Monday, March 2, 2015

Catholics Can't Walk the Walk Unless They Talk the Talk

There's a rather optimistic saying among criminal defense lawyers: nobody talks, everybody walks. Of course, someone always talks, usually your client long before you ever meet him. Sometimes, though, nobody talks and everyone does, indeed walk.

Steven Lee Goff walked into a police station on Easter Monday, 2013 and talked. He confessed to the murder of a friend and partner in crime 23 years before, a murder he had gotten away with. He had kept his silence and his liberty, but became convinced that something was more important than liberty, or, rather, that he was not truly free as long as he kept his secret. He is now serving a sentence for murder.

What do we face after we go to confession? "Say a prayer for the blessings in your life?" A decade of the rosary? Whatever it is, it cannot compare to spending the rest of our lives behind bars. Yet when we take into account how great a Majesty we have offended through our repeated sins, and the gates of Heaven our confession opens, can we say even the price paid by Steven Lee Goff would be too much?

Are our sins as hard to confess as murder? Surely, the paltry catalog of petty sins most of us carry could be confessed without too much injury to our own feelings.

Sometimes the Bear does not understand humans.

Nearly every week he trundles off to confession, and sees the same ten or so people out of a parish of 500 families. Either his parish is the home of hundreds of people who never sin, or confession is scandalously neglected. Yet everybody, without exception always goes to communion.

Steven Lee Goff confessed to murder and his secular penance was to live the rest of his life in a small cage containing a bed and a toilet. Yet the vast majority of people in the Bear's parish would need a map to find the confessional in their own church.

There are many reasons for this. Sin is simply out of style in our age. A demon of Pride stands between us and the confessional. (The Bear always says that sound you hear when you walk into the confessional is that demon of Pride hitting the floor.) We tell ourselves, "I'm not any worse than anybody else."

Lent is a great time to get into the habit of regular confession. It really isn't that hard, and gets easier. It is beneficial to face your sins regularly, and to identify your weaknesses. Best of all, there is nothing in this world like hearing those blessed words of absolution.

Here's some free legal advice: when it comes to confession, you can't walk as a Catholic if you don't talk the talk -- that talk that begins "bless me Father, for I have sinned."

(Steven Lee Goff's story is told in the Lent 2015 ed. of The Word Among Us.)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Stabat Mater

The Bear and his mate have added the Office of Readings to our Morning Prayer from the Divine Office. Has the Bear's frequent mentions of the Liturgy of the Hours (LOTH) piqued your curiosity, friends known and unknown? We began it about three years ago, as it is required for Benedictine Oblates. It takes awhile to learn and become prayerful, but it is worth it. It is available in the following formats:
  • Four-volume complete set of the LOTH
  • One volume "Christian Prayer" that has the full Morning and Evening prayers, plus Night and Daytime prayers, and a large selection of hymns (this is the one we usually use)
  • Four-Week cycle of psalms with hymns, intended to be chanted to the eight tones of St. Meinrad Monastery (the publisher, and the Benedictine monastery to which we are attached)
There are also instructional books, such as the charming Divine Office for Dodos. To pick out the tones (short lines of music for chant) there is the indispensable iChant app for iOS and Android. On the subject of apps:
  • Divine Office is unique in that it has audio in addition to the on-screen material. Audio has been a mixed blessing as some of the volunteer readers have indulged in overwrought interpretative dramatics. Fortunately, they are finally addressing that. It is definitely the easiest way to learn the rubrics and get a feel for how it all is supposed to sound.
  • Universalis is an app that puts everything you need into your hands, although you will have to supply the sound yourself. This is another good way to learn the rubrics, and a very handy way to pray the Hours. You don't have to be tethered to a wireless connection, either, which makes it good for day trips.
 If you should decide to give it a try, feel free to bring any questions to the Bear. It can appear quite formidable, but is really much simpler than it looks.

Today we sang the haunting Stabat Mater from the Adoremus Hymnal. The Bear was struck by one verse:

Who could see from tears refraining
Christ's dear mother uncomplaining,
In so great a sorrow bowed.

The Bear couldn't help but notice the profound difference between this traditional treatment of that dolorous scene and the bitter, raving woman spitting accusations toward a silent sky. These little things matter.

But that's for another time.

The Seven Bears of the Bible, Prelude


Perhaps because the Bear is listening (that's right, an excellent audiobook) to the Confessions of St. Augustine for Lent, he has been inspired, or has at least concocted a scheme, to provide his woodland friends with a few little essays based on the happy coincidence that the word "bear" (the animal one, not the "carrying" one) appears seven times in the Bible. The early fathers of the Church could find no end of allegory in the Old Testament. Perhaps the Bear might be able to do something similar.

In Hebrew (there are no New Testament bears) the word for bear is "dob." Hebrew, like Arabic, is a very logical language when it comes to nouns. Both languages develop words from various standard permutations of a tri-literal root. In the case of "bear," it is based on the big animal's unexpectedly smooth, even gracefully flowing movement. (To this day, in Arabic, "to crawl" has the same tri-literal root, which is why a tank is called "dobaba," and "bear" is -- wait for it -- "dob.")

The Bear knows you love it when he gets pedantic.

The first occurrence of the word "bear" in the Bible is from 1 Samuel 17:34,35. King Saul and his men are more than skeptical when young David steps up to tackle Goliath. But there was more to David than met the eye.


And David said to Saul: Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, or a bear, and took a ram out of the midst of the flock: And I pursued after them, and struck them, and delivered it out of their mouth: and they rose up against me, and I caught them by the throat, and I strangled, and killed them.


The Holy Bible, Translated from the Latin Vulgate. (2009). (1 Sa 17:34–35). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

What kind of practical or allegorical wisdom do you think might be found in this passage?

The Bear hopes your first full week of Lent went well. As stated earlier, the Bear is taking it easy on the blogging, and avoiding controversy (and the Pope) entirely.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lenten Home Shrine

Lenten Shrine

The Bear's posting rate may not be as frequent during Lent. Thank you for your understanding and don't forget your old pal.

-- The Bear