My bucket list, and how you can help

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I’m middle aged.  This means that I’ve already squandered at least half my chances to check items off my bucket list. Actually more than that, several things on my list are unavailable to minors.

To keep it concise, here are some items I would like to cross off.

  1. Ride in the Goodyear blimp. Goodyear is about to convert its fleet of blimps to dirigibles, so this is an urgent matter. I ask any of my friends with a direct line to Goodyear public relations the help me make this happen.
  2. Skydive. This one is simple. But I’m a pretty large guy and have the little voice inside my head saying that the parachute couldn’t handle it.
  3. Get a bad ass tattoo of St. Michael driving a sword through Satan’s head. I can’t decide if it would be in color or where I’d get it.
  4. Travel to Ireland
  5. Travel to the Vatican
  6. Buy a nice bit of land somewhere in the country with a little cabin and some water to fish in.
  7. Fly in a WWII fighter plane
  8. Kick the winning field goal in the Super Bowl. (OK – that’s not going to happen, see next item)
  9. See the Browns field goal kicker kick the winning field goal in the Super Bowl.
  10. Hit the winning home run in the World Series. (Sigh -see the next item)
  11. See the Indians win the World Series

So there you have it, the things I’d like to experience before departing this life. I don’t really expect my blog readers to help with any items other than #1. If you happen to be a member of the Cleveland Indians, the Cleveland Browns or a tattoo artist let’s talk.

What I learned this Lent

Now that Lent has passed I can post here again. No, I did not give up posting at my blog for Lent. For a moment there I tried to fool you but bearing false witness is highly discouraged somewhere.

What I REALLY gave up was saying “That’s what she said” and drinking all soda. I did not have any problem at all forgoing the soda. Was only tempted a couple of times and I didn’t give in to the allure of sweet sweet aspartame. I’m not guzzling the stuff like I used to and I’m happy about it. I’d say I am proud of it, but pride is also discouraged.

The TWSS vow was harder to keep. I did well, but could not resist on some occasions. I know this nearly unconscious involuntary utterance is a bad habit not fitting the mature adult father and husband I am. I might mention that I was using that phrase long before The Office was on television. It was habitual even in my college days. I do think I was set up a couple of times by people who new I was avoiding that joke who fed me perfect lines.

What I learned this Lent? I can control what goes in my mouth better than what comes out of it.

Sinners with dirty faces

Friends, I promise you that this blog will not post exclusively about religion, but it is Ash Wednesday so bear with me for another day.

You know what the most obvious thing about Ash Wednesday is, right? It is the one day every year that Catholics (like myself) can be easily identified because of the black ashes on their foreheads plain as the nose on your face.

Hopefully, we are all being great Witnesses (in the pre-LeBron sense) and you can tell we joyfully live our faith every day. But being realistic, today it is really easy to point out the Catholics. They will know we are Catholics by our smudge.

Another well-known practice is that Catholics are required to fast on Ash Wednesday. It is a pretty moderate fast, in the spectrum of fasting. It basically boils down to “Eat Sensibly”. But still, we throw a big bit of dirt on our face when we fast today.

Here is the kicker; the Gospel reading every year is the same – Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 which contains:

And when you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face; 18 that you appear not to men to fast, but to your Father who is in secret: and your Father who sees in secret, will repay you.

I’ve asked a couple priests and I’ve heard more than 30 homilies, yet I still can’t wrap my mind around why we do this. I admire our Church for giving us this opportunity to challenge ourselves every year, but it still strikes me as odd.  If you’ve heard or read a really great explanation of this particular theological puzzle, let me know.

(And not to be uncharitable to my separated brethren, please don’t use this opportunity to try and convert me, thanks!)

And when you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face; 18 that you appear not to men to fast, but to your Father who is in secret: and your Father who sees in secret, will repay you.

Ashes Eve

The liturgical season of Lent begins tomorrow, so of course that means many of us will be “giving up” something. I have about seven gallons of carbonated beverage in my gullet, as of midnight I will forgo soda until Easter Sunday. I have a built-in support group at work as several of us are taking a “40 Day Challenge”.

The 40 Day Challenge is, of course, derived from Lenten atonement albeit by several degrees of separation. I didn’t point out that if you are really doing something to improve yourself for the next forty calendar days, you will have finished the challenge before Easter.  But you can’t really ask a secular workplace to get into the arcane details of Catholic tradition.

In fact, the mere hint of giving something up for forty days that happens to coincide with Lent brought out comments from some folks who claim to be still recovering from Catholic guilt brought on by attending Catholic grade school. When overhearing someone younger than me claim this, I had to bite my tongue. Catholic grade schools have not been drumming in the lifelong guilt trip since sometime before I attended them.

Biting my tongue will also come in handy for my other officially posted 40 Day Challenge. I shall refrain from the comment “That’s what she said!”

So starting tomorrow, I’ll be soda-deprived with a sore tongue. Bring it ON!

Opening Days

Time to return to blogging. This is about the fourth or fifth post in which I’ve had to say that. Actually I don’t have to say that,  but I feel compelled to do so.

Two new seasons are near upon us, Lent and baseball. Lent’s opening day is Ash Wednesday. Baseball’s Opening Day is a bit later. Given this confluence of two important aspects of my life, I’ve decided to update the banner at the top of this blog. I took the picture at Progressive Field before a Mass held there last fall. It was odd to attend Mass at Progressive Field, but my parish is pretty progressive so it felt familiar.

Be forewarned that my posts will probably touch on either or both sports and Catholic topics in the near future.

The prodigal pipes

Since I blogged about this story yesterday, I want to share the video of Ted Williams’ (the homeless man with the pipes of gold) reunion with his mother. I know a friend of mine saw this and thought it was strange that his mother seemed to dwell on the disappointment and the shame she felt because the low state to which he had fallen.

What I’m reminded of is the parable of the prodigal son. The image of the embrace of a relieved parent and the troubled child reminds me of Rembrandt’s interpretation of the story. A man falling to his knees in gratitude upon returning home. He is also seeking forgiveness. The elderly parent is overwhelmed with joy, but still pained by the son’s actions.

I don’t think Ted Williams’ mother is harsh. I think she loves him and is pained by the trouble he has seen. She knows this may be one last chance for him to turn away from a life that might lead to losing him forever.

If you are one who is inclined to pray, it wouldn’t hurt to remember all who are fighting the demons Ted fights.

It’s my funeral

I’ve been meaning to write down my wishes for my funeral, but time never seems to allow. Since I’m trying to convince anyone who cares about this little blog that I’ve not abandoned it or you, dear reader, I will now kill two birds with one stone. What follows are instructions for my funeral.

  1. There will be no immediate canonization. I’ve been to funerals where it was literally stated by the priest that NAME is now in Heaven, waiting for us to join him. No. We can’t know this to be true. We can hope this is true. However, I’m asking you now for your fervent and continuous prayers for the repose of my soul and that I may be out of Purgatory as quickly as possible. Please have lots of Masses said for me.
  2. No “Eagles Wings”. Yoohoo! Please banish the guitars and the Haugen/Haas/Joncas monopoly for one day.
  3. No eulogy by my friends or family members. Please say nice things about me. But do it at the funeral home, the grave site or at the local pub. For that matter, make a Facebook group in my honor. However, I want my funeral Mass to be full-on about Salvation. If I was a nice guy, I’d love for y’all to hear about it. But my funeral is not the time nor the place.Incensed
  4. Smoke ’em if you got ’em. By this I mean I want incense to form a cloud visible on Doppler radar. To be frank, I feel a little cheated because I’ve not smelled nor seen incense at my parish except for one Mass this Advent and Christmas season.
    I want a man to smell his jacket a week later and say “Wow – They really laid it on thick at Keough’s funeral.”
  5. If at all possible have the alter servers dressed in cassock and surplus. I never cared for the little hoodies and rope belts look. It is fine for the Franciscans. My middle name is Francis, but I think the black and white look is more fitting for this occasion.

These are simple requests, no? If these simple instructions are honored I promise not to haunt you to your dying days. Ok?

UPDATE: Monsignor Charles Pope has an excellent series on Funeral Foibles. I quote:

Thus instant promotions of the deceased to the upper realms of heaven are inappropriate. Rather, we give them to the Lord with our prayers, asking for a merciful and kindly judgment, and that any necessary purification be accomplished soon.  The prayers for, and comments about the deceased can include gratitude for their life and the gifts they brought, but ought never to fail to mention that they go to judgment and should not gloss over the need to pray for them, more than praise them.

That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Image courtesy of jdbradly

Free books? Now you have my attention.

My friend Jen is a smart cookie, a writer and a reader. But as much as I respect her opinion I also choose to ignore it from time to time. Because I fancy myself as wise and I feel nobody knows my preferences like I know my preferences.

Recently she told me how she loves her Kindle for Android application. I remarked that it  sounded fine, but I could not imagine trying to read a book in that 3.5″ screen. (May I make a detour in this story to mention my wife also downloaded the application? But she isn’t really into books, and didn’t rave about it so I didn’t really think about it much.)

Time passes by and  I forget the Kindle for Android app. After all, I have Air Horn and Whoopie cushion apps. How many apps do I really need?

But then –  a stunning revelation. Some of these books you can get are – wait for it – in the public domain. “In the public domain” is fancy lawyer talk for FREE!

I now own two new books on my Kindle for Android. Both by G.K. Chesterton. “Orthodoxy” and “What’s Wrong With The World“.

The links above may be affiliate links for some website I recently visited. I don’t care –  there isn’t much commission on FREE BOOKS. You hear me? Free Books on Amazon!!!

The rarity of silence

I’ve watched some of the coverage of Benedict XVI as he visited the UK these last few days. Is has been pleasant and uplifting to see the enthusiastic crowds. It seems the dire predictions of an ambivalent England were proved to be unfounded.

I was surprised not by the enthusiastic crowds, but by the absolute silence that was observed in several occasions after homilies and also Holy Communion.

It seems as though we cannot get through a moment of silence without a ‘Whoooo!” or other interruption at most public events these days. On several occasions during the Supreme Pontiff’s visit there were extended periods of still silence among 80,000 or more.

Benedict encouraged the youth assembled at Westminster to find quiet moment of reflection in their lives.

“Even amid the “busy-ness” and the stress of our daily lives, we need to make space for silence, because it is in silence that we find God, and in silence that we discover our true self.”

We all would benefit from finding both in a few moments of true still silence.

Looking Like An Altarboy

I sure seem concerned with that candle! I’m pretty certain I was in seventh grade at the time. I really wish my current parish would revert to the cassock and surplus look. For that matter I wish they would process with candles flanking the crucifix. Or pretend to give a hoot about Redemptionis Sacramentum.

Update: Hello Flickr folks. Not a toothpaste stream – not a mannequin, just having a little fun by posting what some might consider embarrassing looks from my past.  If you can’t laugh at yourself, you got problems.