  They are numerous, so let's look at just a few.

The first one lands us with Moses.  He has gone up the mountain and received the tablets of the law, only to return and find that his own brother Aaron has made for the people a golden calf, to which he is leading the people in worship!  

Having broken the original tablets and destroyed the calf, he has pleaded to God and is now again upon the mountain, receiving the tablets once more.  It is here that something truly remarkable happens, as recounted by Exodus 34:28-29.

The next encounter I found was with the prophet Elijah.  You can read the background here.  At the end of chapter 18 of the first book of Kings, we find the great story of Elijah slaughtering the prophets of Baal.  You know, the one where he taunts them, saying, "Call louder, perhaps your God is taking a nap?"  I love that story...

In fear of his life, Elijah runs into the desert, seeking death (1 Kings 19:3&4).  It is there that an angel appears, twice waking him to give him a jug of water and hearth cake, tell him both times, "Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!"

Strengthened by this food, he then walks for 40 days and 40 nights to the mountain of God - Horeb, the same mountain upon which Moses received the Law (Sinai and Horeb are the same).  It is upon this mountain that Elijah experiences something like what Moses did - a manifestation of God.  (1 Kings 19:11-13a).

Again, the desert, the mountain, the fast, and the encounter with God.

The last fast of 40 days that I wish to look at is that of our Lord Himself, when he is tempted by Satan in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11).  Not only does Christ face the tempter himself and best him, he gives us an example of how our fasting strengthens us for spiritual combat, as man does not live by bread alone, but upon every word that comes from the mouth of God.

It is interesting to note here that God has only ever spoken one Word, the second person, the only-begotten Son.  One does not live by bread alone, but by the Word of God, the second person, in whom we live, move and have our being.

So the question now, is, what has all this been leading to?


The common theme among these stories of 40 day penances seem to always include the sinfulness of Man, a fast, a desert, a mountain, and an encounter with God.  For Noah, it was Ararat.  For Moses and the people of Israel, and for Elijah, it was Sinai (Horeb).  For us, it is the cross.

As the Brothers of St. John teach, the cross is the summit of revelation.  While His life of ministry teach us, there was no moment of more profound truth and beauty than the death of Our Lord.

Some would say that His teaching is the most important, but his teaching points to and is only meaningful through the crucifixion.  Some look to the resurrection, but that is only the inevitable once Christ gave up His life.  It's like pushing a ball filled with air below the surface of the water.  Its very nature is to rise, and so it is that LIFE cannot die.

At the cross, Christ gives Himself to us in the most profound way imaginable.  Our guilt as a race was so great that nothing we could possibly do would ever bridge the gap, so to save us, He came to be one of us, the Eternal Word made Flesh, who bore our sins in His Sacred Humanity, so that a gift only God could make could be given on behalf of humanity.  

This is the meaning of Lent, then.  It is the journey to the cross, the hill of Calvary, the summit of revelation.  It is the time when we purify ourselves in the desert of privation, through fasting, almsgiving and acts of penance.  We mortify ourselves that we might have the strength to enter into spiritual combat. 

Above all, we seek to ascend the mountain and truly encounter our God, to the point where we are truly transformed, our faces "radiant as the sun."  Lent is a time of mourning, for it is now that we are separated from our Bridegroom.  It is the time where we rend our hearts for the sins which we commit, the acts of selfishness in which we reject the most perfect gift to ever be given.  

We seek to come to the cross, to gaze upon Our Lord, and to truly be able to lift a pure heart in praise and thanksgiving to the One True Living God.


Give us the desire to seek for you.
Give us a thirst for the living waters.
May our Lenten disciplines be
Inflamed with your divine charity.

We beg of you.

Be with us in the desert,
Strengthen us in temptation,
Guide us to the Cross,
That we might come to know You,
The One True God.

All these things we ask of you, Father,
in the name of your only-begotten Son,
the eternal Word who was made flesh,
and whose sacrifice we ask to share in this Lent,
by the power of the Holy Spirit, 
You Who reign as One God,
Forever and Ever.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Joy of Life

In the left corner "Walk for Choice".

In the right corner, "Pro Life Flash Mob"

I'm not saying that every pro-lifer is an angel, or that every pro-choicer is a devil.  That said, there's a lot of bitterness and anger that comes about from this "healthy and safe" "medical" procedure.

John 15:11
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.
1 Corinthians 13:13
So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Where is the joy, the faith, the hope and the love (charity, caritas, αγαπε)?

It is not with those who seek to end innocent life, no matter how blinded they are to the evil they do.  It is not with those whose ends are selfish, or full of anger.

So next time you are blasted for holding the totally incomprehensible belief that life is worth living, worth saving, worth loving, hold fast to the knowledge that, "Whatsoever you did to the least of these, you have done unto me," "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied," "Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

But a warning, much like in the readings from Friday, where the one who was righteous committed evil acts and, "None of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered, because he has broken faith..." (Ezekiel 18:24b).  If we, who are walking in the truth act with anger, bitterness and hatred, we do more harm than good, because not only do we feed the anger of our mistaken brothers and sisters, but we also drive away those who are on the fence, or who only lean towards pro-life. 

Those who support abortion will be held to account, but how much more will we when we drive people to support abortion because we fail to be a joyful, faithful, hopeful and charitable people? 

The only way to defeat lies is with the truth in charity.  The only way to defeat anger and bitterness is through humility, charity, by having faith, and by living that faith (that is, to hope).

The only way to be authentically pro-life is to do as Christ says:
Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. (Matthew 5:16)
A sidenote before I leave you with a prayer, Erin and I are discerning what our sacrifices will be Until Abortion Ends.  Will you join us?

O Mary, Mother of the Life Within,
all life we entrust to you;
The life of every expectant mother
and the child within her womb:
The life of every human body,
the life of every human soul;
The life of every newborn child
and the life of all grown old.
You held the Lord to your own heart
and drew Him so close in.
So draw us now in all our needs,
O Mother of the Life Within.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lent and Ash Wednesday

Morning everyone, welcome to the season of Lent.  While it is not in fact a Holy Day of Obligation, I suspect that most of my Catholic readers will in fact take the amazing opportunity to begin this season with the Eucharist.  I was struck by the first reading for today, and I thought I would share it and a brief reflection. 

Joel 2:12-18.
Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting,
and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. For
gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting
in punishment.
Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing, Offerings and
libations for the LORD, your God.
Blow the trumpet in Zion! proclaim a fast, call an assembly;
Gather the people, notify the congregation; Assemble the elders, gather the
children and the infants at the breast; Let the bridegroom quit his room,
and the bride her chamber.
Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD,
weep, And say, "Spare, O LORD, your people, and make not your heritage a
reproach, with the nations ruling over them! Why should they say among the
peoples, 'Where is their God?'"
Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his
It seems, (and mind you, this perception is magnified by my temperament), that there is a movement out there to make Lent "happy."  I have heard exhortations that, "It's not just about giving things up, you could take something good up, too." While this is true, the implication sometimes seems to be that as opposed to a personal Lenten fast, one should have a personal Lenten good work.

There is nothing wrong with good works, good works are exemplary.  However, the readings don't say, "pick up litter on the ground when you see it."  They say, "Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning."

We would be wrong to neglect our sacrifices for the season of Lent.  Now is the time Christ spoke of in the Gospels when he said, "Soon enough their bridegroom be taken away from them, and then they shall fast."  

Now, that aside, there is a tremendous need to also do good works, they just must not replace our sacrifices.  Take this exhortation from Saint Peter Chrysologus:

Saint Peter Chrysologus (c.406-450), Bishop of Ravenna, Doctor of the Church
Sermon 8 ; CCL 24, 59 ; PL 52, 208 
Exercises for Lent: almsgiving, prayer, fasting
My dear brethren, today we set out on the great Lenten journey. So let us
take our food and drink along in our boat, putting onto the chest the
abundant mercy we shall need. For our fasting is a hungry one, our fasting
is a thirsty one if it isn't sustained by goodness and refreshed by mercy.
Our fasting will be cold, our fasting will flag if the fleece of almsgiving
doesn't clothe it, if the garment of compassion does not wrap it around.Brethren, what spring is for the land, mercy is for fasting: the
soft, spring winds cause all the buds on the plains to flower; the mercy of
our fast causes all our seeds to grow until they blossom and bear fruit for
the heavenly harvest. What oil is to the lamp, goodness is to our fast. As
the oily fat sets the lamp alight and, in spite of so little to feed it,
keeps it burning to our comfort all night long, so goodness makes our
fasting shine: it casts its beams until it reaches the full brightness of
self-restraint. What the sun is to the day, almsgiving is to our fast: the
sun's splendor increases the light of day, breaking through the dullness of
the clouds; almsgiving together with fasting sanctifies its holiness and,
thanks to the light of goodness, dispels from our desires anything that
could petrify. In short, what the body is for the soul, generosity acts
similarly for the fast: when the soul leaves the body it brings about
death; if generosity abandons the fast, it is its death. 
So do good, be generous, be merciful, and this will inflame your fasting, that our Heavenly Father may be pleased by the offering of a contrite heart, and give back to us the joy of his salvation.

I leave you with the words of today's Psalm:

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot 
out my offense. 
Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me. 
For I know my offense; my sin is always before me. 
Against you alone have I sinned; I have done such evil in your sight That 
you are just in your sentence, blameless when you condemn. 
A clean heart create for me, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit. 
Do not drive me from your presence, nor take from me your holy spirit. 
Restore my joy in your salvation; sustain in me a willing spirit. 
Lord, open my lips; my mouth will proclaim your praise.