Sunday, December 28, 2008

Not Said By Jesus Sunday: Marian/Christmas Edition

I think I posted this a few months back. If I remember correctly it was something that My Sacraments professor quipped in class one day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Keeping Christ in Christmas

Random Thought:

It is not that Christ ever left Christmas or that He has been removed from it. Christmas is what it is: Christ is always in it. To try and celebrate Christmas without Christ is an impossibility. It is like trying to brush one's teeth minus the toothbrush. One cannot possibly brush their teeth without a toothbrush without first changing the definition of teeth brushing, and in changing the definition of what teeth brushing is is not to redefine teeth brushing, but it is to destroy what teeth brushing is. Likewise to celebrate Christmas without Christ is to in essence not celebrate Christmas. What appears to be the the case is that it is us who have left Christ and His Christmas. Christ hasn't moved. We have.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

RAND Study Is First to Link Viewing of Sexual Content on Television to Subsequent Teen Pregnancy

This is interesting:
Adolescents who have high levels of exposure to television programs that contain sexual content are twice as likely to be involved in a pregnancy over the following three years as their peers who watch few such shows, according to a new RAND Corporation study. . . .

"Adolescents receive a considerable amount of information about sex through television and that programming typically does not highlight the risks and responsibilities of sex," said Anita Chandra, the study's lead author and a behavioral scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "Our findings suggest that television may play a significant role in the high rates of teenage pregnancy in the United States." . . .

"The amount of sexual content on television has doubled in recent years, and there is little representation of safer sex practices in those portrayals," Chandra said. "While some progress has been made, teenagers who watch television are still going to find little information about the consequences of unprotected sexual practices among the many portrayals promoting sex."
But I was always told TV has no effect on culture. Looks like I've been lied to my whole life. How foolish of me.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Teenage Boys Squirm at the Lack of Physical Contact

Whenever I go for a weekend and lead a Junior retreat for my high school at which I work, I like to show the movie The Power of One to the students attending the retreat. It is very powerful movie and ties into the second day's theme: Man of Faith/Man for Others.

Anyway, this movie is turning into a comedy for myself. Not so much the movie itself, but the reaction 30 Juniors in High School (all boys) have to this movie. My favorite reaction from the juniors is when the main character meets a girl, falls in love with the girl, has long conversations with the girl, and is completely head over heals for her. The director makes for several scenes in the movie when one would expect for the two lovers to kiss: the light is dim, there is no one around, and they have been having what seems to be a long and intimate conversation.
However, every time this happens in the movie the main character leaves, and he departs leaving the girl untouched and unkissed. The part the guys don't understand is why he never kisses the girl. I laugh at this because many of the boys can't seem to comprehend having a girl friend and not spending hours behind the dumpster making out with her, groping her, or having sex with her. It is particularly funny with the above scenes pass and no physical contact happens; it is an outrage to the juniors: "Moron!" "What!" "Aww come one!" "You have her where you want her!" They literally squirm in their seats due to the lack of sex and physical contact between the main character and the girl he loves.

Why Believe . . .


In response to the Humanist Bus Campaign.

Just Being Good for Goodness' Sake: A Response to The American Humanist Bus Campaign

Recently a humanist organization placed a series of holiday ads in the Washington D.C. city transits, on which there is a person who is wearing an over-sized Santa suit that hangs sloppily on her body. Her shoulders are shrugged and her hands are extended in a common pose that people understand to mean that she is saying by her posture, “I don’t know.”

To what is she saying, “I don’t know”? Simple. Above her are the words “Why believe in god?” and below that is the phrase “just be good for goodness' sake.” Apparently the individual in the ad cannot find a reason to believe in God but finds it necessary to believe and act out and do and be good for goodness’ sake. This conclusion cannot help but make one question “Can a person be good without believing in God?” The clear answer is both at the same time “yes” and “no”, but I will leave the details of that question to people smarter than myself.

What I want to examine is what exactly are they encouraging and promoting in that add? Are they really promoting a disbelief in God for the sake of goodness? What do they mean by ‘good’ and ‘goodness’? The humanist ad raises more questions and supplies fewer answers.

First, whose definition and understanding of ‘good’ and goodness does a person use when interpreting this sign? As it is, there are varying opinions of what people consider good. Some believe abortion to be good, while others do not. Some believe that sexual promiscuity is a good, while others think monogamy is a good and the later is to be loathed. Still some find communism to be most favorable and good and others view it as an evil not to be tolerated.

So again, whose good do we use? To what understanding of good and goodness are the humanist appealing? I think the best place to begin is to consider where the humanist group placed their ad. Their ad was placed in a public location that is seen by many travelers so as to ensure a maximum exposure and saturation of their message. So first, from the placement of the ad it can been seen that the humanist group is appealing and promoting an understanding of good and goodness that is not theoretical and to be left to the philosophers to debate. If this message was meant for such a target group, as the one just mentioned, the humanists would have never displayed it in such a public place and would have left their message in the universities for the professors to discuss.

Further, it can be deduced from the placement of the ad that the good and goodness that is being promoted is accessible to people of all walks of life: rich, poor, famous, proud, humble, etc. . . . That is, the humanist are assuming that all who see this sign will be able to understand the ‘good’ and ‘goodness’ which is being promoted. In other words, it is a message for the common man that can only appeal to the common experience of all who read the ad. The only logical conclusion is that the good being promoted is something that is universal to all people, otherwise the sign would speak something differently. The ad is aimed at a common good: something universal. Something that is so common and so universal and so readily accessible to the common person that makes much sense to the common mind that it might be called “common sense”: that weak intuitive knowledge and understanding, which can too often be overridden by reason, that allows us to look at the world and situations as they really are with honesty and humility.

Though the humanists are promoting a good that is both common and universal, it still remains: is this universal and common good that they are promoting objective or is it relative? In brief, the humanists are promoting an objective and absolute good. As if they meant something relative – as in the philosophical understanding of relativism – where each person creates their own understanding of what is meant by ‘good’ they would have taken a different approach to their ad. A more affective slogan might have been “the good is what you make it.” Moreover, the humanists, if really promoting a relative understanding of the good, might as well have placed on the ad that we should all be ‘burrito for burritos sake” or be “yell, for verb cookie dog”. Further, the good the humanists are promoting must be objective, otherwise there could be nothing common or universal about the ‘good’ which they are promoting. Since the humanist did not do any of these, it is clear again that the good is common, universal, and objective.

Second, the word choice the humanist group chose is of great interest to the analysis of this ad. The first sentence is obvious and not worth discussing. However, the choice of “be good for goodness sake” is of much interest. “Be good for goodness sake” is a line plucked straight from the popular Christmas song “Santa Clause is Coming to Town.” I will assume that most people know, even if only elementary, that Santa Clause is an Americanized version of who was once called Saint Nicholas: a Christian saint known for his goodness. Moreover, this song is only sung during the Christmas season, which is really the Advent season. It is the season that America anticipates the celebration of the birth of Jesus. To try and remove the Christian under and over tones to this season and song are like trying to separate light from the sun. Therefore, taking into account the song to which the humanists are appealing, the Christian undertones to the song and the overtones of the season, the good that the humanists are promoting can only be some kind of Christian understanding of what good and goodness are.

But couldn’t the humanist be appealing to some kind of evolutionary definition of the good? If they are, then they are doing it very poorly in their ad. However, lets entertain that idea for one moment. What if our understanding of good is really just something that evolution programmed into our genes? Though this seems like a plausible argument and suggestion, what evolution proposes and what being good proposes are contrary to each other. Briefly, the good is counter productive to the evolutionary process. If we were to look at the animal world, you would see many animals acting instinctually, whose behavior revolves around its own survival and procreation. But acting instinctually can hardly be called good, as there is no goodness in instinct: no thing ethical or moral about acting on pure instinct alone. That is, evolution dictates that the strongest and most cunning survive and says nothing about being good in the universal, common, objective understanding. In fact, evolution seems to be silent on all grounds of goodness.

However, being good seems to contradict evolution. As who could deem it bad or evil or not good to feed a hungry mouth or those less fortunate than one’s self? In fact most would consider it a good thing to do such an act. Yet, this simple act of goodness goes against what evolution wants to happen. It is to pollute the gene pool with those who have genes that are less favorable. If evolution was the only driving force, evolution would dictate to let all the starving starve to death as then the weaker genes would be cleansed from the gene pool and only the stronger more favorable genes would survive. Strangely, there is nothing in science or evolution that can explain or account for the need for such good actions as feeding the hungry. The only possible answer that since might be able to provide is that somewhere along the evolutionary path evolution deemed it necessary that such ‘good’ genes be in the pool, but this begs the question as being good is contrary to what evolution dictates.

Finally, the notions of the good and goodness are so ingrained and associated with God in our current culture and time that to try to separate the good from God, especially in context with the Christmas/Advent season, would only result in the painful process that occurs when one tries to separate heat from fire. Then again, if we search scripture and find the simple line, "God is good" then the answer is simple.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Not Said By Jesus Sunday: Advent Edition


Just a little background. Advent isn't only about preparing for Christmas and Jesus' birth into the world. Advent is also about preparing ourselves for Christ's second coming.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Church Muzak

I normally don't like playing the liturgy wars, as I know a number of the musicians are well intentioned people -- even if the music is cheesy (I just don't like music with bad theology.) But I couldn't help myself when my friend sent me this.
Thanks to Lukey Luke and the Lucain Bunch.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Theology in Drawings

Trying to keep in mind all those visual learners in my Theology class I started drawing a section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the board (§1325). It reads "The Eucharist is the culmination both of GOd's action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship of men offered to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit."

This is what resulted. Notice the exit and return, which I didn't pick up on until I drew it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

First Principle and Foundation: a Meditation/Talk for Teens

[Here is a meditation I am working on for a retreat. This is modeled off a similar talk of the same title done by a Jesuit scholastic at my school. It is getting teens to reexamine their lives. This is a rough draft (which means I need to fix my grammar and punctuation, but even if it wasn't, I would still be open to suggestions and constructive comments. I feel like I don't talk much about Christ in this meditation. Just follow the order. The notes after the slide/image goes with the image above it. It starts with a video clip from Little Miss Sunshine.]






The Title of this talk is called First Principle and Foundation. For our opening prayer, I want us to pray St. Ignatius’ First Principle and Foundation.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:
“The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by doing so, to save his or her soul. All other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings in order to help them pursue the end for which they are created. It follows from this that one must use other created things, in so far as they help towards one's end, and free oneself from them, in so far as they are obstacles to one's end. To do this, we need to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, provided the matter is subject to our free choice and there is no other prohibition. Thus, as far as we are concerned, we should not want health more than illness, wealth more than poverty, fame more than disgrace, a long life more than a short one, and similarly for all the rest, but we should desire and choose only what helps us more towards the end for which we are created.” - Amen.

That is what we want to focus on in these 40 mins. What is your principle and foundation? Do you have a principle and foundation? Have you even bothered to think about it before now? The reason I bring this out is that if you know what your foundation is you then have a framework from which to operate in your daily life. The foundation of a house is different from the foundation of a skyscraper. The foundation of a baseball player is different is different from the foundation of a football player. Likewise the foundation of an animal is different from the foundation of a Human being made in the image and likeness of God. To lay down the wrong foundation results in disaster. If I were to lay down a tiny foundation for a house then to proceed to build a skyscraper on top of it is only asking for the building to collapse in a few short years.

One way we get to our foundation is to ask some of the big questions in life. (Click)


Some of these questions the human mind never tires of asking.

What is the meaning of life?
Why are you hear?
What are you doing with your life?
Why is there something as opposed to nothing?
Why can’t the New Orleans Saints win?

Or in the style of Dwayne in the video clip, "Is life one beauty contest after another?"

I want to propose to you several of what I consider to be the most common first principles and foundations that I have encountered through the years.

A slave can say that he has been freed from something, but freedom from something is only the beginning of true freedom. If you aren’t freed from something so as to be free for something you have missed the point of being freed from something. You are freed from something so that you can be free for something.

I also want to propose to you that the First principle and foundation of St. Ignatius is really an invitation to true freedom. That to live a life of Christ is freedom from something so that you might be free for something. For instance, the slave was given freedom from slavery so that he might have the freedom to make America better, the freedom for doing good, and the freedom for the ability to be treated like a human person with dignity and respect.

So like I said, this is an invitation to freedom. I would be willing to bet that many of our first principles and foundations are in no way true freedom nor do they invite others to freedom. And that is what I want to look at for a little bit. 3 of the most common Principles and Foundations that I see in our culture and one not so common.



When I was in high school and even into college, I was heavily involved in several different music scenes in New Orleans. What I discovered on hind sight is that the individuals I encountered were some of the most immoral people I have ever been associated with. Many of the member of the bands my band would open for had one basic goal in life: To squeeze as much out of life as possible -- and many people have this as their principle and foundation, but it is an illusion. You’ll see in a min what I mean. The goal for these guys came in for context of having sex with any girl who would let them (regardless of age) meaning older men (sometimes 19, sometimes 30 or 40 and older) had no qualms with sleeping with girls as young as 14 years old, do as much drugs as possible, and their final goal was to do it while playing music. And if they could have done all three at the same time, I’m sure they would have.

So many of the guys I met were all about sex, drugs, and rock and roll (though we weren’t really playing rock and roll). This was their first principle and foundation.

I remember one night we were playing at the House of Blues (HOB). We were always excited when we played there because they treated the bands really well: they fed us, gave us a room, allowed us to get back stage passes to some of our friends and groupies. But the thing about this one time is that the House of Blues, for whatever reason, forgot that most of the band members were under the legal drinking age and gave us a refrigerator full of beer and other kinds of booze. To make matters worse, we were opening for this reggae/ska band from Jamaica and they were big pot-heads. So half of the band went down the hall and smoked it up with the headlining band from Jamaica and boozed it up for a while. Needless to say, when it came time for us to perform, between the weed combined with the booze, we sounded HORRIBLE. After the concert it was along time before we were asked back to play at the HOB.

The thing is that the guys in the band who went down the hall with the headlining band, weren’t thinking about the other guys in the band who actually wanted to sound good, as the HOB is one of the top venues for musicians in New Orleans.

The guys who had the first principle and foundation of Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll wound up really hurting others because they didn’t care about anything other then themselves and their first principle and foundation of getting high, getting laid, and playing music. If you got in their way with any of the three, you became enemy #1.

Like I said they were trying to squeeze as much out of life as possible, and this is how they went about doing it. So maybe you are asking, “what is the big deal with people wanting to squeeze as much out of life as possible in the time that we have?” The problem is that when we do it too soon and too much and in a way that is harmful what happens is that we become empty and useless.




The second principle and foundation I encountered were people who wanted freedom for freedom’s sake. I encountered a lot of these people while working in North Carolina as a Summer Camp counselor and wilderness backpacking guide. My buddies and I called these people “Granolas” for the mere fact that they were obsessed with eating granola, not showering, and not wearing anything unorganic -- but these individuals are not limited to Granolas alone. The same “freedom for freedom’s sake” attitude can be found in a number of places. But this is my experience.

The guys I met during the summers that I worked in NC were generally nice guys and fun to be around. The thing is, they didn’t want authentic freedom. They only wanted to be free from any kind of restraint. Anything that held them down or threatened their freedom was seen as bad. These guys usually couldn’t be in any kind of relationship for any length of time as any serious relationship requires a commitment at some point, which they viewed as a restraint. Something that many of these guys I met were unable to do. It want’ just guys it was also the female counterpart that had the same view on life. They saw nothing wrong with leaving school for a week or two at a time just to go into the woods to “get away from the pressures of life” or because "such-and-such a river was flowing fast” or to “go find a good route on Looking Glass”. They would just up and disappear and go. They were very unreliable and hardly agreed to do anything that might cause them to be someplace at a specific time and place.

So what? You say. The problem is that these guys only wanted freedom from. They had no interest in being free for something. Just because you are free from something doesn’t mean you are automatically free for something. They wanted to be freed from the restraints of the world so that they could be free to do whatever they wanted. They had no boundaries, and in short no real foundation, as a foundation gives you boundaries from which to work. If they did have a principle and foundation it was very shaky and weak.

They lived only for themselves with no restrictions. They wanted and yearned for licenses (that is, they wanted a reason or excuse to do anything.) All their actions were justified by how well of an excuse they could make. What it came down to is that they wanted as much freedom from as they could and as often as they could get it. And If you got in their way, you become enemy #1.

This is the same attitude as people who suffer with any addiction of any sort. The addict wants as much drugs, alcohol, porn, sex, etc as he or she can get, and if you hinder their ability in procuring what they want then you are enemy #1. Don’t believe me? Just watch the TV show “Intervention.”

This attitude actually limited their freedom. They no longer had freedom for something. They couldn’t figure out what they were free for. Only that they were free from.




Real freedom that has a foundation provides a framework from which to work.

False freedom has no foundation.

Real Freedom: Freedom from blazing our own path and trail and the trials that are associated so that we might be free for the ease of getting from point A-B. There is a framework something that guides us.

False Freedom: Freedom from the restraints that make travel easy and effective. They want to blaze their own trail for the sake of blazing their own trail. This attitude leads to confusion. You can’t make sense of it. It is stupid to swim to china when you can just as easily hope on a boat or plane to get there.
The last group that I commonly encounter is what I call the Doctor/Lawyer principle and foundation. These people measure success by means of finical gain, notoriety, fame and being well liked. They want to get a good job, makes lots of money, have a nice car and marry a hot wife. I see this one a lot in America. Buy this buy that. Invest here and invest there. Look like this person or that person. If you don’t do this then you aren’t smart.

Money and success are not bad things. It only becomes bad when you start hording or worshiping money. “But Mr. Catalanotto I don’t do that. I don’t horde or worship my money.” Really?! When you got your last pay check or your allowance what did you do with it? On what did you spend all your money? If you saw someone spending all their money on clothes what would you think is there first principle and foundation? If you saw someone spending all their money on music and concerts, what would you say their principle and foundation is? The thing is when we start worshiping something other than God, we begin to turn in on our selves. We go inward instead of going out into the world in order to engage the world with Christian principles. In other words, we turn into an Ebenezer Scrooge.

That is, we turn into a cold, bitter, uncaring, person who is obsessed with only one thing and measures the value of others by how much work he can get out of them and how much money they can make for him. In short, once again, people who live like this aren’t free and live only for themselves.

There is a final group that I want to talk about, and they are different from the other three in that they are working for something or someone other then themselves.

I’ve had much experience with this group here. Once a month this group would come to LSU and basically damn everyone too hell: called everyone whoremongers, fornicators, drunkards, etc. But I had a lot of respect for what they did. I did not agree with what they did and how they did it. But I had a lot of respect for them. It boils down to this: they have a first principle and foundation and people see it and people know that it is not a self centered first principle and foundation, and as misguided as it is, they are at least trying.
What this guys did is come to LSU and for a couple of days they would be in free speech alley and try to tell everyone, literally tell everyone about Christ who walked by. In the process, they were mocked with out mercy. The vulgarity and anger that people expressed toward these individuals was uncalled for.

But these people were willing to brave the mockery and ludeness of LSU (and let me tell you, LSU has some lude people at it) and try to win souls for Christ. They had something that they felt the need to share with other and they did so in the only way they knew how. By standing on park benches in free speech alley at LSU and shouting to others about Christ.

What I’m asking is, “What is it that you believe in that inspires you to the point that it makes you want to stand on a park bench in the midst of strangers and mockery and tell them about it? Is this something you shrink away from? Why or why not?”

In other words, what is your principle and foundation? And can other tell what your principle and foundation is by looking at you from the outside?

Maybe you can ask a friend to help you out with this. What would your best friend say is the most important thing in your life? Would they tell you that you live you life like it is one big beauty contest after another?

[Some Reflection Questions:
1) Do I believe Ignatius' Principle and Foundation as a description of man’s purpose at least intellectually? Why or Why not?
2) What end do I really and consciously live for? If outside observers were studying my
life, what would they conclude to be its main goal?
3) Supposing my end to be as it is formulated in the Principle and Foundation, what would
be the obstacles to my reaching this end?
4) Do I love persons (including God) and use things, or do I love things and use persons?
In what ways? What drives me to do this?

Scripture passages: Deut 6:4-9; Matthew 19:16-22]

Not Said By Jesus Sunday



Sorry about the sporadic posting of this cartoon. Lately I've been working retreats for School almost every other Sunday.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Hypostatic Union, 8th graders and 10,000%



Me:
Jesus was fully man and fully divine.
Student 1: SO he was like 50% human and 50% God?
Me: No, no, no. He was 100% human and 100% Divine. He was fully both.
Student 2: How is that possible? Is he [Jesus] like 200%?
Me: Sort of, but not quite. We can't just add the percentages together. It's part of the mystery of our faith. It is a paradox.
Students 2: What if we multiplied them? [referring to the percentages and at the same time trying to be funnny]
Student 3: Woah! That's like 10,000%!

For more on a different analogy and explanation of the Hypostatic Union go here.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Race Card: Will a Obama Ease Racial Tensions?

A TRUE STORY:
Every morning, before the start of the school day, a student in a city, whose majority population is African American, goes out to his high school's flag pole and does what has always been done at this school for the past 100+ years: he raises the American flag.

Except this morning it was the day after the presidential elections, and America had its first black president (or so how the media is portraying it). The older generations would refer to this man as a mulatto: a person of mixed black and white ancestry. The younger generations don't know exactly what that means, but the older people do. To the older generations a mulatto wasn't white, and he wasn't black either and was often shunned by both ethnicities. He was exactly what he was: a mulatto. One might see within this man -- our new president of mixed race -- the apex of the American melting pot, and what better person to represent American culture than one who is culturally mixed? Nay, the media misses this point. With one foot in two camps the media failed to find him white enough to be mixed but still dark enough to pass as being African American: as if the sole identity of a person lies only skin deep.

On this morning following the presidential election, the student goes to the street corner, clips the flag to it's rope, and begins to raise the American flag. At this time a school bus filled solely with African American students drives by on its usually route. With American flag en route to its' daily resting place, a number of students riding the passing buss hang out the window and start yelling, "F**K YOU WHITEY! WE GOTTA BLACK MAN IN CHARGE!" and "WE GOTTA N*G*A IN DA WHITE HOUSE B***H!" These taunts and jeers, and other like them, continued until the bus was out of ear shot. Confused by what just happened the student finished raising the American flag and goes into the school building trying to make sense of this experience.
It really makes me upset that this happened to one of the students at the school I work at. I'm sure the president-elect would not approve of such behavior. I would love to makes some comments about this experience, but I am a bit tired. So I will just leave it at: no one ever said the fight for christian unity was going to be easy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I Wish: Wii Read

Watch out Guitar Hero and Rock Band. There is a new best selling game on the market. Maybe now my students will learn to start reading their textbook and how much useful information is in it.

Just think of it:

You can turn the page with just a flick of the wrist. You can follow along with the pointing finger. The book is turned into a flickering image. What isn't to like? Come on Nintendo! Get with it! What is taking you so long?!?!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

F-Word Project Draft One

[Thanks for all the input and suggestions. This is what I came up with for the students that drop F-Bombs. The prefect of discipline approved it so it is good to go. Of course they would be hand writing this entire piece. I hope you enjoy. Also, feel free to modify and use as you need.]


I am here after school with Mr. Catalanotto because I have a small and very limited vocabulary that is not repetitive of the education I am and have been receiving at Jesuit High School. Because I have expressed such a limited vocabulary in the ear-shot of Mr. Catalanotto, it has been deemed by him that I have been wasting the $6450 my parents or guardians spend on my yearly tuition so that my vocabulary won’t be limited; in other words, I have been stealing from my parents by not developing my verbal skills to their maximum capacity and taking full advantage of my educational time here at Jesuit. Since I have been wasting time here at Jesuit as well as my parents’ or guardians’ money, I have in turn developed a vocabulary that is insufficient and non-compatible with being Intellectually Competent as stated in the Profile of a Graduate at Time of Graduation.

Furthermore, I used a word which goes by any number of pseudonyms, but for the sake of brevity the word which hinders my vocabulary and keeps it in atrophy is the ‘f-word.’ The use of this particular word makes me sound ignorant. No, it makes me sound dumb. No, worse, the use of this four letter word makes me sound stupid. Nay, yet, this foul, venomous, tasteless, tactless, uncouth word that is the phlegm of acuity makes me sound as if I am gutter trash; the lowest dredges of a society who care not to better themselves or the world about them but care only for their selfish selves which makes them incapable with being a Man-for-Others as expressed in the Jesuit High School Mission Statement and school Honor Code.

The reason it hinders my vocabulary is due to the word’s unspecific and over use in our society. Too often my friends and I do not know what we mean when we use this word, as it has become so common place in the dialect of teenage boys today that its original meaning is not even considered when uttered. It is today most often used as an insult and expletive, and like all expletives and insults, it should be left unsaid and purged from my vocabulary. In the mean time, as the process of cleaning one’s mouth takes time, I will help others better understand this word and how it is used. Below are examples of how the word is used as a noun, adverb, adjective, transitive verb, and intransitive verb as well as what I mean by using the ‘f-word’ in that particular part of speech.
The ‘f-word’ can be used as a noun:
(Write a sentence where the f-word is used as a noun)
In this sentence, when used as a noun, the f-word means: (write what it means)

The ‘f-word’ can be used as an adverb:
(Write a sentence where the f-word is used as an adverb)
In this sentence, when used as an adverb, the f-word means: (write what it means)

The ‘f-word’ can be used as an adjective:
(Write a sentence where the f-word is used as an adjective)
In this sentence, when used as an adjective, the f-word means: (write what it means)

The ‘f-word’ can be used as a transitive verb:
(Write a sentence where the f-word is used as a transitive verb)
In this sentence, when used as a transitive verb, the f-word means: (write what it means)
The ‘f-word’ can be use as an intransitive verb:
(Write a sentence where the f-word is used as an intransitive verb)
In this sentence, when used as an intransitive verb, the f-word means: (write what it means)
Moreover, since the ‘f-word’ is too general a word and hinders my verbal development and limits my ability to communicate effectively with others around me, here is a list of 20 other words, their definitions and sentences used with each word that help explain the word’s definition in the context of the sentence that I can use in place of the foul four letter ‘f’ word.

1-20.

I understand that if I use this word again in the presence of Mr. Catalanotto I will be receiving a three-day teacher detention to be served with him after school.





Student Signature: Date:



Teacher Signature: Date:



Parent Signature: Date:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

F-Word Project

Friends, Readers, and Fellow Bloggers

There are a number of students I teach and interact with during the school hours at the all boys high school where I currently work. The problem is that some of these boys like to use the F-word: a word of which I am not fond. I am also making the assumption that your readers too are not fond of this word. I'm in the process of developing a list of alternative words for my students to use in place of the F-word and an assignment in conjunction with this list as 'punish work' for using the F-Word on campus.

However, everything I sit down to make a list of words for this project/task, my mind goes blank. This might be due to my dropping the word from my vocabulary. Part of the problem is that the students use the F-Word in so many different parts of speech: noun, verb, adverb, adjective, direct objects and indirect objects. About the only part of speech it isn't used as is a preposition, but I'm sure if I looked hard enough I would find a kid making entire sentences out of the f-word.

I am hoping you can help me compile a list of alternative words to use in place of the F-Word.

Feel free to leave a suggestion in the annotation box below.

Adventure in Catechesis #?

Click image for a larger view.

At least I know where to start.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More Sacramental Mind/Concept Maps

About to cross into the realm of Baptism after quarter exams are done. In the mean time: here are some more maps I will be using in class to help the visual learners.


Original Man in Paradise


The Threefold Lust

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Liturgical Parable: Ritual

[responding to my students who think that the liturgy is just mere ritual and that ritual is not necessary] [Also, I need to go back and fix the tense shifts, mea culpa till I have another free min. later tonight.]

A while back, I spent time with a native people. Having spent just a few weeks with them, I became familiar with a few of their customs and rituals. One of those rituals was of particular interest to me, which I will try to recount in the following words.

It began (as did many of the native rituals did) by a number of people gathering at a previously agreed upon location and time (often in the evening). Once assembled, from the midst of the people, one person was selected, given a special chair, a special place at table, and given a crown to wear. I assume this person was a kind of King for the evening or a King of the assembly, as latter in the ritual he is presented with a number of tokens of varying sort from those present. Some of the tokens encouraged somber feelings, excitement, and laughter from not just the King but also those assembled.

However, before the Kingis presented with these tokens, a number of small torches are lit and stuck midway into a sweet, spongy food that is then placed before the King of the assembly. Once the food and torch combination has been presented to the King, everyone present stopps what they were doing, gathered about the King in a circular fashion (a circle to represent the never ending loyalty of the assembly), the lights were lessened, and a song of wishing was sung to and for the King. On occasion, one or two people (they must have been the choral directors) added an extra verse or two to the song of wishing. It was clear that these added verses were not part of the original song, as from gathering to gathering the extra verses varied in content. Those present at the assembly usually had no issues with the additional verses to the song being added to the song of wishing. The extra verses showed that the native people I was visiting have a natural ability for improvisation.

Upon completion of the song of wishing, the King, after being presented with the food and torches, extinguishes the torches. The manner often chosen to accomplish this was through a brief, strong, and carefully aimed exhalation from the King across the torches. This apparently meant that though the flame of life will one day extinguish, the King will leave behind a ‘sweet’ legacy for others.

Once all the torches have been extinguished, the lights are returned to their normal luminosity and the King is then presented with a cutting device, which he uses to carefully make the first cut into the sweet, spongy food before passing the food cutting duties to someone else in the assembly. In addition to the sweet, spongy food, a round serving – just smaller than a baseball – of a sweet, frozen, milky product is served to the assembly. All present usually partake of the food in some capacity.

At roughly this time, often just after the consumption of food but sometimes during it, the King is presented with the above mentioned tokens. Soon after all the tokens have been presented, the gathering often disbands. Each person going their own way until the next assembly is called together.

[If you have not figured it out, the above ritual is that of a birthday party. Something that most people wouldn't call a ritual; yet, strangely enough a birthday party resembles a ritual upon closer analysis.]

In brief rituals are need to:
  1. Give form and shape to an event.
  2. Help in providing a foundation for the event (related to #1)
  3. Help in avoiding confusion and minimizing unexpected surprises.
  4. allow a person to be comfortable with what is going on so that they may move freely in the ritual. (So that people are no longer thinking about doing the ritual because the ritual has become a part of who they are).

Not Said By Jesus Sunday



Friday, October 10, 2008

Relitivism

If you're gonna be relative, you might as well go all the way. After all, what's right for you isn't right for others.





Thursday, October 09, 2008

Cold-Turkey

[Recently I've been teaching my sophomores about time and eternity. If you ever want to see a group of teens talk about something that is fascinating and confusing just start talking about God's existence outside of time. I promise, it will lead to a good class discussion. WE had just finished reading an essay by Peter Kreeft on time -- of which they had many questions. At the end of the essay he suggests that we stop wasting time and go 'cold-turkey' from the things in our life that cause us to waste our time, namely TV and other technological devices that eat our free time. Thinking on my feet, I gave them the beginning of an assignment. Go 'cold-turkey' on some time wasting device or activity for 31 days. Well the following is what they are going to be getting at the start of the second quarter Feel free to borrow or edit or do whatever with it. I'm still in the process of developing the assignment.]

Going Cold -Turkey

Assignment: For 31 days (one month) you will keep a daily journal about your experience of giving up one time wasting device or activity (TV, Games of any sort, internet, Ipod, too much time on cell phone, etc, etc, etc . . .). Consider what you are going to give up and what productive activity you are going to put in its place. Giving up something is only half the story. This assignment will count for one test grade and will begin on the first day of the second quarter. Upon completion of the exercise, you are to turn in a 500 word reflection paper on your experience with “going cold-turkey” with a time-wasting device or activity with your completed 31 day journal. More information on the essay will be given when the due date approaches.

The Daily Journal:
Each day you are to spend a few minutes writing briefly about your experience of the day in the context of what you have given up and what you have replaced that activity with. Before you begin writing, pray the following prayer:
“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will – all that I have and call my own. You have given it all to me. To You, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace. That is enough for me.”
You are to use the following prompt at the start of each day’s journal reflection:
“Today, in context of the time wasting device or activity that I have given up, the use of my time went . . . and I felt . . . about not using this device or activity today.”
You are then to elaborate on the specifics of why your day went as you have stated for a few sentences. End your journal with the following sentence:
"Instead of wasting my time (time wasting activiy that you gave up), . . . I did . . . in its place."
Examples:
Day 1 - October 20, 2008
Today, in context of the time wasting device or activity that I have given up, the use of my time went well, and I felt fine about not using this device or activity today. Personally, I think this assignment has not been a challenging event and activity thus far. Though it has only been one day into the assignment, it remains to be determined whether or not this will be a struggle in any way. I don’t see the point in this assignment. Instead of wasting my time watching 4 back to back episode of Law and Order on TV, I went for a run, read part of a novel, played my guitar, and discovered the meaning of life in its place. (This cannot be used in your journal)

Day 10 – October 30, 2008
Today, in context of the time wasting device or activity that I have given up, the use of my time went poorly, and I felt anxious about not using this device or activity today. It has been 10 days now since I have given up wasting my time watching TV. Today I really wanted to watch TV. But I guess it is best that I didn’t because I would have just spent 3.5 hours in front of the TV mindlessly flipping the channels. Though the temptation was great, I did not give into the temptation to waste time. Instead of wasting my time infront of the TV for I do not know how long, I learned a new song on my guitar and worked on my dribbling technique for soccer in its place.
*Note. The goal of this assignment is for us to learn to use our time more efficiently and productively. With that being said, if you do give up something like TV or the internet and you need either of these things for school or work it is permissible to use them for work, school, or recreational purposes. Translation: it might be a good use of time to watch LSU or the Saints play on TV, but it might not be a good use of time to let the TV eat up your free time when you can be using it to better yourself. Time is a non-renewable resource.

Catholic Publishing House

[Catholic author Andrew McNabb sent this to the email bag. It sounds promising. I for one am tired of bad Christian literature. Perhaps this might aid in the revival of good Catholic and Christian fiction writing.]

He Writes:

Attention Writers & Readers!

Leoness Books is a newly formed small press specializing in Literary Catholic Writing. Leoness has been created due to the dearth of publishing opportunities for Catholic writers whose work can be described as "Literary, yet artfully overt." Leoness is seeking book-length fiction (both novels and story collections) and narrative non-fiction submissions for their Leoness Book Award, and short stories for their Best Catholic Short Stories, 2010 edition.

Leoness Books is also seeking dedicated readers who are tired of the syrupy genre fiction that Christian publishers attempt to pass off as "real life," who are put off by the poorly written Apocalyptic novels that misrepresent Bible teaching, and disheartened by the plethora of literary options for nearly every subset of humanity, except for devout Catholics seeking quality literature inspired by faith. There are several ways to become involved and ensure Leoness Books’ success. Please visit www.LeonessBooks.com for more information.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Consept Map for Sacrament


I thought this might be helpful to some people. It is a concept/spider/cluster map on the definition of a sacrament. I'm going to start doing things like this with my students. As always, feel free to use or edit as needed. Click on the image for a larger image.


Here is one for those people who like correct spelling and more than two colors.

Not Said By Jesus Sunday


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Silence

[Currently preparing a meditation/presentation for a retreat tomorrow for some 10th graders. While preparing, it reminded me of something I wrote in one of my undergrad classes. I think I was reading a lot of apophatic theology at the time.]

Silence isn’t golden.
It is nothing,
but that nothing
is something,
which is silence
that is nothing.

It is by an absence of all things
that brings it forth
creating from nothing
that which is.
Silence is something,
which lacks everything,
making it nothing.

It is this thing, this nothing
that is complex enough
to reach down and touch
the “essence” of life—
to tickle the fibers of being,
and raise us up
from the lowest depths
set us gently
upon a pedestal
and speak:
an ahhhh of relief
a sigh of joy
a sign of peace
a sonus non praesentarius.

It is nothing
that I do not understand—
how it exists
and how it existed:
before man,
before time,
before the crashing of the cosmos,
(There is something that is naught.)

In the beginning was silence,
and the silence was with God,
and the silence was God
orchestrating the heavens
through symphonies to souls
in the most beautiful aria
of an unheard voice: Vocis Dius: Silence

If you have ears use them,
and all you have to do…
is listen.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Liturgical Parable

[One of the subjects I am teaching is sacraments. Needless to say, I am trying to educate the students on the liturgy. A recent assignment involved the students writing two paragraphs on "If you had the authority to change the mass so that it is more interesting what would you do to make it more interesting." I received some interesting responses. But the consensus was that the liturgy was boring, the music was bad, it was too repetitious, too redundant, it doesn't releate to modern life, the homilies are boring, and I can continue with their whining but will stop here. In short, this was my reply to them, in an attempt to discuss the need for some of the things they don't like or understand.]


It’s a Monday morning on Jesuit High School campus. A student walks up the main stairs past the Mary statue and tiredly trudges into the building. He walks down the “Hall of Honors” and stops in front of his locker, grabs his lock does two turns to the right, one to the left, and a partial turn to the final number and pops the lock open.

About this time, another student walks up to the locker next to the first student’s and goes through the same process to unlock and open his locker. Almost instantly the two begin chatting about what they did on the weekend: the dance at the near by girls school, getting grounded for low grades, a friend’s birthday party, and even an all night Madden marathon where the New Orleans Saints win the super bowl complete with Drew Brees as league MVP.

The discussion of Madden brings the first to ask the second, “Man, did you see that LSU-Auburn game on Saturday? It was awesome!”

The second sheepishly replies, “I guess so. I didn’t watch it.”

“You guess so. You didn’t watch it?!” says the first student in disbelief. “Guess nothing. It was amazing! LSU beating Auburn in their own house. That hasn’t been done in 10 years. There is no guessing about that.”

“Well, the thing is,” begins the second student. “The thing is, I don’t really like football, so I don’t watch it. I find it boring.”

“Boring! Boring!” exclaims the first student. “What is boring about football? Let me tell ya. Nothing. Nothing is what is boring about football.”

“It is just the same thing over and over and over,” explains the second student.” There is too much redundancy in the sport. They run a play that lasts for 15 seconds then they stand around for nearly half a minute before running another play. It is a wonder that the game ever gets finished. Football is the only sport that can make 60 minutes last 3 hours. If I were in charge of foot ball, I would make the games be much shorter. As it is the game seems to carry on forever. Three hours to play a game that is supposed to last only 60 mins. is way too long. Furthermore, the refs or officials just seem to run around the field waving their arms about like mad men. Its like they think they are at Mardi Gras or something. If I did what these refs do on the street, people would call me nuts and try to lock me up in a mental ward.”

“Ok, ok,” says the first student. “But you have to at least enjoy the music and get pumped up by it.”

“The music they play at the games is so cheesy, says the second student. “How many times can they play ‘Who let the dogs out’? With that incessant drumming and barking in my ear that makes my head want to explode. The music is so dated. They don’t keep up with the trends in music and never play anything that has been on the radio in the last 10 years. I’d prefer to just listen to my iPod and music that I like”

“That’s alright,” replies the first student. “I usually bring a radio and listen to the sports casters when the game is going on. The commentators usually know what is going on.”

“Commentators,” begins the second student.” Commentators are the biggest bore of them all in football. They can’t think of anything new to say. It is the same recycled junk that has been used for the past 100 years. If I have to listen to the same tired old moanings of some old ex-football player turned sportscaster say, 'such and such a player "breaks through the line"' or have him say something about ‘deep penetration in the back’ [warning: if you teach all boys, stop hear and wait for laughter to subside.] or yell out where the ball carrier is, while I am watching TV 'the 40, the 30, the 25, the 20, the 15, the 10, the 5, touchdown!' I don’t know what I am going to do. Plus, they really need to learn that the word 'execute' is far less nauseating when used 100 times over the span of 3 hours than the phrase ‘make plays.’ Furthermore, If I hear one more thing about the ‘big tight end' -- its always the big tight end from Miami -- or about the gun slinging QB or the savvy veteran, I think I am going to shoot someone.”

“What are you talking about?” says the first student. “Foot ball is so exciting. The fans are into the game.”

“Into the game!” replies the second student. “All they do is yell. And all the constant repetitive standing and sitting is a drag. It makes me so tired. They stand for 5 mins. We sit for 10. I wish they would make up their minds. Either stand or sit. None of this stand, sit, stand, sit, business. Plus, I never know when the standing is going to happen. It just happens and everyone says a bunch of stuff that I don’t understand. Plus, there is no way for the fans to participate in the game. They keep them off the field. The commissioner needs to find ways to get the fans more actively involved in the game. More fan participation on the field. Really, when it comes down to it, football isn’t a game that relates to everyday life, so I don’t see the need to ‘get into it.’”

“Man,” says the first student. “You just don’t get it do you?”

On that final statement the first student shuts his locker, reapplies the lock with a twist on the dial and heads off to class shaking his head. As he walked away, the second student thought he heard the first muttering something about ‘a moron.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Not Said By Jesus Sunday (Late Edition)






Awakenings: The Living Dead

[A reflection I did on a retreat for juniors over the weekend. I tried to type it up what I said word for word. My original was just bullet points.]

Zombies, they’re the new face of horror for our generation. But where did these horrific creatures come from? How did they enter into the American mind? In short, zombies came from West Africa and Haitian culture. In Haiti a person, usually a low life, was administered a powder that induced a coma. They were then buried, exhumed by a witchdoctor (who was a kind of ‘zombie-master), and used as a mindless slave. The word zombie comes from a west African word “zumbi’ which translates into English as “fetish”. Fetish – An inanimate object considered to be inhabited by a spirit.

Like I said, Zombies are the new face of horror. They can’t be avoided. We’ve seen them in the recent Resident Evil movies. In recent years zombies have be the main focus in Dawn of the Dead, the spin off parody of Dawn of the DeadShaun of the Dead, A South Park episode where Kenny turns half the city into Zombies, going back even further there was the Evil Dead series and finally the original Night of the Living Dead. But movies aren’t the only place we find zombies taking center stage in horror. In video games, zombies are always a favorite kill -- like in the Resident Evil games that are hugely popular. Recently in print there has been “Z Wars” and “How to Survive a Zombie Attack”.

But why are they the new horror? What is it about zombies that terrify us? Notice something interesting; even in the comedies, a zombie is something a person does not want to be. Nobody wants to be a zombie. Even Hollywood, who has the ability to make desirable and glorify all kinds of dark things, can’t find a way to glamorize these creatures. So as the clip is playing, I really want you to think. What are so terrifying and horrific about zombies?

-Play movie to 20 min. mark. Just after the dead zombie is lit on fire. Make sure you see the mob.-



Let us think about the movie for a min. Where do the zombies come from? If we watched the entire movie we would eventually learn that some kind of technology went wrong, it ran amuck, and radiation from this technology is creating these mindless creatures that have a vacant expression with an eeri uniformity. All the zombies might as well be the same. Besides what they wear, they are the same. At the sart of the movie we don’t know or learn much about the zombies. We only know that they want to attack people not like them. Think for a minute, how do you use technology? It is everywhere it can’t be avoided. Do you use it, or do we abuse it? Do you own technology, or do we let it own us? Do you let technology block our growth: spiritual, physical, mental and emotion? Have we let technology turn us into zombies to the point that our thoughts are occupied by the most simple of thought?

In our culture symbols are everywhere and at the same time are full of meaning and meaning less. In the movie we see the old-symbolism losing its power – with the lose of the old symbolism so goes the person on their way to being a zombie. In the movie we can say that the radio competes with religious ritual. John for instance seems more interested in the radio than delivering flowers to his father’s grave. John misses the importance of placing flowers on a grave and praying. “Praying is for church” is what he tells his sister. It is appropriate that John is the first victim in the movie. The veil that separates him from being a zombie (the living-dead) is pretty thins as it is. How about us? Have we amused, entertained, or stimulated ourselves to the point that we can’t see the depth of things (like John who doesn’t see the deeper meaning of visiting his father’s grave or praying. He thinks in terms of only time and money.) Do we miss the inner and spiritual dimensions? Mass? Church and family? Are we living a one dimensional existence that makes us living dead?

Even zombies are able of organization and massed frenzied activity. Like us . . . we can be driven zombies . . . assembled in numbers for no reason. Just a mindless group not thinking and not caring about what they are doing. Look even closer.

Zombies are weak. The zombie’s strength lies in numbers. Individually they can be beaten by those who are the furthest from being the living dead. Later in the movie, we discover that the only real purpose of the zombie is to make others like themselves. What if someone woke up? What if a zombie became unzombified? What if someone stays alive? The one who stays alive becomes like a fool to others. They become dangerous to the zombies: unpredictable. Lonely in a crowd. A stranger in one’s own house. A stranger among old friends.

What frightens me about zombies is that they have no will of their own. Once a person becomes a zombie their will is taken from them and they become less human. To look at it from a scientific perspective, it is like a step back in evolution. The person who becomes a zombie become more animal like. Their end it to feed and reproduce. One of the reasons I like the older version of this movie is that it is very hard to tell the difference between a zombie and a normal person. The zombie is often mistaken as a normal person. John and his sisters did this at the very beginning. If you went up to the top of the highest building in the city, how many zombies would you see? Would you be able to tell the zombies apart from the living? How many zombies have you walked next to on a daily basis?

Christ says in the Gospels to “let the dead bury the dead.” That is, let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead -- bodies with a dead soul, like the zombie who has no spirit. Though we can’t be the living dead, but are you certain that you aren’t the dead who is living? Are you certain you aren’t a zombie lumbering through life with a glazed expression looking to satisfy your stomach and to satisfy that urge to merge?

[The students then has some reflection questions and scriptures passages to spend some time in quiet prayer.]

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Storm Surge

[A friend told me this was too melodramatic. I kind of agree. If I have the chance to go back and redo it, I might send it to a journal]

September 14, 2008

Most recently, two hurricanes visited me (and my state) that were reminiscent of two other hurricanes that visited some three years prior. The latter two male (Ike and Gustav), while the former pair were female (Katrina and Rita). I know a good deal about these counterclockwise storms that tear through the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico every year. Most of what I know I have learned from the weather reports on TV and on the radio and the long standing oral history that Grandmother or Grandfather passed on to mother or father who in turn passed it on to their sons and daughters. The truth is, New Orleans’ history could be recounted using the floodings, the hurricanes, the fires, and the epidemics as guideposts to the city’s existence – this would probably make an interesting class if such a thing were attempted.

In other parts of the country, kids grow up fearing the boogieman or some other dark fictitious creature that lurks behind doors, under beds, or in the far off fields on the edge of town. Not in New Orleans. Children grow up hearing stories about “The Big One” and about real storms named Betsy and Camille and what they did to the city and what would happen if this “Big One” hit the city: the house would be flooded, all our things would be gone, Baton Rouge would be beach front property, you could fish off your roof, etc . . .. I was always a bit fond of this last one when I was a kid. I just like the novel image it produced in my mind. Myself perched on the sloping shingles near the edge of the roof with a rod in hand and a line in the muddy waters of the Mississippi. I was Huck Finn and my brother was Tom Sawyer. I never bothered to think about where we would sleep or how we would cook the fish we caught, but I was too enraptured with being able to fish all day and in my own yard and from my own house to consider the rest – but that is how kids think.

Unlike the boogieman, “The Big One” is inevitable and will eventually destroy New Orleans. So where fear of the boogieman fades with age, the fear of “The Big One” never really goes away, and every year from July through November families across New Orleans grow tense waiting and hoping that this be not the year “The Big One” hits the city. No, Katrina was not “The Big One.” She did manage to do considerable damage, but she was not “The Big One.” “The Big One” is destined to go up the mouth of the river, cause flooding from rain and storm surge, and obliterate the levee systems of the city to the point that no number of sandbags would be able to repair the levees for the next year. It is no wonder that a city known for celebrating every aspect of life and for whatever reason be born out of such tensions.

Much to our sorrow, we know now a days how devastating hurricanes can be. Years ago, hurricanes went unnamed and often those unnamed storms are forgotten, except to the select few who study those sorts of things. Now, hurricanes are named. There is no precise certainty as to why these particular storms are named while other, just as deadly storms go unnamed year to year. Perhaps it is done from an ancient idea that if you name something than you might exert some control over it. Maybe it is done so that the storm is easier remembered. Then again, a name might be applied just for the mere reason so that residents know who (or what) to blame and shake their fist at during the storm: “Curse you Katrina!” Whatever the reason for names it does not change the reality that these storms are born from nature’s pleasantries.

The pleasantries of nature are usually never worth noting until it turns violent and is in its rare malevolent form -- the form that the media likes best. If there is ever a portion of the populace that can over react more than an obsessive compulsive hypochondriac mother of four it is the media. Making mountains out of molehills and working the public into a frenzied alarm long long before any danger is eminent is becoming the media’s specialty. Long before a stiff breeze or a mild zephyer swept through New Orleans, the media had already predicted the city’s doom, which was to follow in a like manner to that of Katrina. There was no hope for the city, though the storm be below Cuba and not even in the Gulf of Mexico and with only a vague certainty to the storm’s path, the media had dubbed it another 100-year storm for New Orleans – if the media stopped and researched, they would learn that hurricanes hit New Orleans every 3-4 years. The city was due when Gustauv set it sites.

With my father gone and the media predicting certain doom, it fell upon myself to secure the house, which basically consisted of some plywood covering the windows; an ax in the attic; gas in the cars, extra food; bathtubs cleaned, stopped and filled with water; extra batteries; flashlights; a battery powered radio; and other essentials. My mother, who gets into the spirit of disaster quickly, set to work on the Friday before the storm was scheduled to hit in securing or moving indoors anything that could potentially be turned into a projectile in 100 mph wind: potted plants, chairs, swings, poles and boards – though, it really didn’t seem to matter if one was listening to the media as these things would be under 13 feet of water come Tuesday morning thus rendering these things incapable of being a projectile; besides, a broken window would be the least of our problems if what the media says be true. But anyway we set about doing what residents have always done for years.

6:00 that evening, the word came down from every branch of local government that the city should be evacuated, even though the storm was still south of Cuba, and that the mayor had already declared south Louisiana in a state of emergency and in need of disaster relief. The media could tell us nothing more but the same repetitious messages, which was causing the media to spend herself at a reckless rate, that did nothing more than add to the alarm of the people. With tautological nonsense the media could only tell us “Yes, the storm might hit.” and “Yes, the storm might miss.” My mother a good citizen, set about like a mad djinn packing everything she deemed important into the back of her SUV. I on the other hand, maybe it is because I am either a bad citizen or I though the storm was being blown out of proportion by the media for my area, left my mother to assemble her things in all anxiety and went out to listen to some music – it is what people do in New Orleans on a Friday night.

At 3:00 the next morning, my mother shakes me awake on the couch, where I was sleeping, asking for my help to load the big things into her car. She wanted to get an early start so that she could “beat the traffic.” She and my grandmother were evacuating to Hammond, Louisiana to make preparations at the house my mother and father bought after Katrina hit New Orleans. After helping my mother and seeing her off, I sat down in the recliner and turned on the news channel. There was no new news about the storm that I had not already heard: It was nearing the Gulf, it was strengthening, it appeared to be picking up speed, and it appeared to still be headed right for us. I went back to bed.

Later that morning, I learned that the Louisiana State University football game had been moved up to 10 am, an unacceptable time for LSU fans. I quickly turned on the radio (as the game was not televised) and scanned the dial back and fourth to find the game. It is usually broadcasted on AM station 870. The game wasn’t on. Instead it was a gruff voice saying that the storm is set to pass just west of New Orleans -- anyone who knows anything about Hurricanes knows that the east side of the storm is the worst place to get caught in a hurricane, so it appears New Orleans might not fair out well this time. But I went back looking for the LSU game, which it turned out every radio station had been taken over and taken up by Gustav updates and governmental information, so I never heard the game. At this time the Governor was calling for a mandatory evacuation starting tomorrow (Sunday) morning, so taking my mother’s lead. I began packing.

So what exactly do you take with you when the city council, mayor, parish president, governor and the news casters say you will be flooded and all your stuff will be lost if it is not taken with you? I have a small space and much I want to take with me. It was an easy decision at first, I take any important documents (diplomas, car slips, death certificates, wills, passports, birth certificates, loan information, etc.), but after this the choices get more complicated. Clothes is a given . . . but how much and which ones: suit, sports coats, work clothes, and some shorts and t-shirts. I have hundreds of books, which ones do I take? Argh, good bye Kreeft, Lewis, Tolkien, Chesterton. In my limited space I took only those few books that I knew were out of print: Meditation on the Passion, The Life of Christ, and a pre-Thurston edition of Butler's Lives of the Saints, and I also took my school books from work. I also grabbed the photo albums that my mom forgot to pack in her car as well as my father's guns -- he collected guns and had several nice pieces in addition to his hunting weaponry.

But the questions always kept coming back, "How much of this stuff do I take, and what is the essential stuff that I must take?" I didn't really like that trip to the Grand Canyon my family took when I was a kid (I'd probably like it more now if I made the same journey today), but my mom has a whole album of the trip chronoilising our expedition from the front door in New Orleans to the canyon and back again, and it is a good collection of pictures of my dad: nuf said, it goes. I had to plan for the worse, as that is what the Media was saying would happen, so "are two pair of dress shoes essential or just one?" If I only pack one, I might be able to squeeze in something else that might be deemed more important.

Unable to squeeze another item in my car, I exited my house in New Orleans, thinking this will be the last I live here for a while. I wanted to do something more. Something wasn’t quite right. I dashed back inside grabbed a miraculous medal off a windowsill, a hammer and a nail and firmly nailed the medal to the exterior of the front door. “Thy Will be done.” is what I prayed. I don’t know why exactly I did this. I wasn’t expecting a miracle and none occurred that I can account, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I got in my car and left.

After being caught in the traffic my mother was trying to beat for some four hours on a trip that normally only took one ,I arrived in Hammond at 4:52 tired and anxious. My mother and grandmother were glued to the TV watching a news reporter, who for whatever reason – perhaps he drew the short straw – was in the bayous of south Louisiana reporting on the storm.
“How is the condition down there Bob,” asked the anchorman in the station? The camera cut to Bob on the Bayou who was outdoors in a hooded rain jacket.
“Well Carl,” shouted Bob, “As you can see the wind is starting to pick up, it is raining here as we are starting to get some of the outer bands, and the water is beginning to get rough.” The camera panned to the bayou that was already turning with small but bigger than normal white crested waves, and the wind could be heard through Bob’s microphone. Bob and Carl continued to dialogue, and Bob finished saying that he would be hunkering down in due time.

It was at this moment that I realized the media in Louisiana was taking a position that was firmly against hurricanes. That was not doubt. Though it was anti-hurricane, it seemed to be pro disaster. After all it is far more interesting to hear about the detailed misfortunes of a family without power, food, water, and who had a tree crash into their house than to calmly report “everything is fine a dandy down here. Back to you Carl.”

Nothing new happened on Saturday. My mother and grandmother gorged themselves on Gustav information. It didn’t matter that it was the same information they had been hearing now for the past two days. A person can only take so much of the same information before getting sick to the stomach and taking a strain on one’s mental wellbeing. In each room the TV was tuned to Gustav updates. There was no escaping Gustav. Every few hours new updates on the storm came through. It was headed a little more east. Now it is more west. It is getting stronger. Land fall is set for New Orleans. Now it is west Louisiana, and now it is somewhere in between. The only predictable thing about this storm was its unpredictability. I have heard too much Gustav updates recycled to the umteenth power with no new information that I would have preferred to fight Gustav himself than listen to another minute of hurricane information. I went for a run to get away from Gustav.

On Sunday gray and black clouds chased each other as my mother and I went to mass. Attendance was sparse as people were evacuating from the very place to which we evacuated: this made us nervous. It wasn’t that the storm was going to hit us that made the reality difficult. It was the waiting. It was your mind guessing and wondering how much damage is going to happen and to every tree we’d silently ask “How much wind can you handle? If you fall won’t you please fall in a good direction?” The media didn’t help either, for by now all the casters were speaking with strained, over worked voices and their exhaustion could not be hid by any amount of makeup, lighting, or camera angle. Their heavy eyelids and staggering voices smoke more about their mental and physical state than their slouching shoulders and blue blazers. Moreover, the Parish President did nothing to ease the burden by ending his last address with “God have mercy on us all.” Nor did the Mayor of New Orleans help when he very frankly told the citizenry to “be afraid.”

7:48 Sunday evening, the power failed, the wind picked up and the rain began falling like crashing waves. What a relief to have a break from the TV news. Gustav could be heard for the first time in all his terrible glory beating against the house. The wind moaned and called us to window just in time to Gustav push over a tree in a loud crack and land across my neighbor’s front yard. The break didn’t last long, for moments after the tree fell my mother anxiously turned the portable radio to the news station and picked up where she left off. The man on the radio told us that Hammond was without power.

Limbs broke. Trees fell. Streets flooded. It was a typical hurricane. We all went outside to escape the climbing indoor temperatures. When one is without power, there is no computer, internet, video games, and maybe even cell phones. The board games and decks of cards emerged (It always seemed to be Professor Plum in the Conservatory with the candlestick). What one discovers during a hurricane is that there is lots of food that needs to be cooked and there are people needed to eat that food. In short, an impromptu gathering happened and people began discovering people. Like in the old days – or at least how I imagine the old days to be. The front porch was filled once more with conversations and laughter, while my grandmother cooked a pot of red beans (we have a gas stove), some gumbo, and fried some fish. She didn’t “want it to spoil.” That evening all the world’s problems were solved on my front porch. If only someone had remembered to bring with them a pen and paper.

That night two of my cousins from down the street came for a visit: one only seven years old and dressed in a shiny, plastic, yellow rain coat fit with rain boots and his mother my first cousin. My seven-year-old cousin was a great break from all this storm business. He didn’t know what was happening. He just thought it was a really bad rain. He became my favorite family member during the hurricane mostly because the deepest and most serious conversation we had that whole week revolved around Pok-e-mon and whether or not Pikachu is better than Riachu. All our arguments ended in the typical manner that all arguments between 7 year olds end, with an endless repetition of him negating my near perfect argument supported from multiple points by the almost indistinguishable, sing-songy, grunt "na-uhu" and me being only able to counter, even with all my education, by replying "yeah hu".

I refused to let him have the final "na-uhu", for the loser was determined by the one who gave up first. Also, I wanted to remember what it is like to have the appetite of infancy and to further develop the strength to endure monotony, after all it is God who says "do it again" to every daisy he makes. We often drove the parents and grandparents crazy with this kind of arguing.

Gustav was finished the following day, but we were without power for a week, which made for sleeping at night in South Louisiana a miserable experience with indoor conditions reaching 85 degrees with 85% humidity. With all the news coverage and build up of the storm, it really was only a strong rain storm with mighty winds, and the out come is what to be expected from a rain storm with strong winds. Many places were without power and water, trees were down, people were hurting, flooding occurred and help was needed.

All that remained was to get clearing the mess Gustav made.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...