Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Lentblogging Day 16 - Are You a Bearish Human? Take the Test!


The Bear's special apostolate is to Bearish Humans. He does not wish to waste precious, er, resources by going outside this highly limited ministry for which he has been anointed.

So, please take this test to see if you should keep reading. For every YES, give yourself a point. At the end please total your score see if you are a

BEARISH HUMAN. (All questions apply to the past three months).

  1. I have been incapacitated by sleep to the degree that I was unable to fulfill my religious obligations.
  2. I have growled at 70 decibels or louder. (For comparison, that is the sound of an average vacuum cleaner).
  3. I have willfully spent an evening binge-watching a TV series to the exclusion of my reading of Holy Scripture and/or prayers. (Add 3 if it was Game of Thrones.)
  4. I have failed to avert my eyes from a delicious pony*.
  5. I have used more than two plates (total) at any buffet** OR asked, "Are you going to eat that?"
  6. I have used one of the seven dirty words in relation to any Roman Catholic Bishop.
  7. I have walked out during a homily, even if it was for the protection of others.
  8. I have performed other "church theater," e.g. removing the bowls of empty or sand-filled holy water stoups during Lent and turning them upside down with a puzzle expression on my face.
  9. I have avoided gainful employment by shameless panhandling.
  10. I have slacked off during Lentblogging by resorting to lame gimmicks when I realized I have not prepared a new article.
*or whatever

**"plate" meaning the normal quantity of food carried by one plate; precision food engineering to attain greater than rated plate-loads counts as at least two plates


0-2 = SAINT by Bear Standards. You have no further need of Bear.
3-4 = Possible Bear Tendencies that bear watching.
5-6 = If you are not yet a Bearish Human, you are in immediate danger of becoming one.
7-8 = You have an advanced case of Bearishness that must receive intensive treatment.
9-10 = You are not just a Bearish Human, YOU ARE A BEAR and should stay here among your own kind.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Lentblogging Day 15 - The Prayer of St Ephrem the Syrian

The Bear must say that the installment entitled, "That Ladies Wear Clothes, Lord Hear our Prayer," did twice as well as most of the other articles. Perhaps others have observed this phenomenon, too.

At any rate, poor old St. Ephem the Syrian probably can't hope for similar traffic without a shamelessly clickbaity title, although the Bear bets he thought modesty was important, too.

St. Ephrem is a Doctor of the Catholic Church, although he is better known among the Orthodox. Although called "the Syrian," he was born and died in Turkey in the 4th Century. His feast day is June 9th and he is the patron of spiritual directors.

The Prayer of St. Ephrem is closely associated with Orthodox Lent, during which it is frequently recited, customarily with bows. One version, in translation, goes like this:

O Lord and Master of my life, grant me not a spirit of sloth, despondency, love of power, and idle talk. 
But give to me, your servant, a spirit of sober-mindedness, humility, patience, and love. 
Yes, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother, since you are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen.

You can see why it is fitting for Lent. It would be a good practice to add this to your Lenten devotions and meditate on the words. The choices St. Ephrem packs into this short prayer are interesting. 
  • sloth
  • despondencey
  • love of power
  • idle talk
  • sober-mindedness
  • humility
  • patience
  • love
  • seeing our own faults
  • not judging our brothers and sisters
You might also notice that he addresses God as "Lord and Master of my life," and "Lord and King."

We should remain active and engaged with our Lenten practices, and not fall into laziness, or still less succumb to The Noonday Devil. (See Chapter 8 of Saint Corbinian's Lenten Companion of Bearish Humans.) We've still got a long way to go, friends! The Bear needs every day of Lent!

By the way, the Bear is pleased to report that despite a late release - on Ash Wednesday - his little book is selling well and people seem to enjoy it. The Bear just saw his first printed copy today and was pleased. It's pretty slender, just 172 pages including the front matter. Oh, goody, a review is up, Bear notices!

So, the Bear leaves you today to contemplate the venerable prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian. Perhaps you will incorporate it into your daily Lenten regimen.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Lentblogging Day 14 - Turning Outward

So far, it seems that the Bear has talked a lot of about practical methods to help you develop better habits. That's important, he thinks. Lent should be a time of growing in virtue and defeating vice, and we fail when we go into it with some vague idea of "improving ourselves."

But Lent is more than a period of self-help improvement. The Bear thinks the focus has too often been "it's all about me." My virtues, my vices, my fast, what I give up, etc.

Last time, the Bear wrote about the different ways people have helped him during Lent. You may have noticed the day before he was suffering from ennui. Did you happen to catch the difference? It means something when people remember you. It truly helps them. The Bear has not been feeling ennui since Sunday (although he has been very sleepy, which is normal for Bears). Now, he wants to flip that around and discuss the ways we can help others.

Some of the ideas in the last article were good ones. We should be generous with our financial resources where they are needed. We should lift up our Christian brothers and sisters in prayer. In fact, we should think of those of our communion as real brothers and sisters, with affection and care.

The Bear sometimes has the sense that people are praying for him.

The Communion of Saints is very real to the Bear. Here's an everyday example of the way we are connected. Bear cannot count the times he has picked up his phone to call his wife, only to have it ring in his hand with her at the other end. This is commonplace among people he knows. There is little doubt in the mind of the Bear that we are connected as Christians, and that such a special connection can exist even between bloggers and readers. Certainly between members of your parish, although it easier to be brotherly to those far away.

Up close we all know people can be challenging.

Not even death disrupts that connection, we are taught. What a blessing is the doctrine of Communion of the Saints!

This Lent we should be adding "a measure of service" to our "bona opera," or good work. We should turn outward from ourselves, however meritorious the work on our Tower of Lent is. It can begin with little things: getting someone that second cup of coffee, straightening up, just being kind and loving. Sending money to a good cause. Looking a stranger in the eye and giving a hello and a smile.

The world might be a little better place if we greeted everyone. Such a small thing.

Prayer should not be underestimated. We should pray for vocations, especially for our diocese and any religious house with which we are affiliated. In our Liturgy of the Hours for Oblates, so many of the prayer intentions are for "our absent confreres." And some of them are for the oblates. We pray for the monks, and we know they pray for us. We remember our Archabbey financially during Lent.

The most important thing to realize is that all our efforts are sterile - they will not produce fruit - if we do not take into account our brothers and sisters, whom we should truly love.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Lentblogging Day 13 - "That Ladies Wear Clothes, Lord Hear Our Prayer"

"For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20 NABRE).

Bear Gets By With the Help of His Friends

Today, the Bear would like to talk about those who accompany us on our Lenten journey. (Yes, the word "accompany" and references to "journeys" and "gathering" are Catholic cliches, but the Bear will use them when they're useful.)

Some of them provide opportunities to exercise heroic Christian virtue. Others help us in more direct ways.

Lazy Bear

This morning, the Bear did not want to get out of bed. A toothache had kept poor Bear awake much of the night and he was not in a good mood. He just kept telling himself it was extra Lenten penance for the sins of the day. (Which didn't stop him from slamming the screaming nerve endings with painkillers and lidocaine.) However, his guardian angel rolled his carcass out of bed and he settled down to pray Lauds.

The Devil always tells him to snooze a bit, or "wait until you're fully awake, for, you know, the glory of God." Bear caught on to that trick a long time ago, like, last week. So he usually says a pretty sleepy Lauds, but imagines real Benedictine Monks are sometimes sleepy at prayer, too.

As a wonderful surprise, Red Death, his driver, bodyguard and factotum, and beautiful, lawfully wedded spouse, joined him. (She doesn't like anyone to know, but yesterday was her birthday.)

It made such a difference. Singing Lauds with her, instead of all by himself, was wonderful, and the Bear felt less sleepy. How lovely when a couple is equally yoked in Christ, be they even human and Bear! Then he shared the readings and reflection from his Word Among Us app. (Please don't roll your eyes; it has actually been very nice for Bear this Lent.)

A Different Mass

We attended Mass at the Newman Center since the Bear was not ready for the single 9 a.m. Mass at our regular parish. There was holy water in abundance and the Bear happily splashed in it for several minutes until he realized a long line had formed behind him.

By the way, a friendly Public Service Announcement for the ladies, especially younger ones, and especially during Lent:

A can of gray spray paint is cheaper.

Bear understands many females do not own full-length mirrors and probably have no idea what they are, um... sharing.


People are encouraged to add their own prayer intentions at the Newman Center. ("That ladies wear clothes, Lord hear our prayer."). Bear is sure it seems like a good idea in a gathery way. In practice, however, they can be rambling, impossible to hear, and the whole thing drags on in a blathery way. Likewise, the birthdays and anniversaries shouted out at the end, each demanding its very own round of applause made the Bear feel very ungathery. They dragged on so long he would have gnawed a leg off to escape if he could have.

Especially since he had skipped breakfast.

Why can't we just do the Mass right out of the can(on)? It's all written out, Bear understands. He has even seen it with his own eyes. The "Novus Ordo" Mass does not bother Bear until people start thinking up "improvements."

Lovely Readers

Then he came home and did Midday prayer and was again surprised: this time by some nice donations of salmon. (If you contributed $18.99 or more, the Bear will send you an autographed copy of his Lenten Companion for Bearish Humans, but he must have your address! Shipping is free for single copies in the U.S.)

One of the greatest things about blogging is that, over time, you become close to certain faithful readers. The Bear has received marvellous gifts. Even a first-class relic of St. Maurus, the original Benedictine Oblate, complete with its impressive bull of authenticity. He lives on a little shelf in our icon corner, where we keep an oil lamp burning 24/7.

Yesterday the Bear received a book from a dear reader that is so perfect, it must be providential, or perhaps evidence of the Communion of the Saints.

But, no matter what the gift, the Bear gives thanks. Even the private emails sharing what this ephemeris has meant to readers are precious to him. He is grateful for his friends, who are helping him to Lent, and hopes that God can use even a Bear to help them in return. He prays for all of his readers every day, for their safety and well-being, but most of all that they be edified by something he wrote, and never be caused to stumble by some stupid Bear thing.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Lentblogging Day 12 - Giving Up Lent for Lent


What a great word. Pronounced on-wee', it even sounds like what it means: listlesness, boredom, bleh.

On Day 12 of Lent, the Bear is experiencing ennui.

He has enough failures behind him to be a little discouraged, and that New Lent Smell has faded from his days. He senses the Noonday Devil has gotten a whiff of his ennui and may be on his trail.

In other words, Lent is starting to feel like the rest of the year. Bear bets it's pretty common around this time. Even the Bear in his Lenten Companion is fed up with Lent on Day 12.

How do you jumpstart Lent?

As always, it's best to stick to basics.

  • Continue to work on your regular daily schedule with fixed times for prayer (maybe the Liturgy of the Hours, or at least a rosary).
  • Don't forget grace before meals - and don't gorge at the Chinese Buffet like the Bear did today. (Many of us should worry about our stomach before our soul. They should definitely be introduced to each other instead of existing on two opposite Gnostic-type poles.)
  • Try a cleansing fast until you really miss food.
  • Whatever you gave up should be present enough to act as a frequent reminder.
  • Bear's advice - you can take it or leave it - avoid a diet of scandal during Lent. Plenty of time to save the world after Easter. Raymond Arroyo will probably last at EWTN until then and the bishops are off doing their own thing beyond your influence, anyway.
  • Don't skimp on your scripture readings - do the lectionary at a minimum and try to work up to a leisurely half-hour of real Bible study.
  • Consider adding some classic spiritual reading (Interior Castle, Imitation of Christ, Rule of St. Benedict, etc.) A little goes a long way; we're looking for quality time, not trying to get through a book.
  • It's hard to be Lenten if you're mired in some vice - time to get serious about practical measures you can take to minimize your exposure to temptation; not everything is "holy." One of the best things you can do is use that great big human brain to create a smart strategy. Does anyone not know what the Bear is talking about? If not, he'll be happy to explain.
  • And don't forget your religious obligations. For some of us, it's harder than others, but this is a time we should be doing our best.

We still have three-quarters of Lent ahead of us, friends! Plenty of time to rededicate ourselves and get Bearish (in a good way) about it. And if you've stumbled, figure out why and make sure you stumble forward from self-knowledge gained.

(P.S. a few PayPal salmon tossed the Bear's way would help cover his out-of-pocket expense for this ephemeris. Donations decline when Bear provides boring articles like Lentblogging.)

Friday, February 23, 2018

Lentblogging Day 11 - Shoving Jesus Out of the Way to Proclaim the Truth!

"So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." Matthew 5:23-24 (RSV).

Nothing gets between you and God like a grudge. 

Especially those grudges where we know we are right and the other person is wrong. And, worst of all, are grudges held against people on behalf of those we love. No, not worst of all. There is yet something worse, more diabolical, to which the Bear will come.

The Bear finds that it is hard, but not impossible, to admit he was in the wrong and apologize. He probably doesn't need to go on about humility and forgiveness in such situations.

As the Bear learned during his first Lent, however, the Devil never tires of setting traps and is often more clever than that. In fact, you can almost count on running into very cunning ones the very next day after you have made progress. (The Bear says "you made progress," but, of course, we know that the grace of God is necessary for any progress, and we fail unaided.)

The juiciest bait of all is: "But, I'm right!"

Maybe you are right and maybe you're not. It doesn't really make any difference. In fact, you're better off it the trap is baited with a wrong opinion. At least there is always the chance you might realize you are wrong.

But, when you're right, it is scarcely possible for any of us to forgive and forget.

Sometimes, we are never so morally wrong than when we are objectively right. That seems like some Bear attempt at Chestertonian paradox, but it is just the plain truth. We may forgive seventy-times seven when we are injured, but let our spouse, or our child be hurt, and, like Vito Corleone in The Godfather, "that I do not forgive." We even take pride in our lack of forgiveness, because it is for another.

Here is the most diabolical trap of all.

Often, we are challenged by situations in our faith. We have good reasons to think we are in the right and others are in the wrong, these days. Some of our leaders seem foolish, at best. We imagine we can easily detect the venal motives behind their wrongs. 

The truth! Ah, that is the most powerful kind of in-the-right bait there is. The Bear does not want to sound holier-than-thou, because he knows he is not, and so do his readers. But, he's just throwing this out there: can't we try to leave aside controversies involving personalities until after Lent?

It is true. The news never stops. It's a big world and today we have the means to know just about all the news there is. Plus, we can add a thousand commentaries to every bit of it. It is true, also, that far fewer people wish to read about Lent than a juicy controversy. It's just the way we are; how we have been conditioned by blogs and social media. But, this is how it has always been, too, although outlets were far more limited in the past. Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper were hugely popular - and powerful - Hollywood gossip columnists back in the day.

Give the Bear a funny hat and he can out-snark Hedda Hopper in her heyday any day of the week.

One of the things a blogger can give up for Lent is traffic. It's easy. Just stop writing about scandal and concentrate on areas of broad Christian agreement.

Don't take this as an accusation of any sort, like, bloggers only care about traffic. No, the Bear believes bloggers care about the truth. Traffic, is, however, a fact of life and the Bear has noticed, whether anyone else has or not, that controversial posts perform four times better or more than something like the last post about how your brain assists in building good habits, which, for the Bear, at least, is a lot better to know about than the latest brouhaha at the Vatican.

The Bear can write better headlines than his last piece. He expects arguments like, "That's impossible, because, Jesus is the truth!" It gets back to being right, but wrong. It is a hard saying. The Bear doesn't expect everyone to agree with him.

Even though, by golly, he's right!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Lentblogging Day 10 - The Anatomy of Good Habits

Your brain can be your friend.
One-quarter through Lent! If you are enjoying this series, please consider tossing a little salmon the Bear's way. Or, better yet, add a few more and get an autographed copy of his Lenten Companion (see sidebar). While you're waiting, he'll email you enough of it to tide you over until you receive your copy.


You may have read somewhere that it takes some certain magic number of days to form a habit; Twenty-one is the most popular. However, that is closer to the minimum number of days. According to the latest studies, it takes an average of 66 days, or 18 to 254 days to develop a new habit.

The habits you strive to develop during Lent may or may not stick before Easter. That's okay, as long as you don't give up. Your brain is there to help.

However, we are not just white-knuckling our way out of bad habits and into good. By now (Bear hopes) you have planned your Tower of Lent down to the last penny. The Bear is all about Lenting smart. That means plan what you can accomplish, and accomplish what you planned. If you find that your plan isn't working, that's okay. Roll back on your haunches and figure out why.

One question to ask is whether you need to step back and discover a foundation habit before you begin to build. If, for example, you are not a person of regular habits, you may find any tower you attempt to build to have a foundation of sand.

You see, we seldom accomplish anything through sheer willpower. We must figure out specific, practical ways to avoid near occasions of sin. In other words, be smart and give yourself the best chance of success. That may mean making changes to your physical environment and daily routine; it will always mean frequent appeals to God in prayer. Unfortunately, we are seldom taught this. We are often merely exhorted to be more like this or that saint, say certain prayers, and in general, just be determined to be better.

And we wonder why we so often fail. Jesus was always using practical examples in his parables for a reason.

Sometimes we will fail. But, research shows a stumble or fall here and there does not appreciably slow the development of a new habit.

The Bear cannot tell you when your Lenten resolve to say the Divine Office, or read the Bible 30 minutes every day, or say a Rosary with your family every day (the latter two are both worth a plenary indulgence, with the usual conditions) will stick. He can't predict how long it will take to get out of a bad habit, either. He can predict that it will seem like all sorts of obstacles will rear their heads to stop and discourage you, though.

However, the research shows that if you stick with it, it will take root in your brain. And that's not even counting the help of the Holy Spirit.

We used to be told that our brain never changes, that nerve cells were the only cells in our bodies that were not renewed. We now know that's nonsense. The human brain is plastic. In other words it is like clay, and physically adapts to thoughts and experiences.

Every time you say "no" to a bad habit and say "yes" to a good one you are changing your brain a tiny bit, and a little closer to behaving like the person you want to be. (By the same token, every time you say "yes" to a bad habit, that will change your brain, too.) You may have become more like the person you want by the end of this very Lent. More likely, it will be sometime later. However, you can have confidence that, if you don't give up, you can do do it, with God's help.

Romans 12:2 (RSVCE2) - "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Lentblogging Day 9 - Discretion

St. Benedict
Those with a wide perspective and eyes to see will know that a cultural tsunami swept away an entire civilization during the 20th Century. No Western institution was spared. Today, we are watching them all fail at the same time and for the same reasons.

Would that Christianity had been spared.

It is only natural that we focus on our faith, but if we are observant, we can trace the correspondences to failings in other institutions of the West. They are all dying from the same disease.

The result is that most of us don't get to live out our faith in beauty and continuity with the past. It takes the virtues of discretion, perseverance, obedience and humility to survive. Often some of these are the very virtues our religious leaders seem to lack, but pretend to have in abundance. That makes it all the harder for the rest of us.

Righteous indignation is the order of the day for many, not excepting the Bear, he admits.

It is certainly the natural reaction for many, but is it the best one? The Bear often finds himself so full of us own ideas that his cup overfloweth - and he's the only one doing the pouring!

What if (the Bear wonders today) he came to his religion with an empty cup. What if he painfully watched all of his precious ideas - but, they're all right! - spill onto the ground until he was left with an empty cup and trusted God to fill it with new wine? No doubt, many readers are objecting that you can't trust God to fill your cup these days, at least not there, although you'd be safe if you came here, or maybe went over there.

The Bear, however, having only a 450 gm brain, wonders if there are things besides intellectual positions that God's pitcher might contain for us.

The Discretion of the Rule of St. Benedict

The discretion that is behind the Rule of St. Benedict is avoiding extremes. For example, St. Benedict did not think it was proper for monks to drink any wine at all. However, he exercises discretion and recognizes human weakness. He allows about three glasses of wine per day.

It takes humility to accept things we know are less than the ideal. To make allowance for human weakness. It takes obedience to follow authority. No doubt, there were many monks who pointed to some other abbot who did not limit wine. Others said, "In the past monks were not allowed any wine at all. Who is this Benedict fellow to come in and make some liberal innovation?"

And yet, it is the Rule of St. Benedict that survived the Fall of the Roman Empire is still with us to this day. The same sort of humility and discretion is found in St. Benedict's Rule concerning the psalms.

Above all else we urge that if anyone finds this distribution of the psalms unsatisfactory, he should arrange whatever he judges better, provided that the full complement of one hundred and fifty psalms is by all means carefully maintained every week, and that the series begins anew each Sunday at Vigils. For monks who in a week’s time say less than the full Psalter with the customary canticles betray extreme indolence and lack of devotion in their service. We read, after all, that our holy Fathers, energetic as they were, did all this in a single day. Let us hope that we, lukewarm as we are, can achieve it in a whole week.

Once again, St. Benedict is not holding his monks to the ideal of the past. The singing of the psalms was at the heart of his Rule. It was no small thing to tinker with the liturgy, the opus - they both mean the same thing: work. Today, we have our four-week psalters, and even those leave out a bit. It is doubtful many would say all 150 psalms in a week.

When we find ourselves outraged and scandalized, we may justify it on the very best of grounds - we're right. At least we have excellent arguments and can cite authority. Of course, only Bears take this to such an extreme that it begins to get between them and God. Humans are too smart for that.

Some Benedictine Monk - Bear cannot remember where he saw it, but it was recently - wrote this: the vessels of the altar are treated no differently than the dishes in the sink!

What do you think of that? Sacrilege? Or is it a comment on our tendency to turn off and on our Christianity depending on what we're doing? What if the heart of each of us sang a different, but harmonious unbroken hymn to God from waking to falling asleep?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lentblogging Day 8 - The Devil's Fast

The Devil's Fast

Giving up something is a valuable discipline. Hopefully, you have chosen something you like, but do not need, and can faithfully observe.

However, unless you are adding to your usual measure of prayer, alms and service to others, giving something up won't do you much good. There are some who have even given up regular prayer without realizing it! If you have been following the Lentblogging of the Bear, or using his Lenten Companion, you will have figured out that the Bear is all about a common sense approach to Lenting.

When you fast but neglect prayer, you may become proud of your discipline without receiving any benefits from it.

The Liturgy of the Hours for Example

Every Christian tradition has its signature prayers and overall style. One of the most time-tested is the Liturgy of the Hours, or Divine Office. It is based on the psalms. It has the added advantage of a daily schedule that sanctifies your whole day. It is also makes prayer time harder to forget and becomes a good habit.

In previous times, it was prayed only by religious and clerics. Now, it has been made more accessible for lay persons of all traditions.

The four-volume set or even the one volume Christian Prayer can be daunting. You can, however, purchase a slim one-volume Shorter Christian Prayer that has different prayers for each day of the week for four weeks. Another excellent choice, especially if you would like to learn to sing the Hours (which is well worth the effort) is the Liturgy of the Hours for Benedictine Oblates from St. Meinrad Archabbey. The Bear confesses he is partial to this one.

The four-week psalters do not observe the Church calendar. That makes them much less complicated to learn. The St. Meinrad edition covers prayers for morning and evening in the four-week cycle, plus midday and Compline at bedtime.

On the first Sunday of Lent, the cycle "resets" to week one. After the fourth week, it starts over again. The Bear would be happy to answer any questions about the LOTH. Just ask in the comments. You can read another article about the LOTH with pictures, here.

The important thing, however, is to pray and give alms. You don't want to do the Devil's Fast.

You may watch the 60-second book trailer or skip it, although there is rare footage of the Bear in the wild.

60-second trailer for 
the Bear's Lenten Companion.
PayPal $18.99 for autographed copy &
Bear will email a PDF to get you started.
(Available from Amazon as ebook for $9.99.)
See DONATE button in the sidebar on the right.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Lentblogging Day 6 - 10 Unintended Lessons

Blessed Holy Water gone from stoups,
but where is the traditional
Blessed Lenten Sand
this Year? 
One thing about live Lentblogging is that, if the blogger is honest, some days are going to be better than others. Sunday was pretty lousy. Poor Bear spent a lot of time in thought and prayer that night.

Funny how Saint Corbinian's Bear Lenten Companion for Bearish Humans describes the very same challenges. Religion as a near occasion of sin and legitimate disappointment in one's shepherds. Poor Bear has been dealing with this stuff since the 8th Century and still struggles.

Most of all, the Bear realizes that he foresaw what would challenge him Sunday, and yet, stupidly, he did not prepare himself in advance. For a Bear who is supposed to be Lenting smart, this was a huge oversight.

Here are 10 unintended lessons he learned Sunday. At the end is a video that inspires the Bear during Lent, although he must admit St. Benedict would not approve. One of the most important lessons is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.

10 Unintended Lessons the Bear Learned Sunday
  1. Most important is this: Usually, we are hurt more by our reaction ("the very idea!") than the actual injury. There may be a bit of ego hidden beneath the scandal (although that does not take responsibility from the one causing scandal.) A little bit of Bearish righteous indignation goes a long way.
  2. The second is we do not have to stick our heads in the sand and pretend there are no problems. That would not be honest. There are big problems. The real question, then, is narrow: How do we plan on dealing with them during this Lent? Are we stuck complaining about the same things from year to year?
  3. We must Lent smart. That means planning to meet foreseeable challenges. For example, if we know some upcoming religious event will be turned into political theater, we should decide in advance the best response. You may hear some obnoxious hobbyhorse flogged every Sunday. Where the Bear is, it's all about the interfaiths. The Devil is clever, but prefers to get under your skin in ways that have proved reliable in the past. His tactics should not surprise smart Christians and should definitely be a part of the plans for your Tower of Lent.
  4. The Bear expected some jiggery-pokery with the holy water during Lent. Yes, he thinks removing it shows confusion between a blessed sacramental and a mere symbol and is a dumb local innovation. What can he say, except, o tempera, o mores? He can use all the holy water he wants at home, or even bring it with him to church if he needs it that bad. (See 1 above.)
  5. Similarly, when it comes to Holy Scripture, the Bear knows the USCCB's NABRE has inclusive language and smartest-kid-in-the-room footnotes that appear to question the unique inspired character of the Bible. Since that bothers the Bear, he must either ignore it or pick a different approved translation.**
  6. We must expect that the Devil will hit us where it hurts the most during Lent: our religion. Knowing this going in, we should plan a sound strategy and pick ourselves up when we get knocked down anyway. For the Bear, that usually takes 24 hours: some growling, some ranting, some thinking, a quiet talk with God, and a good night's sleep. (Reading Lamentations helped put things in perspective, too.)
  7. During Lent, we should focus on prayer, fasting and alms, one day at a time. We should take each day as a lesson, just as the Bear did during his very first Lent and is still doing 1300 years later. We can learn even from our failures. Remember: experience is not what happens to you, it's what you learn from what happens to you.
  8. Whatever else is going on in the wide world beyond our homes, the actual daily practice of Christianity remains the same: (1) a consistent prayer life; (2) regular devout reading of Holy Scripture; (3) cultivating an appreciation for the presence of God in our daily lives; (4) trying to conform ourselves to the requirements of our religion; and (5) following a sensible personal rule.
  9. We are all psychologically different. Some of us meet frustration with plenty of room to back up and handle it. Others (Bears) live with their backs to the wall. We should always strive for insight into our own psychology as one ingredient to Lenting smart- and living smart. In a way, you might see your Christian life as a whole boiled down to the essentials during these 40 days.
  10. If your religion consistently robs you of the peace of Christ, you might sit down and take inventory of specific problems. Where can you humble yourself by submitting your intellect? Where are you being stubborn and self-willed? How often do you seek and find perverse enjoyment in scandal? How do you plan on dealing with the real obstacles while remaining true to your faith?
On second thought, perhaps these lessons might not have been intended by any human, but God Himself knows what the Bear needs to learn.

Some Wise Words on Lent from Fred & Ginger
(Unless Ginger is a Near Occasion of Sin)
from Swing Time, RKO, 1936

*As an aside, suggestions to find a traditional parish are not helpful for many who live hours from a major metropolitan area. Moreover, it's just not the style of Bears to give up their territory. Experience has taught the Bear that if he cannot live his faith in his own parish, he doubts he would be able to do better somewhere else. His instinct is to stay and adapt to harsh conditions.

**The RSV2-CE Ignatius Press Didache Bible is much better, but even it includes a disclaimer for the beginning of chapter 9 of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) about the Jewish "patriarchal society," to go with the NABRE's fancier "androcentric viewpoint." So much fuss over sound advice to men about avoiding near occasions of sin! See this EWTN page for a concise rundown of Catholic Bibles.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Lentblogging Day 5 & 6 - Religion as a Near Occasion of Sin UPDATE

The Bear's Article on Religion as a Near Occasion of Sin Was Prescient

Today, no holy water. Its absence represents the
spiritual and intellectual desert in which
poor Bear must live, he supposes.
UPDATE: Before Mass Sunday, the priest read a letter from the bishop urging stronger gun control. Then gun control was presented as a "prayer intention." (As the Pope Videos prove, "intentions" are a great way to present left-wing agitprop in religious garb.) Also, there was no holy water in the stoup. At least there was not sand or sticks.

The Bear watched every single person dipping their fingers into the dry bowl as they entered the church. It was like some Catholic Candid Camera setup.

Well, well. Here the Bear finds himself obligated by his own integrity to discuss the very sort of thing he so blithely dismissed before. It's one thing to preach in the abstract, and something else to have the very problem crammed down your throat. How can he ignore this sort of thing, even during Lent, when it is a practical challenge?

So, here are a couple of articles you might find interesting. One is a detailed article on the Church and gun control, and the other discloses the astonishing roster of Soros-connected lefties that produced the USCCB's gun-grab position.

Finally, there is an article on the forgotten Bath Township school massacre which remains the deadliest in the U.S. to date with a final death toll of 44. Forgotten, perhaps, because the killer did not use guns. See Before They Blamed Guns, They Blamed Catholics.

The homosexual child abuse scandal has reared its scaly head, again, in the background, as it seems that clients of Pope Francis were protected and promoted despite apparently credible allegations.

The implications of his encyclical Amoris Laetitia are being worked out on an ad hoc basis around the world when it comes to the propriety of divorced and remarried Catholics in the communion line.

The Bear does not know who said it, but the Catholic Church in America truly is the Democrat party at prayer. This is not the place to launch into a defense of the second amendment, which the Supreme Court has recognized as a personal right. At a minimum, however, it is one of several political issues that have polarized Americans. Perhaps, Church leaders might at least have the prudence to recognize that and not see worshippers as a captive audience for their debatable political positions.

They just can't help themselves from taking advantage of an opportunity like this, though.

Aside from politics, one can only marvel at the wrong-headedness of depriving people of an important sacramental like holy water during Lent.

So, yes, indeed, it was a prescient article for the Bear. Since this is a very practical series of articles on succeeding in Lent, the Bear thinks he ought to share good strategies for dealing with the kind of thing he experienced Sunday. His catch phrase for Catholics has always been, "Nail your foot to the floor in front of your favorite pew and die there."

What do you think? Is that good enough? Or are there no significant problems in the Catholic Church today?

Sunday before last a woman dressed up in some sort of priestess outfit conducted the service (not a Mass) because there was no priest available. Think about that for a moment.

When we are trying to attract people to the Catholic Church, as one commenter suggested, what is the best thing to tell them? Shrug and say the Church just has always had some flawed human beings in it, but is still unique in teaching the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the unchanging truth? Or just say nothing and hope they don't notice anything before we have them in the boat?

Of course, there is a good answer.

Pope Francis has suggested over and over the dismay that has divided Catholics and scandalized a large segment of the faithful who blog about the Church is simply the result of ignorance but mostly ill will. How does that answer sit with you?

Maybe the absence of holy water during Lent - where there is no tradition or rule allowing it - should just make us think about the desert in which Jesus fasted. If that line of reasoning is correct, perhaps we should go further and remove all sacramentals from our homes, too. We should not make the sign of the cross, or say the rosary, or display crucifixes during Lent. How far could you imagine such "symbolism" could go, if carried to its logical conclusion? Is there a problem with seeing holy water as a nothing more than a symbol to be manipulated at the whim of parish priests?

And, with the sole exception of abortion, it seems one must be a member of a certain political party in order to be a good American Catholic.

It would be the easiest thing in the world for the Bear to sweep his concerns under the rug during a series on Lent. That was his earlier idea. However, he suspects he is not the only person who is scandalized by their religion and whose Lenten peace and growth is challenged by the very institution to which he looks for assistance. The Bear would not feel like he was being honest if he ignored all this in a series about practical strategies for Lent.

The Bear cannot tell you what you should do when religion becomes a near occasion of sin, unless it is to convince yourself that you are the problem and be assimilated.

Or, if that does not ring true to you, perhaps the answer is just to do your best to ignore it. That might be easy for humans. It is not so easy for Bears.


Many times, going to church has been a near occasion of sin for the Bear. Sometimes it's all he can do to remain quiet in his pew without rising up on his hind legs and roaring in indignation.

Many Catholics  have grown increasingly confused and worried over the past few years. However, many Protestants have also found the Evangelical movement wanting and waning. It would serve no purpose to prepare charges and specifications against any religion. If you are satisfied where you are, the Bear is very happy for you. If you are not, he does not need to give you the reasons.

Wisdom from Pope Benedict XVI

But, whether it is a strange gospel of social and material equality without Christ - of "issues" - or a feel-good faith that builds self-esteem, many are turning away from such ideas and looking for the truth.

In Pope Benedict XVI's book Co-Workers of the Truth, the reading for February 17th says something we don't often hear these days:

It is a thoroughly Christian impulse to combat suffering and injustice in the world. But to imagine that men can construct a world without them by means of social reform, and the desire to do so here and now, is an error, a deep misunderstanding of human nature. For suffering does not come into the world solely because of the inequality of possessions and power. 

From: Die Situation der Kirche heute, pp. 37–38

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 64). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.


Blaise Pascal
It seems to Bear that disaffected Christians crave intellectual certainty. In other words, they want the truth, which seems reasonable enough. Some believe they may find it in looking to the past, or to the East, or, increasingly, to the stark security of TULIP Calvinism. (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance.)

The Bear doesn't really have much to say about that. He understands. May the Holy Spirit guide you, but may you accept that you may very well go to your grave as a sheep poorly fed, if fed at all.

This Lent might be a good time to look beyond our doubts and even our disgust and accept that the kind of security we crave might never be found in having all our doctrinal ducks in a row. No, it isn't fair, and, yes, you should expect better than you are often getting from your shepherds.

Friends, the Bear respectfully invites you to wonder if your religion is getting between you and God, and what you might try to do about that. Obsessing over the latest scandal cannot be spiritually healthy, especially during Lent. 

There are ways, the Bear believes, that one may be right, but wrong.

One possible response is to turn directly to God more often through reading Scripture, through prayer, and through alms-giving and service. We cannot go far wrong in our religion if we take more responsibility for loving and serving God, and practicing charity toward our neighbor.

Another spiritual discipline for this Lent might be to just tune out. Avoid the constant grumbling, even if it is justified. Many of us must simply accept that we are unlikely to ever find rest for our souls in our religions.

This seems like a shame, but even the Bear has not changed things to his liking, no matter how clever his agitprop.

However, who knows if we might find a different kind of certitude? The brilliant mathematician Blaise Pascal recorded a mystical experience that gave him just that.

Pascal's Memorial

Monday, 23 November, feast of St. Clement, pope and martyr, and others in the martyrology. Vigil of St. Chrysogonus, martyr, and others.

From about half past ten at night until about half past midnight, 


GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob
not of the philosophers and of the learned.
Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.
GOD of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God.
Your GOD will be my God.
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except GOD.
He is only found by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Grandeur of the human soul.
Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you.
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
I have departed from him:
They have forsaken me, the fount of living water.
My God, will you leave me?
Let me not be separated from him forever.
This is eternal life, that they know you, the one true God, and the one that you sent, Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ.
I left him; I fled him, renounced, crucified.
Let me never be separated from him.
He is only kept securely by the ways taught in the Gospel:
Renunciation, total and sweet.
Complete submission to Jesus Christ and to my director.
Eternally in joy for a day's exercise on the earth.
May I not forget your words. Amen.

And the Bear said Amen.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Lentblogging Day 4 - Holy Selfishness

St. Corbinian and a rather pitifully small Bear.

Saint Corbinian's Priorities

Here's a very interesting thing about St. Corbinian the Bear found while doing research for his Lenten Companion for Bearish Humans. It is just like they tell you on the airplane.
Though indefatigable in his apostolic functions, he was careful not to overlay himself with more business than he could bear, lest he should forget what he owed to his own soul. He always performed the divine office with great leisure, and reserved to himself every day set hours for holy meditations, in older to recruit and improve the spiritual vigor of his soul, and to cast up his accounts before God, gathering constantly resolution of more vigilance in all his actions.

Butler, A. (1903). The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints (Vol. 3, pp. 624–625). New York: P. J. Kenedy.

Busy Bear

The Bear keeps very busy with daily ephemeris articles, writing novels and other books, the crazy-making work surrounding their publishing, researching the faith, and doing narration for short features. (The Pillars of Creation is wonderful, but the next one is epic in comparison.)

Today, Bear woke up, got out of bed, and prayed a sleepy Lauds. So far so good. (He always prays for his readers, too, especially those using his new Lenten Companion right now. The prayer goes, God, please don't let anything Bear has written cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble. Please make up for any stupid Bear things.)

Bear did not say his midday prayers. That's not all he didn't do.

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.” (Luke 10:41)

Bear is Derelict in his Duties

He had his Liturgy of the Hours for Benedictine Oblates all ready. He had his Bible for lectio divina and his Rule of Saint Benedict for today's reading. He even had his rosary. But as Vespers approached, poor Bear had not found the time for doing any of it.

Bear realizes he puts in so much time helping his friends he often leaves little time to care for his own soul. That's not a boast; it's the sort of clear-sighted realization we wait for during Lent. The problem is, he realizes, you can't give to others what you do not have yourself. 

Saint Corbinian realized the soul for whom he was most responsible was his own.

Are You Too Busy Doing Good to Take Care of Your Own Soul?

Bear knows people who are very busy with their jobs and families or school. Sometimes, doing good things can leave little time for our own relationship with God. 

What would it take to put God first in your life this Lent? Regular Daily Habits is a wonderful foundation for a Tower of Lent. Do you include in your Lenten strategy firm commitments to take care of your own soul, even if you must postpone or limit your business on behalf of others?

If St. Corbinian thought reserving time for his own religious practices was necessary even for a saint, it is even more important for Bears and you.

It's like they tell you on the airplane. When the oxygen masks drop, first put yours on, and only then help anyone else with theirs.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Lentblogging Day 3 - The Crook Who Was Admired by Jesus

Jesus: "Be like this crook."
We are careful in matters of the world, practical and full of plans. That's good. Prudence is a virtue.

And, yet, when it comes to our faith, we tend to bumble along from one disaster to another like Rowan Atkinson's good-natured comic character, Mr. Bean.

That's because we don't Lent smart.

Instead of being practical and full of plans to give ourselves a fighting chance, we see growth as a product of our own effort. Will power. Instead of identifying one vice to root out or one virtue to  cultivate, and drawing up a practical plan, we stumble along with a vague intention of being better people. 

Somehow, the very practical religion of Christianity has gotten separated from common sense and floats in a separate "spiritual" sphere we don't engage with our brains.

Remember the Tower of Lent? (Luke 14:25-30) Jesus was always talking about hard-nosed practicality. His parables use everyday situations to illustrate his teachings. No one was more practical than Jesus. In fact, his very first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding after his mom noticed they were running out.

He even found something to admire in a clever embezzler.

Read Luke 16:1-9. A rich man had a crooked steward - business agent - who got caught lining his own pockets with the boss's money. He was ordered to wrap things up and hit the road. The steward was horrified at the thought of having to make an honest living, so he devised a cunning plan.

He went to everyone who owed his boss money and settled their accounts as favorably as 50 cents on the dollar. Perhaps many of these debtors were delinquent, because, when the steward brought back a large sum of money, the boss was not angry, but admired his cleverness.

When we don't have specific goals, when we don't make practical plans, when we don't pray for God's help, in short, when we rely on our own white knuckled efforts to "be a better person," we fail. Instead, we should focus on a few specific problems and devise a cunning plan that specifically addresses them. 

If you are following these 40 days of lentblogging, you may recall the Bear has for a goal Regular Daily Habits. It is the foundation of his Tower of Lent. On one, he followed his plan - all one step of it. He woke up at the right time, but then he got on his computer instead of getting out of bed.

A reader gave some very practical advice: keep your computer somewhere else.

Now, that's what the Bear is talking about!

Lentblogging Day 2 - Irony

There must be a Department of Irony in Hell.

Bears have a highly developed sense of irony. They see it everywhere and enjoy satire. They know there will be no irony in Heaven, so they try to enjoy it as much as they can here.

Irony is a type of joyless humor - bitters for the soul. A good Sicilian digestivo like Amaro dell'Etna to help life in this fallen world go down. (Red Death thinks it tastes like cough syrup, but she doesn't even like the exquisite nectar of Jaegermeister).

This Lent is full of irony, because the Bear, with his Lenten Companion just out, struggles to follow his own (excellent, by the way) advice.

Just yesterday, he was thinking about the plan for his Tower of Lent (Luke 14:25-30). It may sound trivial, but regular daily habits are the foundation for for any kind of sound construction in our lives. It is very Benedictine. After all, the life of a Benedictine monk - and, to a lesser extent, oblate - revolves around the Liturgy of the Hours.

Ora et labora.

So, the Bear asked the woman who lives in the can on his nightstand to set an alarm for 8 a.m. Since he is an Owl, not a Lark, that would allow the Bear to get some good sleep and wake up in plenty of time for his ora, his lectio divina, then hit the screen for his labora.

Indeed, on the first day of Lent, yesterday, his faithful bedside companion awakened him with a pleasant sound. Step 1 of the Regular Daily Habits phase of his Master Plan worked! He flipped open his laptop in bed, just to take care of any new book orders and make sure advance buyers had received their PDFs to tide them over until he got the paperbacks to autograph and ship.

It is really a matter of putting God first- literally. The Bear would offer to God the first fruits of his day. There are all sorts of ways of putting God first. Saying Lauds first thing sanctifies time.

Three hours later...

Technically, it was still morning when he did Lauds. Even in his time zone. Nonetheless, he realizes he must add another step.

Step 2 - Get Out of Bed at Once.

It is hard for Bears to exchange bad, old habits for good, new ones. Could his very computer, his lifeline, his office, be used by the demon Neerciazhun of Sin? Construction delay on Bear's Tower of Lent. But, now, his plan has two steps: (1) Wake Up at 8 a.m. and (2) Get Out of Bed at Once. Maybe Bear should think about writing down a step after that. What could it be?

Oh, well, two steps is one more step than Bears usually think of. No sense in going crazy with this whole Lent thing.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Lentblogging Day 1 - The Plan

As a trial lawyer, the Bear would write his closing arguments backwards.

That way, from the beginning, he thought about what he wanted in the minds of the jurors at the end.

Today is Ash Wednesday. You are probably thinking about getting your ashes, adopting a suitably penitential attitude, and what you've given up for Lent. Maybe you're worried about finding sand or sticks or motor oil or something else symbolic instead of holy water in the stoup.

The Bear will be thinking about the end of Lent. Not just being better, or holier, or whatever. He will be counting his resources and carefully planning the construction of the tower he wishes to have after 40 days. Now, even Bears know that building a tower costs much salmon and takes a lot of planning beforehand. Having some vague notion that you want it tall, or strong, or have really cool-looking crenelations on top isn't enough.

Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ 

Luke 14:28-30 (NABRE).

The Bear will be making a short list of specific things he wants to be different about himself by the other side of Easter. Not many. That would be a mistake, at least for a Bear. But, two or three of the most important. He won't  be stopping there.

Along with this secret list, he will use all of his cunning to devise practical, real-life strategies to help him succeed. He's going to write those down, too. "Being nicer" is a lousy Lenten resolution, and "being a better Christian" isn't much better. 

You know the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. This time Bear is going to Lent different. Lent smart.

He's going to be a Bear With a Plan, so people won't laugh at his stupid fallen-down towers anymore.


UPDATE: Just surprised to find audiobook of JUDGING ANGELS available! Very pleased with the narrator, who did a fantastic job interpreting it, instead of just reading it. It’s a Christian thriller about marriage with a high body count.

Information about the new book, Saint Corbinian's Bear Lenten Companion for Bearish Humans:

Price for ebook is $9.99. Paperback is $18.99. The ebook is available at Amazon The paperback will be available in a couple of weeks.

If you want an autographed copy, but also want to accompany the Bear from day one of Lent, use the PayPal (DONATE) link in the sidebar to send $18.99. Be sure to provide instructions about how you would like it autographed. When the Bear receives his copies (10-15 days from Ash Wednesday) he will mail them to advance buyers and even cover the cost of shipping single copies in the U.S.

Advance buyers of the paperback will get all front matter and beginning chapters in a PDF format upon receipt of payment. The Bear will make sure you are taken care of until you have the paperback in your hands.

Bears are all about having their cake and eating it to, even during Lent, so you can have your autographed copy and not miss a single day of ursine accompaniment.

Please consider it part of your Lenten discipline to read one chapter per day, and only one. Not only does it follow the rhythms of Lent, but it is a story, after all, and you don't want to spoil it.

Q & A on Bear Lent Book

Active bloggers may request review copies direct from Bear at (Please include your link.)

NOTE: If you have made an advance purchase through PayPal as of 8 p.m. CST February 12, and have NOT received your file, what we have here is a failure to communicate. Please let Bear know in that case.

UPDATE: Price for ebook is $9.99. Paperback is $18.99. The ebook is available right now at Amazon. The paperback will be printed on Ash Wednesday. (Bears aren't known for planning ahead.)

If you want an autographed copy, but also want to accompany the Bear from day one of Lent, use the PayPal (DONATE) link in the sidebar to send $18.99. Be sure to provide instructions about how you would like it autographed. When the Bear receives his copies (10-15 days from today) he will mail them to advance buyers and even cover the cost of shipping single copies in the U.S.

All advance buyers of the paperback will get all front matter and beginning chapters in a PDF format upon receipt of payment. The Bear will make sure you are taken care of until you have the paperback in your hands.

Bears are all about having their cake and eating it too, so you can have your autographed copy and not miss a single day of ursine accompaniment through Lent.

Please consider it part of your Lenten discipline to read one chapter per day, and only one. Not only does it follow the rhythms of Lent, but it is a story, after all, and you don't want to spoil it.

Q: I don't have time to read a bunch of Bear guff. What's the bottom line?

If you like the Bear, you'll enjoy the book. 

Most of the Lent stories that have appeared here have had a very positive reaction. (If you remember some darker and more dramatic ones, don't worry. Those aren't included.)

The short chapters are written in a simple style meant to be entertaining and memorable. You could even read them to children. (Possibly not, however, to a little girl with the complete My Pretty Pony collection.) It might be fun to entertain them with stories about a funny talking bear, then discuss things like prayer and making Jesus happy on their level. Young adults ought to be able to get value from it on their own. 

The 40 chapters form a single continuous arc describing a Lenten adventure as the Bear learns one lesson after another with the help of Father Corbinian. The authors hope you can resist gulping it down in one evening because the Bear wants to accompany you on each day of Lent. For example, at the midway point, the Bear panics because Lent is halfway done and he's still a Bear. That is one of the things that makes this Lenten Companion unique.

Consider limiting your reading to a chapter a day part of your Lenten discipline.

There are study questions at the end of each chapter. Most of them are open, designed with the cunning of a trial lawyer on cross-examination to force you to confront yourself honestly. Others provide additional relevant information.

Ragan and Kathryn
Q: Why didn't you write it on your own?

Kathryn (whom the Bear calls "Red Death, his driver, bodyguard and factotum," or "the Shepherdess") collaborated because she is far more virtuous than the first-named author.

Ragan is a working commercial artist better at drawing bears.

Q:  Why did you write it for "all Christians" instead of just Catholics?

There were several reasons. For one, it is more true than not to answer there aren't any "just Catholics" anymore. It would serve no purpose to stir up controversy by elaborating.

One of the spiritual dangers Christians face today is a loss of confidence in the institutions of the faith. One of the unique aspects of this book is that while we don't explain the challenges of our time, we wrote with an awareness of them. Let's be honest. Appeals to authority are not as helpful they once were for reasons most readers of this blog will know.

Also, as we worked on it, we found ourselves expressing the spiritual style with which we were familiar as Benedictine oblates. You can be a Benedictine oblate without being Catholic. We saw no reason to set ourselves up as superior to our model and tinker with it.

Benedictine spirituality works for any Christian for the simple fact that it is wise, doable and has centuries of experience behind it. For example, there are five duties of oblates. We work those into the book. They are bedrock Christianity, to be distinguished from the watered-down Catholicism one sometimes sees today. We did not compromise on the truth, but neither did we set out to include all of it in a book with a very specific purpose.

Finally, we were motivated by a sincere desire to help as many people as we could become better Christians. There is plenty of common ground to explore apart from our unfortunate differences. We took a similar approach as C.S. Lewis did in The Screwtape Letters and his other writings. 

We believe unseen spiritual realities are objective facts.

Q: It sounds like you are just being ecumenical and afraid to hurt anyone's feelings. Hasn't the Bear made fun of that sort of thing hundreds of times?

Do you really think the Bear would lend his splendi'frous name to that? We could have played it safe and made a narrow audience happy. We took the risk of including some things that might not appeal to everyone. The beauty of it is that readers may draw their own lessons from the 40 stories featuring the Bear. Most of the study questions are open. They are designed to challenge readers to confront themselves, not to hammer home the lessons of the stories. Many have no right or wrong answer.

Readers of this blog may nonetheless find a few sly Bear winks at some very timely issues. (One chapter is titled "The Use and Abuse of Mercy.") We were not afraid to acknowledge times have changed. Nonetheless, again, it is based on bedrock Christianity, and does not preach a watered-down Catholicism. 

Q: So this is a sort of handbook of Benedictine spirituality?

Not really. We are Benedictine oblates, though. It is natural we wanted to share things we have found valuable. It seemed sensible not to try to come up with something original. The originality is in the presentation.

Q: What else is different about it, besides a talking Bear?

We believe too often Lent is "all about me." My discipline, my sins, my relationship to God. Although these things are important, we have tried to continually help the reader think about Lent as a time of growing in love toward others. Part of the bona opera of Lent should be turning outward toward those around us.

Q: That all sounds great, but I've read the Bear's ephemeris for years. He doesn't seem very holy.

He isn't. That's why we didn't base it on ideas and practices we invented. We should not have to say it, but, the Bear and the first-named author are about as far from saints as you can get. We decided that did not disqualify us from presenting timeless truths in an original way, with an eye to what is happening right now. 

You know, it is very humbling to write a book like this. The first-named author, at any rate, is feeling like a fraud at the moment for the very reason you bring up. He couldn't avoid realizing his own failures with every lesson. However, it is those failures - or Bearishness, if you will - that made the exercise possible. One of the chapter titles is "A Season of Failure."

It has been a wonderful exercise. Perhaps we'll try harder to cooperate with the grace of God, now. It sounds corny, but we'll be including readers in our own prayer intentions. Especially that we cause no harm.

We won't make a video, though. 


One again, excerpts from the description written for the back cover:

Maybe you’re not learned. Maybe you’re not holy. Maybe you’re not even entirely human. That’s okay. A 1300-year-old talking bear is here to be your daily companion during Lent.

Saint Corbinian was moved to share Lent with the Bear- perhaps to protect the local pony population. In 40 stories that follow the authors’ own Lenten experiences and rhythms, the sincere, but simple Bear learns one lesson after another. Sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant, but always memorable, together they form a grand adventure.

A Bear begins Lent, but what kind of creature shall see its end?

The authors draw in part upon their experience as Benedictine oblates to transmit timeless truths for all Christians in this charming story. The tales are told with deceptive simplicity. After each chapter, the authors ask questions designed to help you think about the lessons the Bear has learned. They are not always the right ones. Bears sometimes serve best as bad examples. 

You may be surprised to find much of yourself in the Bear. But that’s okay. If a Bear can make it through Lent and learn a thing or two, you can, too.

This is a Lenten Companion unlike any other, designed for even the most Bearish Humans.

Featured Post

Judging Angels Chapter 1 Read by Author

Quick commercial for free, no-strings-attached gift of a professionally produced audio book of Judging Angels, Chapter 1: Last Things, read...