Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Well, this week the Big Easy and Rio have one thing in common ~ one huge party. And what is so interesting it’s very Catholic. It’s a time to let your hair down before the strike of midnight on Ash Wednesday when we Catholics fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays during the six week Lenten season.
The root of the word “CARnival is the same as the word “inCARnation”~ a word that means the enfleshment of the Son of God.
Now here’s a bit of carnival or Mardi Gras history for you.
A carnival is a celebration combining parades, pageantry, folk drama, and feasting, usually held in Catholic countries during the weeks before Lent. The term Carnival probably comes from the Latin word “carnelevarium”, meaning “to remove meat.” Typically the Carnival season begins early in the new year, often on Epiphany, January 6, and ends in February on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French).
Probably originating in pagan spring fertility rites, the first recorded carnival was the Egyptian feast of Osiris, an event marking the receding of the Nile’s flood water. Carnivals reached a peak of riotous dissipation with the Roman BACCHANALIA and Saturnalia.
In the Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church tried to suppress all pagan ideas, it failed when it came to this celebration. The Church incorporated the rite into its own calendar as a period of thanksgiving. Popes sometimes served as patrons.
The nations of Europe, especially France, Spain, and Portugal, gave thanks by throwing parties, wearing masks, and dancing in the streets. All three colonizing powers carried the tradition with them to the New World, but in Brazil it landed with a difference. Not only did the Portuguese have a taste for abandoned merriment, (they brought the “entrudo”, a prank where merrymakers throw water, flour, face powder, and many other things at each other’s faces), but the Negro slaves also took to the celebration. They would smear their faces with flour, borrow an old wig or frayed shirt of the master, and give themselves over to mad revelry for the three days. Many masters even let their slaves roam freely during the celebration. Since the slaves were grateful for the chance to enjoy themselves, they rarely used the occasion as a chance to run away.
Pre-Christian, medieval, and modern carnivals share important thematic features. They celebrate the death of winter and the rebirth of nature, ultimately recommitting the individual to the spiritual and social codes of the culture. Ancient fertility rites, with their sacrifices to the gods, exemplify this commitment, as do the Christian Shrovetide plays. On the other hand, carnivals allow parody of, and offer temporary release from, social and religious constraints. For example, slaves were the equals of their masters during the Roman Saturnalia; the medieval feast of fools included a blasphemous mass; and during carnival masquerades sexual and social taboos are sometimes temporarily suspended.
Tomorrow: Why Ashes on Ash Wednesday?
May I suggest that by Wednesday morning to try be ready to enter into a deeper journey into your inner depths to discover our Lord and at the same time your deeper Self. Be ready to experience new life, new growth for your self — and for our country. God knows we need it at this time.
Today we let our hair down a bit and when the the fun is over,
may we be ready to enter the desert on Wednesday with you
and discover how desert experiences can cleanse and purify us and make us whole.
Let us enter the desert willingly and learn its lessons well.
We ask you, Lord, to lead the way.
But, before you go, here’s a musical slide show of what a Carnival parade is like down in Rio. Click here. Be sure to enter full screen. (Ladies: Let your husbands have some fun. It’s not ~ um ~ exactly R rated.)
Today is Presidents’ Day. It’s always celebrated on the third Monday of February, but it originally was meant to mark George Washington’s birthday on the 22nd. It’s come to honor all presidents, past and present.
We’ve had some great ones, and some turkeys too, as some of us of various political persuasion will argue over several beers into the wee hours.
But our present times are difficult ones. I doubt that hardly anyone would argue that these times are not times of uncertainty. Mr. Trump has had a hard go of it so far, though he has been reluctant to admit. So, I went back to two old articles I had written on “Coping with Uncertainty” that turned out to be quite prescient at both times they were written.
The first was published on September 1, 2001. Ten days later we entered uncertain times indeed. The second, published in September 2008, proved to warn of the economic meltdown to come a few months later, especially the mortgage crises that forced so many people out of their homes.
What I am wondering at this point is: What are we in store for in 2017 -18 and . . . ? I, for one, do not feel particularly safe or secure at present; I don’t know about you. I just offer the following for your reflection and encourage you not to put your head in the sand. Wake up and pay attention! And above all, get down on your knees and pray!
Here is the article I wrote in September 2008 while George Bush was still in office and Barack Obama was not yet elected.
The Gospel teaches that . . .
. . . you never know. You never know what tomorrow will bring. Or for that matter, what the next moment will bring. The stability that you and I have acquired could be cut from under us at any moment.
How well do we face uncertainty?
How will we cope if we are hit by a hurricane or a tornado or a fire or a flood, or if we face foreclosure on our home? Sudden events, such as a car accident, a heart attack, a natural disaster, or the threat of terrorism can confront us with stress on every level. Many of us have great difficulty dealing with the uncertainties and insecurities of life. We can be filled with worry and anxiety.
Some of us, however, find some level of security in the midst of insecurity. Some of us roll with the punches better than others. We plod along not sure what will happen next. The ones who will be OK are those who are prepared. Who are always ready for life to change on a dime.
“To be at ease is to be unsafe.”
~ John Henry Cardinal Newman
Recently (back in the fall of 2008) I have been getting to know some homeless people. I admire and respect the ones I have met because they look out for each other. My whole perspective on my own worries has completely changed as a result. It has led me to profound gratitude and real compassion. I thought long and hard what it would be like to be homeless. And then I realized there are going to be many, many more.
Note this from The Miami Herald — 9/20/2008: “The Bush administration [proposed] an unprecedented bailout of the financial sector that will cost taxpayers ‘hundreds of billions of dollars.’ It jolted the markets for a day, but questions remained about whether the bold efforts would actually work. The truth is no one knows. America and its financial markets haven’t been down this road before.”
Our economy is based on the premise that we should buy, buy, buy – sell, sell, sell. It is not a godly economy. In my opinion, our present American society is not a healthy one. In order for our economy to work we are constantly prodded to buy stuff. And the more we buy, the deeper in debt we get. Foolish. Insane, actually.
Many will not be able to cope. But what will be a great grace, some will find God and turn to the one only God and away from the false idols of a material rather than a spiritual way of life. They will have the opportunity perhaps for the first time to find meaning and love and authentic relationships. They will come to understand what life is for. Many will find Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Hopefully, it will bring us and our nation to its senses.
What will happen next? To you? To your job? To your family? To your bank? (hundreds of banks are at risk.) The bailout (so far) is only for the rich. The elderly who are living on 401k’s and IRAs are very much at risk. The bailout will not help them. ( Remember, I wrote this in 2008; what will we all be facing in 2018?)
No human being can know for certain what the next moment will bring. Uncertainty is just part of life. No matter what, we can be assured, if we have some faith and hope, that the presence of God in our life will give us the strength and the courage to hang on and hang in. God will give us the grace and the resources to deal with any life situation, though it may be difficult or not to our liking.
We need to look for certainty and security on a deeper level.
It would seem that having a sense of the presence of God in our life will give us a foundation that is not so easily shaken by uncertainty. The scriptures present Jesus as the one who can quiet the storms of life (Matthew 8:23-27); He can be the Rock, the foundation on which our life is built.
People who have a desperate need to control their own or other peoples’ lives will have the most difficulty with uncertainty or insecurity. (This has been true of some of our Presidents too, with some agonizing consequences.)
But control is ultimately an illusion. We are, in reality, not in control, for at the very next moment, we might have a fatal heart attack with not even a second more to arrange our lives. Thus, we perhaps take for granted that we have a secure home where most everything is predictable, that we have a place where we can relax and feel safe. We are drawn to be deeply grateful for the good-ordering of our lives. Profound thanks are in order when everything is working together for good.
Failing to accept life on life’s terms can cause anxiety and depression whereas hope takes the bite out of uncertainty. Through thirty years of learning to cope with bipolar illness I have learned to keep going . . . no matter what. I call you, my reader, to the same faith and hope and love in every moment of your life. Only God can provide the security we need in uncertain times.
Jesus taught his disciples to accept uncertainty as something valuable. He told them “Take nothing on your journey but a walking stick — no food, no traveling bag, not a coin in purse” (Mark 6: 8-9). He wants his disciples to not place ultimate security in things (a warm tunic or some coins in your purse) but to find security in a well-lived, lifelong, open and trusting relationship with God.
For fifteen months now I have been calling us to repent of our sins of complacency and greed and idolatry and lust for power and preoccupation with hate and fear and violence that permeates our society (again I was writing in 2008, but certainly the words apply to America today.) Every day I pray that God restore our beloved country to shining beacon on a hill we once were. I just invite you, I implore you: Let us get down on our knees and restore our nation’s relationship with God and justice for all races and peoples in our land of immigrants and indigenous people.
“God is our refuge and our strength, an ever present help in distress. Therefore we fear not, though the earth be shaken and mountains plunge into the sea. . . The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” (Ps 46)
And now, my prayer . . . .
Good and gracious God,
we come before you today to ask your blessing
upon this vast and great land of ours.
We are grateful that our republic has stood safe for 241 years now.
And so, we ask your continued blessing upon us.
Please bless President Trump and all elected and government officials
that they would have the best interests of all of the people in mind and heart.
Let there peace at home and peace throughout the world.
For Yours, O God, is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.
And now, before you go, here’s Pete Seeger and a Chorus singing “This Land is Your Land on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
Flagler Beach Florida sunrise / bob traupman.
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, EVERYONE!
We’ve been reflecting on St. Paul’s eloquent words about love from I Cor. 13. And this is my final post on the subject.
Love is not pompous, it is not inflated,it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
Romantic love wears off in a few months. True love requires fidelity. I often remember people I met briefly twenty or thirty years ago and there is still a place in my heart for them, even those who were adversaries. And when I think of them I believe my prayer is able to touch them now, either living or dead and let them know I still love them.
We think we know all about love but Love is an Art and a Discipline to be learned and acquired by trial and error. As such, we have to learn how to love. Or perhaps unlearn what we have learned in abusive homes or families and find people who can teach us well. I am profoundly grateful for the people who allowed my soul to unfold and blossom because of their love.
When I taught high school seniors (47 years ago!) I had them read two books, Erich Fromm’s Art of Loving and Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Both books still should be required reading by anyone who wants to become a whole and healed human person.
Many of us keep focusing on finding the right object of our love. Fromm — and Jesus — tell us that being a person who is capable of loving the stranger in the checkout line at the 7-11 or your sibling whose guts you can’t stand is the way we will learn to love.
Love is being free to love the one you’re with so you can be with the one you love.
It is just not possible to love some and hate others. St. John says, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.”
Love is being able to see and respond to the loving energy of the universe and spread it around instead of trying to possess it for oneself.
Love is faithfully loving whomever God puts in our life at every turn of our life’s journey. A hard task sometimes. I know.
Been there. Done that. And still doing it. But that’s what growth in love and Christian spirituality is all about.Sometimes it requires a heroic effort and sacrificial love ~ the love of Jesus, the Love of God for us. And so here’s my final prayer for this Valentine’s Day . . . .
Good and gracious God,
We live in a world that gives us so few models of faithful love.
Help us to learn the art and discipline of loving.
Help us to understand that we cannot love one person — even ourselves — unless we let love — rather than hate — flow from our heart to touch and heal and nourish those around us.
Heal us, Lord.
Let us trust in You for you are the Source of all Love,
Your Love is flowing like a river giving life to everything along the way.
May love flow like a river from our own hearts to everyone we meet this day.
And now before you go, wouldn’t you like to hear a romantic melody for your beloved? Well, here’s a very unique one: Cold Play’s True Love Click here.
And here is the entire text of St. Paul’s Ode to Love (I Cor. 13) Savor each line and see how you measure up. . . .
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains
but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous,
Love is not pompous, it is not inflated,
it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never fails.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.
I Corinthians 13
Dear Friends and Lovers everywhere,
I had a delightful conversation with these two good people from Tennessee a few summers ago while I was living in St. Augustine. They were sitting on the curb behind the Village Inn Restaurant. The conversation began with a polite reprimand to the dude for throwing a cigarette butt on the ground. (Actually, I don’t think you call a young man from Tennessee a dude, do you?) I care for the planet that supports my every step and I try my best to show respect and reverence to her and gently persuade others to do the same.
As a writer, I am interested in people’s stories. And the conversation became quite up close and personal quite quickly. They told me a bit of each of their stories. About their work and school and families. The young lady was still in high school. They were thinking about getting married. I was quite impressed with these young folks. Salt of the earth folks.
Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. So, what is LOVE? I’m interweaving two threads into today’s blog – the themes What is Love? and What is Life? The two provide the tapestry of a life well-lived. If we seek life and love every day – if we choose to turn away from hateful words and thoughts and the cruel deeds that spouses and jilted lovers throw at each other in cruel text messaging, we will find both. Love and Life.
There’s all kinds of love, you know. There’s romance that is the kind that pervades the soaps, People and InTouch magazines. There’s erotic love. There’s brotherly (or sisterly) love, the love of friends, neighborly love. And there’s sacrificial love. That’s the kind that Jesus has for us and those who serve others. There’s conditional and unconditional love. There’s love that isn’t love at all.
Remember Erich Fromm whom I referenced his little book The Art of Loving last week? Here are a couple of quotes of his that you might find interesting . . . .
Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says ‘I need you because I love you.’
In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.
Only the person who has faith in himself is able to be faithful to others.
And so, I offer you a practical suggestion so that make your own meaning.
At day’s end, reflect on the positive things — even the tiny little things in a chaotic, insane day. Where was the LOVE? Where was the LIFE?
Take a moment. Reflect on your day. Pick two incidents, however fleeting, however small that you might have missed at the time. Savor them for a moment as you get ready for bed.
Those are the moments in which God is speaking to you!
Be ready to receive into your life and your heart the little moments of LIFE and LOVE that do happen even in on the craziest or most depressing day.
It is not the destination that is important; life and love happen on the way!
And . . . God bless you, my two young friends from Tennessee. It was an honor and a joy to talk with you. Maybe you’re married now ~ to each other or to somebody else. But I hope you finished high school. Have a wonderful life — both of you and each of you.
Before you go , if you’ve got a ramblin’ boy in your life or in your soul, here’s Dave Loggin’s famous song about the Man from Tennessee ~“Please Come to Boston”~ with beautiful images to carry your soul away, if just for a moment on love’s nostalgia and grace. Have a great day!
We’ve been talking about St. Paul’s Ode to Love (1 Corinthians 13) ~ the awesome love that transforms.
But many of us don’t know how to love in a way that transforms because we’re more interested in getting love than giving it.
So, let’s think about that for a moment.
Many young folks in our society have not experienced the love that transforms, even from their own parents or their spouses. Very often, their relationships center on their own needs, even when they’re “giving” to their significant other.
But in order to love in a transforming way, we have to loved in a way that frees us.
So I ask you ~
Who are the people in your life who were able to recognize the YOU inside you?
Who-knew-who-you-were behind the mask you present to the world each day?
Who are the people who recognized-your-gifts and called-them-forth-from-the-deep-within-you?
Who-drew-forth-the-goodness-they-saw-in-you when what you were presenting to the world you thought wasn’t very good at all?
That’s love that transforms! That heals. That gets us going again. That moves us down the road a bit.
At this moment I want to name one such man who has had an enormous influence on my life. He is Father Eugene Walsh. We used to call him Gino. He was the rector of my seminary the year I was preparing for ordination. He was a Father-figure for me and a mentor; I learned most of what I know about the sacred liturgy from him.
I had the good fortunate to get on his short list to have him as my spiritual director. He had a way of listening deeply below the level of my words.
I remember one night in his study. We were sitting across from each other in two easy chairs. I was always intrigued that the wall behind him was bright orange with a large abstract painting on it. I was struggling that night about whether I would proceed toward ordination.
Of a sudden, he sprung from his chair, hugged me and whispered in my ear my name ~ Bob ~ and I heard it resonate for the longest time. His voice found me ~ some place deep within and called me forth.
I can still hear him calling me ~ right now. At that moment, his deep, resonating love ~ transformed me. Affirmed me, confirmed me. (I’ll start writing very soon about my priesthood and my bipolar journey and I will tell the story of this wonderful man and the many others who influenced and shaped my life over the years; there are many; and I am grateful to each and every one.)
More than any other person, there is Jesus; I try to be like him. He was so human. He teaches me how to be a human being, above all. To be a simple, decent, human being. And to be human, most of all, is to be capable of loving and receiving love. The same was true of Father Walsh.
And that’s what I’ve always taught: Sin is the refusal Of love, the refusal To love, as well as the refusal to grow and the refusal to give thanks.
So ask yourself: Who are the people who really knew who you were on the inside, accepted you as you are–the good and the bad–and called you forth to be the best person you could be?
Why don’t you reflect on this through the day — while you’re driving, sitting on the john or doing the dishes. Give thanks for them. And maybe give them a call. Not an email; a phone call.
And finally, I want to honor the two-love birds in the picture above. They are John and Betsy Walders of Sebastian, Florida. John passed away in November 2015. They were married for sixty-six years and were as much in love as the day they met in childhood. (Take note that they’re both wearing denim in this picture I took of them a couple of years ago.) In their eighties they went on a serendipitying wonder trip around the country, quite oblivious to the fact that they weren’t teenagers anymore! The joy and memory of all those years sustains Betsy as she witnessed her beloved withdraw into Alzheimer’s. Asked if they ever considered a divorce, she thought a moment and said, “Divorce, no, murder, yes!”
I love them dearly and miss visiting, but Betsy and I talk and have many a laugh on the phone every couple of weeks. She’s now 91 and I pray every night ~ as I do for some other friends ~ to alleviate her loneliness.
But spouses who’ve lost their loved ones still remember them on Valentine’s Day, don’t they?
let us love one another because love is of God;
everyone who is begotten of God has knowledge of God.
No one has ever seen God.
Yet if we love one another
God dwells in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. (1 Jn 4:7, 12)
Dear Friends, see if you can make this prayer your own ~
Good and gracious God,
You are the One most of all who has loved me into wholeness,
who is calling me forth to be the best person I can be,
calling me not so much to want to be loved as to love.
I thank you for sending people into my life who, even for a brief moment,
have touched me deep within and helped to transform me into a more deeply loving person.
Help me always to be a person who is capable of transforming love.
And now, before you go, here’s a hymn based on St. Paul’s Ode to Love: Click Here. It’s soft and lovely, so be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
mesa verde national park of southern colorado / march 2008 / bob traupman.